What a Long Strange Trip it's Been

A long strange trip it has been indeed. For the Grateful Dead… sure, but for me… definitely. Leading into the Grateful Dead reunion concert in San Jose, California my life was inundated with my baby boy's cancer battle. My buddy, Ben, asked me to help him out by getting into the lottery for him to try to get tickets. Of course, we all won tickets, and then I knew that there was no way that Ben was going to let me off the hook on an event such as this. You see, I am not a "Dead Head" by any definition of the title. While I do enjoy some Grateful Dead tunes, my real influence from the group came via Jerry Garcia's exploits in the bluegrass genre, namely the classic bluegrass album, "Old and In The Way". My Dad was a big bluegrass man. I suppose it says a lot about my upbringing that still to this day a song like, Panama Red, gets me all nostalgic of times gone by with my family. I should mention that I am a bit claustrophobic and the idea of slamming into Levi Stadium with 80,000 Dead Heads indeed made me a bit anxious. However, my buddy Ben is one hell of a salesman, and the idea of missing out on the nation's biggest party when I had two tickets in hand… well, let's just say I am typically not one to turn away from a good party. Especially one in which I can go with some of my best ski buddies from the Wasatch for a once in a lifetime kind of ordeal. My wife felt I was deserving of the outing and obliged. I got my buddy, Wes, to take on the other ticket, and we were off.       

^Wes and I did some plane, train, and automobile action and before we knew it, we were there. We rendezvoused with our ski buddies at the hotel for some pre-gaming, and then soon after with 80,000 of our friends at Levi Stadium in sunny San Jose. At events such as these I tend to go into some kind of people watching and societal observance mode that takes me on all kinds of unexpected mini-adventures within the concert. As I mentioned the thought of cramming into the seats with all these people starts to make me a bit anxious so I typically just walk the grounds. All over the place. I hit all the different floors. Check out all the different scenes, and just all around meander aimlessly around the show. The show playing out on stage, but more importantly the show playing out in the crowd. These adventures are typically enhanced as well, but that is not necessarily something I like to go into great detail about on the internet. Its a Grateful Dead show… deduce what you want.  

^The double rainbow over the stage just before intermission seemed like a god send. All of the Dead Head's were convinced it was a sign from Jerry. Maybe it was. The sunset that had procured the rainbow on the other side of the stadium was just as powerful.  

^Fire in the sky. In the glow of this sunset I had a long conversation with a regretfully single dad from Colorado about life, love, kids, and parenting. We were hugging it out by the time the music began and we had to part ways. It is interesting how perfect strangers can make real human connections in certain circumstances. Powerful stuff.  

^As nightfall came the hive of people began to really start to come alive like it was electrically charged by Bob Weir's guitar. The lighting added even more mystique to the vibes swirling around in the bowl of the stadium.

^The peripheries of the stadium buzzed like busy bees attending to their honeycomb, and the music hummed throughout the metal corridors vibrating through the trusses and stairways. I walked, and I walked simply taking it all in. At one point I found my old friend Mikey Heath in the massiveness of the crowd and shared a few "good to see you's" and bear hugs. It is a goal of mine to try to do connect with old friends when the opportunity presents itself. I can't always make things like that happen, but when I can I do my best to make it happen. After I left Mikey, I was in the wind and going with the flow of the crowd like a river. At one point I came into an area called the "Pepsi Deck" or something and the whole area was ablaze with neon blue light. Just as I approached a dancing hippy chick she noticed me observing the colored madness around us and she grabbed me and pulled me to the edge of the steeply declining grade of seats at the edge of the deck. She pointed down into the bowl of the stadium and jubilantly yelled to me over the classic Dead solo, "Look down there!". I stepped to what felt like the edge of the world peering into the bustling hive of the stadium bowl that was also lit up neon blue at that very moment. My eyes must have bugged out of my head by the ecstatic reactionary look on her face as I turned back to her awash in neon blue light. All the while the electrically charged music and spirits below moved together in rhythm as if all the individual parts were connected like some kind of harmonic aspen grove root system branching out from directly under the stage outward to each and every human individual within the stadium. I looked back to her in utter amazement pointing toward the waves upon waves of the dancing crowd and I stated perhaps the most fitting observation of the night, also regarding my own life's recent ordeals, in shouting over the reunited musical stylings of the Grateful Dead, "This is totally unreal! This whole damn place is connected… and is totally alive!"