Thursday, October 13

On not meeting Bruce Springsteen

Earlier this summer I came close to bumping into Bruce Springsteen on a side street in London. Then I ran away, and wrote this instead.

Since then, I've spoken to people who did meet Springsteen on that same street. I've watched others meet him in other places. At meet & greet book signings promoting the release of his autobiography, on the east and west coast, including California. Tickets gone before I could blink. And I've realised what a classic fool I was to walk away from the opportunity to meet him on more spontaneous terms. 

I've stood at a bar with Benedict Cumberbatch, and said nothing. Shared a cafe table with James McAvoy while he ate a slice of cake, and said nothing. Been in a bar with Matt Berninger, said nothing. Yes, I'm a fool. But god, none of that comes close to how much I regret not hanging around to say hi to Bruce Springsteen. 


June 21, 2016

I’d always assumed Springsteen moved from hotel to hotel while travelling on tour. Then I learned that during Europe tour dates he sometimes settles in a certain London hotel for a bit and ‘commutes’ to shows. So he’s living in the same city as me for weeks at a time. 

Anyway, today is midsummer. I’m running errands in the city centre, except right now I’m sitting outside a cafe to try and calm down. Because I walked past that certain hotel earlier, half unintentionally, and there outside the entrance were a handful of Springsteen anoraks, clutching tatty records and looking poised to jump. Like an appearance of the man himself was imminent. I didn’t know what the hell to do so I just kept on walking. I couldn’t stop and wait with them on the pavement: the idea frightened me, repulsed me… and enticed me. I didn’t want to meet him. I wanted to meet him.

So I carried on walking like I didn’t give a fuck. It wasn't long, however, before my feet seemed to wander back down that street again, the other side of the road this time. 

But the Springsteen anoraks had gone. I’d just missed him, then. I didn’t know how to feel about this.

Meeting Springsteen would be the best thing to happen to me, and the worst thing: a dream and a nightmare. On one hand, the teenage dreamer inside me despairs at the thought of a life without some kind of contact with him. Another part of me also feels like I absolutely have to meet him, connect with him somehow, at some point. It’s almost non-negotiable. A bit like when Dylan would trek out to visit Woody Guthrie in hospital. (Leaving aside the fact that, unlike Dylan, I'm not a folk singer on the cusp of reshaping American culture, but whatever.) It's rare to have the chance to meet your hero and most people would jump at it, so I feel lucky to be able to have that choice. To know that you’re within metres of somebody who’s incredibly meaningful to you is a big comfort. And it’s exciting, of course. But it’s also unreal. Bruce Springsteen - along with all the days and nights spent at his shows - all of that is on another plane of reality, and it jars painfully to consider bringing that plane down to real life.

Yeah, to meet him would be wonderful, but not in that slightly sad, stale context. With a few seconds, a scribble of a pen, and another selfie. It’s not that meeting him this way would destroy my idealistic notions of him, or ‘cheapen’ him, or anything high-minded like that. It’s simply that the idea of meeting Bruce Springsteen is too big a thing for my head to comprehend. It’s too much. It makes my brain cells crumble. To link all the years of listening to and learning from his music, and all the hours watching him play and talk, and all the thoughts and words and lessons he's given me - to link all of that with standing on a street corner interrupting a rock star’s day for a few sweaty seconds, among a cluster of balding males - no. It can’t be like that.



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