It’s always nice when inspiration for writing comes to you in a moment. I had been feeling a bit mopey this evening. It may have been the cold, or the anxiety surrounding my weekend plans. I had dread hanging over my head. I didn’t like it. I knew I needed to write another blog post this evening. I also needed to clean up after dinner. Yet, all I felt like doing was Netflixing reruns of How I Met Your Mother.
After my second episode, I had to get off the couch and clean up. I started on the kitchen. I needed some familiar music. I decided that I wanted some Bruce Springsteen. Whenever you feel like you need someone on your side, it’s easy to settle on Bruce. I didn’t know which album to put on, so I thought I’d check out his most recent work. It was called “Chapter and Verse” which was released with his recent autobiography.
The fourth track was called, “The Ballad of Jesse James.” I thought it was a different version of the song “Jesse James” from his Seeger Sessions album (one of my favorites.) It wasn’t that song. I had heard this song somewhere before.
It took me back to New York City in late summer of 2013, upper west side. I was staying with my ex-girlfriend when I was making my way down to Baltimore from Boston to visit some friends. I stopped in NYC because I didn’t want to do the overnight bus trip. Those are the worst. I stayed with my ex because it was free and convenient. My thought was that it didn’t hurt to ask. She agreed, so I stayed. I didn’t know what to expect.
Any idea of a fling or a one-night stand left me at dinner that evening. The conversation was cold and stilted. We hadn’t seen each other since a year or two before when there was what can be best described as a falling out. She was dating someone else, who was also named Nick. I had tried to move on, but there’s always that one little glimmer of hope with your first love.
The moment I knew that it was going to be a truly ice cold evening was when she excused herself to her room to talk to her boyfriend. (Now that I think about it, I realize that it was a BOLD play by him to let me stay there. I’m curious as to what those conversations were.) She rarely ever called me. It hurt a little bit. I didn’t have very much else to do, so I opened up my laptop and browsed random stuff. I found a listicle from Rolling Stone about the best unreleased Bruce Springsteen songs. That’s where I first heard the Jesse James song. It was a restless song, and I was a guy who couldn’t wait to leave New York. I was hooked on the chorus:
Well don't you wanna be an outlaw
Don't you wanna ride the range
Don't you wanna be an outlaw, children
Just like Jesse, like Jesse James, just like Jesse boy
I must have played that song about a dozen times as she talked on the phone. I hadn’t really listened to it since then, until tonight.
Sometimes it’s good to just rediscover those little moments, no matter how maddening they were.