Birthday Concert – James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt

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Nationals Stadium – guitar goddess Bonnie Raitt on stage

My daughters and a dear friend of mine engineered an amazing birthday gift this year. Paige (my friend) and I were both selected for a National Endowment for the Humanities Teacher Institute in West Virginia, and we happened to be finished for the day at noon on the Friday of the concert. The Institute was scheduled to travel into DC the next day for a day of museum going and national mall walking.

So the ladies organized tickets and a hotel room for the night. And we drove into DC. There was rain in the forecast, but we’ve dealt with rain before. It wasn’t going to stop us, so we got to the hotel, changed our clothes into something light (temperatures were in the 90s), and we grabbed a Lyft to Whaley’s, an oyster bar on the Anacostia River near the stadium and the Navy Yard.

Whaley’s was not QUITE open (5:00pm and it was 4:45ish) but they graciously opened their doors to the small crowd assembled as the skies opened up, and rain began to fall sideways. It was a crazy storm. As you can see here.  We drank the house rosé and I ate some oysters. The place was really hopping when we left to walk over to Nationals Park. It was still raining lightly, and I was kicking myself for not buying the $5 rain poncho at Antietam the day before. Oh well, I reasoned, I’ve been wet before and I’ve survived.

We found our way into the stadium. Now going to this concert activated at least two of my regular anxieties: large crowds and unfamiliar places. I was not worried as I was with a friend, but there was a lot going on in that stadium. At 7:00, we checked Dark Sky and the app said What Rain? and it was right, the rain had suddenly stopped. We headed to our seats, wiped them down with the paper towels liberated from the bathroom at the restaurant, and waited for the show.

And what a show. James Taylor was great (even if his background/slide show was a little concrete for me – lyrics and pictures of the exact things in the lyrics), but BONNIE RAITT was a marvel, and I had a moment that I just have to remember forever.

Raitt can sing and play that damn guitar – she was incredible. Before she began Angel From Montgomery, a John Prine song that I hear in my head as the duet that Raitt recorded with him, she said she was thankful for being able to make choices in her life, about the things that she has done and that there were a lot of women in the audience who also had choices – and they should be glad of that. But she wanted us all to remember that there are women who do not have the choices we have had, and she wanted us to think about them. And she sang Angel From Montgomery.

I am an old woman named after my mother
My old man is another child that’s grown old
If dreams were lightning, thunder was desire
This old house would have burnt down a long time ago
Make me an angel that flies from Montgom’ry
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a crier. I cry at happy things, sad things, Kodak commercials; I cannot go to a movie about a dog. Or a horse. I cried through much of Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life concert. But I did not expect to cry during Angel From Montgomery.

I tried being real subtle, wiping tears with the side of my hand, some of that paper towel that we used to wipe off the seats. It was a losing battle. I was thankful my mascara was waterproof. But I had not really started to cry yet.

Sitting to my left was an African-American woman (who is probably about my age) and her daughter. The woman reached over and took my hand, and together we held hands and listened to Angel From Montgomery. And I cried. And she just held my hand. It was an amazing moment of connection with another person, both of us listening to a woman sing about trying to find something to hold on to. And we were holding on to each other.

I pulled myself together. The rest of the concert was great. I didn’t get all sniffly again until the encore and You’ve Got a Friend. I sure do! And to that wonderful woman to my left – thank you as well. It was a great night in DC.

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