Thursday, April 9, 2015

Springsteen’s footsteps

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Winter still licks at our heals, despite the date.
I open windows, put new screens up, and then close the windows against the chill.
This isn’t the same bone-cracking cold from a month ago, just a nagging reminder of what had been. We do not get weekdays filled with snow, but a persistent drizzle we must walk and drive through.
I spent most of the last two days rushing from one event to another with almost no time to breathe or think about what I might do next.
Still, I am nostalgic for a time when I had less to do and felt more concerned about the concept of making art.

I miss people like Roland and Michael, partly for their inspiration.
Even though I am mostly inspired by the people I meet everyday.
I went back to Asbury Park last weekend, where upon arrival, ran into a man named Michael, who was hurrying towards the boardwalk.
He had moved into the seaside city two years ago in order to become one of the handful of regular boardwalk performers. He was not going to perform that day – Holy Saturday – but set up shop for Easter when people were out and about after religious services.

Perhaps like many of the women I used to see in Hollywood, he’d come hoping to get discovered, a street performer straight out of a Joni Mitchell song, pure art that did not provide immediate profit.
This differs from the club performers we went to see at The Wonder Bar – for the second annual
Dark City presentation – where more or less local professionals, put on their acts for money, aching to find fame in a place made famous by Bruce Springsteen and others.
We live our lives with the notion that history might repeat itself, and lightning strike the same place twice.

It rarely does. While many famous people came out of this city just as many did Liverpool a decade earlier, they were a product of that time and place, some magic produced by the right combination at the exact right moment.
We spent a good portion of this trip, seeking out the fingerprints Springsteen left (and still leaves on the place.)

Unlike Frank Sinatra who despised his home town of Hoboken and yet could not shed his growing up there, Springsteen retains his love for this place and that time, and like some spirit of the past must keep returning here, even though the place has ceased to be what it once was.
We visited the Asbury Park Press building – which is no longer an institution of my noble profession having fled with white flight to the suburbs – where Springsteen once did a video or book signing. He went to the upstage club that is no longer anything but a wreck, and could not even fine the remains of the beauty parlor whose owner once owned the club.

We did find the apartment where Springsteen inked most of the songs from his “Greetings from Asbury Park,” near where a museum had been set up in his honor. But there is the same sense of great change here as in Hoboken, where the culture each place once maintain no longer exists. Hoboken was a mecca of hardworking dock hands, finding comfort in a bar culture after long hours of labor. Asbury Park was the east coast equivalent of “American Graffiti,” a testimony to a way of life that came and went, and is no longer possible in this or perhaps any other place.

So we walked later the circuit that is no longer Thunder Road, visiting icons to a past that we wish could still exist, and exist because a few people who lived through it had the talent to preserved snapshots of that life in their art.
Ultimately, they define art for me, allowing us to cling to worlds that can no longer exist and generating feelings that are an important part of that culture.

But all of us who take this walk, but avoid making it over into the stations of the cross, turning art into religious obsession. If we take anything away from this place, it must be the inspiration to do what Springsteen did, create our own space, preserve our own history, and make sure that our art conveys the same important feelings of our experience while we walked this mortal coil.

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