The Song: "Highway Patrolman," Bruce Springsteen. Words & music by Bruce Springsteen. Track 5 of Nebraska, 1982.
How/when acquired: Purchased cassette, 1982.
Listen to a live version here.
"Is your second toe longer than your big toe?" I asked Claire last night. This is something I should know, but don't.
"Yes," she said.
I nodded. "It runs in the family."
I believe in the widest possible definition of "family." Quite a few people in my life are family with no blood connection at all.
Over the past week, though, I've spent quality time with several branches of my vast blood-family tree, and it's hard to put the comfort of those connections into words. It's almost magical to notice my uncle's tiny hands, or my brother's unusually long torso, or my daughter's Morton's toe. These are things that run in our family — on both sides, as my parents themselves are distant relatives (we're not sure exactly how far back; far enough).
Growing up in the same house just intensifies that connection. My brothers and sisters and I laugh at the same jokes, argue about things that happened 30 years ago, quote the same movies and cook the same things for holiday meals. The other night I insisted my sister-in-law watch the movie Hollywood Shuffle because the Lamb siblings have been quoting from it since 1988, and Sara had never seen it. (Thank God she liked it, and now she too can laugh whenever one of us says, "I give this movie 'The Finger!'.")
This album was the first one I bought as a college freshman, at Olsson's Books & Music on Wisconsin Avenue the day it came out. I have owned it in one format or another for 28 years. Johnny Cash covered this song on his album Johnny 99. I would never say his version is better, but he makes the song his own. You can hear it here.