Any chance I get to quote two of my favorite songwriters means it’s probably going to be a good day. So, let’s start with Slaid Cleaves:

Brokedown, cracked and shattered
Left in Pieces like it never even mattered
There’s no turnin’ round
It’s Brokedown

And from the late, great Warren Zevon:

I was speeding south on ninety-nine when the manifold started smokin’
I ran her off the shoulder and now the axle’s broken
It made a sound that cracked my heart in half and with only half a half pint of vodka left

I’m up against it all like a leaf against the wind and this Studebaker keeps on breaking down again
My Studebaker keeps on breaking down again

So, why the song lyrics about broken down cars? Because Mark Hetzberg sent along a link to a New York Times story on Amy Stein and her collection of photographs titled, “Stranded.” Which are, as you’d imagine now, photos of broken down cars along the road.

As a car guy who has spent a lot of time in old cars on long trips, I can attest to the number of busted cars out there. One of the things I find interesting is that, here in the south, there are more broken down cars along the sides of the road then there were when I lived in the north.

Cars die faster up there–roads and weather are harsher and they take a heavy toll on suspensions and steel. But, down here, cars last longer, so maybe it’s just inevitable that those 1986 Buicks are going to give up the ghost eventually.

Something else to ponder as we all wander for the holidays.

(The Cleaves song is titled Broke Down, from his album of the same name. The Zevon song was one he wrote but doesn’t appear to have recorded, though his son did perform a heartbreaking version of it on the tribute album Enjoy Every Sandwich, recorded after Warren Zevon passed away. Both records should be in your collection, by the way–amazing storytelling all the way through. And, man, I could really use One Good Year right about now.)

Mark E. Johnson

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