Tag Archives: Grateful Dead

Wal-Mart and the Drug Culture

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In January of 2016, I wrote about seeing a t-shirt decorated with Grateful Dead dancing bears in a Wal-Mart in a small Southwestern desert town. (Read that post here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/01/08/what-a-long-strange-shopping-trip-its-been/.) I thought it was a strange and maybe one-time experience, but now it seems Wal-Mart is in the drug culture business.

I saw another Grateful Dead t-shirt in a larger, urban Wal-Mart late in 2016. This shirt had a red, white, and blue (on grey) color scheme; long sleeves; and roses and a Stealie on the front. You’re killing me, Wal-Mart, I posted on Facebook, along with a photo of the shirt. I wanted the shirt, but it was made for a smaller person, or at least one with a body shape different from mine. Besides, it wasn’t 100% cotton, and polyester makes my armpits stink. The shirt wasn’t for me.

But what did it mean that the shirt was for sale in a Wal-Mart? I’d thought maybe the first Dead shirt I saw was an anomaly, maybe the store’s buyer was an old hippie. But now it was starting to seem maybe Wal-Mart was in the Grateful Dead business.

I found myself back in the town where I’d seen the dancing bear shirt. I found myself back in the Wal-Mart. I found myself back in the men’s clothing department, back in front of the t-shirt display. This time there were no Grateful Dead t-shirts to be had, but that didn’t mean Wal-Mart had walked away from the drug culture. Oh no. Wal-Mart hadn’t walked away from the drug culture. Wal-Mart had, in fact, expanded its connection with the drug culture.

The first drug-themed shirt I saw featured a spiral of colorful, happy, laughing anthropomorphized mushrooms. WHAT!?! I’m not sure I can think of anything that says drug culture quite as clearly as colorful, happy, laughing, anthropomorphized mushrooms. I think even my mother (the picture of innocence, only drank alcohol to excess once, never took a street drug in her life) would know those mushrooms had something to do with drugs.

But if the mushrooms left any doubt in anyone’s mind, the shirt immediately below surely dispelled any confusion. It was decorated with the red, yellow, and green of Rasta (the same Rasta famous for the use of marijuana) in a tie-dye-esque spiral, and across the chest was emblazoned the word TRIPPIN. What!?! TRIPPIN!?!

Does anyone not know that trippin’ means being high on drugs? Doesn’t even my mother know that? Or do I just know that and assume everyone else knows it too simply because I am part of the drug culture?

To be fair, I looked up trippin’ on the Urban Dictionary website (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=trippin) and found as many references to overreacting and being crazy as to being under the influence of psychotropic substances. Maybe my mother and others of her ilk could make a case that the shirt is merely referencing blowing a situation out of proportion.

But, but, but THEN I saw the Cheech & Chong t-shirt on the bottom shelf. Cheech & Chong? Do any two men in the history of the world say drug culture more loudly and more clearly than Cheech & Chong?

For anyone who doesn’t recognize the faces of the men riding the bear (riding the bear?), the shirt is conveniently labeled CHEECH and CHONG. And if anyone needs just a few more drug culture references, there’s the green, yellow, and red Rasta spiral again.

I’m not all that upset about Wal-Mart profiting from the drug culture. I’m accustomed to Wal-Mart profitting. Wal-Mart profits from everything it can get it’s (metaphoric) corporate hands on. Besides, not every stoner can afford head shop prices. Isn’t it high time (giggle) for stoners to be able to get druggie t-shirts at affordable prices?

Mostly I’m just surprised. Doesn’t Wal-Mart present itself as a bastion of wholesome American-ness? How is Wal-Mart getting away with selling such unwholesome, drug culture promoting items? Why aren’t the store’s upstanding conservative Christian clients protesting such goods? Could those customers possibly not know what those shirts are all about?

I know what the shirts are about, and they amuse me whenever I see them, especially when I stumble into the store first thing in the morning.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day Advice

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Since today is Valentine’s Day and I’m not qualified to speak about romance, I’ll let the Grateful Dead offer advice in matters of love through the video for their song “Foolish Heart.”

If you want to follow along with the singing, here are the lyrics from https://play.google.com/music/preview/Tcu6tifbkyp3snodrbo6j7ijoym?lyrics=1&utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=lyrics&pcampaignid=kp-lyrics&u=0#:

Carve your name
Carve your name in ice and wind
Search for where
Search for where the rivers end
Or where the rivers start
Do everything that’s in you
That you feel to be your part
But never give your love, my friend,
Unto a foolish heart

Leap from ledges
Leap from ledges high and wild
Learn to speak
Speak with wisdom like a child
Directly from the heart
Crown yourself the king of clowns
Or stand way back apart
But never give your love, my friend,
Unto a foolish heart

Shun a friend
Shun a brother and a friend
Never look
Never look around the bend
Or check a weather chart
Sign the Mona Lisa
With a spray can, call it art
But never give your love, my friend,
Unto a foolish heart

A foolish heart will call on you
To toss your dreams away
Then turn around and blame you
For the way you went astray
A foolish heart will cost you sleep
And often make you curse
A selfish heart is trouble
But a foolish heart is worse

Bite the hand
Bite the hand that bakes your bread
Dare to leap
Where the angels fear to tread
Till you are torn apart
Stoke the fires of paradise
With coals from hell to start
But never give your love, my friend
Unto a foolish heart

Unto a foolish heart [Repeats]

Built to Last
”Foolish Heart was released on the final Grateful Dead studio album Built To Last which came out in 1989.  It was written by Jerry Garcia (music) and Robert C. Hunter (words). The video was directed by Gary Gutierrez .

According to http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0349359/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm, Gutierrez graduated

from the San Francisco Art Institute, [and] apprenticed at John Korty’s Mill Valley studio as an animator of children’s films, creating and directing live action and animation for Sesame Street and The Electric Company.

(So there folks, is the connection between The Grateful Dead and Sesame Street I always suspected existed.)

[He] create[d] the 8 minute animated opening for The Grateful Dead Movie…

Gutierrez also directed the music video for the Grateful Dead song “Touch of Grey,” which was the introduction to the Dead for many people, especially those of the MTV generation.

The American Book of the Dead
The American Book of the Dead by Oliver Trager says the movie footage in the “Foolish Heart” video is from a 1903 film by Georges Méliès called Kingdom of the Fairies.

According to http://www.earlycinema.com/pioneers/melies_bio.html,

Maries Georges Jean Méliès was born in Paris in 1861…

Méliès’ principle contribution to cinema was the combination of traditional theatrical elements to motion pictures – he sought to present spectacles of a kind not possible in live theatre.

He pioneered the first double exposure (La caverne Maudite, 1898), the first split screen with performers acting opposite themselves (Un Homme de tete, 1898), and the first dissolve (Cendrillon, 1899)…He was also one of the first filmmakers to present nudity on screen with “Apres le Bal”.

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kingdom_of_the_Fairies) says of the film,

…film historian Georges Sadoul suggested that the film was freely adapted from La Biche au Bois, a popular féerie by the brothers Goignard, which had been first produced in March 1845 at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin and which was frequently revived throughout the nineteenth century.[4] A publication on Méliès’s films by the Centre national du cinéma cites Charles Perrault‘s story “Sleeping Beauty” as the most direct inspiration for the film, with the seven fairies in that tale reduced to four.[4]

The film’s cast includes Georges Méliès as Prince Bel-Azor, Marguerite Thévenard as Princess Azurine, and Bleuette Bernon as the fairy Aurora.

I like the whimsical, but also slightly creepy vibe of this video.  Skeletons playing records, Victorian era toys, ghostly band members, black and white film footage of devils with pitchforks and torches, Bob Weir’s hair, I like all of these aspects of the video while they make me a bit uncomfortable too.

 

Answers

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I recently offered my readers a chance to ask me questions. Today’s post consists of the questions submitted, as well as my answers.

Let’s start off with an easy one, shall we?

Dave asked, Pot pie or pizza pie?

While I would not turn down pot pie freely given, my choice will always be pizza. I would choose pizza over most anything else, except maybe ice cream.

Here’s another easy one, from Mary. Do you work for the state or federal government?

Neither. Of course, I am not working at the moment, but when I am working, it’s not for any governmental agency.

Now onto a question with a longer answer. This is a fun one.

Muriel2pups asked, Blaize, What would you do if you won a million dollars?

Funny you should ask, as I do have a plan, although buying lottery tickets is not part of the plan. Not sure how I expect to win if I don’t play…

Over the summer I noticed sometimes my coworker and I would talk about the possibility of some event or reaction and then the thing we talked about happened. I decided we needed to turn this ability to manifest into a million dollars. My coworker and I agreed to share any money sent our way by the Universe. So, if I won a million dollars, half of it automatically belongs to my coworker.

I have a handful of friends and worthy causes to whom I would dole out somewhere between  $200 to $5,000 each.

I would have my van repaired and overhauled in every way necessary.

I would visit Montana and Alaska.

Would I still have money left after that? I have no idea. I don’t have a clear concept of how much half a million dollars is. I guess I would probably do some socially responsible investing with whatever was left and try to live off that money while writing or making art.

Cindy had several questions. Let’s take them (and their answers) one at a time.

 I am pretty interested in the life out on the Mesa outside of the bridge in Taos. Have you ever lived out there? What did you think of it and what was your experience if you did.

No, Cindy, I never lived out on the Mesa. I have a couple of friends who do, one I visited a few times and one I house and dog sat for several times.

Like many neighborhoods, the Mesa is a mixed bag. There are people out there living in huge, seemingly expensive, “nice” houses. There are people out there living in shacks, old school buses, and homes they built themselves, piece-by-piece, over time. There are people out there living in structures somewhere between a mansion and a shanty. Some people on the Mesa use solar power, and other people have no electricity at all. Many people on the Mesa have no running water and have to haul their water home.

Two women I knew have been murdered on the Mesa in less than three years. For me, these killings put a dark cloud over the area’s visually stunning landscape.

Do you keep your money in a bank at all?

 Yes, Cindy, I do have a bank account. There was a time before I had a bank account when I kept my cash on me. Of course, I worried about getting robbed. During that time, I did not keep my money hidden in the van, in fear of the van getting stolen or towed.

Now I worry about a breakdown of the financial system which would leave me without access to my money. I suppose if the financial system breaks down, that paper’s not going to do me much good anyway.

Just a fun question. What is your favorite meal? Like if you could have anything to eat for dinner tonight what would it be? ..and your favorite dessert?

 If I’m cooking for myself, my favorite meal is some variation of brown rice, tofu, and veggies. I particularly enjoy blanched broccoli.

If the Lady of the House is cooking dinner, I’ll take gumbo!

If any food in the whole world could magically appear in front of me, I would go for boudin.

As for dessert, I don’t know if I’ve ever met one I didn’t like. Any sort of concoction with brownies or cookies or cake and ice cream would make me happy.

Camilla said, I was wondering why you never post a photo of yourself anywhere on your blog.

My privacy and security are very important to me. I don’t necessarily want strangers to know what I look like, so I don’t post photos of myself. The same goes for my van. While I don’t think I would be mobbed by adoring fans, I feel safer without my face plastered all over the internet.

Besides, what I look like has no bearing on my writing, my photography, and my art. I would rather you judge me on how I behave and what I can create rather than on how I look.

Louise asked, Do you think this is something that you’ll be doing for as long as you can or do you think that you may choose a more stationary life? Maybe I’m asking when/how/if you would choose a more permanent (or semi-permanent) place to lay roots for a while.

In “Truckin,'”Robert Hunter best explains my life as a van dweller:

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel
Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down

 When I’m stuck in one place, I want to hit the road. When I’m on the road, I think about the benefits of settling somewhere.

Don’t forget, I was mostly settled before I started my life on the road. I know what it’s all about.

But yes, I do think about settling down in some shitty little apartment, working some shitty little job, stuck in some city. I wouldn’t want to live in a city where I didn’t already have friends and a support network. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to live in most of the places where my good friends live. I’m not willing to work 8 hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year at some job that’s not doing much good for the world so I can take a two week vacation to visit people I love.

Also, I wonder if I could even get a real job these days. I’m a middle age woman who’s been mostly out of the  job force for seven years. Who’s going to hire me? It’s not like I have any specialized, marketable skills.

I do worry about getting older, about getting sick, about being injured. (I am very careful getting in and out of the shower these days.) However, I’m not willing to sacrifice my now for future unknowns. Maybe I will be able to work as a camp host until the day I die.

Sue asked a long and complicated question. I will try to condense it.

I’m sure you’ve thought about what you went through a LOT. And while you did think about them, did you isolate things he said and did, and then re-identify them from casual remarks into recognizable warning signs? In other words, have you learned to think about what people say and how they act so it will help you in future relationships?

One reason I don’t write much about my ex is because there are many aspects of both his and my life (and our life together) that would immediately reveal our identities to folks who knew us fairly well. I’m not interested in my ex finding me and contacting me, so I don’t share parts of our past that would lead him to me.

That said, during my relationship with him, I was mostly cognizant of what was going on. I don’t have to look back and say, Oh, that was a warning sign. I look back and remember how I knew at the time how some word or action was fucked-up shit.

So have I learned to think about what people say and how they act? I don’t know. What I can do now is identify fucked up men from a mile away and run in the other direction. (I could probably spot fucked up women too, but I don’t get as many opportunities.)

Brent asked, Blaize, I would like to know what you don’t have in your life that you would like to have.

While I have many close and wonderful friends, I spend most of my year far away from them. I’m lonely a lot. When I do visit, my friends have work, kids, relationships, a million obligations they can’t drop just to spend some deep quality time with me. I get it, but it’s difficult for me to feel fulfilled by friendship in passing. I wish I could spend more time with the people I love.

Laura-Marie asked me the following sweet question: how did u get so wonderful? i really mean that. what factors came together to form beautiful u?

Aw, shucks.

But I don’t feel wonderful! I’m grumpy and short-tempered and pushy and annoying. Anything good you see if because I am working against my natural tendencies to talk too much and make stupid jokes. I’m working against feeling irritated and wanting to have everything my way.

I used to do nice things for people because I wanted people to like me. Now when I do nice things for people, it’s usually because it’s the right thing to do. I try to treat people as I would like to be treated. I try to act like the kind of friend I want to have.

 

(Cold) Rain and Snow

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I first heard The Be Good Tanyas sing “Rain and Snow.”

I’d bought their CD Blue Horse on a whim. I hadn’t heard any of their music before, hadn’t even heard of the group, but I was intrigued by what I read about the CD in the catalog.

If I were ordering CDs from a catalog–and that’s what I remember–it must have been the late 1990s or the early 2000s. When I had some extra dollars back then, I’d sometimes ordered CDs from the Ladyslipper catalog.

(While researching this post, I was glad to discover that Ladyslipper Music is still around. According to their website [https://www.ladyslipper.org/],

Ladyslipper is a North Carolina non-profit, tax-exempt organization which has been involved in many facets of women’s music since 1976. Our basic purpose has consistently been to heighten public awareness of the achievements of women artists and musicians, and to expand the scope and availability of musical and literary recordings by women.)

If you’ve never heard of the The Be Good Tanyas, this is what the group’s website (http://www.begoodtanyas.com/about) has to say:

Alt folk trio The Be Good Tanyas have achieved cult status since the band’s luminous debut Blue Horse, an album named one of 2002’s top 50 releases by Q magazine (UK), firmly established the group on the Americana music scene. With subsequent releases, Chinatown and Hello Love, the band has met with ever growing critical and fan acclaim, garnering 4 star reviews in Rolling Stone and MOJO magazine and selling out concert halls across North America and Europe.

Frazey Ford, Trish Klein and Samantha Parton; three women with gorgeous, haunting and plaintive voices accompanied by rustic, sparse and soulful instrumentation, high lonesome harmonies, and intelligent song-writing.

One of the songs on Blue Horse is called “Rain and Snow.” It’s a lament about a hard life. A memorable couplet:

Well I married me a wife
She gave me trouble all my life

I particularly enjoyed the female singer wailing about her wife in the days before the legalization of same sex marriage.

Years later, when I started listening to the Grateful Dead, I was surprised to hear that group singing about the same troublesome wife. They’re doing that Be Good Tanyas song, I thought, until I realized a split second later that my chronology was wrong. Of course, the Grateful Dead had done it first.

The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics
According to The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics by David Dodd, the first documented performance of “Cold Rain and Snow” by the Grateful Dead was February 23, 1966. The song was recorded on the band’s eponymous 1967 debut album.

Dodd explains,

This tune comes from the Eastern-mountain music tradition, most likely the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina or Virginia. Rarely recorded, this white blues has long been popular among old-timey music groups. Pegging an “original” version is impossible, since it dates back (at least) to the nineteenth century and is “folk” music in the truest sense.

So to call “Cold Rain and Snow” a Grateful Dead song is a bit of an exaggeration, although the band did the arrangement of their version.

And it’s not a Be Good Tanyas song either, as I originally thought for over a decade. It’s an American song, by and about the mountain folks of the South.

One day, not so long after I showed up at the Bridge, when I was living out of a backpack and had few possessions to my name, I told Man Kim I’d thought The Be Good Tanyas had done the song first, until I heard the Dead singing it. He asked me if I wanted to hear The Be Good Tanyas’ version. Being starved for music, I enthusiastically said yes. He cued up the song on his MP3 player, and I stood next to his car to hear the song waft from his speakers. It was a small kindness of the sort that got me through those hard times.

Grateful Dead, The (Expanded & Remastered)
Blue Horse

Happy Birthday, Mickey Hart!

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There’s another Grateful Dead birthday to celebrate this week: today is the birthday of Mickey Hart, one of the Dead’s two drummers.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Hart,

Mickey Hart (born Michael Steven Hartman, September 11, 1943) is an American percussionist and musicologist. He is best known as one of the two drummers of the rock band Grateful Dead. He was a member of the Grateful Dead from September 1967 to February 1971 and from October 1974 to August 1995. He and fellow Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann earned the nickname “the rhythm devils”.

Dead.net (http://www.dead.net/band/mickey-hart) says,

Practically born with drumsticks in his hands — both of his parents were champion rudimental (marching band-style) drummers — Mickey Hart committed to percussion from the beginning. After experience in both high school and military (Air Force) marching bands and a brief stint working for his father at a drum shop, he encountered Bill Kreutzmann one night at the Matrix. On September 30, 1967, he sat in with the Dead… and joined the band. His influence over the next year was to push the band into complex, multirhythmic explorations. A student of Ustad Allah Rakah (Ravi Shankar’s tabla player), he added various strains of non-Western music to the Dead’s general atmosphere. Over the years, he has been involved in many musical and archival projects, most notably the band Global Drum Project, and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress’s “Endangered Music Project.” He is the author of several books, including Drumming at the Edge of Magic and Global Drum Project.

According to the aforementioned Wikipedia article,

Hart joined the Grateful Dead in September 1967 and left in February 1971 when he extricated himself from the band due to conflict between band management and his father.[4] During his sabbatical in 1972 he recorded the album Rolling Thunder. He returned to the Dead in 1974 and remained with the group until their official dissolution in 1995. Collaboration with the remaining members of the Grateful Dead continued under the name “The Dead“..

I’ve never experienced Mickey Hart’s drumming in person, but it’s not too late, right? Maybe I’ll get the chance, somehow…

Drumming at the Edge of Magic: A Journey into the Spirit of Percussion

During the Fire

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I wrote the following poem (as the title says) during the fire which happened near my campground. I wrote it the day after I had an extra day off, thanks to a second fire that was put out quickly.

During the Fire

Three days off and

1, 2, 3, 4–I don’t wanna work now more.

Fire on the mountain

and not one’s up here anyway–

no campers

no hikers

no visitors to scrub toilets for.

I need to find some task to do.

Like the union man in

Darlington County said,

“He (meaning she, meaning me)

don’t work and

he (meaning she, meaning me)

don’t get paid.”

How long will the company

let me sit in the parking lot

with podcast and yarn project

waiting to collect parking fees

from cars that never arrive?

There’s some raking I can do

in the campground.

Best put on the uniform

and get to work

while I can.

I reference two very different songs in this poem: “Fire on the Mountain” as performed by the Grateful Dead and “Darlington County,” which, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darlington_County_(song),

is a 1984 song written and performed by Bruce Springsteen.