As the tone for the top of the hour began to sound, two other drivers and I, stopped at a red traffic light, automatically reached towards our individual car radios and raised the volume. Raising the volume particularly at the top of the hour at 8 a.m. is a very Israeli thing – an exhibition of completely grisly behavior – if something really bad happened during the night we want to hear every detail! I was the middle vehicle, and as a result of the simultaneous increase in volume I was suddenly wrapped in a triadic surround sound of news as I listened to the second news item. The Hebrew language news announcer reported that Gerry Rafferty famous for “Baker Street” and “Stuck in the Middle” had passed away from liver disease, he was 63. Sad news. In my head I heard the opening strains of “Baker Street”, as I laid my hand over my heart, I looked over at the middle-aged driver to my left who rolled down his window and said to me in English “There goes part of our youth”. Then the light changed and we each sped forward into another Wednesday morning in Jerusalem traffic jam. As I drove along with “Baker Street” still playing in my head I began remembering all kinds of details from the summer of 1978.
“Baker Street” and 1978 accompanied me all day long yesterday as I recalled that during the summer of ‘78, at the age of 20, I made my first “adult trip” (read: first trip without my parents) to New York City. That summer “Baker Street” must have been in the top 10 charts of all the radio stations as Mark (my first boyfriend), Jimmy (his frat brother and our friend) and I drove in “Sir Erwin Algae the Ise-Mobile”, my 1969 VW Beetle, from Chicago to New York City via I-80. Three drivers driving 15 hours straight with stops at the Ho-Jo’s along the way. As we crossed state lines and searched for good music on the radio (“Sir Erwin” didn’t have a tape player, not even an eight track tape player!) it seemed to us that we heard “Baker Street” at least once an hour so that by the time we reached NYC and dropped Jimmy off at Penn Station so that he could catch the LIRR to his hometown of Hicksville, Long Island, we three had declared it the official road trip to New York City song!
With “Baker Street” still playing in my head I remembered scenes from that road trip. Mark and I stayed at a very funky Greenwich Village hotel, (my very liberal and laid back mother would have gasped if she’d seen it), near Washington Square Park. One afternoon we went out for a walk in Washington Square Park and spontaneously started singing “Age of Aquarius” from “Hair” and were joined by a whole group of rag tag university aged people just like us! Mark and I were in the “Big Apple” for a week – we went for long walks in Central Park, on Broadway, down Fifth and up Park. We went to all of the museums that had “free days” or reduced prices for university students (we were really poor back then) and every night we hung out in Village Pubs all of them at the corner of “Walk – Don’t Walk”. One morning on a whim we took the ferry to “Liberty Island” and without any security issues to stop us, we walked to the top of “Our Lady of Liberty” just so that we could say we’d done it and of course to enjoy the view. At the end of the week we picked up Jimmy at Penn Station and drove back home to Chicago, and yes, the whole way back the three of us were accompanied by Rafferty’s “Baker Street” especially that amazing saxophone solo! The same thing happened yesterday it was Rafferty, “Baker Street” and me on a cloudy Wednesday – a day of musically inspired long time ago happy memories back and forth between NYC, 1978 and Jerusalem, 2011 – and yet all day long I also knew that the anonymous driver to my left had been correct – with Rafferty’s death another part of my youth was gone.