Tag Archives: The Clash

My First Bar Friend

Sometimes I see him on the street, and our eyes will meet briefly before darting away, the way you look at that girl you hooked up with that one time and it was totally weird and you never talked to her again. “Do I say something? Do I wave?” you wonder. “Does he even remember me? Does he know my name?”

I think of all times we spent on barstools at the local pub. He was always there when I was, and one day, we just struck up a conversation. I think he asked about the book that was I reading, then he bought me a round, and we started talking about girls and bands and everything else that guys talk about once they’ve had a couple beers. It’s not all that unusual, at a bar like that. His name was Paul, and at the time, he had just recently moved to the neighborhood. A former Navy SEAL, he was going back to UMass Boston to finish his degree in Anthropology. Said he was part of the team that took down those Somali pirates. I told him I was impressed with the shot they made over alternating waves; he said the shot was easy, anyone could have done it, and he was a little irked that he was on the shift before the one got the shot, because those guys got all the glory.

I don’t know why I remember that. I don’t even know if he was telling me the truth. I’m not even sure what I might have told him about myself, or what he remembers of it. Other times, we’d both be at the bar with our friends. We’d shout “Hey!” and high five, introduced our friends to one another in hopes of triggering the other one to remind of his name: “Hey, this is my buddy Chris” “How’s it goin’, I’m Paul” and so on. We’d get excited every time the blonde behind the bar would put on London Calling — as if it was such a rare coincidence that we both liked The Clash — then we’d turn and watch the Sox game in silence, only turning to each other to say obligatory things like, “Youk was in a funk, but man, he’s got it back,” or “Beckett’s gotta sit for a few more games, they should pull him out and get Papelbon back out there,” and of course, “Let’s go, Papi!” If the game went well, then he might buy a round of PBRs for my friends as well as his. We’d shoot the shit some more, then say good night like we’d been bros for the longest time.

I don’t even think we’re Facebook friends.

But in those hazy, drunken moments in the low, musty lighting of the bar, you’d swear we were the best of friends, and at the time, perhaps we were. So when I see him now, I can’t help but feel some strange sense of camaraderie, fueled by nostalgia for nights that I hardly can remember.

London Calling – The Clash

The bike ride back from the record store in the summer of 1998 was quite possibly one of the most invigorating and influential of my life. Middle school was full of musical discovery in the form of the “Compilation” section of Music Box, your typical privately owned record store with the bare minimum of obscure selections. On this fateful day in July, I would slip a CD into my well used and slightly damaged Discman, throw on my backpack and jump on my bike. The CD spooled up and my headphones filled with a strummed bass line followed by the booming reverb of the drums. The song skipped, stuttered and exploded into a fast paced ballad about an aging Punk-Rock band longing for the days of basement shows, friends, cheap meals and beds disguised as hard-wood floors. I was 14 and knew I could experience what they longed to re-live, and with that knowledge I rode my bike home, sat down at my father’s drum set and began my suburban punk-rock adventure.

This music was new and fresh to me, a surefire way to rebel against my parents by using a weapon they couldn’t understand. This music was fast, equally serious and satirical while toeing the line between harmony and hollering. I had spent years previously listening to music my father had played with his band, listened to in his car and in the house on his stereo. This new music was obscure, something I would have to painstakingly explain to my father, something he might never understand…so I thought.

Summer passed and 8th grade started. I came home after a long after school bike ride spent loitering downtown searching for benches to grind and friends who might have a better idea on how to occupy idle time. I walked in to the familiar sight of my father sitting on the couch in his postal uniform after a long day at work. In a bag next to his foot rested two records against the leg of the coffee table. Through the thin plastic I could see the familiar image of Paul Simonon smashing his bass guitar in front of a stack of amplifiers. My father proceeded to pull out both records. One was London Calling by The Clash and the other was Elvis Presley’s first LP. Both layouts were exactly the same, pink and green letters lining the left and bottom of the frame with an image of the artist in the center. My father used this to explain the term “influence” Basically, music is just a fast paced evolution which is influenced heavily, if not entirely on ideas which have already been previously conceived. I still spent my high school years heavily into Punk and Hardcore, but my father made sure I knew there were only two kinds of music, good music and bad music.

Alternately, here is a little fun fact. One of my father’s favorite musicians was the drummer for The Clash. He also thought “Topper Headon” was a badass name.