Back in the eighties, a friend and fellow Deadhead said to me, “Dude, we’re twins.” I replied, “Dude, what are you talking about?” He said, “We’re twins because we both have out-of-town girlfriends.” “I don’t even have an in-town girlfriend,” I said.
My friend explained to me that my out-of-town girlfriend was the Grateful Dead. And just like him, I would drive and travel untold miles to see my favorite band. He did the same thing to see his out-of-town girlfriend. They never fought, and the sex was always fresh and intense. “And I bet you never get sick and tired of the Dead,” he reminded me.
Trying to make sense of his logic, I said, “Bro, didn’t your girlfriend ever get on your case? Make you spend the day shopping with her, carrying her bags? Even make you take out her trash?” He said, “No, bro. Do you run errands for the Dead?” “I guess not,” I said. “But I think I get what you mean. The experience can be inconvenient but totally worth it.” “Exactly, bro,” he said.
Now fast forward thirty years later to the summer of 2015. The surviving members of The Grateful Dead are reuniting for their 50th anniversary with the Fare Thee Well Tour. I had tried desperately to get tickets to the Chicago shows over the Fourth of July weekend but was unable to. Luckily, I was able to secure tickets to the first set of shows that the band added on in Santa Clara, CA, just several miles from the birthplace of the Dead in Palo Alto, CA.
So here I am getting ready to schlep all the way across the country to see my favorite band, my “out-of-town girlfriend.” And what a long, strange trip it will be:
The weekend before the shows, I have to be in LA for a conference. It makes no sense to fly back and forth from Cleveland to the conference and then fly back the next weekend to San Francisco. Coincidentally, a friend of mine from the Bay will be vacationing in LA with his family the same weekend that I’m there for the conference. So, I’ll drive back with him, his wife, son and daughter and her boyfriend to San Francisco. Then, I’ll stay with them for five days before the Dead shows. The shows, by the way, will be in the Silicon Valley area which is 90 minutes south of their home. I’ll most likely need a hotel room for two nights, so I don’t have to travel back and forth in Bay area traffic. Oh, yeah. Did I mention that I have some of the crummiest seats in the house with a partially blocked view?
But like my friend and “bro” said over 30 years ago, the Dead is my out-of-town girlfriend. Inconvenient but totally worth it. As Bob Weir wrote, “I may be going to hell in a bucket, babe, but at least I’ll enjoy the ride.”