Friday, May 12, 2006

Morning Coffee in Vegas.....

In 1992, I was lucky to enough to be living in La Jolla, Ca..

Friends from back East would come visit often. The visits often coincided with the Grateful Dead playing anywhere West of the Rockies.

This particular time was June 1992. The Dead were booked to play 2 nights in Las Vegas, at a venue called, The Silver Bowl.

Tickets obtained (through GDTS, Grateful Dead Ticket Service, a in house mail system run by Calico - who does a great job).......and, planning begins.

Phone calls from friends, airline tickets make THEIR vacation plans, and come to San Diego before starting the journey.

"The Journey is the Prize......"

Hotel Rooms in Vegas.

More than any other run of shows anywhere I've attended in the country, it seemed planning for a Vegas Grateful Dead run of concerts, required work, and effort......was it Vegas? Or, was I getting too mature too tour?

When previous roadtrips were planned, caution was thrown to the wind. As long as we had our tickets from GDTS (because we ALWAYS mailordered) nothing else mattered.

Parking lot by 10am. Cold Beer. Water. Tapes. That was it.

But, Vegas was becoming complex. There were conventions in town, hotel rooms were booked. As the date approached, I became the Quarterback for logistics.

Not a position I wanted to be in 1992 (quaterback for planning) especially when I wanted to be in my, "happy place at a Dead show" -- and in some remote part of the country leave the world behind. The GD allowed you for days at a time, to escape your existence and journey, perhaps somewhere you have never been.

This was my first time in time going to Vegas .... Heading in 1992 to the, "remote" deserts of Nevada.

Let me be the first to tell you, Vegas is NOT a remote part of anything. Even though its located in the desert, the drive from San Diego -allows you to see just how MUCH DESERT is in Nevada.

Its staggering.

We pulled into Vegas, and scored a Hotel room at Circus Circus. 10 people from all over, friends, friends of friends.....


The room was small, 2 queen beds, (girls got the beds, guys on the floor) - I used a sweatshirt as a blanket, and a t-shirt as a pillow. (Traveling heads can relate)

But, I guess that's when I realized, that that was the LAST TIME I WAS GOING TO live like this. Grateful Dead shows or not, I said to myself, "no more sleeping on floors, no more 10 to a room."

In my mind, I had graduated to not do this "10 people in a room stuff anymore...."

That was that.

I made the most of the conditions, we had a few complainers, (thanks to Zole for reminding me, who I spoke to prior to writing this piece) ---one young lady, kept yelling at a friend of a friend, "stop snoring.."- thus waking everyone up.

Fun stuff.

The 1st morning of the concert we packed the car, and headed out to the Silver Bowl at about 9:30am.

We sold cold beer for one dollar, and frequently made money by buying 4 to 5 cases of Busch for 9 dollars per case, netting a profit 15 dollars per case.

We drank the profits.

Vegas in June is HOT.
The Silver Bowl is NOT Silver. It is Dust, heat, and had to be 110 degrees at noon.

There was no paved area. As cars pulled in, dust was kicked up all around. Hot dust. We were FILTHY.

Other than the HEAT the first day, I do remember a great parking lot scene. Often times, you could judge the greatness of a show, by the vibe, or energy coming from the parking lot venue ---to the perfomers.

I can't explain it, but often times The Grateful Dead fed off of the "scene they created....".

The rain came, cooling of the masses - after, The Steve Miller Band opened the show.....and then, the most wonderous sunset in the deserts of Vegas that I have ever witnessed.

It was a magical first night.

The music, the scene, the desert....the neon lights of Vegas in the background made for a wonderous cosmic energy.

I felt it.

Upon arriving back at our hotel, it was tight and cramped...people in the room were dirty. It was NOT the ending to the fabulous day, that I had hoped for --but, we made the best of it.

Partly because of the good energy, and mostly because I was uncomfortable, I slept for 2 hours........

I awoke at 5am.

Everyone asleep, sprawled across nearly every square inch of floor space.

Grabbed my shorts, sneakers, t-shirt, and quietly left the room.

I began my journey at 5am to walk the streets of Las Vegas.

People have told me, "how can you be a Deadhead, are you a freak like those spaced out people?".

I'd laugh and say NO.

But, Vegas is a magnet for freaks at 5am.

Vegas Freaks, made Deadheads look like Harvard Business School Graduates.

On my walk for coffee, a man approached, he was in his early fifties, cigarette dangling, wringled shirt, and looked like he was on a mission.

"Hey man, can you buy me a coffee.?"

Feeling good vibes from this lit up city, with the glow of the previous nights energy still in my soul, I replied...."Sure."

We walked and he told me his story. He was from Philadephia...and lost everything to gambling. He bet horses as a kid, and somehow his chronic disease of the best and worst of him.

He described himself, as the worlld biggest loser.

Other than the cup of coffee, he never asked me for money. We just talked.

I told him why I was in town, "I'm here to see the Grateful Dead..."

He said, "ahhh a Deadhead. I never got into them, not sure why."

I told him to come to the concert.

"Come to the Silver Bowl, even if you don't have a ticket, you can ask people to buy you, one or give you a "miracle."

He told me he had little to do, he was staying at a shelter downtown.....and that all he had was time, and little money.

He was miserable, it was written all over his face.

We talked for 20 more minutes, and he said, "I will try to get there this afternoon, I will look for you, where will you be?"

I said, "no clue -but, you will find me."

We went our seperate ways.

At the show that day, the scene was crazier than the previous day. Hotter, Dustier.....and no store in Vegas had ice

We drank lukewarm, to hot beer for a entire day. I do remember having a blast, borrowing a neighbors mountain bike, exploring the scene......meeting great people on the way.

The first set was awesome. The evening brought cooler air, and the kind energy of Jerry's flowing pickin' brought with it another set of good, positive karma.

In between sets, a crowded floor, and a madhouse to try to get to the bathroom...

All of a sudden, from behind.........

A bearhug.

It was the guy from 5am. The one I told to come to the concert.

Tears started streaming down his face, he said...

"Today is the BEST day of my entire life. I belong here. I did what you said and got here early. I met the most friendly couple, who fed me all day, took care of me ---but most of all TALKED TO ME. They listened. They did not judge me....they treated me great. Then another guy, laid a free ticket on me. I mean YOU, and your recommendation to come to a Dead Show has made me so happy.....

And here is when I started to cry.....he went on - "the music is magical. I've never heard sound like what they are playing...I feel like the music was MADE for me..."

We hugged, and went our seperate ways. But, that more than anything else that happened to me in Vegas that weekend.....that encounter, "stuck with me."

As I look back, those numerous contacts, at Grateful Dead shows across the country....made me appreciate the band, and what they have given me, even more.

Music touches the soul.

But, the combination of the MuSiC, along with the, socialization of The Grateful Dead....allowed for me to have a deeper, richer existence.

It goes beyond music, because The Grateful Dead were the LUBRICANT for many to find out about themselves.

The random guy in Vegas serves as a reminder to me, that Jerry and the boys helped me (and continue to help me) SHINE A LIGHT, in strange places.

The hotel room was packed, the lot was dusty and hot......the shows were energetic.....

My memories and lessons taught from a musical experience continue to come back to me, in ebbs and flows as I age.

Thanks Jerry. Miss ya' man.

"Thank you, FOR A REAL GOOD TIME."

Sent from my BlackBerry wireless handheld.


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