|Bob Weir /from Diamondback archives|
I was never a huge Grateful Dead fan, but my UMD housemates sure were. If memory serves me, Dougal, Chauncy, Stuart and Pete all camped out in the snow to get tickets for the Dead's show at Ritchie Coliseum back in the 1980s. It was a big deal. Pete even designed commemorative tee shirts featuring Jerry Garcia's head on a terrapin's body. And thanks to my housemates, I found myself sitting on a folding chair close to the front. And thanks to the internet, I can tell you exactly when that show was: Saturday March 7, 1981 to be exact. And it wasn't at Ritchie- it was at Cole Field House. With the date pinned down, I can find my own journal entry. (Being the odd child that I am, I took my notebook to the concert.)
"Row 11 Seat 5. Shoved Stuart over one. Everybody's standing on their chair swaying and screaming looking glassy eyed at the stage. Alcohol, cigarettes, sweat and pot. "It looks like rain, " Jerry croons and the crowd goes wild. Now everybody's clapping, but all I see is a sea of knees. I can occasionally get a glimpse of this page by the light of a flashbulb. I smell hash."
It was right about then that a flashbulb went off in my own head. I realized what a mistake I had made by attending the event stone cold sober. Still it was a feather in my cap to be able to say I saw the Dead. And I wish I still had my tee shirt.
Fast forward to now. Jerry Garcia's famous "wolf" guitar which once brought almost a million dollars at auction, is being sold again. This story didn't really catch my interest until I heard that the sale will be an unprecedented act of love beyond fandom. The man who bought the guitar in 2002 has pledged to donate all of the proceeds of the auction and the accompanying concert to the Southern Poverty Law Center - a group which has mounted the charge against hate groups and racism. This "box of rain" is the kind of love this country needs. Now more than ever.