Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New Website

My dear husband and a friend of his made me a brand new, fancy-looking website!

http://sarafinnerty.com/

It has an updated bio and links to new published work.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Weeklings

An essay I wrote years ago is up on The Weeklings. It's twice as long as what's published and the story only gets more disturbing. I like to say that my writing is unpublishable, but that's not true. Each piece just needs to find it's home, even if it takes five years.



Here is the link: Licks

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wildwood and Summer, and Chaos and Peace

Last week, I went to Wildwood, New Jersey, with my husband, and a bunch of family, ten people altogether. In my youth we went to Wildwood every summer. 

Every trip back home, for me, is stressful and chaotic. This time I tried to seek moments of peace. I visited my grandpa a few times in the hospital. I thought he might not make it this time, but when I walked in he said, Sara. He said, where's your husband. He said, you came from California? He said come here, come here. He wanted to give me a kiss. 

My husband and I walked down the aisle together at his sister's wedding, as a groomsman and bridesmaid. I love my husband and it has been nine years and I only love him more as time goes by and I think that we must be lucky. 






In Wildwood I got to see family I usually don't get to see, and had a couple conversations about my family and our history, which I am trying to understand. 

There were no jellyfish in the ocean and we all jumped in the day we got there. My ten year old niece was scared of the ocean, and I am always scared of the ocean, though I love the ocean, but because she clutched at me, I carried her in and I wasn't scared at all. 


We took our nephews and niece to a water park one day and that night I fell asleep believing I was still in a tube, floating along the lazy river. I felt peace in the water park, and on the ferris wheel. Ferris wheels, airplane windows, views from tall buildings, these things make me feel so suddenly, almost violently peaceful. 


We bought a beach umbrella and played in the sand with the kids. We made moats and sand castles and   buried each other. I laid on a purple sheet under the umbrella and listened to the ocean and read a book and my husband laid next to me and the kids played in the sand at our feet and it was one of the happiest 20 minutes of my life. 


Later I came in and someone had emailed an article. I quickly scanned over it. It was about writing and networking and how to sell a book and write a book that sells and how to be a successful writer and I didn't care. I cared about sand and kids and husband and ocean and the colors of the beach umbrella and reading my book. Sure, I care about the book I am writing. Sure, I care about my stories and essays. I love them and need them and they are me and I will never stop. Sure, I will keep trying to get published but the truth is, right now, I don't care, or I don't want to care. I don't want to think about success and networking. I want to live my life. I want to have a baby. I want to write. I want to spend time with friends and family. I want to learn and figure things out. I want to visit home and not feel the chaos. I don't want to care about what you do, your trajectory, how I stack up against you. I don't want to be compared to anyone else. I want to live my life, just live it, and I want that to be enough. 


Thursday, July 04, 2013

Sequoia


Driving up to Sequoia last weekend, we listened to some TED podcasts. Podcasts are one of my favorite things. The TED talk was about vulnerability and shame. Shame is, at its core, a fear of not being able to connect. We shy away from what makes us feel vulnerable because we are afraid we will fail at connecting with other people. Picking up a telephone makes us feel vulnerable; text messaging does not. The TED speaker said that if we dull our vulnerability, we dull everything about us that makes us human. I am so good at lifting half of myself out of any situation in which I find myself, I've only recently noticed I do it at all.


I am naturally wide open when I hike, and even walking on city streets lowers my guard. I throw my heart and soul into crowds at concerts. Into books. Into, I think, I hope, my writing. But when it comes to people, I hide behind walls, which means my walls are there all the time. I am trying to fall my walls because they hurt me, they shield me from love and chance and luck and optimism. And social media, I think, are walls to hide behind. Safe. Secure. Nothing like the letters we used to write, meant for one person, with our souls all over them. A self can get diffused, scattered into the Internet, tiny meaningless tidbits that are disconnected from our true selves.


I have a media addiction-- facebook, twitter, email, TV, and I don't think I am alone. Right now it's socially acceptable to have your face in a screen at all times. We are all behind walls. We don't want to be fully present, anywhere, at any time. At concerts, the experience is mitigated by millions of tiny screens, experience shoved into a box, so everyone behind you has no choice but to watch you shrink down your own experience by taking yourself and everyone else around you out of the moment. 



In Sequoia, there are no cell phones, barely any wireless signals. There are young men in cowboy hats on payphones. The lodges have DVD rentals, free book libraries. People play cards and listen to the radio. My husband and I, driving or hiking through the park, mostly just looked around at everything, the trees, the mountains, the deer, the stars. We stopped for a mother bear and her baby to cross the road and it was all we could talk about for hours. 


Another TED talk says to raise your arms up in the air or stand like Wonder Woman and instantly, you will feel less stress, more happiness. In almost every picture of me that weekend, I have my arms up in the air. 


We go for hikes through Sequoia groves. I read an article a few weeks ago that said plants do math, advanced trigonometry, and in calculating how much to eat and when, they anticipate the future. Giant Sequoias are immediately recognizable, bright, fiery orange in forests of brown and green. They are the biggest alive things. They take their water from the air and the earth. They reach for one another underground, intertwine their roots to help stabilize one another through the centuries. They not only live through fire, they need fire to survive. They are entire universes to some small species of animals who never know anything but their tree. They live for thousands of years. We are delusional if we think we have an afterlife and they do not, that we are more alive, more conscious than they are. We are crazy, we are lying to ourselves (I understand I have no idea what I am talking about here, because how can I), if we think there is an afterlife for us and not the Sequoia, the whale, wind, water, fire. 


I want there to be an afterlife because I want there to be answers. I want to know the things I can never know. I am thinking about the afterlife because it is the reason for all religion and everything supernatural. I can’t decide if or how I believe in god. I can’t decide which story I want to tell myself.



There are fallen sequoias everywhere, and in their footprints new sequoias grow, and the dead giants slowly disintegrate back into the forest floor. Everything happens for a reason and that reason is to keep the world turning, keep life alive.

Fire is the only thing that will open the tiny Sequoia pine cone to release seeds, and the seeds will not grow on a bed of leaves, they need freshly burned ground. Sequoias have a thick, light skin that looks like fire, is made for fire, because it needs fire, and we need suffering, all life does, because we will not grow if we don’t suffer, individually or as a species. We are all of the earth, we and the giant trees and the small fish, and we live by much the same rules.



We did a hike we had never done-- Big Stump trail in Kings Canyon. There are giant, alive trees and a graveyard of stumps of trees cut down by man. It's sad to see the stumps, but also, in a way, thrilling to lay in the middle of a stump and imagine the ghost of the tree growing from your stomach, to feel the ghost of its energy.


Mark read the sign for the stump, and he said, "Sara, did you know this? They sent a cross section of this tree to the Museum of Natural History in New York." I grew up fascinated by that cross section of a giant tree behind glass, a permanent exhibit in the museum. I went on class trips and family trips and it was, next to the blue whale, my favorite thing at the Natural History. I could not imagine that it could be real-- a tree so old, so big. In the museum, there are little signs on certain rings that say, "On this year, Alexander the Great was born." Going back in time thousands, THOUSANDS of years. I never imagined the stump from which it was cut could still be in existence, much less than I would encounter it someday, on a spur of a small trail in Kings Canyon National Park, on the other side of the country, deep in the Sierra Nevadas. I stood on the stump and felt the long lines of thread connect me to my younger self, full of wonder at the museum, and to all the decisions in between and the millions of other people who gazed at the cross section in the Museum of Natural History, or who stood on this stump,  and I felt tied together to nature, god, chance, wonder, curiosity, and I thought, yes, we are terrible for killing this giant, but this giant has done some wonderful things for humanity.

I don’t know how to tie my thoughts together. I think that’s what I am getting at. There is so much, and I want to face it all, life and the universe, and I want to breathe it in. I want to be an open field. I want god to be a million different things.



Many of the trees in Sequoia have names, and I stopped as I walked by Clara Barton. She was by herself. Her roots were gentle hills and I walked over and pressed my body against her curves. Her roots were so steady, strong, light, and they supported her giant body, careening straight up into the sky. I thought, I need stronger feet, I need to press them into the ground, I need to be exactly where I stand, I need to pull myself down when I notice myself drifting away. I need to welcome the fire.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Coincidence. Synchronicity.

I've always had precognitions and dreams that came true. I grew up in NYC and it was a regular occurrence for me to be on the subway and think of a person who would then appear. I could be walking down the street and casually think of an acquaintance or even a minor celebrity, who would then round the corner. Carl Jung calls this 'Synchronicity' and when you begin to notice, when you write down your dreams and pay attention to coincidences, you will notice that this sort of thing happens all the time. This American Life's episode, No Coincidence, No Story!, got me thinking about the major coincidences in my life and what, if anything, they may mean.

In my late teens I dreamt of boys and shortly thereafter would meet them in real life and in each case, I thought, he must be my soul mate. This must mean something. It must. I dreamed him. Here he is.

The boys didn't agree. To them, I was just another girl and in truth, I was too scared of love, too frozen to trust. And for a dream of this sort to come true, the other person needs to believe you are their soul mate too.

When I was 24, I was just getting over a bad relationship with a lying, cheating, enchanting alcoholic who exceeded all my intellectual and sexual needs and I had lost my hope, my wonder, my curiosity, and every spark of my identity. I prayed to god, and I never prayed, I said my heart cannot take this kind of pain again. I cannot. Please god send me a nice boy who will be kind to me, who will marry me, who will be a good father, please god I want to feel peace and I don't want to be alone.

I may not actually believe in god or in prayer, but I believe that you can tell yourself a story. I believe in stories.

One night I had a dream of a boy's face and when I saw him at a bar the next day, I didn't care. I told myself, this doesn't mean anything. It never means anything. So you had a dream about him. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters. I mentioned the dream to a girl I didn't know very well (and soon would never see again) and she unzipped my sweater, told me to pop my boobs out and shoved me towards him. The boy's name was Mark and a couple nights later we went on a date, and I told him I had a dream about him, and I didn't think anything of it. Five years later we were living across the country in Los Angeles, and were talking about getting married but something was stopping me. I was scared. Scared of marriage and repeating the mistakes of my parents and more than anything, scared of falling the frozen walls around me that I had always imagined to be diligently keeping me safe.

We were driving up to San Francisco on a neverending stretch of flatland interstate when it began to rain. We were listening to This American Life, the segment that involved putting a band together via classified ads to play a cover of Elton John's Rocket Man. In the episode, the man who puts the one-day-classified-ad band together is a man named Jon, from The Mekons. He explains that at the time he was disillusioned and didn't have high hopes for the project. He explains that there were a number of "lucky accidents" during the making of the project. On his way to the recording studio, his taxi driver was a flute playing, Carl Jung-loving, 'Synchoronicty' fan.

As the segment ended, a green minivan cut us off and a child's fingers reached out the window to catch the rain.

A moment later, the green van flipped over and toppled down into the embankment and into the endless farmland. Mark, without a thought, swerved the car onto the shoulder, and slammed the breaks. We were a ways away from the crushed mini van. A few other cars stopped, but most people don't stop to help victims. For a moment, I watched hundreds of cars drive by.

Before I really understood what was happening, Mark was out of the car and running towards the mini van. He ran. I hesitated because I knew there were dead bodies. I hesitated because that is what I do. I put up walls and I freeze. But Mark is wide open, sincere, good. I slowly searched the trunk for our emergency kit. I tried to find something that could cut steel because I knew there would be people trapped inside the van. We had nothing in the trunk that could cut steel. I quickly walked over.

There were three alive children lying still on the grass. There was a man walking in circles and screaming. There was a dead woman. There was a dead child. I handed our emergency kit to the off duty EMT's who had happened to be driving by. I knelt next to Mark, at the foot of a child's head. His name was Darwin. Mark, Darwin and I talked about movies and cartoons. We waited for the helicopter to come.

The helicopter took away the three alive children. We walked back to our car. We were on our way to my cousin's baby shower. We could think of nothing but dead children.

I had never seen Mark so shaken. I thought of the quick moments when he pulled over, opened the door and ran. I wanted to marry him.

The weekend proceeded and we were quiet and we held hands and at times I saw tears in Mark's eyes. I wanted to tell him, I want to marry you, but I didn't. What if he is a good man, but not a good husband? What kind of world is this, where children die? Why should anything matter if nothing matters?

On the way back down the 5 to Los Angeles, we passed the exit where the accident happened. We looked for wreckage on the other side of the road. There was nothing there, just empty flat land like nothing ever happened. And then, on the radio, Elton John's 'Rocket Man' came on the radio. We raised the volume. "Oh my god," I said. It felt like the Universe acknowledging that the car crashed happened, that children lost a mother and a brother, that three children had lain still on their backs, waiting for a helicopter to come. That my boyfriend was a good, loving man with the most tender of instincts. That the the world and life and all of it is beyond understanding, there is suffering, but there is also this man I love, who loves me.

I am the sort of person who lets whisps of doubt seep into my brain. I choose to view the coincidences in my life as signposts, arrows, cairns that communicate, "You are going the right way." When I write in cafes listening to music, and I write a word and it is just the word that I then hear in my headphones, I smile, and I am filled with light, and I feel, for that moment, that I belong in this chair, I belong in this story I am writing, I belong in this moment, inside of everything around me.

In our early days, when I doubted our relationship, I'd ask my husband why we should be together and he'd always say, you dreamed of me. That doesn't mean anything, I'd say, and I'd say that because a precognition and a dream come true had never amounted to anything meaningful before. What I didn't see is that Mark also believed in my dream. He also believed we belonged together. I wasn't alone in my belief. It took the two of us believing in our relationship to make it so.

Moments of coincidence, of sychronicity, lucky accidents, fate, God, whatever you want to call it, cannot happen without our noticing them. They are there if we pay attention. They are there, at the very least, to pull us inside of moments, to notice the clashing potential magic of our surroundings, they are a small gift for paying attention to the spinning world around us.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Open Space, Utah Road Trip, Mt. Baldy

There are things about myself I'd like to change or understand. I'd like to feel less anxiety and sadness. I'd like to have a healthier relationship with both food and my family.  I want my marriage to remain the strong and happy wonder that it is. Someday soon, I want to be a good mother. I am doing what I can to be the woman I want to be, but I find myself wondering, where does change take place? How does change happen? What if you follow a formula and it doesn't work? What if you do everything you are supposed to do and you still wake up with knots in your chest, your heart hammering, worry wrinkles cutting into your forehead? What if you still try to control what you will never, ever be able to control?

The Navajo Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took a road trip to Utah. We hiked through otherworldly terrain. I desperately needed a trip that was not another visit back home to my tumultuous family in New York. I needed to be reminded that the world is insanely beautiful and that the less expectation you have, the better the (road/life) trip will be. When Mark and I travel, we plan loosely. We exist the way I'd like to live my life. In an ideal world I would be as cool as I am when I travel. We figure the trip out as we go along, whatever happens happens, we have faith we will find somewhere cheap and suitable to sleep at night, we see beauty everywhere we go.

The Navajo Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Why do we travel? To see new things? To meet new people? To escape our reality? To jostle our world view?
I travel because I need to be changed. I come to a point, once a year or so, when I need upheaval. I need something massive and molecular to shift inside of me. I need to know that everything I thought I knew was wrong.

For a few minutes during a sunset in Capitol Reef National Park, a shade of blue I've never seen before spread across the mountains

Whenever I am within my everyday reality and I am exhausted and annoyed with humanity, I think of Livia Soprano's speech to Anthony Jr. during the episode of The Sopranos when Anthony Jr. learns about existentialism. He is sent to his grandmother to cheer him up and she tells him, "The world is a jungle! If you want my advice Anthony, don't expect happiness. You won't get it. People let you down. In the end, you die in your own arms."
"You mean... alone?" Anthony Jr. asks, dejected.
"It's all a big nothing! What makes you think you're so special?" I love this speech. I erupt into giggles every time I recite it. It makes me feel better, like I have a comrade in arms. But here, in Utah, I felt awful for saying the speech so often. The world is not a jungle. The world is astounding and neverending in its beauty and in it's ability to shock you into a state of bliss and gratitude. But it is also astounding in its ability to devastate you.

Hoodoo overlook in Bryce Canyon

When you visit a place, that place takes root inside of you. When you live in a place, you become the place in which you live.

Travel opens little doors inside of your body. It makes a space that was not there before.
Each person is their own hurricane, made up of whatever is around them--other people, the land, the air, the buildings. A family is their own hurricane, a town, a city. When you travel you enter the flow of an unfamiliar twister, one dictated by the place, the landscape, the animals, the people. You see what life is like somewhere else and on the best trips, you can taste what life is like there, or was like there. You may have moments where the scent and the soul of a place tornados itself inside of you and there it stays. This is why I travel--to collect tornado-souls: the tracks of a velociraptor running, the hoodoos, the night skies, the walls, the quiet, the unexpectedly delicious food, the chipmunks hanging of the edge of cliffs.
Chimney Rock Trail, Capitol Reef National Park

I recognized the red walls as the ancient, weathered and sturdy walls in my heart.

Arches National Park

I recognized the arches as stories older than language.

Double Arch, Arches National Park

I recognized the unimaginable products of endless cycles of erosion spanning millions of years as the literally universal truth that nothing stays the same. Everything changes and you cannot predict how or when or why so don't even bother trying. Just enjoy. Breathe it in.

Green River Convergence, Canyonlands National Park

How do we change? We leave ourselves out in the open--where the sun shines, where it rains, where the wind blows. We leave ourselves open to change. We make the space for change to happen. We do something different. Try something new. Go somewhere new. Anywhere. Anything.

I went to a new yoga class last week, and found myself against a wall, balancing on one leg, the other leg perpendicular to the floor, one arm down, the other arm up against the wall. The teacher pressed my shoulder and hip against the wall and I felt myself burst open. She pushed against me and said, "You are creating space inside of yourself when you stretch like this. Anything can happen inside of this space that you make."

Delicate Arch, Devil's Garden Trail, Arches National Park

The week after we got back from Utah, we went on a local hike I had been afraid to do: Mt. Baldy, the highest peak in Los Angeles County. I had seen the pictures of the Devil's Backbone trail. I had read about the sheer drop offs at 10,000 ft. But we had done some hardcore, high elevation hiking in Utah and I (told myself I) wasn't afraid anymore.

Tiny hikers on Mt. Baldy

Mt. Baldy scared the shit out of me. I did not feel relieved once we made it to the peak. The physical exertion was secondary to how easy it would be to take a misstep and fall to my death, or watch Mark fall to his. There were a few times I completely froze with fear, every joint in my body afraid and unwilling to move. I wanted a helicopter to come rescue me. But never for more than a few seconds. I thought to myself: this is not worth it. But, then. Once we were almost all the way down, almost finished with the hike, I felt a rush of elation. THIS IS WHY! This is why we do things that scare us, this is why we do things we don't want to do--that are out of our comfort zone but that our heart knows we will love. It is not for the views or the pictures or the workout or the bragging rights. It is for the courage and strength reaped from doing something you were scared to do. It is for finding out how strong you really are.

Devil's Backbone Trail, Mt. Baldy. This was not even a scary part. I was too scared to take out my camera during the scary parts.

On a trail in Capitol Reef National Park, I felt something magical inside of me: complete serenity. I could not remember or understand why I had ever felt anxiety or sadness, ever in my life. I knew in every bone in my body and every last thought in my head, that I am doing what I can, and that all my negative emotions come from expectations or ideals I think I need to have or hold myself or others to and it is all a bunch of bullshit. I am on my own path and I will do what I can in my own time, or not at all, and everything is already perfectly fine exactly as it is, as long as I keep moving.
And if there is anything I know for sure about myself it is that I can stop time, stand still, appreciate all I have and all I see, and that it is impossible for me to ever stop completely, I keep going.

Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah border

Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah border


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thoughts on Bruce Springsteen, NY, NJ, LA 2012

I was raised on Springsteen. I have been to over fifty shows, probably more. I can't keep track. I loved him when I was a child and I loved him when I was a teenager and I am in my early thirties and I only love him more. When I was little, I saw the way my mother transformed into a lovesick horny teenager when she encountered anything Springsteen and spent many hours wondering if she was going to leave my father for the Boss.


Some kind of magic happens at Bruce shows, some healing, beautiful, incessant energy that is almost impossible to find in other live music.


My first indelible memory of a Bruce show was at the Brenden Byrne Arena in Jersey. My mother and I went to all the shows that year, but it was in a certain moment, on a random night, I am only 12 years old, and we are all bathed in red light.  The lights go dark and the music is gentle, tinkling, and I am twelve but I am already starting to feel a deep sadness, a sunken loneliness, a general dread, it seems like I've been caught up in your trap again... I know someday I'll find the key. I am twelve but there is something happening to me here in the dark, listening to these gentle words. He is talking to me. I know someday I'll walk out of here again, but now I'm TRAPPED. The lights come on and we all raise our hands, TRAPPED. We scream. Crescendo. I am shaken by the truthfulness of the dichotomy, at the same time we are trapped and free. The lights go dark, and the music slows. I will teach my eyes to see what is beyond these walls in front of me. I was twelve but I could sense I'd be trapped in my imperfect brain, in my imperfect body, at home with my crazy family, trapped at school, trapped in a world I didn't understand. I would feel this way into my teens and into my twenties and last month I flew home to go see Bruce at the Izod, the same building with a different name, and I stood in the GA pit with my mother, twenty years later, and I hear the gentle, sad music. I am twelve again, standing next to my mom, and these twenty years have gone by and I have aged, I know someday I will walk out of here again, I won't walk out a loser, but now I'm trapped. I am still trapped, but in totally different ways and learning to deal with what I have--this brain, this body, these insecurities and doubts but there is joy in this song. We are in this together. The lights go on and we scream TRAPPED together, with Bruce, there is joy and community and above all there is hope. I never could've predicted these past twenty years and I can't predict the next twenty, not by any means.


Trapped is the song that cracked me open twenty years ago and now, again.


I went to four shows this leg of the tour. Izod, MSG, and both LA Sports Arena shows. I thought I wouldn't fly home to NY for the second leg east coast shows, but I know I will. I will have to.


BADLANDS
Bruce opens night one in LA with Badlands. I am with my husband. He is a Bruce fan because he has lived with me for eight years. In 2000, Bruce did ten MSG shows and I don't know-- but I went to most of them. It was the first time I was in charge of tickets. Those days, you could show up at the venue at 4am the day of the show, and wait for the best tickets to be released.  I waited all night for tickets with my friends, many times. My mom had created a monster. This is not something that happens anymore, of course, but it was a lovely time when the fans that wanted it most were the ones to be rewarded.


In 2000, I was not all sad. I had moments of happiness, bliss even, but I also had moments of despair. That year, I had a lot of moments of despair. I drank a lot. I smoked a ton of pot every day. I hated the college I went to. I hated myself. I knew there was a vast ocean between the girl I was and the girl I could be. He played Badlands at every show. That year, I went for Badlands. I needed it. My mother needed it too. We still do. I feel every line of this song. I could write an essay about every line. It is a poem. It is political: Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wants to be king and a king ain't satisfied until he rules everything... I believe in the hope and I pray that someday it may raise me above these badlands... Let the broken hearts stand as the price you gotta pay. At that time, I was one giant broken heart. For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside that it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive, I wanna find one face that ain't looking through me I wanna find one place I wanna spit in the face of these badlands. You are with thousands of people who feel the way you do, who feel lost and sad and that no one really sees them and they do not really belong anywhere. You feel this. I feel this. Everyone in the stadium feels this. This is what heals you. I am beginning to think I won't ever get out of the badlands, but I can work to leave my heart open to moments of transcendence. I can work to always push myself towards what I think may save me.


MY CITY OF RUINS
This was a song Bruce wrote for Asbury Park, a falling apart, decaying seaside city. He started to play it after 9/11 for New York. We may tiff with New Jersey but we love each other. In our hearts, we claim the other as ours. There is very little difference between Jersey and Queens. Bruce gives us songs, at these live shows, that are relevant for us. They are songs we need to hear. New York needed this song. We raise our hands. WITH THESE HANDS. He has brought the song back for this tour, because we are struggling. You took my heart when you left. We have lost people and we have lost jobs and we have lost our sense of safety, of security.


In both Jersey and LA on this most recent leg, we get CANDY'S ROOM and SHE'S THE ONE. I adore both these songs, irrationally. Candy's room makes me jump up and down, lose all inhibition, dance like a lunatic. There's a sadness in her pretty eyes, a sadness all her own from which no man can keep candy safe...she says baby if you wanna be wild, you got a lot to learn , close your eyes let them melt let them fire let them burn... I have always loved the way Bruce sings about women, with reverence and awe. With her killer graces and her secret places that no boy can fill... these women enchant him. French kisses will not break her heart of stone. I spent my twenties wanting to be this woman. This is what I want to hear, even now, still now. I want to hear that I make someone feel thunder in their heart. Women won't, can't allow access to their insides, but he adores women, loves women. At the core of so many Bruce songs is our inability to connect with one another, but to pay attention, to try.


In LA, my husband is getting a beer during these two songs. I'm alone, and I realize it's not my husband I am missing during these songs, but my girls, the ones who really understand how these songs address the emptiness a woman feels. I want them to be here, my female Bruce friends, my mom, who have sung with me and waited with me.

THE PROMISED LAND
This song was a show opener for many of the 2003 shows. He played 10 shows at Giants Stadium and I went to at least seven of them. A few nights, I took the bus from Port Authority with different friends and wandered the parking lot with a twenty dollar bill. I didn't care where I sat,  I just wanted to get in. As a country, as a city, we were still reeling. We were at war. We were angry and lost. For me, college was over. We were all still fumbling about. Sometimes i feel so weak i just want to explode. Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart. Take this moment into my hands. I think about this line many times at Bruce shows, and whenever I want to live in a moment. How can I take this moment into my hands? How can I stop time and really feel this, really he here, elongate a moment so I have time to remember?
There's gonna be a twister to blow everything down, blow away the dreams that tear you apart, blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted. He instructs us. He points to kids in the pit, dancers in corners, people in the back. He makes you feel like he is looking right at you.


THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD

Tom Morello is at these LA shows and is like nothing I have ever seen. I don't know what the hell he is doing with that guitar but I am amongst the youngest of the old fogies here and this mostly fifty-something crowd goes absolutely nuts over the insane things this man is doing with those elegant hands and that guitar. This song is made for Tom Morello.
Now Tom said, "Mom, wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy 
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries 
Where there's a fight 'gainst the blood and hatred in the air 
Look for me Mom I'll be there 
Wherever there's somebody fightin' for a place to stand 
Or decent job or a helpin' hand 
Wherever somebody's strugglin' to be free 
Look in their eyes Mom you'll see me." 





Tom at these LA shows energizes Bruce, who then energizes the rest of the band. Bruce feeds off Tom Morello, who moves around like a rubberband, even his body movements are defiant, like he fights the air he breathes. It is thrilling to watch these two men.


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WE ARE ALIVE
These Wrecking Ball shows are about death and rebirth, they are political--about the collapse of the economy, but they are very much about people we have lost. The E Street Band lost Clarence and Danny, but Bruce makes clear that these shows are also about people we have lost too, and the sense of loss itself. Bruce explains that he wrote this song, We Are Alive, in the perspective of ghosts. I think of the family I lost and the one I still have. I think of T, who loved music more than anything, and whose death sent ripples through so many people. The song is about what happens after we die. 
My eyes filled with sky. We are alive.