THE MAILBAG 7.01.96
From: F Hageman
Subj: no longer relevant?
I cannot find your journal entry about the language of the oppressor, Western civ's wane, and there goes your work along with it, but I roughly remember you saying that there was the possibility of a new, perhaps superior version of society once the rubble of the Euromale was cleared, and that this new phase might render your work irrelevant into the bargain.
Your reply to my last post, seemed the perfect thing on which to hang half of my disagreement to this irrelevance theory.
>> this thing didn't start with the grateful dead, nor will it end with them. it feels far more like you guys were/are the shepherds of a certain energy that will not be dislodged by dint of current fashion or dominant clime. <<
>Fred, the Bacchanale is old as humanity. We just presided over it for a time.
That there will be a shift in the Euromale power structure is a no-brainer, if history has any say. The wheel is going to turn and we can't stop it. But gauging the future on the patterns of the past will only yield so much this time because we are moving into a new age, an age being defined, as much as anything else, by our instantaneous communication with any part of the world. (This post is whizzing from the East Bay to merry olde England in no time flat, which is a little different than waiting three months for the clipper to break horizon.)
Along with the immediacy of this communication comes diffusion. The homogenization of global culture, while not complete, is pretty far along. As you noted, your language has its roots in the folk idioms of Western culture by way of Appalachia and other avenues. By now, this culture has been distributed globally by hook, crook, and powerbook. (Did you see the photo essay on Vietnam in the Sunday Chron a few weeks back? There was a photo of a marathon being run along a Ho Chi Minh City street lined with dozens of lamp posts sporting Pepsi banners! Seems we won after all.:) The geopolitical pecking order may change, but the cultural shift is not going to be all that drastic, whoever gets top rung. It would be hard to find a likely candidate to topple Western culture who isn't already submerged to some extent in that culture.
As you say, the Dionysian element is age-old, but so are other archetypal elements. These elements, while culturally adulterated, are not culturally bound or created. With one foot dragging the blanket of their cultural coloring, they roam that timeless, deeper place in man's psyche. And unless I've just been seeing stuff that isn't there, you trade in them with ease and grace. 'Boys in the Barroom' seems a perfect example. There's the homespun cloth of folk tradition, but then there's that melancholy twinged with hope that cannot be circumscribed by any culture. One listen to the Tuvan throat singers, the Mongolian nomads who are also masters of that tri-tone vocalization we love from the Gyoto monks, and you can hear the emotional heart of the blues, even though nothing lines up in i-iv-v or any other 'blues' cultural signifier. (That one of the Tuvans has a voice which at times is the spitting image of Howlin Wolf is a lovely poke in the ribs, if you were into cosmic mumbo jumbo, which rumor has it you are. :)
Like the Bacchanalia, broad symbols like roses or moons and sentiments like those bells you ring when you touch on the singing man and the holy, the reckless and the timid, have seemingly been here for the duration. The lines that bear them stick around more or less because the torch *will* be passed. Were it not so, how would you be able to point with such precision to the Bacchanalia as the essence (or one of them) of that thing you guys were riding point for? Given this combination of cultural diffusion and the timeless aspect, it seems your stuff will go on having relevance for those with ears to hear.
But, hey! What about the present? I spoke with you momentarily during your book signing at Cody's, and asked if you felt the Dead was something of an albatross when it came to recognition in the academic world. When I think that for whatever reason you aren't in the Norton anthologies, it really makes me wonder. Postwar has all this stuff from folks like Ginsberg and Baraka and not you? All of those books about Dylan and nothing about you? What's that about unless it's the stigma of the Dead? It's funny: having crafted one of the more beloved canons in the world, at the same you're obscure! Ah, paradox . . . :)
Oh well. Here's to your having a lovely time. Having never been there, I imagine I'd enjoy sitting in Poet's Corner at twilight, with the light just right.
after a few days in London, I've moved to Olde England, which exists only here and there in pockets.
Your argument refutes me coming and going, and I much prefer it to my own. Try this one on for size: the ghost of Western Culture, in postmodern poses, survives. That seems a more comfortable way to view it. If this estimation is correct, my own work might hypothetically be subsumable under another canon entirely: Western Post-Westernism. Actually, I can't imagine the state of a world where my work had the formative power of some of the illustrious names you cite. I'm not sure I'd want to live there. The world chooses what it can implement. As long as there's space for a rogue Muse, I'm roughly content.
Date: Jun 24 1996
I just picked up Mystery Box a few days ago and had a pleasant surprise
happen. I spent the last week and a half of May running around Kansas, Nebraska,
and S.Colorado...mostly just taking pictures and relaxing. I ended up driving
12 hours across Ks to go to Great Sand Dunes Nat. Monument, right at the foot of
the Sangre de Christo mountains.
I was stunned at the beauty of that area. I spent a couple days there, roaming
up and around the dunes. I saw one of the most incredible sunsets I've ever
seen. The light is so spectacular on the dunes and the chocolate colored mntns..
So when I fire-up Mystery Box for the first time...there it is, Sangre de
I was checking out the pictures I took there listening to it for the first
time. I love sh*t like that! First time I was ever there, and I return home
to hear a beautiful song composed about the area...nice.
While I was up on the highest dune at sunset alone, I looked across a sand ridge
and saw a dog running towards me. Soon, its owner followed taking many moments
to traverse the ridge to me. When he finally extends his hand to say hello...
sure enough he's a Deadhead. It seems we meet in the strangest places :}
Subj: Musings and thoughts
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John Schaible)
I will make this short as I want you to enjoy your vacation and not
waste any time here in cyberspace.
Today was my first visit to your archives, though I check out dead.net
frequently. Anyway, I was moved to write you after reading some of your
postings on the way some people perceive your songs as being those of
Jerry. I must admit that, I too, sometimes have a hard time separating
Jerry, the man, from your lyrics. To me, they seem almost unseparable.
It is hard to think of Jerry without one of your verses coming to mind -
"Without love in the dream, it will never come true". For what it's
worth, consider this: joy, happiness and love have been brought into the
hearts and souls of many millions (thousands anyway) of people through
the music of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, and without your
moving, touching and thought provoking words, that most certainly would
not have been the case. In my eyes, you are the Grateful Dead as much
as the rest of the boys.
As for the future of the Grateful Dead, I hope that in some way, shape
or form, all the remaining members will play together again. I read one
of your replies to a letter that said something to the effect that, now
that the Dead are no more, that there is a whole world of music to
listen to and the moping and whining should be done with. While I agree
with this, I must point out that, unfortunately, there is not a whole
world of "magic" out there. Good music is one thing, but magic is
something else entirely. Magic is the reason that I became involved
with the Dead and their music to begin with, and I believe that I am not
alone on this one. If I am to go on for the rest of my life knowing
that I will never again experience that kind of magic, it will truly be
a world that is a lot less colorful. You are part of that magic, and I
hope you continue to do what it is that you do and continue to add color
to my world and everyone elses. We need all the help we can get.
Peace and love,
P.S. - Stella Blue is probably my favorite of your lyrics, China Cat is
up there too, but I noticed that the scanned image of your lyrics does
not include the verse: "I've stayed in every blue-light, cheap hotel,
can't win for tryin' Dust off those rusty strings just one more time,
gonna make 'em shine" Is there another page, or were they written
later? Just curious (as usual when it comes to your lyrics! :) )
those lines came later when JG asked for a verse that scanned differently in order to compose a bridge. Most of the items I'm putting up on the lead page are either first drafts, or drafts where the elements first coalesce. Or just what I happen to have.
Thank you for your estimation which includes me in the band. Sometimes I felt like a member, but being essentially a maverick, another part of me often says "we" from an outsider's standpoint. I always felt it was important that the lyrics reflect a range of experience disjunct from the road, a full time job in itself.
As for helping to make the "magic" I must say, in the end, the inconveniences were well worth it. Still are. I know what I've done, am proud of it, and didn't ruin my life (yet! knock on wood) doing it. Maybe I'll get a badge sometday.
Date: Jun 29 1996 6:36 AM EDT
From: (Pete Shanks)
I know this violates the prohibition so I hope it
doesnt piss you off, but it can always hang about
at your end or die digital death I suppose...
Just checked in and read the delayed-journey journal,
and was very moved by the last bit, about resolving
grief and also about Weir ... thanks
A question to flag and consider: Does it feel different
to you being on the Net from the UK? Seems to me there
is a space-difference that is not "logical" -- I get a
kick out of getting e-mail from friends who dont know
where I physically am -- but experiential ... hyperspace
seems so unconnected with the earth, but my reactions
do seem connected with which bit of earth I am on --
fundamentally, this seems healthy ... or maybe I am not
evolved into a 21st century cyber-being....
Finally, your airport thoughts remind me of a poem I
wrote as I recovered from jetlag:
Airport City is a long white line
It freezes the nose and it numbs the mind
It has nothing to say but it says it all the time
Airport City is hyperspace
With nothing but links in its interface
For it has no time and it has no sense of place
Airport City is a mutant mould
Infecting the planet and out of control
And it grows itself forever so it never grows old
Airport City's a consumer hell
Where nothing is allowed that it cannot sell
And even the workers aren't people but personnel
Airport City is a classic con
A vision of plastic where no one belongs
It can promise you the moon 'cause tomorrow you're gone
Airport City will lose your soul
But deliver your body to the baggage hall
And throw you in a car like a zombie on parole
Airport City is the world ahead
Where nothing important is ever said
And everything that makes us human is already safely dead
not a prohibition, just a travel advisory. It's not that I mind getting the mail (who could ever?) but that I mind not answering it and/or having it stack up so I'm afraid to even look! Have decided on two approaches vis a vis simple self preservation: a smaller mailbag, shorter answers. Except for items that move me to long answers and which I'll print.
The GD situation seems wonderfully distant here in the West Country. I realize I've been trying to lever more than one possibly can and must settle for organic change and commentary. A couple of months ago I was angling to turn us into a tour managing organization, which I now realize is non-consequential. Have been battling the forces which would turn us into history, while yet live and vital, for so long it's become a habit. Now that we *are* history, I've got to learn to relax and accept it, recognize when I'm licked, and move on.
You've put your finger on (or in the vicinity) of a most elusive phenomenological apprehension. The Net does feel different in the UK. Plugs and converters aside, it's probably because I'M different over here. It doesn't seem so "do or die" in this area of Tudor farmhouses, what with the sheep grazing outside my window and all. I've got an update promised for day after tomorrow and have scarcely begun, yet I don't feel pressed.
Bought a guitar for 76 quid yesterday and rented a piano. Maybe I'll write some songs. Who for? Doesn't matter. It's something I do from time to time.
Read another chapter of your book "Solid Ground" yesterday. Brought it with me. I told you it'd be slow going, but it's good enough I intend to finish it one bright day. The hours I used to read are now spent on the site, but that also has to change. Internet in, internet out. There's got to be a balance and I expect I've come to the right place to find it. Went to see a village production of "Yeoman of the Guard" last night. W.S. Gilbert, as you might guess, is a favorite of mine. The tragic ending of what seems a light comedy still leaves audiences disoriented and a bit stunned after a hundred years. Wait a minute - the jester drops dead and the curtain falls?
Your take on airports is exact. They're a major reason I don't anticipate touring. But only one among many. Guitarist's arthritis of the shoulder is another. And, of course, the songs are now a different matter - but they're the only repertoire I've got (that people want to hear, I mean.) All conspires to recommend the internet as my primary mode of communication.
Subj: musical moment
Date: Jun 25 1996 2:02 PM EDT
Market Street had many bands in honor of International Music Day, June 21.
SF Observance sponsored by the German Consulate, making me wonder if US
Consulates sponser beauty and boogey down events. Hope so. Doubt it.
Walking slowly past one sidewalk stage to decide if I wanted to stop, see
women on stage and an unuaual combination of instruments--I'm there.
Woman says, I hear her say into the mike, "This is Go Band Go!"
They start to play, 2 saxes, electric violin, bass, drums--2 women, 3 men.
Way good. Saxes do history of music, history of the world, what sounds like
whale calls to me. Intense trance music with much rhythm. Complex rhythms,
like this bass and drums, sound really accurate when done well--just like
life, just like what makes life intersting.
Glance at the program and find the band is called Go Van Gogh. Yeah.
Electric violin player gets very into it--violin very intense instrument if
you both may and can do whatever you want with it, thus cutting through the
everyday day, leaving a trail of singing gold. A little girl in the audience
is very toddler, of exactly the age of dancing for no reason and sometimes
crying for no reason. This little one isn't crying--she
she is toddling out, twirling and loving it and the violin
player, also filled with enjoyment, catches her eye, and they dance
together a bit, on sidewalk and stage.
The kid is on the edge of her own future memory--she might specifically
remember that moment or she might not. Either way it is there for her--very
young, dancing a moment with a woman on stage, and knowing consciously or
unconsciously that making intense beauty with an instrument in front of
people is just another one of the many choices. Go Band Go!
Date: Jun 22 1996 4:34 PM EDT
Subj: Straight lines & Frogmen~
Dear Playful One,
Straight lines in nature may appear straight only if the margin of error is less than the capacity of the measuring device to see the detail...like looking at the distant ocean horizon...it may look straight...but not only is there a curve, the waves all along it make it very "unstraight"...but "what do I know"?
The Golden Mean that I referred to in my last post doesn't relate much to straight lines...rather with the infinite spiral...!!!...the pattern of seeds on a sunflower, the whirling of a hurricane or draining water, spiral galaxies and the list could go on~
The Golden Mean is irrational, meaning it can not be precisely represented as a ratio of any two numbers...this infinite nature touches the power of life...and our designs can be enhanced by using it...making them aesthetically appealing, last longer, work better, feel better...it is because they are more in tune with nature...so natural forces work with them rather than working to wear them down...
My Dream I call "Aromatic Omnivision" is a harmonic synergy of sound, light and aroma capable of leading the mind through archetypal states of consciousness by tuning brain wave frequencies"...imagine sitting in a dome theatre with fractal geometry spiral designs on the screen perhaps interlaced with surrealistic dolphins to lead us into our dream...the sounds harmonize with the visions so ethereal as to seem imperceptible on their own...pure essential oil aroma fills the space via the ductwork...again harmonized to the sounds and colors...a transportation vehicle for the senses...rolling them into one~
Dear Mr Hunter...thanks for being here...kala~
may I direct your attention to a book called "A Rebours" by Huysmans, where the protagonist undertakes something similar to your "Aromatic Omnivision?"
Date: Jun 29 1996 1:28 AM EDT
From: email@example.com (Chris Berg)
I just read this on your web page (quotes end of 6/22 journal)
We tend to lose sight of the humans behind the figures that we see on stage, read about in Rolling Stone, and hear on the tapes. I suppose all of these mediums shed light on a little bit of the truth about the Grateful Dead, but in the end, we only see what we want to see. I think that's why we have idols, read poetry, go to the movies, etc...
Regardless of what information we're presented with, it's in man's ego centric nature to attach his own meaning to it. Sometimes you get art and sometimes you get mean spirits.
Part of me feels like we owe all of you in the Grateful Dead an apology for various things (the Bob bashing, Deer Creek, the ungodly amount of scrutiny, etc...). I miss everything about the Grateful Dead and I'd give anything to set the clock back...
Thanks for making a statement about the state of Rec.Music.Gdead. I feel that it will help put things back into perspective for all of it's participants (myself included).
I've been keeping up with your Archive, the journal in particular. I realize that I should probably be writing you a letter that's beyond the "fan letter" stage, but I've held off.
writing you for several reasons. Mainly, I have an untested theory that meeting the people that you've admired from a distance is a sure formula for disappointment. I guess I'm afraid that Mr. XYZ that I've admired and been a fan of for so long would turn out to be an asshole and it would ruin his/her book/music/movie/whatever for me. I don't want to associate that book/music/movie with that unfortunate incident and tarnish that thing I loved. I guess that with this letter, I'm taking the plunge :)
About six years ago, a friend of mine gave me a mix tape of Grateful Dead music. "Listen to it. You'll love it," he told me, but, truth be told, I didn't pay it much mind. I popped the tape into my car tape deck and road around for a few days, the tape flipping several times, and, although I heard it half a dozen times, I didn't really listen to it until I was out on a date one night. My first date with Debora, quite possibly the best first date in the history of first dates. We had a wonderful evening out with that tape playing in the car the entire time. Somewhere during the course of that evening, I knew that Debbie was the first girl I ever truly loved. We ended the evening when I dropped her off. We sat in my car and shared a goodnight kiss, our first kiss, the best kiss in the history of kisses :) You know what I mean: that first kiss with a woman that you've completely connected with. There's a spark, a buzz, something magic that only happens once if you're lucky enough to experience it at all. She shut the door and I drove off to the opening chords of Terrapin Station. "Counting stars by candle light..." Every time I hear your words, every time I hear those opening chords or that five note melody, I go right back to that night like I've closed my eyes and dreamed it over again. In the last few years, your words have meant a lot to me and I just wanted to say thanks for that. I may never get to meet any of you, but you all hold a special place in my life.
thanks very much
I appreciate where you're coming from. It's fine to live out the fantasy as long as those upon whom one fantasizes are not held accountable for your inevitable dissapointments. Goldman wrote a book on Lennon, blasting what people wanted to believe. Which version of the past survives? The power of fantasy is stronger than fact, or there'd be no rock and roll, etc.
My fantasy was to create a mythos which resonated with my personal ways of hoping and believing. I wanted to reach out and reshape the world closer to heart's desire. Classically, such moves tend to explode in one's face . . . kind of a combination of Prometheus, Narcissus and Icarus. Those who don't accept the fantasy dislike even the attempt, which explains the Dead's cult status as regards the world at large. The Beatles had this yellow submarine, see - Dylan had Desolation Row - the Stones were all purpose lovers - all we had was a three eyed lemon with attitude. We were neither ahead of, in tune with, nor behind our times, just slightly askew from them. Hit songs address the masses - we addressed a cucumber patch on the dark side of the moon with a flotilla of bamboo rakes. But those we DID address felt singled out and were proud to be out in left field shagging cabbages.
I've been variously accused of ten kinds of obscurity in my work, but the plain fact is it was designed with a different audience in mind and easy closure was never a high priority with me. Closure is fraud. There are no answers. There are interim propositions, and the more elusive the better. Your first kiss with Deborah to the strains of Terrapin is a case in point. That's what I meant - exactly!
Subj: orfeo conversation
Date: Jun 30 1996 12:43 AM EDT
This dialogue is delicious. RH's compassion angle on this whole
altered states issue demands notice. The crazed desire for increased
consciousness, escape from the dreary work-a-day world of
responsibilites and obligations, can lead me to ignore my immediate
world around. But I've been bitten long ago, and the desire, with less
and less opportunity, whether thru meditation, or drugs, is still
prevalent. Keep it going.
since it's there, it's only natural to want to find out what and why. But information, unprocessed, dies with the individual when it could and should be added to the data of our culture. A lack of empathy with the world dooms any investigation to peurility. There's data for the mind and data for the heart. We want a little of both.