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!
Got a pair of tix for myself and my girl for my birthday. Hadn't seen the newest lineup and was excited given what I had heard on Sirius. The day before the show my girl backs out. None of the old gang can go. Roll out of work late day of the show and have to beat it 2 hours down the line from Cleveland. Starts snowing. Awesome... White-out conditions on and off till it turns into cold rain. Meander my way through the rat maze of downtown Pittsburgh and sit in a short but not moving line to get into the garage. 15 minutes to show time. Get to the end of the line and they block the entrance, garage full. Ask local gendarme for closest available lot ... just points down the street. Thanks pal. Go down the street, dead ends, no lots no nothing. Finally decide to park in a restricted lot behind some frat houses. Figure - what the hell, I get towed, I get towed. Race to the gate, hand my extra to a shivering girl telling her Happy Birthday and roll in. Dynamite show - Mason's, Estimated>Eyes>Rider.. come out into more cold rain. Make it to my car - ticket, but no tow. Figuring I broke even I roll out and make my way home. Unfortunately hear the story of the poor soul who launched himself out a 4th story window the next day.. All in all, a long, strange trip... Denver 90 - different story for a different day...
..first a comment to SPARC, who got a ticket at the 88 Cap centre "Ripple" show. That was the only show I ever got shut out of due to no tickets (I rarely went to a show past 87 without any tix, the scene became too hard ...)We got in the first night, but the next night, we're shut out, of course missing Ripple.
...I'm surprised I haven't seen any Merriweather 83 war stories yet. Here's one:
That first night storm was an experience for the ages. We were of course in the lawn for the entire show, where it rained steadily during the first set, and then poured with thunder and lightning during Set II. Add in some "electrified" heads, it was intense. Then, after the show and the creek behind the pavillion jumped its banks, we luckily headed toward our van, only to be told by the PD that we couldn't stay in the lot that night, so we were forced to drive the DC beltway all night looking for a hotel room. Finally, at about 8am, after having no luck getting a room, we head back to Merriweather, only to find out that the cops let people back into the lots after they had kicked us out to camp for the night....
Mine story dates back to spring of 1984, when after a mid-atlantic swing that stopped in Hampton me and my pals were driving back to Pennsylvania. We were somewhere in Virginia, it was early in the morning, but I was already drinking a road soda. Don't worry, I was a passenger in the back seat.
Well, our intrepid driver, who will remain nameless, must have had to take a leak or something. So he takes an exit and we are suddenly driving down this heavily wooded lane, entering what looks like a mall. But it is out in the middle of nowhere and this mall has a crossing gate. The gate is not down, so my buddy drives through.
Suddenly we all realize that we are on a military base. My friend the driver does a quick U-turn and we slowly approach the gate where a uniformed armed guard is spitting mad.
After a few yessirs and nossirs, he tells us hippies to get the F' outta a here. Which we gladly did. After the shock wore off we torched another bowl and had a good laugh.
Ah, so many, some happy, some sad, many "miracles", many adventures. (Many not fit for the internet!) A quick and happy one. I was introducing a new roommate to the Dead, and we were flying to Red Rocks. This would be his first show, and he knew nothing of the scene. I told him before we left, "Believe me, Heads travel far for shows, there will be Heads on our flight to Denver from Chicago." He did not believe that could be possible, thinking no one but I was crazy enough to fly to see a show. Well, we get on the flight, we take off, the "fasten your seatbelt" signs goes off--and five seconds later a friendly face from the seat in front appears and says to us "Like some hash brownies!" My friend was amazed and that moment got on the bus. We ended up becoming good friends with the Heads in the next row, and spent each day of the shows white water rafting on the Colorado River, then going straight to the shows. The rafting company we were with liked us so much (we kept them pretty "happy") that for the next couple of years of Red Rocks shows they told us they would "offically" close their business, but open just for us... for free! Each year we made our annual pilgrimage rafting and shows, a great combo.
I'll have to see if I have any stories for public consumption given that my picture is part of my profile...but I am thoroughly enjoying the "war" stories.
Oh man it seemed like every Dead show I went to resulted in some sort of war story, thankfully nothing too catastrophic.
Losing the car keys in Tempe '92 ranks up there. Don't remember much **probably contributed to the lost keys** but there was a lot of hitch hiking on the highway to town to sleep with a bunch of strangers in a hotel room and back to Compton Terrace to get the car. Felt like that episode of Beavis and Butthead where they were hitching on the highway in the middle of nowhere, no cars coming, sun blazing, all sun burnt... Get back to the amphitheatre, car is gone, towed out of there of course duhh! Buuut the venue was open and they had a lost and found and the nice beautiful lady had our car keys!!!! I'll never forget hugging her and I think I kissed her!! But we had to hitchhike back to the tow company and spend the last of our dough to get the car out of the impound. The tow driver also took all of our cassettes and beat the car up - the fog light was hanging by a wire... but hey we got out of AZ and back to CO in one piece! That's all we cared about in those days!
"It's got no signs or dividing line and very few rules to guide"
While looking forward to the Fall East coast run of 1988, I pulled the dopey maneuver of blowing out my ACL in early August. Needing to generate some cash, I sold some of my tickets to friends, thinking there was no way I was going to be able to make the planned roadtrip in a leg immobilizer and on crutches. Well lo and behold I found myself at Landover with some tickets but no Saturday night. I usually never worried about it because I had always been successful in finding a trade. Well Friday came and went with no trade in sight. I remember having a blast at the show even on crutches - actually I discovered a pretty cool thing-handicapped/injured special treatment and seat location. So Saturday arrives, we get to the show and I get right on looking for a trade. Not happening and showtime is getting closer. Still no luck as it's time to head in. At this point I have a Monday night ticket to trade for the Saturday night and nobody's even taking a look. Finally my friends and I part ways and I head towards the entrance in desperation to make a trade. I'm standing on my crutches, holding up my Monday ticket and giving it all I got. Unfortunately there are 3 or 4 others doing the same. Just as I am about to accept that I won't be getting in, this dude approaches and asks what I'm looking to trade. I tell him I have an extra Monday ticket. He tells me that he really needs a Sunday. Hearing that, the guy looking to trade next to me jams out his extra Sunday ticket and says "I've got your Sunday right here". I'm thinking "damn, shut out". The dude with the extra Saturday that we both needed looks at me and then the other guy and says "I think this guy on the crutches needs it more". It was like Santa Claus had arrived with my ticket. I practically danced in to the show on my crutches in amazement at the miracle I had just received. Made it to the seats a couple minutes before the lights went down. The show was great, as were all the shows of Fall 88 in my opinion and we get to the encore. One More Saturday Night naturally, but it seems very laid back to me like they are hiding something. I'm sure alot of people knew what was coming next but I did not. Ripple. I got so excited that I broke one of my crutches while jumping around. I'm sure I didn't help out my torn up knee either. Needless to say I left the show that night an extremely happy camper. It's times like this that I look back to when I think I'm never catching a break, realizing that I have indeed been lucky along the way. I'm enjoying everyones tales from the road!
Well... all three of us tripping during the show at the The Spectrum & fairly well still after, my one friend who didn't go in had worn down the battery in the car while listening to the radio all night. Anyway, we try & find someone to jump the car, but it still won't start for some reason. While wandering around that "battle zone" that surrounded that area, we're all three walking back to the car to try & get some sleep, after getting chastised by a cop that we were interupting his dinner by us asking for his help getting out of their parking lot. We come across a guy who was obviously "upset"---too much acid I'm sure was part of the problem. Well, he was jumping up & down on the roof's of a bunch of cars in the lot behind the venue, yelling & screaming unintelligibily. We take a wide berth around him, and some how he managed to avoid being detected by us until he was just a few feet away asking us to "hold up a minute." He starts in on how he's lost his friends, and "man, my friends have really f'ed me over, and I need to find them." He then wants us to " role play" where we're all supposed to be playing his friends. Well if he'd said it to you that they f'ed him over, how much would you want to play his friends? Exactly... Now I was a little scared at this point with my own state of mind, and didn't want to be dealing with this crazed person!!
Well, before the "role play" started, the cops had materialized out of thin air---I'm mean LITERALLY! The crazy guy looks over his shoulder, and loud enough for the 4 policemen from the 2 cars & one paddy wagon to hear, says something like "watch what I'm going to do to these guys..." We start to back away from him & he turns to swing a punch at one of the cops, and I see 2 billy club's go in the air and come down on him several times...I'm sure I heard bone breaking. In what seemed like a milisecond, the van had been pulled up backwards & they're throwing him in the back, have the door shut, and are gone---disappearing as fast as they appeared. We take off running back to the car, trying to make sense of what we thought we saw for the rest of the night---still scared from it all. We managed to get these guy's with a big boat battery in their Maverick to try & start my car as the sun was coming up, and it started right up. I got us home to MD later that morning, and slept until the next day.
I often wonder what happened to that guy, even questioning what I actually saw/think I saw. I also feel bad sometimes for maybe not reporting what saw/think I saw...hindsight. I had very little contact with my show-mate-travel-companions after that, so I don't really recall talking to anyone about it since then, maybe telling it once or twice to a few others.
Anyway, it was a very good show to see, as the whole Fall tour was pretty spectacular that year, which I only learned after many years of listening afteward to tapes. I didn't see my 2nd show until Spring '90 at the Cap Centre in Landover, MD, which was STILL REALLY GOOD!!! I'd wanted to go to the implossion of The Spectrum (a year or 2 ago I think), but missed it. Too bad, as that was an alright place to see them, wasn't it? I always enjoyed myself there afterwards---last show there in the Fall of "94 with one of my greatest friends ever (& to this day still...I Love You brother!) & my 3 year old son, and we had a great, great time...
Driving in to the second show the traffic was really bad, and all of a sudden it just stops. Everyone just started pulling over and parking along the road and walking up the rest of the way. So I did also. I thought it was like the footage of Woodstock or something and I'd just find my car later. Well, of course I "fully" enjoyed myself at the show ( including seeing sparks shooting out of Jerry's guitar during Terrapin! ). So after the show I'm wandering down the road and you guessed it - the car is gone! And in my altered state I'm just trying to figure out if it's really there or not! After awhile I figured it was towed and I didn't want to deal with it then, so I hit the road and stuck my thumb out and hitchhiked back up to Chief Hosa campground.
The next day I'm back to earth and find a payphone(!) - call around saying things like " What happens to cars in Colorado when there missing? " - and finally find out what happened. They simply towed all the cars along that road into the parking lots! All I would have had to do was ask someone ( like the police! ) where my car was! Hah! No way!!!
I got my car back that day and learned my lesson. Always park in a real parking spot!!!
When I was a junior in high school it was decided that a bus be chartered to take the whole rag tag bunch of us to the Spectrum instead of having a highway full of individual cars filled with all that stuff that makes a road trip so special. So that is what we did. I still remember the old guy's name who drove us there. Charlie.
Charlie didn't know what to make of us when he arrived at the high school to pick us up, what with the cases of beer and all. The ride down was alot of fun and the show was a blast.
On the way back home we decided to have a little fun with Charlie and someone took his bus drivers cap off his head and started passing it around the bus. This made Charlie very angry and he threatened to pull the bus over if he didn't get his hat back. When his hat was returned to him it was piled high with cold hard cash. Charlie was, needless to say, very "grateful" for the remainder of the trip back.