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Dark Star Never Stops Shining

My old college buddy Carlos emailed me the other day with an invitation to see The Grateful Dead at the Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey. He said his brother is friendly with Branford Marsalis, who will be sitting in, and tickets could be had.
I want to go but can’t.
I also want the memories this has triggered to stop. It cannot have been this long since the first time I saw the Grateful Dead.
This post chronicles when and where, but first, children, there are things to explain:

  • A Dead show was not a “concert”. A Dead show was kind of like a party where the host just happened to be friends with this musical group and, hey, they decided to bring their equipment and play. It was the most casual no-showbiz happening you can imagine. No, actually, you can’t imagine.
    The Dead had no playlist. Whatever tunes they felt like playing when they felt like playing them is how it went. Cool. And each song was really, really long because they always opened it up for improv. And sometimes, the improv would segue into another tune which, in turn, was also opened up for improv so a half hour of non-stop music could easily go by before a break. Sometimes longer. They no longer do this, but back then, what the band did during breaks in between songs was almost comical: they would huddle together in the center of the stage by the drummers, lighting up cigarettes, tuning their instruments, talking amongst themselves, and then, after awhile they eventually came around to deciding what to play next, broke the huddle, and stepped back to their individual spots.
    Nobody in the audience found this strange in the slightest.
    Hey, the band’s talkin’ things over, that’s all. They need to talk. And tune up. It can’t be all play, play, play, right?

It was late Spring 1970. I was at an all-night party at a friend’s house in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, NY. A guy I was chatting with at the party mentioned that the Dead were playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, just a few blocks away. We just picked up and went – not a lot of girls at the party, I suppose. Tickets at the box office were no problem. The place was half empty!
At that time, Jerry Garcia – in addition to lead guitar and vocals with the Dead – had taken to playing pedal steel guitar with a group called The New Riders of The Purple Sage. Country rock. Pleasant laid-back stuff. We arrived shortly after the New Riders had started their first set. They played for about two hours. At one point a guy in the balcony shouted, “Bring On The Dead!” and almost got punched out. The moron didn’t understand that this was a party and the Riders, like himself, were guests and don’t be rude, asshole, remember this is still Brooklyn.
It was a very long night for Garcia. Two hours with the Riders and then the Dead came on about midnight. Loaded and ready.
The Dead had a reputation as a great band live. And shortly thereafter I understood.
It’s impossible to describe, of course. The sound just lifted you up and took you to places you’d never been. Words can only take you so far. The Dead mostly suck on record, unless it’s a live recording. I still listen to Dark Star from the “Live Dead” album and it still takes me away.
And it lives on. Last week my son, Evan, borrowed my car. When I got it back, “Live Dead” was in the player and “St. Stephen” came on when I turned the key.
Ladyfingers dipped in moonlight, that’s what it was like, yeah.


On A Blog, Let It Bleed

Since starting, I’ve made two posts to this blog and they’re both about the same thing.

  1. NYTimes Headline Strokes Wall Street
  2. The NYTimes Takes My Advice

That’s enough. Time for a retrospective!
Here’s what I’ve noticed:
In post #1, I made an observation about a frontpage headline I had seen in the New York Times Online Edition.
The day after, I said to myself, “This stinks”. I just didn’t like it.
But then, quite by accident, I noticed on the very next day that the Times had actually gone and changed the headline. Totally unexpected. So the substance of the post, obviously, had some meat. But the style? I don’t know.
There’s a way of writing for this medium that I don’t have a handle on yet, but I’m hoping.
Brevity is Rule #1, Fink thinks. Keep cutting until it bleeds. What you leave out is just as important as what you put in.

The NYTimes Takes My Advice

Of course I don’t seriously attribute it me or this blog – I’m sure others complained – but the editors finally woke up and changed the headline I kvetched about in my previous post from:
Crisis Altering Wall St. As Big Banks Lose Top Talent
Crisis Altering Wall St. As Stars Begin to Scatter
The spackle and paint shows some, but better.

NYTimes Headline Strokes Wall Street

Happy Passover. Happy Easter. I get peeved lot. And today I got peevish over a NYTimes headline – front page, online edition – which reads:
Crisis Altering Wall Street as Big Banks Lose Top Talent”.
It’s that word “Talent”. Shouldn’t that be “Talent, Allegedly” or somesuch?
First, why the borrowing from the world of entertainment? Second, why a word which plays to the ego of Wall Street through the back door, through the connotation that the “Talent” being lost does, indeed, consist of the talented?
How about: “Bums Exit A Tarnished Wall Street”
It stinks, Fink thinks. How about you?