The Parallax of Life

I was driving back from lunch tonight, and the radio played Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”

The Born in the USA album came out when I had just graduated from high school. The album’s first single was “Dancing in the Dark,” and was released on May 4th. The first time I heard that was driving home from school one glorious spring afternoon. I could relate to that song. I’d broken up with my girlfriend, and I could most definitely identify with “…wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face,” and the cruel inevitability of another dateless Friday night.

I bought Born in the USA right before I left for college. I remember liking most of the songs, until I got to that festering, melodramatically wistful “Glory Days.” I wanted to yell at the turntable, “Quit whining, Boss!”

Much tempus has fugited since then. Now? I completely relate.

The song hasn’t changed–it remains a simple, bar-band rocker, with a Little Steven mandolin solo–but I’m viewing it from two completely different points in time. Now, when my glory days lay behind me, it makes perfect sense.

Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” is another of my parallax songs. I was ten. I loved this song, and knew all the words. However, knowing the words, and knowing what the words meant are two very different things. “I used her; she used me, but neither one cared. We were gettin’ our share.”

Thank the gods of childhood I didn’t ask my mom, “What are they getting their share of?” Hopefully, she’d have scolded me for ending a question with a preposition and not explained it to me.

“And points of her own, sittin’ way up high…way up firm and high.”


The third song in my parallax triad is the Eagles’, “Take it to the Limit.” I always hated that song. HATED. Triple-H HATED! It was the rare Eagles song not sung by Glen Frey or Don Henley. I didn’t like the ultra slow tempo, or Randy Meisner’s vocals, plus I just didn’t get it.

Many moons after I began my hate-hate relationship with “Take it to the Limit,” I was working at a Classic Rock station. “Take it to the Limit” was on my playlist. Dave/Bob, my Program Director, was in the studio with me. I said whatever I was supposed to say into the microphone, then started the song. I turned the monitor all the way down. “I hate this damn song.”

Dave/Bob looked at me and smiled. “You’re young. Wait till you’re 40, then see if you feel the same.”

“Take it to the Limit” and I didn’t cross paths for a number of years. It was around a year ago, and I heard it start while I was driving somewhere. My ever-quick right hand started toward the radio to change stations, but I stopped.

At the next traffic light, I caught myself singing along, full voice: So put meeeeeeee on a highway;
And show meeeeeeee a sign.
And take it to the limit one more time.”

And the transformation was complete.

The Latin phrase is “Tempus fugit”: Time flies (or flees). It really does. I blinked, and suddenly, my 20’s are far far away. I realize that my life is more than half over, and there won’t be anymore days like when I was 16, smacking 300 yard drives, and eating McNuggets without gaining weight.

As time flies, though, it also drags. Some days are interminable–the days of drudgery and work. Other days–the days with loved ones, little kid hugs, and awesome memories–they just keep on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future. (Sorry)

But for now, work is over. It’s time to go home, take my stabbyfeet meds, and watch “V for Vendetta” with Wind.

And take it. To the limit. One more time.

Happy Sunday.


3 Responses to “The Parallax of Life”

  1. Nice. Nostalgic. Bittersweet. Like life! πŸ™‚

  2. tom, stop it with the “I realize that my life is more than half over.” If you were graduating high school when “Born in the USA” came out, then you’re 10 years younger than me. I’d just had my second child and was feeling sorry for myself because my childless friends were all talking about getting tickets for Bruce’s concerts in their respective cities. (Now I feel a simmering envy when I mention I spent Christmas with my children. It’s weird how life turns things on their heads.)

    But I really know how old I am because I have all of these songs on vinyl records. I don’t have a turntable anymore, but I wore ruts in those discs playing “Night Moves” and “Take It Easy” over and over again. I didn’t like “Take It to the Limit” either, back in the day. Maybe I need to listen to it now, though I hate the tear-fest that comes after listening to old songs. (Especially in the car when I’m driving. The kleenex box always slides to the other end of the front seat, out of my reach.) It’s nice that my son is always sending me CDs of his generation’s music—what a compliment that is!—but old songs have the power to bring back one’s youth, over and over again.

    Then again, I avoid bars that play nothing but late 70s and 80s music. It means it’s frequented by too many old guys who think they’re still 25. πŸ˜€

  3. Does the popular music of today (do they still call it Top 40?) have such a wide spread in age? I don’t think so, but I’m not familiar enough with it. But I don’t picture radio-or-equivalent aimed at teenagers that could have big hits from middle-aged guys lamenting their lost youth nowadays, side by side with first crush swooning.

    I have now determined how much younger than me you are. While you were listening to Bruuuuce while lamenting your HS girlfriend, I’d been married 3 years and Mr. LT was looking around the country for a job during that recession.

    Rock and roll never forgets.

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