The Grateful Dead, Hare Krsna, & Mt. Shasta

Author's note: The story "Time To Embrace The Grateful Dead" should be read before this one.

Now…. here is where I start to have a little trouble figuring out the exact order of events that occurred around this time in my life. Leaving a steady job in Charleston, SC was, I guess when I really ‘dropped out’. I didn’t hold a job or keep an address for the next two years. I was broke a lot, but that didn’t keep you out of a show. More importantly, I was free ! Not just free, but liberated, somehow, from the regime of the career path, wife, 2.5 kids, 3 bed 2 bath existence that seemed drilled into kid’s heads from our more conservative (slightly) parents and grand-parents. It’s the freedom every kid searches for in vain, through high school and college, but then usually forgets about by the time he’s old enough to realize he doesn’t have to take the way of the world for granted. Grow up ? C’mon, I was twenty-one and a dreamer the likes of Kermit the Frog or John Lennon. These years just sort of lump together in my ‘ol noggin until 1990. The shows run together, creating one long, hazy set-list, with every conceivable combination of songs a head could wish for. (Though odds are good The Dead had played it) The numerous trips across the country, the parking and navigating in and out of the basketball arenas and football stadiums that were my neighborhood , so to speak, all fuzzy data now. Lost input that occasionally gets uncovered in my present day travels (Talk about "Deja-vu"). But fear not ! I recently received a book: “The Complete Illustrated History of the Grateful Dead”. It lists every show and set-list, with commentary that I can associate with. It has helped, A LOT, to clear up some of the confusion and inconsistencies I’ve had. So picking up where our little tale leaves off, I will try not to be too detailed as to particular dates, etc. (as to not bore you). After all, I want to get to the good stuff! So I end up in Santa Cruz and was immediately immersed in Head culture. Camping without getting harassed by the cops. Hanging out on the mall, or at the beach – pretty much waiting for the next show. I would recognize friends from tour, and you would share a hotel room or go stay at some friend's house The whole scene was very “family-oriented.” People respected you if they knew you from East Coast shows. It indicated you were a hardcore Deadhead. You got the “family prices” for illicit substances such as LSD, mushrooms, and Ecstasy. A lot of people I knew took full advantage of the generosity and availability of drugs that the West Coast market offered, and made small fortunes selling to their old hometown or college connections back East. I never really sought out the full-on “Swinging” lifestyle. Being a “Rager”, somebody who drank and partied every day, had its perks, of course. I was often seated among their ranks during intermission at shows. The “fatty-circles” were elite. Being in the right circle often meant getting the better connection or deals. You were also getting to take the best drugs, smoke the best weed, largest fatty, etc. I sold a little here and there, but really just enough to get by or hook-up friends. But ****, everything was so prolific, and we all did so much “experimenting”, that most of us were walking felonies waiting to happen. West coast shows had a different feel to them. Real mellow. Compared to the East, things were toned way down in California. Places like The Spectrum or The Meadowlands would get so loud at showtime, vibrating like a rocket about to launch, the energy would just blow you away. But back home, it was like the boys were more relaxed and lucid. The audience was quite different, too. You saw a lot of older heads, who always seem to have that sparkle in their eye as if they knew some great secret, us younger “Touch Of Grey” newcomers hadn’t figured out yet. But we were the foot soldiers of the modern-day freak movement. On food stamps, camping out (uh, homeless on the streets) our lives took on a spiritual feel. I hitch-hiked up and down California’s Highway 1, camping out in the woods, taking acid, going to shows, etc.. We all felt that ‘something big’ was brewing in our collective consciousness. Some were more hardcore "Rainbow" than others. Eschewing everything traditionally modern. Dumpster diving for food and spare changing to get by. None of us spent much time with family. We would go home a couple times a year. Usually bringing along a friend for moral support. And we would stay just long enough to realize that - what was normal for millions of people - wasn’t normal for us. A lot of us became vegetarians along the way, rebelled against the parents, and many such as myself, practiced a monk/devotee/aspirant style of living. It was after some summer shows in ’89, I think, that I caught a ride West, and was first introduced to Krsna, and all the wonders of the fascinating Hindu religion. With it’s ancient texts, yoga teachings, and those bald guys jamming on drums chanting hare hare, I dove right in and was soon breathing, meditating, and slowing my life way down. I think that’s why those years seem like such a long period in my life. I was back in Boulder. And found a ride to California with this group called “the Spinners”. I had seen these guys at shows and had heard words like “cult” and “Krsna freaks” or the like in reference to them. But having just been exposed to the Bhagavad Gita, and running into them at a Hare Krsna temple (just somebody’s house or apartment in small towns like Boulder), it seemed as if Fate had set us up together. Next thing you know I was crammed into the back of a VW Micro-Bus, or in the back of a Japanese pick-up truck with four or five others, as part of a caravan of twenty to thirty heads on tour TO EVERY SHOW ! What an experience ! We lived humbly, in a self-sacrificing way, putting the group above one’s self. Extra cash i got, i gave to the communal fund that financed this roaming caravan. I relinquished favorite tie-dyes and possessions, exercises in letting go of the possessive side of the ego. Days not at shows or travelling, I busied my days, performing service, doing chores helping with the large communal dinner prepared every night. Staying as a large group at people’s homes along the way. Real Sadhu beggar type stuff {look up sadhu} No booze, hard drugs, fast-food, and the like. We still smoked the finest herb around, however. And occasionally took mushrooms. I think I traveled hardcore with them for a few months or so. And things took on a different perspective for me. Modern life was an illusion (maya) as the Krsna preached. I was stuck in a physical body, a detached soul trying to unify with "God", which my short definition is as follows: It's all of us that ever were, ever are, and ever will be, all put together to as one. I've said this in other writings and i don't know if it is original or not but, when I meet somebody on the street, whether it's a bum or a well to do businessman, i look into their eyes and try to see myself staring back. I hope that makes sense to somebody out there. I eventually split from them at some point after an east coast Jerry Band Tour. But once a Spinner, always a Spinner. And we gathered at every show to dance. Aptly named, we spun like tops. Primarily to the "Jerry Tunes", the material that was in collaboration with the songwriter Robert Hunter. Don't get me wrong, some of us, never stopped spinning, pretty much the entire show. It was a beautiful tableau, especially at the outdoor venues. Seeing all the beautiful people, fanned out across the top of some hill. All spinning in a rhythmic, unified flow of energy. Emulating the whirling dervishes, we found that super sweet bliss at these shows. A feeling that is truly "divine" in origin. I peaked emotionally, physically, and spiritually in rhythm with the energy of this ‘long, strange, trip’ called Tour. In 1989, I Hitchhiked from Maine to Charleston for Hurricane Hugo, which I rode it out downtown with some friends. (That is a whole other great tale.) This side venture I took was, once again, some form of destiny. For if I hadn’t ventured out on my own, I probably would have missed what I consider to be some of the finest shows of my experience. And pretty much the peak of deadhead life (which would soon unravel into a darker period in the 90’s and eventually Jerry’s death.) THE WARLOCKS AT Hampton Coliseum in VA. Banned from playing as the Grateful Dead, yet still courted by the local economy, eager for the millions of dollars in revenue, our circus brought to town. The band played under their original moniker, and dusted off and began to polish gems like Dark Star and Help On The Way, not to mention Attics of My Life and Ripple. These were truly magical moments. I recall the image of a girl dancing by me, who upon recognizing the beginning notes of Dark Star, well, how do I put this … I saw a tear shoot out of her eye into the air… an expression of her ecstasy, the kind that Jerry’s guitar and the voodoo magic of the Boys manifested at ‘special’ shows like these. It was truly a beautiful time. I would see shows in California and three times a year out East. (Spring, Summer, and Fall tours) GD and Jerry both. I figured, that at the peak of my time on tour, I caught most of the around 100 or so shows the separate bands would perform annually. (That averages to a show every three or four days!) The time we did have off, I would stay mostly on the West Coast, recuperating at my brother's condo down South on Balboa Island, Newport Beach. (Usually in the winter) Or up in Mt. Shasta, which soon took on a deep symbolism for me. It was if my soul was called by the mountain. I feel my entire existence is somehow connected to the area. I really can’t convey it in words. Just picture me barefoot, walking around at 9000 ft. elev., with a little fruit or some trail mix, communing with nature. Spend my nights and days meditating, like i was in a Carlos Castenada dreamlike state, waiting for the aliens to take me away (lots of believers up there and Sedona AZ) I feel born, spiritually, from this area. She’s my GREAT MOTHER, you might say. A particular sabbatical, I saw the Mountain transformed into a women’s figure, and as I peered down into the upper meadows from the treeline, I saw my camp was situated at her bleeding womb. I had been fasting, or just eating fruit and wheatgrass juice (which I grew in a greenhouse, along with sunflower sprouts and other ‘live foods’, at the base of the mountain. And I may have been high on acid, mushrooms, or some hallucinogen. But that image is as real as anything to me. It was truly a self-realizing time for me. Imagined or not. And those days it was real easy to believe in the magical and other worldly. If only, life had stayed that way. Happy, and blissed out. To this day, they are, for now, the most precious times of life me. I established a spiritual core that transcended religion, human experience… time, space and all that existential stuff, really.
johnnybliss johnnybliss
41-45, M
Jul 26, 2010