drinking in italy and the greatful dead

greatful dead A's logoWhen I was a kid, I would see hippie types at the Coliseum wearing the logo to the left and I was quite intrigued. What could it mean? I was in Florence with my buddy, and we just had the shittiest time getting into the city from Rimini.  It was late July and the city was baking.  We threw our gear down and started with getting some pizzas.  Half liter of wine turned into two, which turned into four.  I was retelling some raunchy stories despite being in a crowded restaurant, expecting no one to understand what I was talking about.  Turns out, we were sitting next to an old English couple who were every inch the uptight stereotype.  They told me I was the most offensive being on the planet.  I thanked them. We then headed to a bar, met a gorgeous Australian girl, dark hair, blue eyes.  I only say that out of recall, seriously, I had zero chance.   We started ordering pitchers of Heineken four at a time.  The beers were ice cold and the night was hot, so they went quickly. Walking around the city at night, everything was dark, but we heard music, and followed up to a house party and crashed it. They were listening to the Greatful Dead, and despite my prejudices, it was sounding good.  For some reason, I had the bright idea of swiping two massive bottles of wine.  On the steps of the Duomo, there were a bunch of kids milling around the steps, we joined them, where I finished a bottle while watching my friend attempt to hit on a hippie girl in Italian. Then we proceeded to spend the next hour searching for the hotel, because we hadn’t bothered to keep track of where it was, or which one it was.  That was awesome.

I woke up at 8:30 having to catch the 9am to Basel, and had it all, the spins, the nausea, the imploding headache, burning eyes, and I reeked of alcohol.  Of course my train is packed, and for once, I’m sitting across from a beautiful woman as opposed to a fat hairy dude. I’m reeking of booze and sweat and again, I  had no shot. But I started thinking about the Dead again and how the music nerds in Arthur Magazine (or one of them anyway) had said that they were a good band if you gave them a chance and got passed the sterotypes. (I think you know what I’m talking about or you wouldn’t be here) A quote from Arthur Magazine: ” A funny thing about Deadheads (by that I mean even avid fans that don’t go to the concerts) is that I think a lot of times the explosions, the feedback and the edges of the earth exploring that they hear are all in the eye of the beholder. Whereas Sun Ra or Keiji Haino make the pushing of boundaries and the assaults on the senses an obvious and fundamental thing and bring the abnormal and danger and deconstruction into a bound and constructed world to be presented, there is something about the Dead which is off in its own little world –you have to go there to dig the presentation, and partly that’s because once they had that weird huge traveling built-in fan base it was so intense that they could completely ignore musical trends, sudden radical changes in their sound of their albums wasn’t even reactionary to what was going on around them musically. When you engage with The Grateful Dead music you engage on their terms and step inside of their huge complex bubble. And in that way and within that realm their music means many different things to different folks – including a great outlaw philosophy and devious and experimental heart. And those not willing to engage on their terms I think just fucking hate the shit.”


That trading live tapes scene was something special. I think you nailed it by saying, “And those not willing to engage on their terms I think just fucking hate the shit.” Classmates of mine used to call it “living the lie.” I think they were saying “fucking hate that shit.”

I made the mistake of never checking out a show, but i will never forget that jerry kept a parked ambulance outside his house. It screams of total acceptance, that he was never gonna quit the dragon and that some seriously fucked up shit had happened to him as a child. He wore that compassion on his face the few times I seen him interviewed.

If I’m not mistaken, one of those times was after the Hell’s Angel’s freakout at Altamnmount during the sympathy for the devil song and the trampling. I think Jerry and the dead were just arriving and got word about what had happened and Jerry simply said “man, that’s not cool.” I don’t know why, but that stayed with me. I trusted him after seeing that and more importantly I took the kids who evacuated their lives for Jerry in a more serious manner. And then it spawned into Phish and String Cheese Incident.

everything eventually spawns into something else. i used to think that most of the hell-spawn was crap, (still do) yet now I have this sneaking suspicion that human beings are MORPHING into something beyond the trappings of popular culture inspired music. or maybe it’s the joint i just smoked? ahhh, hell…….

smoking a joint always made looking into a biology class microscope in high school super interesting; almost as good as those view finders and nowadays a joint with music electrifies my body; every note can be heard a little more and the tag team of words and music; freaking remarkable means to hammer home a song’s intent; whether it be humor or emotion or whatever.

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