My Rainy Day Lover

Dear Faithful Reader, here’s a creative nonfiction piece about the first concert I ever went to. If you have been following along and wish to try your hand at writing a creative nonfiction piece, the writing prompt for this is: write about experiencing your first concert. I look forward to your comments about my piece. Here goes:

It was August 18, 1983. Ronald Reagan was president and George H. W. Bush, vice president. Apple released the Lisa personal computer which didn’t get much traction commercially. President Reagan made a proposal to develop technology to intercept enemy missiles. The media called the project “Star Wars”. The Disney channel was launched and Sally Ride became the first woman in space.

The world was on the edge of  a technology explosion and I was on the edge of a new life.

In early July, (Friday the 8th; I remember the date clearly because that was the day my life changed forever) I met a man named George William Reichert, Jr at a singles dance in the Holiday Inn near the Willowbrook Mall, Wayne, New Jersey.

Soon after meeting Bill (as he was called within his family circle), we discovered our love of music (just different genres). In those days, vinyl albums and record players were a staple in everyone’s home. Bill, eight years my senior, was into the Letterman. He often loaded three or more of their albums onto his Sony record player, the music saturating the air and spreading tranquility.

On the other hand, I was into the Kinks and the Zombies; however, we both loved Gordon Lightfoot, although for different reasons.

Lightfoot’s songs like “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” drove Bill to tears thinking of the real-life stories which inspired the lyrics.

Me? The poetic words and syncopated rhythm of Lightfoot’s rendition of life’s stories meaningful to me, a graduate assistant, working on my Master’s Degree in English: “Sundown, you better beware, if I find you’ve been creeping down my back stairs.”

So, when I heard that Lightfoot would perform at the Garden State Arts Center on Thursday, August 18th, I went to ticket master on Macy’s third floor in the Willowbrook Mall and bought lawn tickets for Bill and me.

Finally, the 18th arrived. When we drove away from the curb of my apartment building at 331 Park Avenue in Nutley on that enchanted evening, I noticed the thermos bottle and two apples resting on the bench seat of Bill’s Chevrolet Malibu station wagon.

Chevrolet Station Wagon

“I brought along a snack and iced tea for us,” he said.

I just smiled, not admitting that I didn’t drink iced tea or eat apples.

We drove mostly in silence. Being the introvert and damaged person I was, I couldn’t think of much to say. But that was okay because Bill’s calming presence made me feel safe. Or as Gordon Lightfoot sang: “Rainy day people don’t talk, they just listen ‘til they’ve heard it all.” In hindsight, Bill was my rainy day person.

When the south bound lanes of the Garden State Parkway brought us to Exit 116 in Holmdel and eventually into the outside arena’s parking lot, my anticipation grew. The evening sky darkened and then lightened with the rising moon. Stars, casting a hopeful glow, littered the cloudless sky. The blanket Bill placed on the grass was large and comfortable.

Soon, other concert goers filled the lawn around us. Murmurs, laughter, and shouts of recognition surrounded us in a bubble of excitement. In the distance, I saw people moving across the stage; setting up instruments. A cymbal sounded; a note resounded.

Someone tested the lighting; the beams moved up, down, and around before finally settling on a single stool centered on the stage. The crowd’s hum quieted. Bill and I looked at each other and I settled into the crook of the arm, he wrapped around me.

When I shivered, Bill asked “Are you cold?”

“No,” I sighed. “Just excited. The concert is about to begin.”

Truth be told my excitement came from feeling I’d reached safe harbor in his strong arms. When the lights dimmed, I snuggled closer to Bill.

A lone figure crossed the stage. The floodlight strengthened, illuminating the man we’d come to hear: Gordon Lightfoot. The crowd’s silence reminded me of the hush that comes upon the congregants when the Sanctus bells ring and the priest processes to the altar.

The man on center stage didn’t say “Hello” or “Welcome”. Instead, his hands strummed his guitar.

Gordon Lightfoot Concert

“If you could read my mind, what a tale my thoughts would tell.”

The words flowed from his lips across the stage, wending their way through the night air. When they reached me, I looked up at Bill and smiled.


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