We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2011 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!
A three-part saga of trying to see the last day of Christian Marclay’s The Clock at the Paula Cooper Gallery.
I am refusing to look at the time on my phone because it’s Thursday night, I am in Kansas City, and I have to be in New York City by Friday at midnight, to meet Zadie Smith to see Christian Marclay’s new video work, The Clock. The truck I planned to drive has a flat tire and the battery’s dead, so I run down the icy street with my backpack on, slipping in my gray Ferragamos on the hill, catch a cab at the corner and ask the driver to take me to I-70 just east of 71.
“Where on 70? You going to Liberty? I can take you to Liberty. I’ll turn off the meter if we’re going to Liberty.”
I think of a line a friend of mine used to say about New York City, that as soon as you arrived the meter started running and it didn’t stop until you left. Like Scorsese in his cameo in Taxidriver insisting that Travis Bickle keep the meter on while they sit and wait.
“All I need is a truck stop.”
Before we’re ten minutes outside downtown we see the red-and-blue TA sign in Oak Grove. There are probably twenty trucks lined up. But no trucker inside the TA is hauling to New York or nobody will cop to it, so I go outside and head for the line of semis. It’s starting to rain, I’m ten miles from home and I already recognize how eccentric, how unstable, how woebegone, how doomed this plan is; the roar of the highway is an echo of my sure failure, and I’m thinking about the trucker who’s too wise to take the little baby in Denis Johnson’s “Car Crash While Hitchhiking” when I hear, incredibly, like a promise from God—there will be many of these in the next twenty-four hours, but I don’t know it yet—the elongated throaty syllables of Lou Reed coming from an amiable-looking white truck with wide mirrors coming off its nose and bumpers that give it a kind of Disney Cars effect. In the movie, the trucks are always the good guys. And, better still, a middle-aged black man with a potbelly is pumping diesel into it, listening to one of the most white-boy songs of all time. It’s the very song that Johnson uses for the title and the epigraph of his famous story collection: