Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Poets Down Here

Before I begin: I'm sure that both of the people who read my blog are extremely interested in "boat curtains." I must have been drunk when I accepted the Google Adsense offer but I'm too ignorant and lazy to get rid of it.

So I've been listening to "Born To Run" a lot, with all this 30th anniversary hype. R. and I have discovered that we can never do anything original: whenever we do something like get an awesome new turntable or rent five Roy Rogers movies there's an article in the Wall Street Journal the next day saying "Audiophiles Turn Back to Vinyl" or "Three cities feature Roy Rogers film festival this week." So I've decided to just consciously go with the flow. Thus I've been listening to Born To Run (on vinyl, of course).

I bought this album as a Christmas present for my father in 1979, the first year I saved up my money and bought Christmas presents for my friends and family. He gave me "Keep On Doing" by the Roches, and for several years we listened exclusively to each other's presents, perfectly content. Now I own both of them, which I think is emblematic of both my aesthetic development and my father's boundless generosity. For the first 20 years I played only side one, because it features "Born To Run," which you have to like if you're from New Jersey; "She's The One," which has suggestive lyrics that fascinated me as a ten-year-old; and "Jungleland," which I think I can safely say is the most beautiful Bruce Springsteen song.* You can tell because side one is somewhat scratchy and poppy but side two is still pristine. And what I have discovered in the past 5-6 years, since I saw Bruce in concert, is that I was cheating myself out of "Thunder Road," which is almost as gorgeous as "Jungleland."

So we were playing the album this weekend and I was singing along with Jungleland and not-so-big-R. asked, "What is this song about?" It stopped me in my tracks. Here was Mr. "I never know the lyrics to songs or even the characters' names in a movie," asking Ms. "I will do a close reading of anything, hand over that poem," what a song was about and I had no idea and had never thought about it. I cleared my throat. "Um, gang war?" "But what's this about flashing guitars just like switchblades?" "I don't know," I mumbled. "I like the part about the opera out on the Turnpike."

Right now, in the quiet of the morning, if I had to write a timed essay about it I think I'd go with the transcendent nature of art. But do you have any ideas, constant readers?

*Not necessarily my favorite Bruce Sprinsteen song, because there's also "Hungry Heart," "Glory Days," and "Rosalita." I was explaining to R. that I always think of "Rosalita" at Thanksgiving because these two lyrics make me feel hopeful and trimumphant in exactly the same way:

"So from the beginning/The fight we were winning/
Thou, Lord, wast at our side/All glory be thine." (We Gather Together)

"And your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money
Tell him this is last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance
Because a record company Rosie just gave me a big advance." (Rosalita)

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