I had a decision to make the other night and I made the right one. My dilemma was whether I should stay home and watch the latest episode of Survivor, or head to the Tri-Cities to watch a special showing of The Grateful Dead Movie.
I know, I know. "What dilemma?" you might ask.
I chose the latter and went to the movie. Sure, I didn't see Phillip's latest struggle with sanity, but I was able to step back in time to 1974, a time when He was in great shape and the band was on.
I don't want to confuse anyone when I say He. Some might think I'm speaking of Jesus Christ, but I'm not. I'm speaking of the man that has given Jesus guitar lessons for the past 15-plus years. That man is Jerry Garcia.
In 1974 Garcia and his band of merry brothers were at the top of their game and it is all documented in the movie. On Wednesday, April 20, or 420 to some, the movie was released for one night only at approximately 540 theaters in the United States.
The movie documents a five-night stand at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The shows, which were staged Oct. 16-20, marked the end of the fall tour in 1974 and were the beginning of a two-year hiatus the band took to recharge.
It also marked the return of Mickey Hart, the Dead's second drummer. Hart had left the band three years earlier after his father embezzled a large sum of money from the band.
The movie was released on June 1, 1977. Almost 34 years later I finally got a chance to see it. It was wonderful. My daughter even loved it. For a 5-year-old to stay awake and interested in a 2 1/2 hour concert documentary should be proof enough how good the movie is. There were cartoon scenes, concert footage and interviews. It never slowed down or got boring.
The movie allowed the Cub and I to get a glimpse into what 1974 was like. I remember that year, but I was only 5-years-old when the Winterland shows were played. It's not lost on me that my daughter is 5, too, when she got to see them.
Looking at the kids who flocked to the show in 1974 isn't much different than looking at the kids who flock to the shows now days. Styles have changed in the years since, but in the Dead world you can be transported back to the Sixties just by attending a show. The only way a person knows they're in the 21st century is by the cars in the parking lot.
Like I said, the movie gives the viewer a wonderful insight into what the world looked like back then. Do you know a hot dog cost 60¢ at the Winterland Ballroom in 1974? A coke cost 10¢. Last night I spent $25 on a pop, a tub of popcorn, some nachos and a box of twizzlers.
I was a little worried the movie might be sold out, but I should have remembered I live in Eastern Washington. Besides Piper and me, only 19 people deemed the experience worthy enough to attend. That was a little sad, but it worked out for me, as the Cub and I basically had the run of the theater.
One of the last songs played in the movie was He's Gone. I always thought the song was about the passing of Neal Cassidy, the hero of Jack Kerouac's classic novel, On the Road. But in the movie there is a scene explaining the song is about Hart leaving the band. To me, it's about the loss of Garcia.
The song has a line that is one of my favorites of all time. It sums up my feelings about getting a chance to see a movie in the theater that was released 34 years ago. It sums up my feelings about getting to share that special moment with my daughter. And it sums up my feelings of just being alive.
The line is simple and beautiful all at once.
There's nothing left to do but smile smile smile.
That line was never more true than when I was driving back home from a night of viewing The Grateful Dead Movie on the big screen on 420.