Sunday, October 25, 2020

HANGING OUT WITH MY FRIEND BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

 

Bruce walked offstage, grabbing towel after towel to wipe the sweat from his face and arms following a torrid concert in Pittsburgh. Plenty of people surrounded Bruce, so I kept my distance as my friend made it safely to the bottom of the stage stairs where he stopped to talk to me.

"A.J., good to see you. Man, that was some crowd tonight, huh?"

The echoing chants for "Bruuuuce" ended the show but kept the feeling alive as the crowd begrudgingly left their seats for the exits. The roadies unhooked his microphone and earpieces, gave him another big bottle of water, and returned Bruce's legendary Fender Telecaster to its guitar case where it will rest before the next concert.

"Bruce, I swear I do not know what to say anymore. Always. I mean, always a classic."

Bruce smiled. Even though his body was still pumping with adrenaline, he knew I was sincere, but he wanted to know more. "Come on," he chuckled as he threw a wet towel at my face. "You gotta give me a little more than that!"

"What the hell, Bruce?" I quickly pulled the towel from my face and tossed it back at him where it fell to the ground for some errant backstage groupie to find it, stuff the towel in a plastic bag, then sell it on eBay. 

Bruce and I walked down a hallway towards a more secluded reception area. We didn't need to say much, though. Silence can be uncomfortable for many people, but when you are with a friend, the silence reflects the depth of the relationship between two people, one which both have nurtured over time.

"So, Bruce. 'Land of Hope and Dreams' tonight." He stopped to listen to me as he always does. "You know, that is—hands down—my favorite song. It is just so crazy how that song never changes throughout the years."

Bruce began to talk but stopped himself. He just smiled at me, anticipating a conclusion to my thought.

"You are gonna make me finish this even though you know damn well what I am going to say." We both laughed. Over the years, Bruce's laugh has evolved into a grizzled grandpa chortle, one which emanates warm wisdom and understanding of life itself.

"Yeah, A.J., I am going to make you finish," Bruce bellowed. Then, as if someone snapped a finger, he instantly became serious. "Go on. You were saying that 'Hope and Dreams' never changes."

"OK. So every time I hear it, I am in a different place in my life, you know. Sometimes I am driving down the road somewhere, sunny day and all. I will roll down the windows and crank it up loud. I don't care if people hear me singing. Other times, I am tired from teaching all day. You know, I am doing my own thing like you do yours on stage, and I just keep hearing "this train, faith will be rewarded" in my head. I can even feel down and depressed about the state of the world, wondering how the hell we are ever going to turn things around. "Hope and Dreams" just tells me it is all part of this journey. And tonight..."  I struggled to find those last words.

"I gotcha, buddy. I gotcha." Bruce slapped me on the shoulder as he left. "Look, I'm gonna head to the room back there. I have some other people I want to talk to." He looked me in the eyes and said, "Thanks again for coming. It really means a lot to me. I'll talk to you later, OK?"

I shook my head in feigned disappointment. "Yeah, yeah. The Boss is going to talk to me later!" We laughed again, as we have done so many times. I walked back down the hallway, out the doors of the arena, and into my world, confident that I would hear from my friend Bruce again.

Bruce and I have kept in touch over the years. Whenever I need to talk to him, he is as close as an old CD, an unexpected song on the radio, an Alexa request, or a conversation on E-Street Radio. 

Bruce and I before a concert, circa 2017
😉



COMING SOON!
Thanks for your patience.


POSTSCRIPT

We have not been able to see each other in-person as much as we would like. You know, covid and everything. Still, Bruce is determined to stay in touch. I received a fantastic letter from him the other day.


"Things I found out through hard times and good
I wrote 'em all out in ink and blood
Dug deep in my soul and signed my name true
And sent it in my letter to you"



Credits
Cover Picture:  JUST JARED, INC.
Video:  Bruce Springsteen - Letter To You (Official Video)

Sunday, October 18, 2020

GRANDMA'S LITTLE PIZZA BOY



Grandma always knew, even back then. Christopher was always cooking up something special.

As my nephew Christopher was growing up, Mom would watch him a couple of days a week while his mom and dad worked. Those moments became ones we all would eventually cherish. 

I remember traveling back to West Virginia from my home in North Carolina to steal a little bit of time with my energetic nephew. Christopher's arrival brought excitement to the day because Mom always seemed to plan some kind of activity, usually centered around preparing food. 

Mom let me have my time with him to watch Godzilla movies, play Power Rangers, and build forts. Eventually, I would collapse from trying to keep up with my nephew, so whatever Mom had planned for Christopher ended up providing a nice respite for me to recharge my batteries for the boy who never liked to nap.

Grandma and Christopher. Christopher and Grandma. In the kitchen. Making a mess full of memories.


I stayed out of their way, taking pictures of Christopher as he tore through the various ingredients Mom had neatly arranged on the counter. At that age, Christopher could care less about following directions and just wanted to cook with Grandma. Two generations together in a zone, measuring, mixing, and tasting, making more than just some cookies and pizza.

The pizza picture. I could not get it out of my mind one Saturday in mid-October as Chris was marrying Sami at a beautiful fall wedding on the steps of the Mansion at Oglebay Park. Even after the wedding, I continued to see Chris sitting on the kitchen chair, putting pepperoni on our pizza.

Weddings are celebrations beyond the union of two people. This year was an insanely hectic period for the Bucon households as both Chris and his sister Emily married within a span of fewer than three months. Over the past year, life for all of us became an emotional journey. Life rumbles on in this way. We watch the young ones grow older, we feel ourselves age as our bodies regularly ache, and we all become a little more sentimental.



Grandma's Little Pizza Boy is grown now. Chris towers over Grandma, but he is not too tall for a big hug. Both are much older as time has made Chris and Mom examples of life's journey. That weekend, Grandma sat proudly on the front row at the wedding, enveloped in another remarkable moment in her life.

It is no secret to anyone that Chris still loves to cook, always whipping up a great meal for Sami and himself. He is actually pretty good at it from what Sami says. He still does not follow directions to the letter, and he makes a bit of a mess as he did with Grandma. Still, Chris is constantly tasting the food to make sure it is perfect, full of just the right amount of seasoning and plenty of love. Grandma always knew. Chris is always cooking up something special.



Congratulations to Chris and Sami as well as Emily and Michael on your weddings. 
They were both wonderful and magical moments for everyone.



I am putting the final touches on my new book. 
The release is still set for November. 
I will keep you posted on the date!