Scattered thoughts about “Born to Run” on its 40th anniversary

“Born to run, it’s got the feeling of that one, endless summer night. That’s what the whole record feels like. It could all be taking place … in the course of one evening, in all these different locations. All these different stories on one, sort of long summer night.”

— Bruce Springsteen

When “The Sopranos” ended, people were pisssssed. Most were pissed because the series finale ended out of no where, and they thought their cable randomly broke. I was pissed for a different reason: I thought the show was going to end with Tony Soprano saving New Jersey while “Jungleland” played in the background.

Saving it how? I don’t know. Saving it from what? I don’t know. There was no reason to think “The Sopranos” was gonna end on a positive note, but I thought it would. There was no reason why “The Sopranos” was gonna end with Tony as the hero, but I thought it would. The main reason for this is “Born to Run.”

And why did I think such things?

“Barefoot girls sitting on the hood of a dodge, drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain.”

I can’t think a story — any story — isn’t gonna end well in a world with lyrics like that. Especially one set in Jersey! I lived in Jersey for almost seven years, I felt bad in Jersey. But I also knew “Born to Run” was born in Jersey.

“We can make it if we run.”

“Born to Run” ain’t even my favorite Springsteen album (that would be “Darkness …”). But it’s perfect. It’s got barefoot girls sitting on the hood a dodge, drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain.

And it’s got Tony Soprano saving New Jersey. From what? Aliens, maybe. The poets down here don’t write nothing at all.

Brian Cougar

Scattered thoughts about “Born to Run” on its 40th anniversary

Mai-den, Mai-den: Up the Irons aka the hand of fate is moving and the finger points to you

Looking like a champ while purchasing the last Iron Maiden album in 2010.
Looking like a champ while purchasing the last Iron Maiden album in 2010.

Sometimes (well, in 2011) you finish work at 2 a.m., walk to the PATH train, wait 40 minutes for the PATH train, get on the PATH train, hear a drunk dude yell “Winning!” and think to yourself, “This jabroni makes more money than me, doesn’t he?” Sometimes you finish work at 2 a.m., drink a beer in your home “office,” then go to bed. And sometimes you finish work at 2 a.m., check the TWITTER and find out Iron Maiden have just released their first new song in five years.

I’m gonna bet I’m not alone in this, but I got into Iron Maiden due to the song “Teenage Dirtbag” by the band Wheatus. That song was a somewhat-major hit in 2000, and its chorus was “Cause I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby/Yeah I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby/Listen to Iron Maiden, maybe, with me. Wooo-ooo-oo-OOO.”

I’m sure I’d heard Maiden and seen Maiden videos before this song, but I hadn’t noticed them before.  I thought, “I am also a teenage dirtbag, maybe I’d be into Iron Maiden?” Then, around this time, I was home one Friday night and the Rock Show, hosted by Anthrax’s Scott Ian, was on. He said they’d be playing the new Iron Maiden video, so I kept watching. And he played “The Wickerman.”

HAND OF FATE IS MOVING AND THE FINGER POINTS TO YOU/HE KNOCKS YOU TO YOUR FEET AND SO WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO/YOUR TONGUE WAS FROZEN NOW YOU’VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY/THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN IS CALLING YOU HIS WAY

YOU WATCH THE WORLD EXPLODING EVERY SINGLE NIGHT/DANCING IN THE SUN THE NEWBORN IN THE LIGHT/SAY GOODBYE TO GRAVITY AND SAY GOODBYE TO DEATH/HELLO TO ETERNITY AND LIVE FOR EVERY BREATH

YOUR TIME WILL COME (Repeat YOUR TIME WILL COME a bunch of times)

Never had I immediately gone from not knowing a thing to being, “This is now my favorite thing, for it is the greatest.”

I bought all the albums: the Paul Di’Anno era (if someone tells you they’re not that into Maiden but they like the first two albums — even if they’re being honest — don’t trust them), the Bruce Dickinson glory years, the Blaze Bayley period (X-Factor is underrated).

I saw them live (nine times, if I’m counting correctly). The first time, I had to hike several miles on the side of a busy road in Long Island to get to their show in Jones Beach because we were stuck in traffic and my friend Dan needed to return his dad’s car, so he kicked me to the curb. The second time was at Madison Square Garden, and it’s still the best show I’ve ever seen. I saw them at Ozzfest and sang “Run to the Hills” with these two giant, blonde-haired Swedish dudes I randomly befriended on my way back from getting beer.

I read all I could about the band/the members of the band. Dickinson is a personal hero, because he’s a tremendous singer/songwriter/entertainer, a modern-day renaissance man and he got me into the wonderful television show, “The Prisoner.” I once defused a fight at a bar between a group of my college friends and some Scranton townies due to the fact that one of the guys in the other group was wearing a Motorhead T-shirt and I told him I had seen them open for Maiden. He was impressed. Then, when he said goodbye at the end of the night, I yelled “Up the Irons!” (the Iron Maiden slogan) at him. He was less impressed.

But would he be impressed with the new Maiden track? Who knows? Who cares? Up the Irons.

Also, Rape of the mind is a social disorder.

Brian Cougar

Mai-den, Mai-den: Up the Irons aka the hand of fate is moving and the finger points to you

Hail, hail the lucky ones: Running in a storm

“Sweet summer rain. Like God’s own mercy.” — “O Brother, Where Art Thou”

“That looks ominous,” I thought to myself while looking at a dark cloud approaching as I waited at a crosswalk in Watertown on Tuesday. Channel 7 News had said we might get some heavy storms in Boston, but it was sunny when I left for my jog a half-hour before. “If I turn back now, I should get home in plenty of time.”

Then this dude ruined those plans. I’ve been jogging off and on for the past three years, and I get weirdly competitive with complete strangers. Generally, if I can see a person running ahead of me, I will attempt to pass him/her. Even if the person is clearly in better shape than me (aka, most of them), I will start speeding up to see how much I can close the gap. And this guy was wearing a headband. And a sleeveless T-shirt. To quote the band Titus Andronicus, “The enemy is everywhere.”

So I decided to continue the run. When the light switched to the little white-outlined guy, I sprinted across the street. The sleeveless-shirt dude, not realizing he was now in a race, was soon far behind. Having declared myself the winner, I looked up at the cloud that was now directly overhead and decided to head back to my apartment. After about 30 seconds, it started to drizzle. A few seconds later, hail started to fall. Then, a torrential downpour, mixed in with hail. BOOM! Also, lightning and thunder! “Things are not good,” I thought.

I kept running for a bit. Maybe the storm would be brief. A piece of hail bounced off the top of my Dallas Cowboys hat. I started running with my hands placed on the top of my head. Protect the cranium, for it is filled with wisdom. My shorts, soaked, started to slip downward. One hand now protected the cranium, while the other kept me from not running around in just my boxer briefs. “Things are not good,” I thought again.

More lightning. More thunder. Take shelter! My options were to hide under some trees, fall to the ground and assume the fetal position or jump in the Charles River. So I JUMPED IN THE RIVER. No, that’s not true. I hid under some trees. That seemed to be the smartest idea. Was it? I clearly made it through the storm, as I am now typing this, so, yes — yes it was.

While hiding under the trees, I did the only thing a person in my position would do: I pulled out my iPod so I could take a picture. Gotta Instagram this hailstorm! However, the conditions were too severe for gramming. A moment lost in time. I must ask you, the reader, to forgive me for this.  If you would like to simulate what I went through, I suggest you fill up your bathtub halfway with water, step in, turn on the shower and throw ice cubes at yourself every 30 seconds.

After failing to Instagram this magic moment, I put my iPod away, tilted my head backward and let the rain wash over me. Within 10 seconds, I entered a state of complete serenity. Minutes later, the rain stopped.

I resumed my jog. Soon, I passed a young lady who had also clearly got caught out jogging during the storm. We smiled at each other. Then a man approached riding a bicycle. He was completely dry, pedaling with neither hand on the handlebars. He wore a headband and a sleeveless shirt.

I assumed the fetal position.

Brian Cougar

Hail, hail the lucky ones: Running in a storm

Good-guy Roddy: Piper/Hart at Wrestlemania VIII

(WWE Network)
(WWE Network)

“Mrs. Hart used to come down, make them sandwiches, throw on that bologna. Of course only one piece of bologna, but that don’t matter, I was hungry!” — “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Roddy Piper passed away on Friday of a heart attack at 61. Piper is best known from his time as a heel in the 1970s and ’80s, but my first memories of Piper are of him as a good guy in the early ’90s. I loved him as a kid because he was incredibly entertaining and because his theme music was bagpipes, which I thought meant Piper was Irish (he was not). My all-time favorite memory/match involving Piper involves him taking on Bret “The Hitman” Hart for the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania VIII.

Before the match, the two are being interviewed by Mene Gene Okerlund. Hart doesn’t say anything until the end of the interview, with Piper, not surprisingly, going on a rant. Now, both were “good guys” at this time — Piper was champion, having defeated the evil Canadian Mountie for the belt at the Royal Rumble — but Piper being a good guy doesn’t mean he can’t also be kind of a jerk. He doesn’t hit Hart with a coconut, but he spends his entire time talking taking minor jabs at the Hitman while reminiscing about growing up together until it ends with them standing face to face ready to throw a punch.

The match itself is also very good. Hart has always been known for his in-ring skills, while Piper’s style was more of a brawler. Here is the PLAY BY PLAY I did while watching post-work at 3 in the morning:

Wrestle normal match, basic moves. Hart dumps him, Piper spits on Hart. Piper calms, challenges him to test of strength. Hart appears to hurt shoulder, Piper backs off, Hart small package. Piper loses it, slaps him in the face. They both dump over the rope. CHANGE. Piper holds ropes so Hart can get back into the ring, fans cheer, Hart goes to fix his boot, then Piper punches him in the face. Piper starts brawling, busts Hart open. Biting. Hart comeback with FIVE MOVES OF DOOM.

Piper throws Hart into ref while trying to escape headlock. Ref = KNOCKED OUT. Piper grabs bell. Reluctant to use it. Fans pleading no. Heenan, “Give it to me, I’ll hit him!” Piper drops bell, puts Hart in sleeper. Hart uses turnbuckles to push Piper back, gets the 1, 2, 3.

It’s a great storyline for a match, with Hart wrestling a bit dirtier than usual because A) he wants to be champ and B) he knows it’ll rile Piper up. Piper, on the other hand, tries to keep things clean at the beginning, reverts to his more dirty-pool ways for a bit after Hart ticks him off, then, when he has the chance to slam Hart in the head with the bell for the easy victory, he does the RIGHT THING (which causes him to, uh, lose).

After the match, Piper returns to the ring, hands Hart the belt then secures it around his waist. They exit the ring together. The match basically ends up being this …

“We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” — Abraham Lincoln

… in wrestling form.

RIP Piper.

Brian Cougar

Good-guy Roddy: Piper/Hart at Wrestlemania VIII

Peak America: David Lee Roth performs with the Boston Pops on the 4th of July

Saturday is the 4th of July. On Sunday, Van Halen kick off their 2015 tour. On July 4, 2004, David Lee Roth played with the Boston Pops in the greatest 4th of July performance of all time. I’m not saying it’s the reason I ended up moving to Boston nine years later, but let’s just say as a matter of fact it is.

David Lee Roth is a ludicrous human being. He was the frontman for one of the biggest rock bands of all time, split with them when they were at their most popular, spent the next 20 or so years releasing solo albums of varying degrees of success, put out an entertaining autobiography, got arrested in Washington Square Park for purchasing $5 worth of pot, reunited with Van Halen, immediately got booted from Van Halen, toured with Sammy Hagar, somehow became the person chosen to replace Howard Stern, got fired from that gig and eventually reunited with Van Halen again, although — since they’re Van Halen — his return signaled the end of original bassist Michael Anthony’s time in the band, as Eddie Van Halen brought in his son, Wolfgang, to play bass. The latest incarnation of Van Halen has actually held together, although fans always assume the whole thing could blow up at any moment.

In the summer of 2002, I attended the Hagar/Roth show in Scranton, Pa. Hagar opened and was a good time despite his Hard rock Jimmy Buffet shtick. Roth closed and strutted out with platinum blonde hair and a skin-tight pink jumpsuit. His performance was … not well received by the crowd. My buddy Mike and I had purchased David Lee Roth T-shirts. On the way out to the parking lot after the show, a guy behind us started singing a reworked version of Roth’s solo song “Just Like Paradise,” changing the lyrics to, “This must be just like David Lee Roth sucks ass.” And in the only instance of anyone finding Mike and I intimidating in our lifetimes, the man’s significant other said to him, “Honey, shhhh! There are Roth fans ahead!”

Anyway, getting back on track, Roth’s performance with The Pops. Or, as the bald guy who introduces Roth to the stage says, “I think it’s time we make the Pops … Rock! What do you say?”

This guy rules
This guy rules

“Jump” kicks in. Roth comes out. No platinum blonde hair this time. No pink jumpsuit. Classy attire for a classy occasion. Most of the crowd, either waving American flags or wearing clothing featuring American flags, do the only proper thing when “Jump” is playing and jump along to the song. At one point Roth joins the conductor of the orchestra so they can sing a few lines together.

These guys also rule
These guys also rule

Roth is in fine voice. Well, for him. Roth’s strength as a live performer is less his singing and more his spinning jump kicks, of which he does several (one of my favorite parts of his autobiography is when he makes it known that those kicks are not just for show, but are in fact an ancient method of kicking a person off a horse). Roth’s other strength as a live performer is his ability to twirl a mic stand, which he does during the guitar solo. When the War to End All Wars occurs in the next 15 years, Roth will be at the front of the side fighting for the good of humanity twirling away. You know this to be true.

As the song nears its end, members of the orchestra begin leaping out of their chairs. Roth pulls out a few more jump kicks. He looks to the sky, his arms outstretched. A job well done? A fireworks display properly opened for?

For those about to rock (we salute you)
For those who have successfully rocked (we salute you)

Damn right it was. Bowzebowzebop.

Brian Cougar

Peak America: David Lee Roth performs with the Boston Pops on the 4th of July

Normal behavior

Note: Actually did this.

The door flies open. Smoke starts to fill my bedroom. It forms into a miniature cloud. Out of the cloud a witch appears. Basically the Wicked Witch of the West. Run-of-the-mill witch. She’s holding a broom. She’s cackling. She’s saying something I can’t quite understand.

I wake up. It was just a bad dream. I’ve had worse. I find a comic book from under my bed, turn on a lamp and read a bit before falling back to sleep.

A couple of days later, I’m in my bed, reading a book. From downstairs I hear my mom yell, “Dinner!” I turn back to my book. Let me finish this page, then I’ll head down to eat. A timer starts in my head. “10 … 9 …. 8” I toss the book to the ground, get out of bed and run down the stairs.

A few days later, similar situation. I’m sitting in my room, playing a video game and from downstairs I hear my brother yell, “Dinner!” I turn my attention back to the game. I’ll play for another minute, hit pause, then go eat some delicious tacos. “10 … 9 …. 8 … 7” I drop the controller, get up and run down the stairs.

“That was the countdown to the witch returning,” I think to myself. “Yep, that makes sense,” my brain confirms.

This goes on for several years. Not always, but often enough.

One day, when I was either 18 or 19 years old, I’m sitting in my room, reading a book. “Dinner!” someone yells. I keep reading. “10 … 9 …. 8 …. 7 …” I let the countdown continue. “… 3 … 2 …” I actually get nervous for a second, “1 … 0.”

I get up and run downstairs. There’s a rack of ribs on the dining room table.

“You idiot,” I think to myself.

Brian Cougar

Normal behavior

Throwback Thursday: Good at sports

IMG_0475

Throwback Thursday. When we as a people reflect. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” said George Santayana, according to my Google search of “those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” So close.

Today, I throwback to some of my past athletic, uh, “achievements.” What lessons can be learned from revisiting them? None! Please like/share.

I no longer play sports. The only athletic competition I take part in currently is when I go for a jog and try as hard as possible to catch up with/pass the random person running ahead of me who has no idea that he/she is involved in a race. When it comes to this, I am a champion.

But that has not always been the case.

Basketball: I loved basketball as a kid. It was by far my favorite sport. One-on-one, two-on-two, “Utah,” 5-3-1, HORSE, Knock-out. Played them all. But once I got to high school, I for some reason completely lost interest in hoops. I didn’t play on my high school team freshman year, and had no plans of playing Junior Varsity sophomore year. Then the JV coach, who also coached JV baseball, told me I had to play to stay in shape for baseball season. Nonsense.

I played, but I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic (or good). While some people push for more playing time, I was more than content to see action in the final 30 seconds before half time or at the end of a game that was out of reach. Do a little bit of running, maybe grab a rebound. But if you get into a game, you of course want to score, at least once.

One game, I thought my moment had come. A kid on our team, Vinny, stole a pass. He tossed me the ball. I had a clear line to the hoop. No one was within 20 feet. I dribbled a few times, made my leap, and completed a picture-perfect layup. TWO POINTS IS TWO POINTS. Or so I thought. A kid on the other team had other ideas. Somehow (or maybe because I wasn’t very fast), he had caught up with me. As I released the ball, he unleashed a picture-perfect block. He hit the ball so hard that it pushed open a previously closed door behind the hoop and exited the gymnasium. ZERO POINTS IS ZERO POINTS.

Soccer: The first organized sport I played was soccer (AYSO 4 life). I was a goalie. I enjoyed playing goalie, especially in high school. I was either standing around doing nothing, singing Def Leppard songs to myself when the ball was on the other side of the field, or it was “Oh God, here they come.”

One day I did not enjoy playing goalie in high school was our playoff game junior year. It was so cold. So very cold. We were losing most of the game — I don’t remember by how much, I don’t remember how the other team scored. All I remember is the cold. And one other thing.

I took my duties as a goalie seriously, as you can tell from the previously mentioned singing of Def Leppard songs to myself during games, and one of the major duties of a goalie is to keep your eye on the ball.

A kid from the other team unleashed a shot in the general direction of the goal, and I was tracking it. I sprinted, my arms outstretched, trying to stop the ball from going into the corner of the net. It did not go into the corner of the net. In fact, it came no where close, sailing wide left. I realized this when my face connected with the goal post and I stumbled backward, falling to the ground. Pour Some Sugar On Me, I am cold and in pain.

Baseball: I think I covered this enough last year.

#tbt

Brian Cougar

Throwback Thursday: Good at sports