Sunday, July 27, 2014

Water 'Neath The Ferry

A lot of water has been run under and around the hull of my ferry since then.
And while Life is undoubtedly meant to be lived forward,
Occasionally it is nice to take a moment
To peer backwards through the glass
At a moment that meant something to you then and, to discover,
That is still means quite a lot to you presently...

...Something neither time nor memory can fade away.

I have lived in better fortune than I deserve.  Each of us has a Day of Reckoning coming I suppose and I harbor no delusions about the general tone and tenor of mine.  Margaret is to cremate me when I die.  I want my body to have a chance to adjust to the temperature where Eternity shall be spent.  I cannot undo the things I have done.  None of us can.  It is an option that - candidly - were it available to me to pursue, I would not.  The great Oscar Wilde once observed that, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past."  It would appear I have amassed a small fortune in S&H Green Stamps, then, for no discernible reason whatsoever.  If only they were redeemable at Skee Ball.   

Even the black hearted among us fall into it every now and again.  To that rule I am certainly no exception.  Among the pleasures I have derived from this life is being able to share my love of Springsteen music - and more specifically the love of Springsteen's live performances - with Rob.  There were not a great many interests I shared with my father - at least not during the fourteen overlapping years in which we were both alive.  I did not develop my fondness for alcohol until after he died.  Perhaps had he not died when he did, as I grew older we would have developed a shared love for something other than the New York Rangers - and sarcasm.  Such is life.  

It is one of the great joys of my life that from the time Rob was little, he became a fan of Springsteen's music.  And I do not mean a "fan".  I mean A FAN.   Case in point, while there are a couple of people who normally stop by this space who not only recognize "So Young and In Love" as one of Springsteen's songs but who can also sing a lyric or two, in all likelihood a considerable percentage of you cannot.  Rob had it on the play list for the DJ at his wedding reception.  'Nuff said. 

Fifteen years ago this summer, Springsteen and the E Street Band played a fifteen-night stand at Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford.  Earlier this week on the nj.com web site Stan Goldstein had a piece I enjoyed very much providing the happy recap of all fifteen shows.  http://www.nj.com/springsteen/index.ssf/2014/07/looking_back_at_bruce_springst_2.html

Truth be told, that particular venue has changed names so often in its lifetime it likely was not known as the Byrne Arena by the Summer of '99.  It was by me.  Still is.  Springsteen had just put the Band back together after having spent, essentially, the decade of the 90's separated from them.  Most of them anyway.  Roy Bittan being an exception who proved the rule.  

Thus, it was on the "Reunion Tour" that I took Rob to see my musical hero for the very first time.  I scored two tickets each to two of the shows, both of which came towards the end of the run.  I had no idea what to expect - either in terms of his reaction or their performance.  I had last seen them play together almost fifteen years earlier - in Denver's snow-laced Mile High Stadium on Springsteen's 36th birthday in September, 1985.  

The first of our two shows was Show #13 on August 9, 1999.  We had terrible seats.  We were almost all the way up in the very last row directly behind the stage, which did little to tamp down my anxiety level.  They opened with "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and about ten seconds into it, Rob was hooked.  If "Darkness" as the opener drew him in, it was the inclusion of "Frankie" in that night's set list that assured he never left.  Rob was markedly younger than most of the people seated around us in the nosebleeds but he knew his Springsteen music better than all of them.  Having listened to Tracks repeatedly in the months since its release, his thirteen-year-old ear recognized "Frankie" immediately and he sensed - even without knowing - that hearing it performed in concert was a decidedly unusual experience. 

Two nights later we returned for the penultimate show, which was a classic.  They opened with "Night", ended the encores with "Sandy" and in between played (among two dozen or so others) "Trapped" and "Freehold" (referred to in the set list as "In Freehold").  They also played a simply exquisite rendition of  "New York City Serenade", which they had not played in concert in close to a quarter century.  Our seats for the August 11, 1999 show were slightly better than those for our first show.  We were still up in the nosebleeds but now we were not directly behind the stage but rather in the neighborhood of Clarence's 3 o'clock.  Perhaps we were closer to his 3:20.  The shittiness of the seats had zero effect on our enjoyment of the evening. 

As we were leaving our seats at show's end, the two male halves of a pair of young couples who had been seated a couple of rows behind us were commenting upon they had just witnessed.  One remarked to the other that while he had enjoyed the show he was disappointed that neither "Born in the USA" nor "Dancing in the Dark" had been played.  As if sprung from his very own cage on Highway 9, Rob spun towards the two men (both considerably younger than I but considerably older than he) and lit into them for their lack of musical appreciation, asking them both how either of them could have felt let down at not hearing those songs in consideration of what we had all just heard.  One of the two of them looked towards me as if expecting me to intervene.  I just laughed and told them that I was as surprised as he was.  Thus endeth the interaction.  

Over the years, Rob and I have seen Springsteen in five different states:  New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Colorado.  We have seen him in venues as gargantuan as Giants Stadium and as intimate as the Tower Theatre.  We have seen him play solo shows, shows with the Seeger Sessions Band and, of course, shows with the E Street Band (both the iteration that included the late, great Clarence Clemons and Phantom Dan Federici and the ESB in its present composition).  

To paraphrase another of my favorite American songwriters, "Fifteen years now.  Where'd they go?  Fifteen years now.  I don't know."     And I really have no idea.  The once thirteen-year-old boy is a twenty-eight-year-old man, husband to a beautiful young woman with whom he is making one hell of a life for himself a couple of thousand miles or so away from the swamps of Jersey.   

We journey onward.  We move upward.  But as a wise man once observed there is nothing at all wrong with taking a glance backward every now and again.  Knowing as we do that when we turn back around again that boy will be gone... 

...some times you just gotta walk on. 


-AK        

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