Blair's Golden Road Blog - Mixed Marriages?
By Blair Jackson
This summer, my lovely wife, Regan, and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary (thank you, thank you); a pretty decent accomplishment, I suppose, in this era of fractured families and sky-high divorce rates. You know how they say “opposites attract”? Well, I’ve never bought that for a second—or at least never sought out my own “opposite.” To the contrary, I think it is our convergence on so many of life’s issues that has allowed us to hit the three-decade milestone without breaking a sweat. We really do agree about most things—our tastes are quite similar in almost everything, from movies to food to colors we like. And, of course, it also includes our mutual love of the Grateful Dead.
Regan wasn’t a Dead Head when we met in the late ’70s. She went to her first show with me at the Warfield in 1980 (10/3/80, if you must know), 10 years after I’d been seeing the band. She had three Warfield shows under her belt by the time we got married in July 1981, but then in September of that year the Dead played the first of their modern series at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. We went to all three shows, and after that she was completely hooked. We did all five New Year’s concerts at the Oakland Auditorium (the first night, 12/26 was even her birthday) and had the best time. The next year the band added Ventura and Frost to their regular schedule; by the following year we took our first out of state road trip to Eugene and Boise, came home and worked for a week at our jobs, then went to Santa Fe for one of the most magical weekends either of us had ever experienced. We’ve been traveling down The Golden Road ever since, committed to following this strange muse and having a great time just about every step of the way.
I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if my significant other had not been a Dead Head. And through the years I’ve heard more than a few horror stories from folks who are in what we jokingly call “mixed marriages” (whether they’re married or not). Now, traditionally this term has been used to apply to black-white, Jew-gentile, etc. couplings, but the Dead Head-non-Head pairing can definitely cause as much friction (though not as much from parents). Argument flash-points were numerous: “Why do you have to go see all those shows?” “That tape wall is ugly; why can’t we just put a bookcase there?” “Can’t we listen to something else in the car for a change?” “Don’t ask me to come to the hospital when you eat a PCP-laced veggie burrito outside a show!” “Can’t you hear how bad those harmonies are?” “You are not going to Frost Amphitheatre on Mother’s Day; we’re going to my mom’s for brunch!” “I am not looking at a Dancing Bear tattoo for the rest of my life!” “You sent away for more tickets? That’s why we’re broke!” “Red Rocks is not a vacation; Acapulco is a vacation.” “Do you have any idea how silly you look in that tie-dye shirt?” And on and on.
At some point, there’s usually a grudging agreement to go to a show and see what all the fuss is about. A few have even been converted this way. But often it’s a disaster: “I thought there weren’t any more hippies!” “That guy spinning around smacked me in the back!” “All this endless noodling is so boring!” “That’s only intermission? Can we leave now?” “How can you do this night after night?” “What’s the matter with these people?” “Why can’t I talk? What is ‘Dark Star’ anyway?” “Go buy me a beer; I’m not going out there!” I had one female buddy whose non-DH boyfriend wore a gas mask to a show to protect himself from all the smoke! About the best-case scenario was when the offended party would fall asleep at the break or during “drums,” temporarily liberating the poor Dead Head in the couple. But people have had to leave hot shows to save a relationship, and there are certainly many who have broken up over one partner’s fanaticism.
Of course I’m aware that many, many people did (and do) succeed in their mixed relationships. But it often takes quite a bit of work and lots of accommodation on both sides.
What has your experience been? Is the theme song of your romantic history in the Dead scene “They Love Each Other” or “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad”? Tell us your nightmare stories and what “the last straw” was before the breakup, or tell us how you’ve succeeded in making it work!
I've been a Deadhead since 1982 but my worst war story would have to be from about 3 weeks ago. I went to the Electric Factory to see the DSO. Still being fairly new to the Philly area I thought I'd give Septa a try as my mode of transportation. Jeff Matson and the boys were on fire, playing an original set list. They played a long show, until about 12:30 a.m. Septa's last train leaves from Philly at 12:40 a.m. I was having such a great time dancing to the encore (Shakedown Street) that my appointed departure time rolled around (12:15 a.m.) and I thought I'd just stay just a little longer, and just RUN for the train station. At 12:20 a.m. I waltzed out into the rainy streets of Northern Liberties and started hoofing it for the 8 blocks to the station. About a block into my run, I slipped and landed on the street. I hobbled the remaining blocks on a painful foot but I MADE MY TRAIN (lol). Next day, I was told about my broken foot. I'm still waiting to find a copy of the show I broke my foot for!
Too many to tell at a sitting, but a few come to mind at the moment.
I remember spending Xmas Day '79 in LA with family, then doing the midnight-to-dawn shift at work where someone told me GD's playin' up north tonight. Rushed home to grab refreshments, hit a gas station and sped north. Was arriving Oakland around sundown running on fumes when I realized I was starting to head across Oakland Bay Bridge in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic and not enough fuel! I noticed a hole in the fence to the opposite side and slid the car through back to Oakland and the show (DP5).
Flash forward to New Year's '83/'84....
We leave the gig (now in my truck) and only had a hotel room back in Concorde. We're a bit zipped and, yup, find ourselves heading out on that Oakland Bay Bridge again so I start looking for that same hole in the fence. I pass it, slam on the brakes and back up. Suddenly the cab fills with flashing red & white lights, and we're busted! Everyone freaks but no cop comes to my window. We finally look through fogged back window and it's a street sweeper! We went through the hole and home to the hotel.
Another funny one was K&D's last show in Feb '79. I took a backpack and a Greyhound to Oakland, and left my pack with some strangers in the parking lot. I managed to relocate them and headed off to the Denny's at the end of the parking lot where the whole counter of patrons were losing stare-downs with their fried eggs. A taxi-driver with a mini-van popped in to ask if anyone wanted rides and a few of us piled in. Somewhere along the way we got T-boned by a car at an intersection, and we all scattered into the night (minds still blazing). Somehow, I finally made it back to a SF bus terminal, tied my pack to my leg and tried to sleep, and caught the morning bus to Eureka and the Redwoods.
Speaking earlier about 'no cops', there was one night where we were holding everything one could hold, and I balked at a real stale yellow light and decided way too late to stop, leaving me stopped well into what seemed an empty intersection on a red light,...except for that police car watching me on the side-street. (Honestly, I'm not usually a bad driver.) My passenger's started freaking like babies, and I had split seconds to decide what I was gonna say, when a little voice in my head said "Cops won't help". I started gesturingly grandly as if my column-shift had siezed as the cop's flashing lights went on, and I'd already pulled over to the opposite side of the road, lept out and thrown open the hood, while pointedly ignoring the policeman and acting like I was adjusting my linkage. Amazingly, the bluff worked.The policeman slowly moved behind me, then off without saying a word as my passengers gasped in disbelief.
We did a road trip to the Portland Oregon show in Fall '81. Coming back down the California Coast we picked up a hitchhiker who started telling us about having just attended a satanic wedding ceremony, where participants drank wine from a human skull. The stories continued, but we got a bit spooked and lost him in Santa Cruz.
There was that rainy night coming back from one of the early Irvine shows. We were heading up the busy freeway when a van ahead started spinning out-of-control and stopped facing traffic. He gunned it (best defence is a good offence) into a giant U-turn which occured right around us as we sped past and he nudged a car as he finished his correction.
Lastly (for the moment) was that Ventura Holiday Inn. I left the door ajar thinking someone might wander in for a party and all we got was a dark gentelman in a suit claiming to be salesman 'Oscar' from Oxnard. He tried to be cool, but it was quite obvious that he was the house detective, and he kept trying to get us to blow cover by asking us for those 'cigarettes without filters', which my pal instantly obliged by breaking a filter off his cigarette and handing it to him. When we used the crowded elevator to the downstairs parking lot, Oscar was already there (having used the employee frieght elevator). We eventually told him to go find someone else to bug.
There was one Sunday when I stayed outside Ventura because I'd been there so many years (including the cancelled '86 'coma' gig) and never got to enjoy the beach. There's a train track bridge and lagoon behind the Ventura stage, and there were folks back there swimming. We soon noticed that there was a giant sea lion with big teeth chasing people out of the lagoon. We also noticed that there was a naked couple getting it on on the opposite bank. The girl was smashed and very wobbly and as they started to get dressed to come back across the lagoon, we started shouting at them to beware the dangerous beast. However, the girl just kept shouting back about her new date, "Well he seemed like a nice guy, and one thing led to another, and well he was a nice guy, ..." etc, etc etc. She was still too hammered to stand, so the guy picked her up in his arms and started to carry her across the lagoon. The sea lion was following only a metre or so behind them, we were still shouting to "Look out!!!!", she was still shouting what a nice guy her date was. Miraculously, the sea lion never lurched like it had at the other swimmers, the pair emerged on our side of the lagoon never being aware of the danger, and we all walked away exasperated.
I think that one qualifies! Yipes! I hadn't read that one before... ;-) I think it was Dennis "Wiz" Leonard, sound guy for the Dead for years, and later for some post-Jerry bands, who told me recently, in discussing the Europe '72 tour, something to the effect that the real Acid Test was how you responded to the weird stuff of everyday life while high... Sounds like you passed...
but I do actually repeat myself to all my friends. However some of you might not have heard about the 'fire on the mountain", (and I did give it an edit or two).
Let me bend your ear a bit.....This 'event' happened after the first show of the 3 day '79 Dead run at Red Rocks. The first show (8-12-79) that night was magical and several spectacular musical and mystical (enough M-words yet?) happenings ensued that evening. Girlfriend Mary (now wife) and I had met up just prior to the show with friend Beano and his girlfriend Erin. They informed us that Erin’s folks had an A-frame cabin up the mountain behind Evergreen. Did we want a place to sleep after the show?
Yes, that sounded fantastic and we started following them back to this cabin from the parking lot. Suddenly fog attached itself to our little caravan and became more dense and soon we could barely see in front of the car. It seemed like hours as we traversed the short distance, going 10 to 15 miles per hour winding up and around this mountain. Headlights illuminating fog, Beano's taillights, if we were lucky, as that evening's party favors kept us alert, intent and apprehensive, fearing that we wouldn't keep up or maybe our VW Bug would turn into a pod from 2001 ("get my pod Hal") and drift off into that cool Colorado night sky. But no, there is Beano's car pulling next to a small A-frame cabin enveloped in fog. We jumped out, along with our Golden Retrievers Zoot and Garth, grabbed our sleeping bags and ran to the cabin. There we spent several hours, giggling and yapping, reviewing the Dead’s performance that night along with our seemingly endless journey through that ‘thick air’, thankful for our boundless luck at finding this great spot to rest our heads. Good times, good friends.
The next morning we awoke early to the mountain chill and started a fire in the free-standing fireplace in the middle of the living room. Zoot and retriever brother Garth looked at me in anticipation and I let them out to do their morning 'duty'. My other buddy “Gasser” had also arrived after the show last night. He told me that Erin said we could take showers but we need to light the pilot light for the hot water heater. We looked around and went outside to locate two propane tanks on the side of the cabin and we turned them on full-blast. We stood overlooking Evergreen, nestled on the side of a mountain way up high..the air, the sky, the clouds...ahhh. The view was breathtaking for this boy that grew up on the plains. I let the retrievers back inside and walked over to the living room to start pontificating all who were just waking up (my captive audience!). I was in my element, gesturing wildly while reviewing last nights highlights, noting what songs they didn't play, as I stood next to the fireplace, in my boxers and dead tshirt (a regal sight I assure you) and predicting what aural wonders the Dead might have in store for these next two shows.
All of a sudden flame emptied out of the wall behind us and rolled across the floor toward us like a waterfall of fire. This sheet of fire was about 12 feet by 8 feet and advanced quickly cascading along the floor. The room was filled with the smell of burning hair as Zoot and Garth (who now looked like seals, their hair ‘trimmed’ and their whiskers all burnt off). The boys ran across the room and right out the door.
Everyone was screaming and it wasn’t the wild dance that I was performing that was exciting the crowd. All the hair on my ankles fried as the waves of flame were pulsating and hovering a couple inches off the floor as the fire swept further into the room. Everyone started using their sleeping bags, clothes, blankets, pillows, whatever was handy to beat at the flames and I was relieved as the fire disappeared, almost as quickly as it had arrived. We looked at each other wild-eyed.. like the 3 Stooges would do... And then suddenly the waterfall of flame shot out across the floor again! And pandemonium returned as we all did a repeat of our flailing with whatever was handy to battle the flame back and then someone yelled “the fireplace, put out that fire in the fireplace!!”
Mary quickly grabbed a canteen and began dumping the water to douse the fire in the fireplace as the flames continued to roll out once again from the bottom of the wall, right where the wall meets the floor. We were able to put out those flames again and it did not re-ignite, since the fire in the fireplace was extinguished. Then I heard screaming again. Erin ran toward us yelling "there is smoke upstairs!!" We all grabbed pots, canteens, coolers, anything that could hold water and ran upstairs to be confronted with an open closet door where smoke was billowing out and more flames were lapping up through the back of the closet wall (and roof) of the A-frame. Shittt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was an insane Chinese fire drill, a frantic hallucinatory bucket brigade with everyone’s faces looking like they were drawn by Ralph Steadman as we dashed to fill any receptacles that were handy and then bolt upstairs or even pass the water filled container up the stairs to then throw or dump (and mildly dampen) the ever-growing fire and smoke beast that threatened to envelope the cabin.
Suddenly Gasser and I had the same idea (10 watt bulb ON!). The PROPANE TANKS!!. We both dashed outside to the tanks we had turned on. He ran in front of me and as I looked ahead to see a small flame burning down the attached metal tube from the wall towards the propane tanks itself. In my minds eye, I saw Gasser and I both flying, arms outstretched, airborne over Evergreen. But then I snapped into reality and saw him turning the gas valve. And thought did he turn it the right way? Gasser then ran down the hill to another cabin to call the fire department as we didn't have phone (this happened before cell phones, kids).
The fireman/women quickly showed up, hooked the hoses up to the truck (the water had to be hauled on the rig, there are no hydrants on this mountain), as they peeled the roof/walls back off the A-frame with their axes (what would Erin tell her folks?) and then they shot water into the walls with the fire hoses.
Those propane bottles were originally hooked to a kitchen stove (which was now an electric after a remodeling job). And when we turned the tanks on, the hollow wall was filled with the propane gas until it leaked out into the living room and was then ignited by the fireplace. Then when we beat the fire out each time, more gas would escape through the bottom of the wall and re-ignite. Thus the ‘wall of fire’ that kept rolling out into the living room.
After all that we all fled down the mountain to the Black Bear tavern in Evergreen. I had my first ever 9:30 a.m. shot of Wild Turkey 101 that morning. And the 101 did shave off a bit of my adreneline from that wild ride.
The Grateful Dead played the next two nights at McNichol’s Arena due to Red Rocks being rained out. And if I recall right, we found out at McNichol's that a deadhead was killed when he fell, after climbing 'high' into the rocks that prior evening. Unfortunate and sad deal.
Anyway, the Dead didn’t play ‘Fire on the Mountain’ like I was sure they would. But the boys did play us a rolicking version of Althea...... “You know this space is getting hot….yes, the space is getting hot”. ;o}
When Bob used to remark "disaster narrowly averted", it reminds me of that morning in '79.
I believe this one might qualify as a 'war story' Blair, completely self inflicted this time, of course, we did survive..
The Truth is realized in an instant, the act is practiced step by step.
I was in the parking lot of Merriweather Post Pavilion with my middle son (intent on showing him some remnant of what I had been telling him for so many years about our scene) and I decided before we left that I'd play my Baltimore '77 tape in just enough time that we'd hear that delicious "Uncle John's Band" before entering this event. Just as the tape went into "Round and Around"... the tape got eaten! I was desperately trying to rewind the darn thing with a Bic pen when a guy pops his head into the cab of my truck and says, "Hey! That was Baltimore '77 wasn't it? That was a great show man!" I was speechless for a second then I said, " No way did you just ID that show from across the parking lot dude... That was AWESOME!" He tossed me a card and said, "Oh yeah and if you need a sound board of that show just drop me a line and 3 blanks!" We've been friends ever since which tells all anyone needs to know about his patience and grace. Thanks again Tom! That was one of the coolest things I've ever had happen to me ANYWHERE.
Oh and what might you think the band would play that night in rip-snorting fashion? Hint: We got to the end of that tape in one sense or the other.
I was there ticketless with my buddy. We're wandering around the Calderone Theater in beautiful, downtown Hempstead LI, but nobody's selling. Over an hour, and not even an overpriced offer to sell is heard. We're standing around in an empty alley next to the place (not sure why we were there), and some guy just appears from the shadows and says "you guys want to get in?" Hell yeah! "Gimme 10 bucks each." Uh OK. "Follow me." He starts climbing the ladder of the fire escape of the building next to the Calderone, and up we go. We get to the top and we're like 3 stories high. We run to the back of the roof, and the dude hops over a wall to the adjacent building. Up another ladder, through a door, and we're in the spotlight room of the Calderone. The spot guy turns around laughing,and points us to a door. Through the door,and we're in the top of the balcony of the Calderone, as the lights go down, and Sugaree starts. Funniest thing though was that as soon as Sugaree started all the exit doors opened and everybody else got in anyway. Crazy days man.
Bring it on, gonzoblackfoot!
Somewhere around Berserkly? Oakland Ca. 1978 ?,my first trip to the golden state On the drive up north from L.A. some dude ,a friend of a friend etc. guy is driving on the fucking wrong side of the road,for a long time,it was dark,I tell him but he becomes a dick. Later in some diner in Oakland I lunge over the table at him with a butter knife, I guess I said something about carving him up hahah I was only kidding! never saw him again.,Did see a show at a small arena,general admission,saw the band drive up to the show in their own cars,Bobby with his dog,Phil with some gorgeous woman,Jerry in an old Beemer, Met the Beaming leach who gave me a piece of paper with a red dragon on it. Spoke with the immortal Bill Graham who was standing on the stairs welcoming people to the show " hey youse guys look like yaw from NooYawk ...great guy,made our way inside and ended up front and center,a real Grateful Dead experience I will never forget except I forgot most of what happened, no better place to trip but at a Dead show. I still have the t-shirt from '78,gonna be buried in it when its time! Next story,my python Connie,Danny the pirate, Hells Angels and bad craziness in Rochester,NY
My buddy and I had ticket for the Alpine '86 shows but no ride. Through some misty chain of events we ended up getting a ride from a friend of a friend, and she showed up from Iowa with another young woman and off we went. Along the way we discovered that: 1) she'd "borrowed" her mom's VW without telling her or that she was even leaving town for the weekend, and B) they were both 15! (Mann Act! Mann Act!!)
Of course about 15-20 miles away from the venue the bug dies and none of us has any idea how to do anything with an automobile. After a long few hours on the side of the highway we finally got a ride in a station-wagon full of freaks headed for the show, figuring we might be able to find a mutual friend who was coming down from the Twin Cities area.
Lo and behold, our ride parked just a few cars away from the Minnesota crew and there was much rejoicing and plans were made to attempt repairs on the morrow. Show was... iffy, and we spent a really cold night trying to share one blanket in the dirt next to the car (the girls had gone off to entertain themselves and didn't return until dawn).
Anyhow, these Minneapolis freaks we'd never met actually drove us out of the lot and down the road looking for the abandonned bug which was actually there. After a few more frustraing hours of attempted repairs (including a whole biker gang rolling by in formation giving us the finger and yelling "Buy American!") it started up on one last running push and we hopped in on the move to head back. Unbelievably our parking spot was still there when we got back.
I gave our benfactors about half my remaining party favors and we settled back to wait for the show, which was... kinda iffy again (although we did spot Black Flag in the crowd on the hill, seemingly into it-- at least Ginn).
Made it home the next day in good time and without further incident although I was a bit freaked to hear that the girls had bought a sheet in the lot...
"I tremble for my nation when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever." Thomas Jefferson
Saratoga Performing Arts Center - June 24, 1984
My wife Col & I (RIP Col) Partying in the Lot! Way too Long. People we were with had disappeared into the gig and next thing we hear the Dead Tuning up!!! $hit...We gotta get in..NOW! Well we get near the Entrance gate and it's mobbed with people with NO Tickets. We can't get thru. Well it was an Outdoor show with a very high fence surrounding it. So I climb up and JUMP IN. As Col gets to the top of the fence 3 SECURITY Guards inside the fence come up to me and start hasslin' me. I tell them we have tickets but can't get htru the gate. They Don't Care that we have tickets. They are yelling at Col to climb back down the fence...I'm yelling at her to Jump in!!!! Meanwhile the crowd is "Cheering Her On" She finally jumps in and I catch her. I tell the Guards...Look, here are our Tickets...Can we just go Enjoy the Show? One Guy tells us we have to leave..but then the other Guards says...Go have a Good Time! Off we go and Col says to me...That was one of the most Incredible Experiences I've had...All those people "Cheering Me On" Ain't too easy climbing fences and jumping off "STONED" 8-)