Thursday, July 03, 2003


My soda machine seems to play hard to get. If I put in a quarter like I really want a soda, it seems to refuse my change and the 25 cents slides down to the change slot.
But if I non-chalantly slide it in like la-di-da-here-goes-my-quarter, I-don't-really-care-about-this-soda, you-know, I-mean, I'll-drink-it-if-it-comes-but-I'm-not-thaaat-thirsty, then it gives me my Coke eagerly like a little child with a secret.

If there was a rude security lobby person contest, mine would win in a heartbeat.

I spoke to my sister the other night and I mentioned the rain.
"Oh, I need rain like I need a fourth eye," she said.
And I said back, "so, how's that third eye doin'?"


I remember when I was a very young child, my father, who I spoke about so fondly of just yesterday, picked me up from school in his Chevy Celebrity station wagon (which he had driven until about two years ago when the motorcycle sound it made drove the neighbors mad, forcing him to sell it). I got in the front seat, put on my seatbelt, of course, and he surprised me with a long box CD of Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA."

At this age, I was just a dabbler of the music. I had my fair share of Billy Joel, Elton John, Chicago, Air Supply, Richard Marx tapes but I had yet to buy a Bruce Springsteen one--and moreover, on CD. But Steven Dworken encouraged my interest in music even though he was--yes, believe it--a Rabbi. In fact, he took me to buy "Achtung Baby" the day it came out and to this very moment, it remains my favorite album of all time. Music was important to me, so it was important to him even though his taste was nothing like mine (his first favorite band: the Temptations).

I took the CD home and threw it into my barely used CD player and the song, "Born In The Usa" came on. I wasn't a deep thinker or if I had any significant thoughts at that age it was about Lynda Carter, but otherwise I probably would have been truly moved. But instead I thought, damn, this guy has to clear his throat.

Over the years, though, this album has revealed so many layers into the psyche of America and an incredibly in-depth insight into the lower-class, blue collar population I knew very little about. Every song exuded sweat, hard labor jobs, coffee in those silver tall mug-things, small talk about "broads," and lunches in matching (unintentionally) silver lunch boxes (the last of which I actually could relate to, being that my dad put my lunch every day in a metal G.I. Joe lunch box). "Glory Days" gave me an opportunity to live the glory days I had never lived and chances are, would never experience. My days were not of a glory-like nature, they were more like days at the mall.

But the songs that had the largest impact on me were not the hits. Maybe it's my snobbish refusal to like the things that everyone else likes (geekdom, be damned!) but tunes like "I'm On Fire," "Downbound Train," and "No Surrender" pierced my impenetrable middle-class soul and the white shirt it wore, providing it with a collar of blue. To this day, anytime I hear "No Surrender," I am moved. Springsteen does an acoustic version on a box set that hushed a stadium of 50,000 people. That's no easy feat. Search it out and download it (on the way home from work today, while listening to my iPod on shuffle, this song came up. I was in near-tears on the 1 & 9).

The words, though....oh, the words:
"Well, we busted out of class/
Had to get away from those fools/
We learned more from a three minute record, baby/
Than we ever learned in school..."

So true! Bruce had basically written my biography. I too had learned more from music and its culture than anything I learned as a Marketing major. Sadness.
He goes on:

"Now on the street tonight the lights grow dim/
The walls of my room are closing in/
There's a war outside still raging/
You say it ain't ours anymore to win/
I want to sleep beneath/
Peaceful skies in my lover's bed/
With a wide open country in my eyes/
And these romantic dreams in my head/"

To this day, I dream of this scene, where me and my woman (Audrey Tautou, of course) lie on the hood of my Mercury Sable and look up at the constellations. She is the only one who understands me and I am the only one who truly gets her. This is why we love each other. And despite the closing walls of the poor economy, the political turmoil, the bleakness of the future, we have our romantic dreams to embrace.
This song encapsulates hope and strength. The refusal to give up.
The mantra of "no retreat, no surrender" is an important one. One that Bruce sang to me, for me and about me and also, it is one that I will never forget.

A few weeks ago, I went to a Karoake bar wearing a Bruce Springsteen t-shirt. The bartender, a stereotypical New Jersey/Italian guy instantly bonded with me because of my choice of apparel. A six foot, muscular drunk wanted nothing more at that time than to hang with a 5'8 nebby Jewish guy from the Upper West Side. Suddenly, it was his turn to sing a song. He turned to me and asked, what's your favorite Bruce song. Come to think of it, he most likely said, "Broooooce song." I said back, No Surrender.
"Let's do it together," he shouted.
At that point, I was slightly drunk so I agreed. Why not?
Moments later, I was on a small stage with the aforementioned bullyish man of the drink, singing my lungs out with his arm around me, him screaming along in his own designated microphone.
As we were enjoying ourselves with this hearty rendition, I realized two things:
1) How Bruce got his sore throat.
2) I love this song so much.
And we did that song, pulling out the stops. Full force, with all our might and power. Our respective hearts! Our voices did not matter--who cares about talking tomorrow? This was now and we both knew that when it came to Karoake, as the chorus goes, there was no retreat, no surrender.


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