Until age 25, I never really got Bruce Springsteen. I tried. Oh, I tried.
I had the utmost respect for the man, of course. Having been born in New Jersey, how could I not? And my dad had loved him, too. But he never really clicked until I crossed from Oregon into California.
I’ve been thinking about the nature of the Boss’s songwriting in recent days, ever since I discovered that Hot Chip had released their electric cover of “Dancing in the Dark,” which blew the non-existent roof off of Sasquatch 2015 in the festival’s final moments, on an October EP. Hot Chip’s track mashes “Dancing in the Dark” up with LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends,” a tremendously weird pairing when you stop to think about it. An iconic track by an artist who can’t stop touring, paired with an artist made iconic by his decision to walk away.
Except, of course, LCD Soundsystem is reuniting.
Which is nice1.
I’d stopped for food and gas in Medford, Oregon, around noon of day two of what was ultimately a 38 day trip. As the middle-aged attendant filled my car with gas, we made small talk, and he asked why my convertible’s top wasn’t down on such a nice, late-March day. I told him my destination was on the other side of the mountains, but maybe then. Maybe.
As I left the station, I switched to Born to Run, an album I’d brought along more because of the inspiration for the journey than my own tastes. But as I climbed through the mountains, wove my way up passes, driving past the remaining piles of winter snow turned slush, the E Street band latched on and wouldn’t let go. Pushing my car’s meager engine towards the border of another state unlocked something.
And I suddenly understood Springsteen.
After a solid month of rain, Seattle’s weather was abnormally clear this week. No, something more than clear. Something beyond clear, something that magnified the snow-packed peaks visible in three directions: Olympics, Cascades, Rainier. This summer, in clearer weather, I crossed the Olympics for the first time. Next weekend, I was supposed to cross the Cascades for a weekend at the Rolling Huts, now delayed until Spring. And meanwhile, Rainier looms in the distance of my home, the one visible peak, the reason my mom encouraged me to blow past my budget and buy this place.
Two states south, the mountains where I discovered the true power of “Thunder Road” remain out of sight, yet forever influential.