Walking in our neighborhood these covid summer nights, a friend and I have been counting roadrunners.
They are incongruous, relic dinosaurs as apex predators (but what of the hawks, and cats?) in our suburban neighborhood.
Early in the pandemic, we’d see one or two. Rarely zero, but rarely more than one or two. We’d see bug hunting and bird hunting (an epic standoff between a pair of roadrunners and a curve-billed thrasher comes to mind) and mating rituals.
The mating rituals must have been successful, because now we see families of three. I lose track, but my friend thinks six last night (or was it seven?).
One, two, three, four, five, six
Jonathan Richman was of course not thinking about the southwestern desert bird when as a 19-year-old proto-punk half a century ago (are we that old?) he wrote one of my favorite songs.
I say, roadrunner once, roadrunner twice
I’m in love with rock and roll, and I’ll be out all night
It is, Bill Janovitz has written, “more of a chant than a song,” earnestly unadorned.
Here’s one of my favorite versions, Richman and Modern Lovers bass player Ernie Brooks playing at Coney Island High for Joey Ramone’s 47th birthday party:
The strummed single chord (briefly a second now and then, even more briefly a third) – cheerfully driven – Richman’s eager joy at the world around him – “gonna drive past the Stop-‘N’-Shop”!
An anthem for this strange summer.