Friday, March 29, 2013

Meeting with The Boss, A Springsteen Odyssey: Song Three

A Springsteen Odyssey is an ambitious effort to tell the story of one Springsteen concert, from one fan's perspective.  What makes it ambitious is that it is twenty-six parts long, one part for each song played by Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band that night, with each song helping to tell one part of the story.  Taken as a whole, they provide a comprehensive picture of a fan's relationship to an artist and his music, but each part also stands completely on its own.  This is part 3 of 26. 

The concert’s third song began like a rallying cry rising from the chaos of a battle that was almost lost as soon as it began.  Just moments before, I was growing despondent, trying to fend off the feeling that coming to this show might have been a serious mistake, that after only two songs, we might be talking unmitigated disaster. 

My reasons?

First of all, Springsteen and the band were nearly an hour late getting to the stage.  The first thirty minutes or so of the delay were forgivably annoying, and could have easily been put behind us.  But once that time lapsed and there was still no sign or word concerning the imminent arrival of the show, it became harder and harder not to take it as a personal insult directed specifically at us.  See, I had waited a tremendously long time for Elizabeth to recover emotionally from our previous, massively disappointing Springsteen concert experience (massively disappointing for her anyway; for me it was very mildly underwhelming).  Only now, after nineteen years of complete separation, was she ready to attempt a reconciliation, and make a tentative effort to mend our concert relationship with The Boss.  But as the delay dragged on and on, it was as though our good-faith overtures were being intentionally rebuffed.  It got to the point that each minute that passed inspired increasingly ugly and nasty thoughts, as often happens when a person’s gracious gestures are ignored or met with silent repudiation.

When Springsteen finally did step out on stage, it was with a few mumbled words (you call that an apology, mister?) and an acoustic guitar.  He began by playing an uncharacteristically quiet, almost solemn little tune called Surprise, Surprise.  It wasn’t a bad song, just unexpected, and while I can’t say that it added to the negative momentum already set in motion, it didn’t do much to reverse it, either.

Lastly – and this was the one that had me worried – was the pure sense of detachment I experienced during the concert’s second song, No Surrender. I was caught completely by surprise by my own hardened indifference, all the more mystifying because the vaunted E-Street Band had just joined in.  The performance itself sounded a little slow and kind of plodding, as though the band was a little subdued, or groggy for some unimaginable reason.  But the real problem, I realized later, was that my connection to the song had been broken long ago.  Listening to No Surrender now was like being reunited with a long lost dog that turns up years later, a dog so exhausted and spent that it is barely able to crawl up to your front porch before keeling over dead at your doorstep, and, only then, looking down upon its pathetic little corpse, do you realize that you never really cared for that dog to begin with.  Of course that’s a terribly disrespectful thing, and wicked, and completely uncivilized, but that’s the truth.  You can’t just manufacture that kind of emotional attachment.  It’s either there, or it’s not.

As wrong as it was to be so callous, by the end of the second song that’s how I was feeling, and now I was beginning to think that this shockingly cold-hearted apathy was going to stick.  I started to worry that at the rate things were going, I’d have nothing but one big pile of dead dogs on my doorstep by the end of the show.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Torn Between Two Lovers...

The Forward Path – March 2013

Torn between two lovers
Feelin’ like a fool
Lovin’ both of you
Is breakin’ all the rules…

So it’s been a long time since I’ve posted an update on The Forward Path (August 2012, to be specific).

Much change has come to my little writing perch since last summer.  The changes are necessary, and good for me and my larger goal of becoming a novelist, but I have to confess they are also bringing the lyrics of the sappy 70’s Mary MacGregor song, Torn Between Two Lovers, frequently to my mind.   

For the first eighteen months of thunderstrokes, my focus was almost exclusively on the blog.  Envisioning the blog.  Creating the blog.  Writing stuff for the blog.  Expanding the blog.  Blog, blog, blog.   All of which was great, because I was teaching myself how to start a piece of writing (always a struggle for me), and then finish it (a much bigger struggle), and then throw it out there into the wild blue yonder (by far, the biggest struggle of all).  It was great practice, and great fun.  But it got to the point where the blog consumed about 90% of my writing time.  That left precious little time for the book I wanted to write.  And writing a book had been my brass ring, my reason for taking a left turn in life.

Somewhere around October of last year, I felt like the time had come to make a transition, a switch in emphasis away from writing for the blog, and towards the book.  That meant devoting my most creative and productive time (my 4 a.m. mornings) to writing the novel.  The effect was immediate and transformative.  I wrote about 50 pages of a first draft in those first three months.  My writing time ratio reversed itself, going from a 90/10 blog advantage to a 90/10 book advantage.  And I have fallen in love with the story I’ve been given to tell, the story of a boy named Les Mendoza.  Now I feel like I have to tell this story, because I’m the only one who can tell it.  And there’s a whole lot of story to tell, let me tell you. 

That’s a lot of tells, isn’t it? 

Anyway, the price of all that telling is that the blog is now consigned, as it must necessarily be, to playing second fiddle.  What’s that old saying?  ‘You can’t serve two masters?’  Or is it ‘You can’t master your serve?’ For me, both are equally true.  Whichever of those means you can’t devote yourself to two things at the same time is the one I mean. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Are you Serious? Real Genius and me.

Sometimes, a movie just happens to come along at the right time in a person’s life.  It may not be a great movie per se, one that is received with critical acclaim or crowned by popular sovereignty.  It just happens to be the right movie for you, seen at the right time in your life for its message to hit you where you live, and change you in some perhaps small, yet substantial way.

Films like this are somehow able to tell you things about yourself that your family and friends don’t see, or can’t see, or don’t want to say, or can’t say.  These films help you recognize or realize something that you yourself may have been blind to, or unwilling to acknowledge before. 

I think that ability art has to communicate with our secret selves is one of its great functions, and the beauty of it is that it doesn’t have to be great art to have a great impact on the right person.  For a movie, maybe it’s just one in every showing, or every other showing, or every ten showings.  But for the person who is impacted, what difference does that make?

We tend to embrace the movies that help us see things in a different way, help us change and grow.  We invite these special films in amongst the collected assortment of relics that constitute our most private selves, and that’s where they tend to abide.  They become our friends.  We still laugh at all their jokes, long after they have lost their spontaneity and their ability to surprise.  Their well-worn gags still delight us, not in spite of, but because of their familiarity.  We overlook their flaws, and overemphasize their strengths, at least in contrast to the opinions of others.  Just as with true friends, we cannot be purely objective when it comes to them.  We have too much history together, and there is too much emotional attachment.  It doesn’t matter that critics trashed it (none of them to your face, mind you), or that it didn’t get a great meta-score on, or that your other friends look at you like you’re completely nuts when you tell them you love this film.  None of that matters.  Just as with a true friend, you don’t expect the rest of the world to see what you see, as much as you might wish they did.  The fact is you are bonded, friends for life, blood brothers. 

Real Genius is that kind of film for me.

For a long time growing up, I didn’t take life seriously at all.  I didn’t work hard.  I saw the essential folly, or thought I did, of any one individual who tried to do anything more than laugh at the fundamental absurdity of life.  I was a natural existentialist, long before Camus and Sartre meant anything to me beyond being simply funny-sounding words.