8 April 1995
By the time we got to Memphis, it was a different zone and the night had given way to a brilliant sun lit day and for two days we met old friends and made new ones from Oklahoma, Cincinnati, Connecticut, you name it and everywhere we went were tribe members come to hear the band and have a good time.
Downtown, Beal Street had been closed to car traffic and in a public park there, a blues band played for tips you placed in an old 10 gallon drywall bucket and everywhere were smiles and out of every pub and cafe poured good music and the sound of laughter and joy.
The pyramid was indeed a pyramid, 32 stories tall and gleaming aluminum beside the Mississippi and in front of it a huge stone statue of Ramese the Great and everywhere, references to the great pyramid at Giza and Memphis links to the Nile and Egypt.
The Dead's traveling vendor circus was there too and the tribal drums and students from Knoxville and a girl from Tampa selling 800 T-shirts and so too the police on horses with smiles and of all the shows I have been to, this one was the least hassle cause Memphis wanted us there.
In an art gallery on Beal Street was the best black art I have ever seen. Strong, bold paintings of proud black people and I wanted them all but only bought one and in a back room was a stone bust of an old African wise man and his eyes, which penetrated me so, haunts me still but it was sold when I saw it and probably for the best.
And although dog tired for the first show, we had good seats in a quiet section up off the floor and although musically, most was of little consequence, now and again, came brilliant little snippets, like I had never heard before and although it is new to me or perhaps I have learned and forgot, I heard something different by picking an instrument and sticking with it and not the lead or loudest instrument and I wonder if this works for a larger group?
Out of a segment they always do which is always different called "Space", the band went into a section of color and spring carpet moss and it was beautiful and I did want to cry for the clarity of it and then into "Wheel" which has always been a great song for me.
Sunday night was less of a show because we were near some talkers and they tend to ruin and although we tried to get them to quiet down, they would not and we moved.
Oh, road maps and caffeine; VW campers from falling apart to mint condition and one even painted with great patience in giant green ferns; tie die T-shirts and dancing old black men drinking Ripple; Mose Vension 79 years young and blind in one eye and a huge yellow tooth grin playing jazz piano for tips (never took a lesson he said); flags flying from cars of all shapes, sizes and colors and me wanting the one I saw that turned out to be custom made by 3 old ladies in Missouri and signed by the members of the band (definitely not for sale, I was told); BB King's Blues Bar but no BB, only pretty women with little babies and mostly white; Elvis at the show and in fact 3 at the April Fools show; bare feet and bare legs; every plant and tree in bloom; quiet, tree lined streets with late 40's brick architecture and wide porches for nice summer's evenings; Jefferson Davis Park all grass and sun along the river and full of folks riding bikes down along the river bank and playing guitars and drums and feeding babies and playing with dogs or laying about in the sun; Graceland and the stone fence around the mansion covered with what must be the names of millions of admirers; parking lot talks with the psychologist from Oklahoma City and his therapy practice and burnt down home and finding Zen and health food; Jackson Street black neighborhood BBQ plate for $3.00, and Dead Heads gathering for free breakfast each day in the hotel and sharing stories of other shows and where they were from and wondering if we had a spare ticket and everywhere were fingers thrust in the air, the symbol for the need of a ticket and signs too begging for a miracle from some other Dead Head and we lucking on 3 tickets in the hotel parking lot from the second fellow we asked.
14 hours to the Mississippi and we making it across the American Nile for fuel but mostly to say we had been "West" and then back East through the day light and then night and looking for March Madness on the radio and too far from anywhere to receive and when we knew close to the end, finding a place with a TV and catching the last 4 minutes of the championship and then back in the car for more East and arriving home at 4am and a different zone, a very different zone.
And now here, I know that I could follow the Dead about the country for a while and not mind at all. Traveling from city to city and poking around in the heart of each and meeting others of the tribe and only having to worry about getting to the next show.
I do not know how much longer the Dead will play and everyone asks this question, but I suspect that they will continue to play in any city which will have them until one or more of them dies and until then, I look forward to the next show and the chance to get out and poke around. I sure love the different zones.