‘You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re all right’

I read “‘Born to Run’ and the Decline of the American Dream” this morning. And suddenly, my whole world made sense.

It’s that restlessness I cannot seem to cure or kill. This is why.

It’s that growing up so poor, I didn’t want to be poor forever. I didn’t want to bring a child into the world to be poor and somehow “lesser than” all the 1%-ers the Republican’ts pander do. I know what it feels like.

It’s why I will generally always be liberal. Why I believe with all my heart that we should stand together and help each other and sacrifice for the greater good.

If there’s one thing I share in common with Libertarians, it’s that government is out to rob you. Of your money, your rights, your dignity and your individuality.

And as this article showed me, the “Me Generation” wasn’t so selfish after all. They are the reason we have the rights we have today. The battles were hard-fought and ongoing. Because, Republican’ts won’t let us KEEP those rights.

We wrote an article recently and all the rich people wrote in whining that we lesser folks are always trying to take from them. And all the not-rich people wrote in saying how it’s the 1%’s fault. All of it.

My friend said how quaint that people bitch about the 1% instead of getting the idea in their head to try to become part of it. I said my plan is to marry into it. Because, I’m out of options otherwise.

But getting back to the “Born to Run” article, wow. It talked about how our ancestors when they were fresh off the boat had to settle for any job and be happy with whatever it paid. I thought of my great-grandmother who made 10 cents an hour at her peak, breaking her back cleaning houses.

Interestingly, I was looking at my family tree online and it turns out I have even more Italian than I expected. My great-grandmother married an Italian man. But I just learned her mom was Italian too.

That brings me more joy than you know. Perhaps because it explains this strange sadness I have for the old country … that I’ve never even seen.

In any event, subsequent generations of my family and maybe yours realized that while you have to work your ass off to pay The Man and never get ahead, you have escape.

Music. Weekends. Cars and motorcycles that take us as far away as the contents of our gas tanks will allow.

Well, the night’s busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, heaven’s waiting on down the tracks.

— Bruce Springsteen, “Thunder Road”

I feel like I cannot adequately describe how I feel when I hear Springsteen now. I liked him growing up, sure. I’ll always associate one of my soulmates with “Thunder Road.”

At heart, I am a Midwesterner with the Acela route (NYC to D.C.) as my circulatory system. And apparently Italian blood coursing through it.

I don’t know what it was about the article that hit me in the feels so much. It was more that I remembered growing up in the projects, with the $15 a month rent for two bedrooms, and anywhere from five to eight of us living there.

I remember aspiring to be my then-teenage neighbor Debbie, I played with Gary and I loved spending afternoons with my great-grandmother and her friend next door, Clara. I remember Marcia’s boyfriend had a hot car and I wanted a hot car when I grew up. Mom wanted a guy with a hot car but I figured if I had my own, I wouldn’t worry about the guy or the car going away.

Goddess was a child genius, I tell you.

I felt happy and safe. But as I got older, I felt shame. We moved to better neighborhoods and I lied and said I was born in them.

And then it hit, that quiet desperation that never seems to abate. That no matter how hard you work, you won’t be in the 1% so why even keep trying.

But you always have dreams in you. They bubble up every once in a while, almost like heartburn because it’s so much easier when you forget you had them. And if you’re lucky, the feeling that you can still be special passes quickly.

It’s like how I don’t want a welcome mat or decorations outside my house. Once people know there’s happiness inside, they break in and wrestle it away from you.

It’s like how I quit aspiring to executive status. I had big jobs like that — many, actually. You take the most shit and you get fired first. Best to stay in the middle — middle management, middle class, the midpoint of mediocrity at its finest — and if they don’t see you, they can’t hurt you.

Reminds me of when the VA Hospital killed my Grampy. When he refused to open his eyes from under his bedcovers, saying, “If I can’t see them, maybe they won’t see me and can’t hurt me anymore.”

Wise words from someone who loved a good Springsteen song. After all, he embodied every last one of them.

You can hide ‘neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets.

I wouldn’t say I’m happy in the sadness the article (and the music) inspired. But I feel so much less alone than I felt before I read it.

For most people, the miracles never come. But if you’re really lucky, you can be happy for (or, at least, try not to notice) the ones who get everything they ever wanted. Which is probably a whole lot more than you would ever have dared aspire to.

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