This is definitely the week to tell this story.
It was the summer of 1978, and I was at a wedding in New Jersey - not far from the fabled Jersey Shore. A high school friend was getting married, so a few of his buddies made the drive down for the ceremony. It was an eventful weekend for a variety of reasons - a massive midnight swim in the hotel pool right on Route 23 in which some of the boys, um, forgot their suits, a car accident that left my 1970 Torino stationary, etc.
But for our purposes, let's stick to the reception. The seating was a little haphazard, and we were placed with a couple from New Jersey. The woman in question was suitably blonde and beautiful, leaving the rest of us trying to at least start a conversation in an awkward way.
During the reception, the disk jockey played some sort of canned music appropriate for the time. After a few songs, I had had enough disco or the equivalent at that point. "This is New Jersey. It's clearly time for some Bruce Springsteen," I said to the table.
The expression on the woman's face lit up. "Are you a fan?" she asked. "Absolutely. I saw the band live last year, and immediately went out to buy all of the albums," I replied.
Then she said, "It's so nice to see good guys do well." That sounds a little enigmatic, so I asked for an explanation.
She told me that once a week, members of the band in some combination used to come over to her house. They'd sit around, play poker, and eat chili. I thought that was quite cool. After I replied in a way to show my jealousy, she mentioned that Clarence Clemons never played much poker. He'd stay in the kitchen with the woman's father, talking about the good old days since they were the oldest ones in the house for those parties and eating chili.
The story is now 38 years old, which means those actual poker games probably are more than 40 decades in the past. But it still fun to hear stories about people like the members of the E Street Band, who were making friends as they tried to scratch out a living doing something they loved. The boys may have thought they were paying their dues at the time, but I'll bet they think of those days every so often as simple and pure.
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