Grateful Dead

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!

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SPACEBROTHER's picture
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Joined: Jun 4 2007
Oh man....

You've just opened a serious floodgate with this topic. I'll be back with some doozies.

scott1129's picture
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Joined: Jun 6 2007
W(eird)A(and)R(eal) Stories of Dead Adventures

Where DO I start -
Show 1-3 Greek '83 mail order totally FUBARed but still get tics for all shows
Show 4-5 Ventura '83 Close Encounter of the Fuzz Kind in Santa Barbara before the shows and the VW van breaks down at midnight in the middle of nowhere on the way home, 12 hours hitchin' but made it
Show 6-7 Stanford '83 - Free tickets in the parking lot for both shows but hitchin home was weird
Show 8 - Watsonville - Local Show insainty.
Show 9-12 SFCivic NYE run Hotel Reservation lost, room invaded by misplaced heads, rain.
1984 First shows at Marin Civic hitch to first show with sugar cubes and no money, plenty of tics for sale but no miracle and no way to get rid of the cubes, so parking lot scene, but lot gets cleared by local PD and on the way out the three guy I'm with are stopped and asked "What'cha doin', can't stay here need to leave!, Hey you, (guy next to me) what's in that rolled up magazine - shooms, your comin with us son and the others up against the car and the pat down - and we walk away, me with 15,000mics and 1/4 of kind the other two guys minds were blown before the lighter was lit.
And that was just the first year....

The Sky Was Yellow And The Sun Was Blue
People Stopping Strangers Just To Shake Their Hand.

Dan R.'s picture
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Joined: Jun 9 2007
Minimal touring

All the nights I didn't get in. I lost my car more than a few times, and I recall some rain-soaked nights driving across the Bay Bridge after a show with my wheels slipping on oily roads. My one trip to L.A.demonstrated more totaled cars on the road than I'd ever seen in one place. I had a friend who decided to make his way to L.A.for that run, and I had to pick him up from jail. Kinda sucked.

My best story probably won't make sense to a lot of people, but on Mardi Gras '94, I was going around the parking lot attempting to share the teachings of Buddhism by telling people about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and praising the Buddha nature inherent in reach person, and simultaneously purchasing respectable gifts and wares on shakedown street. When my money was almost gone, a security guard sold me a ticket for my last $20 bucks. I went in elated during a rolling Samson and Delilah, and then, after a pause, Jerry gifted me with the most lyrical and impassioned Uncle Johns Band I would ever witness. Over 17 minutes of brilliance, and Supplication jams thrown in for good measure. Further, the intro to Cosmic Charlie later in the night was awesome, a hell of a gift, and just short of a break out. Last great Wharf Rat and Love Light I would see.

zepthompson's picture
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Joined: Nov 1 2010
just wanted to post this somewhere

got me a copy of
GOIN' DOWN THE ROAD (a grateful dead traveling companion)
today

looks like a very awesome book

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Joined: Nov 1 2010
great stories Blair!

Went to Buckeye '94. It was my birthday and I made the mistake of eating dinner before, so by the time we drove from Columbus to Buckeye, the traffic off the interstate was crawling for miles through the cornfields toward the venue. No bathrooms but for the ones in the cornrows. The party favors starting coming on while in the car, and walking by the car in the rain seemed a reasonable idea. Some people parked their cars on the side of the road only to come out of the show and find their cars towed. Car-less in God's country miles from Columbus is not a place I wanted to be. Thankfully we did not do that and we parked in a nice man's yard for $10, which I thought was a king's ransom but I really just wanted to park and get to the show asap. We followed the general flow of people through the parking lots and filed through the cow chutes into the venue. The closing notes of Deal greeted us. Drat! We meandered around and at one point my significant other almost couldn't figure out how to exit the port-o-potty because of the fascinating moving patterns in the plastic seen therein. It was a fun second set. We left the show through the trees strung with lights with medieval barkers and showmen lining the path. Somehow we found the car, thankful again that we didn't park on the side of the road because in the time before cell phones I have no idea what we would have done if our car was towed. We negotiated the flashing blue-lit back road back to I-70 and drove downhill on a perfectly flat road back to Columbus. I didn't realize until we got to the hotel that my feet were caked with mud so I stood, sandals and all, in the bathtub to try to remedy the situation. It was a long night and, upon reflection, a life-changing ride back home.

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