Daily Archives: July 15, 2010

Why Darkness Means So Much To Me, Baby

In December of 1978 I turned 18 years young and, apparently, according to the U.S. government, old enough to get shipped off to some godforsaken place where I might get my head blown off. Fortunately, the United States of America was not at war in 1978…or any other year that followed, until I would be considered to old and feeble to fight. But I guess what I’m saying is that I became what society might consider an adult. I was at the end of my first semester of my Freshman year at Syracuse University. And just a few months earlier I had witnessed my first Bruce Springsteen show.

I mention the rock and roll show because it was a seminal moment for me. I had never seen any other kind of live performance that came close to what I saw that night inside the old War Memorial Auditorium in Syracuse. That night I official became a disciple of the church of Bruce Springsteen – an organization to which I am still a member.

Earlier that year, in the summer of ’78, I bought the album “Darkness On The Edge Of Town,” which remained on my turntable for the next several months as I wore out the grooves listening to the raw, savage, adult power of the words and music. I call “Darkness” my “coming of age” album because it’s a watermark (as all music is for all of us). As I listened to songs like “Badlands,” “Adam Raised A Cain,” “Something In The Night,” and the title track, I was also making that slow but essential transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, from child to man. I didn’t have a big brother, so Bruce took on that role and though I couldn’t really talk back to what he was saying, I was learning. I was learning about love and rage and passion what Springsteen would later call “the hardness of the world.” I had finally started dating and my hormones were raging and I could drink in New York but not in Massachusetts (which caused endless discussions and arguments with my parents as I headed out the door on too many nights to remember).

But the point is that it this platter of plastic or wax or vinyl (or whatever the hell albums were made of) was my companion and my guide through this transformation. I was young and growing and everything (yes, everything) seemed possible. I was so full of hope, yet at the same time I was worried all the time. I had so much energy, and sometime nothing to do with it. I was all dressed up with noplace really to go. But I had one thing to count on to make me happy. I had one thing that never let me down. And that was the music made by Bruce Springsteen, specifically the songs on “Darkness.”

It’s 32 years later and so many things have happened in my life, but I still get a special feeling whenever I see photo’s from the “Darkness” period. It’s more than just nostalgia. It’s a kind of reverence. It’s awe. It’s undescribable.

This afternoon I read that there will be another exhibition of photo’s taken by Eric Meola, one of Springsteen’s main photographers from 1975 till 1978. I looked at these photo’s and the feeling came back. As they always will. It’s almost like seeing photo’s taken of a family member (remember that Bruce was serving in the role of my older brother), but this particular roll of film had never been developed. These photos help me take myself back to that place where I still believed that anything was possible and the world was just waiting to see what I would do. It’s like a secret place. A sacred place as well.

I hope I can always go back there.

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Wooden Ships On The Water…And Barges Too!

One of the great things about living in the high-rise apartment in which I dwell in Detroit is the view. From the living and dining room windows, I can look out and see below me the Detroit River which connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. It’s a good-sized river, as far as rivers go, and I could probably swim across if I ever wanted to defect to Canada. Now there is a chance that the current could take me far downstream and most of the swimming I’ve done recently has been in pools and not in oceans or rivers, so it would be risky. Plus there’s always the problems of those pesky American and Canadian Coast Guards observers, but I believe we are getting far from the original point. (But before we move on I’ll tell you the other really awesome thing about this vantage point from my window is that I can look across the Detroit River and see Canada. Wow Another country just a football field away. I feel like Sarah Palin, who one time sorta claimed that Russia was visible from Alaska.)

The slightly strange thing about looking across and seeing the finely trimmed lawns of Windsor, Canada is that I am actually looking south. Yes, that’s right, south to Canada. Check it out on a map. By some freak of geography and territorial bounds, this small portion of Canada is actually to the south of these United States. Who would have thunk it?

Some days when I’m taking a break from searching for a new job, surfing the Internet or removing unwanted facial hair, I get off my duff and look out the window at this truly breath-taking view. Most days (in the warmer months) I see small boats, medium-sized crafts and a few larger yachts, none of which I will ever be able to afford, in this lifetime anyway. I also see an awful lot of barges. What is carried on these barges, traveling the Great Lakes, is anybody’s guess. Coal, perhaps. Large screen televisions and VCR’s. Illegal drugs. Like I said, the sky’s the limit.

So it was with great wonder when just the other day my lovely fiancee Janet happened to notice out upon the mighty Detroit River a Tall Ship gliding gently along the soft current. Now this sailboat was not even close to the size of some of the really, really tall ships that I’ve seen come into Boston Harbor. But still. It was at least a 120 footer, with three masts or main sails or whatever they are called. And with the glorious sun pouring down on the shimmering, effervescent water, well, it looked pretty awesome. That was at least until another ugly barge came by and ruined the view. But one thing I have now learned is that barges go a lot faster than tall ships and so the ugly barge was gone before long and once again it was just this magnificent sailboat and the Detroit River. We both watched – spying the ship through some handy binoculars. I stood there wondering where this ship might be coming from, where it might be going and whether or not there is a prettier sight that wooden ships on the water.

The water, whether it be rivers, lakes, oceans or whatever beckons me. And I must heed this call.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll get a job on a barge and just sail away.

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