I’ve become a Dead fan, I guess

Before James and I got together, I only had a passing acquaintance with the Grateful Dead. I didn’t own any of their music, but I could sing along with a few songs. I remember the day Jerry died, mostly because I was bartending back then and had a regular who I knew would be devastated and probably come have a few drinks that night. He was, and he did. I think I bought him a round.

Fast forward a few years, and James and I moved in together. As he unpacked box after box of cassette tapes filled with homemade recordings of live shows from all over the country/all over the past few decades, I realized his love for the band was extensive. Like, more than I loved Duran Duran in junior high (and for completely different reasons).

We listen to music a lot in our house. So it makes sense that over the past decade and a half, I’ve heard a lot of Grateful Dead music. And over time, my relationship with the music has changed.

Initially tolerated with a few eye rolls (and questions like, “How long is this song? Twenty minutes?”), the music became ubiquitous–and then unnoticed. Then at some point in the last handful of years, after seeing what remains of the band half a dozen times (in The Dead or Dead and Company iterations), I finally got it.

Grateful Dead songs, specifically of the live variety, are aural comfort food. Much like theatre, no performance is exactly the same. But there’s still plenty to ground you to other experiences with the music. Plenty to give you that sense of familiarity and togetherness.

Sold-out, tie-dyed, pot-smoking house for the Dead show at Shoreline Amphitheatre, across the street from Google, June 3, 2017.

I’ve seen a lot of live music in my life. A lot. And I’ve never experienced the kind of crowd that has consistently appeared for Dead shows in the aughts and teens of the 21st century (I can’t imagine what the crowds were like in the ’60s and ’70s).

The shows we saw in California last decade, before we moved out here, featured a vibrant parking lot scene. People selling “pizza” made on hotplates powered by a battery resting under their rusted-out VW van. (The pizza being a tortilla topped with watery pizza sauce, a sprinkle of pre-shredded cheese and a few slices of pepperoni.) Thin bed sheets spread on the ground and covered with beaded necklaces, glass pipes and crystals for sale. Stinky, barefoot children running around barely supervised. The dress code for old and young veering past the obvious tie-dye and into crocheted tops and jeans with patches sewn on. All worn un-ironically.

Dancing bear ears on a headband. A somewhat subtle nod.

The parking lot scene has been killed for the most part, but the fashions are still pretty amazing. And the lack of self-consciousness is part of the charm. Where so many people try so hard to be “separate” while being in a crowd (“Yeah, I’m at this Backstreet Boys reunion, but only to make fun of it.”), Dead Heads are all in. They love the scene, they love the songs, and they fucking love you, dude.

The guy in the blue and white cap had the best time of his life. All night.

I’ve never seen anyone get in a fight at a Dead show. If you ever have to lose your wallet, phone or keys at a concert, do it at a Dead show because you’ll quickly find a free beer, borrowed phone or ride home from a perhaps chemically compromised but big-hearted stranger.

The guy sitting next to us printed up his own buttons (two styles) with the date of the show on them and gave us each one.

There’s a dedicated music-nerd army of people at every Dead show who livestream the audio or even provide a video feed. You can go on a couch tour and follow the Dead from show to show, and there are plenty of forums online that share set lists and bets on what they’ll play next. Before we went to see the band last Saturday, I reviewed the set lists from the first few shows of the tour and was disappointed they’d already played a couple of my favorites. Which is when I realized–I have favorite songs by this band.

A little hard to read, this guy’s shirt says, “Mayer is Dead to me.” John “Your Body is a Wonderland” Mayer is touring with The Dead on guitar. Nicknamed “Mayernnaise” by non-fans, he actually works pretty well in the mix. And I know enough about the band at this point to have seen that shirt and chuckled. Life is funny.

The saying is “familiarity breeds contempt,” but that’s not aways the case. There are many things we dismiss out of hand that, upon closer inspection, actually have something to offer. They grow on you slowly, like the frog in the pot of water that’s gradually being heated, and next thing you know you’re boiling to death to the sound of Terrapin Station. And you realize there are worse ways to go.

Half the guys on this stage may be in their 70s, but they can still get thousands of people on their feet and keep them that way the entire show. And if they tour again next summer, we’ll be there, on our feet, all night.

no pants workday

Now that I work from home full-time, my entire routine has changed. There’s the obvious–not getting up to a squawking alarm, not packing a lunch, not sitting in traffic, not making small talk. But there are a lot of other changes I hadn’t anticipated. Like the view.

My desk is situated between two windows that look out on our backyard. Through one window are a huge pink rose bush and something called monkey flower. The other window looks toward our garage and a stone fence topped with potted plants. Each day is a parade of hummingbirds, golden crowned sparrows, scrub-jays and blackbirds. The cat from across the street. Invisible gophers that make our grass move. Winds blowing in off the Pacific. Bright blue skies and gray mist.

The view inside is nice, too.

This was an easier transition than I expected, thanks in part to the fact that it happened at the same time as our move. Change one thing, change everything.

There’s a running joke among my friends that those of us who work from home don’t wear pants. That’s not entirely accurate. Most of us wear *something*, it’s just not something we’d wear outside the house. Okay, maybe a quick trip to the mailbox. Or the garage. Or to get something out of the car. But that’s as far as it goes.

In honor of the people whose commute is to the other side of the house, I created no pants workday. It’s a place to share images of your home office, the view from your window or the questionable outfits you wear. I went first and hope others feel moved to join in. Maybe it’ll provide a small sense of community among those of us who are floating on an island. Not wearing pants.

thangs is strange in the PG

– Mexican food. Eating at the bar to avoid the 45-minute wait for a table. Nearing the end of our small basket of chips (these people may not have queso, but their guacamole is the tits), when the guy sitting next to us pushes over his basket. Says he’s done with them. Oh. Thanks? Stranger chips. He could have sprinkled poison on them, or rubbed his hands on them after a bathroom trip that didn’t include the sink. But he was being so nice about it, so eager to share even though we hadn’t reach chip crisis mode yet. We ate that dude’s chips. And didn’t die.

– Gas. Last time I filled up was March 11, and I still have about 3/4 of a tank. And it’s not because I’ve been holed up in the house. We’ve gone somewhere almost every day…ON OUR FEET. Yeah, son, we’ve walked to dinner, drinks, the water, the water, the water.

– Security. My mild OCD manifests itself in mostly two ways. I obsess about whether my car’s parking brake is on, and I check to make sure doors are locked. Sometimes having to get out of a warm, comfy bed to go around and check the doors again. Not since we moved here. We came home the other night to find we’d unintentionally left the windows open. That’s something that would NEVER happen in Houston. I don’t think we moved to Mayberry, and this wasn’t a conscious change on my part, but I welcome the freedom.

– Entertainment. We’re going to “The 57th Annual Good Old Days Celebration” tomorrow in downtown Pacific Grove. It’s your typical small town fair, except the featured musical act both days is Moonalice. A band featuring former members of Jefferson Airplane, Bruce Hornsby and various Grateful Dead offshoots (Jerry Garcia Band, Phil Lesh & Friends). They live-stream their shows here and are playing at 1PM Pacific tomorrow. You’ll see James and me hanging out near the funnel cakes.

– Proximity. The houses in PG are generally very small (under 1,000 square feet), and the lots usually provide just a sliver of green on all four sides. James and I were standing in front of our house the morning our trailer full of stuff was to arrive, talking (not loudly) (it was just after 7AM) about where the trailer should park when not one but two neighbors came out. One silently moved her car, and the other (in his robe and slippers) asked if he needed to move his. This was our first indication that I need to not run my mouth like usual. The hills have ears.

– Amity Island. James is convinced we’re living in a version of the place where JAWS was set. And that it’s still the ’70s here. We haven’t been able to put our finger on it quite yet, but there’s something…everyone is so friendly and nice and eager to share their chips…I don’t trust them.

– Actually, that’s bullshit. I think there nice people in the world, and they’re easier to run into when you live in a town of 15,000. And it’s hard to be unhappy when surrounded by so much beauty and so many opportunities to experience it. We walked through a forest this morning, had a picnic lunch and then hiked to a cliff over the Pacific, all within about a 10-mile radius. I feel free. Free enough to be a middle-aged woman wearing braids and a v-neck t-shirt.

this is where I'm at these days
I suppressed the shit-eating grin for the sake of my homies but trust me, it’s there

PS: We saw an otter today.