The digital age has enabled us to stay connected with people much easier, or being able to re-connect with someone from your past. In the dark ages (pre-digital), if you had a friend that moved away (especially as a kid) you probably never saw them again. You might get a letter or two, but after a while your life moved on and they began a new one. In grade school I had a best friend and we swore we would always be friends. One summer I went away to camp and when I returned found out his family had moved out of town. That was it. Friendship over. The comet has left the solar system.
Today, if someone you know moves away, or changes jobs, or if you are a kid and make a friend at camp, you can still make instant contact with that person anytime. You can stay in the orbits of each other’s lives, and thanks to social media can passively keep track of each other, wish each other happy birthdays, hook up at a concert, etc. Basically, still be a part of the other person and their life.
Facebook is the great contributor to this new phenomenon. Today, you don’t have to wonder about that old high-school friend and how they turned out. You can check if the girl you had a crush on in 10th grade is still hot, or if the jock who bullied you got fat and now drives a truck. Thanks to Facebook, you can be “friends” with people that you grew up with that you never thought you would see again. And the irony of it now is that most of the people who didn’t like you or vice-versa, are actually pretty nice to be friends with. You share stories online, comment on each other’s family pictures, wish each other happy birthday, etc., something that would have been unheard of when you were growing up.
Some mysteries have been solved, thanks to Facebook and other forms of communication in our digital age. I may not actually SEE the people I grew up with, but we are now back within each other’s orbits and it has helped complete our lives. Perhaps we will get together again, and actually witness in person how we all turned out. Or maybe we will keep our distance, continuing with our current lives, content in the knowledge that not only did we turn out ok, but everyone else did as well.
It’s ok to look back, but don’t stare. The past is always back there, keeping a step or two behind.
As great at the Nassau show is, I always considered it the little brother to the great 1978 Darkness shows such as Passaic, Winterland, Agora, the Roxy, and Atlanta (all radio broadcasts, well booted, and known to fans as Winterland Night, Passaic Night, Summertime Bruce, and Roxy Night). For many of us, we can hear a moment in one of these and know exactly what show is being played. “Bootleggers, roll your tapes” is from Roxy, and “vomiting in your girl’s purse” was from the Agora show. They are like old friends that never lose our love.
I never felt the same way about Nassau Night, the great 12/31/1980 show that many consider one of Springsteen’s greatest performances. It’s an amazing show, 38 songs played in just under 4 hours. While I always thought the Darkness shows were emotionally focused, intense, and tight, Nassau always seemed bigger and less intimate to me. I didn’t have the same emotional connection as I did the ’78 shows. The band had moved to arenas, the thematic pattern of the show had changed, the crowds were bigger, and the shows were longer and just bigger. The performances are outstanding, but my connection to it was not the same. Compared to the concise and focused Darkness shows, the River shows were a marathon collection of highs and lows, emotional mood swings, before finally ending with a frenzied encore set that left the fans and band exhausted.
With the release of 12/31/1980 Nassau show as part of his live concert series, I finally admit that this show is close to being an equal to those great 1978 shows. The band is well seasoned and running on all cylinders from start to finish. Yes, it is a sprawl compared to the tightness of the Darkness shows. Running almost 4 hours, Nassau contains most of The River, along with fan favorites from prior tours and a few covers. The performances are outstanding, and the mix of old and new songs gives the listener time to really listen to what is being performed. Only Springsteen would have a “mini-set” in the middle of the show that would be considered a “beer-run/bathroom break” today: playing three slow songs in a row. But, when Fade Away, The Price You Pay, and Wreck On The Highway are played here, the emotional intensity and intimacy with the audience is second to none at the time.
Compared to today, 1980 is almost the dark ages with the way information flows. Today, you get home from a show and within hours someone has already posted a recording online. Back then bootlegs were purchased at flea markets and “underground” record stores. Despite this, the crowd warmly receives Rendezvous (never released) and is already singing the first verse to Hungry Heart (prompted by Bruce). I know it was his first “hit” single, but the song was only two months old from the time it was released. I remember being at one of the Landover MD shows the month before and people were singing the first verse already.
Bruce himself has said that “the best music is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with”. His music has always been the soundtrack of my life, and shows like Nassau are moments in time that can never be replaced. Springsteen and the E Street Band have been captivating me for over 40 years and I have no intention of ending this relationship with them and the music they present to me. This series of live releases give us the chance to go back, and dust off those cobwebs and remember the way our lives used to be, how much we have changed since then, and how much we are still the same.
“At the end of every hard day, people find some reason to believe”.
“Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive”.
Amen Bruce, Amen.
Happy birthday to me. Woo friggin hoo.
Another lap around the sun. Another lap getting lost, wasting time, being productive some days and others not getting a thing done, and wondering what I want to do with my life when I grow up. Another lap of laughter and tears and happiness and grief and hard work and absolute amazement of the good and the bad in this world. Another lap wondering how Plan A is going, and thinking about Plan B, C, D, etc.
Being overly reflective? Yes. Less work years ahead of me than behind. Wondering about the career choices I made in my life. One kid out of the house and thinking about a different future for himself (and we told him, take the chances now before you get old and regret it, just make sure you can pay your bills), and another kid that will leave the house in the fall to start the next phase of his life.
I think it’s ok to reflect now; after all it’s MY birthday. I think its ok to wonder where it all went and what I could have or should have done differently. I know I am not alone. Not only us, but all of our friends have kids that our moving on and parents (those of us that still have them around) that are really aging and we are getting those aches and pains and sprains and tears and torn cartilage and more gray hairs, and we are beginning to see that we are not young anymore.
I DO have a lot of gratitude. I have an amazing wife, and two wonderful boys who make me proud, each in their own way, have a lot of close family, and am blessed with many dear and close friends.
We continue to take the laps around the sun. We don’t give up. We continue to go through the everyday grind of life. We get up in the morning and go to work each day (paraphrasing The Boss), we take care of our chores, and we pay our bills, and fold the laundry, and call the plumber and go to our kid’s games. And in all of that chaos it is so easy to forget to take a minute and smell the flowers blooming in the spring and pull out of the bottom of our pocket the good things in our lives that often get pushed there by all the crap that we have to do.
Enjoy life, it’s too darn short. Today is my birthday. Happy birthday to me.
So finally, Spring. The temperature this weekend was in the upper 50’s and low 60’s and it wasn’t raining. My biological clock says it was time to start tackling the yearly damage winter did to the grounds around the “estate” before we start any planting, pruning, replacing, and making multiple Home Depot runs per day.
Saturday was out. The youngest (now 18) had a lacrosse game an hour away smack in the middle of the day. By the time the game ended, we had a late lunch, did a little shopping, and got home all I wanted to do was read a little and take a late afternoon nap.
Sunday was more promising. Slept late, went to the gym, grabbed some lunch, hit the supermarket and then tackled the following:
- Pounded 8 three foot stakes into the backyard and ran tied levels of thin rope around each of the 2 areas. This will keep the crazy dog who loves to run and run, and whose paws dig through the grass to the dirt underneath, from doing any more damage to those areas so I can plan some seed there in the next week or so. This will also prevent her from coming into the house with feet so muddy we wonder where the sty is.
- Used the leaf blower to blow out the garage and driveway. The garage was easy and it is more efficient to do it this way than using a broom. The driveway continues to amaze me with the amount of dirt the winter snows left behind.
- Picked up a garbage can full of branches, sticks, twigs and leaves from the front yard and the curb area in front of the house.
That’s it. That’s all I did. Two hours!
And yet, by 6pm when we sat down to a dinner of grilled flank steak (yes, we used the grill!) my body (back, legs, shoulders) felt like I had run a marathon.
I know I need to lose 20 (or more), but I shouldn’t have been in that much pain. I exercise on a semi-regular basis (bike & treadmill at the Y, two or three days a week), and walk at work during lunch, so I know I am not in the best shape, but not in the worst. I even PASSED a stress test today.
I am just shocked at how tired I felt after about two hours of light work around the house. I know I was using muscles I hadn’t really stressed that much this winter, but still….
This getting old thing, I am not sure how much I like it.