Friday, April 06, 2007

The Arrest: Charlotte Part One

I made eye contact with him. It is so clear in my head that it could almost have happened yesterday instead of 16 years ago. I was sitting in the front seat of my friend’s car, taking a hit off the pipe and I glanced up and looked the guy right in his eyes. He was looking right at me as well. The image burned into my mind along with every second of the next twenty-four hours. I must back up just a bit though for any of this to make sense to you.

In my younger days, the thought of driving from Tampa to Charlotte was really nothing at all; to see the Grateful Dead even less of a thought, and to see them around my birthday was a no-brainer. This was the case in the summer of 1991 when a few friends joined me on a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina for a two-day span of shows. It was going to be great (no pun intended). To be honest it was actually the week before my birthday, but that is a minor detail.

The drive up was uneventful to the point of it not even occupying a single brain cell in my head. I honestly have no memory of the drive to Charlotte or back to Tampa. I guess it was just filler and endless passing tress: possibly a lot of smoke as well which would help explain the memory gap.

The first thing that does pop to my head is the foreshadowing “Mama Tried” from the first night. It’s the only thing that pops into my head from that first night actually. I really should have paid attention because it was definitely a sign of what was to come. I mean some of the lyrics are “turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole” after all. It was my twenty-first birthday the following week. I don’t think my guardian angel could have made things any clearer for me. What was I on exactly?

The second night we got to the parking lot early. For those who have never been to a Dead show, the parking lot scene before the show is most of the lure for most people. It is where the community gathers and mingles and grows. It is a large part of what made the shows so special. The food, the drinks, and the music- it all created the scene forever embedded in so many of our minds. A small portable community modeled on how we all wish our neighborhoods could be.

After a few hours of wandering about and meeting fellow Deadheads, we all slowly made our way back to the Honda for our pre-concert celebrations. I sat in the front passenger seat with my feet up on the dashboard. We had all four doors open, the windows down, and a really great copy of the ’77 Cornell University show playing rather loudly as we passed a pipe around the car. It was perfection until…

I actually made eye contact with him as he spotted us in the smog of the Honda. He had on the generic “teddy bears sitting in a VW bus with the words ‘Sunshine Daydream’ written above it” tye-dyed tee shirt. I remember thinking that guy was such an obvious poser. He just oozed like some local who heard there were drugs at a Dead show and came looking; the type of guy who gave the scene such a bad reputation. Who could imagine that I was partially right?

“Is that any good?” is the next thing I remember hearing. It came from Mr. Sunshine Daydream as he and a friend leaned into the driver’s side window.

“Yea,” one of us managed to slowly utter from deep within our haze, “You want some?”

“Sure,” he said very confidently as a badge magically appeared in his hand. “We’ll take it all. Get out of the car.”

In my head I heard “turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole and that leaves no one but me to blame cause mama tried.”

I gave up immediately the joint I had stashed in my shoe that I was planning to sneak into the show later. We assured him it was all we had and, after a search of the car, he believed us. He said if we promised not to run he would not handcuff us and “embarrass us in front of our friends.” I was really high and had no desire to walk let alone run so off we went handcuff free to a booking station they had set up in the parking lot.

On our way there I asked Mr. Sunshine Daydream if I could possibly give my ticket away since I was obviously going to miss the show. What can I say, I was really high and that was honestly my first concern. He told me to hold on to it because I had such a small amount there was no way I would miss the show. He said they were looking for harder drugs and all I had was pot. I felt really relaxed at that moment and stayed relaxed until I sat down to be booked and immediately had my hands plexi-cuffed behind my back. Slowly it was getting real.



Serena Joy said...

Whoa! I'm pretty sure I'd have wet my pants if that had happened to me. Looking forward to hearing the next chapter.

littlebirdblue said...

Now I've got a "Mama Tried" earworm (definitely not the worst thing!)