So our week “away” from each other begins. We’ve all set out with tasks we aim to focus on in a big way. James encouraged us to “go outside our comfort zone, be ambitious, challenge ourselves.” I had a few ideas scrawled down, but the one that seemed to get the most traction with the group was to take an album by Bruce Springsteen, and each day try to live out the lyrics to a different song. I didn’t think this sounded like anything that would put me outside my comfort level. Rather allow my barely concealed Bruce obsession to fully manifest. But hey, I’m game.
We started the week off right with some karaoke at The Mint where I sang a horrible rendition of “The River” and later a drunk girl told me that “I know you’re an arrrrrtist, but you better never put your hand in front of my face again.” I was simultaneously wounded by her ire and excited she somehow thought I was an artist. Was it the impassioned way I sang? Regardless, I left last night happy to begin my week of “tasking.”
First things first, I decided (after some study) to use “Born in the USA.” For all the obvious reasons, and also because, as Larry Rodgers interpreted it, “it was not until [Bruce] hit the gym to get buffed up and showed off his rear end in Annie Leibovitz’s famous cover photo for Born in the U.S.A. that he became an American pop icon.”
Starting with that image, I decided my first task would be to wear a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans the entire week. They’d have to be tight, to show off my butt. And by the end of the week, ideally they’ll be worn in enough to look cool. (I’ll be spending a few days on a farm, so conceivably, it could happen.) I must say, after putting these babies on, I was missing my old worn-out pair from high school. They just don’t make them like that anymore.
(Yeah, yeah, I know I don’t have the pose down yet. Saving that for day 6 after the jeans are worn in.)
After watching a few Bruce videos, I also decided I would spend some time every day learning to run and slide on my knees across the floor until I could look cool doing it. I filmed the first one today and no way in hell will I show it. Let’s suffice to say the tops of my feet are all scraped from the floor and I’ve learned you should wear socks (at the very least) and preferably cool black boots like Bruce, to make this thing work. (He does is a couple times in the first few moments of this video…just to give you a hint of what I’m aiming for.)
I was spending the day with my favorite 9-year-old, so I decided to focus on the song “My Hometown” since it’s one of the few that has a kid in it. I started by interviewing my young friend and her cohort about what a hometown is and means to them. Some of their answers:
“It’s where I sleep, where I get my food. A lot of caring things are there.”
“It’s where my memories are kept.”
“If feels like it’s meant for me to be there.” (Sigh. Where oh where could that place be…?)
Next, after plying her with a reward for helping me, we drove to an empty parking lot and I had her sit on my lap and steer the truck around while I told her over and over: Take a good look around. This is your hometown. (She had watched the video with me earlier and I told her I was going to say weird things to her. Trust me. She’s cool like that.)
Anyway, it wasn’t her hometown actually. It was a parking lot. And not a great one. And she really didn’t like the steering thing and asked to stop after a half-circle around the lot. We abandoned that idea and instead I got her to run down the street with a dime in her hand. But we weren’t near a bus stop and I didn’t want a paper (like you could buy one for 10 cents!) and so we drove home. As we neared the house the song came on the tape I was playing in the car, so I asked if I could film her while she sang it as we drove the last block toward home.
That was the first time I looked around the neighborhood and thought, oh yeah…this is her hometown. And most likely, will feel that way to her some day. The same way mine felt to me at one point. Before it turned into some strange place that just changes and morphs without me there to say it’s OK.
After one day I can say this project has started to scare me a bit. I wasn’t prepared for how depressing it would feel. The songs on this album are so mired in nostalgia for days gone by and lost glory and it’s filled with people who aren’t doing as hot as they were when those days were happening. I’m not sure how much of that thought process I can stand.
I also didn’t count on how it would feel to watch video after video of a young Bruce. I find the dude insanely attractive in every possible way, which only depresses me more. Mostly because that guy is gone too. Don’t get me wrong, the current Bruce is still a hottie, and if he’d just get rid of that ridiculous tuft of hair on his chin, he’d be sexy as hell still. But he’s, well…old-er. And even entertaining the notion that he would want me just puts him in that category of creepy midlife crisis dude, which ruins the fantasy. It’s somehow different watching the Pet Shop Boys circle Olympic stadium in bizarre bird outfits.
Sure they’re old now and wtf were they thinking with that whole performance? But they’re not singing about days gone by or lost childhood or forgotten dreams…so I don’t care as much. They’re free to be who they are now without it reflecting on any larger themes of loss or nostalgia. (Not to mention, there is absolutely nothing sexually attractive about those costumes.)
But there’s more to the gross feeling I get after spending a day with the Bruce videos. The highly sexualized nature of the young Bruce in his tight jeans is working some other kind of sick magic. As Bryan Garman said in his book “Race of Singers”: “the apparently working-class Springsteen was for many Americans a white hard-bodied hero whose masculinity confirmed the values of patriarchy and patriotism, the work ethic and rugged individualism, and who clearly demarcated the boundaries between men and women, black and white, heterosexual and homosexual.”
I’m watching videos from 1980 and feeling wistful and inadequate because I’m desiring something I will never have. And not because Bruce is out of my league (hell no!), but because what he represents was manufactured to perpetuate my feeling of inadequacy. Not only socially (he’s a star, I’m a peon) but sexually as well. His form of masculinity was specifically “up there” on stage with the writhing masses at a safe distance. A woman’s sexuality is meant to be always yearning for the unattainable approval of the hyper-masculine elite. If she were ever to “get” it her job would be to do everything necessary to keep it. If he does bring you on stage to dance (like he does the young Courtney Cox in the “Dancing in the Dark” video) then your job is to dance chastely beside him, not making eye contact. Who cares if the looks you gave each other before he brought you on stage could’ve melted the wall paper. (I mean seriously…she looks at him like she wants to hump his leg and once she’s next to him she stares at the floor and does a lame 8th grade white girl shuffle? Come on!)
Is it seriously only day one? Geesh.