Saturday, August 9, 2008

Jerry Garcia's Death: 13 Years Later

If you can name at least one Grateful Dead song, then surely you remember where you were when Jerry died. Not coincidentally, Jerome John Garcia, or simply "Jerry" to his friends and followers, departed this life on August 9, 1995. I, for one most certainly remember where I was when I got word of his death: serving side dishes and corn muffins at the neighborhood rotissere chicken restaurant when a good friend from school frantically relayed the news -- customers in line and all. It was like a swift blow to the gut. I immediately left my post (not caring that I might get fired) to go outside and catch my breath. Although I didn't fully get it at the time, I realized that I had lost a friend I never met, yet knew so very well.

Incidentally, it was an otherwise good summer. I was entering my senior year of high school. I was in a band that had some local notoriety amongst classmates and friends from rival schools. I watched The Wall and The Song Remains the Same hoping to find the answers. I joined both Columbia House and BMG solely to get my hands on every Zeppelin and Dead CD known to man. I was finally getting good on the guitar (no small thanks to Jerry and Jimmy Page). I was mesmerized by "Help> Slip>Franklin's" and "Eyes of the World" was the most perfect song I'd ever heard. It was also that summer that I got my first car -- a haven for Phish bootlegs, window decals, and McDonald's drive-thru (before I stopped eating fast food).

I had long hair. I wore tie-dyes. I drank cheap beers with friends when parents were out of town. My bible was The Dark Side of the Moon. I lived and breathed anything and everything music. It was a summer of "firsts" and I had not a care in the world. As I look back, I realize that from some bad, came much good. To this day, Jerry's death has continued to serve as a bookmark for this most meaningful chapter of my life -- and for that, I'll always be grateful.

I have spent my life
Seeking all that's still unsung
Bent my ear to hear the tune
And closed my eyes to see
When there were no strings to play
You played to me
Jerry Garcia
August 1, 1942 - August 9, 1995

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