R’n’r Confessional: Daddy Bruce

While the rest of the staff will spend the month of December writing their year-end lists, checking them twice, and trying to find out if Devendra’s been naughty or nice, I’ll be shaking hands with Chancellor Sean O’Keefe and peacing out of Louisiana State University.  I know that for most of you this is probably no big deal, but I’m graduating!
All that to say that the prospect of radical upheaval is making me appreciate my life here in Baton Rouge a little bit more.  I’m not particularly ashamed to admit that watching the Tiger Band march has brought tears to my eyes at every football game so far this year.  Four times now I have shouted over the roar of the crowd that football shouldn’t mean so much to me, a college-educated music geek with an inferiority complex.  I should – should – feel no overwhelming emotion as I watch guys (who are now younger than me) run around a painted field while nearly 100,000 people scream.  It really shouldn’t matter that much, should it?
Ah, but it does, and it’s not the only trite thing in my life that matters.  Anyone who’s familiar with my writing (hi, Mom!) knows of my obsession with Bruce Springsteen.  I think I’ve managed to force him into more pieces than Hollywood does Paul Giamatti, but most of them were justified.  Most of them.
Anyway, Springsteen’s new album comes out this month (Magic; Oct. 2) and, as he is wont to due, he will be touring the Northeast extensively and the South sparingly.  And, to their credit, the only thing that Yankees love more than discussing our relative regional faults is attending Bruce Springsteen concerts.  Because of the Boss’ policy of overloading his Northeastern tour dates, and because the aforementioned football team has all of my Saturdays planned for me, my dad and I are forced to fly somewhere – anywhere – to see Bruce.  And as it just so happened, that anywhere happens to be America’s nowhere:  Cleveland.
Cleveland, Ohio, is the only city that Springsteen is playing on a weekend that LSU is on the road and that I won’t be busying myself with redundant graduate exams (i.e., I’m taking the GRE the weekend of Voodoo Fest; good planning, Marty).  Because Yankees swipe up Springsteen tickets wholesale, the entire ticket ordering process required meticulous pre-planning by my father and me that, of course, fell all apart at the exact moment tickets went on sale.
The coffee shop I was in didn’t have wireless.  Once I found wireless, I was locked out of Ticketmaster’s website for frantically clicking “reload.”  The gentleman sitting next to me wouldn’t allow me to borrow his computer.  When I finally got tickets, they were behind the stage, so I had to release them and pray for seats that would allow me to see the Boss’ face.  And so it goes.
And while I was certainly frantic during all of that insanity, my biggest fear wasn’t missing the Boss.  Sure, he’s my favorite musician, and it would be great to see him in the city that claims to have coined the term “rock ‘n’ roll,” but there would be other opportunities to see him.  What I was really afraid of was having to tell my dad that I’d failed, that we weren’t going to go to Cleveland.
See, rock ‘n’ roll is what my Dad and I do.  Some fathers and sons fish, some hunt; we travel to rock concerts.  We’ve seen countless members of the Rock Hall of Fame together.  When I was 14 we saw Brian Wilson in Philadelphia and my voice cracked on the very first note of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”  When I was 17 he impressed me before a Who show in Dallas with stories of having seen them thirty years before at a now-destroyed warehouse on Tchoupitoulas (not Twiropa, though she may RIP).  Later that year we drove to Houston and back through a monsoon to see Bruce play a sweaty two-hour set.  We’ve seen Willie Nelson at least ten times in four different states, though I’ve only seen him once without my dad.  And we’ve both bitched about the Drive-By Truckers’ decision to play Tip’s the same night that we’ll be in Lexington for the LSU-Kentucky game.
I used to think that football and music and all that other crap that occupies my time didn’t matter.  And maybe of itself it doesn’t. But bonds are forged between us when we go out drinking after humiliating Virginia Tech.  There’s a certain tie that binds you with the people you love when you sing “Rockin’ in the Free World” at the top of your lungs, arms around one another.  These are the things that pull us towards one another, that remind us that we’re not all alone, that life is beautiful and to be shared.
I don’t want to graduate.  I don’t want to grow up.  I don’t like Baton Rouge, but I’m scared to death to get out of here.  Because it’s not Baton Rouge or New Orleans or Louisiana that I love so much; it’s the people that I’ve met in my twenty-two years here.  It’s the memories that we’ve made and the certain unspeakable moments that we all live for.  It’s the reason Bruce never really left Jersey, why most Jerseyites never leave Jersey.
So pay attention to the people around you.  Appreciate them.  Love them.  Because graduation day always comes too soon.


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