Inspiration move me brightly. Light my song with sense and color. Hold away despair.“Terrapin Station” by Robert Hunter
More than this I cannot ask, faced with mysteries dark and vast. Statements just seem vain at last.
“Chuck, I have extra tickets for Bob Weir and the National Symphony Orchestra in October. I got them for all four nights, but now I can only go to three. Family thing. Kennedy Center. Front row. You want them?”
It was my friend Kevin Mullen, a specialist in rare art books.
I’ve learned to say yes first and figure out how to do it later. Plus, I’ve been getting to concerts far more recently than I did as a young man (except during COVID times.) I have access and the means to get good seats now. Plus, if not now, when?
July 2019—Rolling Stones… etc.
December 2021—Bob Dylan. June 2022—The Who. July—Gordon Lightfoot. August—Roger Waters. September—Ringo Starr.
I think I’m forgetting a couple…
I first listened to the Grateful Dead in a Wonder Boy’s dorm room at the University of Maryland. I had no idea what was on the turntable. Then, out of a long track of random chaotic jamming, came the first chords of “Morning Dew.”
It was an epiphany. One of those moments you can remember exactly where and when it happened.
I think it was the only good experience I had with my old friends at Maryland. Dorm life there was like the Wild West. Yucky. I never wanted to visit again.
I think I only went to one Dead concert. It was a mess of churning wacky people and uncomfortable interactions constantly forced on you. I never wanted to go through that again. Not my thing, though others love the experience.
But the music, the music, became part of me. “Morning Dew” became a mantra to me. It still is nearly a lifetime later.
The song is a dialogue between the last man and woman left alive following an apocalyptic catastrophe. Dobson stated that the inspiration for “Morning Dew” was the film On the Beach, which is about the survivors of virtual global annihilation by nuclear holocaust. Dobson wrote the song while staying with a friend in Los Angeles; she recalled how the guests at her friend’s apartment were speculating about a nuclear war’s aftermath and “after everyone went to bed, I sat up and suddenly I just started writing this song [although] I had never written [a song] in my life.” In 1961, Dobson premiered “Morning Dew” at the inaugural Mariposa Folk Festival, and a live recording appeared on Dobson’s At Folk City album in 1962. In 1969, she recorded a studio version for her self-titled album.
During low points in my life, I would put the song on—knowing just where to drop the needle when all I had was the LP of Europe 72. It wasn’t a separate cut and is preceded by way too much space jamming.
It was cathartic to me and often I’d be weeping by the end of it. The music and Garcia’s guitar add synergy to the experience. It would tear me down to nothing.
“I guess it doesn’t matter anyway.”
So, although I wasn’t sure what I was in for, I was looking forward to the concert. I decided to ask my wacky nephew to come along. He was like a little brother to me for a while after my parents died. He can be annoying, but since we’re relatives, I can tell him to shut up if he gets overwhelming. He chattered the whole way down.
“I wish I’d brought some food so you could put something in your mouth,” I quipped, only half joking.
We got there and parked underneath the building. It has been a long time since I’ve been there.
Maybe it was Carmen in 2016? Front row. Remember?
Sure enough, the seats were front row center—just a little to the left of the conductor’s podium.
The show began with a symphonic overture. And then went on like this:
Set One: Overture , “Playing in the Band” > “Uncle John’s Band” > “Dark Star” , “Jack Straw”, “Morning Dew”
Set Two: “The Other One”, “Shakedown Street”, “Days Between” , Reprise , “Brokedown Palace”
Encore: “Lady with a Fan”  > “Terrapin Station”  > “Terrapin Transit”  > “At a Siding”  > “Terrapin Flyer” 
 NSO only
 First verse only
 Weir & NSO only
 Contained “Dark Star”, “Uncle John’s Band”, and “Playing in the Band”
 Weir, Wolf Bros, and Wolfpack
I sat there, awestruck at the performance. It was beautiful. Transporting. And then the opening chords to (Walk Me Out in the) “Morning Dew” flowed into me. I’d waited a lifetime to experience this in person.
Some people just don’t get some things. A close family member read the first couple hundred pages of The Lord of the Rings and stopped—never to pick it up again. When I first started reading it, I couldn’t stop until exhaustion turned me off—often under the bedclothes with a flashlight in one hand. It is that way with the Dead. Though I wouldn’t count myself as a typical Deadhead, their music is a part of me. Ralph Vaughan-Williams is another whose music flows in my blood.
Who else? Let me think…
Bob Weir sang the song through.
And then it was intermission.
The second set was great too. Then the symphony orchestra and conductor left the stage. Weir, the other Wolf Brothers and a quintet of classical musicians returned.
“Terrapin Station”! I never thought I’d experience that in the traditional way either. That “suite” (Terrapin Station is the whole album’s name as well as the “song” which took up one entire side of the vinyl record)—is another piece of music that flows in my blood.
As we were walking out the main aisle, an older guy wearing a mask and a tie-dye t-shirt started chatting with us. He had long stringy gray hair. He talked about how cool the concert was… and so on.
“Yeah, I’m at all the concerts.”
When we parted, I asked my nephew, “You know who that was?”
“He looked familiar.”
“Larry David. Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
I sent some clips to my friend Kevin. He was the one who gave me the tickets. He may have had a bit of donor’s remorse as the fourth and last night was the only night they performed Terrapin. He’d attended the first three. He follows various Dead bands around the country. A LOT.
The synergy of the classical symphony orchestra and a “jam band” was amazing. The orchestral score was created by Stanford’s Giancarlo Aquilanti.
Gerry, my nephew, was pretty quiet as we drove back to Frederick. There would be an occasional “Wow!” coming from the passenger seat. (Indeed, over the next couple days, the kid annoyed me with a few dozen texts thanking me, saying he saw us on YouTube…)
It was about midnight when I fell into bed—elated.
Two unexpected bucket list items had been chalked off.
The next day though, I was kind of depressed. I don’t know why. The usual, I guess.
Likely, this was the “passage of time” scenario. I was a kid when I discovered the music. I got my nephew interested—he’s only about ten years younger than me. Now he is growing old.
I worked hard all day on Monday to keep the spooks away.
After work, I remained disconsolate. When I went home, all I wanted to do was cut wood. That would be “real” and wear me out even further.
I put gas and chain bar oil in two saws. I set them in the back of the big black Dodge Ram truck and bumped down the mountain. There was a lot of dead fall right on the road just before the turn off into the private lane. I’d been passing it every day for a couple months since it first fell (and blocked my way home.) I cut it up. I tossed the stove-length wood into the truck and drove up the mountain.
I felt better. Maybe I felt nothing. Numb.
I don’t need more firewood. I have enough piled up in the barn to get me to 2024.
I made some pasta. I tossed in some various peppers from the warehouse garden and tomatoes too.
I put on football, though I really don’t care for it anymore.
I guess it doesn’t matter anyway.
Last weekend, I threw myself at the books as always. After the usual, I got into the first cart from the “kill” sections of one of the rare books rooms.
I’d forgotten we had such wonderful stuff.
Early American imprints by Sower.
Autographs, first editions, fine press…
I guess they were lost in cyberspace. Maybe something happened in the MOVE (2013-2014)—when we moved from a 72,000 square foot warehouse to the 130,000 square feet we are in now.
It was hard, mentally stressful work.
Some of it I priced freehand—just slapping what I thought the market could bear. Many had original research notes and data in them. Others I sent to be evaluated again.
The downside was I only got to 2 of 10 carts.
A scout brought in these first day covers for evaluation. Stamp collecting is a dying hobby. I bet many young people wonder what a stamp is. Obsolete—like telephone books. We get a lot of albums in.
But these are cool. Postmarked “Moon Landing.” Best of all, they are signed.
Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins. One of the first stories I wrote here in 2017 is titled “I Can Touch the Moon.” And then right near the beginning of COVID, I acquired a copy of H G Wells’ First Men in the Moon signed… by Neil Armstrong.
There were a lot of other cool finds too.
Neil Simon, Annie Leibovitz, Dashiell Hammett.
Poor Annika came in Monday to find two full carts of books to be researched. Madeline had 5 or 6 yellow plastic tubs. There was Obama, Nixon, Nixon…
It can all be so overwhelming.
Tuesday, I went down to the lawyers’ office and signed documents. The pile was about 6 inches thick. The lawyer kept handing me paper clipped sheaves.
“Sign this one three times… Sign this one once. Give it to Pam to notarize.”
The loan finally came through. Good thing. I already owed contractors a boatload of money.
They are about to pour the footers and the slab.
I hope I know what I’m doing. Well, not really I don’t. I hope my advisors know what they are doing.
Why do such a crazy thing?
“Cuz it’s there,” I guess.
Wednesday, a bookseller who specializes in cooking and cocktail books called and asked if she could stop by for a surprise visit.
Then I remembered the chimney sweeps were coming that afternoon too.
Of course, they coincided.
While the sweeps were busy scraping and vacuuming, I decided I should wash some windows. Had I EVER washed the inside? I pay to have the exterior windows washed almost every year.
Wow! The view is so different. I usually open the window to see the sunrises.
But I got back in time to give the bookseller the “Tour.” She said “Wow!” at the appropriate spots.
She also found a good size stack of cookbooks and old cocktail guides in her brief time here.
“I’ll be back!”
I went home and moved some stone to make a new “pocket” bed. This one came out looking like a grave.
I like standing up big flat or pointy stones when they call for it.
Thursday morning, I planted all the trillium in it. 20 tubers. 4 varieties. They will have the bed all to themselves. I put in a lot of nice composted soil. I think they will be happy. I’ll know for sure next spring.
I’m already looking forward to it.
I’m pecking away at this Thursday late afternoon. Soon I’ll head downtown to see Frankenstein. Wonder Book is sponsoring another book-based classic film series this year. I hope there will be a good turnout. We offered free tickets to people who work here.
Annika just sent me an email. I’d been sending her some cool first edition plays.
She was excited that they came from Richard Livingston Coe (1914-1995.)
An influential theater and cinema critic for The Washington Post for over 50 years. A leading theater reviewer in Washington who was renowned for the advice he gave to many pre-Broadway try-out companies and whose commentary led to key changes in Hello, Dolly and West Side Story, among others. A major voice in helping to establish The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
We don’t know where they came from. He died 27 years ago. But I’m glad we rescued them. I’m glad I had the instinct to send them to Annika. I’m glad she had the instinct to look into whom the books were inscribed to. There have been about 100… so far.
I’m glad we do this.
But it can be overwhelming…
Clif is driving me back from the Ford/Jeep dealer. I have two vehicles in for recalls. One had the engine light on as well. I thought I could drop one off and drive the other back.
“The notes say there was rodent damage to an evaporation switch. Do you want to replace it?”
Do I have a choice?
Frankenstein was just… amazing on the big screen. 1931. Boris Karloff made the monster so… monstrous. And evocative. And pitiable. I sat in the front row center. Looking up at the big screen in the old 1920s movie house was immersive. I felt I was inside the film. So many details were visible. Like books. It was just about a month ago I saw Mary Wollenstone Shelley’s manuscript of Frankenstein at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Percy, her husband, had written his notes on the manuscript.
Wonder Book only had one pumpkin this year.
I heard on the radio this morning that if you want to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown this year, you will have to subscribe to Apple TV.
Same with the other Charlie Brown products.
Of course, you could own your own copy on DVD and never have to pay to see it again… or wonder if it has been altered due to “sensitive content” or other reasons.
WonderBook.com has a couple of copies—but likely they’ll be gone soon.
I think the only way to go is to have “hard copies”—whether it be books or movies or music. You never know when some faceless corporation is going to change or withdraw or charge more for something.
My weekend plans?
But I think I’ll go to New Market Plains Vineyard on Saturday after work. My nephew wants to join me. He said he’d bring cheese.
Maybe he will bring some treasure. He is a good picker and charms his way into some great estates.