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A Tale Of Seven Cities

"You might belong in Gryffindor,

Where dwell the brave at heart, Their daring, nerve, and chivalry Set Gryffindors apart"

—The Sorting Hat, Harry Potter

I've been sorted three times by various "official" sorting methods. Gryffindor every time. But surely I'm a watcher? I see myself as someone who didn't do stuff. OK, I've been to Europe, but never alone. There was that semester in London. I didn't know anyone going, and I stress vomited most of the night before I left. See? Not a Gryffindor.

Gaining a few – ok, quite a few - extra pounds over a few years didn't help either. Gryffindors are brave active people. I was the stay-puff girl. By August 2015 I could no longer look at my reflection in the mirror. I tried to remind myself of all the beautiful full-figured l women I knew, reminding myself that confidence is sexy, but all I could see was puffy.

Then I learned that a new Duran Duran album was about to be released. My co-worker Steve encouraged me to bring in all their old CDs and thought it was great to see me dancing around at work. I was enjoying it all so much I would go home and continue to dance, kicking Marc out of the living room so I could dance like no one was watching. I got Paper Gods on hard copy as soon as I could. I discovered the Duran show at the Greek Theater across the Bay had already sold out. Friday night in Berkeley. Traffic would be a nightmare. This was one to pass up.

I saw Duran Duran for the first time in April 1984, skipping out of my role as fifth cheerleader in "Grease" for that night. My brother's girlfriend took me. I would see them every time they came to town, desperately trying to get someone to take the second ticket I had hopefully bought. I didn't want to drive by myself, sit by myself, go home by myself. Sometimes I could talk a friend into it. Sometimes I couldn't. I did miss them once. I found out too late, and I was too afraid to go the scalper-outside-the-venue route without someone to hold my hand. So, not Gryffindor. I was miserable that night, knowing they were close and not being there.

So here I was again in 2015. Do I stay home and wish that I had gone? Had I learned nothing? The debate lasted only long enough for me to find tickets on stub hub. I'd figure out how to get there. But I still bought two hopeful tickets. My downstairs neighbour - my hiking companion - was willing to drive in exchange for a ticket. WooHoo! Traffic was much worse than expected and the usual 50 minute drive took over three hours. We missed the opening opening band, but arrived shortly before Chic. The fans around me were excited, the weather was perfect, the music was so good! I got to feel smug and superior for knowing all the Paper Gods songs (photo below).

I was still in the thrall of music. Duran Duran music. Dance music. Any music. Dancing in the living room. Rewarding myself with a pre-bedtime 1-2 mile walk where I could listen to whatever I wanted, and even sing along if it wasn't too loud. By late November my weight loss was starting to be noticeable. It was great encouragement. I set a daily minimum of five miles (13,200 steps - yes, calibrated). I ate less. By the end of winter I had lost over 45 pounds.

Being able to look at myself in the mirror again was a confidence booster, but I still felt I lacked that true Gryffindor soul. I really wanted to see Duran Duran again and then I learned of the Las Vegas show. I bought two tickets and started making the rounds but getting someone else was a complete no-go. OK, it's Vegas. I can do this by myself, right? Right... Right?

That trip really was a big step for me. I got in late, but got to the hotel on my own with no problems. Having talked myself into going to the bar on my own, I ended up with a big group, dancing until the place closed. I even got a tip on an afternoon meet-up with Duranies the next day. I went, meeting Rhonda and Amanda from Daily Duranie, and other fans. A former coworker with a passing acquaintance of the Duran Duran hits took the spare ticket. Our seats were better than Berkeley and I got the Nikon in, as well as a point-and-shoot that got some surprisingly good shots. The photography aspect was really exciting to me. I knew there were more Duran Duran concerts in my future, but I vowed to never to buy two tickets on the I-hope-someone-will-go-with-me plan.

The next concerts were the big test. I honestly don't know what possessed me to think that Cancun was even a possibility. I thought Cancun was just down the West Coast. I thought maybe Marc would come with me and we'd spend New Years on a warm sunny beach. Nope, nope, nope. I did only buy one ticket this time, but it was a good one. It was still three months before the concert when I got laid off. So really, the smart thing was to sell back the ticket. I decided to just not think about it and do nothing. I had time.

Then, on my birthday, tickets for NYE in Maryland went on sale. In the big scheme of things, DC and Cancun are not all that far apart. The worst part would be packing for two vastly different climates. Actually the worst part was the ridiculous holiday prices for hotels, but I digress. It was a big birthday (I saw Duran in 1984 - you do the math). I was unemployed. So of course - I bought myself a ticket.

By now I'd found twitter. I mostly lurked quietly in the background, unsure of how to break into conversations. I posted some of my Las Vegas pics to almost complete obscurity. I've never been one for self promotion, so I wasn't really surprised, but I did want to find a way to become more a part of the community. @boysmakenoise posted about a YouTube tweet-along event for "A Diva's Christmas Carol". I decided to join in. I was a little nervous when I posted my first #DDDIVAXMAS tweet. Would it even be noticed? Oooo a like. They like me! (Well, Twitter-wise). I started being part of the conversations, finding confidence in my posts, getting positive feedback on my photos.

Cancun. An all-inclusive resort by yourself is a little weird. During the day, the pool was so lovely and it was nice to actually have time to read. Dinner was harder, surrounded by couples and families. I was lonely. I didn't want to risk losing my camera so I didn't even try to get it into the venue. (Turns out my bag wasn't even searched). My seat was in an odd side "VIP" Area. We weren't all that close, but I was right on the rail, so the sight line was excellent. That point-and-shoot went to work. My seat mates were lovely - Maria brought the most amazing hand made banner. There was laughter and banter and music. Community.

Off to Maryland. I spent the day exploring in DC, wandering through the Guggenheim and seeing some of the Monuments. I was starting to really come into my own as a solo traveller. I set my pace, wandered where and when I wanted to. After the loneliness of Cancun, this was a breath of fresh (albeit COLD) air. Arriving at the MGM National Harbor I found myself surrounded by couples and groups once again. As I ordered a drink in the bar I tweeted that I would buy a drink for any Duran Duran fan who found me in the bar. No one showed up, but @boysmakenoise replied that I should come to Atlanta and he would buy me a drink.

The show was so fun. My seat neighbour (hi Stephanie!) encouraged me to try to get into the front row. I got kicked back to the second, which is still pretty good. The security guys were so busy policing the row jumpers they didn't even notice the big ol' DSLR. I got some really nice shots. I ended up chatting with a crew member (who was on the same flight and recognized me from my Nikon and my smile), getting a set list and a guitar pic. It was such a fun adventure, one I never would have had if I hadn't gone to Vegas.

Atlanta. That trip was where my Gryffindor soul blossomed. Weather delays had me end up in Dallas for the night. I got into Atlanta with a few hours to spare then headed over to Chastain Park. While I did get the Nikon in, the security guy was not sufficiently distracted and made me put it away. The point and shoot was fine though. @boysmakenoise had tweeted about a post-concert club for dancing. I made my way there and danced with a group of Atlanta twitter friends. We closed the place down at 3am. The community I had found out of #DDDIVAXMAS had faces, names.

By the Oakland show I had become good twitter friends with Loan and Analisa. Getting to meet them in real life is truly one of the most special experiences Duran Duran has given me. It was in my Bay Area that I saw some of the seedier sides of fandom. I'm not usually in the know about where the band is staying, but my friend was staying the same hotel so wow..! I thought it would be exciting to be where I might run into band members, and it was, but I also found it to be uncomfortable. I'm more interested in capturing the band at their best, doing what they love on stage.

Hawaii. The San Francisco show left me a bit uncomfortable about being the kind of fan who travelled to see the band. I just want to hear the music start up, see the lights, capture those moments with whatever camera I can get in. I came about as close to selling that ticket back as I ever had. I started thinking that it would be another Cancun. All couples and families. But I had a really really good seat. So I went. I got out and explored a bit, doing some more obscure hikes, skipping Pearl Harbour. My seat was amazing - a bit too close for photography, not that I didn't try, but close enough for a memorable moment during the pre Come Undone chat. As my seventh and final show, it was a good palette cleanser.

When I was in my 20s I remember feeling old. Has it just been the last two years I stopped feeling so old and cautious? Losing that weight, making all these new friends, sharing my experiences, finding my way back to theatre photography, and finally letting myself believe that I am a pretty damn good photographer? None of that would have happened without this tour. Duran Duran and the Paper Gods tour gave me permission to dance, a reason to travel, a place to let my creative eye out, and friends to support and encourage me along the way. I found that Gryffindor inside of me and let it roam free.

all photos by Baranduin.

1. Berkeley

2. Atlanta

3. Oakland

4. collage - various

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