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Taking Sides

It’s in the Omission

In publishing a controversial report by the Center for Investigative Reporting (News Ticker: “SD's For-Profit Colleges Devour GI Bill Bucks”), you have advanced a misleading impression based on a critical lack of fact-checking.

Graduation rates you state as fact have already been discredited by the Department of Education; costs of attendance to veterans is lower than the figures you publish. Our institution was not banned from state aid — that funding was redirected to state institutions in a budgetary move.

But it is in the omission of the success stories and positive results at our university that the report errs most — those stories were collected but deliberately omitted. The disservice to veterans is yours, and a correction is surely in order.

  • Mark Brenner
  • Senior Vice President, Chief of Staff, Apollo Education Group
  • Phoenix, AZ


Restoring Balanced Reporting

Your article “SD's For-Profit Colleges Devour GI Bill Bucks” (News Ticker) explores a critical issue to many in our area: how to ensure that veterans who have served our country with honor receive the higher education they want and need.

Sadly, the prompt for your report was a misleading and unjust attack on University of Phoenix San Diego, a campus I have the honor of leading. That report cited flawed graduation data, and incorrect pricing, misleading readers, but your newspaper was brave enough to challenge much of that, for which we owe you a debt of gratitude.

It is sad that while some of us choose to do our best to serve our country’s veterans, others prefer to promote their journalistic careers at the expense of these men and women. Thank you for restoring balanced reporting.

  • Kim Lyda-Savich
  • Campus Director
  • University of Phoenix, San Diego


Good Ol’ Days

When I read the Overheard in San Diego comic titled “House Party” about getting kicked out of a crack house, it made think of the time I was living in Ocean Beach in 1977 or ’78. I was bar-hopping from the Sunshine Club to Webbs (on the corner of Newport and Bacon) and I got kicked out of the Sunshine Club.

Back then, nobody got kicked out of the Sunshine Club, and they told me, “Well, you are!”

Ah, dems were the good ol’ days!

  • Allen Stanko
  • Alpine


We Need Bees

Re: Neighborhood News: "Peaceful Bees Forcibly Removed from Ocean Beach

Sponsored
Sponsored

Why kill the bees? Why not get a beekeeper to collect them and take them to another place?

There are several beekeepers in San Diego County. I know this because I was a park ranger for 20 years and we had this problem in one of our parks. We called a beekeeper and he was glad to come and get the bees.

It’s a shame to kill the bees, especially considering how bee populations are declining throughout the country. We need bees for pollination for all types of crops and plants.

  • Name Withheld
  • Escondido


The Conduct of a Victim?

I initially read with interest the July 3 cover story about Jeffrey Saikali being “beaten” in the parking lot of Walmart subsequent to some sort of altercation at Fry’s Electronics (“Murphy Canyon Mystery”). Upon close review, however, this article does not pass the sniff test.

I think there was more to the confrontation between the woman and Mr. Saikali inside Fry’s than the one-sided explanation by Mr. Saikali. By the Reader account, Mr. Saikali left Fry’s after the altercation without looking back, and walked all the way to Walmart, which I believe is a quarter-mile away, not just “across the street.”

Why did he leave the store without giving his version of the events to the security staff, and why did he walk out without looking back while the woman was yelling for someone to stop him? Why did he walk past his car when it was probably in Fry’s parking lot? This does not sound like the conduct of a victim to me; it seems more consistent with someone trying to get away.

The article repeatedly uses the term “beating” to describe Mr. Saikali’s injuries. However, on the front page of the Reader is a close-up photograph which shows only some minor scrapes on his face, two of which look like fingernail scratches. His injuries were characterized on the front page as “brutally beaten.” Really? Look again at the injuries.

The article briefly mentions that the woman he said attacked him suffered a broken wrist. Do you think perhaps that’s why Mr. Saikali walked away from Fry’s without looking back?

I was thinking of shifting my readership from the U-T to the Reader after Doug Manchester bought the paper. But before I do so, the in-depth cover stories need to be more thorough and fair.

  • Craig Bradshaw
  • El Cajon


Skeptical and Confused

I’m writing in regards to your article, “Murphy Canyon Mystery” (July 3). This story sounds a bit bizarre. While I do believe that SDPD has mishandled this case and has lacked transparency, I’m skeptical and confused of Mr. Saikali’s version of events. There are too many unanswered questions.

Right now it is a he-said she-said story. Until we're able to get an account from the woman who had the altercation with Mr. Saikali, or the security person from Fry’s, then I don’t feel it's fair to present Mr. Saikali as a poor innocent victim. I understand it's been a challenge to obtain witnesses, videotapes, the police report, and so on, but it is unjust to automatically side with Mr. Saikali’s story.

Furthermore, why would the woman start videotaping Mr. Saikali in the store? I imagine she wouldn’t have done so if she didn’t believe that this would be evidence against Mr. Saikali from whatever alleged argument was happening.

A broken wrist? Sounds a bit more severe than just his arm “brushing” her off. As for the police officer that has had problems in the past, I’m assuming he was not the only one on scene, and that rather there were several officers on hand. If this is the case I find it highly unlikely that an officer would say out loud in front of a crowd that he “deserved” his injuries.

I hope you continue to follow-up and report on this story as more facts or witnesses come to light. I wish Mr. Saikali the best and hope that the “Murphy Canyon Mystery” gets answered.

  • Elizabeth
  • via email


Mind the Message

The only mystery in “Murphy Canyon Mystery” (July 3) is how this one-sided yarn got into print. I'd be more sympathetic if it were about a six year-old getting arrested instead of an adult. We all remember children’s complaints about everyone victimizing them after they did nothing, and this has that same feel.

The account glosses over the man’s own actions and minimizes that he was the first to get physical. There's also a Hitchcock-like paranoia about all this; evil superstores suppressing surveillance videos, a whacko female shopper, a nutcase martial-arts husband, a rogue policeman, an obstructionist police department, and innumerable passersby who were all apparently too cavalier to speak up.

Even worse, the story ignores the cavalcade of opportunities for peace that the man passed up: What about responding nicely to the lady’s apology? How about not ever getting physical? How about not fleeing the scene?

Rather than addressing these, the article goes into great lengths as to the man’s various rights that were not observed. Coming behind such a childish denial, it seems little more than a diversion.

Perhaps the lesson is that in this imperfect adult world, rather than relying upon one’s rights, we need to mind the message our actions convey. If we want peace, we need to act accordingly. If not, then we reap what we sow.

  • Jim Kennedy
  • Del Mar


Check the Facts

I’m calling about the article that was printed on July 3, “Murphy Canyon Mystery.” Obviously, Joe Deegan, or whoever wrote this, did not check any facts of the attack.

I am the female victim who was attacked by this man who claimed he had never been in trouble with the law. My wrist was broken. Ninety-nine percent of that article is wrong and false. I have a police report. I have photos of all my injuries citing all the injuries and bruises, and the broken wrist, and the cause of the broken wrist that I have.

They’re claiming that somehow this was premeditated or racial. I am Hispanic. And I was there alone.

This is disgusting that this was printed. I can’t get over this. And to see that the Reader has a picture of the person who attacked me on the very front page is disgusting.

No facts were checked here. Everything is a lie. I can provide you with his charges, the police report, and witness statements.

  • Name Withheld
  • via voicemail


Shameful Episode

The story about Jeffrey Saikili being assaulted (“Murphy Canyon Mystery,” July 3 cover story) is an interesting one, and one which raises more questions.

Why weren’t the woman who assaulted him and apparent husband cited by the police? And what are their names?

Why was the victim of the assault cited and charged?

Why did the first ambulance at the scene refuse to take him to a hospital?

Why does such an apparent bad cop as Kenneth Davis remain on the police force?

Why are police reports withheld from the victim?

Most of all: Why didn’t Jeffrey Saikali get an attorney? That would been the first order of business if it had happened to me.

Please withhold my name, as I do not want to get sued by any of the litigants or participants in this shameful episode.

Also, when I type the email address for letters — SDReader.com/letters — as listed every week, I get an “invalid address” notice. Could you please correct it?

  • Name Withheld
  • via snail mail

SDreader.com/letters is not an email address. It is a website URL. Email addresses contain “@” symbols. — Editor


Fashion Advice for Drabsters

Finally moved the couch to vacuum, and uncovered an old, unread Reader. The Ask a Hipster column regarding hipster fashion, especially male, caught my eye. As my apartment directly faces a building full of hipsters, I have two comments:

One. The five-day stubble grunge effect: an oh-so-obvious attempt to emulate male models in say Vogue, or GQ ads for oh, say, European watches. I look just like Vogue except that I’m poor. And since nobody has the money to do Vogue or W right, they end up simply looking like sleazy knock-offs of the real thing. The same applies to these unshaven Breitling and/or Yves model wannabes: sleazy-and-scruffy imitations of the real thing.

Two. The drab uniformity. Dull brown, dull green skinny jeans and similarly colored shirts, and even identical (drab) messenger bags draped at the identical angle across the shoulder down to the hip. All this repetitious conformity lacks is the grey flannel suit, and — POW! —we’re replaying the ’50’s. Oh, we are soooo cool!

The one high in my across-the-street voyeuristic day is that one guy with shoulder-length-plus hair —loose, pony tail, bun — wearing a plaid shirt and jeans strongly resembling 501s. If he does have a messenger bag, he also has the self-confidence not to flaunt it.

Gee, I wish someone with a color wheel would face off with the drabsters, and show them options: This one we call magenta, and over here is teal blue, lime green. These we call stripes, swirls, color blocks. Black is mostly for sitting shiva.

All this grungy hipster conformity of course generates great security for those clinging to it. Sure, I’m always glad to see those who need support and security find it with a bunch of look-alikes, but still.

Whatever.

  • J. Van Cleve
  • North Park

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Hullabaloo, Stick Figure, Beat Farmers Hootenanny, Josh Weinstein, Adam Wolff

Jazz, pop, reggae, and reunions in Encinitas, downtown, Solana Beach, Little Italy, Coronado
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Hullabaloo, Stick Figure, Beat Farmers Hootenanny, Josh Weinstein, Adam Wolff

Jazz, pop, reggae, and reunions in Encinitas, downtown, Solana Beach, Little Italy, Coronado
Cassie and crew at the Las Vegas Sphere.
Cassie and crew at the Las Vegas Sphere.

Basketball great and San Diego icon Bill Walton died on May 27. The next day, sports commentator John Canzano posted an interview clip on TikTok in which he asked Walton how many Grateful Dead concerts he had attended. “Not enough,” replied Walton, before recounting that his first Dead show had been when he was in high school. “I was 15. I’m listening to FM radio and the disc jockey, it had to have been Gabriel Wisdom, that was the guy that everybody listened to, and he said, ‘Boys and girls, that last jam you just heard, that was a new band from San Francisco, and they call themselves The Grateful Dead.’” Wisdom then said that so many people had showed up to the Dead’s recent show in San Francisco that everyone got in free, and that maybe the same would hold true for their upcoming show in Los Angeles. “We said, ‘Yeah, that’s us, let’s go chase the dream!’ So one of the guys stole their parents car for the weekend, right? Nobody had driver’s licenses, nobody had any money, we just went up there in our shorts and our tennis shoes and a T-shirt. We just went up there, got in free somehow, went right to the front, and our lives were never the same.”

“Not enough” Grateful Dead concerts translates, in Walton’s case, to somewhere north of 850. Many of the stories written after his death made mention of his devotion, sometimes to the point where his storied basketball career seemed to be secondary. What were two decades on the court compared to more than five decades in the stands — and on the stage? (Walton famously joined the Grateful Dead offshoot band Dead & Company onstage as a white-bearded, rose-crowned Father Time for its 50th anniversary celebration in 2015.) Drummer Mickey Hart recalled that his dear friend Walton would “regularly send messages that said, ‘Thank you for my life.’ He was the biggest Deadhead in the world and used our music as the soundtrack of his life.”

Three days after Walton’s death, Dead & Company paid tribute to him during a performance of his favorite Dead song, “Fire on the Mountain.” The biggest Deadhead got the biggest sendoff: his image, name, and player number 32 splayed across the gargantuan curved screen of the Las Vegas Sphere, where Dead & Company are in residence until August 10. They started their run in May, after finishing their farewell tour in July of last year, and my wife was in attendance opening night. When she returned, she insisted that she needed to go back — this time, with me. She insisted that Dead & Company was not simply a glorified cover band, rehashing old favorites with the help of relative youngster John Mayer. She insisted that the band was revitalized, in an almost literal sense: the Grateful Dead were alive again, somehow, lo these 30 years after the death of founding member Jerry Garcia.

She knew just what to say. Like many fans, I had thought the Grateful Dead era ended when Garcia died. My wife understood my feeling, if only because she was a little like Walton and other devotees who talked about the Dead — and Garcia in particular — in tones that bordered on the religious.

Garcia was a reluctant high priest — he saw himself as a working man — but that didn’t stop the true believers, even if the best they could offer to explain themselves was, “They are a band beyond description,” one that provided, through their music and the community that formed around it, the closest thing to a religious experience they had ever found. “I am the human being that I am today because of the Grateful Dead,” Walton once said. And like converts, it wasn’t enough for them to attend; they had to tell the world, convince them to come along. “You’ve got to get on the bus, man!” They were friendly, wide-eyed, hopeful you’d join them. But for many, including myself, it felt like they were trying to describe a rainbow to a blind person.

On May 5th, 1990, I got on the bus — or tried to. My best friend at the time was a drummer named Steve Harris. He know I was into progressive rock: polished bands delivering tight performances of frequently complex music. He did not care. He insisted that the Dead were something I had to see, “a band beyond description.” He bought me tickets to see a set of weekend shows in a field at Cal State Dominguez Hills. He proudly declared that these were his first Miracles. I had no idea what he was talking about, but he had a sincerity that was hard to resist, and it seemed important to him that he share this experience with me. Besides: free tickets.

We wound up sitting on the grass, fairly close to the stage. It was extremely hot. A lady seated in front of us said, to no one in particular, “I wish I knew somebody who was at their first show.” Steve quickly let her know that I was just what she was looking for. “Here,” she said, handing me a tiny square of colored paper. “Eat this.” I looked at Steve for reassurance. He was happy to provide it. That set us up for a 16-hour psychedelic ride. But before the acid kicked in, the band strolled onstage and spent what seemed like five minutes tuning their instruments. I had never seen that before, or heard it. It sounded…disorganized. And when they started playing, they kind of fell into the song. The vocals seemed sloppy. I didn’t hear any of the songs I had heard the band play on the radio. The rest of the crowd seemed to approve, but I didn’t get it.

Then they took a break, and when they came back, well, only the drummer came back. The drummer played for what seemed a long time, and when the rest of the band came out, they started doing the strangest thing I had ever heard musicians do. It seemed like they were playing badly on purpose, making sounds that did not link together in any discernible way. By this point, I was thoroughly altered, and the discord sounded weird and even ominous.

By way of consolation, Steve leaned over and said simply, “Space.” I was not consoled. I was annoyed. I had heard so much hype about how good these guys were. Then, finally, they started in on a song that the crowd seemed to recognize, and it was like the whole audience exhaled and relaxed in unison. Then this guy who looked more like somebody’s grandfather than a rock and roll star started to sing something about needing a miracle every day. Steve leaned over again, and explained that a miracle wasn’t just a free concert ticket — it was a gift.

By this point, the LSD had taken hold. I had never experienced it before, and after an hour, I found it close to overwhelming. When we left the venue, we were in no condition to drive. So we sat in Steve’s car, and he played his current favorite Dead song on his car stereo — a slower number called “Box of Rain.” He explained that the song was about the bass player’s father dying of cancer. I remember still not getting it. I remember saying that they sounded like a low-budget Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, with passable but loose harmonies.

Later, my friend Steve died of cancer. Now, when I hear the song “Box of Rain,” I am taken back to the good times we shared before the sickness blossomed in him like a poison flower, and invariably, I will weep. The song has become a time stamp for a moment in my life. It hits deep. But even so, and even though I saw the Dead again a year after that first “miracle,” I did not become a Deadhead until I saw the band’s current iteration at The Sphere. The Dead are an acquired taste; it took me three decades to acquire it.

My wife kept showing me videos taken of Dead & Company at The Sphere. She told me it was a must-see event, that the venue was as much a part of the show as the band, and the internet seemed to share her opinion. Okay then. But our flight out of San Diego was delayed, and despite skipping dinner and making a mad dash to the venue, we arrived after the show started. I should have been soured on the whole experience, but the experience was too sweet for that.

Trying to describe The Sphere makes me sympathize with Deadheads trying to describe the Dead. I will say this: it feels like the future. There are something like 40 individual speakers per seat, and the sound is focused like a laser beam. One section might receive audio in Chinese and another in English, and there would be no confusion. Despite the sonic excellence, it was hard at first to judge the band’s music, because the visual experience was placing such a massive demand on my attention. The curved screen behind the band was enormous; the graphics, all but overwhelming.

But as I settled in, I found I couldn’t help but be impressed by the musicianship of John Mayer (and the rest of the Dead’s new blood). He was doing Jerry Garcia’s guitar licks, but taking them further. And while he got all the words in all the right places, he wasn’t trying to sound like Jerry. He was doing his own thing, and it was working. In short order, I was dancing along with the rest of the crowd.

Back in my younger days, when the band did their “drums and space” thing, that was bathroom and beverage time. No longer. This giant contraption with dozens of drums and assorted instruments was played by three members of the band — and that’s when I noticed the haptic seats. When the drums hit certain notes, I could feel it through the chair. The sound seemed to be three-dimensional, at times bouncing noticeably off the front, back, and sides of the Sphere. But it wasn’t like panning a speaker left and right; it was all around me. And then Mickey Hart did something with an instrument called The Beam that triggered light effects that were unlike anything I had ever experienced before. A one-hundred-and-fifty-foot brain appeared on the screen, the nerves pulsating as if stimulated by whatever it was he was doing. It was incredible! I would pay the ticket price just to see that one aspect again.

As it was, we came back for the Friday show with better seats, and again on Saturday. Each night, the emotional impact grew. The old favorite songs were new again. I started to get it, to understand why the Dead got so big, so ongoing, and why the scene is still so vibrant today. It’s something profound, something beyond music. After the last show, while we were doing the exit shuffle, riding the escalators down, we found ourselves face-to-face with people on another escalator. Our eyes met, and we started cheering, not for the band, but for each other. That’s the kind of love and goodwill I encountered.

Back home, I sought out the local Dead cover band scene. To my amazement, I found around a dozen. Does any other band have a dozen cover bands in one town, or 1800 nationwide, with at least six being full-time touring acts? Dead & Company called their Sphere residency “Dead Forever;” given what I saw and felt, it does seem like the long, strange trips will be going on for a long, long while.

— Albert Barlow

In 2023, Dead & Company announced that their current tour would be their last. They hadn’t played San Diego since 2021. I had to travel to Los Angeles to see the second show of that last tour at the Kia Forum and then to San Francisco to see the very the last one at Oracle Park. But just because they’re no longer touring doesn’t mean they’re no longer playing, which explains their residency at The Sphere. Or helps to explain it.

I frequent a bar in Coronado. One of the bartenders there is Cassie. She’s tall, with dusty blonde hair, the most beautiful brown eyes I’ve ever seen, and she’s drop dead gorgeous. That aside, she’s got heart and soul and is a Deadhead. One day, I went in for a beer. Cassie gave me a wide smile; her eyes sparkled. “I just got a bunch of tickets for Dead & Company shows at The Sphere.”

My interest was piqued. “How do I get in on that action?”

“I got tickets for the first weekend and second weekend. I think we’re going on the second weekend.”

“That’s the weekend I want to go!”

Buzz began to build within the local Dead community; people wanted to know who was going to which show. It intensified when the first clips hit the internet after the opening show on May 16. I didn’t want my experience to be spoiled, so I resolved to avoid them. But the thing about spectacles is that you want to look at them. Happily, they didn’t lessen my excitement about the real thing.

Cassie, her friend Fil, Evan and I were the Coronado Tribe, headed for the May 24 show. Unlike Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, we opted to fly instead of drive. (Cassie let me know which flight to book and already had a hotel lined up.) Like Duke and Gonzo, we had plenty of drugs to keep us company: eight hits of LSD (4 microfiche and 4 liquid gels), five infused joints with kief and rosin, one pressed Ecstasy pill, sixteen Molly caps, four cannabis pens, one bottle of 1000 milligrams of THC tincture, and a quarter of mushrooms.

That Friday morning, Evan came to pick me up in his golf cart. Golf carts are not uncommon on the streets of Coronado. Evan is 26, and is in the Navy. The Navy promises one sort of adventure; our journey promised an entirely different sort. We met Cassie and her roommate Luke at their place to catch a Lyft to the airport. (Luke was heading to London and his flight was around the same time as ours.) Fil was already inside the airport bar, waiting for us and drinking a beer. Cassie and Evan opted for Starbucks, but I stayed with Fil and ordered a $14 Tito’s & soda on the rocks. I’m not a big fan of flying, so a stiff drink was in order. Fil is 43, svelte, and has eyes that pierce into one’s soul. That gives him authenticity.

We arrived at our hotel around 1:30. Fil had arranged for a suite at the Hilton Grand Vacations Club. After unpacking, it was time to change into our Dead attire and head out to Shakedown Street. For non-Deadheads, Shakedown Street is the designated vending area set up in the parking lots of Grateful Dead concerts. Vendors sell clothing, jewelry, arts and crafts, food, drinks, and illicit items. In this case, Shakedown Street was at Tuscany Suites & Casino, less than a mile away from The Sphere. We arrived at 4 pm, and after we had taken a couple of laps around the lot, we concluded that it wasn’t as robust as others we had visited. (I recently learned that the vendors eventually moved inside the hotel due to the heat.) Fil noticed something odd: “I don’t hear any tanks or see any balloons! Headshops sell tanks here in Vegas, though.”

Cassie bought a hoodie and we decided to walk towards the Sphere. Along the way, we passed by Lawry’s Prime Rib Steakhouse on Howard Hughes Parkway. I was telling my crew that the place was an iconic restaurant when I noticed something else: “There’s a headshop!” Inside, we learned that 2.2-liter nitrous oxide tank prices ranged from $45-$99. We all pitched in for the $45 tank and some balloons. People sell nitrous balloons for up to $20 at shows.

We found a staircase at a shopping center across the street from the Sphere to do our balloons. But we got kicked out by security immediately after doing our first round. We decided to head into the Sphere parking lot to see if there was a space for us to do our thing. First thing we saw were police officers getting ready for their concert shift. We needed a different spot after that encounter. We looped around and found an abandoned parking lot. There, we were free to do our derelict activities: inhaling balloons, smoking joints, and playing music.

After our frolic it was time to march to the Sphere (but not before hiding what was left in our tank in the bushes). We found the line to the entrance. While in line, I saw fellow wordsmith Emily Elizabeth Allison from San Diego. I went to say hello and get her thoughts. This is what I got.

Dead Forever

Giant round belly

against the sky,

an egg, giving birth

within itself

to itself.

Outside-in

swirling dervish

calling across dry sun,

an unforeseen spectacle

so full of nothing

but offering something…

spiraling dreams

in a bubble

that no dawn can burst.

You are a memory

of past desert days

and simpler times.

You are the magic ball

of the future

telling fortunes

in rapid blinks,

sensory reminders

of parts of ourselves

that had been forgotten

and now beg to be

remembered.

You are a balloon

with its exhale

catapulting itself

against hopeful blue

sky water.

You are my bucket of joy

and then my hollow of grief.

I never could have known

how I would be swallowed

into your orbit

and spun within your cycle

of a million stars.

You remain for me

a single planet

unmoving

like a gift

with no corners

or ribbons

and seemingly no end.

Perhaps,

like Christmas,

your smile will subside

and you’ll start a new list

of naughty and nice.

But for now,

you are the wizard

behind the curtain

showing all the love

and unexpected tears

are my own.

Decades ago

I never could have imagined

you are rolling up to my gaze

like God’s spaceship,

offering a portal

that demands no vehicle

but breath.

You, round star,

watch my arrival

then spin behind me

as life pulls me away

back to the sea.

You are indifferent

to my comings and goings

and still, I see your wink

inviting me back

each week

to swim in your sphere.”

Our seats were in the 300 section. Once at our seats, we ingested our LSD. The information I was getting on social media was that the 300 and 400 sections were the best for catching all the visuals of the show, and the floor was good for dancing, spinning and being up close to the band. I haven’t experienced the floor yet. (I stress “yet!”), but confirmation can be provided that the 300 section is good for the visual aspects. Viz: the doors opened to the Grateful Dead House in Haight-Ashbury while the “Music Never Stopped” and then everyone was floating up into outer space. Not to mention standing underneath a waterfall, letting the water run between my fingers and catching the rain with my mouth, only to arrive at that cathartic moment viewing Jerry’s silhouette during “St. Stephen.” The crowd on the floor looked like amoebas moving in their pseudopodal state.

The show ended and it was time to find our tank. Cassie had a pin on it, but wasn’t confident one of our brains would work enough to get us there. Good thing I’ve had children, because my fatherly instincts for finding the child kicked in, and we found our parking lot and continued our derelict activities. There was enough in the tank for two more balloons, and we smoked a joint. That was night one.

Next day was recovery by the pool, drinking beers, hitting the vapes, putting tincture under our tongues and relaxing. At one point, Cassie sat up from her lounge position and declared, “We fucking deserve this! I know all of us work so hard!” After sufficient relaxation, the plan was to get cleaned up and head to the Venetian for the Dead exhibit they had there. When we arrived at the Venetian, we learned the exhibit was (and is )at the Palazzo. Exhibits about the history of the Grateful Dead; I probably don’t need to recommend that. Cassie, Evan and I started eating mushrooms at a microdose pace; we didn’t want to trip out too hard before the show.

The Palazzo connects to the Venetian, and the Venetian connects to the Sphere. Because we were in Vegas with some time to kill before the show, we all splintered off to do some gambling. We set a meeting spot, and after meeting at our designated rendezvous location, we shared our stories of being up and down and happy to lose only around $60. We all considered that a win.

Time to go to the show. Night two was not as intense and I was able to grasp and capture everything better because I was in a more stable state of mind. We all opted to head back to our hotel after the show because we had to wake up at 7 am for a 9:30 flight. Our flight back only took thirty-six minutes, but we were stuck on the tarmac for over an hour because there was a plane with maintenance problems stuck at our gate. That was the worst thing that happened on our trip.

There were firsts for each one of us. It was my first back-to-back shows. It was Cassie and Fil’s first indoor show. It was Evan’s first Dead show ever, and the first time he did LSD. He had moments of going deep inside himself, trembling and being confronted with moments from his youth. He made it out with enlightenment. None of that can explain, nor can anyone explain what happened. As Cassie said, “It’s inexplicable!” Our own experience is the one we have. I got to share and rejoice with my sister and brothers.

As the late Bill Walton (Rest In Power) once said, “We all won, and everybody wins.”

Gabriel Garcia

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