Get Off My Lawn! with John Kereiff: Devils & Dust
“I got God on my side and I’m just tryin’ to survive/ but if what you do to survive kills the things you love/ fear’s a powerful thing/ it can turn your heart black you can trust/ it’ll take your God-filled soul, fill it with devils and dust”
– Devils & Dust, Bruce Springsteen 2005
My favourite Springsteen tune; when times are hard and my spirit is dark, it really speaks to me. As I read Keith Lacey’s article “The Boss: Springsteen” in Gonzo last week, it occurred to me that I’m more like Bruce than I would have thought.
I’m no rock star but through his music, the books I’ve read- his autobiography, and Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin- and his Broadway show Springsteen, I know something of Springsteen’s ongoing battles with depression and the difficult relationship he had with his father. The original version of this week’s column was much more depressing than it is now… so much so that the few people I allowed to see it told me to reconsider publishing. In the light of a different day I see the wisdom of their counsel and so it remains on my hard drive… but Bruce would have understood.
Beating oneself up repeatedly over past mistakes and regular lapses of self confidence are signs of depression. Be careful with those or you could end up a spectator in your own life. When I go there, oftentimes Bruce’s music brings me back. Devils & Dust lets me know that he understands what I’m feeling. With Glory Days or Dancing In The Dark from Born In The USA you’ll see yourself in them and the people around you too. Other songs like Born To Run or, more recently, Working On A Dream are pure inspiration.
I’ve always enjoyed Bruce Springsteen’s hits on the radio, but somewhere along the way- possibly the title track to 1987’s Tunnel Of Love– my relationship deepened. These weren’t just nice tunes, he was tapping into something I felt, something I had trouble expressing and dealing with. Maybe that’s why his popularity endures and grows, that connection- he knows who we are, and can show us who we want to be too.
In that first version of this week’s column I lamented my behaviour in past relationships and discussed a brush with death in 2015 that had little effect on my outlook, but indulgent self- pity is hardly a way to live. How do you get out of a rut? How do you change? I find being grateful works… for the things I’ve been through and the lessons they had to teach me. Be glad for the good things in your life- friends, family, work, your passions, and when you’re hit with a curveball, pull up your big boy pants and just figure a way through. It’s there- all you have to do is find it.
Hopes and dreams are for all of us, whether we feel we deserve them or not. I draw much inspiration from Bruce Springsteen’s music, but there’s a section in Trooper’s party anthem Raise A Little Hell that perfectly sums up what I’m trying to say;
“In the end it comes down to your thinking and there’s really nobody to blame/ when it feels like your ship is sinking and you’re too tired to play the game/ nobody’s going to help you, you just have to stand up alone/ so dig in your heels and see how it feels, to raise a little hell of your own.”
Look at where you are then figure out where you want to be and work on how to get there. I’m a McDonald’s cashier and I enjoy it mostly, I get to meet interesting people, but it’s hardly a passion. I wrote radio commercials for decades, album reviews for longer, and Get Off My Lawn is an attempt to take writing in another direction. I have a book of rock star interviews to do a final edit on before trying to get a publisher interested. I started kicking around an idea for a novel last year, wrote a few pages, but it’s time to get serious about finishing, just to see if I can do it. My wife & I lived briefly in Victoria, ’08-’09, and are planning on moving back in the next year or two.
When you get out of your own way (easier said than done for some of us, admittedly) it’s not hard to dream. Where you are is not where you need to stay… if I can shake it off and get moving again, then you can too. There are books you might find helpful; I’m finding Mark Manson’s Everything Is F*cked quite inspiring but I’ll leave the last word to Bruce;
“I’m working on a dream/ though sometimes it feels so far away/ I’m working on a dream/ and I know it will be mine someday.”
Thanks Boss… now get off my lawn.