Musings: Life after Clarence

As most of you know, Clarence Clemons died on Saturday night. I personally heard about it from my roommate on Sunday. Although he claims to be a Bruce fan, he’s a casual listener at best, which leaves him with an emotional disconnect with the news. So it was with an incongruous nonchalance that he mentioned the loss casually in the middle of a conversation.

I obviously never knew Clarence Clemons personally. In many ways, he always struckĀ  me as more of a symbol than as a person. He was the massive dude with the distinct tone on his sax. He was the one that was always standing next to Bruce, mutual respect binding their distinct personas. He’s the one who shares the cover of the greatest rock record of all time. He was an icon.

I was particularly stunned by the news because I had just finished watching a documentary on Bruce and the band on Saturday. In a dumb sort of way, I was feeling particularly close to them yesterday, having just witnessed a detailed representation of the painstaking process they went through to make Darkness on the Edge of Town over 30 years ago.

As soon as I heard the news, I couldn’t help but think of the footage in the documentary, snapping back and forth between present day interviews and old film from the studio. The whole bunch of them weren’t much older than I am now when they were making the album; in the past 3 years, two of them have died.

It’s also hard to come to grips with the fact that I’ll never see the big man live. As much as I love Bruce, I still haven’t had a chance to be to one of his shows. As anyone who has been to one of them can tell you, they’re where his music really comes alive. I’m still sure I’ll see them one day, but it will never be same. Clarence’s sax is the second most distinct sound in that band, second only to Bruce’s voice. It doesn’t matter if someone new comes on board to play the solos; they’ll never sound the same, let alone feel the same. I sort of wonder if Bruce will even bother trying to find someone to fill in.

He even pioneered my signature "cutoff and a bandana", years before I was born.

So farewell our giant friend. You played a major part in the production of some of music’s most inspired albums of all time. There’s not a single song that you played on that will ever sound the same without you. I hope you keep looking down with that penetrating gaze, zapping a little inspiration from the beyond.

Fitness vs. Fatness: Cookies for breakfast and failed hoop dreamz

During the week, I wake up at either 5:30 or 6:40 AM to go to work. It was for this reason that I found myself completely incapable of going back to sleep after I took Jenny to Union Station this morning at 5:45.

Mornings like this are always confusing for me. I absolutely relish the first couple hours of dawn. Sunsets are cool and all, but everyone sees those. I really enjoy those cool hours of solace before anybody gets up. At the same time, I am as subject to exhaustion headaches as anybody, so I wasn’t feeling 100% either.

Not feeling much motivation to sit or stand, despite being unable to resume sleeping, I decided to slump into bed and watch TV, like the Saturday mornings of my youth. Jenny and I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with nutella filling last night, so I happily ate one or two (or four) of those for breakfast while watching the entirety of Archer season 1. If you haven’t watched it, you really need to. It’s amazing, so long as your sense of humor extends beyond what’s found in Family Guy.

Several hours later, I worked up the motivation to finally organize all of the media files on my computer. Despite having folders specifically labeled for programs, music, games, and videos (SD/HD, TV/Movie), things had become terribly jumbled. I can tolerate certain levels of disorder, but this is one of the things that really sets off my OCD. It persisted for so long solely because I would walk away from my computer whenever it crossed my mind.

By the time things were tidy again, a shockingly large chunk of my day had already passed. I played some Dead Rising 2 and Battlefield, watched some of a Bruce documentary, and ate leftover swedish meatballs with half of a watermelon. Feeling sufficiently lardy at this point, I pulled one of my classic workout tricks: getting ready and walking out the door without thinking things through. I’ve found that the mind is incredibly good at convincing the body that it doesn’t need to work out. It will insist that your leg hurts or that it’s raining outside. The easiest way to circumvent the issue is to just zone out until you’re halfway down the block saying “Dammit, not again.”

Unfortunately, this approach does little to make up for eating a heavy meal before a run.

While running along the mall, an incredibly thing nearly happened. It’s what I like to call “hoop dreamz”. It’s one of those moments that you carelessly daydream about where you do something awesome with incredible suaveness; everyone’s got at least one. For some people, it’s having to fill in for an absent musician at a show and TOTALLY nailing it. For others, it’s telling a really freaking funny joke in a large crowd of people. I’m sure you’ve all got a whole bunch.

Anyway, I was running along, probably looking awesome, when a frisbee came sailing directly into my path. I was positive that my time had come to be nonchalantly amazing; I love frisbee. I was poised to make an awesome catch and whip it back without breaking my stride. Things couldn’t have been more perfect. Then it bounced off of my hand and spun away in the dirt. My anger must have shown, because one of the people playing apologized for their errant throw. The next 2 miles were a blur of irritated thoughts and enhanced paces. It wasn’t until I had rounded the Lincoln memorial and come back up to the mall that I realized that my legs were dead and I was panting.

At least I have the consolation of knowing that the opportunity didn’t go completely wrong. Despite my drop, it wasn’t like I had fallen flat on my face. My term for those scenarios is “poop dreams”. You know, like when John Kerry tries to look athletic.

Yep, classic poop dream.

These moments are the true failures. The times when you think you’re going to look awesome but end up looking like a total idiot, usually in front of large groups of people. Thank god I avoided that fate.

To ensure that I didn’t just jinx myself, I think I’m going to spend the rest of the night in my apartment. There is a lasagna that needs to get made, a Springsteen documentary that needs finishing, and a whole boatload of terrorists who aren’t going to kill themselves on my computer. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday everyone! Happy hoop dreaming.

Stuff That I Like: Bruce Springsteen

I’m getting ready to head back to Maryland today and it’s as bittersweet as always. Obviously I love being in New Jersey, but my home, and my life for that matter, is actually in Maryland/DC these days. I always listen to a lot of Bruce on the way to New Jersey. When I’m driving up here, he’s a bit of a primer to get me in the Jersey mood (as if I’m ever not in the Jersey mood). On the whole though, I primarily listen to ska when I get back to NJ, because that’s where the real memories of my youth are.

I’ll have to write a major FY post about that later though; this one is about the Boss. I definitely listen to Bruce the most when I’m out of the state. He just lets my mind drift momentarily back to Jersey when I can’t actually be here and gives me what I’m jonesin’ for.

Just as leaving Jersey made me appreciate it so much more, my love for Bruce definitely grew during the end of college when I was really missing the Garden State. When I was immersed in the state, and it was all that I knew, I guess I couldn’t see how quintessentially Jersey he was. But when the indescribable grittiness and freedom that I associate with my state were suddenly gone, I realized that Bruce poured it right back in through his music.

Besides, are you fucking kidding me? That's basically me if I was born 38 years earlier.

The more that I’ve listened to the man, the more lyrics I’ve come across that seem to yank on threads attached to memories of growing up in NJ and the desire that I’ve always had to get out into the world and discover the unknown.

When I think about how popular Bruce has become, I always wonder if everyone that listens to him feels it the way I do. The songs are certainly good enough on their own, but I associate them so tightly with so many things, I have a hard time believing that the masses appreciate them in the same way I do. I’ve come to equate it to something like really good Kimchi. I’m not Korean, but I know when I’m eating something delicious. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pick out all of it’s nuances, because I haven’t grown up eating it, sharing it, and really experiencing its place in its native culture. The closest I can get to letting you know how, and why, I feel so close to the man is sharing this video with you. If you’ve got the time though, I highly encourage you to watch it; Bruce explains how I feel better than I ever could.

I mean, seriously. The man just expressed everything I’ve ever felt in words. I almost want to shut this blog down after only a handful of posts because he summed up everything I’ll ever want to say.

All of this aside, it is seriously my life’s ambition to meet Bruce. I was originally planning on doing it solely by becoming excessively rich and/or famous, but on the way back from Seaside on Friday night, my friend Beaver suggested just hanging around Monmouth county. Becoming rich can wait until later I guess; I just wonder how long I’d be able to survive panhandling in Monmouth county.

Anyway, for all those Bruce noobs out there, I suggest that you listen to the following to get started: The entirety of Greetings from Asbury Park and Born to Run, Rosalita, 4th of July (Asbury Park), and Jersey Girl. Don’t bullshit either; really listen to them. I know I will.