What I’ve learned about Bruce Springsteen from “Born to Run” (a working list)

  • Bruce can really write! This book is 500 pages long but it moves with the brisk cheer and confidence of a seasoned storyteller plying his well-worn trade.
  • Bruce is very earnest and thoughtful but is able to laugh at himself, which is my favorite quality in people and the famous. He puts a lot of time and effort into figuring it all out but knows in the end we die anyway. For Bruce, as for all of us, it's about the journey, not the destination.
  • Bruce could write self-help books for those who are lost at sea in their own lives. Apart from rocking, his real talent might be turning lemons into lemonade. (I haven't reached the part where we deal with his depression. As of Chap. 24 we're still On the Way Up. He's only 24 years old.)
  • Bruce is a workhorse. Some of us may wonder how others reach the top of their game, and he comes right out and says it: you can never stop trying to be better. There's something to learn in every success and every failure.
  • Bruce looks for the best in others. I have yet to meet an asshole in the pages of this tome. I'm sure they exist but so far Bruce and I have let bygones be bygones.
  • Bruce looks for flaws in himself. When he finds one he attacks it with the methodical precision of a veteran carpenter operating a pair of needle-nose pliers, or a carpenter ant hauling a meatball up a mountain. Staunch!
  • This is not your typical rock star memoir: no drugs, no booze, not much sex. Bruce would likely have qualified as “a horndog” back in the day but seems like he was a gentleman about it (he seldom names names). Mostly he comes across as the CEO of Springsteen Enterprise, LLC, a small family concern operating out of a threadbare suburban garage where nobody is sure who is paying the gas and electricity bill this month. (I'm only up to the release of "Greetings from Asbury Park." So far there aren't a lot of clams to go around.)
  • Nobody flew on airplanes in the 1970s. When he visited his parents in California, he had to drive across the country with his bandmates (without knowing how to drive).
  • Once on the way back east they stopped on the side of the road in Arizona "for a piss break" and accidentally left the dog behind. They had to drive two hours back to find it. I'm heartened to know there's a little Clark Griswold in Bruce Springsteen and that he once rescued a dog from some miserable desert fate.
  • After a trip to Tijuana with his father: "Through using the same facilities at the apartment, all I left behind for my pops was a case of crabs I picked up somewhere along the way. Good-bye, son, thanks for the memories."
  • While auditioning singers for "The Bruce Springsteen Band" (pre-E Street): "I even spoke on the phone to a high school–age Patti Scialfa, dispensing the fatherly advice that this was a traveling gig and it'd be best for a young lady to stay in school." He was 22 years old at the time.
  • Bruce has a strangely formal-cum-casual writing style that mimics his conversational style—there's something in his sentence construction that tends to dodge left when you expect it to go right. He's fulsome and expansive and a little anachronistic; even the raunchy stories are relayed with the wry grin of a courtly gentleman shaking his head at his own youthful exploits.
  • Bruce is a good guy
  • Bruce is a square
  • ...to be continued!