The Big Man

Everyday, I open up my laptop to this image:

Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen. The perfect rock pairing. Clemons is the smooth, soulful yin to Springsteen’s energetic, rocking yang. This picture makes me happy because it reminds me not only of a great album (Born to Run), but of great friendship as well.

Springsteen and Clemons adore each other, and their onstage interaction makes every concert with the E Street Band a little more playful.

Clemons is a big man. In fact, Bruce refers to him as the “big man” because he’s built like an oak tree. Tall, sturdy, lovely – a calm, sweet, big presence, even on a massive arena stage.

And like an oak tree, I’ve always thought of Clemons as an invincible and ever-present being. He was there at the beginning – an original member of the E Street Band, and it’s oldest at 69 – and he adds much of the soul to Bruce’s rock n’ roll.

His sax contributions to Lady Gaga’s latest album Born This Way have put Clemons on the map for millions of her “little monsters” who might have never heard of the great saxophonist save for from their parents, maybe.

Clemons has recently suffered a serious stroke and is said to be quite ill right now.

I’m praying for him and I hope you will too. Get better big man!

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.

I’m Goin’ Down

After four days in the city, my friend Sara and I have just about given up on having a good time here. There is a disconnect that neither one of us can pinpoint. We want to love it, but we are loosing faith. We’ve done touristy things like visiting museums and shopping in trendy areas, but there were no sparks. Well, a few little ones, but none big enough to change our opinion of the city. So on our last night in town, we decide to have a great time, come hell or high water.

We walk down the street, and the wine from supper warms our bellies and clouds our heads nicely. Every block or so, we pass a teenager sitting on the sidewalk, leaned up against a building, a hat full of coins and pocket lint pushed forward in the way of our walking path. They stare up at us with their young innocent faces and politely ask, “can you spare some change, Miss?”

People with red, vacant eyes pass us, wearing dirty clothes. Some walk right into us. They don’t see us, I guess.

“Where the hell are we?” Sara says. I shrug. Our excitement for a fun night is slowly fading.

Across the street from us is a bar with a huge line up out front, but clubbing seems too exhausting at this point. Sara spots a pub with a garage door-style front opening and a small fence out front. “Let’s go there,” she says. It’s a bit of a drive, with graffiti on the walls and a strange smell, but a lovable dive.

We order drinks from the friendly waitress and she tells us that if we want to have more than one drink, we have to order food too. It’s the law. “What is with this city?” I say. We both order the mini burgers, because we’ll definitely be having more than one drink.

The front of the pub is completely open and exposed to the street outside, save for a mini fence separating sidewalk from pub, so Sara smokes her cigarettes on the sidewalk while I stand at the red fence, chatting with her. We have a perfect view of the drug addicts that stroll by. So many of them. Too many of them. Too skinny, too dirty, too messed up, too sad.

When my food comes, I look at it and think, this is stupid. I’m already full. I couldn’t sit there and stuff my already stuffed face when there are starving, emaciated people walking by right in front of me.

So I get up with my three burgers and stand outside of the little fence. A man walks by. He is tall and his chest concave. He wears a faded baseball hat, with bits of wet greasy hair poking through the front and sides. His body is a bony hanger for this clothes. His blue flannel shirt hangs off of him and his tattered undershirt is stained with sweat, grease, and who knows what else. He smells like a sewer.

Do you want my burger?” I ask him. He stops walking and takes the burger from me. Stepping to the side, he inhales it in two bites. So I give him another, and then another. He hardly chews and swallows hard after each bite.

As he eats, I think: I wish I could feed you everyday. I hope this gives a bit of nourishment to your ravaged body. I know you’ll be doing drugs again soon, I know. But for now, I hope the burgers fill you.

I went back into the bar, shoulders slouched and shaking my head.

“Awe, that was nice,” Sara says to me. “This city is bringing me down,” I say back.

I sit down next to her and we sip our drinks.

Then,

a guitar lick blasts from the speakers.

and the sound of a tambourine.

and a pounding snare drum.

I smile happily at Sara.

We sit in the car outside your house, while…

She looks at me, confused

I can feel the heat coming ’round…

“BRUCE!” I say.

I go to put my arm around you…and you give me a look like I’m way out of bounds, well…

We both start shimmying in our seats.

You let out one of your bored sighs, well lately when I look into your eyes…

We’re up off our stools, shaking it in the middle of the smelly little bar.

I’m goin’ down, down, down, down…

I’m goin’ down, down, down, down…

I’m goin’ down, down, down, down…

I’m goin’ down, down, down, down.

Thanks for the kickstart, Boss.

Selling you a (Virgin) Telephone

The other day Lady Gaga – who I LOVE – sent out this tweet to her followers: “It’s a town full of losers, and I’m pulling out of here to win.” For those of you who don’t know, those are Springsteen lyrics. And for those of you who don’t know who that is – it’s Bruce Springsteen – the King of New Jersey, The Boss. If you still don’t know who that is, you seriously need to brush up on your American music history of the past 50 years.

Lady Gaga quoting Thunder Road is amazing. Amazing because it might just turn some of her “little monsters” on to his music  and maybe they’ll even see him as a great musician and not just some aging rocker their parent’s liked in the 80s, because he is anything but.

Not so cool of Gaga, in my opinion, is the abundance of product placement shots in her latest music video Telephone, featuring Beyoncé. The video itself is sweetly and sinfully Tarantino-esque (complete with the Pussy Wagon) – and the vignettes are witty, comic-booky and fun. I loved their outfits and, as always, Lady Gaga pushes the envelope with her crazy costumes (sunglasses made from lit cigarettes, anyone?).  I really enjoyed the Gaga/Beyoncé combination. Both beautiful, talented artists and a testament to the versatility of Beyoncé for being able to weird it up enough to go toe-to-toe with Gaga.

I don’t mind a subtle product placement shot here and there, because like it or not, most movies and music videos these days have them. But the uncomfortably long close up on the Virgin Mobile phone, which sticks out like a sore thumb amid the artistic spectacle of the rest of the video, totally takes away from its cred. I might have forgiven the Gaga had there been only one of those shots in the video – but there were two! Both obvious. Both too long. Both icky. I realize the product is fitting, being that the song is called Telephone, but STILL.  She could have incorporated the Virgin phones into the video more seamlessly so they didn’t stand out so blatantly, or she could have tried to mock the product placement a la Wayne’s World. . .

Oh well. So the cell phone was an overt ad for Virgin, at least her Diet Coke can hair curlers shown about 2:50 into the video are sheer product placement brilliance.