Today is the anniversary of the birth of Jerry Garcia.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Jerry Garcia was a musician: player of guitars, banjos, and mandolins and a singer too. He was famous as a founding member of the Grateful Dead, but was also in Jerry Garcia Band, Old and in the Way, Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, and New Riders of the Purple Sage.
I dreamed about Jerry just as this year’s season as a camp host started.
A couple of days before Memorial Day, I dreamed I was outside somewhere with trees. I was not in a city.
Jerry Garcia was walking around this place of my dream, smiling and happy. He was giving out LSD.
I knew him, of course. I think he knew me, but I don’t think he knew me well, like maybe we’d met once or twice, but I didn’t think he’d consider me a close friend. I wondered if he’d remember me at all. I knew he’d probably give me a hit even if he didn’t remember me because he was passing it out freely, but it would certainly be nice to be remembered by Jerry Garcia.
When he came up to me, I opened my mouth, so he could lay a hit on my tongue. I thought he’d drop a hit, maybe two, into my mouth, but he fed me I don’t know how many hits. I had little bits of paper poking from between my lips.
My feelings were torn between Oh boy! and Oh no! I was excited and scared.
How much is just enough? How much is too much?
I wondered how many hits I’d just taken, considered asking Jerry about the numbers, then decided to just go with the flow.
I heard a woman ask him in a real suck-up tone, Are you getting tickets tomorrow, Jerry?
He said, I’ve got tickets right now.
If his looks left any doubts as to who he was, the unmistakable voice erased them. It was definitely Jerry Garcia right there.
Unfortunately, I woke up before I could feel the effects of the gifts from Jerry. I wonder if the Catholic Church would view Jerry getting me high from beyond the grave cause for canonization. I bet most Deadheads would. In any case, while I didn’t wake up high, I did feel happy and at peace.
It was the first time I dreamed of Jerry, although a few weeks earlier, I’d dreamed of hearing a Grateful Dead song I believe existed only in my brain.
A couple of weeks after my dream about Jerry, I was driving when “Attics of My Life” began drifting from my speaker.
I’d not listened to “Attics of My Life” much. It wasn’t in the repertoire of songs marking my relationship with the person who really got me listening to the Dead. Since I mostly listen to music when I’m driving and I want upbeat rhythms to keep me awake, I hadn’t heard the song often since I’d been on my own. But it somehow made it onto my phone with a recent importing of music, and now it was slowly swelling out of my speaker.
It’s a lovely, ethereal song, from the 1970 American Beauty album.
Why have I never really listened to this song before? I wondered.
Then the last verse hit and Jerry singing Robert Hunter’s words brought me to tears.
I’m not even sure if I can explain how I felt when I heard this song after dreaming of Jerry.
(In The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics
, David Dodd says Robert Hunter was asked about the meaning of this very song Hunter replied,
…If I could say it in prose, I wouldn’t need to write the song. Poetry is evocative–it’s meant to communicate to deeper levels and approach the levels of nonverbal experience.
So I suppose if I can’t express my reaction to the song in prose, Robert Hunter did his job as a poet-songwriter perfectly.)
I felt as if Jerry and I had some connection. I know that sounds trite and cliché . But if we realize we are all connected (even if in a state of chemical alteredness), does that make it untrue? If I hear this man sing twenty years after his death and his voice moves me so strongly that my tears begin to flow, well, I maintain that’s a connection.
I also felt as if my dream brought Jerry Garcia to life, if only in my REM state brain. There he was–living, moving, smiling, talking, feeding me all the LSD I could fit in my mouth, bringing me comfort and peace. I dreamed Jerry into existence again, for however brief a time.
Happy birthday, Jerry.