There was a very vibrant and welcoming energy in the air on Saturday, a vibe not usually associated with such a rough and tumble silver town such as Muskrat Flats. As you know, if you keep up with my exploits, leaving the Flats often involves a Hard run. Not so yesterday. The carnival was set up in Muskrat Flats proper. It was an odd day where the natives co-mingled happily with the interlopers. They extended the olive branch of welcome to the tattooed and sparkle dusted tribes as they negotiated the once crumbling and rat infested pier, The barnacle crusted wooden effigy which would exude its sulfuric flatulence as low tide left it exposed to the sun is now replaced with a modern, easily navigable wharf, with a very nice tent where the music can be enjoyed.
The Tribes marched smiling into to town, with their glass beads, and patchouli soaked hemp accessories and various contraband. Heard above the music was the colorful patois you can only decipher if you have spent some time on the road, with the carnival. The vernacular was as colorful as their dress and as non conforming as their flapping unrestrained dreadlocks.
As always, behind the smile and the glazed eyes there was a plan, an escape strategy which would have to be implemented if the wrong pocket was picked, if the wrong custie was burned or if the seasoned and equally prepared constables finally decided enough was enough.
The cops were prepared, they had done this before, back in the day when it was a less family oriented scene. Now, the cops, just like the rest of the world, are faster. Armed with their two wheeled segways and the latest information technology in the palm of their hands, they are a formidable opponent. I haven't even discussed what type of God Awful weapons they possess these days.
The Deadheads remembered those days when they and the police were more or less on an equal footing. A few lies and some slight of hand often provided the necessary minutes to disappear into the scene and more so, high tail it out of Dodge. The Deadheads remembered the days when a hard run was in order. The days when the constables would steer their Harley-Davidsons five abreast down the main thoroughfare intending to run down any pitiful fool who lacked the good sense or sobriety to move. This was always a slap in the face as it put an end to the good times which were being had. The party was never quite over when the sense of self preservation kicked and the hard run commenced.
Saturday night, the tour kids, freaks, and Heads of all shapes, sizes and economic brackets shared in the party as they danced, sang and plied their wares and listened to the music. There were the classic hippie looking chicks with their patchwork skirts and flowers in their hair. There were the harder core tour kids with their dreadlocks and their omnipresent cases of glass pipes and jewelry. There were the Hippie/Raver kids with their Hot Topic gear accesorized with Shakedown Street chic wearing knee socks and multi-colored Chuck Taylors. There were the Hip Hop Hippie kids with their urban wear. There were the 50 year old Republican Heads with their $10 glasses of Pinot Grigio taking about "what a disappointment" George W. Bush turned out to be. There was the hot shot guitarist I have seen many times at the local venue , mesmerized by the chops displayed by multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell. The music flowed freely. And then there were the folks on the stage. They weren't all that different than those in the audience. They were having just as good a time as the concert goers.
Phil Lesh and his Friends were in town and He was joined by fellow troubadour Levon Helm.
It was a rejuvenating experience for me. You may say to your self, Paul Brown ... Mr Muskrat, What were you thinking? After all you are an addict - you got no biz associating with that crowd.
People Places and Things aside, I felt safe; much safer than I would have been had I stayed in Springfield ... alone. With my daughter off with her mother and my folks out of town, I really would have been in the worst company possible, alone with my thoughts. I was in mortal peril
There is credence to the idea that a Grateful Dead scene is probably not the best place to hang out of you have a problem with substance abuse and you feel vulnerable.
For a very long time. I was just like the rest of the population at the shows, drinking, smoking herb and if the feeling was right, getting ripped on LSD to provide for the most spiritual and transcendental journeys any living human can experience. For a long time this was the status quo, I was a weekend warrior working hard and playing hard.
Through circumstances which are too extensive to explain here, things began to unravel in my life. I put on a good mask and kept up appearances. But I was slowly succumbing to the progression of my dis-ease. I turned my back on my friends, and the scene which had provided me with so much positive spiritual energy over the last 20-plus years. I became isolated. My drugs of choice became more dangerous, more addictive and more expensive; too expensive to share, that is for sure. My gift of desperation was that I had very little left in my life other than a few material possessions a family I was rapidly alienating, a job and car I miraculously was capable of holding onto, and my drugs. It was me, alone - with my drugs.
As I cruised through the crowd, I kept my eyes wide open. There was weed being smoked every where, and yes I was tempted. There was even more alcohol. I spotted a couple of folks with scars and bruises on their arms which could not be explained away by saying they went to donate blood recently.
But none of that mattered. Because I was heading to an Oasis in a sea of insanity. At Phish Shows, this oasis was called the Phellowship. In my book about the fictitious jam band, PRY, the oasis is called the Priory. In the world of the Grateful Dead this safe haven is called the Wharf Rats. As you may recall, the Grateful Dead song "Wharf Rat" is a tale of a sick and suffering alcoholic named August West. He has what it takes, the only requirement ... the desire to stop.
You can find the Wharf Rats, a group of clean and sober concert goers, by looking for yellow balloons. As others stumble around, or are cranked up to 220 volts of psychedelic mayhem, we are standing in a circle with our backs to the insanity, protected by the strength of each other's shared experience and hope.
In the back ground, I heard,
"What's that?" a head referring to the circle.
"A bunch of fucking weirdos."
Yes, you could say that. I sure as shit used to. I was thankful for their perspective. The dismissive head probably would not have vocalized that opinion if he wasn't fucked up. Perhaps he shared the same sentiment that I had harbored for many years. I was respectful of what the Wharf Rats were trying to do, but I saw them as a threat to the lifestyle to which I had grown accustomed. They were, no doubt about it, a threat to my lifestyle. Back then I could not conceive living a lifetime free of drugs and alcohol. To this day, I still don't. That is why I have followed the suggestion to take it one day at a time. Worry about tomorrow when it comes. I doesn't seem so daunting to approach it that way. Stay clean just for today. Once you master that philosophy, you can try to wrap your mind around a statement that my Great-Grand-sponsor made.
"Don't forget, wherever you are, it is always today. At 12:59 PM you may think that tomorrow is right around the corner, but it comes and it is still today. "
I am thankful for all of the heads who stopped by the Wharf Rat table. We had a good meeting. It inspired me to get through the rest of the night. It inspired me to simmer down thoughts I had regarding the never ending occurrence of svelte and slinky 20 something hippie chicks dancing
freely and sexily in the row next to mine. That definitely makes me want to get high. The meeting helped to simmer down the lies my disease was telling me as a 60 something Obama supporter was casually sharing a joint with his wife.
Perhaps I could just smoke weed, and get away with it. If I got high, I know weed would not be good enough. I have lingered at the fence around the lush poppy field and tasted the nectar of the forbidden flower. No high will ever match the warm numbing feeling that is provided by opiates before you are enslaved by that feeling and the physical need for more. It is best that I just stay away.
No, I've been high more than half my life. I need to try it straight for a while and see what
happens. Good things, I suspect. Good things indeed. And definitely, more good music.
As always, You will find me ... Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.