I saw in the news today that Clarence Clemens had a stroke. Though they arenít giving out details, it sounds like a very serious one, perhaps a life ending one. I apologize that this will sound like something which belongs as a blog, but I felt compelled to share this on the bigger platform, someplace it would be seen. Tragedies and death often make us think, see a bigger picture. All too often they bring us back, into our own past, and for this I felt compelled to share.
Those of you who know me, have read my funny asides and my more intimate revelations of a life fully lived. I have mentioned my complicated youth, especially when I was a college student in Princeton. It was a time of self discovery and trying things that went far outside the accepted norms of society. I grew up on the Jersey Shore, and Asbury Park and the Stone Pony was only a 20 minute drive from Toms River, New Jersey. It was a time that made famous, ďDrugs, Sex and Rock and RollĒ, and I was a dynamic part of the scene. I suspect that I was Borderline Personality disordered, and therefore, needed certain people desperately in my life.
I have written only briefly, of two townies who sought me out, adopted me, so to speak, and were intertwined intrinsically into my very heart and soul. The relationship lasted for two years until I graduated, they being 12/13 and me being 20/21. I spoke of the one, my last day at school and telling him I would be leaving, and he, crying in my arms. I miss him to this day. His other, best friend, and my other, was an amazing kid.
Tommy played saxophone, something which I didnít realize when they would come over to my house/room every day after school. After college, I moved to Ohio, 500 miles away. One day I got a phone call and it was Tommy. He was coming to visit. He brought with him several saxophones, records and a number of harmonicas, all in different keys. We stayed up until 3 in the morning, he playing along with his records, both sax and the harmonicas. Such an amazing evening! It was in the heat of the summer, and the temperature was well into the 90ís, my small upstairs apartment which had no air conditioning. I loved every minute we were together.
He told me that while in high school, I think he was a freshman, he went to The Stone Pony, because Bruce Springsteen was back in town, playing at his old bar gig. Tommy went and had the audacity to ask Clarence Clemens if he could play with the band. This was after Springsteen had made the cover of Time magazine, I believe. Clarence said, sure, and Tommy played three numbers with The Boss. This was the kind of man that Clarence Clemens is, the kind of person Bruce Springsteen is.
Iím afraid Clarence Clemens will die, and with him, a legacy, but memories donít die, not until we all die. And then, I think, we move on, taking our memories and our experiences with us, building the next world one memory at a time, as if each one is a brick. So I will think of Clarence, the great saxophonist, and the man who loved kids, loved my kid. I will think of Tommy and what it means to love someone, even if that love is to only look, and talk, and appreciate the one youíre with. I will add that when Tommy would tell me something that he was passionate about, excited, he would grab my hand and hold it, a simple gesture that meant so much, because it was contact, an exchange of spirits, his and mine. On the bike trail, my spirit rides ahead of me, remembering and reliving the moments that have meaning. Sometimes, itís the best part of being alive.