Another morning came, inching its way across the floor until it’s bright beam awoke me. We decided to hang it easy that day, as we had a couple days break before the next show. We both arose slowly, rubbing away at our eyes and yawning, slowly packing all our little necessities. Showers were quickly had, and we went to the little breakfast area to divulge in a little breakfast. We certainly did not take long. The road was always humming with the sounds of cars, from coast to coast, making its way right next to the hotel, and we were to join it’s current as quickly as can be, albeit even taking one’s slow time. We threw our belongings in the trunk once more and took off heading west again.
The road was always a beautiful treat. Sure enough, growing up in a town with the same repetition of day to day routine, seeing the same places, the same people, the same task, the same errand, the same grueling mornings, the same everything, eventually drains one. When traveling amongst new plains not my own, I find it incredible with every twist and turn. The desert, with all of it's shades of browns and reds, forever made me feel alien. Martian, really, for this was plain that we were not used too. The palette of the colors of the sand and the wind eventually changed shades to that of-of the rolling hills in California. Dust and desert rock gave way to the rolling expanses of hills and miniature mountains in the southern California sun. All the windows in the car were open as we continued making our way across the landscapes of America, with the music of the wind-guiding our sails.
It was a quick drive, as we made our way to Venice Beach. A home for heads, we anticipated some head’s to be down on the shore before the show began in a few days. Grabbing ourselves a slice of cheap pizza from a grease ship, we stirred and spun our way through the people. The homeless rubbed shoulders with the rich, the hippie with the lawmakers and businessmen, and the tourists with the locals. It was a hodgepodge of the smells of patchouli, marijuana, and sweat. Felt like I was on the lot already. We headed our way to a little corner on the beach and met up with our friends from the road, Matt, and Yim. They had picked up two new souls, going by the names of Scott and Chyna. We moseyed around for a bit longer that day. We took pictures with a manatee near the shore, introducing ourselves through the music and the ones that had brought us all together that day.
The sun hid behind the smog all day, casting upon the landscape a rainbow of greys. We decided to part ways eventually and headed up to my cousin’s spot further down south in Laguna Niguel. The hubbub of the city was left in the behind, as we found ourselves in beautiful neighborhoods dominated by villas, golf courses, and irrigation channels. The roads snaked through the hills, going up here, down there, and left over there. It truly was a difference from the long stretches of asphalt that never changed elevation or direction that we were used to seeing. We arrived, eventually, and parked our car in her little neighborhood. Bringing the little clothes we had, we headed up some stairs, and made it to my cousin’s doorway, stuffed with ferns and plants. We were quickly greeted, and Polish hospitality was such a ludicrous idea after spending countless moons under tents and mini-stove tops. She instantly fired her grill up, throwing down steaks, potatoes, and making a salad. Vodka was given to us not even a few steps within. We ate like absolute gluttons, being the first true home-cooked meal we had in nearly two weeks. The rest of the night was spent conversing about our travels and our ways and means across the states to my cousin, who thought it so foreign that we were living out our car for the most part. It was nothing really. What’s a couple of nights lost to restlessness when no schedule exists, if only to make it to the next city for the next show? We explained the culture and the music over more shots before we rolled ourselves another blunt to enjoy in the heat of the California night.
Morning came again, crawling it’s way up the box spring and up on t the mattress before another day began. Once reaching me, I woke up, rubbing once more my eyes and taking a shower. We discussed what to do. The show was tomorrow, so we had a full day of just activities of our choosing. Breakfast was made once more over a discussion, with the smell of eggs and bacon permeating our noses. The sizzle, pop, and crack of the bacon; the here, there, everywhere of the places we could go. An endless cycle. Scarfing down the feast we had, while still plunged and backed up from the previous night, we moved once more to our vehicle.
Westminster Memorial Park was not that far from us. Really, everything in LA is close to each other, if only the traffic did not dilute time. Pulling into the cemetery, we wove our ways in and around, searching for a particular gravestone. Bradley Nowell had long painted our summers before the Grateful Dead did, with memories harkening back to swimming in parks and the background soundtrack to many smoke sessions in high school. We finally had found it, withdrawn inscriptions and lyrics painting the curbs and trees near his final resting place. We parked the car and made our way forward. Though every gravestone was awash in some kind of white marble, Bradley’s had been in the black. An odd change, we noted, as we proceeded in smoking right by his tombstone. A gardening crew was making its ways around the grounds but paid little attention to us as we sat near his stone and divulged and reminisced about the music and memories we had been blessed with. We left the roach of our blunt right there, next to the cigarette, lighter, and two roach joints already embellishing the stone. We had to make our ways further once more.
The next log in the stream was Ron’s house, the kind fellow we had met on a lot. Ron does covers of Dead music on Facebook, and Erich had known him through this endeavor. Upon meeting him at his lovely little abode with his wife and children, we sat and talked for a few hours, while enjoying the fruits of Ron’s labor. He rolled us up some of his own personal head stashes, and we reveled in the fruits and labors of the dead while a chicken dinner was coming down the road. We laughed, talked about future shows, and jammed for a little bit. In few music scenes, do the old and the young come together so effortlessly, but this is the Grateful Dead, where time is timeless, and the music endless. The golden road never ends, and it is joined by the young, the old, and the new. We were incredibly grateful for the dinner and thanked Ron for the food and hospitality.
With the night dawning upon us. We had little to do for the rest of the day, so we went back to home base in Laguna. We had plenty of nugs to keep us warm, as well as company. Mama and Charlie had finally arrived and were in great spirits to find a home with four walls, a bed, and no overnight pricing. We asked where they had been, how their travels were, and who they had met. They were on completely different levels of traveling than us, using only their hands and voices to get from place to place, making me feel outdated using a car. Everything they needed was on their backs. They talked of the people they had met, the places they’ve been, and the cool cats that had crossed their paths. Everything and everyone was in lovely spirits as we slowly parted ways to sleep.
Another morning came tumbling through the blinds. My eyes meet another day. Once more we moseyed on for a bit around the home, getting our things together, asking how we all slept, discussing the usual. It’s the big day. It’s showtime! Another Dead show to get us out of the funk of days meandering in the sunshine, though we didn’t mind; we were having the time of our life. We left earlier from home, to start the day with a hike close to the home. We went up and down, up and down, up and further down slopes and hills that line the shoreline. A path, if one would call it that, was carved by the architect of rain falling upon the stones, with time overwatching the processes until we had begun our stroll on this path, hundreds of years in the making. The trail was arduous, but we finally met the hilltop with heaving breaths and hands on our knees. We freaked out the little couple that was up there, with four dirty kids showing up out of the blue covered in dirt and grime. We took a picture there, with the smog once more covering the sun, but not the ocean. Yachts and boats filled the shoreline, dotting the blue plains that stretched on forever. People milled about on the golf courses below us, and on the beaches as well as we sat and observed. Nearly three thousand miles from home, I couldn’t ask for more as we sat and enjoyed the view for a few more minutes before sliding back to the car.
Once more, the engine screamed, the wind howled, and the car muscled further as we made our way downtown. Hollywood Bowl called our name, and we were not one to not answer the call of duty. Parking our car down some streets, we called for an Uber and were there in no time. The flags and regalia of shakedown once more met upon my eyes, easily dwarfing the one we had seen in Phoenix. Thousands of heads packed themselves into a small little park, offering their wares, smells, and tears. We walked around for a bit amongst the rabble, scouting out kind nug and meeting up with the few other souls we knew this side of the Mississippi. But one thing remained that we had to do; we had to acquire a ticket.
“I got great jokes! Great jokes for your ticket, and a little cash to ease your woes. So step right up!” went I, as I hustled for tickets heading up to the Hollywood Bowl. Though many did not give me a ticket, few gave me beers, just as good for powering me forward. Erich, as well, was working his hustle down the ways, offering jokes as well for tickets. We yelled we cavorted, we even schemed on ways to sneak in, seeing as the bowl was surrounded by a facade of wood and stone. But we pressured on. Two hours later, with my fingers on their crutches, I secured my ticket. Forty dollars and a bad joke aren’t too bad for a ticket in Los Angeles, I guess. I ran down to Erich, and he had gotten his ticket as well. We were both ready for the show!
The entrance to the Hollywood Bowl is up a long hill, one assisted by escalators as you enter the joint. Never looking at our tickets, we simply harkened for a better view, and went up the escalators, nearly reaching the top of the venue. We sat down in a front row bench and quickly sparked one, before the show even began. Security came in little, to no time. This was a surprise to us, as every show in the past, security was merely an afterthought. They told us to put it out, which we obliged with. “We could kick you guys out if we wanted too,” yelled the woman in the blue security fit, who really took her job too seriously harassing old and young heads. “Well, you’d have to quick out all of us then!” I replied to her. “Oh, we’ve done that. We’ve kicked out half the venues before.” Erich and I laughed heartily as she turned her back to us and walked away. She was going to have a great game of whack a mole tonight.
The show began, with us sitting perched on a concrete barrier higher up in the venue. The sun was still hot in the sky, and the Hollywood sign sat just beyond the venue, reminding us forever of the star-studded city we lived in. We shook it down to “Shakedown Street,” before the boys swung it into a “Cold, Rain, and Snow,” truly an odd pick considering we were in the furthest place from such alien weather conditions. The queue of music slowed a little bit. We were greeted with a slow moving “Black Throated Wind,” Mayer providing a background to the painting Weir was drawing. Further on, we were treated with a “Ramble On Rose,” with everyone swaying to and fro of the music. We still got away with smoking, as did most of the people in the Bowl that day, just by putting down what was puffing on upon the security moving behind us. No problem. “Cumberland Blues” came up and got everyone boogying and down. The old, the young, the new once more relished in each other’s delights and smiles as everyone moved their own little way. Mayer plucked away and took us to an old western saloon as the dancing continued. We slowed down a bit, and moved into an “Althea.” The space was truly getting hot, with Bobby sliding away at each verse, and Mayer getting us settled back. A lady in front of us at the show, seeing how thirsty we were as we panted and puffed, offered us the most beautiful bundle of fruit. They were incredibly refreshing, and to get them in the middle of a show was a bountiful gift. The boys didn’t give us any chance to breathe as we swung right into a “Promised Land.” There are few numbers that Dead and Company play truly quick, but “Promised Land” is one of those numbers that they can’t cheat speed on. Mayer reached into his bag of tricks and hit licks at a quick pace as everyone screamed and hollered. We truly were in the promised land, in a land of sunshine, beaches, and smiles. Not much more could be praised for as everyone twirled and spun around to the number being played.
Set break could not have come quicker, as we needed to catch up our breaths once more. We had ourselves a bathroom break and spent time in the actual designated smoker’s section burning a cigarette. We met a head there that had come all the way from London, nearly half a world away, just to come and see the music. We were in awe. We thought we had come a long way, but we really had no clue. Matt and Yim had texted Erich, and we began to make our way over to them. We made our way down closer to the front of the venue. Sitting next to them in the benches that had been put there in place of seats, we sat and discussed the first set; the hot “Shakedown Street”, the lightning quick “Promised Land,” and the fan favorite “Cumberland Blues” were all highlights we discerned. Matt pulled out a doobie and we sat in comfortably for the next set to show.
The second set came, and we all got off our behinds and clapped. The boys into a “Truckin’,” fair enough as we had been truckin’ our own way, from the hills of Ohio, to the seas of California. They then went into a “He’s Gone,” a number holding special favor to each individual listener. Halfway through the song, however, the boys cut the number. They ran off stage, the stage lights went down, and we were left in confusion. What was going on? We all speculated various things, whether it was a health issue concerning someone, or something much worse. It came to be that someone had thrown a duffel bag (supposedly of weed meant for Chimenti, but heady rumors only go so far) over the fence by the band backstage, and it had caused a stir amongst security. Regardless, the band chuckled about it, went back up on stage, and finished “He’s Gone” like nothing had happened. A “Help>Slip>Franklin’s” now began, as Mayer began strumming the iconic opening to “Help On The Way.” Sure enough, the number only progressed quicker and quicker, and by the time “Franklin’s Tower” was in full swing, the entire venue was up and out of their seats, getting down and dancing across the aisles, railings, and benches. Everyone was in high spirits sure enough. The band convened and slowed down, with the sounds of crickets now in the song mix, for the quintessential “Drums>Space.” Perfect time to roast a bone. Everyone sat down and enjoyed the break in the music, while Mickey and Billy went out and pounded the drums. Mickey eventually raised himself out of his trance to enter another, approaching the beam for a “Space.” He pounded and pounded the thing, absolutely abusing the thing, and used a metal bar to give it some odd sounds and the like. Eventually, the aggressiveness was lifted, and the rest of the band came back on stage. They noodled around for a bit, making the head’s guess what number was to be played next. Sure enough, slowly and carefully, they worked into what was to be a beautiful “Stella Blue.” Under the open night air, in the Los Angeles outskirts, Mayer and Bobby gave a beautiful rendition of this ballad to thousands without a single blemish or scratch on the number. It was a serene rendition, and sure enough a highlight. They finished off the second set with a “Sugar Magnolia,” an odd change of pace. Everyone got out and gave the boys a wonderful round of applause. They had done a stunning job for their first night in Los Angeles. The encore came, as always, and they brought out two acoustic guitars. It was “Ripple,” of course. They went through the number slowly and precisely, and Mayer provided wonderful riffs to color in the spaces that Bobby was giving him. It was a great show to kick off several nights on the California coast.
We left with the rest of the gang, and all the Heads, after the encore. We made our ways down the escalators, and out into the streets of Los Angeles. We brushed past endless numbers of Hispanic families that had come out of nowhere to sell hot dogs, and bacon wrapped hot dogs, under small little beat rainbow umbrellas. We went past them in anticipation of getting something on the lot. But, lo and behold, it was all gone. All the stands had been taken down, and they were chasing people out of the lot. We quickly dispersed and made way to our car via Uber. Dinner was had at an In-N-Out down the road. We were the only two dirty heads in a restaurant surrounded by a bunch of younger kids dressed to impress. This was the city of plastic, sure enough. And it felt like we had no mold to fit in this city. We sat down in our corner, laughing as we caught stares, and talked about the show and the people around us. We didn’t sit long, as we wanted to sleep. It was a hard day’s work after all, and we wanted nothing more than to get energy for the next day. For it was another show in the Hollywood Bowl tomorrow, and nothing was going to stop these rolling bones.