Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Boss (hearts) Dover

This morning, I'm staring bleary eyed into the computer screen. "Thunder Road" is playing on my I-pod.

The screen door slams
Mary' dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays

I'm jealously thinking that I will never write a narrative that so completely encapsulates not the big story, but a perfect little moment, a tiny shiny sliver of existence. But that's why he's the Boss.

Bear with my overburdensome prose. I'm sleepy.

Last night, I stayed up far too late with some good friends - Friends made through Dover's famous intelligent design trial. Vic Walczak, ACLU-PA's legal director, Steve Harvey, one of the Pepper Hamilton attorneys who represented the plaintiffs, his wife Mimi, Cyndi Sneath, one of the trial's 11 parents who believed in standing up for the religious freedom of their children, her husband Paul and my husband Jeff.

As everyone who knows Walczak is already aware, the guy is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. Huge. So, when he learned that Springsteen was playing in Hershey, Walczak suggested that a bunch of Dover folks go to the concert. So that's where we were. Just a few yards from the stage.

Springsteen is, of course, a natural draw for these folks, those who believe in defending the Constitution. Springsteen's support of civil liberties is evident to even the most casual listener. On his latest CD Magic, he sings about the past eight years in "Livin' in the Future":

My ship Liberty sailed away
On a bloody red horizon
The groundskeeper opened the gates
And let the wild dogs run

Anyway, the concert, by the way, was incredible. And it was noted by the press that Springsteen played a song that hasn't made his set list in years: "Part Man/Part Monkey".

Well, there's a story about why it was played last night. It's not a big story. Just a perfect little moment. Here's the little background that you won't read about in the reviews of the concert.

Every morning before the 2005 trial, Walczak climbed in his car headed for the courthouse and ritualistically played the song. That's because in August 2005, Springsteen introduced the song at a New Jersey concert with the words, "Folks in Dover aren't sure about evolution. Here in New Jersey, we're counting on it."

Well did God make man in a breath of holy fire
Or did he crawl on up out of the muck and mire
Well the man on the street believes what the bible tells him so
Well you can ask me, mister, because I know
Tell them soul-suckin' preachers to come on down and see
Part man, part monkey, baby that's me

So, knowing that Dover had made it onto Springsteen's radar, Walczak saw an opportunity. He called a few friends last week, who had a few friends... And, Mr. Springsteen, no doubt because he supports the ACLU and the Bill of Rights, agreed to not only meet us, but he also granted Walczak's rather giddy request. "We're kinda hoping you'd play 'Part Man/Part Monkey'?" Springsteen, more than a little hesitantly, asked Walczak who he should dedicate the song to.

Later, after first telling the audience that the band didn't remember how to play the song, Springsteen dedicated "Part Man/Part Monkey" to, "the Dover parents and sound science education." Just as Walczak had asked.

And then, of course, the E Street Band nailed a terrific Bob Marley-infused version.

So, there you have it. It's not a big story. Just a perfect little moment.

Lauri in York

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't agree that it was a little moment. I thought it was a pretty big moment.

There we were, hanging out backstage waiting to meet the Boss. I would have been happy just because I was spending time with some of my great friends from the Dover trial. We were missing Eric Rothschild and other key members of the plaintiffs' legal team, but they were there with us in spirit. Lauri's mom was also with us as was Vic's friend Glenn Downey. The members of the E Street Band were milling about waiting to go on stage with Bruce. Nils Lofgren was there with a little bicycle that he had been riding around the parking lot. Steve Van Zandt stood nearby wearing his trademark bandana. Max Weinberg and the other members of the E Street Band were chatting among themselves. There was an air of nervous excitement for all of us and I think for the entire stadium crowd just over the fence as we waited for Bruce Springsteen. We're about to see Springsteen! Then the door right next to us opens and out walks Bruce Springsteen. I hate to sound like a school girl with a crush, but I was awestruck. He came out looking just like Bruce Springsteen, only more so, with a huge smile on his face. I have to say that he is the most charismatic person I have ever met.

Bruce spoke first to the others who were there to meet him. He gave a kiss and a hug to Max Weinberg's 91 year-old mother. Then he came over to us. Vic spoke first and introduced us. Bruce shook our hands. Lauri gave him a copy of her book and told him that it contained a reference to Part Man/Part Monkey. Then someone -- I think it may have been Cyndi -- asked Bruce to play the song. He replied that he had not played it in years, and Vic said "I saw you play it in 2005." Bruce smiled at that and asked if we would like him to dedicate it. There was a pause and someone said "to the Dover parents," and I added "and good science education." Bruce said "the Dover parents and good science education," to make sure he had it right. We exchanged a few more pleasantries and then he repeated the words once or maybe twice as if to make sure he had it down: "The Dover parents and good science education." Then he said goodbye and he and the band walked out and onto the stage.

He played Part Man/Part Monkey about two thirds of the way into the concert and dedicated it to the Dover parents and good science education, just like he said he would. It's posted and you can watch it on YouTube:
Note the very cool pause between "the Dover parents" and "and good science education" while he plays the guitar. The Springsteen blogs report that this is the first time he has played the song with the E Street Band in twenty years. They played it to perfection, although it seemed to me that the other members of the band stayed in the background and let Bruce do most of the work on this song, which made it even more special. We all danced wildly, Vic most of all. The entire concert was phenomenal -- the best rock and roll show that I have ever seen -- and Part Man/Part Monkey dedicated to our clients ("the Dover parents") and their cause ("good science education") made it perfect.

Steve Harvey

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve said:
"We all danced wildly, Vic most of all."

Any chance that's on YouTube? :)

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, not on You Tube, but I can tell you, it was all legs and arms akimbo. If he were a helicopter, it would look like the rotor blades were just about ready to come flying off in a million little pieces. You just gotta love the unbridled joy we are sometimes still capable of.

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! You guys ROCK! What a great event!

Laura, I bought your book just after it was published, and read right through it. It was a very interesting "insider's view" of the personalities.

I drove through PA a few weeks ago, and considered trying to contact you and get you to autograph my copy of the book. But I didn't have any time for any adventures. It would be cool to get all of you to autograph it.

Are you sure the "spaghetti monster" wasn't a mistake?

10:17 PM  
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