How I Fell in Love with the Clash in 5 Songs: Rudie Can't Fail


One day I'm going to have a daughter, and I'm going to name her Rudie. People will ask me, "Why did you name your daughter Rudie?" and I'll tell them, "Because Rudie can't fail!" and it'll be adorable.
        Ten years will pass, nobody'll ask me that question anymore, and my daughter Rudie will hate me, because I gave her a stupid name.

It's springtime, and the whole world feels like it's about to blow its load all over itself. I'm stoned on some of the creepiest weed I've ever smoked in a very long-feeling life spent smoking tons of creepy weed, chewing stonedly on a filter made out of toilet paper roll. It came out in my mouth while I was smoking, but I feel too uncomfortable to ask aloud, "Where would be the best place for me to spit this filter out?" 
        I'm meditating on "the enmeshing of outsider and superiority complexes as they occur in my state of prolonged adolescence"; I don't think these thoughts are productive, and I definitely think they are circular. I'm sniffing a kind of men's cologne off my wrist, trying to bite off a hangnail before remembering I've already got that piece of filter in my mouth. It seems excessive to be chewing on two chewed-off pieces of thing at once, so I spit the piece of filter out into my palm, and wipe it underneath the stranger's couch. I'm pinching the bridge of my nose. 

        I'm having problems with opening my eyes the whole way, trying to think of a word more interesting and/or accurate than conceptually so I can one day explain in writing how conceptually rheumatic this night feels, and I feel like everyone else in the room is sitting on somebody else's knee, which, I realize, doesn't make sense. You're usually really charming and extroverted so you should probably start saying something, I tell myself, but then I hit a snag and go into a zone of freaking out about dying in my head, so now I'm talking really fast and weird about how scary dying is, which isn't really the perfect picture of myself I'd like to put out into the world. It's not charming, it's a buzzkill, but now that I've got myself going I can't stop, and the fucked part is: NOBODY ELSE AGREES WITH ME. I'm the only human being in this room who will admit that dying's scary, so that's fucking great. I've taken it upon myself to convince them, but I'm not entirely sure why I've decided I should do that. It's not very fun.
        "You just have to, like, accept it," says a person, "You just have to, like, enjoy your life." 
        (Oh. I see.)
        Juice seems like it will help, it's tropical, so I drink some. Does it help? I'm honestly not sure. Forty-five minutes pass, and I'm still talking about death! I hold my glass of juice up to my eye and look at the world through the glass and try to look through the juice but can't. I hate juice.
        I'm over juice, and I'm over this death convo. I have no idea which of the words I'm saying, and I'm cool with that, because in my head I'm thinking about ROCK & ROLL, and I'm a hundred percent more invested in my rock & roll thoughts than I am in my death words- I'm feeling extraordinarily committed to being the person I'd be if I were speaking out loud the sentence Man, I am just keeping rock and roll alive you guys, but I'm afraid to say it out loud to a group of people who are evidently repelled by my continued insistence that dying is scary, which I only brought up in the first place because I was trying to make a really pedestrian point about "fear of death" being the great unifier, which I thought was a given. But if these people can't even man the fuck up enough to admit that dying is scary, I couldn't imagine what kind of fucked up bullshit they'd have to say about rock & roll, and I don't want to hear that shit. I don't want to listen to any person ever say a single word against rock & roll, ever, again, in my life. 


Every night I bothered with leaving my house I sat at other peoples' kitchen tables, hijacked their MacBooks so I could play Spanish Bombs on Youtube, turned out conversations about nailpolish while covertly writing Nadine and Charlie emails about how much I love the Clash. I got really good at exonerating myself from whatever guilt I would have once felt upon acting like such an obvious brat, was totally cool in my heart with bringing absolutely nothing to the table beyond silence, bored silence, Spanish Bombs, and the scent of the eighty thousand cigarettes I smoked boredly out the window while spacing out to dream of telling a nonexistent "Clash friend" some things I had to say about the Clash:
        "I love Spain!" I'd tell my imaginary Clash friend, "You know what I love about Spain? I love the thhh. Like in corathon, and Ibitha. It's like, an entire nation full of lispers. It's so cute, Spain! Corathon, that's my favorite word. I'm so jealous of Spanish, for how much nicer of a word corazon is, compared to stupid heart. Like, heart is just what we stupid English-speakers call a corazon, which is what a heart actually is.
        And it's not just Spanish Bombs, you know, with corazon in it. It's not the only great "corazon song." Like, Sun King by the Beatles? Are you kidding me? Thank you for appreciating how beautiful corazon is, Beatles and Clash. And, like, it makes me love those bands so much- I mean, I already love them. Both. Very much. But it makes me love them more, the corazons, the way they both pronounce it properly, with the thhh.
        Every night I went home early so I could walk home listening to London Calling. And I don't think I was being a particularly good friend or sweet person for behaving like that, but it takes time to find the balance. Someone once described Joe Strummer's politics as being more spiritual than practical, and that's what London Calling gave me: my own spiritual politics, which were what turned me into Clash Laura, who wore her hair in the same way as always, but was finally brave enough to own the things I had, condemn the things I didn't want.
        Nothing confused me. I knew every answer to every question, and realized that questions without answers aren't worth asking. I saw my life in perfect focus, and when I think of London Calling I will always think of focus, of clear, bold and sharp- like a book, it's a whole. The guitars are black plastic, often glossy black plastic- it's the corners of a silver table, graph paper, the smell of leather, jeans, a hem. You think of punk rock and you think of people tearing shit up, but you never think of how solid a thing's got to be in order to get messed up that bad and still fucking kill it. So I think of it this way: You can't rip a fog. 


Walking home in the cold that night, I realized: The Clash never sing songs about girls.
        So neither would I. I would break up with two dudes in two days, make a big deal out of how I felt like I was being haunted by the ghost of Ernest Hemingway (which was a lie but an aces metaphor), shave my hair into a Mohawk and run the Paris Marathon, disappear. It was like writing with a 0.05 Micron after spending my whole life tied down to a fat kindergarten pencil desperately in need of sharpening. I'd light my cigarettes off the ends of Mick Jones'; the only girls I'd ever sing about were Mick's underbite and Joe's arm on the day he ran the Paris Marathon: "A Perfect Arm Day for Joe Strummer." And in my weaker moments, I suppose I'd allow myself to binge on photographs of Paul Simonon's male model sons on models.com, sing Cinnamon Girl as "Simonon Girl" while putting on mascara. And I'd let myself, if only for a week, that Joe's delivery of "Jesus Christ, where did you get that Cadillac?" meant more to me than everything else I'd ever loved put together, because I'm really into things meaning things now, and yes- I do wear red lipstick more often than I used to. 
        I do a lot of things different than I used to. Rudie Can't Fail becomes the 7th most played song on my entire iTunes within a period of 14 days. I love it at first because it's punchy, it's buoyant, it starts out by smacking you in the face and then grinning mischievously; "Aw Ruuuuuudie!" you can't help but grin back, punching it affectionately between the shoulderblades, and every character in this metaphor has freckles, a black eye, and a gap between her two front teeth.


I'm drinking cheap champagne out of a Venti iced cup on my stoop in 3 in the afternoon while Natasha, my ninety-year-old Russian landlady, tells me about how last week, she was in the hospital "vomiting shit." Her husband's in a coma; he's going to die soon. Her son once rode a motorcycle from Moscow to St Petersburg but then he got multiple sclerosis and now he's blind in one eye, had to learn to write left-handed. I moved into this Romanov palace six months ago and thought I had it made: the brass fireplace, the stained glass window, the canopy of leaves folding over my street. The leaves are mostly green, except for the little purple ones, which remind me of pomegranate seeds. They look more like oil painting leaves than they do like real leaves; my street is verdant, and nothing is ever verdant. We've got antique lampposts, called pole-tops, or light pillars. The pillars are black and the lights are orbs- perfect circles, contained by nothing. They are straight white up close and in the night they go pink from far away but from further than that they go white again, and it's cool.
        Natasha's going to die while I live here, and that's something I'm going to have to deal with. I'm the middle of writing a short story about all the different ways to kill yourself at a sushi restaurant, hugging a woman who fled to Argentina during World War II, she's crying into my shoulder, asking me "Why?"- why do things have to be like this? Why is her husband in a coma, why is her son blind, and why was she vomiting shit?
        I tell her I don't know because I don't, and across the street the old Italian man is watching- he's never not smoking a cigarette; I seriously live on the most punk rock street of all time. Sometimes he and I make eye contact while we're both smoking, we nod as if to say "Yes. We are both smoking cigarettes," and one day I'm gonna tell him "You're the last of the great smokers!" 
        It breaks my heart to think when I'm his age I won't smoke anymore, but I won't. If I ever die of something so boring as lung cancer, I swear to God, I'll kill myself.


I walk back upstairs and sit on the corner of my desk, with my feet up on the trunk, so I can be closer to the sound. I drop the needle a fifth of the way into Rudie, and I can't make it through the intro, I need to hear those words right now:

I know that my life makes you nervous, but I tell you I can't live in service, like a doctor who's born for a purpose-

No one will ever know what it felt like to be you. No one will ever know what it felt like to be you. Nobody was there to know how good it felt, shoving that pack of cigarettes into the back pocket of my jean shorts, and if anybody ever asked them "Do you love your iPhone?" I doubt they asked them "Do you love your toothbrush?" back. And when they tripped over their dining room table I'll bet their dad never told them "You're not very connected to the physical world," which sounded like he was saying I'm really spiritual and at one with the Universe but all it meant was "You're clumsy and you ruin shit"-
        Break the binding and dog-ear the pages. Tell your boss he looks young for his age and buy yourself a free pass to slacking off work for the entire rest of your life. Don't hate people, pity them- it's meaner. Hide your toilet paper in your bedroom if your roommate's a mooch; grab a motherfucking Snickers if you're hungry.
        You are too rock and roll of a human to actively participate in a conversation about nailpolish. It is literally impossible for you to ever fail at anything in your life.


  1. Pretty ridiculous how no one's commented about how great this is yet.

    This is really great. I like it a whole lot.


  2. This is music writing unlike any other music writing. It's fantastic.