Sunday FFSHere’s the end-of-the-day photo I just took on my cell phone. I’m feeling a lot better, but I notice I’m yellow all over my face. First plum, then purple, then yellow, I guess.

I learned last night just what it means to exceed the 6-hour window of my Percocet dosing schedule. I had taken my normal 9:00 pm dose and had written in the blog, watched TV, and done all sorts of things, eventually going to bed at 2:00. “I’ll get started, then wake up in an hour for my pill,” I said to myself.

I slept wonderfully, dreaming of Jerry Garcia playing Bertha, my friend Gerald from Santa Barbara, some sort of kiln/vault/printingPress that was in Marin County, and some other kind of kiln, vault, or printing press that a neighbor had, but that had somehow generated these awful, nauseating, headache-causing fumes. I was trying to help figure out the problem when I woke up and realized exactly what the problem was — it was 4:00 a.m. and I was keenly aware of just what the unmedicated head feels like 4 days after surgery, throbbing and bulging and overwhelming, even though I had fallen asleep with a nice, tight bandage around my head and jaw.

Took 2 Percocets immediately and paced the room for a few minutes waiting for the edge to begin to come off. Fortunately, it did and I was able to get back to sleep. I was pleased I had gone 7 hours and thus know it’s achievable, but I was awfully frustrated by how much actual pain must be there in my muscles and nerves that is still masked considerably by the pain medication.

Whenever Jerry Garcia shows up in my dreams, I figure it means something. I think the Grateful Dead run through my life as a thread or a soundtrack of many (if not most) of my key spots, high and low.

I’m sorely tempted to write a long essay on the Grateful Dead, but I’ll keep it out of the FFS entries. Suffice to say that I must be feeling better, dancing around to Shakedown Street, remembering all the people I’ve gone to Dead shows with over the years, thinking about the different configurations of the band I saw over the years. I’ll mention three specific songs and save the rest for an essay.

When Gail’s brother Michael killed himself on 9/18/85, the instant I heard about it my head was filled with the song Cassidy, in which the character dies and whose spirit scatters like the “flight of the seabirds.” The lyrics end with “Fare the well, let the words be yours — I’m done with mine,” and I although I was filled with such pain and anger, I think picturing Michael’s spirit being scattered into all the places he had visited and infused into all the people he had met helped me cope. The Grateful Dead had lots and lots of songs of farewell, from Black Peter (a man lying on his death bed) to He’s Gone “and nothing’s gonna bring him back” to Brokedown Palace and many more. I suppose it goes with the image of death being something that’s welcomed, for which the sufferer is grateful, and the merging of the band’s lyrical and graphic imagery blending death (skeletons and skulls) with life and love (roses, begonias, and other flowers).

Cassidy

I have always associated Box of Rain with love and changes, and I suppose it’s one of my favorite songs of all time because of its gentleness and its ambiguity. When my father was sick with cancer and when my mother began to fade away a mere year after my father’s death, the soundtrack to my mind was often this song. I wanted to give them a box of rain to help them see their way through their transition, and I know I desperately wanted my own box of rain to help me and my family cope with the pain. Here’s a very short video on Phil Lesh’s and Robert Hunter’s writing of the song:

The third epic set of circumstances was the total destruction of my personal life as Gail and I spun apart in the late 80’s, eventually divorcing in summer of 1990. I took a job in France and high-tailed it out of the states to try to regain my confidence (or maybe escape my troubles), and one of the first things I did as I was planning my time in France was to buy tickets to the Grateful Dead in Paris, probably in October of 1990. Their keyboardist had died, and Bruce Hornsby was playing piano with them, and I took the train up to Paris, found a cheap hotel near the Gar de l’Est, and saw them two nights in a row. The soundtrack to my life in those days involved roots and honesty, and I listened to Scarlet Begonias a lot during that time because of the randomness of actions and just learning to go with the flow, even though you don’t know where you’re going: “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” There were many more Dead songs that helped me regain my self, mostly from the albums American Beauty, Workingman’s Dead, Mars Hotel, and In The Dark, which had just come out, but which I had heard in concert all during the 80’s as they refined their songs. Touch of Gray was perhaps a bit cheesy, but I figured if the Dead can sing “I will survive,” then that was perfect medicine for me in my darkest time to date. I wanted desperately to feel magnanimous towards Gail, to feel what the singer sings in Bird Song, that she was a bird that sang for a while then flew away, so it’s best think of her fondly but let her go — but I didn’t feel that way, like our relationship was a happy, random, beautiful accident that hippies can celebrate. Still, the song was a big part of my “rise-from-destruction” internal soundtrack in 1990-92.

Birdsong