Friday, December 2, 2016

Under Cover

Oh hi.  I've been meaning to write (starts everything I've written over the past 2.5 years).  I've been composing missives in my head for weeks now, wanting at first to relate everything to the election, and then wanting to simply survive life since the election, which is basically what I've been doing.  Sleeping, reading, and raising Samantha have been the orders of each day.  Finding the energy to break beyond barriers of basic self-care unfortunately hasn't been on the table. 

And I'm kind of okay with that, except I've been wanting to share some photos of our days with you, and some thoughts on someone I've never had many thoughts on before: Bruce Springsteen.


I spent the month of October trundling through Springsteen's enormous memoir (that's what she said?) Born to Run, which is pretty and generous, honest and sparkly.  I enjoyed it for the same reasons I sometimes enjoy his songs - their lyricism - although to be honest I don't think I've really considered his music or his songwriting enough.  In fact, I was struck while reading how many of his famous albums came out before I was even alive.  I think of both Born In the USA and Born to Run as radio albums of my youth, but the first came out when I was six, and I wasn't even born for the second. 

This is all to say, other than his long-standing reputation as a concert powerhouse, I haven't paid the man a whole lot of attention or thought.  I never went through a Bruce phase unless you count the Bruce Hornsby phase I'm still in. 

The fact that I made it through all 528 pages of Born to Run is a testament to Springsteen's gifts as a writer.  In addition to his editor's willingness to let the man wheel poetically on about the block he grew up on, the nearby radio tower, his mother ("She goes to work, she does not miss a day, she is never sick, she is never down, she never complains.  Work does not appear to be a burden for her but a source of great energy and pleasure"), his father, the tree in his front yard, the drives his family took for entertainment, and the early days of building his bands, I appreciated his utter candor about his mental health.  He writes vaguely about strains of mental illness running through his extended family and in depth about habits his father exhibited which scared him, and traces the emotional terrain he faced while writing and recording every album, while touring or taking breaks. 

I was therefore disturbed to read a New York Times review in which the writer is dismayed to find out a rock hero takes Klonopin.  Anyone with the most cursory experience making art would understand, I thought, the ups and downs of a creative life.  And anyone who drives himself as hard as Bruce Springsteen has driven himself and his band is bound to come against the frequent companions to raging glory: terror and depression.

It bothered me that this was a writer's takeaway, both because it seems shallow, not to mention inhumane, to want our heroes to not be real people with real problems, but also because Bruce talked about it all so vulnerably.  To takeaway, what a bummer that people have bummers, from a book spanning a creative workhorse's entire life, seemed seriously beside the point. 

Sometimes Born to Run made me miss Warren Zanes writing about Tom Petty in his book Petty: The Biography, because it's hard to be good at talking about your successes and Springsteen is a mortal like the rest of us.  Some recaps of touring days and recording breakthroughs were the stuff of journal pages, but mostly I appreciated his perspective as a thinking, feeling human being, like when he talks about hearing himself sing on tape. He writes:

"When you first hear yourself on professional recording tape, you want to crawl, in a cold sweat, from the room.  You always sound better inside your head and in your dreams than you do in the cold light of the play-back room.  There, the way you truly sound initially lands on you like a five-hundred pound weight...Tape and film have no interest in the carefully protected delusions you've constructed to get through your day."

I think about that last line a few times a week, the carefully protected delusions we construct to get through our days.  (I am grateful for many of them.)

And as I made the final push to finish the book one lovely weekend spent with Tim's parents, I found myself bawling over the final chapters, in which Springsteen explores family life and his wife Patti Scialfa's leadership in their house.  I especially remember a section where she teaches him how to shape up and be there for his kids when they are little, instead of sleeping through their breakfasts because he was up late working.  I'm chokinig up writing about it right now, in fact.  I've written about this before.  I like family narratives.  They puncture the intellectual shields I wrap around my heart and help me see the hot mush I'm carrying inside. 

There is so much more to say but I don't have the heart for lengthy discourse right now.  I'm keeping low to the ground but here is something I think about every day:

"If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations. If there is to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities. If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbors. If there is to be peace between neighbors, there must be peace in the home. If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart." 
- Lao Tzu