Gary Rinsem

Chicken In The Park
by Gary Rinsem
From Several Journals
1976 - 2020
Celebrated 44 Years

  • Saturday In The Park

"All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl."
Charlie Chaplin

Think he could make the comedy with three sailors, if two are pretty girls?

Chicken In The Park is a precious celebration with its beginning in May of 1976, but not yet "Chicken" in the park. Chicken is more than six years away, with participation of friends and loved ones even further into the future. The first nine years, Sunset In The Park was a personal and private tradition. It was time that I spent quietly reflecting and remembering my lost love. It was an important secret kept entirely to myself, until BB in late 1982. They were the first with whom I could share the story of Sunset In The Park.

For my first love's fifteenth birthday I could find no present to get her, she gave no hints. There seemed to be nothing she wanted. I saved about a hundred dollars, a fortune for a teenager in 1976. Thinking something expensive would make her happy I had to give up on a material gift, with no clue what to get. Wanting to surprise her, I made a reservation at an expensive restaurant and asked her to dress nicely for her birthday date. When the time came, she didn't want to go, telling me that I was all she wanted for her birthday. She just wanted us to share time together.

Her actual birthday was a weekday so Saturday was the choice. We had a very intimate afternoon and evening, only asking for fast food at dinnertime. Much of the day was spent sitting, arms around each other talking in the park. Time together was the birthday she wanted. Sitting on a picnic table in the park we watched the sunset. We had often spent time there, but this day we were closer than before. It's a precious memory.

One year later we unintentionally repeated that day, for her sixteenth birthday. It was almost exactly as the first one. At sunset we noted the coincidence and promised to spend every May 31st together in the park at sunset, for the rest of our lives. A silly promise that I doubt either of us took seriously. Well, maybe I did.

Another year passed and I'd recently lost her. I was alone at the park in 1978 with only slight hope that she'd recall the promise, and show up there. The next four years, May 31st at sunset in our park was spent alone, quietly missing her.

In late November 1982 I fell wildly in love with two women. That love began in a park in Long Beach. Chicken In The Park was a childhood tradition for one of the women. She wanted us to share it with her that day. As a child her parents took her for Chicken In The Park after church on Sundays. The tradition represented many happy memories.

May of 1983 I was granted time off and spent the day driving to Scottsdale from Long Beach. With a box of KFC, I got there in time for my first Chicken In The Park. The same tradition, but with the added significance of my new loves.

In 1984 and 1985 I couldn't get home from the Navy. Chicken In The Park was shared with my girls in Long Beach. On May 31, 1986, about 9 am I got my discharge papers from the Navy. It was a repeat of 83, a long hard drive to get home in plenty of time to keep my imaginary promise to my first love.

Starting in 1987 Chicken In The Park was shared with the women in my life. It varied year to year, but was a large event for a long time. There was loss and sadness in 1995, changing the tradition from a celebration of love into a memorial service. In 2001 the celebration attitude was found again, but only lasted until another loss in 2006. The ladies drifted off and by 2010 only my current love and I were there. 2012 she and I were deathly ill and I went alone for the first time since 86. I was recovering by 2013 and had Chicken In The Park alone again. My last love died soon after and the tradition has been solitary ever since. The first "Sunset In The Park" didn't take place on Tami's birthday, and most years it followed that tradition. Saturday before has been the norm.

Wow, that last paragraph became a brutal accounting of many years history. While writing I thought I'd edit the result into something more interesting. Naw, to hell with it....

This is one of those chapters in my life that I can't figure out if it's happy or sad. I suppose it's both. I look forward to next May 31st. My wildest fantasy is to share it with my first love, completing the silly promise we made in the 70s. Yes, I've been accused of being a romantic fool, but I'm still madly in love with the girl at the center of my precious personal holiday.
Added on April 6, 2022

In 2020 I put this page together from several different journals, all very old. I didn't mention that I was unable to go to the park in 2019. I quickly ate bad chicken tenders from the Food City deli, under a tree at the park near my house. I did the same shortly after creating this page in 2020.

2021 broke the bad spell when a friend drove for the entire event of Chicken In The Park. It was the first time since 2011 that CITP wasn't lonely. I was ill and getting worse quickly. I expected to die before the end of 2021. I thought it was my last CITP.

As Gomer said... "Surprise surprise!" I'm still alive and approaching Chicken In The Park 2022. Laura said whe wants to do it again, so I'm happy. My condition is improved to the point that I'm going to rent a car to revisit old memories this year.

One thing would make it perfect... If only I could find a way to get my Sister Suzy excited about coming along... how? Hmmm... how, how, how... how can I do that? It's always been a celebration of life, but the not sad death thingy that people use the term for. CITP is a true celebration of life, and love and friendships. It's a time to share memories, which Sister Suzy could maybe get coaxed into...
Enjoy the short video. I laughed for days after the first time I saw the episode.