I was walking to the East Village from my apartment in the West Village. I had $10 to my name and was hungry for Indian food.
Just past Washington Square Park, I came across a guy who was sitting on the curb with a guitar. He had a hat turned upside down with a few coins in it. He was between songs and had on a faded gray T-shirt that said “The Clash” in letters that were barely legible.
On a whim, I sang (badly) Mick Jones’s first lines of “Something About England” from “Sandinista.”
“They say the immigrants steal the hubcaps of respected gentlemen. They say it would be wine and roses, if England were for Englishmen again.”
He looked up, and sang a couple of Joe Strummer’s lines from later in the song: “I missed the fourteen-eighteen war, but not the sorrow afterwards. With my father dead, my mother ran off, my brothers took the pay of hoods.”
People passed by. He kept singing, getting the lyrics mixed up as he went, but squeezing them all in anyway. (That’s OK, I thought. Strummer did that too.)
When he’d finished singing, he strummed his muted strings, waiting for me to jump back in.
I sang Jones’s last lines.