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Driving The Boss to Work

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August, 2003

I worked the Bruce Springsteen show at Comiskey Park tonight. He is my center of musical gravity, a guy who has opened my political and social eyes. As Bono said in the Hall of Fame induction speech, the Boss is “the Buddha of my youth.” He’s also the Buddha of my adulthood.

Tonight, among my jobs as a runner for the local promoter, I took in Bruce’s dry cleaning, bought him a pair of rollerblade knee pads so he could slide across the stage on his knees, picked up prescription meds at Walgreens for Clarence Clemons and Nils Lofgren, and best of all, I drove members of the entourage in a golf cart from sound check to their dressing rooms, about a quarter-mile. Not knowing which band members I’d be driving, I turned to find Him waiting by my golf cart.

Talk about a holy-crap moment. Bruce broke the ice by slapping me on the shoulder and saying “Where to, young man?” Though s—-ing my pants, I quickly replied “Climb on in and strap yourself down; we’re goin’ for a ride.” Funny how you can function when every bit of your being is metaphorically (and perhaps literally, I’ll never know) trembling and all that’s going through your mind is “ohmygodwhatshouldido ohmygodwhatshouldido.”

Nils, Little Steven, and Bruce’s kids quickly piled in, and this dialog ensued:

Bruce: (singing) “My kinda town, Chicago is…”

Nils: “When I was a kid, our big summer trip every year was here, we’d come to see the Yankees play the White Sox. It’s gonna be pretty cool to play here tonight.”

Bruce: “It’s like the people here, it’s a whole different world out here, you know? Chicago exists as a whole world unto itself, you know? Lotta pride in this town” – (taps my shoulder) – “You’re from around here, right?”

Me: “I live here. Been here nine years, grew up in New England, lived in Jersey.”

Steve (sounding like Silvio Dante): “See, you know then. It’s like this is a different planet, but they speak the same language we do.”

Bruce (self-mocking stage banter): “Hey Chicago, all right! Great to be back after so long! How ya doin’, Chicago? Heh heh heh.”

Me: “Here we are, the kids’ dressing room.”

Bruce: “Ah, the kids’ dressing room! The sign of an aging rock star, you get to the gig and the big question is ‘where is the kids’ dressing room?’ Oh my my!”

Nils: “Hey, why don’t we hop out here and walk to our rooms? We’ve been in the plane and the car all day; we could get our blood circulating.”

Steve: “Good idea.”

Everyone hopped out and walked away. Bruce was slow getting up, and for a moment, it was just me and him. The moment of truth had arrived…

Me: “Hey, Bruce? I’m working for the local crew today and I could get myself into trouble here, but this is my shot.” (I extended my hand, Bruce extended his hand, and we shook.) “I’ve been a big fan all my life, been to about 20 shows, and for years I’ve had this 20-second speech reserved just for this occasion, and here we are and I’m drawing a blank.”

Bruce (laughing): “Whoa, 20 seconds, that’s what it all comes down to! 20 seconds, that’s all I get? How long you been listenin’ to my stuff?”

Me: “20 years.”

Bruce (laughing): “So I give you 20 years and you got 20 seconds for me? Hey, is that a fair deal? 20 seconds? Man…”

Me (laughing): “And now I’ve spent 20 seconds telling you about it! Now that you got my 20 seconds, could we take a quick photo? I don’t wanna bug ya, but you know, you had to try and jump the wall at Graceland, and I gotta ask for the picture.”

Bruce (shakes head in agreement): “What’s your name?”

Me: “Eric.”

Bruce: “Eric, if you got the camera, we’re takin’ the picture!”

Bruce put his arm around me and pulled me next to him, and I gave my camera to a nearby crew member who took the picture. Now I could feel myself shaking.

Me: “Bruce, thanks man, this means the world to me.”

Bruce: “Hey, all right, have fun tonight.”

We shook hands again and went our separate ways.

Eric Maloney

PHOTO BY BARACK OBAMA

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