Thursday, May 29, 2008

darkness on the edge of town

Thanks to the folks at DirecTV, we have XM Radio in our house. Thanks to XM Radio, we have a channel called “The Village” that is all acoustic singer-songwriters. I play it when Ginger isn’t home, just as she listens to the disco station when she is alone in her car. When she came in from her meetings the other night, she left it playing while she got settled; I was writing. When she came back into the room, I had moved to the living room and was sitting on the couch. When she asked what I was doing, I answered, “Listening.”

The song was “My Father’s House” by Bruce Springsteen from his Nebraska album, which ought to make most anyone’s top ten list. The whole record is achingly sparse and beautiful. The song says,

Last night I dreamed that I was a child
out where the pines grow wild and tall
I was trying to make it home
through the forest before the darkness falls

I heard the wind rustling through the trees
and ghostly voices rose from the fields
I ran with my heart pounding down that broken path
With the devil snappin' at my heels

I broke through the trees, and there in the night
My father's house stood shining hard and bright
the branches and brambles tore my clothes and scratched my arms
But I ran till I fell, shaking in his arms

I awoke and I imagined the hard things that pulled us apart
Will never again, sir, tear us from each other's hearts
I got dressed, and to that house I did ride from out on the road,
I could see its windows shining in light

I walked up the steps and stood on the porch
a woman I didn't recognize came
and spoke to me through a chained door
I told her my story, and who I'd come for
She said "I'm sorry, son, but no one by that name lives here anymore"

My father's house shines hard and bright
it stands like a beacon calling me in the night
Calling and calling, so cold and alone
Shining 'cross this dark highway where our sins lie unatoned
After the song was over, Ginger came back into the room and said, “You want to know why you’re depressed? You listen to depressing music.”

We both laughed.

The evening came back to mind when I got to work this morning and one of the chefs (who also lives with depression) chose Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town as our morning prep music. I told him the same story I told you and we laughed again, then we moved on to talking about what the singer and the songs have meant to us over the years. Somewhere after we stopped talking and I was kneading the dough that would become the English muffins (our homemade hamburger buns), Bruce started singing “Promised Land.”
On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert
I pick up my money and head back into town
Driving cross the Waynesboro county line
I got the radio on and I'm just killing time
Working all day in my daddy's garage
Driving all night chasing some mirage
Pretty soon little girl I'm gonna take charge

The dogs on Main Street howl 'cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land

I've done my best to live the right way
I get up every morning and go to work each day
But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold
Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode
Explode and tear this whole town apart
Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart
Find somebody itching for something to start

The dogs on Main Street howl 'cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land

There's a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I'm heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain't got the faith to stand its ground
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted

The dogs on Main Street howl 'cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land
I believe in a promised land...
For a guy from New Jersey, Bruce has spent his fair share of time in the dark and in the desert – at least in his songs. He’s always taking to the road, with despair driving and hope in the sidecar, the two inseparable traveling companions somehow, moving between the wounds of all that has been left unfinished and unatoned and the wonder of the cleansing storm that wipes things clean. We’re all on the same road between houses that hold the hurts that don’t heal, the places that have been vacated or abandoned, and the mansions that are being made for us, fueled by both hope and despair.

And I’m sure when we get to the Promised Land there will be no disco.



Karyn said...

Good stuff. I like that you post lyrics. Most of the songs I'm familiar with but haven't actually looked at the lyrics. It makes a big difference. Thanks.

Thomas, as told to Sarah said...

One of the Top 5 Most Underrated Gifts in Life: Somebody who can make well-timed, gentle jokes about really hard or sad things

:) Glad you're gifted.

John said...

No disco in heaven? Thanks be to God!

haha, JB

Mike Ruffin said...

No disco in heaven is a good thing. But, God help me, I still like K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

"Do a little dance...make a little love...get down tonight"--sounds kind of like Qoheleth!

eclexia said...

“You want to know why you’re depressed? You listen to depressing music.”

:) That made me smile really big. I listen to depressing music because it makes space for acknowledging and feeling some of life's depressing realities. Once faced, I feel like I can get on with finding happiness where it is, too. I like to say "the quickest way to happy is right through the sadness that is."

I have a very happy four year old, and she makes me smile when I hear her singing, "Falling tears are older than the rain" (from Michael Card's CD of laments) or "I've got a break in my heart" (from 2nd Chapter of Acts song by that same name). I don't know if she's proof of my theory that you can be happiest if you make room for sadness, or if I'm in the process of screwing up a perfectly happy child by exposing her to so much depressing music!