The River Revival

So, an exciting end to last week, starting last Thursday with the epic Bruce Springsteen concert that almost didn’t happen (for me). Tickets for the cheap seats gone even though I got online minutes after the show went on sale weeks earlier and sticker shock! On my budget (and my hours were just getting back to normal after some short shifts). . . Oh, man, I wanted to, but the seat that was something like $125 that was the cheapest they had at the time all the way across Key Arena. . .I’m someone who barely has anything after rent (which is way below market) and other bills.

So I thought I’d see if anyone had an extra cheap seat on Backstreets. No luck. Then for some reason I had the thought to go back and check on Ticketmaster and. . .a cheap seat had reappeared. $65 before fees raised it to $88.75, in behind the stage (which for a Springsteen concert is a good seat, he doesn’t block the view back there). Not only that, I got a slightly better paying job with steadier hours and a shorter commute shortly after. After so many runs of bad luck, it’s kind of eerie. . .

The River, which he played straight through, is also one of my favorite albums. One of the songs I especially waited for was Independence Day. Many of Springsteen’s songs about his dad remind me of mine. Independence Day especially gets to me though, and even before my father’s death and burial just before the Fourth of July (after a year of care and sometimes neglect from the VA starting just before the Fourth the previous year).

So say goodbye it’s Independence Day
Papa now I know the things you wanted that you could not say

Springsteen’s lines have a way of bringing back clear memories and the one this brings back was when my mother was sick a few years before she died and my shock when we went to the mall and he walked into one of the expensive stores, something he’d never do, and looked at a fancy nightgown and said he wished he could afford to buy it for her.

Hungry Heart is a great song to dry your tears by. . .and especially when Bruce is surfing the crowd!

The River, of course, one of his most haunting songs. . .”Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?”

I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy

Bruce, of course, has never forgotten there are a lot of people not doing well, and that has both continued to reflect in his songs and his raising money for food banks, in our case, the West Seattle Food Bank.  I dropped $5 in one of their buckets on the way in. There didn’t seem to be too many people paying attention to them. Until. . .Springsteen spoke about them on stage and announced our hometown boy Eddie Vedder would be matching our donations, just before Eddie joined him on stage to sing Bobby Jean.

People were filling the buckets on the way out (and I dropped in $15 more).  $24,000 according to the West Seattle Food Bank (before Eddie’s match!):

Of course, this being a Springsteen concert, people walking out was still a long time away. Meanwhile, Bruce pulled someone out of the crowd to dance with him for Dancing in the Dark . . .

Did I mention Springsteen doesn’t play encores any more? No, because he just plays 3 1/2 hours straight through and never leaves the stage. So, about a half hour before the show wrapped up at nearly midnight with an epic version of Shout (part of it below), I started seeing all these people in hard hats on both sides of the stage. . . the crew to take everything down . . . waiting. . . and waiting. . .

I’ve been lucky enough to see Bruce Springsteen and even luckier when it’s with the E Street Band, for over 30 years, and he (and they) still bring it!


Occupy Seattle Baptized in Pepper Spray

So, Tuesday night while I was getting ready and literally running late for the cross town 48 to go to the inaugural Transit Riders Union meeting the police were downtown pepper spraying (A) an 84-year-old woman, (B) a minister in clerical clothes, (C) a pregnant woman or (D) all of the above?

I wish it wasn’t so, but the answer is (D), which tells you a lot about what has been happening with the police once again with the Occupy movement. Ironically, former Police Chief Norm Stamper just wrote an article in the Nation Magazine about his regrets for giving the orders during WTO and the increasing militarization of the police.

My support for a militaristic solution caused all hell to break loose. Rocks, bottles and newspaper racks went flying. Windows were smashed, stores were looted, fires lighted; and more gas filled the streets, with some cops clearly overreacting, escalating and prolonging the conflict. The “Battle in Seattle,” as the WTO protests and their aftermath came to be known, was a huge setback—for the protesters, my cops, the community.

Indeed, that mentality still exists in Seattle. A quote on KOMO news (and this was after reports that the victims included 84-year-old Dorli Rainey, a pregnant woman and a priest – ok, there was slightly in error – on Reverend Lang’s religion): ” ”Pepper spray was deployed only against subjects who were either refusing a lawful order to disperse or engaging in assaultive behavior toward officers,’ said Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel.”

Hope the pregnant woman and her future child are okay. Dorli Rainey and the Reverend Rich Lang have come out of this energized, as violence only helps galvanize a movement.

Dorli tells what happened in the video above, on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown and there is no excuse for it. The crowd was getting ready to leave, and as Dorli notes, the way Occupy works this is no secret, there was a “mic check,” which would have loudly told them that. Instead of letting the crowd peacefully disburse, the police corralled them into the intersection with bicycles and let loose the pepper spray. It could have been much worse for Dorli, who nearly fell and could have been trampled by the crowd, but an Iraq vet nearby helped her. Listen to Dorli’s historical perspective on this, having lived in Austria during Hitler. Interesting as well, her perspective on the money interests from JP Morgan to our downtown developers for the downtown tunnel.

From the Countdown site:

She cites the advice of the late Catholic nun and activist Jackie Hudson to “take one more step out of your comfort zone” as an inspiration, saying, “It would be so easy to say, ‘Well I’m going to retire, I’m going to sit around, watch television or eat bonbons,’ but somebody’s got to keep ’em awake and let ’em know what is really going on in this world.”

Equally inspiring was the response of the Reverend Rich Lang of the University Temple Church posted by Bob Beatie on Facebook.

You could feel the tension and raw energy crinkling throughout the air as the marchers once again began their journey into downtown Seattle. The Occupy Movement is the prophetic voice of God calling out to the nation to “repent” and turn from its ways of corruption. Those who camp are a rag-tag, motley crew made up of mostly young adults, mostly unemployed, almost all of whom are alienated and cast out of America’s promise of liberty and justice for all. They are our canaries, the first fruits being devoured by the Beast of Empire.

The police knew who Reverend Lang was. “Throughout the march I, as a Pastor in full clergy alb, stole and cross, acted as a peacekeeper placing myself between the police line and the Occupy Movement. On four occasions I stepped between verbal battles between the police and the protesters.”

What happened?

The incident was minor in nature. A girl, dressed in Anarchist black waving the Anarchist black flag was plastered side by side with an officer on the bike. They were jawboning each other. At one point her flag was thrust in his direction — a provocation yes – threatening?—no. The officer grabbed the flag and in the pulling, pulled down the girl. Her friends reacted jumping in to pull her away from the officer. It was at this point that the first wave of pepper spray went off.

Point — one might think the officer acted within reason, that the officer was suddenly threatened. But with what? By whom? The friends of the offender were grabbing for the girl, they were not grabbing at the police. Basically the officer, and his comrades, were trigger happy as if they couldn’t wait for just this moment. And so the spray went forth.

I leapt to the front and tried to place myself between the parties — with spray in the air the protesters were also fleeing. Separation between the police line and the protesters was clearly visible … there was certainly no threat of the “mob” suddenly rampaging into the well armed police. The separation had occurred (as can be clearly seen on the video captured by King 5 News). But the spray continued. I walked between the lines, I was alone, I was in full clergy dress, everyone knew who I was and what I was — with the protesters fleeing and the police line holding — with my back to the police and my hands waving the protesters to get back — alone in full alb, stole and cross — six officers turned their spray on me thoroughly soaking my alb and then one officer hit me full throttle in the face.

Wow. . . “Seattle’s finest”. . . ?

I praise the courage and compassion, the discipline and the decency of the Occupy Movement. Out of the rag-tag mob came help, grabbing my hands, leading me (I was blind by then) to the wall and administering care and concern for my well being. The protesters were assembled around all the wounded, and maintained the discipline of nonviolence (granted the nonviolence was in behavior but not language). And they were not afraid. The spraying had been a baptism sealing them into the security of knowing that their prophecy of repentance was indeed the Spirit-Word through them — it is as if they did not prophecy their very bones would melt within them. Against the wall in increasing pain and burning I realized I was in the midst of church.

The police, on the other hand, were afraid. Their quick use of chemical warfare reveals how cowardly they are. The unwillingness of their commanders to maintain discipline reveals how incompetent they are becoming — the only tool in their bag is brutality and like a drunken raging father beating wife and kids, the police have increasingly disgraced themselves. Step by step they are being shaped into the front face of fascism, the emerging police state that protects the property interests of the Marie Antionette’s who have seized control of our government, commerce, media, military and increasingly the Church itself.

Wow again, and this time for the Reverend speaking truth to power.

There’s more. . . Reverend Lang not only calls out the police, he calls out his fellow clergy members to act:

My question to my clergy colleagues is this: Where are you? How much longer can you preach without practice? How dare you remain protected in your sanctuary while your people (the rag-tag mob of the least, last and lost whom Jesus loved) are slaughtered doing that which God has commissioned you to do (prophecy!). Where are you? Who have you become in this age of baptism by pepper spray? Do you not know how much power you have to stop our national descent into chaos? Don’t you realize that the world is your parish and right before your eyes the Spirit of God is doing a new thing? Can’t you hear that God’s judgment is upon the land? God is against the thieves that bankrupted our nation. God is against the armies of the Beast who pillage other lands in our name, and turn and destroy our people on our own soil. Are you blind? — Perhaps you need a baptism of pepper spray in your eyes to restore your vision.

And to the police I say this — there are always the brutal ones in our midst. As colleagues you have the moral responsibility to police your own. If your commanders order you to brutalize your people you have a Higher Command that says, “disarm yourself, turn away from your sin, renounce the orders of unrighteousness.” And in doing so, cross the line, come over and join us because we are the winning side of history. And we welcome your repentance and heal you of your shame.

And to the church, beloved church I say, you cannot sing the hymns of faith if you are too afraid to live that faith. In Amos it says to silence your sacred assemblies and let JUSTICE burst forth. Our nation, with the nations of the world, are under an assault of tyranny and treason of the 1% against creation itself. You may not worship God until and unless you care for the image of God living in those tents and prophesying on your behalf. Once the Powers sweep the Tents away, if you dare to lift your voice even a peep, you too will be swept away. But the destiny of the church, the Body of Christ, is not one of quiet passivity and fear, our destiny is to bear witness having no fear of the Cross because even now we have crossed over into resurrection.

I am reminded of the preacher in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Springsteen‘s The Ghost of Tom Joad (below with Tom Morello, who sang his intense version when he was in town at the Crocodile last month – more on that soon, hopefully):

We really have gotten that dark again, and for a lot of people it is already like the Great Depression times. What the Reverend recognizes in the Occupy Seattle encampment members that most people don’t want to see. We can’t keep going down this road without there being dire consequences.  Yes, there is more desperation for the homeless and others on the bottom.  How far down have we gotten as a society, as a state – the supposedly progressive state of Washington, when we already have kids living in tent cities because their families have been permanently cut off after reaching a lifetime maximum of assistance as the PI reported? Yet Chase is going tax-free on their mortgage interest income in Washington state, and, oh, surprise, as Dorli Rainey mentions in her interview, their affiliate JP Morgan has their hand prints all over that tunnel.

On the pepper spraying, the Mayor McGinn did apologize to Dorli Rainey (whom he knows personally) and the others, and I was glad to see his statement on the city website. I have to say, after reading the Mayor’s comments in the Seattle Times article after hearing Dorli Rainey and the Reverend Rich Lang’s accounts, that I agree with Occupy Seattle that his response was inadequate. Mayor McGinn echoed the police claim about a “violent element,” and from my own experience the night Chase CEO Jamie Dimon came to town and Dorli & the Reverend’s accounts of Tuesday night, the “violent element” trying to provoke a reaction is the Seattle Police Department. The crowd has been amazingly restrained, even after being pepper sprayed. Maybe the Mayor’s statements below were before he heard from Dorli Rainey and others?

He said he understood that some protesters in the crowd Tuesday, as well as during previous clashes with police, used the cover of the crowd to provoke violence.

“We’re well aware that there are individuals who have been extraordinarily provocative to police over the last six weeks. That was my point in apologizing to peaceful protesters.”

We’ll see how the police treat everyone when we cross the Montlake Bridge tonight. Union members as well as Occupy Seattle will be present. If I hadn’t been through WTO, I would believe that would mean a little more restraint from Seattle’s finest, who claim their guild as a union when they try do prevent meaningful police accountabilty from coming to Seattle.

Then, shades of Footloose in Seattle again, the Seattle Parks Department is trying to deny a permit for a hip-hop dance Friday night for Occupy Seattle at Westlake because it’s too late after dark. Now, what time does it get dark in Seattle in the winter?:

Dewey Potter, parks spokeswoman, said nearby residents had complained about noise during two previous concerts. The department asked the Occupy Seattle representatives not to amplify music after dark, which falls at about 5:30 p.m.

Yes, that’s right, kids – Seattle rolls up it’s sidewalks at 5:30 pm Friday nights! No demon rock and roll hip-hop! So, given the concern for sensibilities of downtown residents, I guess all Downtown Seattle Association‘s evening holiday festivities at Westlake are also cancelled this year? After all, this isn’t just about silencing the freedom of speech of young people, is it?

The Wild, The Innocent, and. . . Wow!

So, my bus was on holiday schedule, taking the long way to and from work yesterday.  I had to listen to. . . what else?. . . The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, especially Sandy (aka 4th of July, Asbury Park).  I had forgotten how incredible the whole album is, though, from E Street Shuffle to New York Serenade.

Takes you back to Bruce on the Jersey shore and more innocent times.  OK, maybe not. . .

Sparks fly on E Street when the boy prophets walk it handsome and hot
All the little girls’ souls grow weak when the man-child gives them a double shot
Them schoolboy pops pull out all the stops on a Friday night
The teenage tramps in skintight pants do the E Street dance and everything’s all right

Younger times, without the weight of the world or life.

Little Angel steps the shuffle like she ain’t got no brains
She’s death in combat down on Lover’s Lane
She drives all them local boys insane
Little Angel says, “Oh, oh, everybody form a line
Oh, oh, everybody form a line”

OK, less pc times, too.  This is 1973!

Here’s Bruce and the E Street Band playing Sandy last year, with Danny one last time.

Well, not the most complete version, but full of emotion.

Sandy the fireworks are hailin’ over Little Eden tonight
Forcin’ a light into all those stoned-out faces left stranded on this Fourth of July
Down in town the circuit’s full with switchblade lovers so fast so shiny so sharp
And the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past darkAnd the boys from the casino dance with their shirts open like Latin lovers along the shore
Chasin’ all them silly New York girls

Sandy the aurora is risin’ behind us
The pier lights our carnival life forever
Love me tonight for I may never see you again
Hey Sandy girl

I notice Bruce went back to the original (Wild & Innocent) version about on the lyrics “Sandy, the waitress I was seeing lost her desire for me. . .” rather than the later version on the website (and the live album) about the angels, umm, that’s Hell’s Angels. . .  I can’t decide which version I like more.

Then one of my favorite lines “the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do.”  Alas, I heard Madame Marie passed away, I think it was last year, too.

Kitty’s Back!  Now that I look at the lyrics, I’m not so sure this is about cat-like people:

Catlong sighs holding Kitty’s black tooth
She left to marry some top cat, ain’t it the cold truth

or people-like cats:

Catlong lies back bent on a trash can,
Flashing lights cut the night, dude in the white says he’s the man
Well you better learn to move fast when you’re young or you’re not long around
Cat somehow lost his Kitty down in the city pound

but it’s okay now:

Well who’s that down at the end of the alley?
She’s been gone so long

Kitty’s back in town, here she comes now
Kitty’s back in town

Even if she’s been unfaithful:

Now Cat knows his Kitty’s been untrue
And that she left him for a city dude
But she’s so soft, she’s so blue
When he looks into her eyes
He just sits back and sighs
Ooh, what can I do, ooh, what can I do?

Wild Billy’s Circus Story – favorite line: “Jesus send some good women to save all your clowns. . .”

Incident on 57th Street – another song about, what else, loving and fighting, though I’m with Jane:

Jane moves over to share her pillow but opens her eyes to see Johnny up and putting his clothes on
She says “Those romantic young boys
All they ever want to do is fight”
Those romantic young boys
They’re callin’ through the window
“Hey Spanish Johnny, you want to make a little easy money tonight?”

Vintage early Bruce.

Rosalita: Here’s Bruce in 1978 (it’s on the Video Anthology/1978–88).  Check out all the girls trying to get on stage! “I ain’t here on business, I’m only here for fun. . .” 

Of course, I’m wondering what happens these days when the young men must be calling for his teen age daughter. . .

Now I know your mama she don’t like me ’cause I play in a rock and roll band
And I know your daddy he don’t dig me but he never did understand
Papa lowered the boom, he locked you in your room
I’m comin’ to lend a hand
I’m comin’ to liberate you, confiscate you, I want to be your man
Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny
But now you’re sad, your mama’s mad
And your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money
Tell him this is last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance
Because a record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance

New York Serenade is just so gorgeous with the music, and really interesting lyrics.

Billy he’s down by the railroad tracks
Sittin’ low in the back seat of his Cadillac
Diamond Jackie, she’s so intact
As she falls so softly beneath him
Jackie’s heels are stacked

OK, a bit wild!  Sometimes a bit serious. . .

It’s midnight in Manhattan, this is no time to get cute
It’s a mad dog’s promenade
So walk tall or baby don’t walk at all

Then this one:

Fish lady, oh fish lady
She baits them tenement walls
She won’t take corner boys
They ain’t got no money
And they’re so easy

And, oh yeah!  Anytime, Bruce!

I said “Hey, baby
Won’t you take my hand
Walk with me down Broadway
Well mama take my arm and move with me down Broadway”

But not her:

Hook up to the train
And hook up to the night train
Hook it up
Hook up to the train
But I know that she won’t take the train, no she won’t take the train
Oh she won’t take the train, no she won’t take the train
Oh she won’t take the train, no she won’t take the train
Oh she won’t take the train, no she won’t take the train
She’s afraid them tracks are gonna slow her down
And when she turns this boy’ll be gone
So long, sometimes you just gotta walk on, walk on

And this line:

Hey vibes man, hey jazz man, play me your serenade
Any deeper blue and you’re playin’ in your grave

And there’s even poetry with the trash collection:

Listen to your junk man
Listen to your junk man
Listen to your junk man
He’s singin’, he’s singin’, he’s singin’
All dressed up in satin, walkin’ past the alley
He’s singin’, singin’, singin’, singin’

Pure poetry and music!

Obama’s Inauguration – Inspiration

Wow – the day has come!  President Obama.  Yes, President Obama. Wow.  Nearly 2 million people filling the National Mall.   An inspiring speech. I don’t know if there’s much more to say.

Even though I want to stay cynical and I know we’re going to have to work on him for some issues, he represents such change, especially after the nightmare of the last 8 years.  I don’t think it was a coincidence that Bruce Springsteen performed The Rising at the Lincoln Memorial concert for Obama.  A song about surviving and rebuilding after the September 11 attacks now referring to another disaster – Bush’s Presidency.

I found this quote from David E. Sanger’s analysis of Obama’s speech in the New York Times hilarious:

Yet not since 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt called for a “restoration” of American ethics and “action, and action now” as Herbert Hoover sat and seethed, has a new president so publicly rejected the essence of his predecessor’s path.

Well, do you have to say anything more?  Yet, it really isn’t funny, because among the other disasters, Bush has left the economy a mess, with many out of work, and many of us on shaky ground. 

President Obama has a lot to deal with.  I don’t expect miracles, but yet it is incredible to be feeling this much hope again.  To be this proud of being an American again.

Amnesty International made a very funny video (on a serious issue) poking fun at our expectations of Obama, while calling for the closure of Guantanamo, ending of torture, and accountability for abuses committed in the “war on terror” by the Bush administration.

It’s part of AI’s 100 Day’s Campaign, calling for President Obama’s administration, within the first 100 days to:

  • announce a plan and date to close Guantanamo;
  • issue an executive order to ban torture and other ill-treatment, as defined under international law;
  • ensure that an independent commission to investigate abuses committed by the U.S. government in its “war on terror” is set up.

To sign the petition and for more information go to:


I am very hopeful about the first two items.  President Obama has said he will close Guantanamo and end torture.  Incoming Attorney General Eric Holder has stated unequivocally that waterboarding is torture.  I think we may have to push a bit on the accountability issue, though.  Democrats tend not to want to make waves.

I was particularly encouraged when President Obama spoke out about the false choice between security and human rights in his Inaugural Address:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

I really do believe President Obama has values we can believe in.  Even while I don’t kid myself and I know we will have to keep mobilizing and pushing him on the issues.  I remember past Democratic administrations.  What is especially encouraging, is the citizens movement he created and empowered by showing us “Yes, we can!”  is going to keep moving forward and pushing him to stand up for those ideals.

Obamamania Videos – Harlem & the Boss

I thought I was over Obamamania, but just a little bit more before getting down to serious issues (which was, after all, why we elected him). 

First, check out this video by Tonya TKO of the scene in Harlem, 1:30 am the night Barack was elected:

Wow!  We had people in the streets of Seattle partying election night, too, including outside Pike Place Market, but nothing like that!

Then this one of Bruce Springsteen’s new song, Workin’ On a Dream (with his wife, Patti Scialfa) at the Obama at the rally in Cleveland:


I will be catching up on some local concerts and issues shortly.  It’s just been a bit too busy in the human rights world lately.  Even Obama can’t change everything.  It still takes our work (and his election shows what can be done).

An American Reclamation Project – Bruce for Barack

Bruce Springsteen has just finished playing 3 voter registration rallies for Barack Obama in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. Bruce spoke from his heart about the American promise (our hopes) vs the increasing distance from reality for too many people in America; and the disasters and damage of the last 8 years.  Then he spoke about the need for “someone with Senator Obama’s understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again.”


Photo from the official Barack Obama Flickr page.

That we could have fallen so far from those American ideals in the past 8 years is appalling; and I see nothing in the McCain/Palin that looks any different, beyond, perhaps, more vicious attacks (which is, I guess, the only way they believe they can win).  Barack brings back the kind of idealism and hope Bruce sings about in his songs.  Developing good paying American jobs, educating all of our youth to have a chance at those jobs and to compete in science and math on a world class level.  Encouraging community service, instead of shopping. 

Bruce’s comments in Philly on Oct. 4 (from his website):

Hello Philly,

“I am glad to be here today for this voter registration drive and for Barack Obama, the next President of the United States.

“I’ve spent 35 years writing about America, its people, and the meaning of the American Promise. The Promise that was handed down to us, right here in this city from our founding fathers, with one instruction: Do your best to make these things real. Opportunity, equality, social and economic justice, a fair shake for all of our citizens, the American idea, as a positive influence, around the world for a more just and peaceful existence. These are the things that give our lives hope, shape, and meaning. They are the ties that bind us together and give us faith in our contract with one another.

“I’ve spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no healthcare, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful.

“I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe he understands, in his heart, the cost of that distance, in blood and suffering, in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning. After the disastrous administration of the past 8 years, we need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project. In my job, I travel the world, and occasionally play big stadiums, just like Senator Obama. I’ve continued to find, wherever I go, America remains a repository of people’s hopes, possibilities, and desires, and that despite the terrible erosion to our standing around the world, accomplished by our recent administration, we remain, for many, a house of dreams. One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down.

“They will, however, be leaving office, dropping the national tragedies of Katrina, Iraq, and our financial crisis in our laps. Our sacred house of dreams has been abused, looted, and left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs care; it needs saving, it needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, hearts, and minds. It needs someone with Senator Obama’s understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again. But most importantly, it needs us. You and me. To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don’t know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back.

“So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising.”

Bruce’s The Ghost of Tom Joad describes the road we have been heading down once again.  Of the people struggling to make it at the bottom as the gap between rich and poor widens to the greatest since 1929.  The people who Bruce and Barack never forgot of stopped fighting for, long before the bank failures and stock market downturn started shaking the rest of America.

The last verse, which didn’t make it to the video:

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.”

We need real change.  We need real hope.

Register.  Vote.


A Tale of Two Cities: Nickelsville vs. Allentown

On my way to the Power of One exhibit after work yesterday, I came across a jarring juxtaposition of events at Westlake Park.  There was a  Nickelsville “die-in” protest in support of (and by) the homeless near the arch (in the traditional protest area).


Across the street, was a WSU Cougar rally, complete with marching band and cheerleaders.


I published them together in a mini-gallery, A Tale of Two Cities, on my Flickr page, noting the irony that even a rally for a rival football team gathers more of a crowd than homeless people talking about their friends who have die.

The real Tale of Two Cities contrast, however, would better be reflected by some of my photos further along on my walk, of Belltown condos.  Condos, having sprung up all over the city, driving up rents and home prices, and eliminating apartments for lower income renters and single family homes that being torn down as well (drawing the ire and complaints of wealthier commuters on my rides home from work).


Yeah, nice view of the Space Needle, if you can afford it.

Of course, these condo conversions affect the poorest of our society worse.  Here’s the problem with Seattle’s attempts at dealing with low-income housing, as noted in a recent Seattle Weekly article, Welcome to Nickelsville:

Two and a half years after implementation, the committee that oversees the 10-year plan (Nickels is on the 23-member governing board, along with King County Executive Ron Sims) reports that 1,449 units have been built and another 1,411 are in the works. But these numbers don’t take into account the number of low-income units lost during this period. According to the Seattle Displacement Coalition, 3,511 low-income units have been lost since 2005 in Seattle alone due to condo conversion, demolition, or speculative sale.

If low-income housing is disappearing at twice the rate it’s being built, not only won’t you house the current homeless, a great many of the rest of us on the bottom may soon be joining them.

Nickelsville protesters are, quite seriously, planning on building a shanty town to live in, called Nickelsville (and to be settled by Nickelodeons), after our beloved Mayor, Greg Nickels, who is currently sending out the police and city workers on homeless encampment sweeps, often taking and destroying what little these people own in the process.

As Danny Westneat noted in his June 15 article in the Seattle Times, it’s a little scary that we’re talking about going back in times to Hoover. . ., er Nickels . . .villes:

Seattle once had a Hooverville in the 1930s on Port of Seattle land near the current sports stadiums.

Twice the city burned the wood and tin shacks, and twice the residents rebuilt. In the mid-’30s, a census counted 639 people living in 479 shacks.

This is what it has come to: The homeless in 2008 are looking to go back to the 1930s.

Yes, it seems like a terrible idea; but where are these people supposed to live when the city’s ten year plan to end homelessness isn’t working and there’s not nearly enough room at the shelters (let alone actual low income housing)?  One of Danny Westneat’s readers asked, what about SROs (single room occupancy apartments/hotels)?  Indeed, what about SROs?  Why is they don’t seem to exist anymore?  

We got plenty of condos though, and always money for new stadiums and trolley lines going through (maybe soon to be developed) warehouse districts for Microsoft made billionaire Paul Allen (who spurred the condo explosion in the South Lake Union area that has caused wags to re-name it Allentown).

Why do the city’s priorities seem to be only driven by billionaires and wealthy downtown business owners?  I’m afraid Seattle is going to become just like San Francisco or New York City where only the gap is so stark that only the wealthy and the homeless seem to live any more, and people wonder why the homeless seem so hostile.

I leave you with the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” (long past due review of his and Tom Morello’s live version and the rest of the Magic Tour Highlights album coming soon):

Men walkin’ ‘long the railroad tracks
Goin’ someplace there’s no goin’ back
Highway patrol choppers comin’ up over the ridge
Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge
Shelter line stretchin’ round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin’ in their cars in the southwest
No home no job no peace no rest

The highway is alive tonight
But nobody’s kiddin’ nobody about where it goes
I’m sittin’ down here in the campfire light
Searchin’ for the ghost of Tom Joad

Looks like the ghost of Tom Joad is going to be living on in Nickelsville.

Welcome to the 21st Century in Seattle!

Danny Federici & Melanoma

The Danny Federici Melanoma Fund, mentioned on the official Bruce Springsteen site, is now up and running. They’ve included a link to make a donation to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Danny’s memory.

There’s a statement by Danny about the melanoma and the danger of too much sun (especially for those of us with fair skin); which is something a lot of people still don’t give a lot of thought to. 

“What people take for granted on a daily basis, among so many other things, is their skin. I spent my life, like many others, catching some rays, surfing, hanging out in the sun and it never bothered me until now. Who knew that something as simple as a proper sunscreen or keeping yourself covered up on a sunny day could one day save your life? Our culture looks at a nice tan as a sign of luxury. We spend time in tanning booths when we can’t go to the beach or lay by the pool. It’s time to think again. Especially if you’re fair skinned, have freckles, or light eyes. Be aware of the dangers, take precaution, and have yourself checked out regularly by a dermatologist from head to toe. It could absolutely make the difference in your life.” – Danny Federici

Also included is a wonderful account by his son, Jason Federici, about his father’s now legendary last show with the E Street Band in Indianapolis.  How Bruce and Max talked him into it, while he was under treatment at Sloan-Kettering, transported Danny, his family, and doctor to the show, and the love given Danny by Bruce and the rest of the band on that magical night.


I was hoping Danny would make it to Seattle, and when that didn’t happen, a little “further on up the road”.  A lot of great memories and music.  We’ll miss you, Danny.  Maybe they needed your organ playing skills in heaven (especially these days). . .



Danny is Gone – A Sad Day on E Street

Danny Federici, whose organ and accordion playing was the backbone for so much of the music of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band died earlier today.  Even though I knew he was sick for a while with melanoma, it hit me hard and I’m still in shock.    I always thought he’d be back with the band someday and the E Street Band, in it’s full glory would go on forever.

It’s bittersweet to find out the members of your favorite band are mortal (as someone said on a post on the Backstreets message board tonight).  Bittersweet, especially, because with most bands we would have learned that lesson far sooner; as one or more members self-destructed to booze or drugs or other self destructive behavior.  No big egos and fights and the band splitting up and tolerating each other for reunion tours rehashing their greatest hits, either.  Sadly, Bruce did set them all free for a few years, but once they came back together again the sheer joy of each others company just shines through.

No, thankfully, Bruce, Danny and the rest of the band never quite seem to have gotten how to live as rock stars!

Oh, but to be missing Danny’s signature organ,  and that accordion on Sandy (which I was just listening to on the way home from work tonight, ironically).  Danny was one of the E Streeters that got taken for granted.  As someone noted tonight, he wasn’t up front, playing off Bruce, like Clarence, or Little Steven, or Nils; but his organ set the mood, and helped make the magic, the good magic that is the E Street Band.

Official news, from the Springsteen website:


“Danny and I worked together for 40 years – he was the most wonderfully fluid keyboard player and a pure natural musician. I loved him very much…we grew up together.”
—Bruce Springsteen

Danny Federici, for 40 years the E Street Band’s organist and keyboard player, died this afternoon, April 17, 2008 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City after a three year battle with melanoma.

The Federici family and the E Street family request that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Danny Federici Melanoma Fund. A web site for the Fund is being established and we’ll post its link when it is on line.

Bruce Springsteen’s concerts scheduled for Friday in Ft. Lauderdale and Saturday in Orlando performance are being postponed. Replacement dates will be announced shortly.

Video from Danny’s last show with the band in Indianapolis:

We’ll miss you Danny!  Rest in peace.

Springsteen – Magic in Seattle

Wow, what a concert!  It was a fitting end to a March madness, more of the mi vida loca in my case.  Concern about a friend (more on this soon),  St. Patrick’s Day parade, and a Pluto is a Planet protest, followed by a needed protest and vigil – protest against the Iraq war (and hitting some terrible milestones on that one) and vigil for Tibetan freedom. 

Then in the last week, a strong ray of hope for my friend and sickness for me – my usual digestive problem, followed by the flu.  Two days in bed, just two days to go.  No, no, no!

Springsteen madness started appearing through all this starting Easter.  On Backstreets news (well, it may be back there some day), a chocolate Springsteen in Catalonia for the youngsters on Easter.  April Fool’s has decended on the Backstreets news now. Umm, the E Street viagra banner gag would have worked better for The Rising tour!

Then the day before the show, the Portland setlist showed the madness was closing in as I was getting well, well, at least a little well. 

(Bruce) joked that the pot smoke wafting up from the pit might cause a shorter show (it ended up clocking in at a respectable 2:20). Later, spotting a group of women in the pit wearing tee shirts that read “Lesbians [heart] Bruce,” he changed a line in “American Land” from “the Germans and the Jews” to “lesbians and Jews.”

Ah, yes!  Bruce was welcomed to the northwest!

Madness had descended on Seattle’s weather as well. Snow was falling downtown Friday.  I remembered thinking how warm it would be for the show when I bought the tickets in December. . .

So, I’m heading to meet my friend Merri Ann at her work (conveniently near Key Arena) for the show Saturday, while the bus driver and a Real Change vender are speculating whether the sky looks like a twister coming.  We had thunder and lightning as we ventured out with her friend Michael (as big a Springsteen fan as me, but going with other friends as his wife apparently is not) and found all the pubs packed, with the waitress at McMenamin’s claiming the back room for the Backstreets message board planned fan gathering did not exist.  We ended up drinking coffee, tea and hot chocolate at the Uptown Espresso and head over to the show in a downpour.  Long lines extend in two directions going into the street side if the Key.  Michael knows the secret though, around the other side no line, a quick check, find the tickets and we’re in.

We check out our seats.  Merri Ann’s and mine are in the section directly behind the stage, which is a great view, but a different view.  Springsteen leaves it open (unlike other bands) and the band doesn’t forget you back there, but the video monitor is necessary for the most part to see Bruce and the band’s facial expressions.

Bruce opened with Trapped, a Jimmy Cliff cover I seem to recall was a b-side to one of the Born in the USA singles.  A really good, and really dark (and surprising) opener.  Which was the way the whole evening went.  It was really good, but the playlist really dark, even the rarities like Point Blank and Reason to Believe (although that’s actually the most cheerful song off the Nebraska album.  Most of the upbeat songs, mostly played toward the end of the main set and the encore, were audience requests.

I had especially looked forward to hearing the Magic songs live, and I was not disappointed.  The imagery really stood out and was often magnified by how Bruce and the band played them on stage.  Magic is certainly the most political album Bruce has ever done, with a majority of the songs either referencing the Iraq war (always focusing on the damage done to the soldiers and their families) or the loss of civil liberties and acceptance of things like torture and the disappearance of habeas corpus.

Gypsy Biker -“The speculators made their money on the blood you shed.  Your Mama’s pulled the sheets up off your bed.” “We pulled your cycle out of the garage and polished up the chrome.  Our Gypsy biker’s comin’ home.”  The imagery, and the emotion Bruce brings to it, so powerful even with all the times he must have sung it by now.

Magic – The title cut has always been real creepy, because it’s about the current regime in that other Washington.  The real dark, sepia, depression era looking camera work used to capture Bruce and Soozie Tyrell while he’s singing it to her violin and vocal accompaniment really added to the effect.

I got a shiny saw blade
All I needs’ a volunteer
I’ll cut you in half
While you’re smiling ear to ear
And the freedom that you sought’s
Driftin’ like a ghost amongst the trees
This is what will be, this is what will be

Livin’ in the Future is far more intense the way Bruce does it on stage.  I think he’s trying to exorcise the whole Bush administration then and there, opening with a needed rant about our loss of civil liberties and the un-American appearance of things like “rendition” and loss of habeas corpus: “Woke up Election Day, skies gunpowder and shades of grey”  “My ship Liberty sailed away on a bloody red horizon.  The groundskeeper opened the gates and let the wild dogs run.”  “My faith’s been torn asunder, tell me is that rollin’ thunder, or just the sinkin’ sound of somethin’ righteous goin’ under?”  “We’re livin’ in the future and none of this has happened yet.” Oh, yeah!  Alas, even Bruce’s magic isn’t that good, 

Devil’s Arcade – told from the point of view of a wife or a widow of a soldier injured or is it killed in the Iraq war.

The cool desert morning, then nothin’ to save
Just metal and plastic where your body caved
The slow games of poker with Lieutenant Ray
In the ward with the blue walls, a sea with no name
Where you lie adrift with the heroes
Of the devil’s arcade

Bruce and Stevie stood, with their backs to most of the audience (facing us), their heads bowed, for a few minutes at the end as Max’s drum kept beating like a heart beat.  It was just really powerful.

Followed by The Rising, with all it’s Sept. 11 imagery, followed by Last to Die, re-asking the young John Kerry’s question “Who’ll be the last to die for a mistake?” for the current war.  “We don’t measure the blood we’ve drawn anymore.  We just stack the bodies outside the door.”  He did Lonesome Day, another Sept. 11 infused song off The Rising, before Gypsy Biker as well. 

No, we haven’t forgotten Sept. 11, but the Bush regime is using the same kind of imagery as in Bruce’s songs to sell the lies of an unrelated war, torture and detention without charge or trial.  Which, when you think of it, is as cynical as it gets (and I know this administration would get much more cynical if we let them).

Enough rant, back to the concert!  He played several from Darkness on the Edge of Town, which is one of my favorite albums, including The Promised Land.  There’s that twister the bus driver and Real Change vender mentioned (and some of my favorite lyrics):

There’s a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I’m heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain’t got the faith to stand its ground
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted

What am I leaving out?  Because the Night, co-written by Patti Smith and She’s the One, a couple more of the rarities he played.  Waitin’ On a Sunny Day and Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out a couple of possibly weather related requests played (at least they were one’s I had thought before the concert he should play because of the weather).  Long Walk Home and a pumping version of Badlands closed out the original set (still a little on the dark side), followed, alas, by only one encore these days.  I remember 2, even 3!  Did I mention I realized just before this one, that my first Springsteen concert was 20 years ago?

An encore of Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Rosalita (another request), and the obligatory (Tramps like us!) Born to Run, ending with an American Land finale.  I hadn’t realized Bruce wrote a song for the American Land edition of the Seeger Sessions.  Darn!  He really is probably going to finally convince me to pay for that album all over again for 3 additional songs.

Ahh, the band – Bruce has an incredible amount of energy even though he’s pushing 60.  You know, it’s really great Bruce still does those back flips, but looking at the picture from the Seattle concert on Backstreets, I’d say, watch those gymnastics.   I don’t think the rock world is ready for it’s first “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” moment!  Danny’s still out and fighting melanoma.  The Big Man had to sit a lot, still recovering from a hip replacement (but still sounds great on the sax).  Little Steven got to sing solo for a few verses.  Nils had a great guitar solo.  Mighty Max, Garry Talent, and Charlie filling in for Danny.  Patty is still missing, though (and I do like her singing), home with the kids stopping this kegger, pot brownie, pizza party, for, umm how long has Bruce been telling this story?  I’m not sure he has a place to go back to in Jersey by this point. 

Me?  I’m still getting over this flu (and was waiting for the bus back in a Fairview Avenue Freeze-out), my voice was already almost gone by the concert (and Bruce was complaining how badly we sung) and has totally gone, with a turn for the worse earlier today.  Still recovering, but finding clips of rare songs at other Springsteen concerts on YouTube, I’m ready to go on the road for more concerts.  Alas, my finances are only slightly better than my health!