I was in my favorite seat in my favorite row in the Oakland Coliseum that night. All was as perfect as perfect can be. Except for HER. My usual touring buddy had fallen head over heels for a redheaded minx who was totally fucking up my trip.
Not that I could blame him. Even I, long condemned to eternal heterosexuality, knew she was a dish. But not only had she taken over my shotgun seat in the Beast (he had bought her tickets and brought her along for the ride), she had the temerity to sleep with our genial host at our usual stop – now, it must be said here that the genial host was always an easy lay – I mean, he had propositioned me before she traipsed into his room, but I had excused myself. I accidentally found them in bed together the next morning (touring buddy slept in the Beast) and had to make them promise never to let him know. I didn’t want to have to deal with a betrayed heart for the rest of the trip.
The icing on the cake – well, I could put it another way but I never did like scatological references – was when we picked up our other traveling companion in The City and scooted on out to the show. Needless to say, he became another charmed companion. Nobody even noticed when I said I was going on into the show.
Now our usual practice was that I would go into the show as early as possible so that I could grab our favorite seats, up in the balcony, on the aisle, just behind the taper’s section. The aisle gave us plenty of room to dance and the people in the rows below us never obstructed our view. If I was quick – most early folks headed for real estate on the floor – I could grab four or five seats and throw stuff on ‘em to save ‘em for when the others came up. Jerry was always last because he stayed out as long as possible to sell shirts. But the others – generally 2 or 3 more friends who found us – straggled in and took their places before the show started. Not today. A couple friends from LA who always sat there too helped me hold onto our seats while the show not only started but was three or four songs in before they finally showed up led by the little redhead. “Sorry,” she said to me, as she minced by. “I just had to go shopping and they insisted on coming with me.”
Then just as I finished gnashing my teeth and finally felt safe enough to relax into one of my favorite dancing songs, I felt a tug at my elbow. “I hate to bother you, but would you mind watching my stuff? I just have to get a hot dog.” And without waiting for an answer, she darted down the row and out of my sight. If she had been a Deadhead, she would have known. That song was a classic ending for a first set. All she had had to do was wait …
I must have been seething out loud, because my friends from LA immediately came over at the set break.
“Are you okay?” they asked. “We noticed you weren’t into it like you usually are.”
I might have actually growled.
“Tell us,” they insisted.”
They listened patiently, and when I finished my sorry tale of woe one of them – Jim? – looked at me and said, “Well, you know what you have to do.”
I was filled with hope. At last, a solution. These guys were from LA. In show business, at least one of them was. An agent of some sort. They must have to deal with this stuff all the time. Pests. Unruly groupies and the like. I wasn’t asking for much, after all. I just wanted this particular pest to disappear. But what …? What if …? I mean, surely not …
“You have to forgive her.”
He said it so softly I nearly missed it over the clamor of possibilities in my head, and when I did, I sank back in my seat in confusion. Forgive her? FORGIVE HER? How? Why? I stared at him, waiting for the Christian, come to Jesus speech that would surely follow. It didn’t. He just smiled at me.
“Forgive her, wish her a good show. That’s all. Okay?”
I nodded, not believing a word he said. I didn’t want to forgive her. I hadn’t been this pissed off any anybody for good reasons for a long time, and I wanted to keep it up. Anger like that can be downright enjoyable. But he was right. I wasn’t having a good time. And here I was, wasting a perfectly good Dead show that simply didn’t come along every day. It was like being offered a cup of magic and saying, “No thanks. Don’t wanna spoil my bad mood.”
Break was over and the boys filed back onto the stage. Some little time later she came back trailing her new conquests with their hands full of goodies she proceeded to – well actually I don’t know what she did with them. I was too busy dancing. I had already forgiven her, and managed to say, “Have a good show.”
And just like that. I don’t remember what they played that second set, but one thing I know for certain. I danced the whole damn thing.