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“Springsteen on Broadway” by Ron Wells

August 6, 2018
Ron Wells recently returned from NYC where he went to see the Bruce Springsteen’s show on Broadway. According to wikipedia, ” Springsteen on Broadway is a concert residency by Bruce Springsteen being held at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York City. The residency consists of Springsteen performing five shows a week, Tuesday through Saturday. The shows feature Springsteen, solo, playing guitar and piano, performing his music, restating incidents from his 2016 autobiography, Born to Run, and performing other spoken reminiscences written for the show. Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa, has also appeared at most shows.” The show has been extended numerous times due to intense interest but is due to close at the end of 2018. Springsteen on Broadway will premiere for streaming on Netflix on December 15, 2018 on the same date of the final scheduled performance on Broadway. Filming for the special took place on July 17 and 18, 2018, with a private audience in attendance.[15] 
“My vision of these shows is to make them as personal and intimate as possible. I chose Broadway for this project because it has the beautiful old theaters which seemed like the right setting for what I have in mind. In fact, with one or two exceptions, the 960 seats of the Walter Kerr Theatre is probably the smallest venue I’ve played in the last 40 years. My show is just me, the guitar, the piano and the words and music. Some of the show is spoken, some of it is sung, all of it together is in pursuit of my constant goal—to communicate something of value,” says Springsteen.
Here are Ron’s personal reflections on the experience.
“This race and this country and this life produced me, he said. I shall express myself as I am.” 
Oddly enough, it was Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” that came to mind after seeing “Springsteen on Broadway.” For here was Bruce Springsteen, an artist, who was no longer young, but rather a man closer to the end than the beginning of his life, and who was sharing an intimate look at who he was, how he became the person he is today, and how all of this led him to writing certain songs. He was a man who once long ago responded to a fan who yelled, “We love you, Bruce!” by saying, “You don’t really know me.” Here, on Broadway, in the intimate and acoustically perfect Walter Kerr Theater, he was telling an audience some of who he was, and giving some insight into knowing him and many of his songs. Many parts of the show originate from his autobiography which, among other things, dealt with his on-going battle with depression. Overall, it is a life filled with laughter, tears, and most of all, music. He said it was like a “magic trick.”
More importantly, he was inviting the audience to come along on the journey that was his life and compare notes of what their own lives were like. And I, like so many others in the theater, accepted his invitation to join him, to compare and contrast my life with his. When he talked of his struggles with his father, he spoke of those “whose love we want, but can’t get, we emulate,”  for his father’s voice was “sacred to me.” I thought of the distances that sometimes separated me from my own father, and yet whose work ethic defined me. Then he spoke of the love, strength and support of his mother who had a “never say die, thirst for life.” I thought of my mother facing her own challenges, but always fighting fiercely for, and putting me and my brother, as her primary concern in her life.
His rendition of My Hometown showed his love and hate of the place where he grew up, and how he could smell the coffee from the nearby factory, and yet the town was  “surrounded by God.” The song reminded him, and me, of the “fights between the blacks and whites,” and how “there was nothing you could do.” I too had been there, as my hometown was hit more than once with curfews due to uprisings brought on by race, and hatred, and prejudice. It was a shared memory that was separated by 3,000 miles and yet represented a country that struggled mightily with race no matter where you grew up.
Then he talked so lovingly of his New Jersey musical heroes who lost their lives in Vietnam because of the lies told by the government, and I too knew stories of my friends and in my soul I too knew that “someone went in my place.” He pounded his guitar angrily on the opening chords of “Born in the USA” to express his frustration and rage.
So many of us had experienced the same feeling of hopelessness, helplessness, and the pure anger that the war engendered.
Patti’s songs with Bruce added a whole new dimension to his story, for it is impossible to look at her now and not respect the fact that she is the one who has watched over and protected him when he sank into the foggy, nightmarish world of quicksand that was his depression. How many times has she been there to save him from himself? One thing is certain: God has had mercy on a man who sometimes doubted what he was sure of. Patti is living proof.
Turning a very different corner, Bruce shakes his head at the “dark angels” that are running our country now, and how he never thought he’d see his country become what it is today. But he quoted Marin Luther King, Jr. when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it tends towards justice.” Let us pray that it is so. Yet, he reminded us that arc needs our support, and as citizens, it is we who must help bend it.
Please do not get the idea that this was a show of absolute seriousness. It most definitely was not. Bruce has always had the ability to laugh at himself, and the humor here was consistently loud, spontaneous and warm. For example, he talked about his first trip driving cross country and how he had to have his manager get the car out of first gear, because he couldn’t work the clutch correctly. Then he added, “The guy who wrote Racing in the Street, didn’t know how to drive a car.” After the laughter died down, he spoke with awe of driving into the pure horizon of the desert, and his love affair with that horizon and the wide open spaces of the desert. Almost as an aside, he connected it with a Promised Land. His self-deprecation continued when he later added that when he was young he wanted to leave his hometown so badly, he was just chomping at the bit. It couldn’t come fast enough nor take him far enough away. And yet, “All these years later, and I live 10 minutes from that same hometown.” Laughter ensued, as it did so often in the show. He knows the punch lines, and he realizes the audience needs and enjoys the bright light of humor, as much as the sometimes darkness of truth.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the entire performance was his consistently coming back to a spiritual context for his life.
That is not unusual, for it certainly happens as one grows older. He even said a prayer during the show. Though he spoke of the Catholicism that would probably never leave him, he opened that door much wider to include all religions and all spiritual beliefs. When he spoke of God, one got the idea that he was allowing you to interpret that word in any way you wished. It was an invitation to a greater understanding of life and our place in the universe. It was his way, once again, of inviting you to contemplate all that life presents you with. He even went so far as to talk about an old tree that was once the center of his hometown, and yet it had been cut down by the county. When he felt the dirt around the tree he felt it was still there. It’s spirit lived on.
When he talked of Clarence Clemons, he said he felt Clarence and he had been together in previous lives, and he would “see you in the next life, Big Man.” Ghosts are always trying to reach us, he said quietly but without hesitation.  And I too believe this to be true, for it has happened to me. Spirits in the night. For we “commune with the spirts, and are surrounded by God.” Bruce’s reminder that “the soul doesn’t dissipate.”
Then he said: “Life is finite. The clock is ticking.” We are, indeed, mortal when all is said and done. And yet even his mother who has alzheimers will dance when she hears music. There is always a reason to dance, a need to dance, no matter where you find yourself in life.
For 43 of my 69 years, Bruce Springsteen has been an integral part of my life.

He is the same age as me. He has put on the greatest rock and roll shows I have ever seen, and I’ve seen 90+ (I think that’s correct) of his shows.
Bruce has inspired me to be a better teacher. He has coaxed me to work harder. He has invited me to laugh at how absurd life can sometimes be.
Yes, I love Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters and a few thousand more singers, writers, and movie actors and directors, but Bruce Springsteen was always a “normal guy,” someone who looked out into the audience and wanted to see faces of people who were just like him. I accepted his invitation in 1975 and never regretted it. 
This is, was, and has been his “magic trick.” It was his art that he “wanted to be somebody you could count on.” For me, he has been all that and more. He was never perfect, but he stood “in witness of joy and heartbreak.”
The show is inordinately expensive, with every night sold out and tickets running from $75 to $850. For the first time in my life, I said money was no object. I needed to see this show. I’m so glad I did. This was one of the most moving experiences of my life. An artist reaching out to hundreds, if not thousands of people, and inviting them to share his life and theirs. It will be on Netflix on Dec. 15. One would hope that the live performance will come through the tv screen just as it did in that wonderful theater.
James Joyce probably spoke for me when he wrote, “He wanted to cry quietly for himself: for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music.” His music and words were not always sad, but they were all encompassing, life affirming and beautiful. I did cry. And I did laugh. It was a spiritual experience, with all the beauty that entails.
When I got his autograph after the show, he looked me directly in the eyes, for he is always making that personal connection, and all I could say was, “Thank you.” I have to believe he understand that I spoke for millions of people. Whatever art or artist touches you, may you experience everything that I did at this show. For as I walked away in a humid and bustling New York City, I felt blessed, for my life and his.

 

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“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

July 1, 2018
Film Review by Ron Wells
I never watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I was too old, and didn’t see much need for it. I thought it was a bit silly, and it didn’t really resonate during the turmoil of the ’60’s. Yesterday, I saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a documentary about Fred Rogers. I highly, highly recommend this film. Directed by Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom), this documentary is the perfect antidote for the crassness and crudeness that dominates our lives.  It will certainly hold your attention for  the 1 hour and 34 minutes you’re in the theater. 
If you’re lucky, it will stay with you much longer as it seeps deeply into your soul.

Read more…

Don’t Just Stand There, DO SOMETHING! #ThanksLarry 4 #BurningMan

June 21, 2018

The Otters and the Seaweed by Teddy Macker

 
This is what you need to know:
you need to know that otters wrap themselves
in seaweed so they won’t,
while sleeping at night, float out to sea . . .
Are you imagining this?
Can you see the otters actually doing this?
Does it break your heart a little?
Does it seduce you just a bit
into loving more
this odd hard world?
Oh otters, wrap yourselves tight! And sleep,
exactly like you do, floating but seaweed-held
in our salty living waters! Oh otters,
wrap yourselves tight! And you,
the one who doesn’t, the one who doesn’t
tether himself down right,
we are with you as you float away,
we are with you as you sleep
and lose yourself in the night.
 
Teddy Macker is the featured poet tonight June 21 at weekly reading at the EP Foster Library in the Topping Room followed by an open poetry every Thursday at 7:30pm 651 E. Main Street – Ventura  with host  Phil Taggart. 

Today, Thur. Jun 21, 2018 is the solstice, and in the northern hemisphere, it is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. In the far north, the stars barely get a chance to shine during the twilight that goes from sunset to sunrise.

On this, the longest day of the year, it’s time to GET OUT THERE AND DO SOMETHING! Save the otters and be the seaweed!

This is the perfect way to honor the memory of Larry Harvey, the founder of Burning Man who died earlier this year on April 28, 2018 on this “Day of Gratitude” as well as service because for many of us, Larry Harvey and Burning Man has served as the seaweed that has kept us from floating out to sea:

Burning Man participants around the world will toast Harvey at events, at home, or wherever they may be on this day, because according to the Burning Man Journal, June 21, 2018, is the anniversary of the first Burning Man in 1986.  we invite you to connect, reflect and celebrate the life and gifts of our original instigator and firestarter, Larry Harvey. If you don’t know much about Larry, you can read some moving tributes here in the Journal, as well as on the public memorial site. Check out the hashtag #thankslarry  on social media.

One of the most important “rules” at Burning Man is: NO SPECTATORS. That means, instead of standing around gawking, DO SOMETHING! It is up to all of us to make the world a better place. As the Burning Man Journal points out, “Larry lived a life of purpose, play, creativity and service. One of his greatest talents was making opportunities for others to co-create in imaginative ways. The results sparked a network of participatory events, which gave rise to a year-round community and a global cultural movement.” They ask us to consider today: Who were you before you found Burning Man? Who are you now? What are you inspired to do? How do you want to see more Burning Man in the world?

The Burning Man Journal reminds us that “The hour around sunset is a special time of reflection on the solstice, no matter which hemisphere you’re in.” They encourage us to gather and share “the moment of sunset” which is what we did here in Ventura on the day that  Larry died.  Read more…

Amgen Tour of California 2018 Races Through Ventura and Lodi Wine

May 21, 2018

What do Ventura’s historic Mission, Olympic cyclists, and Lodi wine have to do with each other?

The Amgen Tour of California! Read more…

Art Equals Life :: Art Saves Lives :: Bad Exhibition :: Value in Art :: Art City

May 19, 2018

Tonight’s historic opening of the Bad Exhibition: Value in Art at Ventura’s Art City is dedicated to Joe Cardella, artist, book designer, and publisher of ArtLife who died of cancer last week.

“I have used the word avant-garde a number of times in talking about Bad Exhibition: Value in Art, though I know it’s a pretentious and problematic word. This is precisely what I want to talk about. What would it mean to talk about a 1980’s and 1990’s avant-garde in Ventura and Santa Barbara as distinct from L.A., for example? Southwest China early 1990’s avant-garde as distinct from Xiamen Dada, mid-80’s?” writes curator Dr Sophia Kidd.

Read more…

“Hands Across the Sand and Land” Reaches Around the World This Saturday May 19th

May 18, 2018

Environmental Activists in Ventura earlier in 2018; I’m holding the “P”! 

“HANDS ACROSS THE SAND/LAND” PROTESTS SLATED FOR 113 LOCATIONS WORLDWIDE ON MAY 19TH

Communities standing up against offshore drilling in 17 states and seven countries

The Trump administration has announced a proposal to expand offshore oil drilling in U.S. waters, threatening ocean recreation, tourism and fishing industries. This extreme proposal opens over 90% of the Outer Continental Shelf to new drilling and puts our nation’s coastal communities, beaches, surf breaks, and marine ecosystems at risk of a catastrophic oil spill.

In response,  please join us as we take hands across the sand and land! Details from a press release on how how and why you should join below!  Read more…

The Little Prince: It’s a Question of Discipline

May 15, 2018

‘It’s a question of discipline,’ the little prince told me later on. ‘When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet,” writes Antoine de Saint-Exupery in his classic novel The Little Prince.

The semester at Ventura College where I teach writing is coming to a close. It’s been an amazing semester, one where we’ve learned a lot about loving kindness, compassion, community, and yes, about tending our planet, our home.

We’ve been studying ecology.

The term ecology comes from the combination of two Greek words: oikos meaning “home” and logos meaning “the study of.” So, the word ecology means “the study of home.” You can think of a home as the place that meets your needs.

In our ecological studies, we’ve faced many of the problems troubling our planet and examined our role — what can we do to address climate change? Plastic pollution in the ocean? Nature deficit disorder? Technology addiction?

It is a daunting task. And it is easy to get depressed.

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise,” writes Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac.

This semester we have actually learned that we do NOT live alone in a world of wounds: we live in community. By working in community, we can together be the doctor that sees the mark of death in communities that see themselves as well enough and we can guide out communities along the path to wellness.

I appreciate the willingness of my students to travel this path with me this semester. Not only did they learn how to be better writers, researchers, and critical thinkers but together we are making a difference. Of that I am very proud and happy.

 

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