Friday, April 17, 2009

Not Thinking, the Grateful Dead, and God

This week I've been thinking about stuff...yeah, I know what you're thinking, but this is different. I've been thinking about not much. Thinking about rest and sleep and other activities where thinking drifts out of gear and into neutral, at least in theory.

Have you ever tried to not think? Try it. Right now, stop thinking. I heard that. Stop thinking!

I don't know about you, but the more I try to not think, the more thoughts crowd into the vacated space I just cleared out. Like throwing a huge bucket of water on some nice innocent gremlins to settle them down - the two become five, and then twenty something, and then thousands of them are taking over a small town, watching movies, and marching in sync...what was I trying to do again?

So today, I decided to stop thinking for a while. Just give myself, my mind, a short vacation on a nice tropical island in the South Pacific. It could have been a couple seconds, but probably more like a couple milliseconds before my mind drifted into a memory from days gone by...

Once upon a time, my wife and I lived life from toke to toke...and did pretty much whatever the hell we felt like doing. For example, one day we loaded up the car and headed toward a town a couple hours away to catch the all important Grateful Dead concert. We heard an ice storm might be heading our way, but a couple of joints later and the ice storm didn't seem near as dangerous or scary...almost seemed an appropriate accompaniment to our grand adventure - turn the music up and all will be well.

We made our way onto the interstate heading North into the darkness, feeling pretty relaxed…pretty darned relaxed. Thirty minutes later I commented about how few cars there were on the road, and what’s that stuff that keeps making a tick, tick, tick sound as it hit our windshield. And then it started really coming down. I had trouble seeing more than a couple car lengths in front of me. Finding myself behind an 18-wheeler spewing even more frozenness at me, I moved into the passing lane and almost ended up in the median. Sweating my way through getting around the truck, things only got worse.

A few hundred swerves later, and a little late, we pulled into the parking lot at the concert. Noticing a group of police affectionately welcoming each concert goer with a nice pat up and down their bodies, we decided on the most strategic hiding locations for our bags of pot. I mean, come on, no self-respecting deadhead would even consider not bringing something to share with the crowd. Seriously! Surviving, and even enjoying, the physical attention I received from the cute female cop, we headed to our seats…which of course were taken by someone else who had no idea what planet they were on much less where their seats might be.

We didn’t care. Nobody cared. It was all one happy family - “hey maaan”, “have a hit, dude”, “this is awesome”, “I think I’m in heaven”, “don’t bogart that”, “I know you”, “sorry about that, I thought my hand was in my pocket, not yours” etc. We squeezed in like a group of brothers and sisters, a stoned out of our mind family. I looked up at the stage, through the smoke-filled haze. I could see Jerry singing like he was in his living room and forgot that the rest of us were there. I loved it, we all loved it…even the cops loved it…a pretty docile crowd…yeah, that’s it, docile.

I still remember thinking it was special. Everyone there had fought through dangerous conditions just to be there. The Grateful Dead tourist didn’t even try…only the hardcore fans…the real brotherhood. And when they started singing, “I will get by, I will get by, I will get by, I will survive" everyone perked up…well, perked is probably too strong a word, but most of us stopped passing joints long enough to join in on the chorus, “We will get by, We will get by, We will get by, We will survive…”

The concert ended much too early for everyone who hadn’t yet passed out. We filed out of the building and onto a solid lake of ice. People fell down left and right. Everyone laughed and then smoked some more. Every car without chains waited its turn to be pushed out of the parking lot by the few trucks with chains. And I’m not exaggerating. Maybe 45 minutes later our turn came and the truck pushed us a hundred yards or so out of the parking lot and into the street…also made of ice…and we headed back to wherever we came from.

Which, of course, brings me back to my main point: we did get by, we did get by, we did get by, we did survive…somehow. The miraculous evening ended with no serious injuries or deaths recorded in next day’s newspaper, which did record that the freeways and all the major roads had been officially closed down by the highway patrol several hours before the concert began. Think about it: thousands of stoned, at the very minimum, fans make their way through deadly conditions to hang out together for hours on end while becoming even more stoned than when we started. Then that super-stoned, and now exhausted, group of barely functional individuals headed out to our cars, started them up, realized they were in the wrong car and had someone else’s keys, found the person whose keys they had somehow accidentally ended up with, entered the right car, spun their tires for ten minutes, waited for the truck with the chains, were pushed a hundred yards on a solid sheet of ice which eventually shoved them out onto another huge solid sheet of ice, and made it home or to somebody’s home…in one piece.

That fated night, the Grateful Dead, under the leadership of the amazing Jerry Garcia proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that God does exist and that he cares about a bunch of complete idiots who wanted nothing more than to risk their lives and the lives of others to see a concert.

Nice job, Jerry. Nice job, God.

See what happens when I stop thinking?

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