Posted by: hope_rising | March 9, 2010

Hope has a Perfect Day

Have you ever had one of those days when the world was spinning just for you? When every star that could be aligned in front of you was? I have had one such day, April 27, 1991, the place; Sam Boyd Silver Dome Las Vegas Nevada. The setting; A Grateful Dead weekend with Carlos Santana.

One Friday evening in April 1991 a friend and I packed up my Hyundai after work and headed North East for that Oasis in the middle of the desert, Las Vegas, Nevada.  The road from home to Vegas is a long, flat, un-interesting one. It’s a five-hour stretch of highway that runs just East of all things interesting but for us, it was the highway to heaven. For us, it was the avenue to the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl  where the Grateful Dead was headlining with special guest Carlos Santana.

If its even possible to imagine, my friend knew little of the work of Carlos Santana. Consequently, I compiled a Carlos hall of fame tape featuring multiple recordings of Europa, the guitar solo to end all guitar solos. I pointed out the nuances of all the recordings and filled in as much history about the artist as I knew. My friend was diggin’ Carlos, I was diggin’ the drive and as the sunset on our travel to Vegas everything seemed right in the world.

In true dead-head form, we did little forward planning beyond acquiring tickets and tie-dying t-shirts. We had no hotel reservations, but we did pack the tent. We didn’t know where the stadium was, but we were pretty sure where Vegas was. We were going to meet up with some friends, but were unclear when and where. Other than that, we were good.

In the wee hours of the morning, after the Carlos mix had looped infinitely and our turn taking driving strategy was wearing thin, we arrived at the Nevada border with heavy eyes.  Welcoming all travelers bound from California to the great state of Nevada is the Western Themed Casino, Whiskey Pete’s, built on the state border. We stopped in to refresh ourselves, stretch and grab some caffeine to fuel the last fifty mile leg of our trip. With the concert being general admission, we wanted to make sure we arrived very early in the morning so we could mark out a good spot on the field. Weighing that priority against our sleepy eyes, we decided to nap in the parking lot of Whiskey Pete’s for a couple of hours and then head directly to the stadium; where ever that was.  We locked the doors, reclined the seats and settled in for a much-needed nap.

We woke with the brilliance of the morning sun through the windshield. Hindsight being what it is, an alarm of some sort would have been in order. We freshened up in the restroom of Whiskey Pete’s, grabbed a quick breakfast and hit the road. We still have fifty miles to cover and a stadium to find and now we were way behind schedule. I spent most of the drive resolving myself to the very real possibility that our placement in this stadium was going to be far less than what I had hoped for. Still, it would be good just to be able to say we were there.

The Vegas strip was bumper to bumper Grateful Dead fans and the sidewalks awash with tie-dye and Rastafari colors. Much of what you would expect was accounted for; the vans with the trademark hue of smoke wafting out the windows, Volkswagen bugs, plastered with bumper stickers carrying a payload of passengers that far exceeded its capacity. Other, second-hand, fuel-efficient cars – windows opened, radios blaring;  lost souls knocking on car windows “looking for a miracle”;  Ah yes, these were sights and sounds of the dead coming to town.

All of the dead heads that didn’t know where the stadium was, were following each other up and down the strip. We kept seeing the same cars and I started to wonder, if they were thinking the same thing about us. It seemed we all had the same strategy; follow the vehicles that were unmistakably going to the Grateful Dead concert. The first time we all took a U-turn at the end of the strip should have been our first clue that actually no-one was in the lead. You didn’t have to tell us three times. After the second round trip on the strip we pulled into a convenience store and asked for directions.

Much as I had suspected, the parking lot of the stadium was already full and we were motioned to go to the lot across the street. As we passed the main lot, we could see the line for entry, already formed, stretched completely around the parking lot. My heart sank. By the time we parked and got in line, we were most likely going to be high up in the stadium. Still, it would be good to say we were there.

We double checked our tickets and started our long walk to the stadium gate. The parking lot was bright with the community of vendors that appear at every Dead show. The perpetual show goers, selling their wares of candles, incense, tie-dye shirts and their own recordings of other shows in an effort to fund thier next ticket. Another disappointing part of our indulgent nap, was not having the time to wander through and see all there was to see in the parking lot.

The stadium was surrounded by a chain link fence that appeared to be put in place just for this event. As we walked by we noticed a security guard leaning on the fence right next to an open gate, that at first glance appeared to go right into the stadium. We stopped and asked the guard if the entrance where the line ahead started was the only entrance to the stadium. He laughed from his belly and with exaggerated arm gestures and an enthusiastic boom to his voice he replied  “No!  We are standing at the only entrance to the stadium today!” He told us that where that line formed was the ticket booth, which will not be opening today as the concert is sold out. He went on to explain that he has told the folks in the front of that line twice already that they are in the wrong place and now, he’s just going to stand there until they figure it out.

I stood still, perplexed, just staring at the guard. My friend asked the  obvious question, “are you saying we can we go in here?”. With an even bigger laugh, and an almost exasperated tone “YES! that is what I am trying to tell you people”  and repeating his gesture pointing into the stadium. “if you want to see your show you gots to go in this-a way“. So in we went. We ran whooping and hollering, screaming to let Carlos know we were coming. 

When we arrived on the football field of the stadium there wasn’t a soul to be seen except for the road crew on the stage. We entered at about the thirty yard line with the stage seventy yards ahead in the end zone. Something unspoken came over the both of us at once and we started running. Our packs bounced on our backs. Our blankets stretched out overhead like the flag of an Olympian. Our coffees spilling out from the leak-proof covers. We reached the stage, out of breath but still screaming. We stood at all different locations in front of the stage until we found our sweet spot. Our perfect front and center from which you could see clear to the drum set, but even if a taller person got right in front of us they could not block our view.  I was completely elated.

Eventually the folks in line figured it out and our stadium was quickly filling up. I watched as the people filled in the top tier of the bleachers and thought to myself how glad I was to be where I am!

The concert started and my man Carlos Santana played right at the front of the stage. He was vibrant; bigger than life and engaging with the audience. My friend, who knew nothing of Carlos twelve hours ago, was screaming to him now how much he loved him. At one point he shouted above the crowd, “Play Europa!” Carlos stopped and looked down into the crowd. My friend repeated “Play Europa!” Carlos smiled and pointed to him; “this is for you my brother“. With that the guitar solo to end all guitar solos played like a masterpiece and filled the air of the Silver Dome.

The rest of the concert was great but almost inconsequential compared to how it began. I would never have even known to pray for those events to unfold. To have the thrill, if only for ten minutes, of having a stadium to myself. To have a close encounter with a musical giant. To hear my favorite guitar solo, live and dedicated almost to me! It was the perfect day, it was the perfect concert.

And so it goes with my hope. I can plan and move in the general direction of my dreams. As a matter of fact, I really must if my dream has any chance of coming true.  But along the way, I must pay special attention to my interpretation of the road blocks and disappointments that show themselves.  Keeping in mind that I dream within the bounds of what I already believe to be possible, the universe, if I let her,  can lead me to the place where the impossible becomes likely. I need only read her signs in good faith, adjust rather than quit, dance with the element of risk and be open to the new and untried.

heres to hope

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