I got into Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks in high school while riding in the back of Mark’s Mustang, on the way to New Hope, Pennsylvania. The car was fast, and we hugged the twists and turns along the Delaware River, smoking cigarettes, laughing, drinking beer, and talking ourselves hoarse over the loud music.
New Hope had its share of funky boutiques and art studios, on the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The best was The Now & Then Shop, which sold vintage rock posters, T-shirts, incense, and random knick-knacks. Its employees were expressionless, slumped over the jewel cases, swapping out tapes for the overhead stereo.
Mark kept beer in the back of the Mustang under a Mexican blanket, in his parent’s driveway. We were about 16 and living at home still, so the safest place to drink without getting caught was in the car, while driving. (All of this is horrible in retrospect, of course, and as the father of two.)
Despite our carelessness, Mark and I were lucky and only got into two minor accidents. The first involved Mark trying to reprogram his car stereo while driving, and side-swiping a telephone pole. The second was when we got hit sideways by a kid who ran a red light. Unfortunately, we were drinking too and so the beer went all over us and the car, but we got away without having to call the police.
Mark’s older brother died during our junior year, racing someone in Mark’s Mustang on a Sunday morning. He lost control of the car going around a turn, wiped out, and died on impact.
It was the first time someone in our high school had died. My Sociology teacher asked if I was going to the funeral for Mark’s brother but I said no, because I didn’t know him too well.
He said, you don’t go to the funeral because of the guy who died. You go there to be with his brother, your friend.