A close friend of mine recently asked me why I want to meet Bruce Springsteen. I can’t do the answer justice.
The short answer is Bruce Springsteen helped me save my life and I’d like to tell him and thank him in person. However, my words can’t reach the complete answer. It lives too deep in my heart and soul.
As regular readers of this blog know, I was held-up on the streets of Brooklyn in 1984 and shot in the head at point blank range. The bullet remains lodged in the brain to this day. The 24th of this month marks the 25th anniversary of the shooting. It is not a depressing day. In a way it’s my second birthday.
Less than a year after being shot I was held-up again at gunpoint. I retreated into seclusion for a year. It was then that Springsteen’s music went from songs I loved to songs that helped keep me alive. I love a wide range of music, but for that entire year, Springsteen was it. There was something in his songs that filled me with life, reminded me life was still there and worth living again – like it used to be.
I did not understand at the time how powerfully and completely his songs connected to life in part by connecting me to chapters in my life. They reminded me I was alive and even had value to boot. Our histories were linked in a way that brought me comfort. My grandparents were from Ocean Grove and Rumson, New Jersey. Every summer meant Asbury Park, the boardwalk, and beaches that seemed to last forever. His songs brought me back to the days I had family, days ended weeks after my father died when I was 15 and I was disowned weeks later. His songs brought me back to the days my father was alive, and the world was safe. In a way, they brought back my father.
Moreover, his songs knew the taste of hard times. The lyrics of “Jungleland” reminded me – and still remind me – of the days I lived in the streets, my head packed with dreams struggling to get out. “Kids flash guitars just like switch-blades hustling for the record machine, the hungry and the hunted explode into rock’n’roll bands” and, my mind adds, writers and poets and painters and sculptors, inventors and teachers and always always dreamers.
As to what would I say to him (and his band) given the chance? I’d say much the same thing I said to the police officers from Brooklyn’s 84th Precinct on the 20th anniversary of the shooting. When the officers of the 84th Precinct found me staggering about and bleeding to death, blood spurting from my head, they threw me in the back of one of their cars and rushed me to the hospital, just in time.
I’d tell him that were it not for people like him I would never have searched for and found my birth-mother. She would have been able to die in 2001 knowing where her son was and knowing her son loved her. Were it not for people like him, I would not have lived to see my two grandsons. Were it not for people like him I would not be alive to help others, other brain injury survivors, crime victims, and more. I would not have been able to ride my bicycle 1,000 miles around the state to bring hope to others. And there’s more to thank him for, like how his songs helped me stay in motion in the days following my adoptive mother’s 1992 suicide.
Springsteen and the East Street Band are playing in Saratoga Springs on August 25, one day past the 25th anniversary of the shooting. That would be perfect timing. The 84th Precinct on the 20th anniversary, Springsteen on the 25th. Sounds like justice to me.
One other point to make. Some close to me say I deserve the chance to thank him in person. Maybe. But I think it is actually the other way around. I think he deserves to be thanked in person. After all, he’s one of the people who helped me stay alive.