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  • Writer's pictureCallMeNell

You Know That Moment When You Finally Feel Free?

I moved to Arizona in October 2006 to live near my sister. By 2009, I was living by myself and working at a job I loved, but was barely living week to week. Mentally, I was not handling things very well. My hair started falling out, so I began to wear a wig because, yes, I am a little vain. The stress from working more than 50 hours a week and living on my own took its toll. I was and still am, a homebody. Never was one to go out, party, have a huge circle of friends. I kept close to myself, only having a small group of friends, who know my habits (the ones I let them know about) who understood my quirks and habits and loved me in spite of them. I really consider my close friends, family.

I grew up kind of sheltered, my mother raised my sister and I as Jehovah’s Witnesses and I am still practising the religion. We were encouraged to associate with fellow Witnesses and not so much with those who are not. So most of my activities revolved around Witnesses and family. Never did anything out of the ordinary, always listened to my mother, and barely had an alcoholic drink. Witnesses' view on alcohol was not strict, you can have a drink but not to excess and not to be a drunkard. Also, alcoholism ran on both sides of my family, I saw what it did to people so I did not indulge much.

I met Christina at a job I had in Stamford, CT before I moved to AZ. Even when she quit and found other employment, we always kept in touch. She was one of those friends that no matter where you are in life, you can contact them and pick up where you left off. Christina contacted me on Facebook one day. We played quick catchup on how things were; her telling me her husband turned into a jerk and she was getting a divorce. Me telling her how I moved out here to be close to my sister and now we were barely speaking to each other, at the time. So, she stated she had tickets to the Dave Matthews Band concert in Las Vegas and wanted me to come and join her! This. Was. Major. This, to me, was my first adult girls trip and I jumped in with both feet. It was like a free pass to let loose and relax. Something I couldn’t do around my family, I felt. Go big, then go home and have regrets later, right?

Christina is a mega-fan of Dave Matthews. She has been to the Gorge in Seattle, which is almost like a Mecca for any Dave fan to attend. Since she was an American Express special customer, she was able to purchase tickets before they went on sale to the public. She told me she had tickets for the Friday and Saturday night shows in the MGM Grand auditorium. I was nervous, but I wanted to go. I had never been to the “City of Sin” Vegas before and the only other concert I had attended was with my sister. I have never been on a vacation before that did not involve family; someone, from outside my bloodline or religion, was choosing me, willingly, to not only go somewhere to relax. The invitation to rock out to one of our mutually favorite bands was an invite I couldn’t pass up.

Unboarding the plan and taking the escalator down to the main floor of the Las Vegas airport was like stepping into a psychedelic, out of body experience. I was so mesmerized by the neon bright lights, Godzilla sized Cher posters, casino machines making blink, blink sounds. I was so busy trying to take it all in that I walked right past my friend. She laughed at the face I was making, just in awe of all the shiny, loud, buzzing, new-to-me things. Christina was a very generous friend. She allowed me to pay her back when I had the money and I agreed to pay for some of the meals while we were there.

MGM Grand was just that, so elaborate and over the top. They had the coolest shops and gaudiest fixtures, including a huge crystal chandelier at their front desk area that stretched from ceiling to floor. Yes, it is true, there were no clocks on the gaming floor, and we only got as far as the slot machines. I didn’t win anything, Christina on the other hand, won a few hundred dollars. She splurged it on a pair of shoes and something fromTiffany’s (yes, that Tiffany’s). We spent Friday walking around the MGM. The underground connects to the nearby casino/hotels. There are shops, like FAO Schwartz, I remembered there was a large giraffe near the window of FAO. I felt like Kevin McAllister in New York. We also stopped by to smell the wonderful dishes at Emeril’s restaurant.

I discovered Dave Matthews’ music right after I graduated high school. Their music transcended anything I ever heard; the folksy charming guitar, the deep vibrating bass, the colorful blare of horns, that beautiful percussion from the drummer! Friday night came and I was so nervous and by nature a very uptight person around strangers. Christina suggested we have some drinks before the concert. A couple of vodka Jello shots and pints of margaritas later, I was a little more loose and accepting of the crowd. The opening act was Jason Mraz. I wasn’t a big fan, but he did a great job warming up the crowd. MGM Grand auditorium was humongous, it was like looking at a sea of people. Dave hit the stage, the noise was deafening and so joyous. The rest of the night was a blur because not only was I tipsy, but the crowd started smoking weed so I was getting high off the contact. All I remember was being very, very happy.

Saturday morning, I was very hungover but excited for the second night concert. Christina and I hung out by the pool most of the day, not eating alot but drinking. They say the best way to get over a hangover is to start drinking again, right? We roamed the casino floor again and I had my first glimpse of a group of roaming Elvi. We decided to take a nap before the concert. Walking back into the auditorium, I felt like we definitely belonged to the group of die-hard Dave Mathews concert goers. Such a happy bunch of people and so hyped for the night.

Tipsy and stoned once again, the second night was just as awesome as the night before, but tonight was special for me. The following month, June, is my birthday month. Dave Matthews Band, by this time, had a pretty good catalog of songs, and Dave was known for being really careful about his playlists during concerts. The closing song was ‘Ants Marching’, which was my favorite song! When Carter Beauford started playing the beat, I stood up and started screaming. Christina hugged me and said “See! They are playing it!” Pure joy filled me to the brim.

I left Christina sleeping off the night before in our room on Sunday morning. As the taxi drove me to the airport, we passed through a seedy looking neighborhood. I was a big fan of the original CSI crime show, which happened to take place in Las Vegas and the surrounding neighborhoods. With any crime show, most of the more deplorable crimes take place in bad parts of the area. The thought that came close to mind, “Wow, this does look like CSI.” When I arrived at the airport, a limo pulled up, as the door opened a group of well-tanned, muscular men departed the back. Strippers, I thought they couldn’t have been anything but strippers. I arrived back in Phoenix hungover and dehydrated, happy to have experienced that.

As I spent that Sunday reveling in my happiest, I thought I felt good. I didn’t feel any embarrassment by my actions, I did not go running through the streets of Las Vegas, lost in the debauchery I had seen in movies or television. I put trust in myself that I knew how to conduct myself as a Christian and did not shame my religion. I learned to trust myself and my instincts.

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