The Friday Morning Listen: Bruce Springsteen – The Rising (2002)

Share this:

I’ve said before that writers sometimes spend too much time living in their heads. There are a lot of reasons we do this, not the least of which is that those pesky thoughts have to be wrangled into coherency. Also, it feels safe in there. I’ve got my collection of stuff and you can’t have at it, unless I decide otherwise. Nostalgia, love’s ephemera, sadness, hope, happiness: those bins are packed full of items just waiting around to be shown the light of day again.

The problem is that quite often an idea can spring up that resists description. It floats right up there, a tip ‘o the synapse thing. You want it, but you just can’t get your arms around it.

But then there are times when a nearly completed bundle materializes, seemingly out of either thin air or — and this is perhaps most surprising — out of recent thoughts that are related, though only by coincidence.

Last weekend we had the opportunity to visit my Alma Mater, the University of Maine. TheWife™ was there to take a Praxis exam and I was there to soak in the sights. Or at least that was my only intent. The plan was to drop her off at the test site, have a little look-see of the old stomping grounds, and then go have a hang out at a local coffee shop. That’s not exactly what happened.

I did a fair amount of walking around, checking out the library, the student union, and various academic buildings. It was a little windy and chilly outside so I got back into the car to check out the rest of the campus. As I drove around, seeing the old dormitories, lawns, and other places of interest, I began to feel the weight of the intervening years. This is three decades I’m talking about. It’s heavier than expected. My writer self can remember so many details, so many of the people…that it’s somehow difficult to comprehend that so many years have passed.

Another detail that came slamming back was my parents. We had moved to the state in my early teens. They were incredibly proud, bursting even, to drive me onto this campus. Though I was more than a little scared to be starting college (nobody told me that my professors wouldn’t be like that curmudgeonly bastard Kingsfield in The Paper Chase), it was fulfilling to see the satisfaction and delight in their eyes. So as I walked around, dredging up old ghosts, I had the urge to relate to them just how amazing it felt to be here again. Except, of course, I can’t.

Feeling a little overwhelmed, I decided to skip the coffee shop and just sit in car. I called one old friend and left a message, telling him how amazing and strange it was to be here. I called another and we chatted about how much the place had changed, and also how much it felt exactly the same.

After the call, and before settling into my current book (Franzen’s The Corrections, which after 400 pages I’m still not sure I actually like) I did a quick email check. Somebody had posted some video links from the previous night’s Bruce Springsteen show at the Apollo Theatre. What I see is Bruce’s tribute to Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons during “My City Of Ruins,” asking the crowd during band introductions “Are we missing anybody?” He framed the thought perfectly:

“The only thing I can guarantee tonight… if you’re here and we’re here, they’re here. If you’re here and we’re here…they’re here.”

My eyes go into long focus and I see my reflection in the glass of my smart phone. I’ve felt very conflicted recently about looking into the mirror. There’s more of my dad’s face in there every day. My heart knows that’s a good thing. My head is freaking out at the passage of time.

Yes, these people might be gone, and yet they live on within us. Danny and Clarence. My old friends and those old times. Joanna and Peter Saleski. My Godfather Sal. My Aunts and Uncles. My sister Lynn. Tears stream down my face as I drop my phone onto the seat. I stare up at the blue sky. It has no answers, but at least it has no weight.

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to, and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at
Mark Saleski
Share this: