My Boyfriend Bruce

I love Bruce Springsteen. That’s different than saying I’m in love with Bruce Springsteen and want to start a life with him, have his children, ride off into the sunset with the Boss while he gazes lovingly over his shoulder and slows his pace, as my horse trips over a tree stump. “If as we’re walkin’ a hand should slip free, I’ll wait for you, and should I fall behind, wait for me,” sings Bruce in If I Should Fall Behind, one of his more tender-hearted love songs: simple, to the point and full of innocent wonder at the beauty of his beloved.

It’s not that I actually wanna be Bruce’s beloved; that’s totally beside the point.  Although I’d love to take his warm Levi’s out of the dryer and search for my sock.  Our love is pure: we don’t need to speak, or make eye contact.  Or even meet.  We spend enough time together already.

I love Bruce for what he says, what he portrays, the stories he tells and the pictures he paints.  And surely, that has to be better for all involved: his wife, kids, band mates, touring schedule, his 62nd birthday…it just wouldn’t work out between the two of us.  I probably wouldn’t find him half as entertaining after a long day at the car wash, or coming home late from the factory after Mr. State Trooper’s pulled him over.  Again.

The Bruce I know is romantic, wistful, fearless (or at least, honest about his fears) and no matter how down and out he gets – no matter how many years Johnny 99 gets in the pen or how down bound that train’s gonna go – he’s always calling me darlin’, baby, hey little girl with the blue jeans on.  And I’m always his salvation, the reason he punches the time clock and comes home at the end of the day and whisks me onto the highway with the wind in our hair, or fetches me from the porch steps.  “Roy Orbison’s singing for the lonely, hey it’s me and I want you only.”

It’s nice to be needed.

The age gap between us has never stopped me; I first felt the force of his attention in 1979, when I was nine years old and growing up in Southern California.  My older sisters introduced me to Bruce and facilitated our life-long love affair.  I coveted their Darkness on the Edge of Town 8-track with the typed-out title and Bruce’s rather unkempt hairdo du jour.   He kind of looked like Keniki from Grease, in his white wife-beater and that faded leather jacket – or maybe a less-coiffed Danny aka John Travolta.

My older sisters have always known good music, as has my older brother, but it was my sisters who really exposed me to Bruce and that era of Rock and Roll, with Pat Benatar (Blue 8-track, Crimes of Passion) ), Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gold and Platinum and Steely Dan (LP).   My brother brought Squeeze, The Beatles, Men at Work, The Zombies and more English-leaning rock and roll; truly, I have only myself to thank for Bryan Adams, the Thompson Twins, Poison – and Morris Day and the Time.

Are you still reading?

Despite the entire 80’s and my varied lapses in all sorts of cultural judgment, fortunately, my sisters had already left their mark. And before they went off to college and left me to my own musical devices, they left me with an unwavering love of all things Bruce.

My sister Lisa actually had that beautiful Bruce song, If I Should Fall Behind,  as her wedding song.  Her husband had the musical appreciation and love for my sister (or savvy understanding of women) to wholly enjoy the first dance, as well.

Virtually none of my boyfriends have ever understood what I see in Bruce.  I don’t think any were actually jealous (hmm…maybe that’s why it didn’t work out!?) but I must say, I have an unwritten, instinctual rule: if a guy doesn’t get Bruce – or at least remotely understand the extent of his power over any red-blooded American woman – then he and I won’t really get each other.  He at least has to humor Him, and accept those days when I go from A-Z, sitting through Jungleland and obsessing over Devils and Dust and putting For You on repeat, over and over, pretending that Bruce is coming for me while I’m stretched out, strung out on the floor, on my way to Bellevue (emergency ward of said hospital, not the lovely avenue of mansions in Newport.) Sigh.

And he needs to understand that there’s so much more to Bruce than Born in the USA, but that that album certainly has its highlights.  And the title track isn’t one of them.

I love something on almost every Bruce album and some albums cannot be listened to except from start to finish, no track- skipping allowed.  I can’t defend Magic but really, one bogus album in over almost 50 years of making music? Even the Boss is human.

And that’s what I like about him.  He faces an inordinate amount of hardship, song after song, but he keeps singing.  Usually with a harmonica solo.  Life deals Bruce some hard blows, anywhere between 2:57 and 9:34 long, but he picks himself up, stares out at the horizon and perseveres.  He has a strong connection to the universe, races toward the light at the end of the tunnel and at the end of the day, and the song, he’s really into me.  And he’s always there for me.  Right there, in my glove compartment.

Like me, Bruce is addicted to emotion, and he passes the time with that barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a dodge drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain, until all their dreams come true.   And my family never owned a Dodge, or a Cadillac, or went drag-racing in the street.  So that definitely adds a little to his mystique.

Bruce is strong and handsome and has this twang in his voice that makes me think he’s from somewhere in the heartland, salt-of-the-earth material, even though he’s really from New Jersey.  And he hasn’t turned his back on his homeland which I’m sure can’t be said for everyone from New Jersey.  He looks unreal in Levi’s and, here it is, I’ve always had a thing for the blue-collar look and Bruce looks really good wiping the grease off his brow and smudging it on the sleeve of his rolled-up snap-shirt.  Though I’ve never seen him with an embroidered “Bruce” nametag, I’m quite sure he has a chain wallet somewhere in his armoire.

But is he really that blue-collar, or is he just a poser?  He’s wealthier than the Almighty at this point and certainly no longer needs to sing about – or even empathize with – the working man; but who he is after the show doesn’t really matter to me.

It’s what he stands for.

He’ll muddy his way to the bottom of the river and look for the shining thing that symbolizes our love.  He’ll search the pillow beside him for the tears we cried. “Didn’t you think I knew that you were born with the power of a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?”  Sigh.  “Reveal yourself all now to me, girl, while you’ve got the strength to speak, ‘cuz I’ve broken all your windows and I’ve rammed through all your doors…and you should know it’s true. I came for you, for you, I came for you.”

Thanks Bruce.  Somehow, I always knew you’d be there.  Even when you and Patti are on tour and she’s dry-cleaning the oil stains off your Levi’s.

If she finds my sock, tell her I loved you before you two ever met.

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