Monday, March 28, 2005

Candy's Room

"In Candy’s room there are pictures of her heroes on the wall
but to get to Candy’s room
you gotta walk
the darkness of Candy’s hall..."

Bruce Springsteen broke big back in 1975. "Circus" and "Creem" magazines oozed fabulous, "he hath arrived," encomiums. The radio stations the scribe was synchronized to played him on and on.

"Strangers from the city call my baby’s number and they bring her toys
When I come knocking
she smiles pretty
she knows I wanna be
Candy’s boy..."

the scribe listened and listened well, but he could not hear "Bruce."

Songs like "Candy’s Room" were sung in the voice of a guy named Johnny living in Queens, Hoboken, Union City who weren’t aware the fifties were long over, what with their leather jackets and straights jean pant.

They went to vocational school had Irish and Italian names that twisted the tongue and they loved cars. They got jobs to get the cars. They got cars to keep the jobs. They stayed home.

"There’s a sadness hidden in that pretty face
A sadness all her own
from which
can keep Candy safe..."

Johnny lived in a building where his old man rented a unit. You could get to it by skipping yards, rattling chain link fences and dropping down and bouncing off the small shed and onto cold winter concrete with little nicks of ice shimmering in the dirty moonlight.

You scraped your knee and breathed frost. Johnny’s mom heard you show up and offered food when she saw the friendly face of Johnny’s friend.

So close. the scribe and those he allied himself with where only a small green lawn away from all that. And they wanted to get as far from Johnny as they could: found prep, hippy, nicknames and distant places with magic names like Arizona with which they identified, but never got to see.

But Johnny wanted out, too. A great riff of gangland film circa 1940s and 1950s: "Some day we’re gonna get outta here and drive out to Arizona and a little sunshine baby..."

And "baby" was this girl called "Candy,’ or some other name promising more than it could ever possibly deliver.

"We kiss, my heart rushes to my brain
The blood rushed in my veins rushes towards the sky..."

Meantime, the city is black, the room a walk up with a view onto the El clattering past,
constantly reminding renters of nature’s tenuous arrangement with us all.

They were the sons of men who worked in factories and companies and believed in unions and went to church and to war. They knew only the psychology of violence for keeping the kid in line.

"We go driving
driving deep into night
driving deep into the light in Candy’s eyes..."

Everything to fear. How you’d end up if you didn’t go to college. And Candy, too.

"She says baby if you wanna be wild
you got a lot to learn,
close your eyes let them melt
let them fire
let them burn..."

Springsteen’s songs were about the factories closing and the whole stinking way of life with it; newspaper articles for the ear. the scribe was not equipped then to understand what he was after: All this that you know and think is so permanent is already gone. You’re living among ghosts. And they’re all named Johnny.

"Cause in the darkness there’ll be hidden words that shine..."

Now those places are places the scribe has been and others have not and, now that they are gone, never will.

Like Candy’s room, those places are bathed in blue-collar nostalgia. Industrial smoke tears the eyes. They are the good old days we could not bear. But now, like Candy’s room, and like
Bruce’s songs, they are safe and easy places to be.

"When I hold Candy close she makes these hidden worlds mine."

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