So I was just sitting here doing some computer stuff, listening to the Grateful Dead sing The Wheel. I was thinking that sometimes male and female voices just don’t mesh as well as they should, in the digitally compressed MP3 files we’re listening to these days. I brought up iTunes to see more about the song.

I have several versions of The Wheel, and this one was recorded at Swing Auditorium in February 1977. In the next minute I learned that Swing Auditorium was in San Bernardino, CA.  It was built in 1949 and could hold 10,000 people. Check out all the famous groups who played there.

The auditorium was struck by a small plane on 9/11/1981 and had to be demolished. Imagine that. 20 years to the day before the day we call 9/11, there was a 9/11. Not a terrorist though.

I can’t quickly find any photos of Swing Auditorium in Google Images, and frankly this post isn’t worth much more time. But here is a photo of The Dead playing there in 1977.

Click here to see it full size

Yep, that was taken on the very night I’m listening to, in Feb. 1977. The voices I was hearing are the guy 2nd from left and the girl 3rd from right. Jerry Garcia and Donna Jean Godchaux. He’s dead, she’s not. So it goes.

The wheel  is turning
and you can’t slow down
You can’t let go
and you can’t hold on
You can’t go back
and you can’t stand still
If the thunder don’t get you
then the lightning will

Would you like to hear that recording of The Wheel too? Click here. That should open your computer’s music player and play the song. If not, go to this directory page and right click the link that says “the wheel ….” Select Save Target As … or Save Link As … depending on your browser, then download it to your hard drive.

Small wheel turn by the fire and rod
Big wheel turn by the grace of God
Everytime that wheel turn round
bound to cover just a little more ground 

Christmas tradegy narrowly averted

Well, I’m back from my 11 day trip to visit my brother, sister-in-law (SIL), and little nephew way up yonder in northern California. A fine time was had by all. Santa showed up right on schedule and, as always, brought me some wonderful gifts despite my intransigent and glaring presence on the Naughty list. Nephew T, who’s into dinosaurs these days, got enough toy ones to fill the La Brea Tar Pits. He’s on the Good list, no doubt about it.

My Bro, SIL and I rang in the new year in San Francisco, joining 8000 fellow deadheads and motley hoopleheads at a marathon show by 2 former members of the Grateful Dead – Phil Lesh and Bob Weir – and their band.

[Incidentally, for those new to Metaphor, hooplehead is a term often used in the HBO series Deadwood. Like this.

It means a member of the ignorant masses, an uneducated commoner, an idiot, riffraff, the madding crowd, the great unwashed. I’m certain no such persons would – or even could – read this noteworthy compendium.]

The show was great, and an excellent way to traverse the terminal cusp of the year. They played many of our old favorite Dead tunes, did a lot of cool psychedelic improvisational jam, and even covered Pink Floyd.

Here’s a little video I shot that night. It’s just a few seconds, shot in semi-darkness with a phone, 50 feet above the stage. But somehow, for me, it captures a moment of the energy.

There was one tragedy narrowly averted during our visit. On the afternoon of December 29, a few of us were sitting at the dining table. I was eating lunch, Mom was talking on the phone, and nephew T was doing something I don’t remember. The chandelier above the table fell; without warning, as is usually the case with such events. After all, if there had been some warning I would have moved my laptop.

That’s no flimsy fixture, kids. That’s real iron and leaded glass. And it missed the cover/monitor of the computer by an inch on 2 sides. … Wham! …  There are little ceramic animals on the other sideof the light, which T made and was showing to his Nana. And those photo coasters are made of glass. Thanks to God that it didn’t smash my machine or anything on the table. It just fell in the midst of all our stuff, hurt no one, and broke nothing. It just put a decisive dent in the hardwood table, as a reminder that life’s justice is inscrutable and sets its own terms. And as you can see, the chandelier remained lit.

Mom does the crosswords, by the way. I haven’t cared for them since high school, when some teachers used them for homework exercises. Blech.


Remember when I went up to visit my brother and go to hear The Dead? Did I mention we used to go to Grateful Dead shows pretty often? Well, we did. Here’s proof. That’s me, back in the day, in my tie dye. 1989? 1990? Who knows.

God knows what has become of the shirt; I guess it’s possible I have it in a box somewhere. The bandana I have for sure, and close to hand. My Tasha used to wear it sometimes, and now it’s lining a drawer in my dresser. The one where I keep my watches and keepsakes and stuff. Seems right enough.

Maybe you’re expecting some Dead lyrics to end the post. That’s something I would do, no doubt. So let’s not. I’m in the mood for a little Colin Hay, convinced as I am that it’s a beautiful world

And still this emptiness persists
Perhaps this is as good as it gets
When you’ve given up the drink and those nasty cigarettes
Now I leave the party early at least with no regrets
I watch the sun as it comes up
I watch it as it sets
Yeah this is as good as it gets.

– Colin Hay

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blogging on down the road

I guess I took a break from blogging for a while there, and not because I didn’t have stuff going on and something to say about it. Maybe you just didn’t need to hear about it. So, you’re welcome. … I’m teasing, but sometimes it’s good to live a life that’s at least undocumented; the unexamined life might be worth living after all, at least occasionally.

For a few days, I was up in northern California, visiting bro Joe, Linda, and little T. It was a good visit; I had a lot of fun. I even enjoyed the 16 hour round trip up and down the San Joaquin Valley. There can be something palliative about a long drive in a car alone. Your own air-conditioned fortress of solitude – atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed – with 2200 songs on the iPod. It’s good for the mind.

We went to see and hear The Dead at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View. It was the first time we’d seen them since before Jerry Garcia died, and that was in 1995. They’re older, but so are we. The music was great. It went on for at least four hours, and there were songs to fill the air.

The road to the show took us past Google. We passed it and passed it, and when I was sure we were past it, we kept passing it. The company’s facilities are huge. Here’s a photo. Seems like that can’t be all of it; I think I saw annex buildings in other blocks. But I don’t know the area. I’ve read that it’s a cool place to work, forward-thinking and people-oriented. Which is nice. And I like their online content a lot, except for Blogger. But don’t get me started on that again.

Nephew T, who’s 8 now, went to the show with us. Now he’s an official Deadhead just like the grownups. We were in the lawn section, so after he danced up a little storm for the first set, his folks bundled him up on the ground between them and he slept through the rest of the concert. Which is fine. A lot of folks don’t remain conscious throughout the whole thing. And I’m sure T remembers the evening better than any number of people in their 20s who were there.

I remained alert, and thought the music was fine. It was what I remember from happy concerts of the past, though of course we all miss Jerry.



Inspiration, move me brightly.
Light the song with sense and color

Hold away despair.
More than this I will not ask.

Faced with mysteries dark and vast,
statements just seem vain at last.

– The Grateful Dead


  • I have removed from my TV’s preset channels the one for CNN Headline News. It is lost to the vortex of the trivial and tawdry, and I can’t be bothered to keep clicking past it. Nancy Grace and Glen Beck simply suck. And what happened to the premise of Headlines? Talking heads are not the same thing.
  • I find I write best and with most alacrity with music playing. Lately, my best and favorite music is the soundtrack from the movie Garden State. Wonderful. I recommend it for the ills that ail the writer and poet.

    And if you took to me like
    A gull takes to the wind,
    Well I’d a’ jumped
    From my trees and,
    I’d a’ danced like the king of the eyesores
    And the rest of our lives would a’ fare well.

    I’m looking in on the good life
    I might be doomed never to find
    Without a trust, or flaming fields
    Am I too dumb to refine?

    When You Notice The Stripes, The Shins

  • I hear dead people. I have their voices in my dreams.

Happy Birthday, Ludwig

Today is Beethoven’s Birthday. If he hadn’t died in 1827, he would be 237 years old today. Damn, that party would be a hoot!

I first became a fan of Beethoven’s tunes when I was eight years old and started taking piano lessons. In college, I made extra cash by giving piano lessons. I still have a piano, though I don’t play it often.

(Note the two busts of Beethoven.)

So in honor of Ludwig’s day, here’s the first movement of his 9th Symphony. Enjoy.

something I heard

on my iPod tonight:

We’ll dream as lovers under the stars —
of civilizations raging afar.
And the ragged dawn breaks on your battle scars.

— Jethro Tull, Velvet Green, 1977

Just a morsel for ponderment; let it lead you where it may.

whatever will be

Jennifer Terran is one of my favorite musicians. She’s a Santa Barbara local, and I’ve been to some beautiful concerts at her special performance space in the foothills. Her version of Que Sera Sera has been featured in a commercial for Dell computers:

Congratulations to Jennifer for this cool exposure of her formidable talent, and prayers and blessings on the birth of her second child.