Saturday, October 09, 2010

In praise of HBO's 'Darkness,' Bruce and being perennially 19.

“So you’re scared and you’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young anymore. Show a little faith!

There’s magic in the night. You ain’t a beauty but hey, you’re all right. And that’s all right with me.”

I can tell you exactly where those words take me. I’m 19 again. It’s August 18, 1978…just after 2 a.m. outside the recently departed Spectrum. There we stood, first with a crowd of 100 people or so. And as the hour got later, and then later, we dwindled down to a group of maybe 15 or 16. People who were, for that moment in time, our closest friends. Springsteen fans all, gathered by that inconspicuous little door, daring to imagine how the evening might end before we all headed out to our deserted cars in the parking lot.

It was different times, back in ’78. We were different. It was long before we had jobs, husbands, houses or kids. Before our 401(k)s and Visa cards and life insurance. Before the stretch marks and tiny, fine lines; before we patronized colorists and invested in Spanx. Everything about us was 19. We were all about the warm August night and the cold beer in our hands. All about dancing and singing and clutching each other as we paid homage with 20,000 other faithful. That night, we were all about Bruce and the band and the music and the moments he spoke to us from his soul, from the stage.

Janice, Cathy, Leslie and I – all 19 – wondering just what in the world we thought we were doing there. Not quite understanding why we hadn’t simply hit the road and headed for the shore after the concert, which had been the plan from the start. But we’d already invested $8.50 a ticket in this show, plus parking; and already waited this long. Maybe he’d come out and say hello.

I’ll see this forever in my mind. A small window in the door. One of the girls pressing her face against it for what seems like one solid hour. She backs up – and with a small shriek, throws her arms around his neck. And then, just like that, there he was. White T-shirt, jeans, walking toward what had become our intimate little group, asking us what we thought of the show. Bruce. The man we’d all zeroed in on through our binoculars not three hours earlier that night, now, literally, within arm’s reach.

Another clip from my mind: one of the guys had skipped out on his wife to go to the concert with his buddy – the night of his first wedding anniversary for God’s sake. He confessed it all to Bruce who took the beer bottle from the guy’s hand, then wrote a note to her on the label, something like: “Forgive him – he seems like a good guy – Bruce.”

We all came up with scraps of paper and ticket stubs and anything else we had to get an autograph and wouldn’t you know – Bruce had nothing to lean on to sign our scraps. I immediately stepped up – with my binoculars’ case the size of Delaware (’78, remember?) – and held it steady so he could write out his notes to all of us.

Then we all gave him a hug and a kiss – maybe even the guys did that, too – and snapped pictures to prove it. He drove off in a canary yellow Camaro with a smug-looking blonde in the front seat who looked completely bored by the whole thing.

We screamed from Broad Street to Seaside Heights.

Fast–forward several decades. Now wearing our Springsteen T-shirts with the 1978 photos silk-screened across them, we’ve gone on many extended tours with Bruce and the band. At Madison Square Garden in 2000, Janice, Leslie and I staged our own reunion. Fans read the date on our shirts and asked, “Is that you? I was five years old in 1978.”

Les and I have attended many other shows over the years with our husbands, who have no interest at all in hanging out by the loading dock afterwards. Something about Turnpikes or Expressways and backups at the exits…

But you know what? Even as we tramp out to the minivan and try to beat the traffic, we’re all 19 again. But we’re more than that, too. We all hear that screen door slam in our minds. We’re all old enough to understand that should one of us fall behind, the other will wait. We know that lots of times in life, it does feel like you take one step up and two steps back. We’ve learned to live with what we can’t rise above. We’re ready to grow young again.

And that’s all right with us.


Anonymous said...

Love it, Renee. I've always said I loved being 19 and never wanted that year to end. But the night you were at that concert was the night I stopped being 19 and celebrated the end of my second decade. Geez, I shoulda been there!


renee said...

Wish you had been! Would have been quite a birthday party, right?
Thanks for your comment and kind words.

Richard said...

You can still be 19! Or maybe a more mature version anyway. A few weeks ago I saw Kathy Mattea at the Sellersville Theater. She autographed a CD for me, and I gave my camera to an usher and I have a photo of Kathy & me together.

renee said...

Thanks, Richard.

Honestly, most days I think I should be a WHOLE LOT SMARTER than I am for being thirty + years older. Then again, maybe I am and just don't know it.

I would love to get another pic with Bruce. Just the bookended-ness of it all would be worth it.

Glad to hear you captured the moment with Kathy!