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    marye
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    Jerry, the Dragon, and the Long Strange Trip: As Told By Oroborous

     

    As this tale goes, back in 1977, my girlfriend/wife, myself, and two other friends decided to road trip from Lincoln, Nebraska to San Francisco’s Winterland for the Grateful Dead’s New Year’s Eve run of shows. This was before the days of computers or ticket master and we left with the belief we would find tickets once we were in California. I toted along with us a sculpture I completed that was about one and ½ foot (in circumference) depicting a dragon that is eating/consuming it’s own tail. I covered it ‘scraffito’ (carved designs) on the ‘hide’ of this beast, and then fired it in the kiln. This was the biggest piece of clay sculpture that I have ever made. I thought that it would be fun to give the ‘Oroboros’ to the Dead on New Year’s Eve.

    So away we go, we get to the venue and secured tickets for the run (12/27, 29, 30, 31/77). The shows were unbefuckinliveable and the old Winterland was such a great hall. On the 31st, it was about 1:00 in the afternoon, and we all were sitting on the sidewalk surrounding the venue, waiting doors to open, talking and watching the crowd gel, all ready to hurry and get into for the 'activities.'  We heard there would be freak volleyball and Bill Graham was going to show us movies before that evening's show.                                                               

    I thought "I better try to unload the dragon aka 'Oroboros' now, it's heavy and I don't want to try to talk my way through the entrance with this beast." I spied a door stenciled as 'Backstage' and began knocking on the door. No answer. The line of people on the sidewalk started getting up and moving toward the entrance. I banged even harder, thinking "I've got to get this dragon in there so I can go in the front and join in before the show", and as I pounded harder, the door yanks open so hard that it pulls me into the doorway. However, the space immediately is filled with a gigantic black man in a red Winterland t-shirt, who puts his hand on my chest and he leans forward into my face and bellows "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" Startled, I held out the dragon with both hands and stuttered, "To give this to the band". The giant took it in his immense hand and his face curls into a grin as he held it closer to inspect it and I watched my dragon shrink to the size of a key chain. He exclaimed, "Wow, what is this? I'd like one of these" and I explained, "it's an Oroboros, and that is the only one there is." He grinned and said, "Cool, who do you want me to give it to?" so I replied, "To Garcia, give it to Jerry Garcia." The behemoth disappeared as quickly as he appeared and the door slammed shut just like the first time Dorothy tried to get into the Emerald City in Oz.                             

    Newly unburdened, I happily gained entry to the show and as each of us walked through the gate, the Winterland staff handed us a small piece of paper with a cryptic prediction to expect "Good things come to those who wait. Midnight at 12:30" with a ‘Stealie’ on it. Upon entering the gate was a hallway surrounding the concert hall, you could either go into concert venue itself surrounded on all sides by an elevated balcony, (with theater seats). Or you could instead wander into their bar, which played some black and white videos on a 'big screen' taken from pro shots of the Winterland stage when Jimi Hendrix or the Airplane, etc. played this hallowed hall. Very entertaining on many levels (those are all part of Wolfgang’s collection now). Graham had a volleyball net in the middle of the floor of the Winterland and invited everyone to play ‘freak volleyball' for several rounds. Next activity was playing a couple movies on a screen for the crowd. This was a double feature from Graham’s film collection with 16 mm of Ray Bradbury's 'Illustrated Man' followed by the Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour." Emerging from the colorful/wonderful crowd, a woman dressed in a gypsy outfit (we dubbed her 'rainbow' Rose) as she waved an eyedropper of liquid party favor, Rose explained "just one dollar per drop. On your tongue or for the adventurous, a drop in your eye".

                      

    Hey, the New Riders of the Purple Sage are starting, got to get in there, the sound is loud and they are rocking the house. Anticipation was high and the Dead came out for the first set. Our party favors are now starting to engage..., things began to sparkle and the old Winterland venue takes notice as her walls start to sweat and then to sway with the strains of familiar music as the Dead coax this old hall to dance with us all. This is such a delight, I know the vista cruiser is engaged and then I notice when the house lights went down, and the stage lights went dark in between songs, then I saw it. On top of a monitor, in between Billy and Mickey, there was a flame; it was a white candle sitting by the dragon. It was the Oroboros, ON STAGE WITH THE DEAD! Whoo hoo!! I watched as Jerry walked over and lit a cigarette off the candle next to the beast, in between songs.  

    They took a break and the surprise for the second half was Uncle BoBo (as Bobby liked to call Graham) dressed up as Uncle Sam on a motorcycle sliding down on a cable suspended high from the back of the hall to the stage. They put spotlights on him as he approached the stage and it was hilarious. Because as Graham came to the stage, the weight of the bike and BoBo was too much and he sagged below stage. Roadies had to rush out and drag him onstage and then to the explosion of Sugar Mag, complete with dropping balloons and a guy and gal each dressed as baby New Year’s dancing at the each edge of the stage. I was 'sittin' on top of the world (Dead reference intended).

                  

    If you google the YouTube 1977 NYE show Fire on the Mountain video, see the ending of Fire on the Mountain (around 7:29 minutes). As Bobby is explaining how the crew would fix the technical difficulties, you will see the camera focus in on the 'Oroboros' for a couple of seconds and then someone takes a flash photo illuminating the beast sitting between Billy and Mickey. I showed this YouTube to my three sons to demonstrate the ‘old man is not getting on’ and I am not full of beans or some other brown material.

    What a treat that run in 1977 was. Several of us had attended those June 1977 shows, but to come back for New Year’s Eve show was definitely a peak experience. At many levels, the setting, the return of China Cat-Rider, my being able to 'gift' our band, who has poured out so much to us, the road-trip and whole experience. Too much! As we walked out into the cool San Francisco early morning and drove through the fog back to Lincoln, Nebraska. But unknown to me, the best would be yet to come.

    Fast forward to another road trip to Madison, Wisconsin on February 3, 1978. The Dead were ‘firing on all engines’ and this was really a killer show. The opener Cold Rain and Snow had to shake the snow off the roof of the Dane County Coliseum with the Phil-bombs. One of my favorite Cold Rains ever. And the delicious second half jam with Estimated>Eyes>Playin>Wheel>Playin was beyond spectacular. The next morning before I left the hotel, I got a wild hair, and thought “I should ask Garcia what he thought of the Oroboros. I can at least try.” So I called the hotel’s front desk, and asked "Could I have Jerry Garcia's room please?" And he put me through and the phone rang and Jerry answered! I said, "Hey, I'm the guy that brought the dragon to the New Year's show" and Garcia said, "Meet you in the coffee shop in 20 minutes". I could not believe what was happening but I stumbled into the coffee shop at the appointed time and looked around spying Jerry Garcia seated at a table with a ravishingly beautiful raven-haired woman.

    I walked over and introduced myself, and 'shook the hand, that shook the hand, of PT Barnum and Charlie Chan'. Jerry beamed that smile and gestured and said, "Sit down, man". He asked me "How did you fire that dragon so that it didn't explode in the kiln?" and I explained how I had cut it in half and hollowed it out before joining it back together, to eliminate any air bubbles. I told him how I had used a guitar string to 'halve it" and we locked eyes at that moment and he burst into laughter, and I said "Ironic, huh?" And Jerry quipped "No, man that makes perfect sense." Then we laughed some more discussing the process of art and ideas. Then his lady friend asked "where are you from?" and I replied Nebraska. And she shot Garcia a glance and her voice dripped with disbelief "He came all the way up here from Nebraska to see the band!" To which Garica shrugged his shoulders and retorted, "We didn't ask him to come" and looked back at me and we both howled with laughter again. No deadhead was she! 

    We talked more about art and the dragon and at that time I did not know of Garcia's interest and practice in art (this kind anyway). He was completely engaged in the topic of art, but so quick witted with 'turn on a dime' twists, turns, commentaries and curiosities on a variety of topics. And Jerry was also focused on listening, not acting like he was the important one, instead giving me time and locked in on the discussion and talking about our shared interests. The gypsy woman frowned in disbelief as she asked me "You went out to San Francisco for New Years and then you came to Wisconsin" and I said 'yes' and then I turned to Garcia to request, "Why don't you bring the circus back to Lincoln, Nebraska?" He quickly retorted, "You mean to Perishing Auditorium?" I corrected him "No, it is named Pershing Auditorium, named after the army general" and Garcia quickly replied, "No man, it was perishing! Truly!" Then we both burst out laughing again. At that Lincoln Dead show on 2-26-73, there were a bunch of drunk frat boys yelling 'boogie, boogie" at the top of their lungs, however that show is a classic! 

    Anyway, I again asked Garcia "could you bring the Dead back to Nebraska" and Jerry grinned that Cheshire cat grin of his and he replied, "Who knows?" I took my leave (as their breakfast arrived) and then drove home. So that is my story, and while I cannot recall everything that Jerry and I talked about over 4 decades ago, he was totally gracious, engaging, enthusiastic, and kind to a deadhead who approached him at one moment in time. His wit, his ability to ‘turn on a dime’ with twists and turns of topics and colorful takes on our discussion made a massive impression on me as I drove out of all that Wisconsin snow on that cold Saturday morning.

    Then in the summer of 1978, when the Dead did actually did circle back to Nebraska. They played the Omaha Civic Auditorium, where the Dead played once before in 1973. We got to the venue and it was half full (about 4,000) but everyone was chomping at the bit in anticipation to hear them live. I took my Nakamichi 550 into the venue and there was no hassle getting the deck in this time, but remember these were the days before ‘tapers sections’ (1984?). Each venue or even various staff could present a different challenge to the taper. Tapers had to be inventive, and think on their feet, but not here, not today, thank goodness.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

    Out in the hallways of the Civic the Hell’s Angels wandered about sporting full colors and big grins. They may have been transporting ‘party favors’ and decided to take in a show. Maybe the Angels were just road tripping with the band (although I didn't see them at the next few shows). My buddy even brought his 68 year old mother to the show. She sat up in the stands “It is just too loud down there!” Anyway, I headed down to the floor with my Nak 550 to set up in front of the soundboard. When I started to get my gear set up and saw this guy beside me with a great rig. Luckily this kind stranger (I have since discovered he was famous taper Bob Wagner) then let me patch out of the back of his deck, which was wonderful since he had a towering 8 ft. tall mike stand set-up in front of board. He had a Sony deck and mics, but with that high stand, his mic’s were well above the surrounding crowd noise. We were about 15 to 20 feet in FOB as I recall. So Garcia treated us to a blistering Sugaree opener, the kind that drove the crowd wild. His leads mounted into a wave that crests, recedes, regroups, and comes back rolling in with such power and delight that adds a synergistic effect to our frenzied response as his rolling/soaring guitar work lift and subside with that band.

    Then Beat In on Down the Line, TLEO and now it was Bob’s turn in the spotlight with a Look’s like Rain. About halfway through the song, I suddenly noticed something shimmering in the air between the band and me. I thought “what a fantastic light show! Or have I have shifted into fifth gear just a little early that I scheduled?” I staggered towards that disturbance in front of me to investigate. People were dancing wildly in the middle of the floor as a waterfall played over them. It was about 25 feet in circumference. I put my hand in, water…hand out, no rain…moisture…? Hummm..? I am standing in front of an indoor waterfall! What to do? So of course, I jumped into pouring rain that was INSIDE the middle of the auditorium! Then I stepped back and was out of it. I shook my head and then lunged back into the deluge and danced through Looks Like Rain & then during Direwolf as well and a delightful All Over now. (Complete with Donna in perfect pitch!) Then Candyman and Lazy>Supplication before Bobby informed us “We’re going to take a short break”.

    I staggered back to reload a new tape into my deck and look for some validation of my experience. I asked my friends if I was not in fact ‘soaking wet’ as I patted my soaked shirt. They grinned and nodded knowingly and affirmed, yes, in fact I was “all wet”. And then this unique show continued, (nice indoor water-feature, boys !) with a killer second set complete with a transportive Estimated> Eyes> drums> Wharf Rat> Truckin> Iko Iko> Around & Around. That was an unusual combo ‘sandwich’ that I never heard before or since. Then after a lengthy absence from the stage, the boys returned to play us ‘Promised Land” as an encore, but since Bob Wager already took down his mike stand, I didn’t get that recorded. As I left the auditorium, I noticed the water standing on the ground outside, a summer storm. Was this a case of a leaky roof or didn't the Dead just conjure up the forces of nature as they were so prone to do?

    However, back to the important stuff, what were the Dead going to do next in Red Rocks? Would Phil rev up his reverse gravity machine and pummel us with Phil-bombs at the next show? Would they levitate the crowd, and have us all dance while floating in the 'cool Colorado range'? I HAD to follow them to those Red Rocks shows in 1978. So a road-trip to Colorado it was. This was the Dead’s first Red Rocks jaunt (and my first as well, although my girlfriend (now wife) had seen Joni Mitchell there previously and raved about the venue) so my anticipation was so ‘high’. (In many ways.) So I packed my taping and camping gear and off we went.

    When we walked up to the Rocks entrance, the Feyline security crew (or were they the John Scher guys?) were stopping people and inspecting any 'carry in' bags. A security behemoth that I will call “BigBoy’ stopped me at the entrance to look through my Boy Scout backpack. He hefted my NAK 550 out of the pack and held it aloft with one beefy paw, exclaiming “Hey, you can’t take this in!” I gave him my best ‘perplexed look’ and said “What it’s just a tape player.” (first lie) Then the giant BigBoy instructs me to “take that back to your car”. I retorted, “I can’t, I hitchhiked to the show” (second lie). Beefy Bruiser BigBoy points to my ticket and says “the ticket says no recorders on it, you can't take it in” and I tell him “look I don’t have any microphones” (third lie) and hold up my arms to be searched (of course my comrades had the mics with them). Then I sighed loudly and popped open the back of the Nak deck and let eight D cell batteries drop onto the ground. “Look, I dumped out the batteries, it can't function”. (lie number four) BigBoy stood there with his arms crossed in front of me, but I could see a small crack developing in his resolve. So I pulled that thread “Look, I hitchhiked all the way here from Nebraska to see this show, would you hold onto this deck for me? It cost me $600 (which in ’78 was a lot of dough) but if you just hold it for me, and then I will find you after the show. You look like an honest guy.” (fifth lie, this guy did not look trustworthy). I had to make my move, so I push the Nak towards him, and this deck is huge and weighs a ton, (a goddamn boat anchor). I really played my trump card here and was trying to hold my ‘game-face’, Suddenly all the heads waiting in line behind (and all my friends) erupt with yells at the BigBoy to hurry up and started chanting “let us in”. BigBoy gives his mullet a shake and then he points into the venue and looks at me and exclaims “Go on, get out of here” and I dive headlong into my first Red Rocks show with a grin a mile wide(high)!

     

    Followed by Mary with my mics and my buddies with my fresh batteries (re: lie number four) and my blank tapes. The batteries that I dumped out for BigBoy were already ‘dead’ (pun intended). Again ran into that ‘kind stranger’ (Dr. Bob Wagner, FOB right side)) to plug out of his Sony again. Those two shows were stupefying, and the band obviously enjoyed playing there. Bobby's deer joke, and I remember Phil leading the boys through “Cold Rain & Snow” with his bass punching that tune into a triumphant ‘strut’ that evening. Much different than the Cold Rain in Madison Wisconsin. I recall Jerry broke a string during the Scarlet>Fire, which really didn't slow the pace of that perfect evening. On into Dancin' >NFA > Black Peter > Around & Around and then a dual encore of US Blues & Johnny B Goode.

    The next night was much the same. Each night we would watch the clouds chase each other in the sky as the band serenaded us. Until it became dark and then we looked out ‘over’ the Dead to see the distant lights of Denver sparking in the background. Second night second half, we were treated to a tremendous Estimated > Other One> Eyes of the World > drums> Wharf Rat > Franklin's Tower > Sugar Mag. The crowd was especially raucous as Wharf Rat wound to that tender quiet point and Phil (or was it Bobby) gave a "Shhhhh" to still us in preparation for that wonderful 'launching' platform/crescendo.  

                               

    The Dead's aural wonders matched with the Red Rocks astounding visuals those evenings as we were perched in between those massive stony slabs jutting into the sky (and the Dead had a magical view as well looking back at us from the stage). The Grateful Dead took us all on an astounding journey of Americana, myth, rock and roll, country, space, jam, fable, fun, roller coaster, and turn on a dime delights, it all 'rolled into one'. Then as the Dead finished us all off with “Werewolves of London” we were all crooning back to the Dead with our own howl of “Aoooooo”. And Garcia was grinning ear to ear as he bid us all a “good night”.

    Just as I can't recall everything that Jerry and I talked about that February morning 4 decades ago, me so excited to talk to him, Jerry becoming jazzed to talk art and symbols/mysticism (probably a break for him having to talk about the Dead and music all the time), and while sharing, our conversation took on it’s own power. In a microcosm, it is that synergistic effect, that remarkable moment the Dead evoke.

    I know I ramble on a bit, but I thought I would ‘complete the circle’ of this story. Wikipedia defines Oroboros as symbolizing self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself. I believe the Oroboros predates the mythical Chimera, a creature composed/combining different parts of multiple known animals (lion, goat, snake, etc.). Some ancient religions/faiths perceived it as an originating and self-sustaining beast, feeding on itself, continuing to thrive, and/or spawn new power. To me, the Oroboros is a representation of reinvention, or of transformation. Or I heard that (or read that) somewhere before.  

    I reread a book about Jerry discussing the Dead, and he said” I thought that maybe this idea of transforming principle has something to do with it. Because when we get onstage, what we really want to happen is, we want to be transformed from ordinary players into extraordinary ones, like forces of larger consciousness. And the audience wants to be transformed from whatever ordinary reality they may be, into something a little wider, something that enlarges them. So maybe it’s the notion of transformation, seat of the pants shamanism, that has something to do with why the Grateful Dead keeps pulling them in. Maybe that is what keeps the audience coming back for and what keeps it fascinating for us too.”   

    And I think that is what it was like when we joined with the Dead at those shows, their pouring out this unfathomable energy in that moment, and us in the audience rising in response with our collective surge pushing energy back to the Dead, which then propelled them to greater heights of aural adventure. Maybe I am just rambling on,.. but you know that the Grateful Dead did often get that 'dragon' off the ground, and into flight, with us all levitating in their draft. We were part of that remarkable mixture of music + magic + visuals + adventure which manifested = alchemy.  

    Then as we would watch/listen, with our mouths agape, as each of the Dead would tease, improvise, call and response, cascading leads ('catch me if you can'). Those  shimmering rhythms, the bass runs/bombs (that changed the very atmospheric pressure), keyboard interplay, that primal percussion mutating into complex and compelling syncopation, urging and propelling the band further,... and the bard’s lyrics, that poetry, those revelations,...that song...and we would roar and exhort the Dead and pour that fervor into our tribal stomp and collective howl.

    And suddenly the moment slows and extends and everything becomes quite still and that voice "nothing you can hold for very long..." and then all of us stumble into that crystalline cool evening. Sad eyes, heads shaking, and smiles which alternated between satiation and longing for more.

    In the fall of 1979, my Nakamichi was stolen, but thankfully, my tapes were not taken. Trading those Omaha and Red Rocks 1978 tapes has resulted in a significant amount of new live music (various artists and musical genres) for me from other Heads. And my hats off and big love to all the tapers who keep everyone in touch with the audience music experience!

    So that is the back story and my tale of ‘a brush with greatness’, a moment with Jerry Garcia, a gift given and received, and a part of a Deadhead’s ongoing adventure(s). I pass this story onto you, my friends and cohorts in this wonderful journey.

    Of course, this just scratches the surface of the many ‘road tales’ as there is much other music and different experiences to chase. Must save the other stories: wall of sound 1974 show (GD), Egypt story (GD), or the tale of the exploding cabin (GD), or the radically early show arrival (Neil Young), David Byrne bowling (Talking Heads), Little Feat tape confiscation, disorientation & rescue after JamGrass KC, or the myriad of past  sagas for another time and day.                                                                                 _                                              

    Happy 2024 and take care all, 

    Tim    

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  • Oroboros
    Joined:
    Many thanks my brothers and sisters

    Appreciate all your kind responses to my remembrance. Thanks to Marye for posting, as I was not able to. We are a lucky bunch to have this band and these memories.

    "Teachers open the door(s), you must enter by yourself."

  • jonathan918@GD
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    Very cool

    Awesome story brother!

  • CosmicMikey
    Default Avatar
    Joined:
    Many Thanks...

    ...Tim
    Those were great Dead adventures you gave us. Red Rocks brought back memories of the 1984 run the Dead did there.
    My only time at the venue. For years I had wanted the boys to cover Dear Mr. Fantasy and at least a minute before the song I could hear Jerry teasing a note or two teasing me. I started getting my hopes up and started bouncing and then saying no f'ing chance... yes... please and people around me are looking at me strangely until the band dropped into
    the song full force and they all understood. I will remember that to my grave...

  • stevenlarmstro…
    Joined:
    Spudboy of calaveras county.

    Having peeled my share of potatoes in Angels Camp. I have always wondered why can't the GD store make a clothing line that fits those of us of larger girth. I'm talking 4XL here people ...Pass the gravy please.

  • stevenlarmstro…
    Joined:
    Spudboy of calaveras county.

    Having peeled my share of potatoes in Angels Camp. I have always wondered why can't the GD store make a clothing line that fits those of us of larger girth. I'm talking 4XL here people ...Pass the gravy please.

  • Grateful Scotty
    Joined:
    Lincoln connection

    As a former resident of Lincoln, I'm curious about Tim's background. Any chance he knew Terrance Moore?

  • icecrmcnkd
    Joined:
    Grate story

    Thanks Tim, and thanks Mayre for giving it a home.

  • bluecrow
    Joined:
    Year of the Dragon!!

    I'm here for it! Such a great story Tim! Among the many cool events, and the greatness of the Oroboros, I love the Omaha waterfall. Thank you for sharing this tale now and earlier. And thank you Marye for making it happen this time! Time to rock the July box! Spinning Omaha now.

  • wilfredtjones
    Joined:
    hey now

    Thanks for this. :-)

  • marye
    Joined:
    Chinese New Year coming up
    Year of the Dragon!
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Jerry, the Dragon, and the Long Strange Trip: As Told By Oroborous

 

As this tale goes, back in 1977, my girlfriend/wife, myself, and two other friends decided to road trip from Lincoln, Nebraska to San Francisco’s Winterland for the Grateful Dead’s New Year’s Eve run of shows. This was before the days of computers or ticket master and we left with the belief we would find tickets once we were in California. I toted along with us a sculpture I completed that was about one and ½ foot (in circumference) depicting a dragon that is eating/consuming it’s own tail. I covered it ‘scraffito’ (carved designs) on the ‘hide’ of this beast, and then fired it in the kiln. This was the biggest piece of clay sculpture that I have ever made. I thought that it would be fun to give the ‘Oroboros’ to the Dead on New Year’s Eve.

So away we go, we get to the venue and secured tickets for the run (12/27, 29, 30, 31/77). The shows were unbefuckinliveable and the old Winterland was such a great hall. On the 31st, it was about 1:00 in the afternoon, and we all were sitting on the sidewalk surrounding the venue, waiting doors to open, talking and watching the crowd gel, all ready to hurry and get into for the 'activities.'  We heard there would be freak volleyball and Bill Graham was going to show us movies before that evening's show.                                                               

I thought "I better try to unload the dragon aka 'Oroboros' now, it's heavy and I don't want to try to talk my way through the entrance with this beast." I spied a door stenciled as 'Backstage' and began knocking on the door. No answer. The line of people on the sidewalk started getting up and moving toward the entrance. I banged even harder, thinking "I've got to get this dragon in there so I can go in the front and join in before the show", and as I pounded harder, the door yanks open so hard that it pulls me into the doorway. However, the space immediately is filled with a gigantic black man in a red Winterland t-shirt, who puts his hand on my chest and he leans forward into my face and bellows "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" Startled, I held out the dragon with both hands and stuttered, "To give this to the band". The giant took it in his immense hand and his face curls into a grin as he held it closer to inspect it and I watched my dragon shrink to the size of a key chain. He exclaimed, "Wow, what is this? I'd like one of these" and I explained, "it's an Oroboros, and that is the only one there is." He grinned and said, "Cool, who do you want me to give it to?" so I replied, "To Garcia, give it to Jerry Garcia." The behemoth disappeared as quickly as he appeared and the door slammed shut just like the first time Dorothy tried to get into the Emerald City in Oz.                             

Newly unburdened, I happily gained entry to the show and as each of us walked through the gate, the Winterland staff handed us a small piece of paper with a cryptic prediction to expect "Good things come to those who wait. Midnight at 12:30" with a ‘Stealie’ on it. Upon entering the gate was a hallway surrounding the concert hall, you could either go into concert venue itself surrounded on all sides by an elevated balcony, (with theater seats). Or you could instead wander into their bar, which played some black and white videos on a 'big screen' taken from pro shots of the Winterland stage when Jimi Hendrix or the Airplane, etc. played this hallowed hall. Very entertaining on many levels (those are all part of Wolfgang’s collection now). Graham had a volleyball net in the middle of the floor of the Winterland and invited everyone to play ‘freak volleyball' for several rounds. Next activity was playing a couple movies on a screen for the crowd. This was a double feature from Graham’s film collection with 16 mm of Ray Bradbury's 'Illustrated Man' followed by the Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour." Emerging from the colorful/wonderful crowd, a woman dressed in a gypsy outfit (we dubbed her 'rainbow' Rose) as she waved an eyedropper of liquid party favor, Rose explained "just one dollar per drop. On your tongue or for the adventurous, a drop in your eye".

                  

Hey, the New Riders of the Purple Sage are starting, got to get in there, the sound is loud and they are rocking the house. Anticipation was high and the Dead came out for the first set. Our party favors are now starting to engage..., things began to sparkle and the old Winterland venue takes notice as her walls start to sweat and then to sway with the strains of familiar music as the Dead coax this old hall to dance with us all. This is such a delight, I know the vista cruiser is engaged and then I notice when the house lights went down, and the stage lights went dark in between songs, then I saw it. On top of a monitor, in between Billy and Mickey, there was a flame; it was a white candle sitting by the dragon. It was the Oroboros, ON STAGE WITH THE DEAD! Whoo hoo!! I watched as Jerry walked over and lit a cigarette off the candle next to the beast, in between songs.  

They took a break and the surprise for the second half was Uncle BoBo (as Bobby liked to call Graham) dressed up as Uncle Sam on a motorcycle sliding down on a cable suspended high from the back of the hall to the stage. They put spotlights on him as he approached the stage and it was hilarious. Because as Graham came to the stage, the weight of the bike and BoBo was too much and he sagged below stage. Roadies had to rush out and drag him onstage and then to the explosion of Sugar Mag, complete with dropping balloons and a guy and gal each dressed as baby New Year’s dancing at the each edge of the stage. I was 'sittin' on top of the world (Dead reference intended).

              

If you google the YouTube 1977 NYE show Fire on the Mountain video, see the ending of Fire on the Mountain (around 7:29 minutes). As Bobby is explaining how the crew would fix the technical difficulties, you will see the camera focus in on the 'Oroboros' for a couple of seconds and then someone takes a flash photo illuminating the beast sitting between Billy and Mickey. I showed this YouTube to my three sons to demonstrate the ‘old man is not getting on’ and I am not full of beans or some other brown material.

What a treat that run in 1977 was. Several of us had attended those June 1977 shows, but to come back for New Year’s Eve show was definitely a peak experience. At many levels, the setting, the return of China Cat-Rider, my being able to 'gift' our band, who has poured out so much to us, the road-trip and whole experience. Too much! As we walked out into the cool San Francisco early morning and drove through the fog back to Lincoln, Nebraska. But unknown to me, the best would be yet to come.

Fast forward to another road trip to Madison, Wisconsin on February 3, 1978. The Dead were ‘firing on all engines’ and this was really a killer show. The opener Cold Rain and Snow had to shake the snow off the roof of the Dane County Coliseum with the Phil-bombs. One of my favorite Cold Rains ever. And the delicious second half jam with Estimated>Eyes>Playin>Wheel>Playin was beyond spectacular. The next morning before I left the hotel, I got a wild hair, and thought “I should ask Garcia what he thought of the Oroboros. I can at least try.” So I called the hotel’s front desk, and asked "Could I have Jerry Garcia's room please?" And he put me through and the phone rang and Jerry answered! I said, "Hey, I'm the guy that brought the dragon to the New Year's show" and Garcia said, "Meet you in the coffee shop in 20 minutes". I could not believe what was happening but I stumbled into the coffee shop at the appointed time and looked around spying Jerry Garcia seated at a table with a ravishingly beautiful raven-haired woman.

I walked over and introduced myself, and 'shook the hand, that shook the hand, of PT Barnum and Charlie Chan'. Jerry beamed that smile and gestured and said, "Sit down, man". He asked me "How did you fire that dragon so that it didn't explode in the kiln?" and I explained how I had cut it in half and hollowed it out before joining it back together, to eliminate any air bubbles. I told him how I had used a guitar string to 'halve it" and we locked eyes at that moment and he burst into laughter, and I said "Ironic, huh?" And Jerry quipped "No, man that makes perfect sense." Then we laughed some more discussing the process of art and ideas. Then his lady friend asked "where are you from?" and I replied Nebraska. And she shot Garcia a glance and her voice dripped with disbelief "He came all the way up here from Nebraska to see the band!" To which Garica shrugged his shoulders and retorted, "We didn't ask him to come" and looked back at me and we both howled with laughter again. No deadhead was she! 

We talked more about art and the dragon and at that time I did not know of Garcia's interest and practice in art (this kind anyway). He was completely engaged in the topic of art, but so quick witted with 'turn on a dime' twists, turns, commentaries and curiosities on a variety of topics. And Jerry was also focused on listening, not acting like he was the important one, instead giving me time and locked in on the discussion and talking about our shared interests. The gypsy woman frowned in disbelief as she asked me "You went out to San Francisco for New Years and then you came to Wisconsin" and I said 'yes' and then I turned to Garcia to request, "Why don't you bring the circus back to Lincoln, Nebraska?" He quickly retorted, "You mean to Perishing Auditorium?" I corrected him "No, it is named Pershing Auditorium, named after the army general" and Garcia quickly replied, "No man, it was perishing! Truly!" Then we both burst out laughing again. At that Lincoln Dead show on 2-26-73, there were a bunch of drunk frat boys yelling 'boogie, boogie" at the top of their lungs, however that show is a classic! 

Anyway, I again asked Garcia "could you bring the Dead back to Nebraska" and Jerry grinned that Cheshire cat grin of his and he replied, "Who knows?" I took my leave (as their breakfast arrived) and then drove home. So that is my story, and while I cannot recall everything that Jerry and I talked about over 4 decades ago, he was totally gracious, engaging, enthusiastic, and kind to a deadhead who approached him at one moment in time. His wit, his ability to ‘turn on a dime’ with twists and turns of topics and colorful takes on our discussion made a massive impression on me as I drove out of all that Wisconsin snow on that cold Saturday morning.

Then in the summer of 1978, when the Dead did actually did circle back to Nebraska. They played the Omaha Civic Auditorium, where the Dead played once before in 1973. We got to the venue and it was half full (about 4,000) but everyone was chomping at the bit in anticipation to hear them live. I took my Nakamichi 550 into the venue and there was no hassle getting the deck in this time, but remember these were the days before ‘tapers sections’ (1984?). Each venue or even various staff could present a different challenge to the taper. Tapers had to be inventive, and think on their feet, but not here, not today, thank goodness.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Out in the hallways of the Civic the Hell’s Angels wandered about sporting full colors and big grins. They may have been transporting ‘party favors’ and decided to take in a show. Maybe the Angels were just road tripping with the band (although I didn't see them at the next few shows). My buddy even brought his 68 year old mother to the show. She sat up in the stands “It is just too loud down there!” Anyway, I headed down to the floor with my Nak 550 to set up in front of the soundboard. When I started to get my gear set up and saw this guy beside me with a great rig. Luckily this kind stranger (I have since discovered he was famous taper Bob Wagner) then let me patch out of the back of his deck, which was wonderful since he had a towering 8 ft. tall mike stand set-up in front of board. He had a Sony deck and mics, but with that high stand, his mic’s were well above the surrounding crowd noise. We were about 15 to 20 feet in FOB as I recall. So Garcia treated us to a blistering Sugaree opener, the kind that drove the crowd wild. His leads mounted into a wave that crests, recedes, regroups, and comes back rolling in with such power and delight that adds a synergistic effect to our frenzied response as his rolling/soaring guitar work lift and subside with that band.

Then Beat In on Down the Line, TLEO and now it was Bob’s turn in the spotlight with a Look’s like Rain. About halfway through the song, I suddenly noticed something shimmering in the air between the band and me. I thought “what a fantastic light show! Or have I have shifted into fifth gear just a little early that I scheduled?” I staggered towards that disturbance in front of me to investigate. People were dancing wildly in the middle of the floor as a waterfall played over them. It was about 25 feet in circumference. I put my hand in, water…hand out, no rain…moisture…? Hummm..? I am standing in front of an indoor waterfall! What to do? So of course, I jumped into pouring rain that was INSIDE the middle of the auditorium! Then I stepped back and was out of it. I shook my head and then lunged back into the deluge and danced through Looks Like Rain & then during Direwolf as well and a delightful All Over now. (Complete with Donna in perfect pitch!) Then Candyman and Lazy>Supplication before Bobby informed us “We’re going to take a short break”.

I staggered back to reload a new tape into my deck and look for some validation of my experience. I asked my friends if I was not in fact ‘soaking wet’ as I patted my soaked shirt. They grinned and nodded knowingly and affirmed, yes, in fact I was “all wet”. And then this unique show continued, (nice indoor water-feature, boys !) with a killer second set complete with a transportive Estimated> Eyes> drums> Wharf Rat> Truckin> Iko Iko> Around & Around. That was an unusual combo ‘sandwich’ that I never heard before or since. Then after a lengthy absence from the stage, the boys returned to play us ‘Promised Land” as an encore, but since Bob Wager already took down his mike stand, I didn’t get that recorded. As I left the auditorium, I noticed the water standing on the ground outside, a summer storm. Was this a case of a leaky roof or didn't the Dead just conjure up the forces of nature as they were so prone to do?

However, back to the important stuff, what were the Dead going to do next in Red Rocks? Would Phil rev up his reverse gravity machine and pummel us with Phil-bombs at the next show? Would they levitate the crowd, and have us all dance while floating in the 'cool Colorado range'? I HAD to follow them to those Red Rocks shows in 1978. So a road-trip to Colorado it was. This was the Dead’s first Red Rocks jaunt (and my first as well, although my girlfriend (now wife) had seen Joni Mitchell there previously and raved about the venue) so my anticipation was so ‘high’. (In many ways.) So I packed my taping and camping gear and off we went.

When we walked up to the Rocks entrance, the Feyline security crew (or were they the John Scher guys?) were stopping people and inspecting any 'carry in' bags. A security behemoth that I will call “BigBoy’ stopped me at the entrance to look through my Boy Scout backpack. He hefted my NAK 550 out of the pack and held it aloft with one beefy paw, exclaiming “Hey, you can’t take this in!” I gave him my best ‘perplexed look’ and said “What it’s just a tape player.” (first lie) Then the giant BigBoy instructs me to “take that back to your car”. I retorted, “I can’t, I hitchhiked to the show” (second lie). Beefy Bruiser BigBoy points to my ticket and says “the ticket says no recorders on it, you can't take it in” and I tell him “look I don’t have any microphones” (third lie) and hold up my arms to be searched (of course my comrades had the mics with them). Then I sighed loudly and popped open the back of the Nak deck and let eight D cell batteries drop onto the ground. “Look, I dumped out the batteries, it can't function”. (lie number four) BigBoy stood there with his arms crossed in front of me, but I could see a small crack developing in his resolve. So I pulled that thread “Look, I hitchhiked all the way here from Nebraska to see this show, would you hold onto this deck for me? It cost me $600 (which in ’78 was a lot of dough) but if you just hold it for me, and then I will find you after the show. You look like an honest guy.” (fifth lie, this guy did not look trustworthy). I had to make my move, so I push the Nak towards him, and this deck is huge and weighs a ton, (a goddamn boat anchor). I really played my trump card here and was trying to hold my ‘game-face’, Suddenly all the heads waiting in line behind (and all my friends) erupt with yells at the BigBoy to hurry up and started chanting “let us in”. BigBoy gives his mullet a shake and then he points into the venue and looks at me and exclaims “Go on, get out of here” and I dive headlong into my first Red Rocks show with a grin a mile wide(high)!

 

Followed by Mary with my mics and my buddies with my fresh batteries (re: lie number four) and my blank tapes. The batteries that I dumped out for BigBoy were already ‘dead’ (pun intended). Again ran into that ‘kind stranger’ (Dr. Bob Wagner, FOB right side)) to plug out of his Sony again. Those two shows were stupefying, and the band obviously enjoyed playing there. Bobby's deer joke, and I remember Phil leading the boys through “Cold Rain & Snow” with his bass punching that tune into a triumphant ‘strut’ that evening. Much different than the Cold Rain in Madison Wisconsin. I recall Jerry broke a string during the Scarlet>Fire, which really didn't slow the pace of that perfect evening. On into Dancin' >NFA > Black Peter > Around & Around and then a dual encore of US Blues & Johnny B Goode.

The next night was much the same. Each night we would watch the clouds chase each other in the sky as the band serenaded us. Until it became dark and then we looked out ‘over’ the Dead to see the distant lights of Denver sparking in the background. Second night second half, we were treated to a tremendous Estimated > Other One> Eyes of the World > drums> Wharf Rat > Franklin's Tower > Sugar Mag. The crowd was especially raucous as Wharf Rat wound to that tender quiet point and Phil (or was it Bobby) gave a "Shhhhh" to still us in preparation for that wonderful 'launching' platform/crescendo.  

                           

The Dead's aural wonders matched with the Red Rocks astounding visuals those evenings as we were perched in between those massive stony slabs jutting into the sky (and the Dead had a magical view as well looking back at us from the stage). The Grateful Dead took us all on an astounding journey of Americana, myth, rock and roll, country, space, jam, fable, fun, roller coaster, and turn on a dime delights, it all 'rolled into one'. Then as the Dead finished us all off with “Werewolves of London” we were all crooning back to the Dead with our own howl of “Aoooooo”. And Garcia was grinning ear to ear as he bid us all a “good night”.

Just as I can't recall everything that Jerry and I talked about that February morning 4 decades ago, me so excited to talk to him, Jerry becoming jazzed to talk art and symbols/mysticism (probably a break for him having to talk about the Dead and music all the time), and while sharing, our conversation took on it’s own power. In a microcosm, it is that synergistic effect, that remarkable moment the Dead evoke.

I know I ramble on a bit, but I thought I would ‘complete the circle’ of this story. Wikipedia defines Oroboros as symbolizing self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself. I believe the Oroboros predates the mythical Chimera, a creature composed/combining different parts of multiple known animals (lion, goat, snake, etc.). Some ancient religions/faiths perceived it as an originating and self-sustaining beast, feeding on itself, continuing to thrive, and/or spawn new power. To me, the Oroboros is a representation of reinvention, or of transformation. Or I heard that (or read that) somewhere before.  

I reread a book about Jerry discussing the Dead, and he said” I thought that maybe this idea of transforming principle has something to do with it. Because when we get onstage, what we really want to happen is, we want to be transformed from ordinary players into extraordinary ones, like forces of larger consciousness. And the audience wants to be transformed from whatever ordinary reality they may be, into something a little wider, something that enlarges them. So maybe it’s the notion of transformation, seat of the pants shamanism, that has something to do with why the Grateful Dead keeps pulling them in. Maybe that is what keeps the audience coming back for and what keeps it fascinating for us too.”   

And I think that is what it was like when we joined with the Dead at those shows, their pouring out this unfathomable energy in that moment, and us in the audience rising in response with our collective surge pushing energy back to the Dead, which then propelled them to greater heights of aural adventure. Maybe I am just rambling on,.. but you know that the Grateful Dead did often get that 'dragon' off the ground, and into flight, with us all levitating in their draft. We were part of that remarkable mixture of music + magic + visuals + adventure which manifested = alchemy.  

Then as we would watch/listen, with our mouths agape, as each of the Dead would tease, improvise, call and response, cascading leads ('catch me if you can'). Those  shimmering rhythms, the bass runs/bombs (that changed the very atmospheric pressure), keyboard interplay, that primal percussion mutating into complex and compelling syncopation, urging and propelling the band further,... and the bard’s lyrics, that poetry, those revelations,...that song...and we would roar and exhort the Dead and pour that fervor into our tribal stomp and collective howl.

And suddenly the moment slows and extends and everything becomes quite still and that voice "nothing you can hold for very long..." and then all of us stumble into that crystalline cool evening. Sad eyes, heads shaking, and smiles which alternated between satiation and longing for more.

In the fall of 1979, my Nakamichi was stolen, but thankfully, my tapes were not taken. Trading those Omaha and Red Rocks 1978 tapes has resulted in a significant amount of new live music (various artists and musical genres) for me from other Heads. And my hats off and big love to all the tapers who keep everyone in touch with the audience music experience!

So that is the back story and my tale of ‘a brush with greatness’, a moment with Jerry Garcia, a gift given and received, and a part of a Deadhead’s ongoing adventure(s). I pass this story onto you, my friends and cohorts in this wonderful journey.

Of course, this just scratches the surface of the many ‘road tales’ as there is much other music and different experiences to chase. Must save the other stories: wall of sound 1974 show (GD), Egypt story (GD), or the tale of the exploding cabin (GD), or the radically early show arrival (Neil Young), David Byrne bowling (Talking Heads), Little Feat tape confiscation, disorientation & rescue after JamGrass KC, or the myriad of past  sagas for another time and day.                                                                                 _                                              

Happy 2024 and take care all, 

Tim    

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Tim, you're a good writer!
But it's cool Colorado rain, not range.
Not that that wouldn't work, lol.
Glad this has reposted!
Cheers from cool Colorado

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Thanks for this. :-)

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In reply to by TN John

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I'm here for it! Such a great story Tim! Among the many cool events, and the greatness of the Oroboros, I love the Omaha waterfall. Thank you for sharing this tale now and earlier. And thank you Marye for making it happen this time! Time to rock the July box! Spinning Omaha now.

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As a former resident of Lincoln, I'm curious about Tim's background. Any chance he knew Terrance Moore?

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Having peeled my share of potatoes in Angels Camp. I have always wondered why can't the GD store make a clothing line that fits those of us of larger girth. I'm talking 4XL here people ...Pass the gravy please.

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Having peeled my share of potatoes in Angels Camp. I have always wondered why can't the GD store make a clothing line that fits those of us of larger girth. I'm talking 4XL here people ...Pass the gravy please.

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...Tim
Those were great Dead adventures you gave us. Red Rocks brought back memories of the 1984 run the Dead did there.
My only time at the venue. For years I had wanted the boys to cover Dear Mr. Fantasy and at least a minute before the song I could hear Jerry teasing a note or two teasing me. I started getting my hopes up and started bouncing and then saying no f'ing chance... yes... please and people around me are looking at me strangely until the band dropped into
the song full force and they all understood. I will remember that to my grave...

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Awesome story brother!

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In reply to by jonathan918@GD

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Appreciate all your kind responses to my remembrance. Thanks to Marye for posting, as I was not able to. We are a lucky bunch to have this band and these memories.

"Teachers open the door(s), you must enter by yourself."