At that time in my life, my life was once again filled with music. We continued to play at Saturday Market every weekend, sometimes both Saturday and Sunday. One day we were doing our usual thing when a TV crew came by. They were from Sapporo, Japan which is a sister city of Portland. They were filming a segment on the arts scene and wanted to know if they could film a couple of songs. Of course, we agreed and continued on with our planned set. We did some Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, and even threw in some jazz and blues. Now, it was time for some Grateful Dead, Mr. Charlie, Tennessee Jed, Cumberland Blues… We went right into “Trucking,” one of our theme songs at the time, by the Grateful Dead. The camera crew started smiling and zoomed in on the line “living on reds, vitamin C and cocaine.” We later met a fellow traveler while living along the coast who recognized us from a television segment he’d seen in Japan. He told us that was why he remembered us so vividly. It was because they’d included that closeup scene in the final product.
We met lots of musicians both at the market and through Paul’s job as a cook. I’ve discovered early in my adult life that lots of musicians work in food service, which is a little strange considering the fact that many of them are pretty spaced out, and the work usually involves sharp knives. But many of them came over to jam when they weren’t dealing with injuries. One of them was Tim, who played the flute. I’ve always loved the sound of a flute and would love to learn to play it well. My meeting with him for the first time was another of my most embarrassing moments. Paul had told me that Tim would probably arrive a little before Paul got home and that I should be on the lookout for him.
In the late afternoon, I saw a long-haired fellow carrying a small instrument case coming down the road and decided to walk out to meet him. I went to the door carrying my baby, who had fallen asleep on me. I had him in front of me against my chest, trying not to wake him until I could set him in his crib. I couldn’t really see where I was walking and headed straight out the front door toward the porch stairs. As I took that first step and started falling forward, I suddenly realized that the stairs didn’t line up with the door but were slightly to the side, an obvious engineering flaw. I managed to save my child, landing on my elbows, and quickly roll over, just a little dazed. Justin was still fast asleep. Looking up into the concerned eyes of our new friend, I asked if he could give me a hand. I assured him I was fine. It was just another day for me. I’ve always been clumsy and figured that if my friends remained my friends after witnessing my many mishaps, they must be true friends. Many of them were also as freewheeling as we were and didn’t stay in one place for too long. Tim was no different. He turned out to be a good friend and a fun musician who fit in with our music well, but in a few months, he was off to his next adventure.
“Bongo Bob” was another work contact. He was a percussionist who was married to a very jealous woman named Judy. Judy hated him spending time away from her and insisted on coming with him whenever he came over to jam, which was usually two times a week or more. She sat glaring at us most of the time, rarely spoke, although I tried hard to engage her. After a while, Bob started coming only once a week. Finally, after a few songs, Judy would start pestering him to leave. Eventually, he would sign and say, “Okay, one more song.” That was the point at which Paul and I became expert at throwing in segues. That “one more song” would turn into three, four, five or more as we kept going from one right into the next, much to Judy’s chagrin. She soon caught on though, and pretty soon, “Bongo Bob” was not allowed to play with us anymore. I guess we were a bad influence.
There was also a couple we spent quite a bit of time with, Pam and Bill. Pam loved hanging out with our kids. Justin was always very wary, radically and loudly preferring me over anyone else, except sometimes his sister. I was getting burnt out fast and Pam could see that. They offered to babysit so that we could go to an outdoor all-day concert. I wasn’t so sure about it. It would be a long time for a 5-month old who had was already very clingy. Pam had experience with children, and Bill was onboard. Jessie was excited to have a whole day with these fun friends, so I reluctantly agreed. I left plenty of milk, and he already drank water and herbal tea from a bottle. They would be fine, or so I thought. It was June 30th, 1979. On the bill were The Grateful Dead, McGuinn, Clark & Hillman and David Bromberg. Doors opened at 10 am.
The Dead’s set list was: Jack Straw, Candyman, Me and My Uncle, Big River, Tennessee Jed, Looks Like Rain, Deal, I Need a Miracle, Bertha, Good Lovin’, Friend of the Devil, Estimated Prophet, He’s Gone, and by then we were pretty gone, Drums and Space, The Other One, Wharf Rat, Sugar Magnolia and One More Saturday Night. I didn’t remember all of these, only a few. I looked the rest up online. I was never much of an archivist. I remember a little of Bromberg’s set, too. He played I Like to Sleep Late in the Morning, Bojangles and Main Street Moan, and plenty more. I danced and partied all day long. I didn’t realize until I arrived how much I needed this day.
We had a great time. The music was awesome, the crowd was friendly as always, and it was a beautiful day. But, all day long, I had a nagging feeling. This was before the days of cell phones, so there was no reliable way to reach us short of a serious emergency. Even then, it wouldn’t be easy. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and found security. I explained the situation, admitting that I didn’t actually know that there was something wrong, it was just a strong feeling, maybe mother’s instinct. I asked if there was any way I could use a phone. How could they say no? When I finally got through to our house phone, I could hear Justin screaming in the background. Bill insisted that all was well. Justin was a little fussy, but they could handle it. Pam was getting his bottle now. I breathed a sigh of relief and went back to the show, but I never lost that uncomfortable feeling that something was wrong.
At the end of the day, refreshed, recharged and floating on air from not only the incredible music but also the break from parenting, we returned to a screaming baby, a crying caregiver and her frazzled boyfriend. Apparently, Justin started crying as soon as we walked out the door and, other than falling asleep briefly from pure exhaustion, had cried all day. He didn’t drink any of the milk I had left but immediately stopped crying as soon as he was back in my arms. When I asked Bill why he hadn’t told me when I called, he said that they could see how stressed out we both were trying to parent in addition to work and music without any support from family and friends. They wanted to give us a much-needed break. I appreciated it, and it did help me cope, but Justin became even more attached to me after that, even as he got older. That day was just a taste of what was to come. Jessie was also upset because she'd basically spent the day entertaining herself in a very loud environment. Pam and Bill offered to spend a day just with her, so it worked out even better. And, of course they took her out of the house on her own adventure.
7/5/2020 01:54:03 pm
Love these stories. I hope you put it all in a book some day.
7/6/2020 12:46:15 pm
Thanks, Dave. That's the plan.
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