Kissing the single life goodbye at Hershey tonight with Bruce

Tonight marks my 39th Bruce Springsteen show.

I actually bought tickets to numbers 39 and 40 during the most recent onsale, then the fiancé and I decided that we couldn’t miss that much school and gave the Hershey Park tickets to my parents.

Then a bit of a family emergency struck and we realized we weren’t going to make it to the Mohegan Sun show, and my parents, knowing what Bruce has meant to me, offered us the Hershey tickets back. The fiancé now couldn’t make it on a weeknight, so it’s me and my dad making the drive tonight.

Which I think serves as a great bookend to a certain era of my life.

My journey with Bruce shows began eleven years ago in Richmond on the Rising tour. My brother had suggested that we get my dad Bruce tickets for Father’s Day the year before, but we never managed to get our acts together on that. And his birthday was in February, so the following year, I found excessively over-priced secondary market tickets (I didn’t know any better yet!) for behind the stage in Richmond. My brother couldn’t go, my mother didn’t want to on a school night, and so dad and I went alone.

I was still in school. We left after my last class of the day, driving down in my father’s car, joking that as we arrived in his BMW convertible, I looked like his midlife crisis wife or girlfriend, not his daughter. We listened to a compilation of songs I had put together based on recent setlists and I remember my father joking that we were passing “the part of town where when you hit a red light you don’t stop.” And I asked him what song he most wanted to hear that night. He named “For You,” which we knew was a long shot.

I was in one of many rough patches that year.  I had fallen out with my entire crew when my best friend of the last six years and I stopped talking. It was that relationship, not a boyfriend, that inspired Beyond the Palace a few years later. That’s the one relationship in my life that left a permanent scar. And even now, it aches to remember that loss. It was necessary to cut each other loose, but I was lost after that for a very long time.

But something in me clicked that night when the lights went down. For the first time, I felt something that fed that “hunger you can’t resist” that Bruce sings about. I know the people who haven’t felt that are shaking their heads at me, but the ones who have are nodding. And I know they’re out there because I’ve met them over the last eleven years. I’ve made some amazing friends because I discovered that there were other people who felt the same loneliness that I was engulfed in and who felt it lessened with each show. They are the rabid fans who can pick themselves out in the videos, who were there when I danced on stage in Charlottesville, who read Beyond the Palace and who wanted desperately for me to be Laura, not understanding that the reason they connected with the book wasn’t because I was Laura, but because I was Ben.

At first, it was me and my dad because it was our thing. My brother had annual ski trips with him, but the concerts were mine. My Uncle Mike joined us from time to time and started being my date to shows dad couldn’t make it to. He was the “real fan” in the family, with more than 200 shows under his belt, and I remember his friends quizzing me on lyrics and classic shows on the drive up to Shea Stadium in 2003 before deeming me worthy of the ticket my uncle shared with me. I treasure the memories of my shows with him as much as those with my dad. It created a bond between us that is unshakeable, and he is responsible for some of my favorite concert memories and a few key scenes in Beyond the Palace as well. And he claims that it’s in his will that I inherit his Bruce collection, because I’ll appreciate it more than my cousins could.

Uncle Mike in his “Born to Run” shirt, holding me as a baby

In 2008, I was in another of those impossibly rough patches. I was drowning at school, and it was just months after we lost my Uncle Jules, to whom Beyond the Palace is dedicated. He gave me a typewriter when I was eight years old and told me I should be a writer. And losing him hit the whole family with the destructive force of a hurricane. I did a double header of shows that August, going back to Richmond with some friends and then skipping the first day back at school for teachers to go to Hershey Park with my dad. And as was now our tradition, we picked the song we most wanted to hear. We had luck with “For You” at that first show, and even “Santa Ana” in 2005, which will be the song my dad and I will dance to at my wedding, as the “giants of science” line has always reminded me of him. But that night was my 20th show, dad’s 10th, and somehow we hadn’t seen “Jungleland” yet. And at the opening notes that night, I began to cry. It was one of the most cathartic moments of my life. It was the first time in a long time that I could believe things would again be okay. And my dad put his arm around me without saying a word; without needing to, because he understood.

As this most recent tour began, for the first time since March 6, 2003, I don’t feel that deep-seated need to be at as many shows as possible. Maybe I’ve grown up a bit. Maybe it’s because I finally have found that connection that Bruce has always said the characters in his songs are seeking.

Or maybe it’s just been too long since my last show and I’ll come home tonight and cry because my Mohegan Sun tickets are gone. I’ve warned the fiancé that that is a distinct possibility.

Thank you to my mother, for giving up your ticket to let me go with dad tonight. It’s my last show that I’ll attend with him while I still bear his last name. And while I’m sure there are more shows in our future, there’s something magical to me in getting to go to this show with him.

And Bruce, if you’re reading (hey, a girl can dream, right?), the song I want to hear most is “Sandy.” It’s what my parents will walk me down the aisle to next month as I begin this next chapter of my life.

Thank you everyone who has been a part of this ride, and I can’t wait to start the next stage, where I can introduce you to my new husband at shows!  And I’ll see you all further on up the road.

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The wedding registry: One small step for man, one giant step toward being able to live together on a teacher’s salary

While I am definitely not a “wedding girl,” I have to admit that I’ve gotten into a few aspects of planning the big day. I have a venue, a date, a DJ and a photographer. And the fiancé has been wonderful and booked the honeymoon for us.

I even have a real wedding dress. It’s white and lacy and everything. It was obtained with ease at the second store that I went to. The first store was a horrific nightmare starring an evil witch who banished my mother from the dressing room, ignored everything I told her, and then kept forcing me into puffy monstrosities that made me look like a marshmallow Moby Dick until I sobbed that I was fat and didn’t want a wedding. Literally. I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if she chased me through the store with a harpoon yelling, “Call me Ishmael!” The evil witch wouldn’t leave me alone until I squealed that I was a little piggy who didn’t deserve to get married.

Then I went to P. Lawrence in the Kentlands, had a lovely experience, and emerged an hour later looking forward to my wedding again.  

So with the dress ordered, I started to get excited about the idea of registering for gifts. I mean, this is pretty much the only time in your life when you can pick out the exact presents that you want and force people to buy them for you (ignoring the fact that I’ve hacked my dad’s Amazon Prime password and can therefore pick out presents for myself and order them, forcing HIM to pay for them with free two-day shipping… that’s a close second to a wedding in a lot of ways. But he screams at me and then changes his password if I buy anything too extravagant on his account, so that has to be used with caution).  

So on Saturday, the fiancé and I set out for the mall.

The end result of which was shockingly similar to the first wedding dress shopping experience, because I wound up curled in the fetal position, sobbing that I didn’t want a wedding.

Retail does not seem to be my friend these days.
What could have happened to turn shopping into something so horrible?

Well, to start with, I was completely overwhelmed. The fiancé and I are in the process of selling my bachelorette pad and buying our perfect suburban dream house. Which, shockingly, was much easier than I could have imagined. We found a buyer for the condo, fell in love with the perfect house, made an offer, and boom! We’re moving in a month! (Message me if you need the best real estate agent in the DC area. Seriously. He’s amazing.)

Which is all wonderful and happy and the birds are singing and I’m so excited about it that I don’t even care that the new Bruce album comes out tomorrow. (Besides, I’ve had it for three weeks. And stopped listening to it two weeks ago. Next.)

But it means we need a LOT of stuff. Yes, my one bedroom condo was pretty full, but it’s not going to make a dent in a five-bedroom house. And the fiancé has declared the new house to be an Ikea-free zone, so none of my furniture is making the trek with us.

AKA we need pretty much EVERYTHING.

Which is fine. I’m my mother’s daughter, so I’m a pretty freaking awesome shopper. No, I’m not quite at her level, because she can walk into stores and basically have them pay HER to take clothes (or at least that’s how she explains her purchases to my father, a trait handed down from my grandmother. You can buy anything as long as it’s a bah-gan (bargain with a Gloucester, Massachusetts accent). But I’m good. So picking out all new stuff that I don’t even have to pay for? Piece of cake.

Or it would be, if I was just shopping for myself.

Here we reach a problem—I have pretty much the only fiancé in the world who not only has a distinct opinion about every single thing we put in our house, but he was also raised in a much wealthier area than I was. So while he wouldn’t characterize his family as “rich” per se, the idea of shopping anywhere below the level of Bloomingdales is as abhorrent to him as the idea of shopping below the level of Target is to me. Like I’m pretty sure he equates Bed Bath and Beyond to Walmart or Big Lots.

And I didn’t understand that prior to Saturday.

So savvy shopper that I am, I figured, okay, we’ll start at Bloomingdales. He’ll see how absurd the prices are, laugh, and say okay, let’s go somewhere reasonable.

I like Bloomingdales. It’s one of my go-to stores when I need a really nice formal dress. No, I don’t buy anything else there. But formal dresses, if they’re on sale, are doable at Bloomingdales.

Unfortunately, my plan backfired, because when I laughed at the absurdity of spending $750 on a duvet cover before even factoring in pillow shams or anything else to go WITH the duvet cover, my fiancé said, “Wow, that’s a good deal.”

I laughed harder, and he looked at me uncomprehendingly. “What?” he asked. “It’s on sale. It WAS $1200.”

And suddenly, I realized that he wasn’t screwing with me. He actually thought $750 for duvet cover was a good price. And that a $3,000 set of four pieces of cookware was a steal. You don’t even want to think about what he was willing to spend on towels. I did a quick tally in my head and calculated that at the prices he was considering, a casual dining set would cost more than our combined gross income for two years.

It was time to regroup. If we registered the way that he wanted to, it would take all of our guests combining their gifts to buy a full set of bedroom linens, before we even got into anything like dinnerware, cookware, glassware, or silverware.

So, faking a deathly allergy to Chanel perfume, I dragged him out of the store.

We tried Crate and Barrel, which he conceded was tolerable, despite having never heard of it (how has anyone never heard of Crate and Barrel? I wanted to register there for my bat mitzvah, but my mom wouldn’t let me!), but we honestly didn’t know where to start. And when he began admiring the $3,000 dressers, I debated tattooing the words “Teacher’s Salary” across my forehead.

And then I took another page from my mother and grandmother’s book. Bribery. I had come prepared with Reese’s peanut butter cups in my purse, which are the fiancé’s kryptonite. Just as I can be placed under a hypnotic spell by pretty shoes, peanut butter cups allow me near-total mind control over my beloved future husband. A man’s secret weakness is necessary for any woman who plans to spend her life with him to know, as long as it is only used for purposes of good, not evil.

So a handful of peanut butter cups later, we got to Bed Bath and Beyond. Where he insisted on registering for a $200 sheet set in Exorcist-vomit green.  

Which I took as progress. One small step for man, one giant step toward being able to live together on a teacher’s salary. That kind of thing.

And at least I can modify the Bed Bath and Beyond registry from home.

But when we turned in our scanning gun to go home from an eight-hour day of shopping, the guy manning the registry counter looked surprised. “Still getting married?” he asked us.

Apparently we’re not the only ones who found registering to be a complicated process. But at least they sell peanut butter cups there, for future registry excursions.