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August 20, 2014 / thackersam

August 19 – The Grateful Dead – American Beauty

American BeautySorry, but first we have the story. If you remember, more than two weeks ago I went to a writers’ conference in the City. After the conference ended at 1pm on that Sunday, I bought a dress that wouldn’t leave me alone at Banana Republic, went uptown for brunch and a walk with my New York cousin, then went downtown to hang with a friend at his bar and pick up a few albums he offered to lend me. You know, contributing to the cause. And just in time too because the tapes are on hold due to a faulty tape deck, as I have previously mentioned for those of you playing along. While I know my friend wanted to load me up or load me down with more albums than I cared to carry home on the subway, I had him select two Grateful Dead and two Kinks albums of the dozen or so of the ones he brought of each group. After a Pinot Grigio or two, I got on the last car of the subway and headed home carrying the four albums under my arm, American Beauty, probably one of the most recognizable album covers if not only for the group identification, just happened to be on top. Across from me on the train sat a mother and her two adolescent children. And I should probably remind you here to keep in the back of your heads the writers’ conference, as it heightened my sense of observation and assumption, and the wine, as it just made me rude and stupid. I scanned the family. The mother looked like she didn’t have the kids too young. The boy was maybe 13-14 (I’m bad with ages), and as boys with their families, particularly their mothers will do is sit just a few feet away, as he did looking only mildly sullen in his cap. The girl was the older, I think, but not by much. She was a bit on the plump side and had a couple of big red pimples on her face, though her skin was still nicer than mine ever was. Her floral shorts enhanced her plumpness, I thought, and a pair of jeans shorts would have made her look cooler. However, even with her pudgy awkwardness and her brother’s aloofness, this family was comfortable with one another. I liked them. And then the girl caught me looking at her, and appeared self-conscious. I leaned forward and said, “You have beautiful hair.” She did have nice hair, long and silky light brown locks. She and her mother smiled and said thank you. The mother got up followed by her daughter as we approached their station, seeming unfazed that the boy remained seated until the doors opened. “Are you coming,” the mother called as they were stepping out. Finally the boy rose and before he got off the train he said to me, “Have a nice night.” And of course I replied “Thank you. You too.”

Well, I think that the albums under my arm had something to do with his need to acknowledge me. I don’t think it was the Banana Republic bag hanging from the other.

Now, back in high school, a few of my immediate girlfriends were Grateful Dead fans, as were a few of the girls from the other group we’d mingle with, and probably most of the boys with whom we all socialized, which included this particular friend whose albums I have borrowed. I was not into the Dead. Again, we must return to what we remember of the album collection, and recall that my music of choice during my high school years consisted of Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Mott the Hoople, a little Alice Cooper and some others. One boy, who is actually now a Facebook friend, would often accost me and say accusatorily “You don’t like the Dead?” And I would feel the need to explain that it wasn’t a question of liking or not liking the Dead, I just wasn’t into them. Hey! I can blurt out “What in the world ever became of Sweet Jane” in the appropriate place, in the right key, without a thought. Still. And I can say now that “Truckin’” really is near masterpiece status. But, upon listening to “Friend of the Devil” even just once again, I recognized the Kerouac mentality of it, and then remembered the Ken Kesey/Grateful Dead connection. And that has stirred a whole new batch of memories.

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