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Monday, June 13, 2011

How Rick Springfield Is Writing My Novel

I missed the 58-year-old pop rocker’s free concert at the Orlando Amway Center yesterday. (My friend and I opted for a picnic in Cranes Roost Park instead.) But for days I had been eagerly awaiting seeing Springfield, even clinging to the expectation, more and more amazed and even amused by my building excitement to see an ’80s pop music singer who, in my hard rock youth, I scoffed at.

Growing up in West Virginia, it was all things Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The louder, the meaner, the better.  I'm talking dashboard-banging music like ACDC. Rick Springfield’s stuff was girly, sissy music, like the Bee Gees. He is an ex “General Hospital” pretty boy, for crying out loud!

More than that, Springfield was the unfortunate “spring” in the rising star collision of Rick Springfield and Bruce Springsteen. In the early ’80s, Springsteen, a name people were hearing more and more, rose up beside Springfield on the pop charts, and apparently the public got the two confused. Springfield was known to have publically said, with frustration, “Don’t call me Bruce!” Or “Don’t call me ‘The Boss’!” Springsteen’s trade handle. That, it seemed, did him in. He as much admitted being upstaged by his “spring” rival. Full attention turned to Springsteen who, as we all know, went on to become rock’s global icon.

Meanwhile, my life went on, and I found myself writing. The road to a writer’s voice is a thousand miles long, and I had to walk mine step after step. Book after book was rejected. Solitude withered me away. Little events, like an unexpected chat in the line at the grocery store, became greatly appreciated. Halfway through the second decade of my literary pursuits, the cocky stride of my youth was long gone. I would never bang a dashboard again.

Here in Florida, when my friend called the other day to suggest the Rick Springfield concert, I found my eyes brightening. “Well, okay, if it’s free.” It was another of those unexpected gifts I was grateful for, like the chat in the grocery store line, a reminder of my gratitude for the small things.

My new novel is filled with these Rick Springfield moments. Scenes I think I cannot write, people I think I cannot create, I manage to, and they arrive on the page with purpose and by design. So when I say Rick Springfield is writing my novel, I’m saying that the older I get, the more often irony reaches around my life, taps me on the shoulder, and says, “Surprise!”

On this morning, the huffy kid who used to sneer and grunt Judas Priest lines is instead humming the catchy light lyrics of sweet Rick’s big hit “Jessie’s Girl.” Strangely enough, I am also reminded of a John Wayne western in which one of his saddle companions says, “There's times I’ve drunk water from a muddy hoof print and been glad of it.”

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