Thursday, February 14, 2019

Do Not Move Forward Anymore: A Story

Ⳃ Flashback 4-27-84
“The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down, can’t let go and you can’t hold on...Can’t go back and you can’t sit still; if the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will...”
The above words from a Grateful Dead song, I always saw as just another zen-like observance made by a person on acid for the enlightenment of his contemporaries.

I suppose that, as “science” learns more and more about the human brain, and especially the interaction between the right and left hemispheres, than the “thunder” would be perceived by the left hemisphere which would deal with the corporeal experience of actually hearing that entity -the sound of the Dead playing through a 75,000 watt sound system- which would leave to the other side of the brain, the cognizance of the “lightning.”

That would be the non manifested stuff, like the deadheads all tapping into a collective subconscious whereby they can be part of the music.

The music plays the band” from "The Music Never Stopped" is in reference to this.

It’s kind of like the person at the concert realizes his oneness with all of creation and starts to get the idea that the music has the potential to sound as good as the creator want’s it to be.

So, the deadhead might say: God, regale me with the sweetest music in the universe, and make it come through Jerry Garcia and the boy’s -they’re so nonplussed after years of heavy drug use, they’ll just acquiesce.

It -the lightning- I suppose was at work when, as a 22 year old who had suffered from eczema his whole life, I had an experience while tripping at a dead show in Providence, Rhode Island, when the ailment receded from my awareness after a gesture that Phil Lesh, the bassist, had made while on stage.

What he did was to put his hands together, as if about to pray, but then to raise them up by the side of his head to make a “pillow” gesture.

It was pretty warm and humid, and the gesture was probably interpreted by rational minds to mean that the conditions were such that Phil was feeling sleepy.
It could have been meant as a way of excusing himself for delivering of himself what he might have thought was a sleepy performance of the song before.

The song before had been "China Doll."

I had wended my way, through no effort of my own it had seemed, to about the 12th row from the stage.

There, I had been stalled by the apparition of a lovely young lady, whose perfume had been like a smelling salt of sorts, in that it had snapped me out of a kind of reverie that I had been in, which had started with myself at the very outer edge of the arena, where I encountered a ring of not surprisingly the most “fringe” of Grateful Dead concert attendees.

The Outermost Ring
These were the kids that I had gone to high school with who were "well along the path" to getting a lucrative degree, landing a full time job with benefits, and who were standing along the outer rim, looking down their noses both literally and figuratively at the whole “counterculture” thing, one of them having greeted me as one of his own -I had the psychedelic shirt on, might have been wearing patchouli oil, but the haircut and the glasses, and the mall purchased clothing gave me away.

The glasses came from the very type of optometry place where an upper middle class kid who was studying for a lucrative degree would get them; his parents would shell out the money without debate because the kid needed them to see the chalkboard, type of thing. The dent in the side of his Jeep because he wasn’t paying attention when changing lanes, he can pay for himself out of his “working through college” job. That might teach him a lesson.

This particular guy, who greeted me in a manner that I had become fluent in from having gone to (middle to upper class) Catholic High School, pointed to my psychedelic tie dye shirt:
“I like your shirt, I got this one myself in the parking lot on the way in...”

Then, pointing to his own shirt, he added: “Yeah, I helped put a couple deadhead kids through college by buying this...”

I am trying to recall just when I had swallowed a hit of blotter acid (which had a musical note symbol on each tab, for you nostalgic acid buffs out there...came right after the ones with Mickey Mouse on them and before the ones that had a yin and yang symbol.

Most of you blog readers might be too young to remember the Mickey Mouse blotter acid; I guess I'm dating myself. Along with tainting my credibility as a factual historian.

I am not saying I was ever a huge acid eater. I have no stories about “the time I ate a whole sheet of one hundred hits of blotter acid after first eating just one but then consuming the rest after the sheet turned into a big piece of taffy that I had to lick up before it melted and got all over me” or anything like that.

I always took just the prescribed dose of “one” hit as apportioned and meted out by whatever chemistry major at UCAl Berkeley made the stuff.

But, after the guy offered to buy me a beer, and before it had registered in him that I hadn’t guffawed over the putting a deadhead’s kid through college joke quite as much as would befit the privileged boy, poised to be able “to buy and sell” a deadhead “a thousand times over,” I left him to drink beer with his frat buddies and I moved down a bit, halfway to floor level.

I had more of an appreciation of dead music than them, I concluded, and I didn’t want to having to defend the music against them: “Improvised music is actually and art form unto itself...” type of thing.

But, mostly, I just wanted to be closer to the stage.

Or, among the people who were.

Plus, it was a night when a chronic illness in me would be cured.

I couldn’t have seen that happening while swilling pallid beer and sharing hopes and dreams and “If I can just get into Dartmouth” visions.

I guess my weakness was not for the pursuit of crass materialism, nor wanting to be able to exalt myself over those who live from hand to mouth.
“I know I’m glad I got a nice warm apartment and a large screen TV to go home to...” might be their mantra.

I wound up sitting around what appeared to be a group of divorced women.
Maybe I was painting them as such, but I was imagining them all having a child or two who was being babysat back at the modest double wide while mom went to a Grateful Dead concert, for whatever reason.

I was blissfully unaware that I carried the distinguishing marks of my class.
But, to the divorced housewives, it was all there -I was on the treadmill.
I had driven my brand new car that I was making hefty payments on to the area of the Providence Civic Center, where I had seen someone standing at the entrance to a parking lot, holding a sign that said “Parking” and waving me in.
There’s where to park, I guess; it say’s “Parking,” my 22 year old self might have thought.

25 dollars, is that a lot? I might have went on.

“No, when my dad used to take me to the Patriots games when I was a kid, I think it was like 35 bucks...” And so the overspending of the father is revisited upon the son.

So, as I sat there and started to trip on the acid that I’m not sure when I ate, I started to feel like I was embarking upon a unique and personal journey of some sort.

I wanted to be alone.

The set list from that show informs that the dead had started out with “Alabama Getaway,” and this had about coincided with myself deciding to get away from the first group.

It was “The Promised Land” which was being played as I looked along the row of women perhaps only 5 years older than me who were already coming back into the ring for another swing, to quote Australian rockers AC/DC.

It seemed indeed, that the promise of a ready-made family was right there occupying rows 23 through 28.

I had a job in “the rewarding field of computer repair and maintenance” and I would bet that they each had a trailer in Podunk, that they weren't too far behind on the payments on, which would come equiped with the between one and four rugrats that she may have been able to produce within those five years.

I could see it all; a figure of my imagination, but guided by an intelligence that seemed to be drawing me closer to the stage.

Did I want to be on the stage?

Maybe not quite, perhaps 12 rows away, as we shall see.

Then came the second instance of my rejecting the company of others when Bill Lenfest, the high school chum of mine that I had driven to the concert, appeared at my side.

I had tried to lose him.

He was a high school friend whose relationship to me had become fixed around me being kind of like the alpha male and he the beta. Or, is there a gamma? Bill was pretty docile.

Without going into the complex psychology that drives human behavior more than to say that perhaps the hit of acid was making me become more aware of it, I began to observe the thoughts and feelings in my head, and in a lot of cases saw them as being fallacious, or examples of me hanging on to something pointless.

After having left the guys that reminded Bill and I of kids we went to high school with, I suggested to him that we perhaps try to move closer to the stage.
We couldn’t get much further away than that upper rim, unless we wanted to listen from the lobby.

Bill had said something like: “OK, you lead; I’ll follow.”

He said this with such a tone of resignation and almost a rolling of the eyes that I got the notion at that instant that he wasn’t happy in this role of following me.
And that when I decided to ditch him. I didn’t want his time at the concert to be reliant upon whatever adventure I was able to find. That put pressure on me.
I was aware of pressure, and becoming more so, as the hit of acid began to kick in.

Aware of subtle overtones in a voice that almost seemed to reverberate: “Some great leader I’ve got...” as if me leading and him following was the best option he could think of, but he wasn’t happy about it.

It was a mean thing to do, to ditch Bill Lenfest. He didn’t have a lot of friends in high school and had looked up to me, especially after learning that I played the guitar.

I was better on the guitar than Bill and so it was easy for me to be “this amazing and impressive guitarist who could awe any audience," provided that it was an audience of Bill Lenfest’s.

But, after having heard him whimper: “You lead, I’ll follow (I guess that’s all I’ll ever be is your puppy dog)” I decided to chuck that whole persona.

I wasn’t satisfied to rest on the laurels of being a hero to Bill.

This was due to possibly some self loathing.

I didn’t think my music was near its potential, and my mind was kind of consumed with the zen problem I was encountering of: The more hundreds of dollars that I had to run to the music store with to buy exotic musical gear, the less inspired and more at a loss to use it creatively I was, once I got it home. A full recording studio and nothing to sing about; all dressed up with no place to go...

I felt bad.

Instead of just telling Bill that I wanted to be alone with my thoughts, or maybe that it might be easier for me to befriend some girl if he weren’t around me, I went the duplicitous route of whispering to him: “Make it look like you just get up and leave! Get up and walk away, I'll explain later!” as if something was going on, maybe I was trying to buy mushrooms from someone who didn’t want to be seen passing them to me, or whatever.

Bill got up and left me surrounded by the women who looked like divorced mothers.

I don’t think that milestones in spiritual growth are marked by hurt feelings being left along the way.

I’m not sure if Bill just retreated to somewhere from where he could observe me, or if he developed an autonomous spirit and went off on his own.

The dead were playing “Dire Wolf” after I was rid of Bill.

Somewhere between the lyrics: “I beg of you, don’t murder me” in that song and into the song, “Big River,” I had fallen into a deep reverie, of sorts.

I felt like I was killing off the “character” that I had “always” been -no longer satisfied with the praise for the fish I was from the denizens of the small pond where I came from.

What is a "personality" to someone who is tripping on acid and who looks at his reflection in the mirror, ready to jump in fear if the guy in the mirror does something of his own volition, like leaning toward him and yelling "boo!"

Suddenly, I found myself crying.

I guess this was, in part, because of having shoved a guy away who had done nothing to deserve that other than to have admired and looked up to me. And maybe in part because I felt I was ditching the old “me.”

Then, the thing started happening.

After I caught myself with tears coming out of my eyes, my immediate reaction was to feel embarrassment over being seen crying by the several divorced young housewives.

But then, I noticed the song the dead were doing with the lyrics they had just sung being: “Tears I’ve cried for that woman are going to flood you, big river, and I’m gonna sit right here until I die.”

And, just like that, I was supplied a reason to be sitting there sobbing. Circumstances had covered for me.

Now I could really feel the warmth of the eyes of the divorced young mothers upon me.
I was "surely" crying over a lost woman, and I was wearing one of the 28 dollar tie dyed shirts that they sell right as you exit the 35 dollar parking lot.

I don’t know if it was to test the validity this notion, but, when the next song called “Althea” was played and the line sung was: “I was born to be a bachelor” I was overcome a bit and raised my arms and pumped my fists, kind of as if to say: “Good line in a song!” with the side effect being that I was immediately hit in the side of the face by cigarette smoke, which had been blown by the divorced young housemother closest to me.

Poof! Pretty blatant, she may have leaned a bit too close, blown a bit too hard -maybe trying to cut through the loud music with it- chosen the wrong brand of cigarette, perhaps.
I thought it quaint. Didn’t that come from an old movie? Did Lauren Bacall seduce Humphrey Bogart like that, or something? Somehow that has found its way into the universal language of man.

I may have been making the life choice to never marry and raise a family right then and there on April 27th, 1984.

There is that line in the Bryan Adams song called “Summer of ‘69” where he say’s: “Oh, but when I held her hand I knew that it was now or never.”

I had nothing but love for those sweet ladies and great admiration for how, like phoenix’s, they rose from the ashes of failed unions with high school sweethearts, got into jeans that they could still fit into, got made up in ways that could still turn heads, and showed up at the concert, having mirrored their station in life by purchasing tickets half way up; in the middle.

Their tie dyed shirts had been washed and worn before, but in keeping with their general deportment, were still looking pretty good.

I decided not to stop there, though. Had I turned and struck up a conversation, who knows where I would be today..

As I got up to go try to get closer to the stage, I heard a: “Hmph!” coming from I think the one who blew smoke.

It’s not easy to forsake the joys of family life. I could have grandchildren now.
Or could have been murdered by a deadbeat ex-husband...

The Providence Civic Center was basically built around a hockey rink.

I had not purchased tickets to be on the floor, which would be where the ice would be during a game, with the band being set up at one end, under one of the baskets. Did I say hockey?

I cannot describe the state of mind that I was operating within as I began to descend the stairs leading to the one breach in the wall surrounding the rink.
Maybe it was the door that opens to let players in and out of the penalty box, but it was guarded by a fairly large man wearing the blazer of whatever security outfit, equipped with a walkie-talkie (this was 1984) and tasked with checking the ticket stubs of anyone trying to go through to make sure they had purchased “floor” seats.

The thing that has started after I noticed that my tears had been covered by the song that the band was playing intensified. It was almost as if my every move made sense as seen through the lens of the music.

It was as if I could do whatever I felt and the circumstances would shift in order to rationalize the actions.

I held out my empty hand in front of someone and asked them: “Do you want a bracelet?” fully prepared to say something like: “Darn, I was trying to see if one would land in my hand if I held it out and said that, but one didn’t!” if one didn’t.

But one did.

What are the odds of a glow in the dark bracelet, flung at random by some deadhead, landing in the outstretched hand of someone who had just (jokingly, but not so much given the way the experience had been going) asked someone if they would like a bracelet?

I looked to the rows of people at the very front, closest to the stage.

Hardly any of them moved.

They sat there like tigers in trances as if breathing in the music.

Further out from the stage, motion could be seen -people reaching for cigarettes, joints, lighters, cocaine off little mirrors, checking the progress of their cassette tapes, wondering if they should flip them during the space jam before the band begins a long song that might get cut in the middle when that side runs out...

I got to the bottom few steps, and as I did, the guy whose job it was to check tickets, turned fully away from me and sneezed.

It was kind of an exaggerated sneeze and, as I strolled past him, he was doubled over at the waist, maybe so that if anything came out of his nose it would become the problem of the hockey players in the penalty box and not wind up on his shirt. But, I believe the guy never saw me -had even had his eyes scrunched  closed in anticipation of sneezing at the point when he had been facing me.

I was then on the floor, but standing behind a wall of stout backs that formed a formidable perimeter around the stage at a distance of about 30 rows.

The band started the second set with “Playing In The Band.”

The harder I tried to push my way forward the more the wall of backs in front of me bristled.

Then, something occurred to me, and I stopped trying. I relinquished all effort to push forward and, as soon as I had done that, I was physically thrust by unseen forces behind me, through the human wall, and found myself within what felt like a sanctuary.

Everyone forward of the wall of backs -the first 20 rows- was seated, with the aforementioned people at the very front not only seated but gape mouthed and motionlessly staring at the stage like fish in an aquarium trying to comprehend a TV set that they can see through the glass.

Oh, gee, we are getting to the actual story about Phil the bassist and the curing of my eczema!

The best analogy I can come up with for the sanctuary-like area closest to the stage would be Dante’s “Inferno” with its “layers” of hell.

It seemed like I had passed the “physical” test by having intuited that only by not trying to get through would I get through.

Once pushed into the front section, the first group I encountered seemed to be the intellectuals, the thinkers, the cerebral, whatever Dante would call them.
There was an animated discussion about time signatures, key signatures and other things musical.
I think someone was talking about how “Playing In Band” was in the time signature of 10/4.
Not to be caught up in the mental gymnastics of trying analyse why a piece of music sounds good, I moved forward.

Now, I found myself around the 18th row, where there happened to be an empty seat that I was motioned to maybe by someone who knew that I wouldn’t be allowed to remain in the aisle. If I had paid a premium for a seat in the first 20 rows, then why am I in the aisle and not in that seat? type of thing....

I felt like I had gained some degree of acceptance by the deadheads. Were they able to look at me and tell that I belonged?
Was my resemblance to Bob Weir the rhythm guitarist enough of a calling card?

Once in the 18th row, I was asked by a somewhat cautious guy to my right if I had a lighter.
When I pulled my lighter out of my pocket the bag of weed that was also in there came fumbling out.
Before I could make a joke like: “I’m glad I didn’t try to pull my lighter out in front of any cops” or something, there was a flurry of activity.

Several people in rows 17 and 18 instantly produced pipes and bowls and joints, my bag of pot having allayed any fear that I might have been a cop who looks like Bob Weir, I guess.

I was offered a hit off a pipe.

I smiled and said: “Dude, I totally don’t need it!”

This brought smiles and nods of approval from the group, and I was immediately implored by one of the girls to “Go forward!”

“Yeah, move forward!” echoed the guy who had offered me the pipe.

I moved forward to about the 12th row.

The band was in a lazy space jam in between songs, trying to decide what to play next.
I am getting tired of this phrase pertaining to this account but, “for some reason” I bellowed out a long note.

Just as I let it ring, Phil Lesh simultaneously plucked a note on his bass.
It sounded just like the first chord to their song “China Doll” -the combination of the notes.

I later figured out, with the help of the bootleg tape that I must have sang an F note as Phil plucked the D note just a minor third below it. But that is a distinctive interval.

I can’t hear myself on the bootleg, but can hear Phil tap his string with the D note and then say: “Hey, you wanna do China Doll?” just audible through the stage mics.

Then, my quest to wind up in the front row, or then even to be invited up onto it to play, the way the night was going, was derailed in row 12.

After having helped select the next number, I was once again spirited into an empty seat where I turned to my right and came face to face with the most beautiful girl imaginable.
Her purfume hit me like smelling salts, snapping me back to a different reality.

I had been thinking of things and then seeing them materialize, but the girl seemed to have created herself. Why would I create something that was going to cause me heartache when I couldn’t posess it?

“Ahh!” exclaimed someone who might have been watching my ascencion through the ranks.

So that’s his weakness, it was as if he was saying.

So Dante would have me breathing in perfume and drooling forever and ever, eh?

No more moving forward.

But, at some point, Phil made the sleeping gesture, and I felt like it was God working through Phil Lesh.
Funny, to read this about that particular night...

I still had to figure out which foods were toxic to me and I would make mistakes.
Or find myself in situations where I would eat so as not to be rude to a host who might have prepared a meal especially for me, and who might be extremely proud of his cooking and dying to know what I think of his corn bread, but whose corn bread is, unfortunately for me, half corn and half Crisco -partially hydrogenated soybean oil, anyone? Just keep the lid on because it WILL attract flies by the droves and is not recommended as a hair gel for that reason.

After eating the wrong thing though, all I would have to do is remind myself “It’s sleeping,” and with something like the snapping of a hypnotist’s fingers, the symptoms would go away.

It also help to eat a whole bag of corn chips with a whole jar of salsa, the hotter the better. This will help show the offending food the door; the back door, if you get my drift...

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Tuesday The Twelfth

I was up at the somewhat depressing hour of about five-thirty in late afternoon as the sun was about to set.
I decided to hop on the bike which Jacob had given me the day before.
It has those high pressure tires which are very small in diameter and which take a high amount of pressure.
The bike rode very well for one which had been sitting in a back yard, with the tire pressure being my chief concern. I didn't want to bend a rim by hitting a bump which might cause it to bottom out.
As I was leaving to test ride the bike, I threw the key to the lock that Bobby was letting me borrow out with my trash.
I had locked the bike and then grabbed the trash bags, I guess before pocketing the key, and so, after returning from Rouses Market where the security guard was cool enough to watch the bike for me while I ran in for cat food, energy drink, gallon of water and can of coconut milk, I searched frantically for the key.
I had just gone to the dumpster, where I had thrown my trash and was using the phone as a flashlight when it rang with Bobby on the other end.
How could I tell him that I lost the key to the lock that he let me borrow?
How would I be able to go out and busk without being able to lock the bike?
How am I going to cut Bobby's lock off of the bike if I don't find the key?
I told Bobby that I was using the phone as a flashlight and would have to call him back.
Jacob and I didn't find it in our search, but, a second search of the dumpster, this time wearing latex gloves lead to the key's discovery in one of the bags that I had thrown out, which we had already searched. It had been hidden pretty well behind an empty vinegar bottle the first time.
That really would have sucked had I had to come up with a lock so I could use the bike to busk, and then had to buy Bobby a new one to replace the one that was locked to the bike, and then eventually had to have that one cut off.
It was pretty cold and windy by the time I found the key, and so I stayed in and produced the video above, which came from one that Jacob and I shot Monday night at my place, during a quick stop there to grab my jacket on our way out to get a bottle of melatonin for Bobby.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Fifty Five Degree Outside

Communication With Howard
I must find an app just like the one on my phone which transcribes whatever I say into the text box; and then bring a device like a tablet over to Howard
Westra's house when I visit, so that I could speak in a normal voice to him and he would have roughly the equivalent of the "closed captioning for the hearing impaired" thing which is on his TV, appear in text on his screen.
Without the annoyance of the seven second delay.

I am assuming that the one used by the networks is a machine.

A human being, who would most likely have a knowledge in whatever sport he is transcribing the broadcasts of, would be able to intuit a lot of things like, say, a foul ball being hit "way up into the cheap seats" at the ballpark.

A real person would most likely pause before causing a box to pop on the screen, telling people like Howard that the guy at the plate "is just waist deep in cheat sheets," for example. That one might even get a "That didn't make any sense!" out of ol' Howard.

But, were I to have the same thing as I have on my phone, I could prop up the tablet screen in front of Howard and then speak away.

This would eliminate an effect that I have no sniglett for but which results in a conversation that is being yelled to a deaf person also being dumbed down, as if the baffled look on the guy's face is due to a struggle to comprehend, rather than just to hear.

This is probably ingrained through the similarity between people who don't understand English and who hence have to be spoken to slowly, using simple words and littered with hand gestures and pointing.

There's only so much a holding out and fluttering of one hand in the air in response to: "So how have you been?" can convey.

As far as fodder for this blog, I feel like I am in a vast expanse of space empty all around me, and with one of the nearest objects of any mass being the Superbowl. It is moving away at such a rate that the frequency of light coming from it has been slowed to a dark red in color.

But, one of the biggest things that I took away from watching the Superbowl was the shift in marketing strategy that seemed to run through all the commercials like a thread, which was to attack the competition to whatever the advertised products were.

I can remember the breakthrough in marketing regulations which occurred in probably the 1980's that allowed generic brands to start to affix the "compare to [major brand]" words to their labels. That was a big one.

Before that, you might see that the ingredients in both brands were exactly the same, but might think that the "store brand" was of inferior quality, hence their being much cheaper.

Before that, as in ten years before, it was considered unethical, maybe for lack of a better word, for doctors and lawyers to advertise for patients and clients. Now lawyers advertise for patients for doctors on billboards.

But, from the pot shots that Budweiser, I think it was, took at Miller and Coors, pointing out that they both used corn syrup -mmm, pure Rocky Mountain water and corn syrup!- to other advertisers that did as much to bash the competition as to promote thier goods, that was like a thread throughout the ads..."Try getting that from Metro Mobile or Verizon!!" type of thing.

It was the presidential debates a couple years ago where I first noticed this strategy employed.

You don't want Crooked Hillary, Lyin' Ted, or Little Rubio, they use corn syrup, type of thing...

Literally anyone but them...

Our culture is seen by "Madison Avenue" to be more strongly motivated to move away from the things it doesn't want -rather than to blindly pursue their bliss.

Jacob Guest Busks At The Lilly Pad

Thursday night saw my arrival at the Lilly Pad with one Jacob Scardino in tow, carrying a seven stringed instrument that looked like a guitar but had curved frets.

We had a good jam and made a passable live recording, a guy came along and sang the entire Hotel California -excerpt coming soon- with us before telling us that he wished that he had some cash, to go with another guy who had kind of done the same thing.

It just seemed like the group of tourists who had only tipped me 4 bucks a couple nights before were still in town.

The addition of Jacob seemed to have attracted maybe one or two more gay guys than on a regular night. I guess me playing "Father Figure," by George Michaels didn't help that statistic.

At least we didn't have to field requests for Justin Beiber, Fun, Ed Sheeran or Maroon Five, based upon Jacob's being of "that" generation.

Marooned Saturday

Right now, my guitar is at Bobby's apartment, having had the new bone nut piece glued into place.

This was probably a tactical error, because I am broke and will have no money upon waking up in the morning. The strings had been holding the piece in place but were always subject to being knocked out of tune if I bent a string hard.
I definitely could have made it through a night with the thing.

The temperature is hovering right in the middle of the playable range, at 55 degrees.