Friday, December 11, 2015

A Chosen Chance

You make up your mind, you choose the chance you take
You ride to where the highway ends and the desert breaks
Out on an open road you ride until the day
You learn to sleep at night with the price you pay...
- Bruce Springsteen

For as long as I can remember - and I have a pretty good memory (ravages of age, alcohol, and various/sundry other substances notwithstanding) - "Racing in the Street" has been my favorite Springsteen song.  The imagery that its last verse evokes ("She stares off alone into the night with the eyes of one who hates for just being born") is, to me, staggering.  

While Darkness on the Edge of Town, the album on which "Racing" appears is my favorite Springsteen album, given that I was just eleven years old at the time of its release, my complete appreciation of its depth and breadth is something that I acquired at some point subsequent to its release.  I have no specific recollection of when or where I purchased my first copy of Darkness, but I am comfortable stating that it was most likely in cassette form and it was most certainly not on its release date, which was June 2, 1978. 

I was only a few months shy of my fourteenth birthday when The River was released in mid-October, 1980.   We tend to grow up in leaps and bounds and I was in quite a different place, emotionally and otherwise, as a thirteen year-old teenager from where I had been as a little boy of eleven.  Kara and Jill bought me the album, which was a double-album, for Christmas.  By the time W-H's Christmas break ended, I had worn out at least a needle or two on Dad's Fisher Console Hi-Fi System that occupied a wall in the dining room in our house on Wertsville Road.  

In a lot of ways, The River was the first Springsteen album on which I felt he was talking to me and about a world that - if I did not occupy it - was a world with which I had more than a casual familiarity.  I discovered the power of the music at the time of the record's release, not at some point after the fact, which had been the case with the records that preceded it.  In addition to listening to it over and over, I spent hours poring over the lyrics of the various songs. His words, even stripped of musical accompaniment, struck me as nothing short of extraordinary.  

Christmas came early for me this year.  In celebration of the 35th anniversary of the release of The River, Springsteen released a simply beautiful box set, The Ties That Bind - The River Collection.  In addition to buying it for Rob (they do celebrate Christmas in Colorado after all), I 'gifted' myself a copy of it.  I had intended to wait for Christmas to open it but...

...this has been an extraordinarily irritating week at work.  A week in which every day could be "Throat Punch Thursday".  So, after staring at the white box with the Backstreets Records shipping label for a few days, Wednesday night I finally took the plunge and opened the damn thing.  

I did a bit of driving around yesterday, spending more time in the car than I might otherwise spend.  I spent every minute of my drive accompanied by the joyful noise contained on one of this collection's four CDs.  And the noise is joyful even when its tone is decidedly less so, which it is in substantial part...

But just across the county line,
a stranger passing through put up a sign
That counts the men fallen away to the price you pay,
and girl before the end of the day, 
I'm gonna tear it down and throw it away...



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