Sometimes you go out looking for adventures. Sometimes, adventures find you.
I was hoping for the former when planning my mini tour of Dead & Company’s 2022 summer dates. Instead, the latter showed up and didn’t stop until I was homebound. It was enough to make me think I was reliving the cursed Grateful Dead summer tour of 1995. Despite dealing with one incident after another, those moments were consistently balanced out by the kindness of strangers. And for that, one can’t help but feel grateful.
It took quite a few years of marriage before my wife, Maureen, fully came around to the Grateful Dead. She enjoyed the music and tolerated (?) my show stories but things clicked at Fare Thee Well. Subsequently, those feelings transferred to the emergence of Dead & Company. The announcement of shows became a major event in our house. It also developed into reconnecting with Deadhead friends I’ve known since the late ‘80s and others I’ve met along the way.
For 2022 we planned on making it to Cincinnati, Wrigley Field, Deer Creek (aka Ruoff), Philadelphia, Star Lake and Citi Field. As usual, I pushed for more but was voted down due to her being the more mature one when it comes to work life and bringing our dogs – Owsley and Charlie –occasionally home from their canine vacation resort.
As we traveled later than we originally planned to Cincinnati’s Riverbend Amphitheater, we took Google Maps recommendation and rerouted to a country road to avoid a traffic jam and save some time. Traveling past one farm after another, we viewed a nasty storm heading towards us. My grip tightened on the steering wheel as the wind kicked up and pushed our Kia Soul from the side. It looked very ominous. Still, I couldn’t help myself and in reference to the film “Twister,” I jokingly said, “Watch out for any cows flying through the air.” (A tornado did hit around 20 miles SW of where we were a week later!)
Despite the threatening clouds creeping over us, strangely, only a few raindrops fell. Then, a massive downpour and even higher winds arrived. It was difficult enough to drive through it, let alone find a place to stop and avoid a car behind me smashing into us. It was less than a mile to a STOP sign and the next turn.
Suddenly, a tree branch appears, slams into the windshield, destroys the wipers as well as the antenna and right outside mirror. Maureen screamed due to the impact hitting her side of the Kia and realization of what happened along with seeing shards of glass everywhere including her legs and torso. A slight break in the intense storm thankfully occurred and I pulled into someone’s driveway.
Once the storm passed, the owner of the property drove his utility vehicle to check out why someone parked their car on his property. He saw the damage and quickly understood the situation. He and his wife were very kind to us; let us use their bathroom and hang out until the tow truck arrived. We got a ride to our hotel while the car was brought to a collision place near Cincinnati. Shellshocked and without enough time to make it to the box office, we didn’t go to that night’s concert. After dinner we walked to a nearby gas station/minimart near our hotel. As we explained our day to the cashier, she took pity on our situation and generously gave us fresh cookies.
Filled with an undeterred spirit that the tour must go on, we got a rental the next day and drove to Chicago where we stayed at an Airbnb with a wonderful host. As we walked to the two Wrigley Field shows I developed, through travel and stress, incredible tightness and intense pain in my psoas muscle, lower back and hips, which made me extra appreciative for public transportation. We made it to two very good shows. And in the end, that’s all that matters.
Due to a two-day break before Deer Creek, Maureen and I stayed in Chicago on Sunday. Enjoying the sunny weather, we ambled towards a nearby beach. Maureen walked in the grass so she didn’t get in anyone’s way on the bike trail. She stepped in a hole, rolled her left ankle, and let out a pain scream as she fell to the ground. After crawling to a nearby bench, she teetered between nausea and passing out. Her system went into shock and it chose passing out. I held her from sliding off the bench while a bike taxi operator and passenger came over to help. The bike taxi operator called 911. Three Chicago police officers showed up shortly after Maureen awakened from her “slumber.” They called an ambulance but the paramedics couldn’t figure out where she was due to her location being on a Windy City bike trail rather than a Windy City street. Eventually, it showed up at a nearby parking lot and took her to a hospital that was less than two blocks away.
I got in an unmarked police vehicle with the three officers who were kind enough to bring me to the hospital. I’m trying to remain calm as old school paranoia of being in the back of a vehicle activates the imagination, even though I was completely sober and not “carrying.”
Unable to be with Maureen, I sat in the waiting area and heard all about the female who passed out during the Chicago Pride Parade earlier in the day and watched a mother get understandably frustrated with the long wait time for her son (or brother?) who fell earlier that day and bled from his ear. (He seemed fine while watching “Rampage” on the Emergency Department TV but one never really knows until checked by a physician.) Maureen dealt with all the madness of a full and busy hospital. With no room available she was stationed in the hallway. I couldn’t visit her but a worker was nice enough to move her stretcher near a doorway so we could wave to each other.
A couple hours later she emerged, using crutches and in a pliable cast held together by a compression bandage. With our Airbnb only a quarter mile away, Maureen decided to make the trek and get used to her lack of full mobility. What a touring trouper!
The next day, as we travel to Deer Creek, Maureen sat in the back seat to keep her left leg elevated. It felt strange that I was now a chauffeur but…so it goes.
We met up with our friends who had a hotel reserved less than 2 miles from the venue. Deer Creek did a wonderful job with our disability situation – picked her up at the car, escorted her into the venue in a wheelchair and set her up with others at an area on the lawn for anyone with mobility issues. While the concert wasn’t as good as both nights at Wrigley, I thought it was a better show than some reviews made it out to be.
Next day, we drove back to Mason, Ohio – five days after our tree branch attack — to pick up our Kia Soul with its new windshield, new outside mirror and new windshield wipers. After a short wait, our car’s repairs were completed. Replacing the antenna and fixing the numerous dents on the roof, sides and hood will have to wait.
Nearly two weeks home, then it’s back on the road, this time to Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park for that night’s show. With Maureen transitioned to a Fracture Walking Boot plus crutches we worked out much of the ADA situation prior to leaving, which came down to, “Show your vehicle’s handicap sticker to park and ask someone.” A little luck in choosing a lot allowed us to park across from the baseball stadium, and with a travel wheelchair we had little problem maneuvering around the venue after exchanging our tickets for an ADA spot. Another good show. So far, Dead & Company have kept up its end and rewarded us with concerts that made all the troubles worth it.
Rather than pull into the parking lot of our hotel for the night, we passed by it in the hope of finding some place open for late night eats. Despite multiple options in this retail and restaurant area, everything was closed. Not feeling so lucky of escaping a policeman lurking nearby, at the next traffic light I decided not to make a U-turn to head back to the hotel. Instead, I turned into the Mattress Firm parking lot and switched directions that way. As I returned to the road, Maureen said she heard a flopping noise. I didn’t hear it and hoped against hope that it was the way the tires sounded moving along the pavement. We sweated it out over the next half mile but made it to the hotel. Before we took our gear inside, we discovered a bolt wedged in the front passenger tire.
As Maureen attempted to get work done, I spent much of the next morning and afternoon dealing with AAA to get a tow to a nearby shop and get a plug/patch for the hole. After choosing for a tow a guy in a van showed up a couple hours late with instructions to put on the spare tire. Huh? My confusion of why he was there and not a tow truck led to a discussion of the situation. He offered to plug the tire in the hotel parking lot. Shortly afterwards, the job was finished and we finally left for home, picked up Owsley and Charlie and slept in our own bed for a change. Then, had a day off before Star Lake.
Star Lake… No injuries. No vehicle mishaps but…I’ve attended concerts at the venue since it opened. In those 32 years of shows I’ve never experienced such chaos when it came to parking. Prior to that, we waited an hour situated barely a quarter mile away from the venue’s entrance.Our handicap parking permit meant nothing for me as well as other ADA concertgoers. Situated a few hundred yards away from the box office, I literally jumped in front of an employee in a golf cart who was taking people from our area to the venue so that Maureen – still on crutches with Walking Boot — could be assisted. I walked.
I was scheduled to review and take photos that night. We finally got our tickets and my pass after Dead & Company started that night’s second number, “Friend of the Devil.” Everything was so fugazi that the employee on the golf cart talked me out of bringing my camera equipment inside since it was too close to showtime. Turned out that photographers were given the opportunity to shoot the beginning of second set as well. Oh well. I did get something with my Google Pro when we made it to our seats, and that shot ran with my review (https://jambands.com/reviews/2022/08/05/dead-company-at-star-lake/).
My foul mood over the night’s situation slowly lessened as I allowed the music and the atmosphere of smiles and dancing energy embrace me. Also, the Star Lake employees who assisted Maureen and me were most kind before, during and after the event.
After a one-day break, we made our way to Citi Field for the final two shows of summer tour. At the last minute I looked at photos of our hotel and its surroundings. There’s a large cemetery across the street from our weekend’s lodging. If I was superstitious (and I am, a bit) and believe in omens (and I do, a bit), I’d be concerned. After all that happened over the past several weeks, I was. At this point we traveled with a St. Christopher medal, large piece of hematite and my deceased aunt’s bowling keychain (I thought it was another St. Christopher medal until I looked at it) to ward off any more negativity and bad luck.
Barely an hour into the trip, and during the one second I looked at the SiriusXM radio screen to see the artist/track playing — “Push and Pull” by Rufus Thomas — the car hit something. Tire tread? I didn’t know. I pulled off at the next exit and found only the back mud flap damaged. I felt relieved. If that’s the only setback we got on this trip, it’s minor, over and done.
Maureen, who sat in the back seat again, wasn’t feeling very well due to sinus problems. Surprisingly, with my history of sinus issues, I’m fine. Due to her mobility issues – boot that goes almost to her knee and crutches — we got a Lyft to drop us off in front of the baseball stadium (Let’s Go Mets!). From the box office employees, supervisor and Fan Greeter, we’re fortunate to deal with numerous kind people who made our situation much easier — a wheelchair escort and disability seating. Dead & Company’s fiery performance made the effort worth it. I dared to think, “Maybe we’ll end the tour unscathed.”
Not knowing the Lyft pickup location that first of two nights at Citi Field, we didn’t protest when the Fan Greeter dropped Maureen off after the show at what turned out to be the opposite side of the stadium. For a brief moment I enjoyed the post-concert pandemonium of people rushing around in every direction as a jazz trio, set up in the parking lot, found its groove and the “WHOOOOOOOSH” sound of whippet balloons were filled. We finally made it to the correct side — corner of (Tom) Seaver Way and Roosevelt Avenue. After much confusion because it turned out we were still in the wrong place – 50 yards to our left was the actual pick up and drop off location — we finally got Lyft-ed back to our hotel.
The next day Maureen felt awful. She drank tea, took vitamins and sinus meds, sat in the bathroom as the shower ran for a steamy cleanse. After resting all day, she felt well enough to attend the final night of Dead & Company Summer 2022 Tour. Again, the staff at Citi Field was friendly and helpful, and we had ourselves a real good time.
While she felt better on Sunday, Maureen was still not fully recovered after we got home. The next evening, I didn’t feel so well. We considered it a matter of post-tour exhaustion coupled with sinus issues. Still, on a hunch we both tested on Tuesday. After two-and-a half years of keeping it at bay we were positive for COVID! SIGH!!!
Indeed, what a long, strange trip it’s been.