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Grateful Dead Concert 1983

August 29, 1983. My birthday is in a few days and The Grateful Dead are coming to town! They’re playing the new Hult Center, the 2500 seat world-class performing arts center that just opened in Eugene a year ago. I’ve always loved The Grateful Dead. Their music is connected up with San Francisco, Golden Gate Park and LSD for me. LSD was given out freely then, and great music was too—the Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe and the Fish, Creedance Clearwater. I have heard them all play, mostly outdoors, though also at dance halls like the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon ballroom. I have never though, heard them play a concert hall. It seems like something very new and different that they will perform in such a place. I want very much to go. My current boyfriend, David, a big Deadhead in his own right, offers to take me.

Sarah Grace is eight. I want her to know The Grateful Dead too. I want her to experience the exhilaration of this music, and I decide to take her with us. I dress up in a long denim skirt and peasant blouse. Sarah Grace wears her favorite shiny gold shirt and short denim skirt. David and I smoke a joint in our bedroom before we take off for the show.

The scene at the concert hall looks like a hippie party at somebody’s parent’s house. People are decked out in their finest wearable art. The smell of patchouli oil permeates the cool marble lobby of the Hult Center. Sarah Grace and I are both wide-eyed. The place is huge and very fancy with massive ceilings and beautiful carpets. Sarah loves fancy stuff and is excited to be here. We climb up to our seats in the very top balcony. We can barely see the stage from there, but when the music starts, it does not matter. The familiar music runs through my veins like a drug, and though I am only stoned on grass, as if in a flashback, I feel like I’m tripping.

"How can you listen to the Grateful Dead without dancing?” I whisper to David. Everybody seemed to feel the same way and before you know it, we’re collectively moving out into the aisles. The management is freaking out and tries to get people to go back into their seats, but it is an impossible task. Everyone is up and dancing. The balcony is shaking from the exuberance. For a moment, I wonder if we are safe hanging out so precariously over the entire hall. Sarah Grace stands by my side watching the whole scene. She looks stunned. I take her hand in mine and we start moving together to the music.

As the Dead move into one of their infamous ten-minute jam sessions, Sarah Grace begins to grow sleepy. It is way past her bedtime, though she is used to going out with me in the evenings as I almost always take her with me everywhere I go. She’s great at bedding down on the floor with her beloved ‘blankie’, a hand made baby quilt, that is now just a tattered remnant. I put the blankie down on the floor and she sleeps through the rest of the concert.

As she is getting too big to carry anymore, I wake her up at the end of the concert, and she sleepily walks like a trouper to the car. What a great kid she is, I think, as I lay her down in the back seat of my old Volvo, cover her up and kiss her forehead for the ride home.

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