Sunday, June 10, 2012

Songs To While Away The Class By- Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The U. S. A."- From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin-A Story- "Back In The Real World"

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Bruce Springsteen performing “Born In The U.S.A.”

Bruce Springsteen Born In The U. S. A. Lyrics

Born down in a dead man town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up

Born in the u.s.a., I was born in the u.s.a.
I was born in the u.s.a., born in the u.s.a.

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man said son if it was up to me
Went down to see my v.a. man
He said son, don't you understand

I had a brother at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run aint got nowhere to go

Born in the u.s.a., I was born in the u.s.a.
Born in the u.s.a., I'm a long gone daddy in the u.s.a.
Born in the u.s.a., born in the u.s.a.
Born in the u.s.a., I'm a cool rocking daddy in the u.s.a.
Joshua Lawrence Breslin comment:

As I mentioned in an earlier entry in this space, courtesy of my old yellow brick road magical mystery tour merry prankster fellow traveler Peter Paul Markin, recently, in grabbing an old Bruce Springsteen CD compilation from 1998 to download into my iPod I came across a song that stopped me in my tracks,Brothers Under The Bridge. I had not listened to or thought about that song for a long time but it brought back many memories from the late 1970s when I did a series of articles for the now defunct East Bay Eye (California, naturally) on the fate of some troubled Vietnam veterans who, for one reason or another, could not come to grips with “going back to the real world” and took, like those a great depression generation or two before them, to the “jungle”-the hobo, bum, tramps camps located along the abandoned railroad sidings, the ravines and crevices, and under the bridges of California, mainly down in Los Angeles and created their own “society.” The story that accompanies the song to this little piece from the same compilation, Born In The U. S. A., is written under that same sign.

The genesis of this story follows that of the “Brothers Under The Bridge” previously posted .The editor of the East Bay Eye, Owen Anderson, gave me that long ago assignment after I had done a smaller series for the paper on the treatment, the poor treatment, of Vietnam veterans by the Veterans Administration in San Francisco and in the course of that series had found out about this band of brothers roaming the countryside trying to do the best they could, but mainly trying to keep themselves in one piece. My qualifications for the assignment other than empathy, since I had not been in the military during the Vietnam War period, were based simply on the fact that back East I had been involved, along with several other radicals, in running an anti-war GI coffeehouse near Fort Devens in Massachusetts and down near Fort Dix in New Jersey. During that period I had run into many soldiers of my 1960s generation who had clued me on the psychic cost of the war so I had a running start.

After making connections with some Vietnam Veterans Against The War (VVAW) guys down in L.A. who knew where to point me I was on my way. I gathered many stories, published some of them in the Eye, and put the rest in my helter-skelter files. A couple of weeks ago, after having no success in retrieving the old Eye archives, I went up into my attic and rummaged through what was left of those early files. I could find no newsprint articles that I had written but I did find a batch of notes, specifically notes from stories that I didn’t file because the Eye went under before I could round it into shape.

The format of those long ago stories was that I would basically let the guy I was talking to give his spiel, spill what he wanted the world to heard, and I would write it up without too much editing (mainly for language). I have reconstructed that story here as best I can although at this far remove it is hard to get the feel of the voice and how things were said. This is Michael Gross’ short bitter-sweet story, the story of a soldier born in the U. S.A.

I kissed that 1969 West Coast America home tarmac the minute I got off that foul-smelling plane. Foul-smelling after many hours of drinking guys, of dope-smoking and chopped cigarette- smoking guys, of pissing in the sink guys, of food all over the place guys who had just completed that last leg from Hawaii back to the real world from goddam in-country, “Nam, where else. “Back in the real world,” kept pounding through my brain through all the fog of war dope, vile whiskey, and stale potato chips. I swore I would kiss that hot tarmac when I landed and I did. See I came back in one piece, whole see, not like a couple of guys I buddy systemed with. Hell they are still back there for all I know. One day hell came down on us from the north and I made out on an Evac but those guys, Jerry and Sam, just vanished into smoke. I don’t want to talk about that too much because I want to tell you about my life a little after kissing that fucking tarmac. Talk a little about how I wound up here in Santa Monica living on stale bread and stale dreams.

See I had a girl back home. Back home in Steubenville, Ohio, did I tell you that? Lorraine, ah, sweet Lorraine who promised me she would wait for me to get back and then we would get married. Ya, same old, same old, we knew each other from high school, hell, junior high really, and were strictly one on one all the way through. Nobody messed with her, nobody messed with her while I was around anyway, and nobody told me anything otherwise. And her letters, her letters were always sweet perfume and talk of a little cottage and stuff like that. Girl-boy in love young and waiting, just waiting to get a jump start on something. Well I guess Lorraine got lonely, or tired of waiting or just tired of the idea of waiting and headed up to Ann Arbor in Michigan with some girlfriends one weekend (big blue traitor to the Buckeyes, Ohio State you know) and started to smoke dope, and party. And more than party. Guys were all over her (from what she told me latter when I got my own personal dear john letter in person) and she got to like partying around, and guying around. So not two days after I get home, kind of weary, kind of sensing something was wrong but I was unable to my finger on it she spilled everything to me. And then she announced that she was heading west in some Volkswagen bus with her girlfriend and a couple of damn big blue guys to “find herself.” Ya, that story, now that I tell it, has been told a million times by about two millions guys.

Jilted, sliced and diced, heart cut out. It wasn’t until later, later after I hit the road west myself, that I realized that small town girl, small town guy just were glued together by circumstances and once she (and I) had seen the great big world that small town dust couldn’t hold jack together. I took it hard, real hard for a while, real mopey hard until I went back to girl. You know not a girl, girl the name we had for cocaine, sweet dream cocaine, something that would lift you out of the real world funk and into the “real world.”

Hey, before ‘Nam I was like most guys, a few beers, maybe some rotgut store- bought whiskey or maybe jump across the Ohio River to Kentucky for some moonshine. Nothing serious, nothing serious but just passing into manhood like our fathers and theirs before us. Don’t let anyone tell you different, sure a lot of guys drank themselves silly in ‘Nam but almost every guy, every living guy anyway, tried dope, mostly weed. And some of us liked it more than somewhat. And some of us, when the hammer came down, and were sitting out in the boonies, waiting, waiting for your number to be called, had their girl for company. Ya, sweet dream girl. But as I was coming back to the real world, come hell or high water, I tapered off, tapered off big time until Lorraine laid that bummer on me.

Of course in 1970 or so a guy who had girl, or connections to girl, good connections and righteous stuff, had plenty of friends, and plenty of adventurous girlfriends too. So I had my fair share of redheads (my favorite), blondes (so-so) and whatever other color girl’s hair there is and just let the dope run it painless course. Until they stopped coming around some much when the dope dried up, or when they were heading back to whatever they were doing before that early 1970s experiment stuff started to wear thin. Truth though was that I was caught between a rock and a hard place with the dope. I was dealing some to stay alive but I had been busted a couple of times, nothing big but a squaresville Ohio rap was hard going, hard going if and when you wanted go straight. I learned that the hard way when I, after getting a little sober (at the out-patient VA clinic) I went over Mackenzie’s Steel Stamping shop in Mechanicsville, the big local steel mill around that area, and they said “no dice” even though they were hiring vets like crazy. And it was like that a lot of places, a lot. It was like they didn’t care that I had done my duty, had done my American fucking duty. Like it didn’t count, count for anything.

So to make a long story short I stayed just about as long as I could, as long as my parents could take it, as long as Steubenville could take it I guess. A couple of years. Then I heard about guys, a band of brothers, Vietnam Vets, but going wild against the war, and calling out everybody on it, everybody who still supported it but wouldn’t give a vet a break, who were heading west to start fresh, or just to blow off the east. And in that caravan as it headed west sat in one seat one Michael Gross. Free, like some pioneer wild boy I read about in high school in history class. The coast or bust.

Well, as you can see it was bust. I couldn’t get a job because the Arabs had beaten up all the oil or something. I couldn’t keep a girl because they wanted somebody with dough, at least the girls I was running with, or prospects. Ya, and I went back to girl, to pushing girl until I got busted again, did a little time and wound up here, by this fucking ravine just pushing up stale bread and stale dreams trying to keep my head on. Just trying to keep my head on. But when you write this thing up, write up this too, I did what I did for America, and I am not ashamed, not ashamed at all. I just wish somebody had appreciated it. Damn.

Oh ya, if you print this thing could you say that Mike Gross was looking for Lorraine, Lorraine Schmidt, from Steubenville, Ohio. And tell her Mike is back in the real world. Okay.

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