Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Dear Mr. Springsteen - thank you for the snow buntings

snow buntings

Dear Mr. Springsteen,

Thanks to you, the Frenchman (that's my husband) and I saw snow buntings for the first time last Sunday. At Sandy Hook, in New Jersey. They were minding their own business, just like you, when you were booked on a bogus DWI charge that made headlines three months after the event. 

(Snow buntings are a bird, by the way. Winter migrants in these parts.) 

Sandy Hook snow by Marie Viljoen

Also, we saw Sandy Hook itself for the first time, minus the hordes of summer. It was covered in snow, from shoreline to shoreline. It was surprising, and stunning.

Until spotting a recent breaking-news headline of your arrest last year, I had not realized that Sandy Hook was a very striking park, or part of the National Gateway Recreational Area within easy driving-reach of the city. So I Google-mapped it. Just over an hour! We packed hot soup and a hot toddy and headed out from Brooklyn.

Sandy Hook snow

The articles about what seems like a nothing-event have riveted me. I don't read tabloids, and I avoid celebrity gossip. But there this was, in the upstanding New York Times. Whose reported version of the events keeps changing. The original articles are nowhere to be found online, thanks to the "Updated" loophole in digital media that erases former iterations. 

Those first - now missing or very padded - articles omitted a pertinent fact, and simply reported a report: the now super-repeated observations by one fastidious ranger, Officer Hayes. Which made you sound dead drunk. Not one initial article mentioned your blood alcohol level: one quarter of the legal limit. You had several shots to go.

Since this was such a minor event made major only by your celebrity status, I was very curious about who leaked it, and why. It was a shitty thing to do. But mostly it was a sense of bafflement: Why are they writing about it?

One of the first versions, in the breaking news column (seriously, this is breaking news? Oh, hi, clickbait) mentioned only, in That Ranger's words, that you were "visibly swaying" and smelled of alcohol. Later one said that you said (in exactly that disbelieving tone) that a fan had given you a bottle of Tequila. Where, it asked indignantly, was the evidence of this and why had no fan posted this on social media? 

Frozen grass by Marie Viljoen

A self-righteous op ed in the Chicago Tribune by JD Mullane wagged its finger at you, you naughty old man and concluded, "At 71, it’s foolish. Tipsy, alone, riding a motorcycle. Ranger Hayes may have saved an American legend... Or maybe it was a call for help, that Bruce is suffering on a level far deeper than we’d expect."

Really? What should you be doing at 71? Knitting in a group circle? Checking into senior living? Looking dapper (a patronizing word reserved purely for the respectably-dressed and old) on your way to church? Whatever you do, don't get on your motorbike and have fun.

Clearly you are begging for help. And Ranger Hayes should go on dog doo-doo duty for a month. Or six. Take JD Mullane with you.

And sad? A famous guy getting on his Triumph (very classy bike, by the way) and heading out alone, minus entourage, minders, or social media circus, to visit a favorite wild spot isn't sad. It's refreshing. And he has a shot, maybe two (like you said), of Tequila after a fan spots him and waves a bottle. That was a gracious thing to do. Fans can be a pain in the butt. 

Let's talk evidence. Why did it take several news cycles for that pertinent fact, your blood alcohol level, to be reported? 0.02%. The legal limit is 0.08%. Sorry, shouting. And why wasn't that the first fact to be quoted in any subsequent story? I know, because that would have un-story-ed it.

Blue crab claw

I'm not sure why I am this disgusted. Maybe it's the feeding frenzy. There is so much real hurt cascading down on us. But the relentless pursuit of meaningless clicks continues. The minute attention span to which we have agreed to become hostage drives everything information-related. The business model that makes it necessary for reputable news sources to bow down to their advertisers - who need eyeballs on ads - at the cost of proper reporting. The pressure that serious media are under to simply stay alive. I have no doubt that this blip boosted sales.

New York Times breaking news

And today, in the breaking news column, bottom right, just where the first non-event broke over ten days ago, is the headline: Bruce Springsteen Drunk Driving Charges Dismissed. 

No kidding. Never saw that coming.

You can read the updated version of the updated update, here.


I'm going on a media diet.

But thank you for going to Sandy Hook. It's beautiful. The water, the view of Manhattan on the horizon, the dunes for days, and the tallest holly trees I have ever seen, growing in the sand. 

Snow bunting by Marie Viljoen

And for the snow buntings, visiting from the Arctic highlands.


Forage On


  1. It is not a business model that will work long term. It makes people dumb, numb and indifferent. I am glad you posted this.

  2. WOW! If I'm ever slandered I'm calling you Marie!! I wish Bruce could read your post.

  3. Count me, too, as glad you posted this ...

  4. I don't know when it became "cool" try and trash people for minor incidents. Sadly, Bruce Springsteen is not the only well-known person to suffer from fools spouting off. I fan of the old saying "if you can't say something nice don't say anything". Not every opinion is golden.


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