What a Long Strange Trip...
Wednesday would have been Jerry Garcia's 70th birthday. It matters almost nil to some, but somehow means a lot to me, but very likely, not for reasons you might imagine. I don't remember the exact time that I first heard a Grateful Dead song, and I wouldn't wander within thirty feet of LSD. I'm no flower child wanna-be, and I have a firm understanding of how harsh and un-loving that Summer of Love actually was. I'm no musician, and the smell of patchouli...well, I actually kind of like the smell of patchouli. For some reason, I have a heart warming, life affirming affinity for Jerry that defies explanation...but I'll try.
Jerry meant a lot of things to a lot of people, but what he came to represent more than anything else was that a guy could make it without hurting a soul...that a guy could have dreams and values and perhaps even ridiculously naive beliefs but still never, ever trade them in for cynicism and hopelessness. He started out as a musician but ended up as hope...hope for a heck of a lot of people.
I like to hear his voice. It doesn't sound like any other. It's soothing, it is. If you've never heard him talk at length about something, find it, download it, and listen. I guarantee it soothes you. You'd like to have known him. Maybe he lived down the block from you, or you met him each night on the street walking home from work, and you exchanged small talk. He looked dramatically unaffected by the world, and that alone makes you desperate to sponge a little more Jerry after even just the smallest dose. I wish I was unaffected. The fact of the matter is I'm always so damn dramatically "affected" by things. I wish I were a cooler soul, a calmer man, but the truth is that away from my work, I'm not. I lean on people a lot. Perhaps it's that I use up all of my faith in a day, or maybe it's just that for once, I want someone to look out for me. I don't know, but I do know that there's something about Jerry that eases me back into faith...that ignites a hope in me that sometimes fades, and it's oh-so important to me.
It seems as though I've spent all of my life searching for that kind of balance...the yin to my yang...that sounded awful. It's true. I've spent an inordinate amount of time searching for people who can serve as that kind of balancing pole that the Great Walenda used to span gaping stretches of high wire. I need shelter, and comfort, and reassurance, and Jerry always did that for me, even before I found it in another person. I've always laughed at my neediness. I'd make a terrible soldier, and perhaps an even worse Olympic athlete. I get rattled, and I get shaken, and I need outlets to release energy, emotions and most awkwardly, faithlessness. I expect that the universe will treat me fairly if I do the same to others but the fact of the matter is, and I've always known it, there is no such thing as fair. Life is just life, that's all. Jerry helps me to forget that.
So if you couldn't possibly care any less about Jerry's birthday, that's fine. To each his odd own. You could however tip your cap to faith, in whatever form it takes, and to hope, however it manifests itself. You could take a moment to find a clip of Jerry and just see what that voice and that demeanor do to you. For me it's always dried eyes, and filled lungs, and lifted my chin. I think what gets me most about it all is that it helps me to believe that maybe, just maybe, some of us here on this cold and unsentimental earth are awfully unique and pretty special...that perhaps some people are just better. That notion eases me in, if nothing else can.
Happy Birthday Jerry.