I got to hang with a whole new group of “bad boys” all weekend, until Tuesday. That’s what my friend Debby calls all of my guy friends, my “bad boys.” It’s kind of a running joke with us. A whole big group of us were stranded at Johnny Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks – a huge hotel with casinos and huge, vast conference rooms, a comfy Starbucks and stellar rooms in the “tower.”
Even the smell of cigarette smoke as we walked through casinos with our ukuleles to jam together as a group or eat at Rosie’s Restaurant, which was the only restaurant in the Nugget that was open 24 hours – an older lady who looked like she came right out of one of those movies from the 50s when people went out to restaurants with her old-school outfit and her spunky attitude always greeted us – as if she knew us intimately well, and my friends from the Santa Cruz ukulele club would smile when they’d see me with at least two of my “bad boys,” actually really nice guys who were just hanging with me and sort of looking out for me.
One of them, Steve, pretty much never left me the entire weekend – and he was one guy whom I probably wouldn’t have minded “taking advantage,” but of course it wasn’t to be –he was 12 years younger than me and apparently had a girlfriend in Idaho – ohhh but he played his six string ukulele so beautifully…and even took over on bass and guitar at our many ukulele jams we were to have over the weekend – with a whole group from Santa Cruz that I knew also stuck until at least Monday.
We jammed by the pool, we jammed in a big conference room next to the arcade on the second floor, we jammed in the open lobby when you walked into this massive hotel and casino, we jammed at the Starbucks – no one minded at all. In fact, those who were around us wanted us to jam some more even! I carried about my Santa Cruz songbooks…everyone assumed I came straight from Santa Cruz or maybe San Francisco, but not so…I proudly wore my Reno Tahoe 2011 Ukulele Festival t-shirt one day, then tie-dye the next – not really having enough clothing to last me through Tuesday since this was supposed to be just a weekend trip.
I never left Johnny Ascuaga’s Nugget until near the end of my stay there when I dropped my friend Steve off at the truck stop where it was waiting for him to continue his journey across country – he had taken several days off just to attend this amazing ukulele festival. He showed me pretty much everything he’d learned at the workshops and then some.
I got to jam with some awesome musicians – oldies but goodies, Hawaiian music, even some bosa nova stuff…just show me the chords and I’ll play ‘em and let the “big boys” jam…that’s how you do it. Or sing along with everyone, including a group of spunky older women from Modesto who actually did little dances while singing the songs – next thing you know, 40 or 50 of us are doing some swaying and dancing with our ukuleles and singing fun crazy songs such as “Motorcycle Mama” (my personal favorite) It was all so amazing and fun, and I couldn’t think of a better group of people to be stranded with in Sparks, Nevada…
On Sunday night I heard from my son Jeremy.
“Hi, Mom – we got a place in Sac’to! And we just moved in…in the rain!”
“Yaaayy!” I breathed a huge sigh of relief..he had talked about possibly moving to Tahoe or Reno and the thought of Jeremy stuck in the snow with all of his worldly belongings in a truck had really freaked me out, although I couldn’t tell him that…
And who knew I’d be the one stuck and stranded, and not Jeremy at all whose best friends live in Reno but were in Sacramento helping him move.
“Come by and see the new place!” Jeremy said, sounding weary from another huge move – he knew about moving.
“Sure, I will, you okay…”
There was a pause on the phone as I watched the lights start to flicker as night fell on Reno, Nevada, the shadows of the snowy mountains casting a beautiful glow.
“Well, yeah…I’m okay but Jen’s really stressed out and so am I…this is kinda scary Mom. I’m going to be a Dad and this move…and Jen, well…”
“It’s okay, Jeremy,” I said. Not having any idea that I’d have a conversation like this with the son I’m so close to – we are probably more alike than any of my four kids whom I love dearly. But Jeremy and I have always had this special bond…ever since he was my baby boy who always hung with me and stayed awake throughout our adventures to keep me company while the other kids fell asleep – Jeremy whom I could talk to for hours about music and life and he never got tired of hearing my stories about my past life as a kid growing up in San Francisco…with the wild hair and the tattoos and gauges in his ears…my wild young man was going to be a Dad.
“I know it’ll be, but man…I didn’t think it would be this hard.”
“Just think of all we’ve been through, Jeremy. Remember?” I reminded him of our crazy move from Oregon to California when the moving truck ran out of gas on I-680…of all the times we had to pack up and move in California because rent was too high for me, a single mom with four kids…how we struggled…and all the adventures, listening to music in the car and singing loudly because that’s all you can do when times are bad…
“You’re right, Mom…that’s what I’ve been trying to tell Jen, about all we went through…and how we got through it…”
“Yep! I’ll see you on the way back home. As of now, I have no idea when I’ll get there, but I will be there.”
I hung up the phone, grabbed my ukulele and headed out the door of my fabulous hotel room once again to meet the guys for yet another jam down at Starbucks this time…The elevator whisked me down 17 floors and I walked out into the lobby, suddenly remembering…
I was in this very same lobby the morning after Thanksgiving in 2004 – with my daughter Megan and a whole bunch of little cheerleader girls getting ready to compete in the Regional Pop Warner cheerleading competition. These girls, the Mountain View Marauders, dressed in orange and red, had blown away everyone including the judges at every single competition they’d participated in – winning first place every single time amid so many other great teams.
I was so proud of Megan and these girls because they worked together as a team, these eight to eleven year olds…from all walks of life, 19 beautiful young ladies who showed the world that working together as a team with no one being a “diva” or a “queen” could make it in tough competitions – who worked seamlessly as they did their dance numbers, their stunts and their cheers. Like the San Francisco Giants, I thought, tears suddenly filling my eyes as I looked at that lobby, closed my eyes and remembered those 19 girls, their coaches fixing their hair at 6am Friday morning…they were the first ones up to cheer against 50 other cheerleading squads, and only the top three would make it to the National Cheerleading competition in Orlando, Florida. One part of me wanted to win so badly, but the other part was worried about the finances…how to get Megan there…we’d traveled up to Sparks, Nevada from the bay area in my Toyota Corolla, me, Megan, big bro Stevie, my exboyfriend Mike and his daughter Bridgette…all crammed into he car.
Yes, we were here…and we took a bus over to the Livestock Pavilion where the competition took place…being the first ones up was tough, the sound system wasn’t quite together and one of the back spotter dudes got too close to the girls’ stunts causing one of the flyers to topple over – but watching the girls seamlessly lift Esparanza back up and continue the competition as if nothing had happened, their hearts broken because they assumed they wouldn’t win with a blunder like that, truly amazed me..if only the world could be run by girls such as these…it would be a much better place.
And we sat for hours watching team after team, the girls holding hands and crying..especially at the end when they didn’t make 3rd or 2nd place, which was all they could hope for…when the announcement came over the loudspeaker, “And in first place, the Mountain View Marauders!” we all jumped up and down and screamed for what seemed like hours – like it was American Idol or something, and the girls laughed and cried…Megan rushing over to almost knock me over and cry…chaching, Orlando, Florida here we come…I had thought
That’s what I thought of while standing in that lobby, spending the entire weekend with Megan and part of my family, celebrating after that competition with a trip to Circus Circus in downtown Reno…Megan strutting her stuff so proudly…she and her team truly winners and well deserved.
What happened to those times? Where had they gone? That seemed like a lifetime ago and now here I was with a bunch of crazy ukulele strummers…
The journey home on Tuesday was free sailing, even through the snow…and I did stop at Jeremy’s house, a huge four-bedroom house with three bathrooms and a huge yard for his dogs…plenty of room for a family and for people to visit…I loved it.
And I loved Jeremy too…and reminded him that this was only the beginning of a new life, sure stressful at times, but wonderful nonetheless…