Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's a Jersey Thing!

In 1984 I was twelve years old.  I had a major crush on Ralph Macchio from the Karate Kid.  I read in TeenBeat or Bop or one of those magazines that I used to spend my allowance on that Ralph Macchio loved Bruce Springsteen.  So, I started saying that I loved Bruce Springsteen--because this way, when I met Ralph and we fell in love, we would have something in common.  Sharing music taste is what it takes for a good marriage, y'know?  My dad listened to country music and that was all we were allowed to play in our house at the time, so I had no clue who Bruce Springsteen was.

One night that summer I was swimming in our above ground pool and my mom called out to me to say that she was on the phone with my aunt and my aunt had two extra tickets to see Bruce Springsteen at Giants Stadium (her neighbor's daughter had slept outside all night to get tickets--back when people did that.  I miss those days!).  My mom wanted to know if I wanted to go.  I was super-psyched--my first rock concert!  I still have those tickets--they cost $19 each!

On the day of the concert, we drove to my aunt and uncle's house and piled a whole bunch of people into one of those big American cars from that time.  No seat belts.  Kids crammed together in the backseat, sitting on the hump...oh, the eighties!

I remember standing on my seat next to my cousin screaming and clapping and just having a blast.  My hands and throat were raw the next day.  My life was changed.

The day after the concert, I begged my mom to take me to the Square Circle record store where I spent every single dime I had on cassettes.  When I got home I opened the first cassette--Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ...and I listened to it over and over and over and studied it, memorized it.  It spoke to me.  I can't explain it.  It's like that music is inside me.  When I was satisfied that I knew every riff, every nuance, I opened The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle...and so order of their release date.  Each album seemed to be about people I knew, or about me or my family or my life...the music was like my pulse, it was like music I had known forever...

I went to Catholic school.  On the first day of school the Pastor, Father Joe, came around to all the classrooms to welcome us back, wish us a good year.  He asked if anyone had seen Bruce Springsteen over the summer.  I raised my hand.  I was the only one in my class.  I was instantly elevated to cool status.

As I stared out of that second story Catholic school window, I thought for sure Bruce Springsteen must have lead a very much more exciting life than the one I lead.  As I walked down the streets of a blue collar town that had seen better days, I thought Bruce Springsteen must have had such a better life than this.  My Italian-Polish Catholic blue-collar upbringing was something I wanted to escape as a pre-teen.  I wanted something more sophisticated, exciting, polished...I was sure there was a whole world out there, something so much different and better than this.  I had no idea.

Months later, when I had spent all my money on buying Bruce Springsteen's entire catalog and I had some extra money, I bought a biography about Bruce Springsteen.  And I was shocked.  I was shocked ...but it all made sense.  That music sounded like the music inside me because Bruce's life was so much like my own.  That calliope sound was the boardwalk I went to every summer; the references to nuns and the saints were based on his own experiences staring out of a second story Catholic school window so sure that the world was so much better out beyond where he was.  He was from a blue-collar, Italian family just a few miles from where I grew up.  And he stayed in the area.

I saw everything differently after that.  I saw security and stability in the blue-collar values with which I was raised, the adherence to certain things from the Old Country, an integrity to be proud of.  I saw that we are all part of this bigger picture, we all do our part but we are all in it together, we all need each other.  I saw that there is something to be respected about working hard and living a simple life.  I saw promise in that.  I share Bruce's politics, not because I love him, but because I live them.  I know what it's like to be worried about money despite working hard.  I know what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck.  Fortunately for us, we are not in that position now, but you just never know what is around the bend....

Jon Stewart said that Bruce Springsteen made him believe he could do greater things.  I see that and I get that, definitely, without a doubt.  Bruce Springsteen is a guy from a simple working class background who made it big.  But to me, the music is not so much about escape as it is a reverence for the simple people who make up the fabric of this great country.  Bruce Springsteen makes me proud to be just a simple second generation American from a blue collar New Jersey family.  Bruce Springsteen makes me proud to be part of this.  Bruce Springsteen makes me feel proud of who I am and where I come from.

I have seen Bruce countless times.  It's a given that if he is playing I am buying tickets.  I own every single album many on vinyl, cassette and CD.  I own rare albums and bootlegs and European albums and 45s.  Over the last 28 years I have had the opportunity to take many people to their first Springsteen concert--some were on the fence, some just wanted to be able to say that they had seen him...they all came out fans.  Jason says it's because the band is tight.  For me, it's like my emotions are stripped raw and I am turned inside out and everything I am feeling is on the outside, raw and vulnerable and all of that raw emotion and energy is shared with everyone else there and then at the end of the night I am put back together more whole than before.

Like many people, I was upset when the band went their separate ways and elated when they reunited. I was seven month pregnant with Allie when I saw the Reunion Tour at Giants Stadium.  It was Jason's first Springsteen show--I dragged him in, he was not a fan, but he walked back out a changed man.  Seriously.  We always joke that not only was that his first Springsteen concert, but it was Allie's first concert.

When tickets went on sale for the Wrecking Ball tour, Allie asked if she could come with me.  I really can't tell you what that meant to me because the feeling is so deep and raw and at the core that I can't explain it.  The first time I saw Bruce I was 12, I am taking my daughter to her first Springsteen concert at 12.  We are meeting up with my cousins to tailgate.  I am loaning Allie the shirt I got at that first show.  I know her experience will be different than mine, but she loves the music.  It means so much to share this with her when she is the age I was the first time I saw him.

I was there the first time Bruce played Giants Stadium and the last night Bruce played Giants stadium.  I am very excited and thankful to be there with my daughter the first time he plays Metlife Stadium.

Life is GOOD!