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A penny for your thoughts indeed. Around here that would be a raise.

What makes a good blog? I think thematic consistency, a little exhibitionism, and honest writing. I can promise you the last one.

Most of my posts seem to be about music or politics. Some of them are funny. But all of them would love to hear a comment from you.

Oh-- and please welcome God to the APW team. We're thrilled and humbled to serve as His earthly vessel.

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Location: NYC

I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.

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Garcia, 10 Years On
Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Ten years ago I was on a road trip with my uncle. We took our first one in the summer of 1993, logging 6500 miles in 16 days as we left from NYC, drove south to Tenessee, then west along I-40 to Flagstaff, north to the Grand Canyon, around the canyon, and north and east through the great American west. We had such a grand time-- and forged a special bond on that first trip-- that for five years it had become our ritual summer vacation.

In '95 we flew to LA and did a big circle- north up US 1 out of California entirely, east, down through Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, west through Arizona and Nevada, and back to LA for departure. Great memories.

My friend Tracy from college is in San Francisco, so when we got to town we hooked up with her for dinner. The next day we were heading off north, and she and her (Deadhead) friends were meeting in Olompali for a picnic sort of thing. I think there is a photo in an early Dead album taken there; we all hiked to the same spot and recreated it.

I remember fondly that there were acoustic guitars there, and one guy let me play his, and I sang "Melissa," and someone accompanied my chording by playing the lead, and it was nice. I joked with Tracy that I was afraid I'd have to earn her friends' respect by beating someone up, but fortunately all I had to do was play a song. We all sat around and played and sang; the last tune was a collective jam on "Wooden Ships," apparently one of their favorites. I didn't know the chords but figured out soon enough how to solo over them, doing a minor blues thing; some other guy, much better than me, was trading licks with me, and it was a sublime musical moment. I remember coming to what I thought was the natural end of the soloing, and as I did and hung on the final note everyone else came back in together on the verse. Total non-verbal communication magic.

There was a buzz in the air about the fall tour shows going on sale soon...

It was a glorious day, hot fun in the summertime, good company, good food, great herbal supplements. The kind of day that leaves you with memories to build a life around. And music, sweet sweet music, there was music everywhere...

A week or so later my uncle and I were driving throught the brutal Nevada dessert. We were heading towards Vegas, middle of the afternoon, hottest part of the day. The sun was high, and sure it was a dry heat, but at 126 degrees my oven will cook food, and its nice and dry in there too. We spent a lot of time on these trips listening to the radio, and this day we spanned the dial and it seemed like every station was playing a Dead song. Finally I heard the news-- Jerry Garcia was dead. It didn't seem real. We flipped around the dial, heard the Rush Limbaugh audience eulogize him (and Rush, of course, was condemning him for his narcotic use; it was perhaps the greatest disconnect ever between the man and his callers.)

This was 1995, remember, and I did not have a cell phone. But I knew I had to call Tracy, because I knew she would be devastated. Finally we got to Vegas, ditched the car, and went into one of the big casinos (I forget now which one.) I left my uncle to feed the slots, and I found a bank of pay phones and called Tracy. No answer. I left a message, and then another. It would be days before I could connect with her. I don't think she was answering the phone. It was so surreal; just a few days before I was with her and her slice of the extended Deadhead family, pulled together by the music, by whatever it was that grew around, out of the music. And suddenly the lynchpin of that nexus was... just gone.

Later that summer I began playing "I Know You Rider" on my guitar, adding it to my meager repertoire. Then in the fall my dad died, and the song took on even more meaning. "I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone..."

Tracy and I remain close. Her life without the Dead is profoundly different. Truth be told it might be better; she allowed herself to get obsessed, to put everything else aside when there was a tour. Now she is married, she and her husband are retired, and they live a nice happy life in San Francisco half the year, and the southern tip of the Baja the other half.

When I finally did get her on the phone, she was raving to me, something about "Jerry on the ceiling." Apparently his image suddenly apprared in the pattern of stucco. I wrote it off to grief, emotional crisis, wishful thinking. Her friends would come over and gather to pay homage to the supposed spontaneous shrine.

I went to see her early in 1996. We hugged good and long. And as I held her I scanned the room, looked up... and damn if Jerry's face wasn't right there on the ceiling, a mischievous unmistakable smile in the stucco.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 1:00 PM  

At 8/12/2005 7:34 AM, Blogger minty said...   

Wow, what a great story.

I was in Santa Fe when I heard that Jerry Garcia had died; it was my first time there, and at first I thought maybe there were always groups of people wearing tie-dye and sitting around in public places strumming and singing. And maybe there are, but I think there were more than usual coming together to mourn on that day.

At 8/12/2005 10:54 AM, Blogger --josh-- said...   

Thanks Mint-ola. I was in Santa Fe very shortly before that day, so we might well have been there at the same time. In fact, I might have been that big rude guy at the ice cream place.

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