Based on conversations I’ve had with friends through the years, I’m betting that a bunch of you have had a variation of my most troubling recurring dream: It’s near the end of a quarter or semester in college and I have a huge final exam facing me in an hour. I’m sweating bullets, because for some reason I have not attended one class of whatever course it is. Further, I don’t know where the exam is being given and, to make matters worse, this campus looks completely unfamiliar to me! I spend most of the dream walking haplessly into empty classrooms looking for where I’m supposed to be, or asking passing strangers if they know. I’m in full panic mode now, convinced I have a big “F” in my future, and that’s usually enough to wake me up. Which is a good thing because in the worst versions, I actually find the classroom and then look down at an exam on a subject I know absolutely nothing about—like organic chemistry or a language I’ve never studied. Aaaaugh!
I’m also betting that like, me, you’ve had your share of Grateful Dead dreams through the years. It stands to reason that anything that infiltrates your life to the degree that the Dead have for so many of us will seep into that subconscious/unconscious world. This many years down the line from there even being a Grateful Dead, I still have a couple of dreams a year about seeing the Dead, and because dreams are real when you’re experiencing them, they are often thrilling while they are happening—when they’re not completely frustrating, that is.
When I was in my early 20s, I was way into dreams. Not on the level of analyzing them for meaning—smoking my Freud pipe or putting on my Jung specs—but just for crazy entertainment. I was a bit of a diarist on and off in those days, and I regularly wrote down any dream I could remember as soon as I woke up. I had read that writing down dreams actually promotes remembering them and that was certainly true for me. Reading the chronicle of the dream also allowed me to relive them to a degree.
Alas, it’s so many years since I foolishly destroyed my journals—all that embarrassing self-conscious drivel gone!—that I’ve lost touch with almost all my dreams from that period. Except for one from 1976 in which I was watching TV and seeing John Lennon’s casket lowered into the ground by British soldiers dressed in War of 1812 finery, as Walter Cronkite solemnly intoned something about Lennon’s tragic death. Prophetic? Nah, but it was haunting enough that I never forgot it.
Anyway, my Grateful Dead dreams in the post-GD era (I can’t honestly recall ones I had while the Dead were around, though I know I had several) tend to fall into one of two categories. One is depressingly similar to my dreaded college exam dream. I’m going to a Dead show and I have no idea where it is or how to get there. Maybe I have tickets, maybe I don’t. I remember one in which I was with a whole carful of friends and we were all mystified about how to find the venue where the band was playing. Are we even in the right town? In that particular dream, after many wrong turns and taking bad advice from strangers, we finally got to the place after the concert was over but while the main floor of the arena was still covered in the night’s trash. Yikes!
The cooler dreams are the ones where I actually get to experience a Dead show. Here’s one I had a few months ago that has stuck with me (and inspired me to write this). I’m going to a Dead show at some large but remote outdoor locale. This one is taking place by a small lake surrounded by forests dotted with colorful medieval tents. (It is not a coincidence that I had this dream the night after watching an episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones.) The next thing I know, I’m at the show, dancing on a blanket with some pals, and I’m very excited because the band is playing a new song no one has ever heard before. Garcia is wailing on guitar and he and Brent are exchanging smiles. (Most of my modern Dead dreams are the Brent GD for some reason—probably because I saw more shows by that group than any other configuration.)
Then they play a couple of cover tunes they’ve never tried before and the crowd goes nuts. What songs were they? Well, here’s where it gets strange. During the set break, I’m in one of the tents backstage (oh, I’m so important!), and I see a piece of parchment on a table. I write down the songs with a quill pen. Someone asks what I’m doing and I reply: “I know I’m asleep, so I’m writing down the songs, so that when I wake up I’ll know what they were.” Now, that’s thinkin’ ahead, BJ! And sure enough, I remember writing them down in the dream.
Needless to say, as soon as I woke up in the morning after this dream, I recalled many aspects of the dream, but not whatever I had written down. Take my word for it, though, it was awesome! And this wasn’t the first time I’d had that sort of dream—where I’m determined to remember the uniqueness of a song or a jam … “and it just slips away, when I try-y-y.”
Oh, well. Maybe next time.
Meanwhile, I’m wondering why a smiling Phil Lesh showed up in one of my dreams the other night wearing a worn, very cheap-looking tiger costume, with drawn-on whiskers streaking his cheeks. Muy strange-o!
Any of you folks have Grateful Dead dreams to share?