I didn’t exactly shine as a student in high school. I was pretty average, and my general policy was to put in the least amount of effort that would get me a B or better. So I’m not sure how I tumbled into being friends with the Straight-A Smart Kids crowd, but tumble I did and that’s how I first heard Paul Simon’s “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War.”
My high school friend Beau is probably the smartest person I’ve ever known. He took math and science classes at the nearest university when we were in middle school, and now he researches philosophy and metaphysics at Oxford. Something of an unusual career path for a kid from rural western North Carolina.
When we were in high school he’d invite friends over to watch Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick movies and then he and Rockford would discuss them and I’d pretend I knew what they were talking about. Beau tried to make sure his friends were always expanding their horizons, and when he learned that I loved “Graceland” but hadn’t heard “Hearts and Bones,” he put on the CD.
I didn’t love Bergman or Kubrick so much, but “Rene and Georgette” had me at hello and is still one of my favorite songs. It was inspired by a couple of photos of the artist, his wife and their dog taken in Belgium in the late ’60s, and Rolling Stones think it’s one of Paul Simon’s best songs. I agree. I love the image of Rene and Georgette dancing alone in their living room to The Orioles and The Five Satins, and I love the little echoes of doo-wop in the song. I’ve always wondered, though — and before you judge me for wondering this, please know that I also judge myself because it’s pretty dumb thought — could it be, possibly, that the dog’s name is After The War?
That doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility for Magritte, but it’s probably not the case. If I ever get a dog, though, I’ll consider naming it Après La Guerre, and I’ll call it Gary for short, and I’ll sing Paul Simon songs to it all the time.