Wednesday, April 29, 2020
And it’s not from COVID-19. It’s from GARDENING-20! Sorry. I hope that the title didn’t make you worry.
Like most of America, we’re staying home. We’ve got time. I’m retired. We can’t travel, shop or hike in the parks. We’re staying home. Fighting this war alone. Together. As the commercial goes. Actually, like almost every commercial goes. Every brand is running its own version of saluting the front lines in healthcare. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But it certainly is not the norm. And, when you see a legit, straight up ad, that feels weird too by comparison, as if the message and messenger doesn’t understand the time in which it’s airing. It feels out of step.
Sorry. Left turn. Back to gardening. I thought that the hardest part was going to be buying the plants. Our local garden supplier, Pikes, was open, but you had to select your plants online. It was difficult and frustrating trying to pick without actually selecting with your own eyes on the plant. Julie eventually got on the phone with a “dig in the dirt” assistant at Pike’s and talked through the order. She paid for it online and we drove over to pick it up. They had set up an outside pick up. Julie opened the tailgate and they loaded the flats and dirt and bark in and off we went. Easy as pie.
Then, we dug and planted. Dug some more. Planted some more. Mixed up soil. Dug some more. Dug up daisies, separated them and moved them to a new spot. Same with some grasses. All of this was Sunday.
We took Monday off to clean the house, or as they say in PIttsburgh, “Red up the place.”
This morning, we were back at it again. Grape tomato plant. Lavender. More pots.
Frankly, this staying home, fighting the virus with a spade, is killing my back, my elbow, my neck. You name it. It’s sore.
Blinded by the light. Julie, Me and The Boss.
Have you seen the movie, “Blinded by the Light”? It’s strange, kind of sweet, coming of age and enlightenment film. With a twist. Growing up a Pakistani in Luton, England in 1987, a friend introduced 16 year old Javed to The Boss’s music and changed his life. And, this was set 13 years or so after Bruce became “The Boss.” Local radio considered Springsteen a has-been. Over the hill. Irrelevant. Which gives the movie a real interesting perspective. Bruce’s work was standing the test of time with a new generation of fans.
Javed was drowning caught between his family’s Pakistani traditions holding him back, highly evident racism swirling around him that made him feel like he didn’t deserve to be an Englishman, and the hope for more than this. In short, he was looking for a home. For an identity. For someone who felt the way that he did. Trapped. Stuck in the middle. Writing poetry was the only thing that gave him solace. That, and a few friends.
And that is where he was when Bruce’s songs found him. They spoke to him. Showed him he wasn’t alone. Inspired him. Gave him hope. Instilled confidence. With girls.
The movie introduced the lyrics on screen in a visually interlacing way that brought them to life so you, the movie-goer, could read them along with the song. Unusual for a film, don’t you agree? Unlike soundtrack music meant to build an emotion, establish anticipation or a theme, but not necessarily really heard, and certainly not read, the words of the songs were front and center necessary parts of the storyline.
So, that’s the movie. It is definitely worth watching. But that’s not really why I’m writing about it.
It inspired Julie and me. More than anything, it reminded us of just how much we used to listen to his music. And how little we do so now. We wondered why. We know it’s waiting for us in the cabinet of albums and CDs. From the very beginning with “Greetings from Asbury Park.” Over the years we’ve played “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle” more than any Springsteen album. And it’s wonderful. A mix of beauty, raucousness, joy, energy and yearning. But why did we ween Bruce out of our listening choices ? Too loud? Too much? Not the right time? Almost the right time, but maybe later? Make room for new music? All of the above?
The truth is, and I know we were just part of a big army of fans from all over the globe, we were big time Bruce fans. As were most of our friends and family. So much of our lives were to the soundtrack of Bruce.
The first time I remember hearing him was on a late night road trip from Durham to West Virginia. I was traveling by myself in my Ford Econoline 100 van. All I had onboard was a really nice stereo radio unit so I was constantly drifting and searching between stations as they came into and out of reception. As I brought a station into full reception and the stereo green light came on showing a strong signal, a song was already in progress. It was weird because I knew the song and yet it didn’t sound like the song that I knew. It was “Spirit in the Night,” a hit song by Manfred Mann. But this wasn’t Manfred Mann. And it was so different. So open. So joyful. Whereas the MM version was highly synthesized and spatial.
I loved it. But who was it? I was so thankful that at the end the announcer actually talked about what he had just played. Remember those days? That’s when I The Boss found me and I left Manfred Mann in the dust.
Julie remembers seeing his photo on both the covers of TIME and NEWSWEEK published the very same week right as “Born to Run” was coming out in 1975. She had not yet heard his music. All the hype made her wonder if anyone could be that good. She bought the album, brought it home, put on headphones and that was that. He was that good. Actually, better.
Julie saw him in 1976 in the gym at Appalachian State Teachers College before we met. Later, we went together to see him for my first time at the Charlotte Coliseum. We saw him many times after that, most while we lived in Pittsburgh, both at Three Rivers Stadium and the Igloo (Civic Arena).
He also played a role in our wedding. We had a post wedding party at our house in Charlotte. I heard “Born to Run” playing in the living room, full blast, and came in to find Julie, with a candle for a microphone, singing hard and loud, knowing every one of the many words packed into the song. Bending over, crouched like The Boss, working the candle mic, smiling, then rising up and flipping her hair back with a joyful look on her face. Yep, baby, she was born to run!
And now, Julie and I have started playing all of his albums that we have in chronological order. And we’re finding that they actually do hit the spot, no matter what time of day, no matter if it’s dinner time or Sunday morning. It’s always a good time for Bruce.
LIke you, we have hardly gone anywhere and when we have, we’ve driven Julie’s car. The other day, after weeks of my 2001 sitting in the garage, we got into it to take a ride. I turned the key in the ignition. Click click click click. I looked at Julie with a smirk. Sat there for a minute and hit it again. Same thing. Car battery died after just sitting around in the garage. Julie pushed me out of the garage and I tried to jump it rolling backwards down the driveway by popping the clutch. No go. It stopped partially into the street at a point where I couldn’t push it either way.
I moved Julie’s car into place and jumped it off of her battery. We drove it on our errand, never shutting it off and backing it into the garage when we came back. It has cranked ever since. I crank it every day now. I think it was a cry for love. We’ll see if it gets more serious. It’s actually a brand new battery.
Soap and Water in Order
I’ve only been inside a grocery store once in the last month. We’ve ordered everything online and either used curbside pickup or home delivery. Even so, after reading about the question of whether the virus travels on packages or not, I’m taking precautions recommended by one expert. I now process all food from the car into the house, giving packages and the fruits and veggies a soapy wipe down before they enter the house and are put away.
One article said that the refrigerator offers the perfect climate for the virus to live: cool and low humidity. Prior to reading that I hoped the opposite, that refrigeration would stymie the virus. Not so fast. So, we really should be cleaning everything that goes in the fridge.
New developments that will stand the test of time
A friend of mine told me about how restaurants are prepping for waiting on people. They are developing a system that eliminates physical menus that get passed around. They will have a QR code that opens your phone to the menu. Your phone. No printing. No handling. No passing COVID19 or common cold. Brilliant. And everyone can read the craft beer and wine menu at the same time.
Losses in the time of COVID-19
Two people in my orbit died in the last two weeks from heart attacks. One was close to 70. The other, a young 59. I first met my sister-in-law’s brother around 1977. During our Charlotte years we’d see him when Julie’s family would get together for holidays and the like. I never really knew him that well. We sat together at the wedding reception of our niece. He was a writer who published a novel. Last week we learned that he died quietly and quickly, sitting in his chair after becoming uncomfortable in bed.
Robbie Pope had just celebrated 40 years at WSB-TV. In the 20 years that I worked there, I came to know Robbie very well. Robbie was an engineer at the TV station. He became a manager of the on-air operation unit. But he was in the middle of so many other projects because of his talent and ability to solve complex technical problems. I remember working with him to begin streaming our live newscasts on our website, and then replay them in full until the next live newscast aired. Sounds simple. But it was very complicated. We wanted to insert commercials in the replays. Robbie took over that project, researching different devices that would be needed, getting prices, ordering and installing them and then setting up the system, record, playback and insert the commercials. Every now and then I’d look up from my desk and Robbie would be standing in the doorway. Once he got my attention he would give me an update on the advances forward and the steps backwards in the project. He was always truthful. Never oversold the progress. Never gave up on figuring a path forward. And sometimes tickled by what he had discovered in the process. Finally, he got it up and running. We celebrated with high fives in the hallway and continued to fine tune the operation.
Robbie had a great laugh, unique to him. He loved the people he worked with and for. He loved Channel 2 and felt a part of its mission. He played key roles in so many important technical feats that you, the audience, could see, like our new set, and countless other advances you don’t see.
Robbie died this past Saturday. The whole station mourns, those working there now, and those of us retirees like Tim McVay, Debbie Denechaud, Jocelyn Dorsey and David Lamothe, who knew, respected and loved Robbie.
All of us now know that strange experience of grieving during social distancing and how much greater the distance feels when we cannot come together, mourn together and celebrate wonderful people in our lives taken from us.
My heart goes out to my sister-in-law and her family, and to our collective Channel 2 family, both past and present.
Videos I wanted to share that were shared with me.
An absolutely beautiful song sung by David Crosby and Gram Nash, written by Crosby’s son, James Reymond. It may be the most beautiful song you’ve never heard.
On isolation: Astronaut Scott Kelly knows a thing or two
Funny interviews on the campaign trail for Trevor Noah show by Jordan Klepper
Brad Pitt portrays Dr. Anthony Fouci cold opening for SNL This link is the NBC report on Fauci’s critique of Pitt’s performance. And, if you haven’t seen it yet, there is a link in the article to the actual SNL open.
A great interview 1992 with John Prine that really gets into his creative approach and who influenced him the most.