3 – Blog a20 – Born to Run

By dawn we leave North Carolina and Virginia behind us and pass through DC. Five hungry teenagers cannot be denied. We take a break for breakfast in southern Maryland. The landscape changes from rural farmlands to suburban sprawl. There is no hominy and grits on the menu. Blueberry pancakes are a welcome substitute. Drinking coffee and going outside for a wake and bake joint, we take the time to review our progress. Our primary goal – to find Jace/Casper’s real mom: done. Next, could we tour and survive on the road: with a lot of help from the Uncles, we believe in ourselves. Third, to test our own songs, which we have to believe in if we are to play them to a New York City audience: our reviews are mixed. As performers with a host of antics to involve the crowd, we have the teen energy to make a splash. The ditty ‘Barefoot’ is a sure crowd-pleaser. Some of the sex songs are cool. The southern blues of ‘False Gods’ and ‘South Florida’ shows we have grits in our bowels, just not in our hearts. ‘Sneakin’ and ‘Look Before You Leap’ get decent receptions. Our swagger and confidence make them better. They are true reflections of our Miami lives. We trust their authenticity. No band writes a hit song every time. No band can take NYC by storm with only seven songs. We agree not to do covers unless the show really sucks. At least we’re being honest.
Fourth, the Teen Jesus crusade: we hardly know what our goals are with the church youth groups. I keep thinking of the cop in Coconut Grove who wondered what Jesus was like as a teenager. He hoped He was rowdy. We definitely are that. When kids let Casper and me into their hearts, where the authentic Jesus lies, it makes them open to each other and breaks down the barriers learned from family, friends, school, and even church. Every kid we meet needs to be open with the others, to belong to an uber-family of peers. We tell them to fight abuse and report it even when they only observe or suspect it. Those who have been abused need the support of their peers. The progress that Casper’s brother John has made convinces me that the abused can learn to love again, to open their hearts, and not repeat the cycle of abuse. After a success with the Storefront Church at Daytona Beach, we have made no effort to reach out to youth groups. We are having so much fun, we forgot this is one of our goals. Pretty immature of us. I sign my concerns to Casper who replies that we were being open to new friends and experiences. Teen Jesus is not a crusade but an attitude. We are fine and will be in the proper spirit for New York. He is my personal Teen Jesus.
Michael has an idea. “Why not take today to go to Asbury Park. There’s that folk singer Bruce Springsteen who is so New York that he lives in New Jersey.”
Michael’s ideas are always so right on, who can deny him. It means taking the Garden State Parkway instead of the New Jersey Turnpike straight into New York.
“If he’s a hippie, how do we meet him?” Robby is skeptical.
“I got my peeps, too,” Hippie brags.
That convinces us. We are in Asbury Park before noon.

We go out to the beach, which is so unlike Miami Beach. Even though it’s early April, the wind and moist air make it too miserable to get out of the car. Jack and I volunteered to go into the dance pavilion, a huge 1920’s Art Deco dance hall, right on the boardwalk.
“You mean the E Street Band,” the man in the office tells us. “Let me get their address for you.”
With that kind of help, my opinion of the Northeast is on the rise. Soon we pull up to an old warehouse in a commercial part of town. We all pile out while the Uncles park and stay warm. I knock at the door with the correct number; there are no markings.
“Whadda ya want?’ comes a reply.
“E Street Band?”
“Who’s askin’?”
“B Street Beats.” I ad-lib.
Hippie elbows me aside. “Hey, man, ya gotta hear our groove. We come to relate.”
“Why didn’tcha say so?” and the door opens.
A skinny guy about 25 with a Jewish fro and beard is inside.
Robby steps up, “We’re here to get you high,” and produces a joint.
“Well, don’t just stand there. Com’n in. Where are yer shoes?”
The place is pretty barren except for a full band setup with couches and chairs strewn around. Lots of cigarette butts are everywhere but in an ashtray.
“So, where are the B Street Beats from? Do we have local competition?”
“Naw,” I admit. “E Street Rules. We’re from Miami.”
“Jesus, no wonder you look so cold.” He goes over and turns up the thermostat. “How’d ya get so lost?”
He produces a Bic and Robby lights up the joint.
“We’re playing a couple of shows in the City this Easter. We wanted to meet you. See what you think of our band. See if we’re ready for the City.”
“What if you’re not?”
“We’ll just work on it. We’re just a cover band, only been together since October. But we got good press and Ry Cooder booked us to open with Skynyrd at the end of the month. Also, we’re to play Easter services at St Patrick’s and Abyssinian Baptist, plus we got a CBGB’s gig for Good Friday.”
“Well, Ry Cooder’s cool. But ya can’t be playin’ covers in New York.”
“We know you write your own songs, so we hope you’ll hear the ones we wrote. We played them at road houses on the way up. It’s hard to know if they’re any good, when everyone loves the covers we do.”
“You want my opinion?”
“We want to play with you and your band. We come after your generation, come to strike a chord for future generations.”
“Are you poets or singers.”
“We sing of our lives and our times, as you sing of yours.”
“Our times are harsh, full of war and protest.” Springsteen proclaimed
“We fought with your times and protested for our people.”
“Tell me of your fights and of your people.”
I tell the story of my firefight with burned out Viet Vets in New England.
I tell of my cousin, the Little Joe of ‘Walk on the Wild Side.’
I tell how we protested segregation at our school in order to know poor black students who only want to be our friends.
I tell of the abuse that killed our guitarist,    my best friend, while defending his dog, the only creature that had always loved him.
I tell of Teen Jesus, come to open the hearts of those hardened by hatred, fear, and ignorance.
I tell of runaways refused shelter by authorities, who must turn to prostitution.
I tell of hillbillies who have no hope or future.
I tell of pregnant, unmarried girls on drugs.
I tell of arrogant students self-involved in foolish sports.

“You are the poet of your generation,” I tell him. “We are the kids that come next. We have not yet learned to be afraid. We’re born to run.”
Springsteen laughs and laughs, as we do.

“You may not be a poet but you know how to spin a tale. I will be happy to do battle of the bands with you, as well as battle of the generations. I’ll call Clarence and Van Zandt to set up an evening of the E Street Band versus the B Street Beats.”
Robby takes another joint from behind his ear. The deal is sealed. Springsteen comes back with a six-pack and confirmation that their studio will be open at 9 pm for our face off.

Off we go to a hotel he suggests, road weary and horny. We pay extra for our own room, deciding to sleep first before any action. Casper lays between us. When Hippie bursts in (the rooms were adjoining, so the door does not lock) to complain about Robby harassing him, he only sees the two of us, separated by Casper’s space.
“Can I use the spare bed?” he asks.
We mumble, “Sure,” and go back to sleep.

We get up in time for Jersey pizza. Then it’s time to get to the studio and have it out with the Band of the 70s.
We drag our equipment into the space, taking the left side of the wall while the E Street Band is to the right. They’re all there, tuning up, plus about twenty hangers-on.
Van Zandt approaches us, “The Boss said you were all kids. We’re having a rehearsal tonight anyway, so you won’t mind if we work on our new songs?”
“Great. We love your stuff,” I respond. “I’m Tim, guitarist. Jack’s the singer. Hippie on Bass. Michael and Robbie are drummers.”
“Like the Allman Brothers, double drummers.”
“Yeah. Lynyrd Skynyrd, too.”
“Southern boys?”
“Yup. If you think Miami’s the South.”
“That’s questionable. Bruce says you’ve been playing road houses this week.”
“Had to skip out of getting paid for last night’s show ‘cause there was so much damage. We just threw everything in the cars and took off. Them hillbillies was still fightin’ in the parking lot as we tore out of there.”
“Ya talk the talk. Let’s find out what all the commotion is about.”
“Thanks. We usually toke up before we play, if you wanna indulge?”
“Maybe after we work on this one song first.”
“You go first. We’ll all pass the ‘j’ before we go on.”

It is on.

Bruce steps up to the mic.

“Welcome to the B Street Beats, boys from Miami, inspired by the sounds of ‘Welcome to Asbury Park.’ They need a little warm-up for their show in the Bowery tomorrow. This is how it’ll work. Each band will do a song and the other band will follow. We’re going first. We’ll try our new song. It’s a work in progress: ‘Runaway American Dream’

“In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line
Oh-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
`Cause tramps like us, we gotta grab the fun”

“Stop,” he yells. “That line don’t work. You,” he yells at me, ‘what was that line you said about not being afraid.
“Yeah. We was born to run.”
He thinks about it and decides,” We’ll try that, but say ‘Baby, we were born to run.’”
They start playing and use my line. As they finish, Springsteen yells ‘stop’ again.
“Let’s use that line at the ending and repeat it over and over:

‘Where we really wanna go
and we’ll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
baby, we were born to run
Oh honey, tramps like us
baby we were born to run
Come on with me, tramps like us
baby we were born to run.’

“From the top, go through it again.”
They finally play the whole song through. His idea of a competition is subsumed by need to create a new hit song. They end at ‘baby we were born to run.’ The twenty or so hangers-on give them a smattering of applause. It is our turn.

I get Robby up at the mic with Jack and tell him to go crazy with his monkey act.
“Y’all might notice we’re runnin’ ourselves, ‘cause we’s a bit cold up here. We don’t wear shoes. We ain’t hillbillies. In Miami, we never wear shoes. This song’s called ‘Barefoot in the Park.’”

“Barefooted boy
Makes a stand
To take his joy
Going hand to hand

Flying out free
Branch to branch
Through the trees
Reckless chance.”

“Free to be
A monkey like me

Ha ha ha
He he he
Haw haw haw
Chee chee chee”

Robby is up and off around the room, jumping on the amps and grabbing pipes and hanging lamps. He comes down on top of the E Street Bands amps, mocking Springsteen with his monkey moves. He turns around and mocks the bystanders. Several of the girls start their own monkey moves. They go over and mock the E Street Band.

We keep playing the chorus until Springsteen screams, “Stop.”

As good boys, we stop.

Jack shouts into the mic, “Who won round one, Hometown or Miami,” pointing at the other band.
“Miami,” everyone shouts.
Instead of being mad, the older guys in the band are laughing and mocking Springsteen, who pouts and asks us how they can make their song better.
“Just add those monkey noises at the end and run around.”
“Okay, from the top.”

“..Come on with me, tramps like us
baby we were born to run.


Everyone applauds.

Jack said, “Well, while yer running away from the American dream, we’re having fun. This song’s called ‘Sneakin’ Around.”

“Sneaking around
Never been caught
All over town
Better than not.

Thrill’s in the chase
No time to waste
Folks on my case
All is in haste.

Waiting’s the worst
You were my first
I need you now
We’re on the prowl.

Back of an alley
Sprawled in the dirt
No time to dally
Who’ll cum first.

shaka shaka love?
‘shaka shaka love shaka shaka
Shaka shaka love shaka shaka.”

The bystanders are whooping and laughing when we sing ‘cum,’ They’re shakin’ it to the chorus, which naturally we repeat until it’s too much..

Jack is now the MC, “Us or them?” again pointing at Springsteen .
It’s “You,” meaning us, although not unanimously.

“Com’n.” Springsteen is frustrated. “we’re just tryin’ to get it right.”
“Score, Beat Street 2, Easy Street zero.” Jack announces. “Better you try another song, for round three.”
“No. We got this now,” he proclaims. Pointing at me, “In your honor, the song is now called ‘Born to Run.”
They play it all the way through. Everyone is cheering, especially us.
“Hey, Steve,” Robby calls over,  “Ready for that joint, now that we solved the song y’all been workin’ on.”
“Break it out,” he calls back.
Robby pulls out two joints  from behind his ear, one for the bands and one for the crowd.
“Hey, that’s influencing the jury,” Bruce complains.
“Well, break out the beers,” I challenge him.
He runs to the back and returns with a case of PBR. There’s a break in the action. B Boys – 2, E Men – 1 at halftime.
“Ya havin’ fun, at our expense?” Bruce comes over and slaps me on the back.
“That song is definitely a hit,” I tell him.
“I ‘spose now you expect royalties?”
“Hell no. I just wanna win this competition. You’re the poet. You recognized a throwaway line for what it could be.”
“Y’are havin’ fun?”
“Yeah, thanks. This is great. If’n you want, we’ll throw the next few songs, so y’all don’t look so bad to the home crowd.”
“No way, get up there. It’s your turn.”

Jack takes the mic, “While y’alls appreciating our fine Colombian weed and Bruce’s working class beer, we’ll play our runnin’ song.”
He turns around and mouths, ‘Runnin’ Scared.’

“That ain’t fair,” Springsteen complains after we are done. “That’s a Roy Orbison cover.”
“Who said we couldn’t play covers?” Jack counters. “Hell, we practically rewrote your song. You basically covered us.”
The inebriated crowd heartily agrees. It is 3-1.
“Thank you, loyal fans. How about we switch and we go first,” Jack challenges them. I realize the pot is getting to his libido. I mouth ‘Sex Inside’ and walk over so he could sing while hanging on to me.

“I need you to give,
what we need to live.
Take my hands,
shake my hips,
all that we can,
kiss my lips,
invade my mind,
don’t leave my side,
forget my pride,
I need you inside.”
take me inside
take me inside.
take me inside.
take me.
take me.

You act so true,
With me so blue,
take me
calm me
you need me,
a reason to love.
Take my hands,
Take my hips,
all you can,
kiss my lips,
invade my mind,
don’t leave my side,
forget my pride,
I need you inside.
take me inside.
take me inside.
take me inside.
take me.
take me.
take me.

Jack is all over me as I rip the guitar licks. I’m afraid he will lick my ears. The crowd is stunned. As usual, the girls have dreamy faces as they see Jack fag off on me. The guys are grabbing their girlfriends for protection. Each time we do the chorus the guys hump the girls. It is hot. It is as steamy as a disco in that warehouse.
“Fuck, yeah,” someone calls out.

Springsteen takes the mic. “I ain’t competing with that. You boys are corrupting my boys here.”

It’s 4-1 in favor of youth.

They start the next round with ‘Blinded by the Light,” ripping it apart.

The vote is close. If a count were taken, we might have won, but the girls are out-shouted by the guys. B band – 4, E Band – 2.
“Take that teenaged werewolves,” Springsteen crows. “We’re on a roll.”

“Y’all wanna know ‘bout Miami? Where’d ya think all that pot comes from? This is our ‘South Florida.’”

“Go deep to the South
When you can go no more
Find our city so you can score
Come to our cool house

We bewilder with our drug
Whether it be love
Or just wanting a hug
We’re free to meet the need

Miami’s here to serve
keeps you safe and sound
Southern man beats you down
That’s what you deserve

Miami drug
Life too tough?
Take the time
Follow our sign

Girls are free
Always please
Jack your shit
Get into it.”


Then we pivot to ‘Drugs’


‘I take drugs but I don’t understand

How you let things get so out of hand

Its no fun to be a bore

Waiting around for you to score


When you’re high stay close to me

Teach me to fly & how to be free

Please don’t cry, its only the drug

You won’t die, just give me a hug


Heroin & cocaine make a speed ball

Dilaudin or codein soften the fall

Thorzine puts you away for awhile

Acid & beer will make you smile


Needles give hep, death & the flu

For that rush that’s what you must do

Crystal meth is the best

But forget about sex


Whiskey & ‘ludes make me real rude

Acid & pot will make your brain rot

PCP takes you away from me

Red & beers chase away the fears


Do you still love me or is it the drugs

I love the sex but I need your hugs

Together we are happy, apart I am sad

Without a connection we always go mad’


“Fuck, yeah,” the hangers-on are still on our side.


“We’re from the City. You local yokels think it’s oh so easy. This is “Hard to be a Saint in the City,” Springsteen yells into the mic.



It’s no contest. The pot addles the judges. Boys – 5, Men – 2.
“What the hell do I havta do. Ya hang out and drink my beer, then vote for the out-of-towners?”
“We’re adopting these boys. They know how to have a good time. You just want to look good,” a naysayer responds.
“Hey, we love this guy,” Jack speaks up, forgetting he just outed himself to everyone.
“Whoo eee, Bruce, you got yerself a boyfriend?”
Springsteen turns beet red, until a young girl jumps on stage. “He’s all mine,” Patti Scialfa yells.
The E Streeters break into ‘Rosalita,’ with Springsteen singing to her.

After they finish, I run over and ask her to sing with us.
“Y’all knows Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird?’”
“’Course, but that’s a single guy’s farewell song.”
“We do it as a duet. Jack sings the first line and you respond back and forth until at the end you sing together. First time, you’re sad he’s leavin’. Second time, you rejoice with him and hope to go, too.”
“Cool. I can do that.”
“Jesus. Now they’re stealin’ my girlfriend,” Springsteen complains.
“I ain’t your girlfriend until ya grow up, in another ten years.”

She comes over. I do a slightly longer than usual intro, as we get set. The duet is amazing. She can really sing. After repeating the verse, I do an extended finale, letting Casper take over and playing soaring riffs, as I rock back and forth. Patti has tears in her eyes, so I let Casper play the full 7 minutes, knowing we scored by using Bruce’s girlfriend. He bows to her without calling for a vote. B Boys – 6 E Men – 2.
“Time out,” he calls, and comes over to our area.
“I hope you’re having as much fun as we are?” I look sweetly at Bruce.
“I’m open to suggestions as to why this is fun.”
“Okay, let’s both take a 50’s rocker and bring one of his songs back to life.”
“You’re on.” He challenges me.
“Okay. We’ll do Elvis. You go on first this round.”
I remember that they do one of the King’s slow songs to his mama, ‘Wear My Ring Round your Neck.” It is not a crowd pleaser, but they do their own folk version.


We do the pop hit ‘Teddy Bear’, pointing at Springsteen as we sing “Put a chain around my neck and lead me anywhere,” to mock Springsteen’s mama’s boy Elvis song. Jack jumps in front of the crowd, swiveling his hips and thrusting in true Elvis style. Ending up on his knees to several girls, who squeal their approval.


“We concede,” he gives up. “Defeated at twenty-five by a band of 16 year olds.”
“We are the future,” I crow.
“No,” he counters, “you are winning now, but I am the future.” He looks at Patti, “You will marry me and we will conquer the world.”
“Yes, I will, but tonight I am their’s,” and Patti hugs me and Jack, with Casper in between, as always.
“And when you conquer the world, remember our band song, ‘False Gods.’
We play it in the original long version:



“We rushed in where angels feared to tread
They gave up hope, gave us up for dead
But our memory lingers on eternally
And from the abyss we heard Lucifer’s plea
But we too wanted a world of our own
We always dreamed of having a throne
So we ran away from them to see
Now we’ll be happy for eternity

We are false Gods
We are false Gods

We found this world so meek and blind
We stand here laughing at your kind
But you cynical fools don’t understand
You fall to your knees useless fleas
Your world so full of flaws
Facades and miracles applause
Eulogized not despised
Yes! We’re eulogized ‘cause

We are false Gods
We are false Gods

From up the hill
We hear your pleas
You bring us presents
Fall to your knees
Pray and speak in semaphores
You sacrifice your hallowed sheep

Pitiful slugs which you are
Dance and sing in a pit of fire
Arms waving in the air around
We’re so happy at this world we found
Our omnipotent beneficence
Astounds your boggled minds
But you’re just like toys
So we made our minds to be
False Gods

We are false Gods
We are false Gods

So we will live eternally
And hear your painful screams
Just wait twenty years or so
And you will know just what we mean”


“Heavy, man,” Bruce declares. “Very heavy.”
“That means bong hits, all around,” Robby announces.

We win because we’re young and have nothing to lose, plus sharing our pot. Springsteen and the E Street Band go on to conquer the world because it means everything for them. They just need reminding that you have to have fun to stay young.

We kick back with Patti and the other hangers-on. Bruce and the band work on the other songs they’re preparing to record. They’ve been on Columbia for three years without really breaking through. The label promises heavy promotion of the new album, so the pressure is on to create hit songs. Instead of learning our craft from them, we keep chatting up Patti. She’s 21 and in college. She and Bruce aren’t really together. He is married, but there definitely are sparks flying around them. She is small, Italian/Irish with blue eyes and red hair.

I have to express my opinions, “Maybe he needs to stop being all these rock stereotypes, a man of the street, a folkie, a hippie, and a bohemian. He should dump all those types and be an American rocker. Fuck the hippie crap.”
“Yeah, he wants to be a poet, like Morrison, and a one-man Beatles,” Patti admits with a sly grin.
“He’s incredible. And nice to take us in. I feel so much better about our show at CBGB’s tomorrow.”
“Who did you suck off to get all these crazy gigs?”
“I see you’re not shy and demure. We only suck off each other.”
“So, that isn’t an act up there? You really are gay?”
“No doubt but not something we shout.”
“Kinda limiting?”
“Girls seem to like it. And we have girlfriends. They aren’t allowed to travel with us. They’ll be in New York Friday.”
“And they’re in the band, too?”
“Sure, we call them the Jacettes, after our dead guitarist, Jace.”
“You gotta tell me all your stories sometime.”
“Come back to the hotel with us, Mrs. Robinson.”
“Hey, watch it. I’m only 21.”
“Well, we’re both 16 so that’s 32 total years, less ten years for being gay, makes us 20 now.”
“That’s teenaged thinking, sonny.”
“You don’t have to sleep with us. We can keep telling you stories. Watch out for Jack though when he smokes pot. He’s a cat on a hot tin roof.”
“Yeow,” Jack purrs.
“You know how to make a lady feel wanted.”
“We are Southern gentlemen.”
“What happened to your hillbilly accents?”
“We’re a mite fur from the South, y’all.”
“Whatever you are, you’re fun to be around.”
“We always have fun. Come back with us tonight.”
“I like persistent.”

There’s a break for the E Streeters, so I pick up my SG. Jack turns on our mic and announced, “ We have one last song, which is for Patti, with apologies to the Boss, as it’s called ‘Love.’”

“I never feel this way.
Just happy full of play.
I wake up every day,
You’re by my side,
You reach and touch,
I say goodbye.

There’s no future,
But we have now.
Don’t ask,
some way,

“We’re perfect for each other,
I never think of another.”
Can’t be love, but who can say
I know you’re here to stay?”

There’s no future,
But we have now.
Don’t ask,
some way,
‘We can’t live by ourselves.
We need people that we love
We hate those who hate themselves
We know what they’re made of.

Love, love, love

I need your love
I need your love
I need your love
I need you”

“’Godspeed your love,’” crooned Bruce. “Now you’re stealin’ from the Righteous Brothers, boys.”
“Actually, the ‘love, love, love’ is from the Beatles. We only steal from the best.”
“Following a long tradition of plagiarism.”
“Makin’ rock into folk music, passing it on down the generations.”
“It’s a little bit sappy.”
“Love’s kinda tricky for teenagers.”
“Well, I liked it ‘cause they sang it for me. We’re going to shack up now.” Patti walks to the door. Jack and I hightail it after her. Bruce just stares after us.



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