On the Road Again
I left the herb farm on Friday morning and hit the open road. I didn’t actually pick which direction to head in until a crossroads made me choose. There is something great about that kind of wandering. I chose northeast, toward the coast and cape. It was a gray, rainy, rolling-cloud kind of day, well-suited to mellow music and frequent stops in little towns.
I ended up in Napier that night, pitching my tent on a small patch of grass behind a hostel by the sea. Napier is famous for being the Art Deco capital of New Zealand. Meh. It was alright. Over-rated perhaps. Saturday morning the sun was shining, no sparkling, off of the blue, blue sea. And then it really did look like an art deco painting–all clean and crisp–and I could understand the appeal.
I was in better spirits. Gina was too. She was also sick of the previous day’s roster of sad bastard music. She had some demands. Namely, Bruce Springsteen. (Remember, she is a Jersey girl.) And as we were driving along, hair blowing in the warm wind, spitting cherry pits out of the window, belting out the ballads of hard knocks in small towns, I got to thinking. Thinking about The Boss. Thinking about all the good times we have shared over the years. And so I bring you the mother of all digressions..
Bruce and Me, a retrospective
In the early 1990s my mom used to sometimes wake us up in the morning by blasting songs from the Born in the USA album from downstairs. I remember yelling and hiding under the covers. I also remember being vaguely scandalized by Bruce’s denim-clad booty featured on the album cover, in close-up. Incidentally, this was tame in comparison to the Stones’ Sticky Fingers album cover that lived near by. You know the one. With the zipper.
Born in the USA
The year 2000. Annie is about to leave to spend a semester in Prague. Clearly I must make her an epic mixed tape (yes, an actual tape, if you remember those), to remind her of her roots. I call it Born in the USA, and then write USA! USA! All over it, lest she forget its theme when not actually listening to it. Obviously The Boss is prominently featured.
The first time I ever set foot in New Jersey was with my good friend and Jersey native, Stefan. We listened to Thunder Road once we crossed the state line. I was beyond thrilled when we rolled into his family house and heard the sweet sound of The Boss playing. It helped to not disprove my hope that this is indeed the go-to soundtrack of all homes in the Garden state.
Dancing in the Dark
One fall when I worked at Orion we hosted a young writer’s conference for an amazing weekend in the Adirondacks. If you didn’t already know, writers love to party. For the last night’s celebrations we set up in the lodge’s boathouse, and proceeded to drink whiskey, run around the ping pong table, chat, and dance, in true Hemingway fashion. One of my fondest memories of that night (before the frigid skinny-dipping excursion transpired) is of looking through old records. Chris Cokinos put on The Boss. Our elderly publisher, clad in his signature tweed coat and bow tie, familiar only with the waltz, held Kate Miles captive while trying to awkwardly groove to the soul of Jersey. And when Dancing in the Dark came on, half the writers in the room yelled out in unison with the line “I’m sick of sittin’ round here try to write this book!” and it was glorious.
(The Day the Music Died)
Eventually we moved on to other music. Eventually my old brick of an iPod seized up and died, never to work again. This means over the last few days the drives have gotten a whole lot longer and crazier. Can a person get a temporary, accented, medley-centric version of Tourette’s? If I am any indication, yes, yes they can. But before all that, I was hit with one final jab in the ribs, as the universe reminded me of it’s own wicked little sense of humor. The song that froze the pod?: Say It Ain’t So.