Saturday, February 18, 2023

Springsteen, Showing Your Age, and Knowing Your Truth

Scott D. Parker

“I’m getting a certain vibe here,” my twenty-one-year-old son said as I drove my car on the streets leading to Houston’s Toyota Center. With less than thirty minutes before showtime, the traffic crawled and the sidewalks were jammed with people heading to the arena to see the 2023 version of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Yes, there was a vibe. Lots of middle-aged people, many with all-gray hair and loose, baggy clothes worn to hide bodies no longer as thin as fit as they were when The Boss ruled the airwaves in the Seventies and Eighties. Some wore concert t-shirts from ages past while others sported more modern Springsteen attire. A decent number of the concert goers were like me: attending the show with a younger person, hoping to introduce what it was like to see Springsteen the Showman fill an arena with sound and lead the fans in singing his songs. I chuckled as my son and I made our way to our seats. So many people my age and older crowded the hallways. Not like when he and I saw the band Ghost in early 2022. Then, I was in the age minority.

But there was a moment before the lights dimmed and the music started when I looked around at the people who sat near us and lots of the people we had seen coming into Toyota Center: they were old, or at least they looked old. But if they were old, that meant I was old, too. Right? I’m not one who takes my age into account on any given day. Looking out of my eyes, I’m like a perpetual twentysomething person. Looking in the mirror, I see the truth. Looking at all these older Springsteen fans, I see their truths.

And when Bruce himself got on stage and started the evening with “Night,” his face was broadcast on four screens hung over the stage. We had decent seats, but it was nice to have the professional camera folks giving us close ups of the Boss and the members of the E Street Band. When the camera often zoomed in on Springsteen’s face, you could see his truth as well.

The man is seventy three. Yes, he’s aged well. I hope I look as good as he does when I’m that age. Yes he has access to medical and dietary resources that help him age gracefully, but you can still see the age on his face, his eyelids, and the wrinkles around his face. You can tell that he’s not as animated as he used to be when he ran across stages, sliding on his knees, and leaping into the crowds.

But he was still thrilling, and he still put on a helluva show.

And yet I never expected to tear up at a Springsteen show. Well, I should have expected it, but when it happened, it actually moved me.

Every rock star I discovered in my youth, teens, and twenties have aged right along with me. Of course they have, you say. We’re all human. Yes, we are, but when you spin a record that came out in 1992 or 1982 or whenever, your mind can time travel back to that year and you can remember how you felt hearing those songs. In those moments, you can be that age again, even if you’re driving an SUV and taking your kids to band practice.

We got that sense of time travel on Tuesday evening with Bruce. So many of those songs are all time travel songs. That’s what they’ve become. Some songs never get old. “Born to Run”, sung at full volume with the house light up, everyone punching the air with upraised arms, will never, ever get old. But twice on Tuesday, mortality and truth entered the room and reminded us that time never stops.

In a long, spoken introduction to “Last Man Standing,” Bruce told us about he was the last person who was still alive from his first band, The Castilles. It was in this story that Bruce uttered a particularly great quote: “Death’s great gift is expanded vision.” None of us knows how many days we have, so it is necessary to make sure the lives we live are the best possible version.

The final song was just the two of us. By that I mean it was Bruce, on stage with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, singing to everyone but, in reality, he was singing to each and every one of us like it was just him and us in a room together. “I’ll See You In My Dreams” is a song about mortality and aging and loss. But it’s also an inspirational ode, especially with the line “For death is not the end and I’ll see you in my dreams.”

On the record, it’s the last track and the last time he says those words, he talking, to us, individually and collectively. On stage, the same vibe could be felt throughout the arena as the crowd was mostly silent, listening to Bruce Springsteen tell us that he’ll see us—his fans, his friends—in his dreams. The implication is that when he finally calls it a day and stops touring, he’ll have dreams about the fifty-plus years he’s experienced life on stage.

And we’ll have memories of concerts like this as well.

When I listened to that song on the record back in 2020, I wondered if those last few words would be the last time I’d ever hear a new Bruce Springsteen song. I should have realized that his restless spirit will always create new material even if he doesn’t tour it.

When I listened to that song live in 2023, I wondered if that would be the last time I ever heard Springsteen in person. Maybe. Maybe not. But if it was, what a way to say goodbye, not with a loud, bombastic anthem, but a quiet, gentle song about aging and mortality yet filled with hope, joy, energy, and the truth that shows like this will last a lifetime.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

With a Twist by Cathi Stoler

Scott's Note: Today Cathi Stoler guest blogs.  Cathi is a fellow New Yorker who I've done a number of Noir at the Bars with, and she's one of the most prolific mystery writers I know. Today she talks about her newest book, With a Twist, the fourth book in her Murder on the Rocks series.


by Cathi Stoler

I’m the kind of person who believes a change of scenery will do you good. Traveling to new countries and cities, interacting with interesting people, and experiencing a variety of cultures and cuisines are enticing and exciting.

But for Jude Dillane, my protagonist in my Murder On The Rocks Mystery series, not so much. Jude rarely leaves her East Village neighborhood, where she owns The Corner Lounge on Tenth Street and Avenue B. She has everything she needs right there: her boyfriend Eric Ramirez, her friend and landlord Thomas ‘Sully’ Sullivan, her customers, and her cozy apartment above The Lounge in a beautiful Beaux-Arts building.

Born and bred in New York City, Jude’s faced a lot of adversity in her life and has finally found a place where she feels at home. Her neighborhood is her comfort zone, and she doesn’t like to venture too far from her bar. 

In the first book in the series, Bar None, Jude travels to the Bronx, a borough away, and reluctantly goes undercover at the Big City Food Bank to solve a murder. In books two and three, Last Call, and Straight Up, Jude pursues and is almost killed by the New Year’s Eve Serial Killer, who’s been living and operating in her Lower East Side neighborhood for years, proving the theory that trouble can find you wherever you are. Even close to home.

Setting is very important to my stories. I think of it as the element that brings plot, characters, voice, and action together while giving the reader a true sense of place. The Lower East side is rich in history and character, which I wanted to share. There’s a lot to see and do there and I hoped whoever was reading my stories would see it through my words. 

But for book four in the series, With a Twist, I felt that Jude and my readers needed a change of scenery and a new setting, so I sent her on a cruise, a very exclusive and luxurious one on a small, but magnificent ship, The Allure. As opposite from the Lower East Side, as you can get, this was a Mediterranean cruise to die for.

When her boyfriend, Eric Ramirez, offers her this trip, which he received from a grateful business client, she initially refuses. As tempting as Spain, Italy, and Greece sound, they are not the Lower East Side, she points out to him. Eric finally persuades her to go and when she tells her employees about the voyage, they react with surprise that she’d actually leave The Lounge, even for just ten days.

When Jude and Eric reach The Allure, the newest ship in the Wanderlust Cruise line fleet, things begin to look up, especially when she meets her old college friend, Monica Delmar, the Director of Passenger Services. It’s luxury all the way, from the spacious suite to the fabulous food and drinks, to the number of passengers—a mere two hundred and fifty. Two ports-of-call on The Allure include Barcelona and Rome. I wanted to portray these beautiful cities with as much life, excitement, and energy as the lower East Side. Barcelona is a magnificent city with spacious plazas and gorgeous buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi. And Rome, with its ancient buildings and rich history, captivates from the first glance. At least, I hope my reader thinks so.

Once onboard The Allure, Jude finally begins to relax, but the good feeling doesn’t last for long.  An unfortunate dinner with the obnoxious Captain Brigman, who somehow knows about Jude’s unfortunate history with a serial killer, is just the beginning. When Monica discovers the body of the assistant purser, Jamie McFarland, lying in a pool of blood, everything changes. Jude’s romantic getaway quickly becomes complicated by a murder that may be tied to an international gang of jewel thieves.

Monica, who is under suspicion, asks for Jude’s help and she agrees. As Jude works to unravel the mystery and identify the killer, and the leader of the jewelry theft ring, her own life is put in danger. She knows she has to figure out who’s responsible for turning this opulent cruise into a death trap. Are the theft of a valuable diamond ring and the discovery of a cryptic notebook related? Jude makes waves as she looks into everyone, from Monica’s close friend, Chief Officer Damian Carstairs, to the ship’s photographer to a smarmy casino host, to discover who is responsible for the crimes.

Complicating matters even more, in Barcelona, Jude recognizes someone from home, Tony Napoli, her old friend, and protector, a former undercover cop who’s fled the country to protect the woman he loves from going to jail. Torn between her loyalty to Tony and her sense of duty, Jude goes to the American Embassy to report seeing Tony.

All this happening outside her comfort zone is quite a departure for Jude. It’s definitely a change of scenery, and Jude faces it with the determination and snarky attitude readers have come to know and love. 


With a Twist, a Murder on the Rocks Mystery, is out now and you can get it here. 

Cathi Stoler is an Amazon Best-Selling author and Derringer winner. The four novels in her Murder On the Rocks Series, Bar NoneLast CallStraight Up, and With a Twist feature Corner Lounge Bar Owner, Jude Dillane. Other books include the Nick Donahue Adventures, and the Laurel and Helen New York Mysteries. Cathi is a member of SinC, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. Find Cathi at:, or email her at: