How Many Cabs in New York City

How many cabs in New York City, how many angels on a pin?
How many notes in a saxophone, how many tears in a bottle of gin?
- P. Kelly (not R Kelly)

For years now I could have told you with decent authority how many notes you can pull out of a saxophone. I have sweet bugger all idea on the volume of tears in a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, and stymied on the quantity of angels you can ram on a pin. After spending just on 2 months roaming around New York City, I can answer an otherwise rhetorical phrase that this joint has a colossal shitload of cabs.

Rhetorical or not, Paul Kelly sure knows how to pen a lingering lyric.

There are many reasons why this humble axe wieldin’, harmonica blowin’ nugget of Aussie goodness gets my juice a’pumpin whenever I tune in his wares. His command of the evocative; an understated lyrical wisdom and a humble depth of insight into life’s foibles; the way he carves poignancy out of life’s moments and the niggling emotions that make up everyone’s day to day. That deep, dulcet, yearnin’ twang. His subdued nature, his mystique. His ultra careful use of words; when he speaks and when he writes. When I listen to PK, I feel pride at our mutual origins, proud of how beautifully he dwells on the landmarks and homeliness that I love so dearly. PK is a humble genius, an unassuming troubadour and the poet to share a pint with.

I saw PK in Cork a few months back. Just me and a hundred-odd diehards in a little old run down theatre in the old quarter by the main drag. I drank Guinness after Guinness, soaking up the magic. In dark suit and dim light, he captured our imaginations with them rich-drizzled lyrics, arming us down a winding road of love, life, childhood, death, and all the beautiful, bittersweet, funny chunks n twinkles in between. I bonded over his old tunes with a random woman old enough to be my great aunty. Young and old come together to dig the ways of PK. The man sure knows how to evoke a tune.

I can’t believe how fast time has gone since Cork; since the months in South East Asia – since I set foot in America; in New York. It’s flown by. This year. This decade. My life. It’s a chilly arvo in Queens. I’m a long way from Melbourne. And like the speed of time, the distance between here and there is too far for a regular sojourn back to the warmth of my family, the camaraderie of my friends and the city I love. But whenever I need to go back somewhere to relive old moments I thought I’d lost, I tune into PK. I listen to ‘From St Kilda to Kings Cross’. I soak up ‘When I first met your ma’. Shivers of warmth infiltrate my soul when the lead guitar break throbs in to ‘Before too Long’. With PK’s tunes I always have reassurance and an emotional passport back to my old stomping grounds, in lieu of a tangible plane ticket. It’s a good substitute. A nostalgia vehicle.

I turn over memories of my childhood, imagery of suburban Ringwood living with mum in a rundown white brick flat-house. 23 Caroline St. The passionfruit crawler that engulfed the side shed and the dodgy toilet that I used to get scared of. Beach holiday at Easter in Point Lonsdale with Barb and Pat. Shining snippets of carefree Saturday arvos drenched in the summer sun - Dad with a blonde mullet washing his Subaru with a running hose, me Bolting through the sprinkler on the front lawn. That unmistakable musty smell of seared, sudsy dampness on boiling hot concrete.

PK’s timeless empathy, his understanding of the human condition and carefully selected words unpretentiously smithed into aural art – it’s my ticket to anywhere I want to be, anytime I need, anywhere I find myself. Regardless of how many there are, no New York cab can ever possibly take me anywhere near as far.

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