Blair’s Golden Road Blog: “Inch Your Way Through Dead Dreams…”
by Blair Jackson
Based on conversations I’ve had with friends through the years, I’m betting that a bunch of you have had a variation of my most troubling recurring dream: It’s near the end of a quarter or semester in college and I have a huge final exam facing me in an hour. I’m sweating bullets, because for some reason I have not attended one class of whatever course it is. Further, I don’t know where the exam is being given and, to make matters worse, this campus looks completely unfamiliar to me! I spend most of the dream walking haplessly into empty classrooms looking for where I’m supposed to be, or asking passing strangers if they know. I’m in full panic mode now, convinced I have a big “F” in my future, and that’s usually enough to wake me up. Which is a good thing because in the worst versions, I actually find the classroom and then look down at an exam on a subject I know absolutely nothing about—like organic chemistry or a language I’ve never studied. Aaaaugh!
I’m also betting that like, me, you’ve had your share of Grateful Dead dreams through the years. It stands to reason that anything that infiltrates your life to the degree that the Dead have for so many of us will seep into that subconscious/unconscious world. This many years down the line from there even being a Grateful Dead, I still have a couple of dreams a year about seeing the Dead, and because dreams are real when you’re experiencing them, they are often thrilling while they are happening—when they’re not completely frustrating, that is.
When I was in my early 20s, I was way into dreams. Not on the level of analyzing them for meaning—smoking my Freud pipe or putting on my Jung specs—but just for crazy entertainment. I was a bit of a diarist on and off in those days, and I regularly wrote down any dream I could remember as soon as I woke up. I had read that writing down dreams actually promotes remembering them and that was certainly true for me. Reading the chronicle of the dream also allowed me to relive them to a degree.
Alas, it’s so many years since I foolishly destroyed my journals—all that embarrassing self-conscious drivel gone!—that I’ve lost touch with almost all my dreams from that period. Except for one from 1976 in which I was watching TV and seeing John Lennon’s casket lowered into the ground by British soldiers dressed in War of 1812 finery, as Walter Cronkite solemnly intoned something about Lennon’s tragic death. Prophetic? Nah, but it was haunting enough that I never forgot it.
Anyway, my Grateful Dead dreams in the post-GD era (I can’t honestly recall ones I had while the Dead were around, though I know I had several) tend to fall into one of two categories. One is depressingly similar to my dreaded college exam dream. I’m going to a Dead show and I have no idea where it is or how to get there. Maybe I have tickets, maybe I don’t. I remember one in which I was with a whole carful of friends and we were all mystified about how to find the venue where the band was playing. Are we even in the right town? In that particular dream, after many wrong turns and taking bad advice from strangers, we finally got to the place after the concert was over but while the main floor of the arena was still covered in the night’s trash. Yikes!
The cooler dreams are the ones where I actually get to experience a Dead show. Here’s one I had a few months ago that has stuck with me (and inspired me to write this). I’m going to a Dead show at some large but remote outdoor locale. This one is taking place by a small lake surrounded by forests dotted with colorful medieval tents. (It is not a coincidence that I had this dream the night after watching an episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones.) The next thing I know, I’m at the show, dancing on a blanket with some pals, and I’m very excited because the band is playing a new song no one has ever heard before. Garcia is wailing on guitar and he and Brent are exchanging smiles. (Most of my modern Dead dreams are the Brent GD for some reason—probably because I saw more shows by that group than any other configuration.)
Then they play a couple of cover tunes they’ve never tried before and the crowd goes nuts. What songs were they? Well, here’s where it gets strange. During the set break, I’m in one of the tents backstage (oh, I’m so important!), and I see a piece of parchment on a table. I write down the songs with a quill pen. Someone asks what I’m doing and I reply: “I know I’m asleep, so I’m writing down the songs, so that when I wake up I’ll know what they were.” Now, that’s thinkin’ ahead, BJ! And sure enough, I remember writing them down in the dream.
Needless to say, as soon as I woke up in the morning after this dream, I recalled many aspects of the dream, but not whatever I had written down. Take my word for it, though, it was awesome! And this wasn’t the first time I’d had that sort of dream—where I’m determined to remember the uniqueness of a song or a jam … “and it just slips away, when I try-y-y.”
Oh, well. Maybe next time.
Meanwhile, I’m wondering why a smiling Phil Lesh showed up in one of my dreams the other night wearing a worn, very cheap-looking tiger costume, with drawn-on whiskers streaking his cheeks. Muy strange-o!
Any of you folks have Grateful Dead dreams to share?
Blair -- in case you've heard from me on a weekly basis too much, you ain't seen nothin yet -- expect daily posts from this cat -- like it or not. I have a gazillion GD dreams to this day -- almost weekly since boarding the bus in '81. Here's a quick sample of 3 of 'em:
(1) I'm at the Filmore East '71-ish (I was 5 yrs old but in the dream I am at my present age -- whatever that is), and the younger than me GD is playing Throwing Stones but w/ the same "bare bones" full on energy of that 1971 GD sound Pigpen and all) w/ all these 'heaqds wondering what tune this is." I don't say a word to any of them and just watch as they dig -- the song takes on the anti-Vietnam war context amongst my fellow 'heads . . . I have no idea how I'm getting home but don't care.
(2) Back in 1984 (george Orwell would find that last clause strange), I swore I saw a Scarlet / Fire in Providence. Had the same dream about two months later. T'was then I realized I had never seen the GD in Providence (up tp that point); prior to the second dream, I talked about or simply referred to that Scarlet / Fire as fact w/ my buddies who always just looked at me w/ a bit of curiosity as if to say "what Scarle / Fire in Providence are you talking about; we never went to Providence." For me it was real for about two months. (BTW -- since then I saw many a show in Providence, but never a Scarlet Fire . . . to my knowledge);
(3) Whenever dosed in a dream, I feel like I actually am -- I think this is legal. ;-)
I had a dream recently about Jerry. He was still alive and he wanted to hang out. I remember trying to get to my house where he was going to come over. It was really difficult to get there because the road was washed out and muddy. I had to get out and climb a very steep cliff to make it home. I did finally arrive and Jerry was patiently waiting for me. He was very friendly and glad to see me. I remember he had put on quite a bit of weight. In the dream I was thinking that he had been gone for over 17 years and I somehow wanted to warn him. It was very weird, but in a good way. It's very cool to hang with Jerry, even if it's in my dreams.
I have had many dreams of being at GD shows since Jerry died and they are all very vague and i never really hear what they are playing. I feel a big sense of relief and of coming home, and wake up with a weird feeling that i can not shake for a while. Eventually I can smile and see that my subconscious is craving more shows, and I am grateful that i saw the shows I did.
Everyone who had contact with the GD experience has felt the loss, like that special relative who has died and occasionally visits you in your dreams. I am grateful for the memories and I look forward to more dreams!
There's the dream (prophecy?) of the GD performing during the halftime of the Super Bowl- with Elton John on piano. It's shortly after the breakout of the Althea-Levon jam, that I wake up to the chant of Jackson!
but somehow things kind of stop for whatever reason.
I also dreamed a long time ago that a bunch of frail older people i was working with were dancing to "me and my uncle."
also recently I dreamed of going to a JGB show and the show ended when i arrived. And the next night Bobby was lecturing a fan on proper behavior.
Another dream years ago had jerry floating up in the air with his guitar.
I had a dream that Bobby sang a whole show on his own tunes at a Furthur show. Then I woke up to the nightmare that Bobby was instead singing "Standing on the Moon." I think this happened when I feel asleep at the last Furthur show I went to.
Last month I had a dream that I saw Jerry on a small stage in the middle of a carnival, and seriously this stage was big enough for 1-4 people tops. He sat on a stool with his acoustic, looking pessimistic and perturbed. He played a few bars, started singing, and then I took a picture of him. The annoyance in his face to even be playing shifted to "fuck this I'm done" since now there were photographers.
He packed up and I woke up.
Well, it's more like a Jerry dream: I have had this dream over and over through the years. I'm not sure when it started. It's always basically the same... I'm backstage, the Dead are playing and all I can see is Jerry's back. I have my electric guitar on, and I'm totally fucking excited and nervous that I am going to jam with the Dead! I have my guitar cord in my hand, I'm ready to go... but there is never a jack to plug into! I have no idea what song the band is playing or if it is the same song every time... all I know is I'm ready, but I can NEVER plug in and make ONE NOTE with Jerry. Every time I have this dream I feel horrible in the dream but wake up and think it's funny. Years later....
After one of the shows at Winterland in late 1973 I went straight home to sleep and the ENTIRE show replayed in my dream. Front to back in what seemed like real time. It only happened once which was fine with me. Kind of creepy and exhausting.
I think I was entering this when someone was correcting the typo in the title and I got erased. Here it goes again...
I can only remember one dream from before Jerry died, although I had many. The Grateful Dead were playing at Red Rocks (which I never went to). In the dream Red Rocks was on a cliff overlooking the sea I was at the show with my mom (who I don't think had attended a show yet but ended up going to several). During the set break I got to talk to Jerry and he was flexing his muscles, showing off the results of his new health regimen (that's how you know this was a dream). He was looking thin and in great spirits.
Since Jerry died I have had MANY dreams in which he is alive again, although it is always understood in the dream that his death had been faked so he could get out of the limelight and live quietly. He has come out of hiding and rejoined the Grateful Dead in order to play again. In the dreams he is in various states of reluctance to play again, although sometimes he is psyched. His playing sounds new and fresh and I am always dancing wildly and happy to see him.