A life change – With thanks to @BruceFunds

(Not all photos are acknowledged here. If I have used your pic and not acknowledged it, please forgive me and notify me so I can give the correct credit. Most people are identified herein by their Twitter handles – that’s how I got to meet ’em and that’s who they are! If I don’t name you, let me know and I can update the blog.)

I’ve been a Springsteen fan for 36 years. In 1976 my brother Mike introduced me to Bruce Springsteen. I’d been listening to Bob Seeger, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne and many others but here was someone special. Badlands and Darkness on the Edge of Town spoke about real life and real people. I went back to my university room a changed person and a lifelong fan had been born.

The next day I bought all of the Springsteen albums.

(Right at the beginning I must introduce this: not all Springsteen fans like the same songs. And that’s okay. Some have a special meaning for a fan at a special time. Others remember the first album they heard or the first song they heard in concert. My first was Badlands, and that remains a favourite. Some people get quite intense when discussing their favourite, and that’s okay too, it’s just that my favourite might not be yours. I read a book about Springsteen recently and found myself getting quite worked up with criticism of The Rising album. Had to remind myself – different strokes for different folks. It was okay for the author not to like the songs I did.)

If I’d heard Bruce in the order that the albums were released, I probably would not have been writing this. I still don’t regularly listen to Greetings or The Wild. Some of the songs are magnificent, and the rest, for me are ho hum. So I’m glad I heard the albums in the order I did.

Life carries on, I bought every album as it was released. And got jealous of everyone who got to see him in concert. South African TV showed Live ’75 – ’85 and I sat glued to the screen. Here was someone special, who could hold fans enthralled for hours. And yet in South Africa he was relatively obscure. Even today people will discuss Springsteen with me and preface the discussion with Born in the USA for pity’s sake!

I was disappointed with the dissolution of the E Street Band, and have only recently got to like more of the songs off Lucky Town and Human Touch. All except Pony Boy, which @christreolar thought me to love so much.

The Internet has changed much. I could scour the web for bootlegs and hear what I’d been missing. And I did. Found unreleased songs at Stone Pony FTP. Found other fans and picked up on their experiences. And ached to go to a show. But Bruce was a no show in South Africa. And before the advent of democracy that was quite right. Then came Twitter. I’m a slow adopter, so the twitfacepage thing was a bit slow in coming. But @jessicakable showed me what was potting and I started with the occasional sarcastic tweet. I can do sarcasm I think.

Then I found some Bossfans! I could even follow @springsteen! I followed them, they followed me and so it grew. Soon I was jealously hearing of shows people were attending, had attended and intended to attend. So when @hardrockcalling was announced, I set an alarm, got online and bought a ticket. It took 15 minutes and cost £66 plus shipping which came to R1000 in hometown currency.

I was beside myself with excitement. I phoned my wife, I phoned @denvor I told anyone who would listen! I went home and played the 2009 Hyde Park convert DVD at a million decibels. Maybe the neighbours complained but if so, I couldn’t hear ’em.

Then came Wrecking Ball. What an album. Some very angry songs which resonate with me. There is so much wrong financially in the world today, much of it because we let the robber baron bankers get away with murder and continue to vote the same money obligated politicians into power. And Springsteen writes about these things. He doesn’t shy away and write pretty soft rock songs. And the old ones still ring true too. Real life songs for real people who have been reduced to a Jack of all Trades, whose towns have been decimated by decisions made to please the great god money and who spend each day Shackled and Drawn. Songs about the spirits of leaders in the fight for rights who are still alive, as their “souls and spirits rise to stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart”.

Some other songs too that talk about deeply personal issues, such as This Depression. This album would be the second I would recommend after Darkness on the Edge of Town. That’s how good I think it is.

So I had the ticket, but no visa and no plane ticket. No matter, I had plenty of time to save, and I “had and honest job and tried to put some money away”. I got about halfway and was excitedly tweeting about my trip to London.

Then one thing. Then another. Then another. Then the final one: the cat, Ugly Betty, ripped her tail open on my newly installed barbed wire fence. That would have been fine, but it was after hours and the late night vet charged a fortunes. Bam! Dream over. All my savings gone, and with it the dream to see Bruce in concert. So I put out a sad tweet that I didn’t think anyone would see.

In Norway there lives a young Bruce Springsteen fan called @mayseff. She is a member of the E Street Nation and she cares. She cared enough to nominate me to be a receiver of BruceFunds. @BruceFunds helps Springsteen fans achieve their dreams. (you couldn’t see the interruption there for me to compose myself, but I assure you it hapenned). Between these to amazing people, the dream was back on track! Obviously there were many donors who helped this happen some of whom I am aware, others who chose to remain anonymous. But it was going to happen.

So how was it? Life changing. I landed in London the night before the concert, never having met the people I was going to see. The mother of all things E Street in London @thunderoad75 was there, as was the great young wordsmith @Mr_Kirkpatrick, @TonyGinger, @ChrisTreolar, @RedHeadedGoose, who took me under her wing, @JenNorthy @DarrenPritchard who got so tired he fell onto the stage at the Pride of Paddington at the Party that Rocked the night before Hyde Park. Met @ianestreet, @andy_walker13, @martups @northy_boy et al. Love ’em all.

Some of us

Then met new friends @barnabya and Facebook mate Chris Tos. All part of a legion of Springsteen fans who want to “rock all night” and who “take care of their own”. Made me feel special and especially welcome.

I woke everyone up early on Saturday – my watch was still set to South African time. But I didn’t want to miss a thing. I wanted to be first in the queue, at the front for the show. I was ready! Together with the world famous dancing @Mr_Kirkpatrick I meandered to Hyde Park. Did I mention rain? It was raining. It continued to rain. Then it rained some more. After that it rained a bit. And there was some more rain.

Got our pit numbers and went for coffee. Sat and talked. Got rained on. Blew raspberries at @RedHeadedGoose. Had roll call. Moved into the stalls and waited like racehorses for the start. Walkee back to the Pride of Paddington and got an umbrella. (it was raining). Got back to Hyde Pond.

The gates opened. Got beaten to the front by a much younger @Mr_Kirkpatrick. But made it to the front. For my first concert. 36 years of dreaming had come to this. Then we waited a bit in the rain. (did I mention the rain?) it was going to be epic.

@Mr_Kirkpatrick got us this close

Then there was a band. Hey Something. They had won a competition which didn’t include shoes for the lead singer.

After that came Tom Morello. This guy is good, and he plays a shoebox too. His form of protest music resonates with me and I would recommend him to all Bossfans.

Then came a band that didn’t belong on the same stage as Bruce Springsteen. Lady Antebellum. If you get a ticket to see them, give it to someone you don’t like. They were lucky not to be Bruuuuced off the stage. Entirely forgettable.

Lady Ante-Natal made my legs tired

John Fogerty – a legend. I remember listening to Creedence in 1969 and not being too aware of what the words were about, but buying all the records. His voice was a bit croaky, but he was introduced by Bruce! And Bruce did a song with him! How close to heaven can you get?
Bruce is quite short. I’d had him pegged as taller. But who needs height when you have presence? Just one glimpse of the man and 65,000 people erupt!

It was raining. Have I mentioned that? Played charades with @JenNorthy, @christreolar and @RedHeadedGoose. Chris and I won, naturally. The road crew was setting up the stage. The rain cleared. The quality of charades declined. The road crew were battling with Nils’ sound. Took ’em half an hour to get it right.

The big screen photo

Roy came on stage. Bruce came on stage. And did Thunder Road! Holy (expletive deleted). It was quietly done, but it rippe right through me. This was it! A 36 year dream made real, thanks to @mayseff who cared enough for someone she’d never met, and to @BruceFunds who take care of thir own.

What did Bruce play? I’ll look it up. I didn’t want to miss a thing. I concentrated on not crying so I could take it all in. He played with Fogerty. He played with Morello. He played Ghost of Tom Joad. He played with my dreams and emotions. He stood right in front of me! He cares for the fans. He made me feel as if he cared for me personally. It started raining again. Bruce played in the rain. He played “We are Alive”. Then the tears came. The wall broke and 36 years of longing burst out and I was complete. (Insert pause here as tears come again).

My feet were stuffed. More tired than after a marathon. How long was the show! No idea. I do know that Paul McCartney came on stage for”I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist and Shout”. Then there was a problem with the sound. Or was there? I thought perhaps the sound engineer had drowned in the rain.

But no. The very people who Bruce had been singing about, the moneyed minority had caused an early end. Was I disappointed? Not sure. I was wrecked. I was part of history. Bruce had been unplugged and I was there. I do know for sure, in the words of @denvor “the cops finally busted Bruce Springsteen for singing longer than he should”

We staggered back to the Pride of Paddington. I showered and had a glass of malted barley, hops and water. Or too. It was raining. I gave @RedHeadedGoose a @BruceFunds T shirt. I went to bed. I could die happy. I’d seen the Boss. I’d experienced the absolute pinnacle of emotions that is a Springsteen concert.

But I don’t think I want to die just yet. I need to see the London E Street Nation again. And I need to meet the US E Street Nation. And to personally give @BruceFunds a bear hug. Then I can rest in peace. I’ve seen the Boss!

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What you can or what you should?

Over the past two weeks, I have been reading “Someplace like America”, by Dale Maharidge. It’s a story of the new Great Depression happening right now in the “home of the brave and the land of the free”. I freely admit that I was inspired to read the book as the foreword was written by Bruce Springsteen, and that a number of his songs on the Ghost of Tom Joad album had been inspired by this book and it’s predecessor.

The deeper I delved into the book, the more it resonated with not only the events in the current day USA, but around the world and South Africa. It’s a story of how the rich are getting richer and the middle class are being spat out of the bottom of the pile into poverty. Most of the poor have always been poor, but the middle class have generally been insulated against the descent into poverty. It is not the story of layabouts or lazy vagabonds. It’s the story of hard working people whose jobs were sent offshore by globalisation, by shareholders who demanded more returns and less investment, by traders who make millions in salaries and commissions yet put breadwinners out of work with their schemes.

The authors track how, over the years, jobs in General Motors, who paid a decent hourly wage, declined and were created instead by Walmart, who pay the minimum hourly wage. So the total number of jobs may have increased, but the net income to families has declined. People could no longer afford the houses that they had bought and so lost it all whilst the shareholders profits increased. Interestingly, with NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, Walmart moved into Mexico. Most of the Mom and Pop stores are now out of business – they just could not compete. So globalisation continues and benefits some and crushes others.

In South Africa, we have a chronic unemployment problem and so labour is cheap. So we can employ very cheaply. But should we? Do we become competitive by being the cheapest or being the best? Surely it makes more sense to invest in the best and continue to do so? An employee who is not concerned about making the taxi fare is surely going to be more focused on producing the required output?

Our Trade Unions are correct – we are sitting on a time bomb. Let’s defuse it by paying a decent wage, resisting the urge to profit by putting others out of work and investing in our futures by investing in our people.

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How do I sleep at night?

Last year was quite painful in terms of my perceived safety. The Greens had always had the basics – cheap security gates, a couple of burglar bars and so on.

Then came the tsunami of unwanted visitors. Someone trying to get into the back door during the finale of Survivor. I can still hear my wife’s scream. Four cop cars arrived in four minutes. No neighbour has arrived yet. We’ve had eight uninvited guests in 12 months. The latest was three months ago at three in the morning when a crowbar to the back door forced it open. Fortunately my burglar alarm served to chase the shopper away.

So I’ve gone from no security to R20,000 worth of barbed wire, burglar alarm and the ongoing expense of armed response. None of which helps me sleep through the night. I have woken every night at one and dozed fitfully until four by which time some of the neighbours are waking up for work, going for their early morning runs and so on and I figure that the baddies have given up for the night and are off to a well earned rest.

What angers me more than anything else is that if the intruders were really in need, and they’d come to my gate, I would have, and have, happily provide them with food and clothes. But these guys appear to be professional thieves, rather than desperate seekers of sustenance.

I’m also angry with myself for not dealing with the issues and just sleeping through the night. After all, if the break in is going to happen, the baddies will have to get over the barbed wire, break a window or door, which will activate the alarm, which should wake me up etc. So will I sleep? I’ll keep you posted!

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The Promise

Got it on pre-order from Amazon. Took 19 days to get to South Africa and still had to pay the import duty. Was it worth it? Hell yes! It’s Springsteen isn’t it?

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