Abbott, Lee. 1979. The Jerry Garcia Feature: Dead Reckoning and Hamburger Metaphysics. Feature (March): 32, 34-37. Also reprinted in Dodd and Spaulding 2000.
Tags: 1978, Atlanta, interviews, drugs, Army, why, death, fascism, reading notes, GA
Took place in Atlanta 12/18/78, at the Colony Court’s Savannah Suites hotel. Not sure the name address.
Jerry, with his “chemically lit” eyes, is grooving in this interview.
Doesn’t want to talk about himself. He’s old news.
“Jerry is in a self-described ‘state of happiness’ (Abbott 1979, 34).
''I was a fuck-up in high school," Jerry says, easing himself onto the couch. Outside, a hard rain threatens. Inside, Garcia is in high animation, giggling and working over the past with a bantamweight's vigor. "When I was a kid, I was a juvenile delinquent. My mom even moved me out of the city to get me away from trouble. It didn't work. I couldn't stand high school 'cause I was burning my bridges as I went along. But I didn't have any way to go. I don't think I did any more than anybody else. It's just that I was always getting caught-for fighting, drinking, all the stuff you're not supposed to do. … I was involved in more complex ideas. I started reading Schopenhauer, Heidegger and Kant when I was in the seventh grade. After that, school was silly” (Abbott 1979, 34).
“there were gunfights in the halls, but I didn't fit into that either. I was happening on a different plane entirely. That's one of the reasons I got into drugs. In all that teenage craziness, it was the only good trip around" (Abbott 1979, 34). #drugs
"I had been courtmartialed twice and had tons of extra duty and was restricted to barracks. I was just late all the time. 1 would miss roll call. I had seven or eight or nine or ten AWOLs, which is a pretty darn serious offense in the Army. So one day I'm called to the CO's office. No heavy trip or anything. He says, 'Private Garcia, how would you like to get out of the Army?' And I said, ‘I’d like it just fine.' Two weeks later I was out" (Abbott 1979, 34). #army
Car accident changed his life, no more coasting.
"I was in a good automobile accident." Jerry grows anxious. "I was with four other guys in an old Studebaker Golden Hawk- supercharged engine, terrible suspension, ninety-plus miles an hour on a back road and we hit these chatter-bar dividers. It was just Wham! We went flying, I guess. All l know is that I was sitting in the car and that there was this ... disturbance ... and the next thing, I was in a field. I went through the windshield and landed far enough away from the car where I couldn't see it. It was at night. It was very, very quiet, you know. It was like a complete break in continuity-from sitting in the car roaring down the road to lying in a field wondering what had happened- nothing in between." Anybody get hurt? "Yeah," Garcia says with genuine awe. "One guy did die. He happened to be the most gifted of our little group. It was like losing the golden boy, someone who had a lot of promise, the person who had the most to offer" (Abbott 1979, 34).
"You were lucky," I suggest.
"Oh, yeah," Garcia agrees. "The car was like a crumpled cigarette pack. It was almost unrecognizable. And there were my shoes in it, dig? I had been thrown out of my shoes and through the windshield." He pauses over the memory of a pair of scuffed Army-issues lying on the floorboards of a violence sculpture. "That's where my life began." He breathes. "Before then I was always living at less than capacity. I was idling. That was the slingshot for the rest of my life. It was like a second chance." [#why] He looks at me hard, his expression earnest, grateful, dead. "Then I got serious.” Another toke. A deep suck of mortality. "I dig the affirmation side of death. Death is one of those things that's been taken from us as an experience. We hide it. As a result, it becomes fearful, scary, because it's unknown. Really, man, it's the other side of being born" (Abbott 1979, 34). #death
“Garcia is on his knees, praying to the coffee table. The toot is vicious, cut with meth, not with quinine, and it’s enough to rip your sinuses out. It goes straight to the forebrain – a howling blizzard of Insight and Truth. The rush is, well, chilling; your scalp tingles, a hospital sourness scours the back of your throat. Then a Con Ed generator of electricity sizzles your synapses … Your smoke is tasty. You are ready to Talk.” (Abbott 1979, 35). #drugs
“my most palpable experiences have all been psychedelics” … there was one in particular, the ne plus ultra trip, the apocalypse” at the end of what Jerry describes as his psychedelic period” (Abbott 1979, 35). #drugs
"It featured countless-thousands, millions-- births and deaths. The phoenix trip, you know. And in my consciousness, it went all the way from, uh, insects to vegetables to mammals to civilizations-to organisms of every sort." What happened? ''Everything," Garcia barks, drawing closer, the glint of his eyes grave and dear. "For me, my trips began to take a different kind of form. The first ones were visual, you know, patterns, colors, profound revelations, 'Yeah, I get it'- the standard stuff. Then I started going to the Acid Tests and experiences were happening to more than one person at a time. They had this telepathic quality. Then into that stepped another level which was between and amongst the telepathic explosions. Between the flashes and surprises was this 'You're almost getting it.' An urging. Then there was a presence which I think of as the Teacher, which represents a higher order. There would be this feeling of déja vu. All these little bits of input-people talking, certain sights-would start to coalesce: 'Damn, You Got It! BOOM!' It took on this teacher-pupil relationship: Me and my other mind! … It scared the shit out of me, man. It was like, What do you believe?' It removed everything I was certain of. And in its place was a new set of circumstances. And these circumstances were like pages in a book. They started moving until I was living out a whole lifespan with all the intricacy of one's life, all the way up to the moment of one's death. The final realizations, the summation” (Abbott 1979 35).
"Cosmic is the only word for it," he sighs. "Nothing has happened in my life since then, man. Nothing was as climactic, as complete as that." (Abbott 1979, 36). Everything after was anticlimax.
Story of a tripper with a big knife threatening JG on stage at a ballroom (Abbott 1979, 36). The power of the crowd “comes somewhere close to losing your will” (Abbott 1979, 36). #fascism
Rock Scully is onetime cellmate of Bob Haldeman (Abbott 1979, 37). JGMF: is this true?
"I don't want to be a leader because I don't want to be a mis-leader. I haven't put any safeguards there. I haven't paid the dues to be responsible for leading people. The most I would want to do would be to indicate, using my life as a model, that it's possible for you to, uh, go for it. But following me is like a dead end street. There's nothing here but me. I can't multiply fishes and loaves and turn water into wine” (Abbot 1979, 37).
"I remember going down to Watts Towers after the Watts Acid Tests. It had been a hard night, I'd gone through a lot of heavy changes, and it was dawn. I remember looking at this stuff. It was just junk. Nobody could tear it down, so they made a monument out of it. I remember thinking that I'd rather have a life that gets me off while I'm living it and leave nothing and not litter the world with concrete relics or ideas or things that will hang you up” (Abbott 1979, 37).
Dodd, David G., and Diana Spaulding. 2000. The Grateful Dead Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.