Local Heroes 2

 

So I asked the salesgirl “Who was that man
Between the doberman and Bruce Lee?”
She said “Just a local hero”
“Local hero” she said with a smile
“Yeah a local hero he used to live here for a while”

Bruce Springsteen, Local Hero

 

 

Jersey girl and I found ourselves in Red Bank yesterday where we stumbled, quite unexpectedly, across a couple of culturally iconic locales.

Red Bank is a small New Jersey town on the Navesink River, North West of Asbury Park and North East of Freehold, which in 1904 was the birthplace of one of the greats of American music, Count Basie.

Born William James Basie, the man that would come to be known the world over as the Count was taught to play piano by his mother and, by his early teens, was already performing around the local area (including Asbury Park).

Eventually, he moved to Harlem and began playing with the Bennie Moten Orchestra with whom he continued until 1935 when he formed his own jazz outfit, The Count Basie Orchestra.

The Count would become a legend in Jazz and Big Band circles and achieve world fame as a musician, band leader, and composer. This was perhaps in small part due to the attentions of one John Hammond (a familiar name to all Springsteen and Dylan fans) who had heard Basie’s band over the radio and travelled from New York to Kansas City in 1936 to check out Basie and his Orchestra.

Hammond was impressed enough to record the band, a recording he later described as, “the only perfect, completely perfect recording session I’ve ever had anything to do with”. This was the beginning of Basie’s rise to national prominence.

Over his long career, Basie worked with some of the very greatest vocalists of all times; Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bing Crosby, and Sarah Vaughan.

 

Count Basie

 

While wondering around the town cente, we came upon Red Bank’s lasting monument to perhaps its greatest son. In 1984 (the year the Count died) the Carlton Theatre on Broad Street was renamed the Count Basie Theatre in his honour. Many acts have played there, including Tony Bennett,  Al Green, the great George Carlin, Boz Scaggs, Counting Crows, Brian Wilson, The Asbury Dukes, and Jon Stewart. It was the last venue James Brown ever played and has been the location of several of Springsteen’s surprise guest appearances over the years.

 

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We hope to catch a show there in the not too distant future.

 

The second Red Bank icon (and the only other that I know of) is filmmaker and comic book geek, Kevin Smith. My wife and I are both huge fans of his indy movie Clerks which was shot in the area. And I personally am also very fond of Chasing Amy, a large portion of which was filmed right on Broad Street in Red Bank.

All of this came into focus for me when we stumbled across Kevin’s Comic book Store, ‘Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash’ (also on Broad Street).

 

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For those who are not aware, Smith plays the character Silent Bob in many of the movies he has directed or written (Clerks I & II, Chasing Amy, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Mall Rats, and Dogma to name, well most of them actually). He also wrote the movie Jersey Girl (which, surprisingly considering the title, I have not seen).

The Secret Stash store also doubles as the set for a show about (you guessed it) comics and geek culture called ‘Comic Book Men‘. Smith and his geek friends talk all things geek for half an hour and as we arrived outside the store, we discovered that the show was taping right then.

Two minders stationed outside told us we could go in during taping but we’d have to fill out and sign waivers and cover up our T-shirts (which featured other peoples’ artworks that could not be shown on TV without their permission). We decided that all sounded like a bit too much trouble so we opted to come back after taping and wandered off down the street for some dinner.

When we returned an hour later, the minders were gone and we had a quick look around Kev’s Kingdom (pretty standard comic book store with a lot of Jay and Silent Bob merch and memorabilia as one would expect).

As we were leaving, I also snapped a quick pic of the building across the street which was used as Ben Affleck and Jason Lee’s artist studio in Chasing Amy (weird that Affleck, who played a comic book writer and artist in that film, is now Batman).

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Here’s a scene from the movie showing not much has changed since 1997.

 

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Jason Lee (loved him in My Name is Earl) hanging out in Chasing Amy (Image: Miramax)

 

And that was our strange little day in Red Bank. I found a lot of weird connecting threads which led me to write this somewhat amorphous piece. NJ never seems to let me down on that score and I do love the little adventures Jersey girl and I always seem to have together.

 

Encourage an artist

 

 

Words and images (except where otherwise credited) are my own.

 

©2017

 

 

 

New York City Seranade

 

My kind of town

 

That hot electric  s c e n t

Coming up from Penn

The hustling jumble along Broadway

Recomposing the city

In the viewfinder of my camera

Buying New York poets

In the Strand

 

Scouting for gargoyles and hearing

Five languages in the space of a block

In incomplete snippets

Of passion, frustration, and sad resignation

 

The genius crazies keeping it unreal

Water sellers on Brooklyn Bridge

“Ice cold fer a dollah”

The sublime chaos

The tragedian absurdities

The assholian arrogance

This is my city now

 

 

Try and take it from me.

 

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Words and images are my own.

 

©2017

Saving Grace

 

 

The hunter and the ring (of paler skin)

 

She played the game just right

Laughed out loud at all his jokes

No matter how stupid or

Off colour

Leaned in closer when he spoke

Her smile anticipating his next brilliant

Point

Telling him wordlessly

Just how fascinating he was

 

The hand resting on his thigh while she listened

Undividedly

Was perhaps belabouring things

Just a little

But the stakes were high

And there was no way

She was going home to that bastard tonight

 

He kept staring at her finger as he plied her with

Booze

That telltale band of paler skin where she’d

Slipped her chain (just for the night)

It made her a little queasy with shame

If she was honest with herself

But in the end

She let him take her back to his

And have her just

The same

 

The next day at the office

He told all the boys about the

Married cooch he’d bagged last night

Feeling proud and enviable

As if it were he

Who’d done the stalking.

 

 

 

©2017

Fits and Starts

 

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Threads 2

 

Every life is just the brightest thread

Those moments you choose to remember

Not truth

But a version

An acceptable delusion

You unpick the dark moments

In the winding narrative

And sew together a life you can live with

Holding on to only that which

You can bear to keep

 

The rest you sink

Into the murky depths

Only rarely acknowledged

Left mostly unexamined

The not quite memories

An unsettling dream where

You don’t even recognise yourself

 

That’s how you make it through the days

Holding tight to that golden thread

Closely stitched

Guided by a sharp needle

through a field of midnight blue.

 

 

 

Words and image are my own.

 

©2017

Now, the Boss don’t dig me

 

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Surely one of the most amusing relationship dynamics in popular music is that between Bruce Springsteen and the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie (a name which itself would seem more at home on a pop star than a politician).

Christie, a Republican, has for years been on the record as a HUGE Springsteen fan who’s attended over 100 shows and has often been seen bopping in the good seats pretty much any time the Boss has played the Jersey/NYC area.

 

Springsteen, an avowed progressive, loathes everything Christie stands for with every fiber of his being and never misses an opportunity to lambast the Governor over his mishandling of Bruceland.. I mean, the great state of New Jersey.

With the exception of a rare period of détente around the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy (how delicious is that irony, btw?) where the two appeared to mend the battered fence somewhat, the ideological differences have made any sustained relationship impossible.

Not so very long after Sandy, during the, so called, ‘Bridgegate’ debacle, Springsteen appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Show to mock the besieged Governor in song.

 

This must have stung Christie to some extent and in 2015 during an interview for LifeZette, he professed to like Bon Jovi more than the Boss. Then, several months later, he delivered what could only be described as the coup de grace to his tempestuous (and largely imaginary) relationship. In an interview with Sean Hannity, he stated bluntly that he is not friends with Springsteen, only that he knows him. And that he is friends with Bon Jovi.

This didn’t stop Christie from tweeting this little anecdote on the 40th anniversary of Born to Run;

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This fractious situation has been playing out for years now and begs the question, why was Christie so enamored of an artist whose very core beliefs were and remain diametrically opposed to his own anyway?

Some say that the Governor’s great love of all things Boss was just politicking, a way of playing to the stands and showing New Jersians that he is one of them. This, however, does not actually seem to be the case.

Christie’s great unrequited love for Bruce seems to have been very long standing and completely genuine. Recently uncovered emails from the Springsteen listserv archives show the depth of the Governor’s early obsession.

Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 12:32:22 EST

Subject: Brush with Bruce at 30,000 feet

I am mostly a lurker, but now that the holiday craze is over, I have time to sit down and impart my great experience from the last show in Minnesota. My wife and I saw the second Asbury Park rehearsal, 8 of the NJ shows and one in Philly. What a great year. We finished up with “The last show of the Century” entertaining 15 clients at the final show in Minnesota. The show was amazing and everyone had a great time. But for us, the best was about to happen the next day.

We board the 11 am Northwest flight back to NJ the day after the show. My wife and I are sitting in 1st row of 1st class and getting out our books out of our bags and putting the luggage away in the overheads. From behind me I hear a voice say,”I think I’m sitting right back here.” I knew immediately–it was Bruce!

He was by himself–no Patty, no bodyguards–just Bruce, a baseball cap, jeans jacket, NY Times and Minneapolis Star-Tribune. I immediately go off the deep end.

The plane is then delayed 30 minutes on the ground and we have our chance. We walked back to see Bruce, introduced ourselves and told him we had flown in for the show last night and were headed home. He said, “Me, too.” We thanked him for the great performance the night before (and for all the great nights). He was incredibly gracious, we chatted briefly about where we lived, etc., and then said good-bye and went back to our seats (he was in the last row of 1st class).

When we landed in Newark we walked off the plane with Bruce right next to us. I asked him if I could tell him a little story. I told him about the night he played Sandy at the Continental Arena. My 6 year old son Andrew and I were in the front row on tix we won in the KACF auction. Bruce had thrown him a pick earlier in the evening and acknowledged his energy at 11 PM during Land of Hope and Dreams. (He said, looking at my six year old son, “He’s still going?”) He then introduced Sandy by pointing to my son and saying “We’re gonna send you home with a little lullaby.” As I finished this story in the jetway, Bruce said, “That was your little guy?” I said yes and told him how much it meant to my son (he’ll still calls Sandy “his” song) and how much it meant to me. He said he remebered and called Andrew “crazy” with a big grin and chuckle. He told me to tell Andrew he was glad he had such a good time and to come back again. I then asked Bruce if he could sign an autograph to Andrew and his 3 year old sister Sarah Anne (who had also been to 2 shows–one in Philly and one in Jersey). He was happy to do it and signed to both of them. He shook my hand, told my wife to make sure the kids got the autograph and wished us a Merry Christmas. His ride was waiting at the gate and he walked away. What an incredible time for me, a Bruce fan since 1976.

He was everything I hoped he would be if I ever got a chance to meet him–gracious and incredibly normal in a truly extraordinary way. That was my Christmas gift.

Chris from Mendham, NJ

I wonder how Bruce would have reacted had he known who that gushing fan would turn out to be in later years. I’d like to think he’d have been just as gracious. Christie didn’t approach his hero as a Republican but as a fan and a fellow music lover.

True Springsteen fans really should not be surprised by this seemingly contradictory state of affairs. The fact is, politics have nothing to do with music. You can shoehorn political messages into your songs but that’s rarely what people are responding to when they listen. It’s the emotions conveyed that determine how people will react. And your emotions are not governed by your political stripe.

Many of the blue-collar folk who listen to (and draw comfort from) Springsteen’s music are heartland Republicans who, nevertheless recognize themselves in the characters that populate the songs of this unapologetic progressive. Springsteen wouldn’t have it any other way, I’m sure.

The themes that can be found running through albums like Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town are universal. Springsteen doesn’t write about Republicans and Democrats, he writes about Americans and about those elements of our identity that are true for all.

So, though the relationship between Christie and his Boss is amusing on one level, on another it is a pure expression of the unity and inclusiveness that good music holds out to us all. The Governor has never been turned away from a Bruce show and I hope he never will be.

 

 

©2017