Chapter 23: There's Nothing You Can Hold for Very Long
Page 438, lower-middle; more on early '95:
Garcia also found time in early '95 to lay down guitar tracks for two songs on an album being made by Bob Bralove's adventurous, spacey jazz/rock fusion instrumental group Second Sight, which besides Bralove on keyboards also included Henry Kaiser, reeds player Bobby Strickland, the superb rhythm section of drummer Paul Van Wageningen and his bassist brother Marc, and occasional contributions from Vince Welnick. On "Rosetta Rock," Garcia added a tough, heavily processed lead that skitters through the track like a nervous lizard, engaging different players at different times. The tune "Dangerous Dream" begins with a tense, dramatic motif that sounds like it was lifted straight out of a Bernard Hermann film score, then devolves into a free-form noisefest, with Garcia noodling amid what sounds like musical gunfire in some futuristic techno-war. Not much subtlety was required of Garcia on these tracks, but his distinctive touch adds an edgy power to the band's strange brew.
Bralove remembers, "Jerry's life was getting so complicated at that time that I had to book a studio in San Francisco [Mobius Studio], because if we were to go to Front Street, people would know he was there and it would get too crazy with people who needed to do business deals, personal stuff, whatever. It wasn't going to be comfortable for him. It was going to become an ordeal. So we did it at Mobius and he came in and nobody bothered him and it was great. He was very generous with his time. When I originally called him to book the sessions, I was talking about getting this album out and struggling with the business side of it, and here's a guy who'd been through every wringer, yet he was right there talking to me, giving me advice. It was very warm. Sometimes you could get him at home on the phone and he'd hang out with you for hours."
Speaking more generally about Garcia's later days, Bralove comments, "There were points when he was irritable all the time and you knew you weren't going to get much done. There were other times when he was tired all the time and that wasn't going to yield you anything. So you just found your window where he was alive, awake and being as cool as he could be, and tried to deal with your business then. At times, those moments were very few. Other times he'd be great for what seemed like long stretches. When things were cool, everything was just a wonderful adventure. He'd have all these new ideas and there were all sorts of ways to explore things, activities to do, and you could get involved in all sorts of things."
Page 440, upper-middle; more on Garcia's health regimen:
Thayer Craw believes that Deborah tried hard to keep Jerry healthy, noting that she used to see them working out regularly. "It was wonderful seeing Jerry, bright and early in the morning, out there doing his stuff ó low weight training and just having a great time and caring about himself.
"It was sometimes hard to tell what was really going on with Jerry," says Tiff Garcia, "because he was always talkiní positive about what he was doing, almost to the point of being hypocritical. 'Iím getting muscles and I have a nutritionist and a dietician,' and so on. And Iím like, 'Really Jer? So what? You donít have to tell me about it. You donít have to convince me youíre doing the right thing.' By trying to convince me, he was trying to convince himself. So Iíd look right through that and think, 'Poor guy. I feel sorry for him. I know heís getting fucked up.' Itís your brother and you know it. We weren't that intimate all the time, but Iíve been with him enough to know ó it showed. How he was smoking his cigarettes, if he is smoking them. Looking kind of uncomfortable.
"I didnít want to hear about it after a while. If people told me something about him using drugs or something, Iíd say, 'Fuck you. Donít tell me that. I donít want to hear it.' People love to tell bad things, but I donít want to hear 'em. They can tell them to anybody in the world. I donít care if itís a rumor or if its true; if it is, itís none of my business, really. How could it be my business? I could be concerned, but itís put on me like, 'Hey, why donít you tell your brother ...' What do you tell your brother? You canít tell your brother anything. Heís living his life. All you can do is feel compassion for him. If he comes to you for advice, you can say something. But he never came to me for advice. One time he told me that he was cleaning up his act, and I said, 'What act, Jerry?' 'Well, I quit smoking ...' 'Great!' I said."
Page 442, top; more on spring tour '95:
"Charlotte was a great show," Hornsby comments. "I'd been 'shedding [i.e. practicing a lot; "woodshedding"]. My playing was in a different place than it was when I played with the band. I just play better now. So I had a great time playing the songs with this newfound sense that I had. I just loved doing it again. It had been three years since I played piano with them. Usually when I'd play with them I'd just play accordion, so this was really liberating for me."
While Garcia was fairly animated that night and seemed to be in a good mood, Hornsby could tell that his friend was still having difficulties. He chalks some of it up to Garcia's carpal tunnel problems, but adds, "This is a total musician's perspective, but I don't think Garcia practiced much in the last two or three years. If you don't 'shed, if you don't keep yourself in shape as a player, it's going to be noticeable after a while. You lose the edge and you go to play something and all of a sudden, hey, it's not under your fingers anymore because you haven't kept up that edge.
"At RFK that summer we had a sound check and I'd been telling him about my new [practicing] regimen, so he said, 'Hey man, let's hear what you got.' So I started playing this stuff for him and it just jacked him up and he said, 'Man, I'm really inspired by this. It makes me really want to start practicing.' It made me think he wasn't doing much practicing before. And I thought, 'Yeah, this is great!' So I was trying to pump him up: 'Go! Go after that! You can do it!'"
Donna Jean MacKay, who had moved back to her native Alabama and still sang professionally, saw Garcia for the first time in several years when the spring tour stopped in Birmingham:
"It had been years since I sat down and talked to Jerry, the last time being when I visited him at his home in about l986. I would see him briefly now and then at the Grateful Dead office, but never long enough to really get down. When the Grateful Dead played in Birmingham in April of l995, my husband, David, and I went to see the show. It was great seeing the band play and we had a nice visit with Bobby. We stayed in the same hotel, so Jerry called us the next morning and asked if we would like to come up and have coffee with him and Deborah. We had a great reunion. That morning he was fresh, and there was a lot of color in his face ó very unlike the reports I had heard earlier and then later. He was in a good mood, very friendly and communicative. We spent two hours laughing and reminiscing about special times we'd had that left lifelong imprints in both our minds. He talked about some projects he had gotten into that he was really enjoying, we talked about our kids, his love for scuba diving, the band's use of inner ear monitors as opposed to stage monitors. He laughed about what a trip it was to have video monitors in front to provide the song lyrics! All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better situation in which to see an old friend for the last time. The closure was very precious and timely."
And in Vegas a few weeks later:
Emily Craig attended the Vegas shows and reports that Garcia "was just wonderful. I had heard some reports that he was using and I had serious misgivings about going, and I felt like I had my antennae up, and I went back to my sources and said, 'Whoever's spreading those ugly rumors, tell them to stop, because they're not true.' He was maintaining beautifully. Deborah wanted us to stay with them but we were already at the Excalibur [Hotel]. They couldn't have been more wonderful."
Page 448, upper-middle; summer tour memories:
Producer John Scher has at least one pleasant memory of that tour: In Pittsburgh, the stop after Auburn Hills, "There was a night off and we were there the night before the show at Three Rivers Stadium, and Candace Brightman, their extraordinary lighting director, put together a little trip for everybody. We went over to the stadium at night and she had lit the stage and had all the props and everything up, and the guys in the band had never seen it like that. They had only seen it on video. They had never been able to sit in the stadium and see it from that perspective. And they loved it. That was a nice thing to see. They always cared so much about giving the fans a good show and I think they were happy to see how great their stage looked from out in the audience."
Page 450, top; a message from the band:
As fans left the show that night they were given a leaflet containing a stern message, written anonymously by the Dead's publicist Dennis McNally but signed by the entire band, with the headline "This Darkness Got to Give." The communiquť, which was also posted on the Internet, said, in part:
Dear Dead Head:
This is the way it looks to us from the stage:
At Deer Creek, we watched many of you cheer on and help a thousand fools kick down the fence and break into the show. We can't play music and watch plywood flying around endangering people. The security and police whom those people endangered represent us, work for us ó think of them as us. ...
Don't you get it?
Over the past 30 years we've come up with the fewest possible rules to make the difficult act of bringing tons of people together work well. We've never had to cancel a show before because of you. Think about it. ...
Want to end the touring life of the Grateful Dead? Allow bottle-throwing gate crashers to keep on thinking they're cool anarchists instead of the creeps they are.
Want to continue it? Listen to the rules, and pressure others to do so. A few more scenes like Sunday night, and we'll quite simply be unable to play. The spirit of the Grateful Dead is at stake, and we'll do what we have to protect it. And when you hear somebody say, 'Fuck you, we'll do what we want,' remember something:
That applies to us, too.
Page 451, lower-middle; goin' home:
Mickey Hart had premonitions of the darkness ahead: "I saw it on the way home on the plane," he told writer Joel Selvin. "[Jerry's] heart was beating out of his chest, pounding. It looked like a Spaldeen ball trying to escape. He was lying there sleeping, snoring like a gorilla. I looked over at him and what was different this time was his heart was moving out of his body. I realized at that moment that this was serious. I had never seen that before. I knew it was going to be the heart. I looked over at Jerry and I knew ó he can't play anymore.
"He was missing so many notes. His energy was going down and down and he was moving further and further away, becoming more and more remote as he was losing his facility. He didn't want to look me straight in the eye anymore. He knew I knew and he couldn't hide it. It was beyond him asking for help. He was resigned by this time. He knew it was near. I came home and told [my wife] Carol about it. I said, 'I've seen a lot of stuff go down over the years. You always worry about your brother. But something was different this time beside the music. I might not see him again.' I smiled [at Jerry] at the airport, we said goodbye, and that was it. That was my moment."
Page 452, top; more on the last session at Grisman's:
A longtime admirer of Garcia and the Dead, Van Meter arrived at the studio that morning and found Grisman alone in the control room and Garcia busy nearby making himself a fruit smoothie in a blender. "Jerry was so totally nice," she recalls. "He grabbed my hand and shook it and shook it and he said, 'Man, I'm just one of your biggest fans. I've heard everything you've ever recorded. I've been listening to you for years.' I almost fell over. It was pretty exciting."
Before Marsh and Kahn arrived, the three musicians chatted for a while, then ran down the tune a couple of times to get a feel for the arrangement. With the full group assembled and engineer Dave Dennison at the recording console, "We did four takes straight through," Van Meter says, "and they were all pretty good. I remember at the end of the fourth take Garcia said, 'OK, that's it. I'm done!' I thought, 'Oh. OK. I guess we're done!'" she laughs. "He gave me a big hug and said, 'We will definitely do this again.'"
Page 453, top; Bruce Hornsby's last talk with Garcia:
"I spoke to him for about an hour just a few days before he died," Bruce Hornsby says. "We sat on the phone and just talked and laughed. He was in a great mood. He told me all about the people he'd met at Betty Ford ó about some old musician he'd met who was in there, and about some young kid who was sort of the life of the ward. I remember I was telling him that I was about to go to New York to work with Ornette, and he was really intrigued by that ó 'Oh man, I'd like to come and check that out!'"
Page 457, middle; Ratdog's gig in New Hampshire on 8/9/95:
So many people showed up for the gig that speakers were set up outside the venue so that the huge overflow crowd could hear the show. And though the band attempted to play its normal set, the mood was anything but normal in the ballroom.
Finally, toward the end of the set, the emotions started to flow. During his bass solo, Rob Wasserman exclaimed "This is for Jerry!" and proceeded to play a version of "Amazing Grace" that had him and nearly every other person in the audience in tears. During the set-closing "Throwing Stones," Weir came to the part of the song where he usually sings, "The future's here, we are it, we are on our own," but he changed the line to "The future's here, Papa's gone, we are on our own." Then repeated "Papa's gone, we are on our own" over and over, almost sounding angry, before the song's cathartic instrumental buildup. The double-encore that night consisted of a new song about Garcia written that afternoon by Ratdog harmonica player/singer Matthew Kelly, and a grim reading of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" that brought many to tears again. Then, after the band left the stage, the assembled Deadheads spontaneously broke into the chant that often ended the Dead's versions of "Not Fade Away": "Know our love will not fade away!" After about 15 minutes of chanting and clapping, the crowd finally dispersed into the night air, but mingled quietly for hours afterward.
Page 458, bottom; Annabelle's explanation of her "shitty father" remark at the funeral, and more:
As she explained to me in the fall of '97, "I always wanted to be honest when it came to talking about my dad and not try to shiny it up. There are plenty of other folks to do that. And plenty of folks get mad when I don't, but that's my own business. I thought that my dad would be proud of me if I got up there and said what was really real, which was that he was one of the shittiest fathers ever. But he was also one of the greatest guys you could have as a dad. He was so much fun. He never lectured me, never yelled at me, never told me to brush my teeth. So he was a terrible dad. He was never there and we didn't have a super-personal relationship. We had a great relationship, but we never talked about emotional stuff. But that was changing. I was really looking forward to where it was going to go.
"All the other band kids would've killed me if I'd gone up there and talked about how he was the best dad and he raised me all by himself. I know I'd lose all my respect. So I had to get up there and say what I did and say it with a big smile. I had to say it, 'cause there he was looking at me, so to speak. I hadn't planned it, but I know I made him proud, because that was my specialty: saying exactly what everyone didn't think I was going to say. That was something he actually instilled in me at a very young age: 'Go ahead and freak 'em out, kid.' Justin Kreutzmann was sitting at the funeral with Creek Hart and he said they just about jumped out of their seats to do a big 'Woo-hoo! Right on sister!' They understood exactly what I meant and dad knows exactly what I meant, too."
The only odd notes at the service came during Deborah Garcia's lengthy remarks. A Dead scene outsider by choice even after she married Jerry, she forgave the people who she said had been mean to her in the '70s and went on to talk about how much Jerry loved her and that his times with her were the happiest ones of his life. She spoke about how Jerry had been like a father to her sister's kids the past year, but never acknowledged Jerry's children sitting in the church. Sue Swanson commented in Robert Greenfield's Dark Star, "Deborah Koons Garcia didn't give a eulogy. She gave a me-ology. That was all she talked about. 'I was the love of Jerry's life.' With his children sitting right there, it was hard. It was wrong."
Another person there, who requested anonymity, said, "All during the time Deborah was speaking, Kesey was saying [under his breath] 'Hush! Hush!' It was so awful."
Page 459, bottom; Sandy Rothman reflects on the funeral:
"To see Jerry silent and white in the middle of it all was so sad," Sandy Rothman says. "I've never seen him not participate in whatever was going on, or be anything less that fully committed. But come to think of it, he was fully committed to being absent from his body. It seemed clear to me, looking at him, that he'd made a clean and absolute separation from the corporeal, as if he'd been well prepared for it.
"Even in his casket, just as white as his beard, cold and hard as marble, Garcia was still the easiest guy in the world to hang out with," he continues. "I had to be pried out of the church, regretful at not being in touch with him through his most recent troubled times. For a few days or weeks after, it felt like the amplitude of the entire universe had been turned down a notch, never to return to normal. By now, he has become a piece of whatever we mean by infinity, a constant reminder to untold numbers of people that it's possible to invent your own kind of life."