Friday, January 23, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

and necessity to courage.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

-from Barack Obama's Inaugural Address
January 20, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Screen Door Slams, Mary's Dress Waves

(Note: this essay will appear later this month at , but I wrote it tonight and Bruce Springsteen makes me impatient!)

I’ve been a dork since before the world thought Tina Fey was hot. In those days, the word meant many things, none of them “extremely awesome” or “sex goddess.” For me, it mostly meant I empathized with everyone I met to a heartbreaking degree, including kids who mocked my unguarded, crybaby ass. Also, that I believed unicorns and Santa were real well into the third grade.

I never realized this was a problem. I was, like many dorks, clueless that anything about me merited vicious teasing or that the teasing could be avoided simply by say, not telling kids at recess I was Peter Pan/A Unicorn-Human Hybrid or claiming I could conjure Ghostwriter with a flick of my lanyard pen. I never understood why kids were so mean then, but I held onto myself. I know now I’m lucky for that.

I had a fight with a friend recently. I’m a bit of an illustrator, and a quick cartoon I did of her made her scoff. “You made me look like a dork,” she said. I was puzzled and hurt by the reaction (the sketch was pretty cute!) Finally, she said, “I’ve tried my whole life not to be a dork. “ An odd sadness tightened her face and I realized she was telling the truth. All I could think was…Why?

There are two kinds of people in the world: the ones who know they love Bruce Springsteen, and the ones who don’t know. He’s a poet wrapped in blue jeans and the end of the world. Tender, violent and visceral, screaming for change and guitars and you to look him dead in the eye. Turning phrases sharp as villains twist knives. Keen-eyed like an outsider, handsome like a hero. Prolific, profound, romantic, dramatic. A man’s man, a woman’s man, James Bond stripped of frippery and armed with meaning. He’s dark but he’s hopeful. He’s also the biggest dork in the world, and Thunder Road is his best song.

Presumably you’re a human reading this and have heard Thunder Road before. If not, seek out the nearest dive bar, sports game, karaoke night for a song that’s like most Springsteen songs, but better because almost everyone knows all the words. It’s the story of an unlikely lover come to save this faded beauty from

Ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
they haunt this dusty beach road
in the skeleton frames of burnt-out Chevrolets

It’s a song about someone who will love you for exactly who you are, with all the madness of his soul, no matter the ravages of your mind or time because to him time is just another man to damn, and your own mind can drive you crazy if you feed it nonsense. A scream to get out of your own head, stop wasting time worrying about past failures and what others think. Thunder Road pounds with poetry and paints a picture of the chances you carve out of whatever’s been eating you to pull out and win, because

Hey what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow back your hair

And then, at the height of its ache and beauty, when every listener has fallen in love with Bruce Springsteen and French kissed him on a highway in the middle of the night in their mind, he GOES AND THROWS IN A LINE ABOUT MAKING HIS GUITAR TALK. And it is so lame. But also perfect. Proof that he is, and we are, nothing if not all dorks when we’re being honest and ourselves, and so strong in that honesty: vulnerable, yes, and impossible to deny.

It’s something now, more than in those Formative Years, I have to remind myself of. Some people spend their entire lives trying to be anything other than a dork. Bruce Springsteen never did, and people call him The Boss.

Take that for what it’s worth, and

Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty but hey, you’re alright
And that’s alright with me.

It is colder in Chicago than it has been in 16 years.

And my hair smells like cheese because I've had to wear my winter hat non-stop since November.

Thanks, weather.

Seriously, I am grossing even myself out today. I bet if someone who carried a torch for me smelled me today they would drop that torch at my feet in an effort to incinerate me. A misguided attempt to eradicate scent, sure- but come on. You panic when you're scared.

Scared of cheese hair.