Racing in the Street

Leslie and I were talking the other day about how we only have so many “energetic” hours in our day; namely, the first few after we wake up. My hours of peak focus and energy are probably 6am-11am, after which I become increasingly unfocused and useless. The problem with having this limited 5 hour window is that it means I need to fit into it whatever has to be accomplished that day.

I think back to my college years when I’d wake up at 5am, be waiting outside the door of our campus Starbucks for it to open, and sit there for the next few hours cranking out whatever math or CS problem set was due later that day. Being a morning person in a CS major did not work well, considering all my classmates would collaborate on their problem sets from 10pm-2am, long after I’d gone to sleep.

But I’m still the same way, and each morning I wake up and have to decide what to use those precious few hours to accomplish. If I’ve got a lot of work on my plate I’ll do that, which means that on days I used to head into the office around 8 or 9am I’d have already done my most important work of the day.

It’s frustrating, though, to not be able to focus on much after a certain time. Every silly “life-hack”/productivity post tells you to schedule around these hours of peak performance, but for me it’s difficult to decide what I want to use those hours for. If I have work to do that takes priority – gotta pay the bills! – but if I want to have energy for a run or bike ride, or to read or write, those activities fall by the wayside. With my writing, for example, either I do it first thing in the morning (like I am now) or it doesn’t get done. And I want to write more!

That’s the good thing about Sundays, I guess. I woke up with no plans and am now out for a walk, typing this on my phone as I head down Folsom St. The rain just stopped and the sky is clearing up and the trees lining the street look especially green this morning:

I’m listening to Bruce (duh) and thinking about how basically everything in life (work, sports, our bodies) is temporary except for art. My body will age and at some point I won’t be able to hike any more, but music will still be there. Maybe that’s why I love music so much? Because I’m subconsciously afraid of the day my job and my body can’t preoccupy me anymore and I’m left feeling empty and unfulfilled?

Just passed this beautiful rose still wet from the rain.

Ah, man. Well at least I got a few words down this morning. Most of my thoughts happen when I’m out walking or hiking or running or riding so the walk-and-type strategy works well for me. It does mean that I have to make sure I’m paying attention to traffic and, if I’m on a trail, rocks and divets. I said to Thomas earlier this week that I need to buy a cheap handheld recorder so I can safely dictate my thoughts while out on a ride. Maybe I’ll start updating this blog with some of my morning “one-liners,” which is how I like to refer to a random thought that pops into my head but never end up elaborating on.

Anyway. Back to Bruce.

(Finally) Writing About Springsteen

I’ve written pages and pages about Springsteen over the years: in my journals, in notebooks, even in a few high school English class papers (those definitely got As). I have multiple unpublished drafts on this blog that attempt to describe the impact his music has had on my life, but none of them ever feel complete. There’s too much I want to say and – because I’m not Springsteen, of course – I can’t find the words.

So I’m ditching that paradigm for now – the quest for the perfect words to describe everything I feel about his music and its influence on my life – and instead pedaling slowly on the stationary bike inside my house, watching the Springsteen documentary “Wings for Wheels” on the computer screen set in front of me, typing these words out on my phone as they come to me.

It’s no coincidence I’m watching and writing about Springsteen in the midst of this global crisis; his music is where I’ve always turned in personal times of crisis. I think back to deaths in my family, or when I’ve received difficult news or experienced bouts of serious depression…whenever I was grieving and needed hope, his music was there.

“Religion” is a loaded word and it sounds dramatic (not to mention slightly concerning?) to proclaim Springsteen’s music as my religion. But if you think about the purpose of religion in people’s lives, it’s often for that very reason: to instill faith and hope in dark and difficult times. (“Show a little faith,” I’m now singing to myself.)

There’s a solid chance I sound crazy to some of you (to be fair, last time I went to a Springsteen show the couple next to me alarmedly asked if I was ok when I started sobbing during the piano introduction to “Backstreets”) but in this – or any – time of crisis, it’s essential to have something that brings you hope. Maybe that’s religion (in the conventional sense of the word), maybe that’s music, maybe that’s art, maybe that’s family or friends.

In the words of the great Clarence Clemons, legendary saxophonist and member of Bruce’s E-Street band, “When a fan says, ‘Man, you saved my life; I heard [your sax solo on] Jungleland … and I cried … and I felt joy in my life again,’ that’s my hall of fame.”

Maybe one day I’ll find the right words to explain the role of Bruce’s music in my life; maybe I won’t. I guess that’s what faith and magic and music are all about.