Mean Girls and Widowers

Back when I was in high school, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and before digital cameras took over the world, I worked in a photo shop. I worked mostly at the front, helping customers who dropped off their film and then collected their pictures.

Sometimes, though, my developing room coworkers would let me help them develop the photos, and I got to use all of the cool machinery, and touch the film and be in the dark room. It’s a process I’ve always found fascinating and romantic, so I was in heaven every time I would do it.

Anyway, one day I was working at the front counter, and a girl I went to school with came in to pick up a some pictures she had dropped off the week before. It was a batch I had personally helped develop, so I knew they had turned out and I flitted off happily to get them for her.

Only . . . I couldn’t find them.

I looked everywhere. In the back, in the black and white bin, in the special orders bin, in the developing room. They were nowhere to be found.

I sheepishly came back to the front counter and told her that I couldn’t find her pictures.

“I can’t believe this Carla, where are they? You lost them?” she said sternly – like she was scolding a child.

“Well, I didn’t lose them,” I said. “A lot of people work here, not just me. I don’t know where they are. I’m so sorry. I’ll keep looking!”

“You better find them. I’ll be back later,” she said.

I understood her frustration and spent my lunch break looking for her photos in a fit of panicked guilt. I even took to moving the large photo machinery, interviewing the other staff at length about where on earth the pictures could have gone, and crawling into a small cupboard to see if they had fallen behind a loose slat at the back of it. I never found them, and my coworkers thought I had gone insane.

After lunch, I nervously waited for the girl to come back. I was in a pathetic state. I looked around skittishly, paced the store, rearranged things that didn’t need to be rearranged. Confrontation is not my strong suit.

As I tried to calm myself by alphabetizing the pictures in the ready for pick-up bin, an older man walked up to the counter.

He had white hair, clear, kind blue eyes, and he wore a poppy on the left lapel of his grey jacket, even though it was June. (In Canada, we usually wear poppies in November in celebration of Remembrance Day, which honors our soldiers).

“Excuse me, my dear,” the older gentleman said.

“Hello, how can I help you? Do you have film to drop off?” I replied, rapid-fire.

“No, no,” he said, “I just wanted to give you this.”

He reached into a little white box he was holding and produced a beautiful pink and orange hibiscus flower, and placed it in my hands.

“My wife died five years ago,” he said. “She was the loveliest, most wonderful woman I’ve ever known. She laughed a lot, and she had an energy made people feel warm and happy.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” I said as I delicately held the flower in my palms of my hands.

He nodded.

“That there was her favorite flower. Every year, on her birthday, I buy one and give it to a woman who reminds me of her.”

I smiled at him.

“You’re not a woman yet, but you will be soon,” he said.

I nodded.

“Put it in water, ok?” he said as he squeezed my hand. “My dear, I hope that one day you will be loved and adored as much as my wife was.”

And with that, he let go, turned around and walked out of the store.

I watched him leave and then looked down at the flower in my hand. It seemed to be radiating happiness.

I felt like I had just witnessed some sort of miracle. That nervousness that had eaten at me all day was replaced by a light, still calm. Like I was on a beach in Maui, where these flowers grow so freely, on a perfect, sunny day. Tranquil.

When the girl came back later that day, I decided that if she had calmed down about the situation, I’d give her the gorgeous hibiscus flower the old man gave me and maybe it would brighten her day, too. Pay it forward, so to speak.

As she walked up, I told her that I had looked everywhere I could have looked and that I was very sorry, but her pictures weren’t here.

“You threw my pictures out on purpose, didn’t you?” she said.

“What? No, of course not!” I said. “This happens sometimes, it was just a mistake.”

“I’m going to come back when you’re not here and talk to you manager,” she said.

“Ok, fine, whatever you want,” I said.

“”You’re a bitch!” she snapped.

I looked down at the lovely flower under the counter, and then looked into her eyes.

“I’m very sorry for your loss,” I said as she shot daggers at me with her eyes.

Later that day, I gave the flower to the loveliest woman I know – and one I’m sure the gentleman would approve of – my mom.

The Tweet, The Bruce, The Retweet

Last Friday night, I was at home working on my screenplay (my social life these days would bore my grandma), and I got hung up on a character who wasn’t quite saying the things I wanted him to say, which seems to be a familiar story with the men in my life, even in fiction. So when my iTouch started making that annoying “bleepity-bleep” sound it makes when I get a new email, it was hard to not become fully distracted by it.

I tried to focus and not check it right away, but I then received three more “bleepity-bleeps” indicating three more emails, and I could no longer ignore it. I’m really not that popular, so four emails in two minutes is kind of a big deal for me.

Expecting to see four forwards from my mom, I was surprised that the emails were all from this blog. They were notifications of comments made on one of my posts – that being the one about my serendipitous run-in with Bruce Springsteen at the Rome International Film Festival last Monday (I still can’t believe it really happened, and I’m still just as happy as the moment it did).

Usually my dad, a couple of my friends and a few of the people who follow my blog regularly write me comments (hi guys, and thank you!), so it shocked me to see that these comments were from people I had never heard of-or from-before.

Being the curious little sleuth that I am, I checked my blog to investigate my sudden popularity.

The Gypsy Lied gets a reasonable amount of views everyday, nothing out of this world, but I’ve been generally content with the numbers. On this day though, when I looked at the graph that shows viewership for the month, I saw this:

At first, I wondered what could be wrong with my blog. Clearly I hadn’t received thousands of views in a matter of minutes just because.

I clicked on the very tall bar, and it took me to a page that indicated that all these viewers had been referred to my blog by a certain website. That website being: www.twitter.com/springsteen aka Bruce Springsteen’s twitter page.

Look!

My name, my “tweet,” and a link to my blog were at the top of Bruce Springsteen’s twitter feed! Now, being the nerd that I am, I get excited when anyone retweets me, but when Bruce Springsteen does it, it’s like a full plate of happiness with a side of  “Oh My God” and Tiramisu for dessert.

While candy rainbows and magical unicorns collided to create blinding fireworks in my happy little head, I did what I always do when I’m at home on a Friday and Bruce Springsteen retweets me. I called my mom.

The conversation went like this:

“Mom!”

“Who is this?”

“Carla… your daughter.”

“Why are you calling? What’s wrong?” (I need to call my mom more often)

“Nothing’s wrong. I just got retweeted by the Boss! Bruce retweeted me!!!”

“I don’t understand. What’s a retweet?”

“Ok – I tweeted a link to the article I wrote about my Bruce encounter the other day, and he – BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – retweeted it. That means all of his followers can see my tweet!” (The generational digital divide is not going to interrupt my elation, dammit!)

“Ohh that’s wonderful! Did he say he liked your article? Did you talk to him?”

“No, I don’t even know if he saw it, probably someone who works for him did, but my blog is exploding!!!!”

“Is it going to be ok?!” (Damn you, generational divide!)

“Yes. It just means lots of people are visiting my blog.” (My mom and I clearly need to have a chat about Twitter, blogs and the like so this conversation goes a bit smoother if it ever happens again)

I got off the phone and did a little happy dance, jumped around a bit, ate a cookie, sent an incoherent email to my sister that looked like this: “THE BOSS, RETWEETTTTED, SO HAPPY, BLOG,” and that was that.

I realize that Springsteen probably doesn’t man his own Twitter page, but the fact that whoever does it for him saw my tweet, read my blog and liked the story enough to retweet it, well that’s just awesome. Here is the post, if you haven’t read it and you’d like to:  http://tinyurl.com/65phusy

A huge thank you Bruce Springsteen and to the guy or gal who runs his twitter page for retweeting me and giving my blog such a nice plug. You made my day. Ok, maybe my year.

Springsteen’s in Rome – I think I’ll Meet Him

Italy is a country blessed with beauty, food, culture and an incurable disorganization that boarders on humorous, even when it messes with you. Like when you’ve been waiting for the bus for an hour in the rain, only to find out from a passerby that the transit workers are on strike for the day because they collectively decided they needed to watch the football match instead of go to work.

Things in Rome seem to work by not working. They fall apart so obviously and dramatically, and in the end, they come together so calmly, like: what do you mean you were worried? This is Italy. Living in Italy is like watching a never-ending soap opera, full of stress and emotional highs and lows. But when it counts, Italy usually comes through.

Such was my experience when my friend Ale and I decided on a whim that we should go meet Bruce Springsteen at the Rome International Film Festival. I knew he was going to be there. Did I think I would see him? No. Did I think I would meet him? No.

I’ve never been to a red carpet situation before, (the Calgary International Film festival doesn’t count…sorry Calgary, love you!) so to pop my red carpet cherry with the premiere of the Boss’s new film The Promise: The Making of the Darkness on the Edge of Town was like losing your virginity to Ron Jeremy. There were lots of people, lots of press, and lots of excitement.

We just walked up, stood at the barricade for about a half hour with a whole bunch of enthusiastic Italian men, and some women, and then, there he was. Il Boss.

The Boss

If cool was a man, he would be Bruce Springsteen. There’s no pretense there. There’s ego, obviously, but it’s contained within a soul that’s so sincere and deep, the ego’s a warm one. He talks to his fans, engages them, signs everything they put in his face. This would have been a bonus for me, being that the people around us spoke to him only in Italian, however when my time came, when the Boss himself was looking at my face, the only words that would come out of my mouth were: “Hi Bruce, Ciao Bruce, Hey Bruce… Bruce!” Words, which ironically are my livelihood, seriously failed me. But he didn’t mind the blubbering. He just smiled and said “hi sweetheart,” and then after he walked away, he turned around and smiled again and waved, and I’m going to say he was waving at me, because to me, he was.

I still haven’t processed the evening. I don’t know it’ll ever really sink in. It was magic. I felt like a child. Yes, I choked in front of a man I call Uncle Bruce because I’ve known and loved him for my entire life, but it was a such a calming, transcendent experience that I don’t even care.

I’ve been getting asked a lot lately if I’m into older men because of my Bruce love. To clear this up, I have never thought of him in a romantic way. He’s the same age as my dad. I look at Bruce as a sort of “favourite uncle” who I’ve known through song since I was three and who just happens to be the world’s best rock star.

My Aunts and my mom’s friends keep emailing me about how lucky I am to have met the Boss and how sexy and cool they think he is. Even at 61, there’s no rock star on earth that has what he has.

Springsteen is the last of the great rock performers. The ones who did for the love of doing it. The ones who did it, who do it, because, in his words: “More than rich, more than famous, more than happy, I wanted to be great.” And he’s kept that promise to himself and to his fans throughout his over 30-year career.

He treats his fans well. This is something not all rock stars do because they don’t have to. The Boss is a man of the people, by the people and for the people, so he gives to his people.

One of the loveliest things I have heard him talk about is the conversation, the dance, he’s had with his audience for all these years. Like we’re all talking shop with him in a dimly lit watering hole in Jersey. We’ve all been with him on this crazy ride. In the world of selfish, narcissistic rock stars, this is an acknowledgment that makes lifelong fans smile, reassured that they’ve picked a great artist to dedicate their time to. And it makes his music more enjoyable because you know that he’s not lying to you. He’s there with you.

So yes, meeting Springsteen was the realization of a dream for me. I still can’t quite believe it happened. It would be like my devout Catholic Nonna meeting the Pope… or, better yet, Jesus himself. Being that I named my beloved little blog after some of Bruce’s song lyrics, I felt I needed to share this experience with you.

I don’t think it will be the last, however. I think I will meet the Boss again in a setting where we can talk about music and life  (delusional self-confidence is my new thing), but for now, I have a smile, a wave and a hello from him. For now, that’s more than enough.

For all the bitching I’ve done about Italy, I really do love it here. It is as much a part of me as my love for Bruce is. And I truly believe that this experience could have only happened here. Only in Italy could you walk up to the red carpet at the movie premiere of the world’s biggest rock star a mere 30 minutes before his arrival and have this kind of experience.

The reason it all happened so “smoothly” was because it was raining, and Italians don’t like rain, so only the diehards “braved” the weather. Please, I’m from Canada!

I also think the experience was able to happen because security here is more like a relaxed conversation between drinking buddies.

“Security, what do you mean? Nah, we don’t need much security. Not to worry.”

“True. Who would want to hurt Bruce Springsteen, the Boss? We love him!”

Really. That’s the logic here, which goes back to what I was saying before about how things seem to work by not working. Because Italy is a country shaped like a boot, and the head of the body it belongs to is in the clouds, among the stars.

I also decided that I don’t like men who like Bruce as much as I do, which is pretty funny, but apparently three’s a crowd in my lifelong love affair with Springsteen.

Me and Ale

For everyone who has written me about how lucky I am to have met him – thank you. It was a thrill and an amazing experience. However, I’m a big believer in going after what you want. For me, this was something that was always going to happen. To borrow a quote from the Boss himself: When it comes to luck, you make your own.