I remember sitting on a school bus in 1981 durning the time of year that was not winter, but it was not spring. My face was pressed against the window as I looked at the black slush that was once snow. The life of a high school freshman is hard; trying to be invisible helped. Bruce Springsteen was in heavy rotation on FM radio in Omaha, Nebraska so I usually heard him on my way to and from school. It was on that bus that I became a fan. There was something about “The River” that touched the longing and sadness deep in me. While my circumstances were different than those of the man in the song, the desire to escape place and time was the same.
“Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true Or is it something worse that sends me down to the river though I know the river is dry that sends me down to the river down to the river My baby and I Oh down to the river we ride”
In September 1982 I was in bed with my red, egg-shaped transistor radio under the pillow. It was well past my school night bedtime, but at Midnight (Release Day!) the radio station was playing Bruce’s “Nebraska” in its entirety with no interruptions! I had to hear it and I could not risk waking my parents and having them ruin the momentous occasion. “Reason to Believe” to still my favorite Bruce song.
“Seen a man standin’ over a dead dog
Lyin’ by the highway in a ditch
He’s lookin’ down kinda puzzled
Pokin’ that dog with a stick
Got his car door flung open he’s standin’ out on highway 31 Like if he stood there long enough that dog’d get up an run. Struck me kinda funny
Seemed kinda funny sir to me
Still at the end of every hard day
People find some reason to believe”
In the summer of 1985 the “Born in the USA” album was everywhere; Bruce was the biggest artist in the world. That CD was the soundtrack for that Montana summer when the days and nights seemed to last forever, it was easy to fall in and out of love, sleep could wait and my only responsibility was making it to work on time. I was young, having a great time and happy to be in the moment.
“Glory days, well they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days”
It is September 2020 and I find myself returning to a heavy rotation of Bruce while driving around, looking out the window and wishing I was invisible. I am seeking a way to be invisible for a bit; to touch the deep longing and sadness inside of me.
“With a chance to make it good somehow Hey what else can we do now Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair Well the night’s busting open and these two lane will take us anywhere.”