Monday, September 13, 2010

I Love Rock and Roll or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bruce Springsteen

I know everyone has been enjoying the funny posts, but you’re getting a serious one today.

Anyone still reading?

Didn’t think so. Then, I guess it’s okay if I bare my soul here.

I get teased a lot for being obsessed with Bruce Springsteen. And as I keep telling you all, it’s not considered an obsession when he loves me too. (And he DOES love me too! I’ll explain that another day though.) But to make the haters shut up already, here’s my story of how I got into Bruce.

I like to tell people, when I don’t feel like getting into the full story, that it was meant to be. I was even born on the anniversary (don’t worry about which one) of Born to Run, my favorite album. And I like to think that was intentional, because it’s the ONLY time in my entire life that I’ve ever been early for ANYTHING.

Loving Bruce runs in my family. This is one of my favorite baby pictures of myself, because my uncle (who’s the big Springsteen fan in my family… I’m a distant second, but he and I have really bonded over that and go to shows together whenever we can) is wearing a Born to Run shirt in the picture.

My dad gave me my first bootleg long before I was a fan. I remember watching Adventures in Babysitting and telling my dad that I wanted the soundtrack, because I loved the Crystals’ song that Elizabeth Shue was dancing to at the beginning of the movie, “And Then He Kissed Me.” My dad was like, no, you don’t want that version of that song, I’ve got a better one for you. And he made me a cassette tape of the 1975 Bottom Line show when Bruce covered that song (changing it to “And Then SHE Kissed Me,” of course).

I didn’t listen to the rest of the show until many years later, but I must have listened to that song off of the bootleg roughly a million times as a little girl.

I was always vaguely aware of Bruce on the periphery of music, but that was the extent of it. When he played with the Wallflowers at the MTV awards when I was in high school, I yelled for my dad to come see because Bruce was on tv, but I was more interested in Jakob Dylan at the time.

Then, in my sophomore year of college, I had a rough week. By then I had been to four funerals in my life. Three were that year, and two were that week. My great aunt died, which wasn’t unexpected, but still sad as it brought home the truth that her sister, my grandmother, whom I was exceptionally close to, would eventually die as well. I’d KNOWN this, but seeing my cousins’ grief at their grandmother’s death made this eventuality a fact instead of an intangible idea.

Days later, as I was grappling with that, my childhood best friend died.

When my mother told me that news, I remember sitting in my dorm room and for the first time in my life being unable to cry. I’ve always been the girl who cries at everything. Literally. The end of The Little Mermaid makes me cry (I can’t handle ANY book, movie, play, etc where a girl has to say goodbye to her father. I just can’t). But when Dana died, I didn’t cry. I was too devastated. And I remember standing between my parents at her funeral, each of them holding one of my hands, and both of them crying. I remember seeing her parents, whom I had known my entire life, weeping. But I didn’t. I wanted to cry. But I just couldn’t.

Then, as if all of that wasn’t enough for me to go through, the guy I was seeing dumped me at the end of that week.

I didn’t have the emotional tools to process any of what had just happened. I was walking around in a fog. And I wasn’t sleeping. At all. I’m an insomniac under the best of circumstances, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t even doze off once that week.

My brother, Adam, and I had grown very close when I left for college, and he called me to see how I was doing. I’m pretty sure I told him that I was fine, even though that couldn’t have been further from the truth. He asked if I was sleeping and I told him that I wasn't.

“Do you have any Springsteen cds?” he asked me. I looked through my cd wallet and found a copy of the Greatest Hits cd, which my dad had burned for me when he burned most of the albums in his collection in his excitement over the invention of cd burners.

“Try listening to that to fall asleep,” Adam said. “It’s what I listen to when I can’t sleep. It’s kind of comforting. You know, ‘cause it’s what dad was listening to when we were kids and going to sleep.”

I told him that I’d try it, but had no intention of actually doing it. My musical world was pretty narrow at the time, and most of my listening collection consisted of Third Eye Blind, Matchbox 20, and Better than Ezra. And I don’t think I wanted comfort yet. I was in too much pain to know how to start to crawl out of it.

But that night, as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, his words came back to me. And I decided to try his suggestion. So I pulled the cd out and put it in my stereo, with headphones so as not to wake my roommate (who I’m pretty sure slept 23 hours a day that year. She would wake up, watch a soap opera for an hour, and go back to sleep). And I listened.

The first five songs were familiar, but didn’t help. Then I got to the sixth track. “Atlantic City.” I didn’t know any of the words (sacrilege to my Bruce fan friends, I know. But I was a dumb kid, what did I know?), but I knew I had heard the song before.

I wasn’t paying much attention to the lyrics, but a line jumped out at me. “Everything dies, baby that’s a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back.”

All of a sudden, it felt like the fog that I had been living in started to clear. I sat up and restarted the song at the beginning, listening carefully to what Bruce was saying this time. And I started to cry. I replayed the song over and over again that night as I cried out the heartbreak of the past week.

And once I was finally cried out, I fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning, I realized, for the first time since all of that had happened, that I was going to be okay.

After that, I started listening carefully to the lyrics of Bruce’s songs. And I realized, through his music, that I wasn’t alone. All of my life, I’d felt like no one else out there understood what I went through. I felt like everything came so much easier to everyone else. But I realized that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. And that the characters in his songs were like me. Which meant that I wasn’t alone, and never really would be.

So think about that the next time you want to tease me for being too into Bruce. I hate to use the cliché that “Rock and Roll saved my soul.” But in this case, it might just be true.

To quote John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity, “Thanks, Boss.” For everything.

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