“For what are we, without hope in our hearts?”
---Bruce Springsteen, "Across the Border"
This Saturday morning, I sat frozen at my monitor, fingers poised above the keys.
Around the corner, my brother Mark was in the same position. And, somewhere in the Florida panhandle, Tim, our youngest brother, was sitting the very same way.
Of course, there was no point in pressing anything on the keyboard. The open browsers on our monitors indicated we were all “in queue.” Still, we waited, ready to pounce at the first sign of change to that status.
Welcome to ticket-buying, circa 2012.
Of course, we don’t do this three-way for just any tickets. No, if you want seats to Casting Crowns, the Flyers-Bruins game or Disney on Ice, you’re pretty much on your own in our family. But when Springsteen tickets are announced, it’s an announcement for a family reunion. We phone, we text, we strategize. We share credit card info and make assignments as to which day and how many.
The ultimate goal, of course, is tickets for as many days as Bruce will be here—and enough to get all of us and our respective spouses in the door. Fortunately, we each had the foresight to marry someone who was on board with our passion. In fact, Scott, Jaclyn and Cynthia were in similar poses Saturday morning, manning the desktops as we take the laptops.
My siblings and I have been doing this particular dance for quite some time now. In fact, crazy as it sounds, by my calculations we have entered our third decade of pursuing tickets to Springsteen shows. The very first time was in the early '80s, during The River tour. And we didn’t buy those tickets online, or even stand in lines for them (as we would do so many times through that decade and into the next one). No, the tickets for our very first Springsteen concert came from an unexpected source—our mother.
You see, my mom was the banquet manager at the now-defunct Degenhart’s on the Black Horse Pike. In the course of her job, she often rubbed elbows with disc jockeys looking for gigs. I don’t know actually how things went down, but for some reason—some miracle—one of them gave my mom four tickets to the upcoming Springsteen show.
Knowing my mother, this first experience with payola probably didn’t help the DJ much. But it came as a windfall for my brothers, who were already hoping to scalp—er, legally purchase—tickets to this very show.
And on that fateful night, one brother had a date (the aforementioned Cynthia), while the other didn’t, which is how I ended up going along. Sure, I had listened to Springsteen for a while by that time. But it wasn’t until the spotlight hit the stage that I fell totally, head over heels. The opening harmonica to “Thunder Road” wafted above the crowd, and I was lost in the flood.
From that show on, there was no doubt. If Bruce was in Philly, we were in Philly. And it didn’t end there. We’d travel the East Coast, the three of us in various combinations, along with our spouses, our sister, our friends, from Worchester, MA, to New Orleans, from Atlanta to Happy Valley, the Meadowlands and Shea Stadium and Boardwalk Hall. I can’t tell you how many Bruce concerts I’ve seen (ask Mark; he actually keeps track of his shows!). I can only tell you I still want to see more.
Getting tickets has changed a lot since that first show, the time the tickets dropped in our mother’s lap. The next time around, we’d take shifts sleeping outside the Vet as Brucemania hit its peak during his Born in the USA tour. Demand was rampant, and we stood in line for days to assure that we had tickets in our hands. We even had to sleep under tractor trailers to avoid being soaked out in the rain one night (and, yes, it was fun...kinda). Still, our little "community" (that's what we became in those moments, bound together by the notes of “Jungleland” wailing through a boom box ) was outraged as, just before tickets went on sale, a red Ferrari rode up, two strapping college kids got out and were escorted to the front of the line (by security, no less) to purchase tickets while we watched, dumbfounded.
It’s a good thing tickets are sold so well in advance of a performance. The moments of pure outrage—be it over the unfairness of life or the injustice of the Ticketmaster system—seem to disappear long before the E Street Band takes the stage. The ticket-buying method has changed, but the music remains a salve after the struggle—and all the other strangeness life produces.
After all, the best artists produce more than beautiful pictures, humorous essays, or songs we can dance to. The best artists—the truly gifted—are the ones who can produce art that acts like a mirror for the rest of us; whose work can reflect back for our enjoyment or our enlightenment just was this life is all about. And, even though Bruce has often reflected the good life to us—the hot cars and hotter girls, the Jersey Shore tilt-a-whirls and the front street drag races, the camaraderie and companionship, the growing up and getting out—he has also been responsible enough, committed enough and gifted enough to reflect more.
Springsteen has reminded us in song that there’s more to life than shiny sports cars and loud guitars. Sometimes there’s prejudice and pain, anger and a “meanness in this world,” and if you’re not sure where to find it, maybe you should start with a look in the mirror.
Look there for the solution to it, as well.
So, as long as he continues to rock the stage, I will be looking for tickets—no matter what the method. And, if you’re wondering, thanks to Mark and Scott, we will be there in Philly. I’m counting the days, and looking forward to the “magic in the night.”