Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Teardrops on the Street of a Still-Busted City....

When the change was made uptown
And the Big Man joined the band
From the coastline to the city
All the little pretties raise their hands
I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh
When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half

- Bruce Springsteen



Two years ago today, Clarence "Big Man" Clemons died.  An argument can be made that irrespective of how much longer the Poet Laureate of Freehold and his Band of Merry Men continue to record and to tour, the outfit has been "the E Street Band" in name only since Clarence's death.  Hell, an argument can be made that the band died before Clarence did - when Danny Federici succumbed to melanoma in April, 2008.  Today is not the day for either argument.  This is not the place for them either.  



As someone for whom Bruce Springsteen's music has formed the backbone of the soundtrack of my life for more than four and one-half decades, I knew Clarence Clemons solely (or perhaps soully) through his contribution to that music, which contribution was not insignificant.  I did not know him.  I met him only one time - at the Border's bookstore in Bridgewater, New Jersey on a Friday night in October 2009.  He was there with his co-author Don Reo signing copies of his "memoirs". 

If I live to be 100 I shall remember forever the ear-to-ear grin that filled his sizable face upon meeting Liv - who dropped into the book-signing line with Margaret and me so that she and her mom, Laura, would not have to spend the remainder of Liv's childhood waiting in line for her copy of the book to be signed.  The sight of this larger-than-life, incredibly dark-skinned giant of an African-American man smiling and talking saxophone parts with this tinier-than tiny, skinny as a nickel little white girl while a line of customers waited impatiently behind her is something that shall never disappear from my mind's eye.  For those couple of minutes, Clarence succeeded in making his whole existence about Liv and about his talking to her about their common love:  the saxophone.  She adored him before she met him.  She worshipped him thereafter. 

I shall make it a point today to do something I enjoy doing very much:  throwing some old Springsteen into the CD player of my car and listening to Clarence's saxophone keep me company as I head south on the Parkway for a deposition.  And it shall do what it always does - it shall bring an ear-to-ear grin to my sizable face.  I laughed for a moment last week when Governor Christie - himself a big Springsteen fan - declared that beginning in 2014 January 11, which was Clarence's birthday, shall be "Clarence Clemons Day" in New Jersey.  Seemed to me to be the sort of benign silliness that an incumbent with a forty-point lead in the polls over his Democratic challenger could afford to waste half a day's news cycle chattering about roughly five months prior to Election Day.  I reckon we shall find out on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November if his time should have been better spent.

That too is a conversation for another day.  Not today.  Not here anyway.



-AK