Bashing to windward

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 10:45am

There was an article in Forbes magazine in 2012 that got my attention.

It was a piece that dealt with the newly-released album titled “Wrecking Ball,” by Bruce Springsteen. It was an angry album, and some folks thought Springsteen was being a hypocrite for making this record. How could a guy write songs about the plight of the working man when he’s a multi-millionaire? I dismissed this position from the jump, based on the belief that this guy has every right to write whatever he wants. That’s what writers do. It sounded like sour grapes to me. How about this position: the guy’s a songwriter — an observer — and he’s weighing in on something that bothers him. Plus, the guy is a troubadour. It’s his job, and good on him for earning his nickels doing a job he loves to do. Moreover, Springsteen is still grinding out songs, and I’ll bet my nickels that retirement is not in his vocabulary. We don’t retire from passion. As a result, we get to enjoy this guy’s music, and his stories. Springsteen’s latest gig is he’s doing a run on Broadway (which started Tuesday, Oct. 3).

Recently, there’s been some flak about the ticket price for the show. Mounting a gig like this isn’t cheap — regardless of how austere it is — therefore, there are various and substantial expenses. Any reasonable fan should know this; however, with a limited run the price isn’t going to be affordable for some folks. Add to this the greed of on-line ticket scalpers — which Springsteen has applied methods to deter — which directly affects his fans. They should be angry — tickets run from 700 scoots to $2,400. But we need to look at the bigger picture of this guy, and not get fetched up in the ticket drama. If we can’t afford the ticket, we must remember that there are worse things that could befall us at this time — no elaboration needed.

Since the Forbes article, Bruce Springsteen wrote an autobiography in which he lays bare his deal and his place in the world. This guy came up hard, and he threw down for his work — hard. Apparently, the Broadway gig will be an extension of the narrative articulated in his book. Springsteen has a great voice on paper in his book, so it’s not a stretch to think that he’ll have a good run on the Great White Way. Furthermore, it’s great he’s using this simple medium to connect with his audience. This is a troubadour’s dream to be able to play in a 960-seat room, and have that very intimate and visceral connection with the audience. The guy has a hell of a life story to tell, and he will not disappoint. (I would almost want to take the bride to a show like this, but I don’t like crowds. Plus, she’s going to India, and I need a new sail for my boat — priorities.) However, if I had this guy’s ear for five minutes, I’d like to talk about how we survived the tap dance the nuns did on our teen-age heads. We’re both Shanty Irish 67-year-old wiseguys who weren’t bringing home good news or grades; however, we were bashing guitars in the basement — relatable stuff.

Springsteen’s work ethic is noteworthy, and I wonder how he enjoys his slack time. Maybe he rides his motorcycles or tools around in his tricked-out Woody, or perhaps he messes around in his studio writing songs. After touring with his band, hanging out at home could be relaxing — for a while, anyway. I bet he’s an itch, and can’t sit still. He’s probably a standard-issue type A guy who simply loves to work, and the only way he can enjoy his slack time is if he goes out and throws down on a project — then, he can relax — for a little. To give something analogous to where Springsteen perhaps is these days, I’ll use an old sailing phrase.

“Gentlemen don’t sail to windward,” is a nice, easy, and practical way to think of sailing a boat in a relaxing manner. Sailing downwind is not only easy on the boat, but it’s also easy for those on board. As I get older, this axiom seems to pop into my head every time I plan a sail. I hope that I have a fair wind going somewhere and hopefully the same wind returning — usually in the fall, there’ll be a 50-50 chance of a downwind sleigh ride — fun and easy stuff. However, sometimes during a nice, fast and easy sail downwind, I may arbitrarily swing the boat to windward, harden up the sails, and go merrily bashing my boat and my body — un-gentlemanlike — to windward. Then, after enough bashing of my knees, elbows and shoulders, I’ll fall off a few degrees, and return to the age-old idiom and sail on happily downwind, as a gentleman should. Maybe Bruce Springsteen grabs some slack, and then arbitrarily decides to go to work, because he must know one of life’s little truths, and that is in order to enjoy our down time, we must do the work. No work, no slack.

If we, like Bruce Springsteen, are in a position to enjoy what we do to earn our dollars we will all probably need to find that balance between working hard and then enjoying our slack time. Moreover, it’s about autonomy and not how much money we have in the bank. I hear stories about people retiring — whatever that means — and they stay home on the couch, which is not a good thing. Not hitting Springsteen’s Broadway gig is no big deal. There’ll be plenty of reviews, and maybe a video down the road. When not working — like a gentleman — I’ll read a review while sailing downwind, and when I’ve had enough of that easy point of sail, I’ll blast my favorite Springsteen song — “Promised Land” — and bash to windward.