Wow. Okay. Late 2007. I cannot believe the year is almost over. It has been a whirlwind, yes it has. We all came of age a little bit, we all lost something meaningful and poignant, and the space within us is bittersweet but cherished. We came so far, yet went nowhere. We circled in space. And now, we hold ourselves close. I hold me. Hello, soft beating of my heart. How are you? How was your year? Are you ready for 2008? I did not think so. Ha ha, yes, we are never ready, you are right. You only grab the bull’s horns when it is right there in front of you like a sudden nightmare, snot spraying all over the place, eyes bulging and red, teeth bared; you grab hold then and then only. Moments before you might never have thought yourself capable. Grab hold or get gored. Bold is as bold does, Baldilocks. All your words and all your complicated hand gestures mean nothing now in these years of pink-skulled adulthead. Heady youth, sure, hair all over the place, the words were gold, or gold-plated at least, and the gestures were frantic, so easy to imagine dextrous, enlightened. But now, all of that is like so much styrofoam and whale meat on the beach. What are the definable actions? Your girlfriend wants to know. Your mother wants to know. Certain intelligence-gathering agencies have what might be called a pointed interest. What are the actions you will brandish this year, to make yourself count, make yourself a fundamental part of the doing of things getting done and doing. What hair styles will you not wear? What movies will you produce in your head and never get to paper much less to screen? Will you get up in the morning and do your sun salutations? Will you do your push-ups and sit-ups before bed? Will you wash your car this year? That car is a mess. The cupcakes have melted all over the backseat, birdshot and fast food wrappers litter the floorboards. Something, we think, is alive in the trunk, and it ain’t a miracle. Clean the car, clean in between your legs, clean your room. No more can you run into rooms and demand things. Give me this and give me that and and also, yes, I am going to freak out if you do not also give me this thing over here. Give me a break. Others will continue to behave in this way, but not you, please not you. Stop the barging into places, the laying bare of needs. Stumbling into interviews, throwing up, pleading -- no, no, no, no more, I am begging you: cease!
The highlight of 2007 had to have been me destroying Thunder Road
in a karaoke session that ought to have been light, frivolous, fun, but instead turned dark, disastrous and stinky with meaning. God, and I love Thunder Road
. I am not sure I can explain to you how very much this song means to me. There are a fair number of songs in the Springsteen catalogue that will utterly unhinge me, and this is one of them. The entire LP Born To Run
is something of a holy text, written in the year of my birth, and do not think this has gone unnoticed. (I will write in greater detail on the importance of this album, its personal importance to me as well as its importance to the idea of songcraft, American and otherwise, at a later date.) But, so, anyway, the screen door slammed that night, Mary your dress waved, and I held that microphone up to my mouth and readied myself for some sweet intoning on these timeless words, but what came out instead was something of a thin, depraved yowl. I have long desired to sing, but have long been aware that, really, I cannot sing. Still though and the same, Springsteen I liked to think I could do. I hear me hearing him and singing along in the car, my legs wrapped around the engine, or in the shower in an everlasting dream, I sing, and—I used to think—sing well. But then karaoke happened. Of course I went straight to the damn song in the play list early in the night. What else am I going to do? Somebody already did Sweet Jane
, of course they did. Thunder Road
. I filled out my karaoke request slip and pocketed it tight, held it close, drummed my fingers on it. Bided my time. The evening wore on, I grew restless. I had made the decision to sing, and all that was left was the singing itself. Finally my friend saw the sadness in my eyes, the longing, anticipation, un-knowingness, and she ripped my request slip from my sweaty fingers and took it up the deejay, and, God, if it wasn’t like ten seconds later that I hear him calling my name. It was like hearing your name called out on the other side of the world, but you get up and you go over there. I got up and went over there. I had waited for what felt like so long, but then suddenly it was happening too fast. It was too much. “The Boss,” our deejay said, “this one’s a classic.” Yes, it is. But the phrase “classic” can carry many different meanings, and on this night we were to discover a whole new meaning of the word. The music started. Those opening chords. God, you know 'em. Please tell me you know 'em. If you don't, I don't know what you're doing here. That soul-strecthing harmonica, the spine-tingling piano. I steeled myself. Ready to slip into that first verse, friends. And then the pocket opened and I slipped in. I opened my mouth and attempted to intone. But that voice! The thing which came out. No! It was not mine. This I wanted desperately to believe. Could not be my voice. But it was. It was my voice, and it was walking now a sacrilegious path. The thing issuing forth from my mouth was an old associate I did not want to see again, much less listen to. Thin, full of nothing. Howling, out of tune, desperate. I stood there like a statue. No swing, Jazzman. My hand was in my pocket! Why! American Idle. And then I really lost track of everything. I was into verse two when I realized the words I was singing no longer matched those scrolling across the tiny television screen. The music coming out of the speakers was suddenly like quicksand that I had to crawl and fight my way through. I was nowhere near E Street. It was like I had never even been to the Jersey shore. It’s lying out there like a killer in the sun. I flapped my arms like a bird, fly, fly, fly, but the dirty floor stayed right there under my feet and the music kept plowing forward and I sensed actual anger from the patrons around me. I could go on and on about how bad it was. Believe me, it was bad. But the damndest thing happened. Sudden grace of a sudden and graceful out of nowhere that chorus saved me, child. It descended and wrapped itself around me. Oh, whoah, hoah, oh, Thunder Road. Sit tight. Take hold. Thunder Road. And that is what I did. I girded myself, heard the engines roar on, and the town was goners. The thing rang clear. My graduation gown lied in rags at their feet. Rolling the windows down.
What is the lesson in all that? There is no lesson. It was a hell of a year, that is all. Something new now. I had to try super hard--try so hard it is like nothing happens--and I had to blow it, and then I had to meet the ghost, retire to bone-headed depression like a dinosaur fossil, and then I had to wake up one day, shave, and come back into it senses up. Do it, do it, do it, Baldilocks, get out of the house because the Bears are almost at the end of the trail, almost into the yard, they are coming home. We have been home, upstairs in bed, la di da, bedridden and so sleepy, la di da, we have been home, upstairs in bed when the Bears arrive. The Bears come home and the world turns to blurs and deep stomach noises and scrambling and desperation. Not pretty. Get out. Do it. And also, Thunder Road
is an awesome song, Born To Run
is an awesome album. Do yourself a favor and slip on down to the shore of greasy lake sometime. Big ol' yearn, big ol' burn. Rolling the windows down.
Happy New Year, friends and lovers! Happy New Year, lost, loved family! Happy New Year, Bruce Springsteen! Happy New Year, New Missouri! Happy New Year, El Paso! Happy New Year, Los Angeles! Happy New Year, Peru! (I will see you soon!) Happy New Year, dearest Creekbed, I lay into you.