Monday, February 8, 2016

Memory Lines

I am an enormous fan of spontaneity - as long as I have planned for it accordingly.  A week ago yesterday, I did something spontaneous, which I am glad I did - even if it made Monday feel as if it was the longest day of the year. 

Early in the afternoon on January's final day, the Missus and I were out and about running a number of errands.  While we were out doing our thing, our friend Gidg sent me a text message inquiring about my availability to join her little cabal at that night's stop on Springsteen and the E Street Band's tour, which stop happened to be in Newark.  Although I knew a late night on Sunday night would likely cause me to whine like a baby with a prize inside of his Pampers for at least a day or two, the lure of Springsteen was irresistible.  

Braced by my ninety-minute power nap, which commenced immediately upon our arrival home from our errands, I joined all four Sisters Kizis, Liv (University of Colorado Class of 2020), and Jeff in Newark at 4:00 PM.  We were all the proud possessors of General Admission tickets, which had our numbers been drawn in the lottery that was held shortly after 5:00 PM, would have entitled us to view the concert from "the Pit".  It is an interesting way to see a show, which all of us in our group have experienced on multiple occasions.  It is also an exhausting way in which to watch a show.  If you think that middle-aged Caucasians jockey like NBA power forwards to get position in the five minutes prior to Costco's opening on a weekend morning, then all you need to do is multiply that ferocity by 1000x or so and you almost have an understanding of the way elbows are thrown in the Pit.  

Sadly - or perhaps not so much depending upon your perspective - we were lottery losers, which entitled (sorry "relegated") us to space anywhere on the arena floor other than the Pit.  We started out within one hundred feet of the stage - almost directly in front of Springsteen - but as the people around us crowded in, almost all of us (except for Liv and Pam) sought refuge at the back of the arena floor.  Irrespective of wherever we stood, what we heard and what we saw was extraordinary.  

Among other things, Springsteen is a marvel of conditioning.  He is sixty-six years old and has thus far on this tour led his band of merry men and women through intermission-free concerts that have lasted in excess of three hours.  In Newark, the music started flowing at or about 8:10 PM and did not stop flowing until it was just about 11:30 PM.  At night's end, I felt considerably more worn than any of the musicians, Springsteen included, themselves appeared to be by their hard work.  

Springsteen - when he is touring with the E Street Band - no longer tells the stories that were once a staple of his live shows.  Last Sunday night, while he did not tell a lot of stories, he told two that revealed to those who might not have been familiar with The River and reminded those of us who first made its acquaintance three and one-half decades ago the powerful meaning behind the album's songs.  He set up the record's title track, which is the eleventh and final song on the double-LP's first album, by telling a story about his sister and his brother-in-law and how their struggles served as the template upon which he created the piece's characters.  It is a story that I had heard before - a very long time ago - and both the words he spoke and the inflection in his voice when he spoke them communicated the power behind it and behind the song that it inspired. 

The River is also the album that includes "Independence Day", which has long been among my favorite Springsteen songs.  Prior to performing it, he told the story of how hard it was for him when he was a child - and by extension how hard it might have been for any number of us - to recognize that our parents were not simply our parents.  Rather, each was a person whose life had included dreams, hopes, and aspirations and that their ability to relate to us - their children - was very much influenced by how much each believed that their life, as they were living it, approached the life they had hoped to live.  

At its core, "Independence Day" is a song about fathers and sons.  Better stated, it is a song about father, sons, and the maddeningly complex relationship that can exist between us, the complexity level of which is likely exacerbated by the fact that neither of us probably possesses the tool set required to express our feelings to the other.  It is a song that I heard for the first time in the Fall of 1980, when Dad and I were sharing an existence but were not sharing even an iota of one another's lives.  It is a song that - upon first hearing it - lent a voice to how I felt dealing with (and more often than not, not being able to deal with) my father.  Dad died slightly more than six months after I had heard "Independence Day" for the first time.  I was fourteen.  We very well might have, over time, found our way back to the point where we no longer drew lines in the air marking off our territory.  Perhaps.  He died, however, before any of the already-drawn lines could be erased.  

As I stood on the floor of the Prudential Center two Sunday nights ago listening to Springsteen sing "Independence Day", I smiled.  My relationship with my father was not extraordinary.  Hell, among the Kenny brothers it was not even original but, rather, was simply the third iteration in the series.  More importantly, it was neither a bad thing nor a good thing.  It was simply a thing, which neither defined him then nor defines me now.  It was something that helped shape me, however.  So was he.  

Some lines are simply never intended to be erased for they serve not as boundaries but as reminders - of hopes, dreams, and aspirations.  Ours and someone else's.

They represent something that is simply too important to not remember.


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