I don't know about you (at all -- in fact, who are you? Go away and leave me alone), but I've always had a soft spot for the early Bruce Springsteen hits -- and in particular Born to Run:
In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
He conjures up an alluring vision of speeding through the rugged hearland of America, in the dark of night on a throbbing motorcycle, tearing through wildeness and then through the heart of a city, mostly asleep, but parts just seething with restless energy.
The problem is, I went on Highway 9 yesterday. The US does tend to recycle road numbers rather heavily, but I'm pretty sure it's the same one, since I was visiting Freehold, which happens to be The Boss's place of birth. And I have to say, it really doesn't live up to its reputation. Highway nine is the kind of road that seems particularly special to New Jersey: two lanes of traffic in each direction with a concrete bollard in between, it limply winds its way down south through the sparsely populated sub-suburban sprawl of semi-rural towns. Along each side it's peppered with seedy strip malls, decrepit movie theatres, retirement homes and golf courses. Born to Run you may be, but unless you want a ticket from the donut chewing cops, you'll have to stop every five minutes at the traffic lights that control the jug handles, New Jersey's unique answer to the problem of how to make a U-turn when you realize that the thing you want to get to is on the other side of the road. All the glamour of the storied America from my youth in this song turns out to be defined in tacky neon and mouldy plastic edifices.
Still, it got me out of the house, so mustn't grumble.