The Big Picture


I was on the Jumbotron at Mohegan Sun on Saturday night.

We’d gone out to the casino–Mally, the Pope and Mrs. Santucci, and me–to see a show and to maybe even play nickel slots.  Saturday was a rainy disaster of a day, and though my car has all-wheel drive, even I had a moment of doubt as to whether it was a safe choice to drive to the wilds of Connecticut, to the lands owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, directly adjacent to the Connecticut State penitentiary.

Regardless, we went.

I was having lunch with a friend on Saturday, prior to heading out to Connecticut.  We’d gotten some food in my neighborhood, then went back to my apartment to get out of the rain.  I needed to get ready to go, so I disappeared into the bedroom, bathroom to change.

I’m just going to do my hair; I’ll be right out.

What are you doing to your hair?

Oh, nothing.  My muffled crashes and clatters from the bathroom were unconvincing.

Twenty minutes later, I emerged–red-plaid clad; jeans; boots; big hair.  The laughter was uncontrollable.

I didn’t even know you could do that to yourself.

What, get myself countrified?  I’m not ALL wasp.

Mally showed up moments later–red-plaid clad, boots-clad as well–and we headed for the car.

“Just to clarify,” I said, as I pulled out on to Third Avenue to guide the car uptown, then on to the FDR, “We’re leaving the UES in a monsoon.  So we can go to a country concert.  At an Indian Reservation.”

“Yes,” she said, “Yes.”

We made it to Uncasville, where we met the Pope and Mrs. Santucci.  They were already inside; already having an early dinner at the seafood place…which apparently has a real name, but which I dubbed, “Lobsters Lobsters Lobsters,” because of the sign out front.

This place is like Vegas meets…Wilderness Lodge at Disney.


Usually, I find casinos to be incredibly depressing places.  My trips to Vegas for work leave me empty.  I inevitably head to straight to Las Vegas from other meetings in California, and then find myself on Southwest flights from Burbank, Oakland, SFO, where they serve beer with breakfast, and men in Ed Hardy shirts grope women barely wearing tops. 

My brother and I went to the Chukchansi casino outside of Oakhurst, CA in November.  That was almost unbearably depressing.  But we were trying to stave off the onslaught of a loving, if dysfunctional family for just a few moments more.  Instead of finding respite, we found ourselves in a dark, smoky room, emphysemic geriatrics sliding bills and tickets into rattling machines while the grandchildren sipped milkshakes in a glass-walled “soda shop” in the center of the casino.  Like caged little puppies, waiting to be taken home.

Mohegan Sun, however, was huge; brightly lit.  People were friendly.  The ceilings were high.  Everything was…nice.  The place seemed like it was a destination; recreation–not a lifestyle.

So…to the concert.

We saw Trace Adkins open for Martina McBride; then Martina herself came out.  She’s quite lovely.  She sang for an hour or so; the set changed; and in the quiet between sets, I was left to reflect on the songs she’d been singing.  So many of them reminded me of college.  Friends who are now parents; friends who have been married or together for seven, eight, ten years.  Homeowners and stockbrokers and musicians and hopeless romantics.

I thought about late nights, pounding on the walls and the tables at the sorority house; screaming along to the same tunes; changing the lyrics to suit our needs.  Bowed floorboards creaking; long dining tables groaning under the weight of slapping hands.

I thought about men I’d dated back then–men who own homes and have jobs and are now fathers.  I thought about my friends from then–who are off in all corners of the world.  I thought about the car I used to drive, which was stolen when my brother was still sick.  I thought about my red hair, and my green eyeshadow, and my then-uncertain self.

The second set began.  And shortly thereafter, Martina bounced through the crowd, from the rear stage to the front one; camera following her.  She was singing “This One’s For the Girls” and we were dancing–Mrs. Santucci, Mally and me–a red-head, a brunette, and a blonde.  Twisting and turning in front of our stadium seats. 

The song reminded me of when I first split from my ex-husband; when I was gasping for air as my gills matured into lungs.  When I was sitting on the floor of hotel rooms and unfurnished apartments, perpetually shell-shocked, wondering WTF came next; wondering how I was going to survive.

 I wanted to cry, suddenly–mostly happy tears–because I’d come through those days. 

But instead I danced. 

Then, there we were.  Faces as large as life, broadcast in front of the crowd.

And, as I swore I would never do if I ever saw myself on a Jumbotron, I screamed and pointed.  Like every idiot I love to mock when it happens to them.

I did not, however, stop dancing.

As quickly as the moment had come, the camera moved on.  My heart kept racing, though.  Because the moments of fear and hope and joy that the song had evoked had been captured to share, not only with the friends I was enjoying the moments with, but with the crowd.

And I am not always so willing to be taken by surprise; to be so vulnerable, exposed; to share my heart with the world in that way.


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