As many of you could probably guess by now, we here at Movie Talk are big fans of Bruce Springsteen. I wrote two articles earlier this year about The Boss, when I saw him in Dallas, Texas and when I applauded his courage to standing up against the discriminatory “bathroom bill” in North Carolina by canceling his show (its worth noting that Governor Pat McCrory, who signed that bill into law, recently lost his reelection bid in the state). I can’t say I’ve been a lifelong fan of Springsteen’s like many others. I started to get into his music while I was in high school. My mom was a fan but not a huge fan (she owned a Greatest Hits CD and an 8-track of “Born in the USA”) and my dad enjoyed the hits. But I really got into his music during those high school years. My love and admiration for the man and his music grew from a joke into something that defined me. People knew me as the “guy who likes Bruce”. I’m a very shy person, and using that fandom of Bruce was always an icebreaker for me, believe it or not.
I can’t really say why Bruce connects with me as eloquently as others have. But what I can say is that I’ve always been mystified by his songwriting and his musicianship. Even in his later songs, Springsteen is like a poet in how he tells these stories of working-class America, either in fantastical or grounded and very real ways. Sometimes his politics could have alienated himself from his audience but it only made me respect the man and his music even more when he spoke out on issues that meant a great deal to either himself or hard-working Americans. That’s probably what connects me to his music so deeply.
I write this to you because Bruce has been busy promoting a book. “Born to Run”, which is his long-awaited memoir, has been heavily promoted by the rocker. He’s been making the interview rounds on talk shows trying to sell this hotly anticipated book. I bought a copy the day it was released and I’ve been slowly reading it day after day. It’s a beautiful book about father’s, depression, following a dream, and heavier themes that more qualified writers can speak more eloquently on that I can.
His book has also been beneficial in my own personal battle with depression this past year. It’s always been something that’s been creeping around for years, but it hit me like a storm in the past few months of 2016. There would be days in which I wouldn’t want to get out of bed, go to class, and let alone have basic human interaction with anyone. I felt alone in ways that I had never felt alone in this world. I didn’t know where I was going, but I had to immediately get help quickly since the path I was on felt destructive and dangerous.
This is where Bruce’s book comes in. In his book, he’s very open about his struggle with depression, and how he’s continued to deal with it up until a few years ago. He would open up about it in the numerous interviews and press events that he did for his book. Reading all of this during what was easily the darkest moment of my life truly meant a lot to me. When my friends or family wasn’t there for me, Bruce always was. In my darkest times and in my best times. Hearing that your hero, a man whose music you’ve loved and adored for years, has gone through the same pain you’ve gone through, was incredibly touching.
For promoting his book, Bruce did a series of meet-and-greets all around the country. Eventually, it was announced that he would be coming to Austin in early December. You would be able to meet the Boss, get a photo, and get a signed copy of his book. While I wouldn’t technically be in Austin when he would be there, I wanted to go. I would’ve gone either way, but after all that had occurred in this year for me, this felt like destiny. I had to go. This had been a really strange and dark year for me, and going to meet the man who had been there for me when other’s hadn’t felt like an obligation instead of a desire.
Cut to a week later. I’m in line at 9 A.M. at Book People in Downtown Austin. The line is around the block and hundreds of people are ahead of me. I don’t talk to anyone out of exhaustion. The line goes quickly even though the event isn’t until noon. After snaking around the Book People building inside and out for a couple of hours, the event starts. People are screaming, and the line has started. Bruce is in the building.
I’m anxiously progressing in line as I get self-depreciating texts from my friends. I continue to go up the stairs to that third floor at Book People. I finally get into the room and see him. There he is. In the flesh. Several feet away from me. Not the several yards I saw him from at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Not from the album covers I own at home. There he was, right there in front of me. My heart was starting to pound beat for beat faster than usual (and I don’t think it was just out of being out-of-shape).
I’m getting closer. People in front of and behind me are going crazy. Grown men and women are in tears meeting the man who’s meant just as much to them as he has to me. I’m getting closer. The wonderful employees from Book People take my cell phone so Bruce and I can take our photo together. The gentlemen in front of me couldn’t quite go because of a phone issue, so I went ahead of him. Bruce is finishing up with the person before me. The following is what I could gather from that brief moment.
Bruce and I briefly lock eye contact. We both extend our hands for that handshake as I tell him “Hey Bruce. Thanks for doing this”. He responds by saying “no problem man”. We take our photo together. After the photo, I shake his hand again and thank him for everything. He once again says “no problem” or “thank you” or something like that. The moment was so quick that I couldn’t quite remember.
I walk out of the room with the biggest shit-eating grin I’ve had all year. I met him. I got a photo with him. I haven’t felt this kind of happiness/bliss in months. I walked back downstairs to get my signed copy of the book and was on my way. Instead of being annoyed, people I knew seemed genuinely happy and pleased that I got to do this. Many of them knew how personal this was for me to do this, and I had done it. A lot of the weight that had been put upon my shoulders from this depression had suddenly been lifted after this very moment.
A few weeks after this, I feel better that I did months before. Medication, therapy, family, friends, and Bruce Springsteen are who I credit for saving my life. I honestly wouldn’t be here writing this to you today if these things weren’t there when I needed them. I’m starting to figure my life out, and I’m finally on the right path. I’m back in Austin for good, after years of trying to figure out what I wanted to do in other places of the world.