Human Touch

I know this is the third missive today, I know this is too much, I know I’m going to have a net loss of subscribers, but…

You have no idea how stressful and weird it is here. My mother is not good. Her mobility is extremely limited, her mind… I had to lift her up the stairs to Franki’s house on Saturday night, she can’t put one foot in front of another when she’s not on a level surface, do you know how weird it is to lift your mother, not as weird as going into the bathroom with her, not that I watched, but I’ve got to make sure she doesn’t fall, that would be a disaster, one more fall would kill her, and she’s got no problem with going, but it just can’t happen on my watch. You’ve got no idea what aging is like, to have all your friends predecease you, to be unable to do what you did previously, what you want to.

And my mother lives on the sixth floor of her building. In a two bedroom condo. And during the day you can see Long Island past the Sound and at night if you open the windows the air flows through and it reminds you of summers past, not the arid hot ones of California, but the humid evanescent ones of New England.

And I have to gear myself up to do my back exercises, after I’ve read all the e-mail, written a missive or two, but when I do…I fire up the tunes and they take me away.

Yesterday I played Shawn Colvin’s “Steady On,” of which I had an advance cassette, I played it that week in Minnesota after my ex-wife left, she said she’d call when I landed, but she never did. And when we finally connected I told her not to pick me up at the airport, I just could not be disappointed once more.

And the years after that…

I remember the first Christmas. The woman I kept trying to get the attention of turned out to be gay. I’ve never felt so low.

And then the nineties got worse. The one time my ex wanted to come back I had a girlfriend and said no. Then I ran out of money and had an horrific operation and hit rock bottom, if my father hadn’t died and left me a bit of cash so I could go to the psychiatrist I wouldn’t be here right now.

And then my life was saved by AOL. That’s right. Don’t listen to the anti-tech Luddites, our phones bring us together, make it all personalized, I don’t want to go back to looking at the four walls, needing to go to Borders and the library for stimulation, staying home was death.

And then…

A reader wanted to connect via e-mail. She went to college in Michigan, I had a free AOL account via Warner Brothers Records. So I fired the application up with the 1200 baud modem I’d purchased and rarely used and in 1995 my life took a complete turn.

And not needing to pay when they were charging by the hour I checked out every nook and cranny on that service, from Love@AOL to…

Chat rooms.

They got a bad name. I understand it. Who can make sense of the cacophony?

I certainly couldn’t. But fourteen people were allowed in a room at once, and everybody had a profile and you’d click and find a person who was appealing and hopefully…

Start a conversation.

Bruce Springsteen hit a wall. He’d played to the masses and no longer wanted to do this. He was an international superstar as a result of “Born In The U.S.A.” but now he wanted to be a bit more personal, which is why he recorded…

“Tunnel Of Love.”

That’s what I listened to just now, to accompany my stretches, my exercises.

Ought to be easy, ought to be simple enough
Man meets woman and they fall in love

But it’s not.

But the house is haunted and the ride gets rough

That’s certainly true. My ex calling me that spring killed my new relationship, after spending years with someone you can’t cut the bond that quickly, no matter what anybody says, I checked out of the new relationship mentally and it never recovered.

And then a year later I had a new potential love. But I just couldn’t get close. We could go for a ride, I could go to her house, but we could only get so close. I thought it was me, but two weeks ago the shrink said sometimes it’s them, and it made me think back to summer camp, my second relationship ever, from which I never recovered my confidence, I felt so self-conscious with Jill, unlike with Betsy the summer before, now, at this late date, I know it was her.

And “Tunnel Of Love” was the first LP where the E Street Band was not featured other than “Nebraska.”

And then Bruce went further into the wilderness. He released two albums at once, and as a result both failed, “Human Touch” and “Lucky Town.” It took recording “Human Touch” for the Boss to find his feet, and so he quickly recorded “Lucky Town,” I understand the phenomenon, sometimes you’ve got to get the juices flowing, sometimes you hit the groove.

And sometimes you don’t, sometimes it’s all about being fresh and even though you think your latter work is better, it’s not.

But “Lucky Town” is an improvement, it delivers.

But, like I said, it was too much for the audience, kind of like this missive itself.

But the first LP of the simultaneous release, I quoted the title track to my chat room paramours all the time.

And it never worked.

I told them I just needed someone to talk to.

And a little of that human touch.

That’s right, that’s the worst part of breaking up, the worst part of divorce, as Sting sang, the bed’s too big without them. They were here and now they’re gone, we’re just animals, we bond and the breakup is painful and hangs on, it persists.

That’s what I was looking for, the human touch.

You could say the same thing to two different women and get opposite reactions. You could say something sexual and one would be offended and another would dump you for moving too slow. Truly.

But it helped me get my mojo working again. You see everybody searching for love online back then was damaged, going down the rabbit hole looking for connection. That’s what’s great about the internet, it serves those who haven’t won, who aren’t top of mind, who didn’t get every advantage, those whose lives didn’t work out.

I thought they’d get the Springsteen reference. At this late date I don’t think a single one did.

But I kept using it. I knew they were looking for the human touch too. When something doesn’t work, you need to change it, it probably won’t work in the future. But sometimes you don’t want to axe that part of your personality, giving up represents a bigger setback than rejection.

And I thought of all this as I was doing band exercises behind my mother’s laundry room door as she slept. “Tunnel Of Love” ended and Springsteen was resonating and I thought of “Spirit In The Night” but it wasn’t the right groove and “Sandy” but the first side of the second album was too maudlin, I needed something with more energy.

Like “Human Touch.”

You might need somethin’ to hold on to
When all the answers, they don’t amount to much

My problem with the Boss is his audience, I’ve got no problem with the man himself. But needing something to hold on to, they want to keep Bruce in a box, require he go on tour with the E Street Band, give them what they want. And if you’re an artist it’s a struggle, to go down your own path or the well-trodden one, especially after you’ve walked miles and miles and are not sure of your direction home.

“Human Touch”

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