I read the song list, saw the third one was titled Reno**, and searched the copy to find out what the asterisks meant. I kept scanning the bleak back cover until I finally found the reason.
**This song contains some adult imagery.
Wait. What? Adult imagery? I was initially outraged that Columbia felt it necessary to muddy his new work with parental warnings. I assume there aren’t many fourteen-year olds in his target audience, but perhaps the caution was aimed more at sensitive adults. The thought riled me; Bruce fans wouldn’t care how pornographic his words were. It was just one more sign of the troubling times in which we live.
The primary reasons I’ve always loved Bruce were his imagery, his language, his stories, and his resolve to create characters that do their best to do the right thing. I focused on the adult part, though, and ripping out the booklet, I stopped walking, with my lunch getting cold, and read the lyrics.
It was the tale of a man who’s lost his love, his only love, and the empty experience he’s now having with a whore. The woeful words knocked me back a few steps—this man’s reach to find something, anything. I wanted to stop their precision. I wished for escape. I could’ve let my lunch drop from my hand, and sat down right there on that sidewalk, just sat there until someone came along with a broom and swept me away.
I made it back to my network’s monolithic compound that dominates the neighborhood, and I shook until I reached my seventh floor office where I closed the door, dutifully ate my dried chicken sandwich, and read those words again.
She poured me another whiskey, said,
“Here’s to the best you ever had.”
We laughed and made a toast.
It wasn’t the best I ever had,
not even close.