For whatever reason, the gods decided I would suddenly start listening to old Bruce Springsteen albums yesterday.
It began yesterday afternoon, when I hit that wall while working on Tell My Bones and needed to just collapse on my bed for a few minutes and try to stop overthinking.
Stopping the overthinking is pretty much an impossibility for me. What I do is find some new thought stream where I can start overthinking about something else. But I always pretend that I’m going to just relax and stop overthinking…
But when I do collapse and try to stop thinking, I usually like to listen to music and suddenly that old Springsteen album, The River, fell into my field of vision in my Amazon stream.
I used to really love Bruce Springsteen. Ohio in the 1970s was huge Springsteen territory and he toured Ohio relentlessly back then. I saw him many times. The River was the last album to come out while I was still living in Ohio, and it came out right at that juncture where I moved to NYC. So for me, The River is oddly both filled with Ohio memories and very early memories of NYC.
It was never my favorite album of his. I liked a handful of the songs on it and that was it. (It’s a double-album, so there are a lot of songs on it.) And the titular song, “The River”, reminded me way too much of what life felt like in Ohio, and so I just played the album less and less as life went on in NYC, and then amazing albums like Nebraska and Born in the USA came out, and I never played The River again.
Well, I scrolled through the song titles in The River yesterday and saw that I recognized quite a few of them, had no recollection of some of them, but when my eye hit “The Price You Pay,” I stopped and thought, I’ll play this. I don’t remember it, but I know that I used to really love it.
That song goes back almost 40 years now. I usually play my music really loud, and yesterday was one of those days. So I flopped down on my bed, stared up at the ceiling and the song began playing, overtaking my room, and it was, like, holy fuck; this song is my whole goddamned LIFE.
Suddenly, everything I had lived since 1980 sprang into clear view, and then every girl I had been and every dream I had had in the 1970s jumped in there, too. And I realized that I did manage to live all my dreams to one extent or another, and I did sacrifice so fucking much in order to do that and I did pay a huge price for it; specifically, I got 2 divorces and never got to have any children. The scope of my life felt sort of devastating. Not necessarily in a bad way, but certainly in an overwhelming way.
You know, my life has been extremely hard. But only because I have always refused to let myself be squished down and pushed into some sort of box. I have always just seen life the way I see it, and I have always felt the need to express the way I see my own life, and usually that has wound up making a lot of people feel really challenged and uncomfortable. And then of course that often used to make me feel bad, but I couldn’t see how I could be anybody else but myself.
And the repeated sexual assaults and the rape stuff happening to me while I was in school — that stuff was directly related to the type of person I was, someone who just couldn’t back down. Even though it would have made my life so much simpler. And it just built up after Greg died. Right after he died. None of those boys gave a fuck that I was dying from grief inside; they only saw me as a girl who wasn’t a virgin. They would not leave me alone. And I’ve always been the type of person, even if I’m scared to death, I will always speak up for myself and defend myself. And that just pissed them off more until everything just blew up, in a horrible way.
But I always got back up somehow and was just still myself.
Still, pretty quickly, I learned to just accept that, for some reason, being myself meant that the stakes were always going to be high. Even in my final year of high school, when Greg had been dead for 3 years already, some muscle-bound jock in the hallway at school told some other jock, “That girl’s a whore.” So I said, “You’re an asshole,” and it made him look like a total idiot. Even though I knew there was a 50-50 chance that that type of guy would find me after school and rape me, too, and that thought actually did scare me; I wasn’t a whore and he was an asshole and I was not going to not defend myself. In the hallway at school, no less.
Anyway. That type of attitude was underlying everything I was once I got to New York and started to have my real life. I know that my life could have been so much simpler if I could have learned how to turn a blind eye to things, or to back down even a little bit. And I’ll tell you, I would have loved to have had a simpler life. Many’s the time when I was deeply wishing I wasn’t me. Times like when my trust fund was removed, or when I was disinherited all over the place. But lack of money isn’t going to make me become someone else.
Whatever. I can’t help it. I’m still just me. But now that I’m inching toward the closing chapters of my life, I see that there was indeed a price to pay. I’m guessing I still would have lived my life the way I did, even if I had known all of the consequences beforehand.
Also, yesterday, Dana Petty posted 5 very short videos of Tom Petty at Fenway Park in 2014. I watched it a couple times because it was sort of transfixing. First, they were alone in the limo, approaching the stadium and he was so quiet, so introspective. Just staring out the window. He was 64 years old at this point. She said something to him and he really quietly, distractedly, said “Yes.” That was it. Then they got out of the limo and the Heartbreakers were already there and no one even said hello to him; just silence. Then some other backstage footage, then him onstage in front of tens of thousands of people, singing, “She was an American girl, raised on promises,” and the crowd going crazy. Then him coming off the stage and he was wired; just full of adrenaline, chatty, smiling, joking, posing for very quick photos with security people, then getting on his bus. For a split second, Dana caught his face at an angle where I totally saw the young Tom Petty, from when he was maybe 30, back when he was such a rambunctious fighter. Just a flash of it– right there in his face when he smiled. It broke my heart. I saw the whole thing, you know, in a flash: He was 30, then he was 60, then he was dead.
Almost 2 years now since he died. For me, now, it feels like his whole life was just some movie I saw that I really loved. It feels almost like he never really existed. He was a dream I had or something; one that I dearly loved. So much grief has shifted inside me and has slowly become something else. When I play his records, it gets very dicey for me; I never know when all those old feelings will surface in a sort of tsunami of love and loss. And it occurred to me that it has got to be so hard for Dana Petty to grieve normally because social media can just make everything remain so immediate. She’ll post some sort of photo or footage of him that is remarkably interesting or beautiful, and then thousands of people will immediately “like” it. That dopamine rush of social media, you know? Those crippling feelings of grief and of loss, and then you post your grief out into the world and then have thousands of total strangers “like” it in the space of a heartbeat.
How can you really process any sort of loss in that atmosphere? I don’t know. It all seems so strange.
Okay. I’m gonna get started here this morning. The director texted last night, wanting to see the new pages, so I have to focus. Have a great Saturday, wherever you are! The Conversations with Nick Cave resume tonight in Iceland! That should be cool (no pun intended), assuming that people who live in Iceland are rule-breakers, that is, like those folks in Helsinki were, and they post to Instagram when they’re not supposed to!
All righty! Thanks for visiting. I leave you with an opportunity to consider the price you pay. I love you guys. See ya!
“The Price You Pay”
You ride to where the highway ends and the desert breaks
Out on to an open road you ride until the day
You learn to sleep at night with the price you payNow with their hands held high, they reached out for the open skies
And in one last breath they built the roads they’d ride to their death
Driving on through the night, unable to break away
From the restless pull of the price you payOh, the price you pay, oh, the price you pay
Now you can’t walk away from the price you pay
Now they’d come so far and they’d waited so long
Just to end up caught in a dream where everything goes wrong
Where the dark of night holds back the light of the day
And you’ve gotta stand and fight for the price you pay
Oh, the price you pay, oh, the price you pay
Now you can’t walk away from the price you pay
Little girl down on the strand
With that pretty little baby in your hands
Do you remember the story of the promised land
How he crossed the desert sands
And could not enter the chosen land
On the banks of the river he stayed
To face the price you pay
So let the game start, you better run you little wild heart
You can run through all the nights and all the days
But just across the county line, a stranger passing through put up a sign
That counts the men fallen away to the price you pay, and girl before the end of the day,
I’m gonna tear it down and throw it away