Friday, June 30, 2006

I'm Not The Vine

It never ceases to amaze me how certain topics or issues will tend to come up repeatedly in little short spurts over a short period of time. You know, you hear the same piece of scripture at church, then on the radio, then your friend mails you a postcard with the verse on it, or something strange like that. When that happens there seems to be at least three possible approaches: (1) write it off as coincidence; (2) consider the fact that God is trying to tell you something; or, (3) maybe you're so unaware of it you don't even give it a thought. There have been times when I've taken all of these approaches. Lately, however, I've been trying to take a serious look at the reoccuring message and humbly ask God, "What are you trying to tell me here?" Over the last two weeks or so He's been saying, "Abide in me Doah."

In John 15:5 Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (New King James)

Two Sundays ago in our youth group we decided to really dig into this horticultural analogy given by Christ. In fact, we asked the junior highers to memorize it from a different translation as follows: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (NIV)

Notice that "abide" is translated "remain" in that version. I looked it up in the dictionary and the other meanings that might work here are endure, dwell, or reside.

I carried that verse around for a week and tried to really know it and, more importantly, live it. I wanted to get it. I have to be honest, I don't think I do a very good job of totally remaining in Christ on a minute by minute basis. And, as Tyler Durden asks in FIGHT CLUB, "How's that working for ya?" The answer for me is, "Not good."

Anyway, the following Sunday (last Sunday), I'm sitting in the "big church" and our associate pastor was going to give the message which is rare. Then, he tells us we're going "old school" and he wants us to, out of respect for God's word, stand up and recite, in unison, today's scripture. Trust me, that is even rarer. So, before he says what passage it is, I crack my Bible open--and because I had this bumper sticker in there that was a gift from two junior high girls--my Bible opens to John 15:5 and he says, "We're going to read John 15:5 together."

In the translation printed in our program that day one line was different: "No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." I like that because it's clear to me. I'm looking out at this lemon tree as I type this and I get that. If I was to cut off one of the branches from the tree and lay it on the ground, it would stop producing fruit. Many times, I am like that, I'm off on my own, trying to produce fruit.

This actually reminds me very much of step one of the 12 steps in Alcoholics Anonymous which, in part says, "We admitted we were powerless." That's a very difficult concept to surrender to. I for one, love to feel powerful and I really love feeling totally in control even more. Looking at that step right now, I see it as saying, "Admit that you are a branch that has been severed from the tree by choice." If you are familiar with A.A. then you know that the next two steps are designed to have you grafted back onto the vine. In effect they say, "Remain in me. Then, I will remain in you, and you will bear much fruit." Supposedly, I did step one back on June 27, 1991; however, I often forget that the 12th step brings me back to the first and I'm supposed to do that on a daily basis, even moment-by-moment basis if necessary. I get so full of myself that I start thinking that I'm the vine. Fortunately for me, this week God put somebody in my life that forced me to begin looking at these steps more closely. Yet another nudge from God.

As I reread the book of John, chapter 15, verses 1-17, I see the word "abide" at least nine times in there. Christ keeps saying, "Abide in me Doah." Why do I keep refusing when, every time that I have submitted to Him has gone so well? This brought me back to something else I am rereading now.

One of my all-time favorite pieces of writing is chapter 3 from my friend Don Toshach's book, A Thirst For More. That chapter is titled "Facedown in the Garden" and it is an open letter to Jesus. A letter from somebody who finally really got chapters 14 to 17 of John. I will close this post with an excerpt from that chapter. The last sentence is my prayer today. Every thing that follows here is Don's, not mine:

Lord, when I look at my life, I have a hard time remaining or dwelling with You. I find that I tend to exist next to You, tacking You onto my agenda. I'm busy, I've got stuff to do, there are many priorities. How can I live in You?

I'm able to abide. You remind me that I abide with my wife. I abide with the newspaper and television. I have abided with the Olympics and major sporting events. I have abided in books for the sake of earning degrees. I have abided with doing ministry. The justifications fly: "This is important; this is worth of time."

Jesus, I hear You say, "Okay, so I'm not worthy of your time?" Ur, oh, well, uh . . . it seems that way, doesn't it? You say it over and over here. "Remain in Me." You can do nothing apart from Me. How does that work? You could say, be transfixed by Me. Be gripped by Me. Live with Me. Hunger for Me. Talk to Me. Enjoy Me. Don't confine Me to a spot on your schedule . . . Let Me be your schedule.

Jesus, the first part of remaining is up to me, but if I remain in You, You will remain in me. Help me to remain, not just give you the remains, the leftovers. Show me what I need to leave behind or rid myself of in order to remain in You.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Broken Vow

let your
yes be yes

and your
no be no

Jesus said it
Matthew 5:37

that teaching has
been lost

everyone flounders

wafflers, just like
that one politician

from the Greek

meaning pretense

an intentional

a feigned excuse
unreliable vows

I, for one, hate

this isn't (really) a poem

--Shenandoah Lynd


I Will Never

write another poem
what's the point

nobody reads
them anymore

they do no good
sitting there unnoticed

poetry is sad and
confusing anyway

writing them reveals
my insecurities

worse yet, they make
me seem different

there are so many
other things

worth doing
like playing golf

I will never
write another poem

starting now

--Shenandoah Lynd


Monday, June 26, 2006


Weird how God will bring one issue or topic up repeatedly in your life. It comes in little short spurts, like a jackhammer pounding your head. This past week it seems to be divorce. I mean I just posted about this last Friday. I didn't intend to revisit the topic. Then, yesterday, I happened to be privy to a family's pain. It was sad, but it was an honor too. Also, I'm reading this book "Poetry Matters" by Ralph Fletcher and I found myself deeply moved by a poem contained therein. It was written by a fourth grade student.


Parents together
They love each other
Then they split

Like the wrong ends of a magnet put together
Or like a passenger fleeing from a
Sinking ship
Like a young bird leaving its nest
Like a picture ripped in half

Like a man leaving a woman for a better one.

--Megan Daily


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Were you happy . . . yesterday?

According to a story in the Agence France Presse, a British scholar, Cliff Arnall, at the University of Cardiff has concluded that yesterday, June 23 was the happiest day of the entire year.

Arnall has anaylsed such factors as outdoor activities, nature, social interaction, childhood memories, temperature, and holidays--data gathered over a period of 15 years in interviews with 3,000 people around the world.

A specialist in seasonal disorders, Arnall stated: "People across borders experience happiness whey they meet with friends and family and establish close social relationships. We need some close emotional ties." He used what he considers a "simple equation" to reach his conclusion: O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He. O stands for outdoor activities, N for nature, S for social interaction, Cpm for childhood summers and positive memories, T for temperature and He for holidays and looking forward to time off.

Arnall had also already figured out that the saddest day of the year was January 23 which was a Monday.

In a related story, Tori's father, Aaron Spelling finally died on Friday, June 23rd at his Los Angeles mansion. I for one was very happy to know that we'll not be seeing another show of the caliber of Dynasty, Melrose Place, or God forbid, a Beverly Hills 90210 reunion.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Divorce Bites

My mom and dad did it when I was six months old. I vividly remember my step-dad's agony in dealing with his ex-wife after he married my mother. My birth-father went on to do it a couple more times that I know of. My wife's dad went through it once and her mom went through two of them. At least nine junior highers in my youth group have suffered through them. Two of my sisters have had them. Almost all of my adult friends come from broken homes. Chances are, if you haven't gone through a divorce yourself, you know of someone in your family or a close friend that has. I mean, who hasn't been affected by a divorce?

The point of this post isn't to make anybody who's been divorced feel bad. I mean that, I really mean that. In fact, I am thankful for my mom's divorce. So many blessings came out of it for me. For example, but for that, I wouldn't have received two wonderful sisters, Cami and Renay, that my mom's new husband brought into their marriage when I was seven years old. But, that's not the point either.

I have good friend going through a divorce right now and he recently started a blog called the Divorced Dudes Network. I was hoping you might check it out. Why not think of somebody you know that has been through a divorce and point them to my friend's blog? I really think that anybody who is going through a divorce or who has ever been through a divorce will benefit from the comradeship found through his posts. Better yet, maybe you know someone who has been through it, learned from it, and came out clean on the other side. That kind of person is what G-DUDE calls a "major dude" in which case, they would have something to offer to my friend and others: hope.

Heck, I read the site and I'm not even divorced. Many of his posts speak to me as well. For instance, I Will Survive from the other day mentioned the Tim McGraw song, "Live Like You Were Dying" and it got me to thinking about what I would do if I was to truly live. I posted a quick top ten on his comments. What about you, got your own list? Why not post it there at the link? Maybe you'll find yourself agreeing with G-DUDE as to why Ronald Reagan is a True Major Dude or maybe you really don't like Ronald Reagan and you want leave a comment as to why? If you're a dude, divorced or not, and I could get you to read just one of his posts it would be On Being A Man . . .

To say divorce is "hard" doesn't do it justice. Have you ever seen that documentary based on the book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" by Aron Ralston? Ralston is the climber who got stuck in Utah. Because an 800-pound boulder was on his arm, he had to hack it off with a small multi-purpose knife. It's a crazy story. Quite honestly, Ralston's story is the only analogy I can think of to tell you how tough divorce is. Talking to my friend about his divorce and how difficult it is for him not to see his two little girls on a daily basis, I can tell you that I'd rather hack off my own arm than go through it.

So here's the point. Divorce is hard. He's my friend. Read the blog. Spread the word.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Jacaranda Kiss

An empty church in my heart and home
my ears too disillusioned to hear the choir.
"Lonely" doesn't do justice to this sorrow
causing my chest to implode.
Others mean well and they think they knew you
calling me to say, "You still have her memories."
Memories indeed, they're what's nursing this pain;
my fondest was late last spring.

I remember because the jacarandas
were just beginning to bloom.
A purple blossom danced through
the wind and into your auburn hair.
I recall thinking that this was the first
time I ever really noticed you.
Thirty-seven years after our wedding kiss and I was
just now seeing you the way the good Lord intended.
Maybe it was only because I knew the truth:
it would be our last spring together.
Standing there I recalled the very first time I ever met you,
fresh from the pool, water glistening on your bosom.
The bikini exposed my desire that was merely schoolboy lust,
a towel wrapped you like a gift and left the rest to my imagination.
Last spring was different, all of time in a freezeframe,
all the earth's nuances calling exclusively to me.
Every trumpet-shaped floret in those violet clusters and
your beauty were secrets that God shared with me alone.
As that flower made its slow artistic decent,
I breathed you both in: nature's duet of woman and flower.
Your favorite necklace, a mother-of-pearl,
drew my attention to your bewitching decolletage.
A stunning contrast, your brown skin and a pink asymmetrical heart
dangling there like the grim truth of your diagnosis.
I was drawn to where the heart pointed,
even as a teenager I had never been so aroused.
For me the breasts that nursed four children held more wonder
than those that first caught my eye as many decades ago.
But, more than that, your eyes,
I had somehow taken them for granted.
Not brown, no something more, a color I had never seen,
windows into the soul that had accepted me like no other.
A pure shade that told of every kind deed you ever
performed for this undeserving fool.
Your smile in all its crooked perfection
revealed a confidence I had neglected to appreciate.
Ironic that you were more alive now than ever;
that realization signaled the beginning of my undoing.
As I leaned to remove that blossom
from your hair, your lips met me there.
Everything I had know about love
changed in that one moment.

And they speak of memories
as if they bring comfort!
I've been severed from my past
and robbed of a future.
Recollections were meant to be shared, but
nobody was with us under Christ's thicket last May.
In our room your photographs haunt me;
outside the trees root for my ruin.
Their floral displays no longer usher in summer;
instead, they just taunt me.
They whisper, "Love is gone"
A chorus of "Winter is eternal"
arrives with their efflorescence.
I agree with them
and join their refrain.
Alone I freeze
in this bed so cold.
My miserable wail is the bellowing hymn
in the sanctuary of the mournful.
Damn that jacaranda kiss

--Shenandoah Lynd

Monday, June 19, 2006


Father's Day was yesterday and I got a kick out of this book Wes made for me at school. On one of the pages he had to write something about me using each of the letters in F-A-T-H-E-R. When I got to the "T" I literally laughed out loud. Anyway, here is what the page said:

Fabulous at making chocolate milkshakes

Adores the saxophone

Talks way too much

Hates chocolate

Enjoys listening to music

Really likes Bruce Springsteen

My dad is the greatest because he taught me how to burn a CD.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Happy Father's Day

Tomorrow is Father's Day. I'm looking forward to it. I decided not to turn on the computer tomorrow though. I want to focus my attention on my family. Therefore, I thought I'd do my Father's Day post today. This is sort of a "best of" post for me. I wanted to call attention to my very first post on this blog back in December of last year as well as my favorite post which is a sequel to the first one. I hope you enjoy them. Here they are:

Father's, part 1

Father's, part 2

In addition to reviewing those posts I thought I could share some photos of the men I think about when Father's Day rolls around.

This first photo is of my dad, Mark. He's the first person I ever remember calling "dad" and I'm really lucky he married my mom. They got married when I was seven years old. I'm fortunate to have received such a good step-dad because he provided me with structure and he loved me enough to give me discipline and guidelines. This photo shows my dad on a boat and this brings back good memories of all the times he took me to Lake Mead. I had a really fun childhood because of my dad.

The photo below is of my birth father, Grant. I love this photo because it was taken at the house that my grandfather left to my father. This house was located in Chino, California and on the weekends that my father had custody of me, we would stop at this old junky house and do work. At the time it was hard work and not what I would have considered fun, but now, looking back on it, I think we spent more time together there than anywhere and I miss that. I appreciate my dad for many reasons. For one, he instilled a love of learning and education into me. He also fostered my love of music. What a fun dad.

Here is a photograph of a man who is one of the most incredible blessings in my life. This is Stephen Christie and I also consider him my step-dad. He is my father-in-Christ. Get this, Stephen is my birth-father's second ex-wife's husband. In other words, there is no blood relation here, but God has used Stephen as an example of a godly man in my life. This is a photo of my oldest son, Max with "Grandpa Stephen" while they were working on our home that we now live in. Stephen and his wife Cory bought this house so that we could live in it. Stephen is a man of intelligence, character, and generosity. I'm still in awe of why I am loved so much by this great guy.

My father-in-law, James is in the picture that follows. I cannot express how blessed I feel to have Chrisy's dad as my father-in-law. He is a man of quiet wisdom. One thing I appreciate about James is that I have never felt judged by him; on the contrary, there has been total acceptance. From the first sit-down I ever had with this man, when I asked to marry his daughter, he told me that he would not butt into our lives, but would always be there for advice if needed. He has been true to his word. But, more than all that, he is the ultimate grandfather. That is why I choose a photo of him with my children. This was taken outside his home in Arizona. It's very fitting that his eyes are on my youngest daughter because he has been very attentive to all his grandchildren from day one. I could not have asked for a better grandpa for my children.

My uncle, John Lynd, is in this last photo. It is so appropriate that it is the only one that I'm in and that John's arm is around me. In so many ways John feels more like a father to me than anybody. He is my theatrical dad and I love that this was taken outside the theater in which he acted in Man of La Mancha. I appreciate that John filled me with so many good values as a young man. He taught me never to litter; instead, I should leave the world a more beautiful place than when I found it. He taught me to respect all living things and that it's only the inside of a human that counts. He taught me that when someone harms us in life we have two choices. First, we can close-off, build walls, and get hardened. That is the easy way he would say. The second he knew involved much more pain. It is to choose to love anyway and to remain open and vulnerable. He taught me to always choose the latter. He taught me that cynicism was too great a cost to pay when there were poems to write, songs to sing, battles to be fought, and princesses to free. He told me to follow my dreams, even impossible ones.

As I look at all these photos I realize that I am a truly blessed man. Each of these fathers brought me something unique that truly helped shape who I am today. I am grateful to each and every one of them. Happy fathers day to Mark, Grant, Stephen, James, and Uncle John.

Now, since I am a father in my own right, I will spend the day with the computer off, loving my children in a manner that was learned because of the conglomeration you all gave to me.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Last Day of School

Today is the last day of school at my work. I'm saying goodbye to 18 third graders. It's a trip to think that I've been in these kids lives Monday through Friday for 180 days, six hours every day. I consider it an honor to be an influence like that. I honestly think teaching is the best job on the planet (well, maybe it's just short of a well-paid movie critic). Take today for example, we had our annual teachers vs. fifth graders soccer game and I got paid for that. A couple weeks ago we had our end of the year music assembly and I sat there listening to a culmination performance by the choir. Tough job. The choir did so well. It was truly inspiring. When they were beautifully singing "Hello Goodbye" by The Beatles it was one of these moments of clarity in life when I realized I was basking in God's good grace. One of the weirdest aspects of this job for me is this annual sense of finality. Before this career, I worked 12 years in a law office and there was always a "tomorrow" when I could get to something. Even if it was a holiday or a Friday or something I could always say, "I'll draft that letter on Monday" or "I'll respond to that call on January 3rd" or whatever. With this job, come June 15th, there is no "tomorrow" when I can get to someone's grade or turn in some document. Even though this is my sixth year of teaching, come next week I'll be having a dream that my principal is calling my house saying, "Where are you? Why aren't you at work?" Yet, the reality is it's all over today and I have no idea what next year's class will be like, but come August 31st I'll have a new batch of children and we'll start all over again! I love this job.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Happy Birthday Kasey

Two years ago today my daughter was born. Here are two previous posts about her: Prelude to Kasey and Kasey. She is definately one of the many blessings in my life. Happy birthday Kasey!


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Breaking Free

So much to do.
Mounds of paperwork.
The checklist haunts me.
It's all so urgent; yet, I am
extremely bored.
Unhappy with my disconnection, I
crack open the Bible and it pulls
me from my must-dos. They want
it yesterday,
but I'm stuck on the
meaning of one word. I grab the
dictionary and find the language of
origin. My mind wonders over
exotic lands and I'm now lounging
in the Greek Isles.
Demands upon demands.
The desk is full of clutter and I really
return calls
sift through email
plan for the future
Adrift in my imagination
and struck with option paralysis
I learn:
Why do today what I
can put off until tomorrow?
But, this is Orange County. I must
Then, I spot an acquaintance.
Leaning in a door jam, I listen for
hours. Saved from the urgency of
I pack-up and realize nothing got
done today.
But, it was time well spent
so don't judge me.
I was not built for this paradigm anyway
and I'm tired of feeling this way.
Home late.
Was there traffic?
No, I just drove down the same street
six times. Who knew there were trees
on my route? Purple leaves of all things.
Tough day at the office?
No, only in my mind.
Good, dinner's not made and
the kids have only done two hours
of homework. So much left to do.
Let's make love on the pile of laundry
and then get the kids in the car.
I've got some trees to show you.

--Shenandoah Lynd


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Lyrics I Love

Read into it what you will, but these two old lyrics are speaking to me today:

"I will play you like a shark
and I'll clutch at your heart
I'll come flying like a spark
to enflame you."

--Crowded House (Neil Finn)
"Pineapple Head" from TOGETHER ALONE (1993)

"It doesn't pay to make predictions
sleeping on an unmade bed
finding out wherever there is comfort
there is pain
only one step away
like four seasons in one day."

--Crowded House (Neil Finn)
"Four Seasons in One Day" from WOODFACE (1991)

Man, I love Crowded House.

Finnin' out today,


Saturday, June 03, 2006


"If you ever wonder why you ride the carrousel,
you do it for the stories you can tell."
--Jimmy Buffett
"Stories We Could Tell" from A-1-A (1974)


We rode that carousel because the brass
pole held secrets. The ponies themselves
told of lovers gone by. We wanted to hear
their tales. And, we knew that our own
photos would tell stories years from now.
The image would whisper of your beauty
and the desires your friend had for you
right from the beginning
I was certain we would be looking back
at this very picture. I knew there
would be children at my knee and
my bed would be your bed until the
day I drew my last breath.
When I reached for that golden ring
I was longing for you. The photograph fades
my desire's unblemished. Merry-go-round

--Shenandoah Lynd


Glory Days

From left to right: My Uncle John; my friend Big Al, "the button man"; me, Doah Lynd; my friend and Swensen's co-worker, Jim. Parking lot of the Los Angeles Coliseum, 1985.

I'm only days away from seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert. This Monday night I'll be seeing him for the first time at the Greek Theater. The first time in that venue that is. This will actually be my 22nd time seeing Springsteen live. The excitement is building. A familiar feeling is approaching. Often people, including my wife, have asked me, why do you see him so many times? The answer is that I'm trying to capture a feeling again. I'm never disappointed, the feeling always comes. So, if I'm faced with having that wonderful "high" once every three years vs. once every five, the choice is simple, I'll take it as often as possible. I push it further, "Well," I'll ask, "If you could feel something that spectacular only once this week or four times, why not four?"

If you read my profile on this blog and looked under my favorite book titles you'd see Glory Days. Written by Dave Marsh in 1987, it's a sequel to his book Born to Run (1979). I love Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s more because it's about when I was there, living it. Marsh's opening words are among my very favorite pieces of writing. Albeit, he's describing something I was at and he's doing it would such expression, the way I might actually describe it.

It's chapter one and he's talking about the last four shows of the marathon "Born in the USA" tour. I was there at all four of them. I was 16. And, thank God, just able to drive. During my Sophomore year in high school, I trekked out to Los Angeles in my 1966 Mustang on a Friday, Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday respectively.

I'll never forget those two weeks. The first, positioning and planning. The second, attending! I wanted to go to at least opening and closing night so badly. I landed a ticket to the closing night, but then the opening show was cancelled and those tickets became the closing night. Thus, my original closing night tickets were now actually the second to last show. I scrambled and was able to obtain tickets to all the shows except for one. I was obsessing on that one weekday show and, at the last minute, a very good friend came though. I was going to all four! It was a week to remember.

I know this excerpt from the book is very long, but should you care to read it, you'd get an understanding. If you weren't there, you'll understand the great feeling I was after. It's the euphoria brought on by the music, it's the magnetism of the performer himself, it's the comradeship of the band, that particular band, The E Street Band, it's the community and connectedness that is fostered in this particular audience, and it's the escapism of the lyrics. If you were there, it'll bring you back. I took it upon myself to bold a few of the lines that stood out to me, stuff that added to the feeling.

The beginning of the end: Opening night of the Los Angeles shows,
Friday, September 27, 1985.

Here is the opening of the book:

In the heart of a city, darkness gathers and a crowd accumulates--fifty, sixty, eighty thousand and more, pulling up in sports cars and jalopies, wearing custom-cut slacks and Levis on their last legs. They file into the stadium, a cross section of white America, as much like football fans (only younger, more often female) as rock and rollers (but older, better mannered).

This could be any of a half-a-hundred American towns in the summers of 1984 and 1985, but as it happens, the place is the Los Angeles Coliseum and the biggest tour in rock and roll history is just a night or two from its end. In the full moon's light, the Coliseum is beautiful, as an ancient-looking and hallowed as its name. The air is clear and crisp, as befits the end of September anywhere, and it cools sharply as the night seeps in, so that the fans must huddle while milling for seats, snacks, and souvenirs.

The atmosphere crackles. The crowd knows what's it's in for: a four-hour spectacular that is both sheer intoxication and a ritual invocation for the human spirit in the most peculiarly American way. For the first time since Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll is native-born and, maybe for the first time ever, that crown is worn not lightly but with the full weight of adult awareness. In the crowd almost everybody bounces with anticipation, but there are fewer drunken bleats than you'd expect. Nevertheless, beneath the taped music blaring from the huge stacks of speakers surrounding the stage, a hungry murmur builds.

Backstage, the singer has a few last-minute words with his aides, sneaks a final glance in the mirror, gives his wife a farewell kiss and, for the one hundred sixty-second time in the past eighteen months, steps through the dressing room door ready to rock. In the hallway, his bandmates already await him.

Sunday, September 29, 1985. I always did prefer the look of a Ticketron stub to that of a TicketMaster.

Together they set out for the stage, the singer's motorcycle boots clumping on the concrete. As they move, a few quips and good-luck grins are exchanged with stagehands and buddies, forced jokes working off last-minute nerves. But the band passes only a few individuals on the way, most of whom are hard at work. With each step, the group begins to zero in on each other, converging in a mutal tunnel of concentration.

The sun has dimmed now, sunk beneath the stadium's rim, eclipsing the crowd, which looked so colorful--all reds, whites, and blues--just half an hour before. From above, the audience seems a single primitive organism, waiting to be fused into a single shape and voice and purpose.

Monday, September 30, 1985. Can you make-out the price there? It's $17.50 and a service fee of only $1.75. Oh, the good ol' days!

The three-story stage has been set up beneath the Coliseum's giant arch, which looms above the stage in the twilight. When they reach it, the band members look at one another, draw a collective deep breath, and descend, their way lit by flashlights held by the crew. They clamber quickly down the concrete stairs, past broad sections of empty seats. They're led blind into the hungry murmur, which builds a bit as those on the fringes of the crowd spot their movement. The house lights go black and the murmur raises its pitch and volume, becomes a scream.

The musicians stride to their places, spread out across the broad stage. Behind them hangs a fifty-foot flag, flat without a flutter, at once an icon of the most deeply fixed symbolism and a blank slate on which the evening's meaning will be inscribed. You could write almost anything here, and for the past eighteen months, everybody from the President of the United States on down as tried. But right now, all that's clear is the ambiguity of the image and the intensity of the figures that it dwarfs.

The singer glances left, right, and behind, nods his head. Mumbling a greeting into the howling face of the mob, he signals his readiness and raises his guitar before him like a sword. An instant later, white hot light smacks him in the face as he snaps off the cadence--"One two, one-two-three-four." Synthesizers and drums rumble into life.

This ticket says Thursday, September 26, but it was honored on the last night of the whole tour which was Wednesday, October 2, 1985.

For a moment he stands, legs splayed, swinging his guitar like a weapon. Then, taking a stride to the microphone and gripping it with his right fist, he begins his tale at the beginning. It starts with a sound sharp and cruel as the first slap on a baby's fanny. The noise that explodes from his mouth could be called a scream or a bellow, but it's really just a bawl:

Born down in a dead man's town
First kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just coverin' up

In a sense, Bruce Springsteen has spent half his lifetime uncovering those lines, cutting to the core of himself, and in the process unleashing the mighty energy that unites his audience until, by the end of the night, that shapeless mass becomes 80,000 separate but united faces. The power he has accumulated stems straight from the intensity of his conviction that such a feat is possible, and from the incredible assertion of will required to bring it about. It's exactly what has made him, less suddenly than it would seem, the first white American to approach the mystique and popularity of Elvis Presley. It's what presidents and paupers fight over. It's the essence of this story.Springsteen center stage at the Coliseum, Garry Tallent left on bass, Nils Lofgren right on guitar, and Professor Roy Bittan in the background on piano.
Photo by Gary Godfrey.

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