It's all here at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Lyrics in a cribbed, nearly illegible hand scrawled in school notebooks. Black cowboy boots from a forgotten tour. The 501's and white t-shirt from the Born in the USA cover. On the screens an endless video loop ranging from early shows on the Jersey shore to polished and dull arena concerts.
Bruce Springsteen wrote the soundtrack of my youth, and it can't be a good thing for either of us that he's now a museum piece.
Walking past these artifacts, it's like trying to understand a fire that raged through your life by staring at a pack of burned matches. In an acrylic display case.
None of this stuff touched me. It wasn't until I walked up a spiral staircase with the opening lines of Thunder Road written on the walls, spiraling up with me. It's probably the only song I know start to finish, and one I've sung to myself across three decades. A paean to youth and longing and possibility.
The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances
across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
That’s me and I want you only...
Born to Run, two sides of vinyl that formed the philosophical framework for a generation of confused, awkward guys growing up in the seventies. We were all struggling to break free from our small lives and embrace some grand dream that was waiting for us just beyond the horizon.
That was a long time ago and a lot of miles back. You eventually figure out that beyond the horizon, there's just more road. And ourselves. And there's isn't a one of us who can drive fast enough to outrun that.
He's a dad now, nearly 60 with three kids and some marital complications if you believe the tabloids. He pretty much jumped the shark at this year's Super Bowl. I walk past his old Harlie here, polished and sleek, but looking strange and sterile and a little sad behind velvet rope. It's a memento from a 20 year old road trip.
I wonder if he doesn't wake up nights and dream of throwing it all in. Grabbing the keys and hitting the open road, driving hard one more time toward that ever-receding horizon.