My Uncle has been a fan of The Grateful Dead for as long as I can remember. He would play it in the car and I would mindlessly listen. Not really appreciating, not really retaining. I never really got the hype, yet I really never took the time to understand it.
Just this past Saturday I was out and about and my friend texted me, prefacing the message with "this might be a crazy idea" followed by, "I can get us tickets to the John Mayer and Grateful Dead concert tonight and we could probably make our way into GA", to which I responded "yes" without much hesitation. I am the worlds biggest John Mayer fan and no matter who he is accompanied by, watching him on stage, play the guitar with his eyes closed and that weird look on his face would sell me every single time. Still, however, I kept in the back of my mind my Uncles fascination with The Dead.
After making our way there, my friend and I were two of the youngest people in the crowd by at least a decade. What surprised me, and intrigued me about this crowd of people, however, was not their age. It wasn't even the sea of tie-dye or the smell of patchouli oil. It was the way they carried themselves, the sense of calm and pure contentment with life that everyone I encountered possessed.
The first encounter that stood out to me was in the line to get into Wrigley Field where the concert was being held. I was shoulder-to-shoulder with complete strangers; more specifically, the friendliest strangers I had ever met. A woman bumped into me, apologized, then inquired a bit about my life, then my astrology sign, then my moon sign, to which I had no idea of. Then there I was, standing in line with a stranger, calculating my moon sign and then marveling over just how accurate it was. A simple encounter that I know I will always remember. I will remember it for its purity and the way it reminded me that most strangers aren't bad. We're all strangers really, until we talk, or ask for each others moon sign.
My next encounter began a bit rocky. After having trouble getting my ticket scanned, the woman helping me brought over a manager. To my surprise, this manager treated me like dirt. He put his hand in my face, continually telling me to shut up and then threatened not to let me in. I kept my cool although I felt nothing close to that. I had my newfound friends behind me, including moon sign girl, to back me up, assuring me and the nasty manager that I should not be spoken to like that. Evidently, I made my way into the concert feeling supported by people I really did not even know. Visibly shaken up, moon sign girl put her hand on my shoulder and said, "It's over with, you got it, move on and enjoy yourself", exactly what I needed to hear. Once again, reminded of the goodness of people, even those you do not know; the goodness of strangers. But also reminded that we cannot hold on to bad situations because when we do, we will ruin even the good ones.
The last memorable encounter in my short tale, but only one of many from my night took place during the concert. I was three rows of people from The Grateful Dead and even more important to me, John Mayer. Living in my generation, my first instinct at a time like this is to pull out my phone so that everyone I connect with online knows what I am currently experiencing. A woman next to me, probably about 40 years old looked at me and without judgment or anger said: "don't worry about capturing this on your phone, just enjoy the moment while you are in it." Me, who would usually respond with defensiveness to my generation looked at the woman and simply said "thank you for reminding me, I needed to hear that." Here, not only was I reminded once again of the goodness of strangers but that I, and so many others, are more consumed by the capturing of a moment than by the moment itself.
I would like to send a little thank you to John Mayer; I will always be your number one fan but thank you for sharing your time with The Dead. For if you had not, I would not have experienced this night, I would not have been reminded of these lessons. And to my Uncle, although it took me quite a few years to understand, I get it. I get the hype. It's the Grateful Dead's music and the following they've gathered over the many years that brought us all, old and young, to Wrigley field to live a few happy hours, swaying in some tie-dye.