The Promise. We waited for a whole year. One cold, dark morning early in 1999, we were sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper together when I saw a tiny notice in the syndicated "celebrity news" column. Bruce Springsteen was reuniting with the E Street Band for a grand tour of Europe and America.
I went to the Internet, found the early tour schedule and signed up for e-mail bulletins about future dates. All year the announcements trickled in. First Europe, then New Jersey, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minnesota, Cleveland, Columbus - even Fargo, North Dakota, but nowhere in the South. We waited and watched the map. "If they get anywhere near us, we'll do our best to go," I promised.
The e-mail alert finally arrived in late January 2000. They were coming to Memphis, just an hour and a half from our house, and we were going. One gray, freezing Saturday morning in February, I rose at 6 a.m. in order to be at a Memphis record store by 8 when the ticket lottery began. I have never in my rock-and-roll life stood around shivering in a parking lot to get concert tickets. For a couple decades, I never had the disposable income for concert tickets anyway, and during those years the number of acts for whom I'd brave an arena or stadium dwindled to a select few. Springsteen was still on that short list, but if it were up to me I'd have stayed home and tried to order cheap seats on the phone. Instead, I was out in the ugly weather waiting for a chance to drop about $140 for what I hoped would be two of the best seats in the house.
I had to do it. I'd made a promise to a 7-year-old boy.
It all started in 1998 when we finally set up the turntable and got out the vinyl records for the first time in my son Christopher's young life. Then, during that long summer between kindergarten and first grade, Christopher discovered the five-record Springsteen live set, 1975-1985, with the book of lyrics and huge color photos.