Today is June 27, 2011, and I am listening to The Clash for the first time in one year. Allow me to explain.
So, let me elaborate on what happened to me exactly one year ago tonight. You could say that I was stuck in traffic, but that would be underestimating it by quite a lot. Here’s how I explained it the night after my experience:
After I got off the [New Jersey] turnpike at exit 18E, I ran into a little snag getting on the the George Washington Bridge. I didn’t think much of it, as I only had about five miles to go, but then time started passing and I could not ignore the fact that I wasn’t moving. At all.
I put on “London Calling” to pass the time. I listened to the whole thing. We still weren’t moving. I was surrounded by thousands of cars, and we were all sitting there, staring at one another. It was Saturday night, and half the population of New Jersey was going into town for a night out.
This went on for two hours, then three. I have to admit I started getting a little hysterical and had to call my wife Renee to have her talk me down. A lady behind me just started honking her horn over and over, and other people must have thought it was a good idea, because they started honking their horns.
Eventually, I made it to the George Washington Bridge, a full five hours after leaving the turnpike. My original plan was to be at a motel in New Haven by 10:00, instead, I found an overpriced room in Bridgeport, Connecticut at 2:30 in the morning.
Here is a visual aid of the ordeal:
My tone belies how really frightening it was to sit in my car and stare at the same taillights for five hours in a row. I mean, we’re talking about five miles here. Imagine how slow it would feel to go one mile an hour for five straight hours. I run a 5K in about 30 minutes flat, so if you extrapolate that, then I could have realistically jogged this distance in about 50 minutes. And yet it took me five hours. (In five hours, you could watch Goodfellas twice and still have time to watch an episode of The Simpsons.) Here are some other factors to consider:
First, I was 1100 miles away from home, and had been driving non-stop since I left my family two days before. Second, I was slowly running out of gas. I had about a quarter of a tank when I started this little five-mile crawl, and I was nigh on empty by the time I finally saw the bridge. I was lonely, frightened about spending the next six weeks without my wife and son, and I just could not understand why we were all just sitting there! I still don’t.
The next morning I woke up in an overpriced Holiday Inn in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a city that David Foster Wallace describes as “the true lower intestine of North America.” I ain’t going back.
Anyway, I was listening to the Clash while this all was happening, and I was afraid that I would never be able to listen to them again. Consequently, I decided that as a prophylactic measure I would have to take a year off of them. That year ends right now, my friends, and I am listening to “Wrong Em, Boyo,” as I write this. And it feels good. It feels so good.
Here are five great Clash songs that I love. They are not in any order or anything. I just love these songs, and it’s great to have them back.
1. “Safe European Home”
I love everything about “Safe European Home,” but what I think I love the most about it is the snare shot that kicks it off. There is more rock and roll in that snare shot than in just about all the music I have ever written.
“What are we going to do now?” By the way, what do you make of that line, “You’d look good in blue and brown”? I have always thought it was something an army recruiter might say to a teenager. Thoughts?
3. “I Fought the Law”
Has any song ever benefitted from a cover as much as Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought the Law”? I would say no.
Also, I always think of Lenny Bruce when I hear this.