In my native Pennsylvania, an anonymous donor has given $100 million to the struggling city of Erie. (Read the AP story here.) Erie, like so much of Pennsylvania, has fallen upon hard times. Factories that once dominated the area either went out of business or outsourced their business overseas. The poverty rate climbed to a staggering 19 percent and the median household income is barely above $31,000. The generous donation will be split among several community charities. And thus far, the identity of the donor remains a mystery. But what a great chance to improve the city. And, as the Christmas season grows near, a true testament of goodwill. Hopefully this will encourage many to give whatever they can to the less fortunate this season. And oddly enough, though I had written this post last night, I woke this morning to find out my hometown newspaper features an article on the local economy. For an understaffed newspaper, this is the best piece of reporting they’ve done in years and something that might actually get the locals fired up. If I were to ever write another nonfiction book (buy Burn from Algonquin Books in early 2009!), I would write about this problem and just try to figure out what happened. This isn't a particularly well-balanced article—it would have been nice to have heard from an expert who believed a minimum wage increase had no bearing on vanishing jobs and some of the statistics are outdated. However, since I used to work for the newspaper, these shortcomings are no surprise to me. Nor is the dwindling population of my hometown. A wise said it best: “They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks. Woman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back.”
No other American songwriter has even tapped into the veins of the working class like Bruce Springsteen. I’ve been a fan of The Boss for years and have only come to love his music more. For me, nothing tops the stark Nebraska, though Darkness of the Edge of Town and The River are a close second and third. And of course Magic—my favorite album of the year—will also go down as one of the man’s classics. Sometimes people joke that too many of his songs are about topics too similar. But that’s an affront to the people he sings about. Even though I can be quite the music snob sometimes, I’ll always defend the earnest and true message of Springsteen’s music. He gives those who yearn to escape their rusted towns a voice—they race their cars down dark streets, fall in love, and struggle with their jobs. It’s the landscape where I grew up and one I’ll never forget.
Everyone’s heard Bruce do “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Both are great, to be sure. But here’s a few other amazing Christmas tunes from Bruce’s December 17, 2000 show at Asbury Park—and no, “For You” isn’t really a Christmas song. But it sure is good. Thanks to Tom for sending these my way.
Intro/Jingle Bells/For You
Run, Rudolph, Run