This past Tuesday, the mysterious yet not mythical Mrs. Dude and I took in a one night only presentation of a concert film. Well, to be accurate I took it in; she endured it. Said film was a never-before shown Grateful Dead show recorded in the summer of 1989 at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. Given how I’ve gotten into the band in recent years, this is as close as I’ll come to seeing them live (sorry, John Mayer, but Dead and Company doesn’t do it for me).
Although the Dead are commonly and not inaccurately associated with San Francisco, Haight-Ashbury, hippies, the Summer of Love, etc etc etc (translation: sex, drugs, rock’n’roll), many non-fans are surprised to learn the band had a huge and fiercely loyal following on the east coast. And I do mean following, with multitudes piling into their VW microbuses and following the Dead from show to show, selling anything available – including themselves if need be – in order to score concert tickets. It truly was a long, strange trip.
Musically, either you get the Grateful Dead’s free-flowing mix of easy blues, Americana, roots rock, folk, free-form jazz, and whatever else came to mind during assorted lengthy improvisation sessions, or you find them quite possibly the most boring rock band in history. Either is okay. I don’t possess 1800 different concert tapes, pouring obsessively over each one and thus able to immediately tell whether a song is from Watkins Glen in 1973 or Boise in 1982. Further, I couldn’t tell you if the band played either of those locations during said years. Or at all. I listen to live shows on Sirius XM’s Grateful Dead channel, I own a few live CDs, and I have all of the band’s studio efforts. That’s good enough for me, sugaree.
Anyway, back to the concert film. It was magic. The band was on that night both musically and personally, with shared smiles the norm from start to finish (i.e. from “Touch of Grey” to “Black Muddy River”). It was good to pretend, at least for a couple of hours, that time had reversed itself and Jerry Garcia along with keyboardist Brent Mydland were still with us instead of Mydland having overdosed a year and five days after the concert in question, followed by Garcia succumbing to the ravages of drug use along with diabetes and other health complications in 1995. They are missed.
The next day, having one of those modest perks of working in retail known as a day off during the week, I took myself into San Francisco. Allow me to backtrack a bit: over the decades, I have loved, absolutely loved, walking around San Francisco. Avoiding certain neighborhoods such as the Tenderloin District, I have luxuriated in the city’s vibrant energy, sampling the multitude of one-off shops and restaurants. It has been an exhilarating time most every time for this hybrid boy comfortable in both pastoral rural settings and amidst concrete and steel.
Yesterday I hated most every minute of it.
One is always best advised to be on high alert in every section of San Francisco, practicing full streetwise caution techniques and staying aware at all times. That said, yesterday I felt not the energy of times before, but rather tremendous disquiet. The street people no longer seemed sadly amusing. Now, they felt threatening, emboldened by a city government blissfully ignoring their excesses and public excrement while labeling any who dare complain as haters, or worse yet in their eyes Trump supporters.
This discomfort is not solely confined to San Francisco, of course. It permeates most every city out here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and as friends around the country report, most every major and not a few minor metropolitan areas. There is a palpable anger, a defiant edge marinated in by many on both left and right. It is one that can easy explode into violence, and not just the occasional Antifa versus Trump supporters clash. This is something far worse.
I believe there is a genuine danger of widespread civil disobedience in the very near future. No, not the cartoon kind practiced by those who believe waving a sign and getting “arrested” constitutes making a stand against the evil corporate oppressors who made the phones with which all involved are filming things. This is the kind that lobs live ammunition, and lots of it. Should the current deep state plus establishment (no party line delineation needed) open war against President Trump succeed in forcing him out of office, there will be blood and lots of it as the deplorables embrace a call to arms. I pray it will not come to this, and I pray I am wrong. But I don’t believe I am.
All I can do is pray and be a witness for Christ. His love and life-changing, along with saving, power can change even the hardest hearts into acceptance of others without compromising beliefs. This is what our country needs. Only then will San Francisco and all like it again vibrate with natural energy, not the dark energy of a city and country teetering on anarchy’s edge.
It would help if more people listened to the Grateful Dead too.