None, some or all of this may be true. I don't know, but I was there.
Jerry Garcia was six weeks from joining the Literal Dead. My Fighting Blue Hen diploma was a month old and I was a few days from packing up and moving down to South Carolina for my first newspaper gig. But there it was, circled on the 1995 calendar: "June 24 and 25, DEAD at RFK!!!" So off I went.
First stop: syphilis capital of the universe Baltimore to catch up with friend Freddie Morgan. He was also a big Dead fan. My bona fides: A dozen shows including the Spectrum, fall 1990 after which I learned trash bags danced around bonfires on your front lawn when no humans were looking. Along with his pal Tony and his studying-to-be-an-RN older sister, Freddie had arranged for some not-choice seats. Very little spirit dampening did that do.
Night #1 – or opening night of the real Dead's final tour – was unremarkable, unless it can be deemed remarkable to get separated from the group, with a friend who'd later do time on pesky distribution matters, somehow scramble 33 miles from D.C. to Baltimore and forget where Freddie's house was, only find out after going on a multi-block door-to-door inquiry mission. At which point Freddie's mammy was awoken. This was 4:30 a.m. While we sang Jockomo feena nay. Did I mention that we were with some dude, a stranger, carrying a suitcase? (It had recording equipment, but we didn't know that.) We were Bubbles; we are all Bubbles.
Thankfully, Day #2 was indeed remarkable. It started – at 7:30 a.m., mind you – with Freddie's mammy cooking a breakfast buffet. (Fun fact: one of our friends, we'll call him E. Kelly, once peed on Freddie's mammy and pappy in the middle of the night. He'd mistaken their bed for a bathroom.)
We drive back to D.C., a cooler filled with the Beast, pockets o' dried plants, spore-bearing fungi and enough cash to purchase special grilled-cheese sandwiches and balloons for decoration. The monstrous rainstorm didn't prove a nuisance, but a cleansing. Except to the three people struck by lightning in a nearby tree at about the same time that I hopped on a moving-car hood, decorative balloon in use and slid off headfirst. (A harbinger of sorts.) Woke up umpteen minutes later, my fingers grating along the parking-lot cement to find my glasses, so I had them. Then, it was into the stadium where the best feeling I'd ever felt was felt.
With tix in hand, minds addled with the pursuit of pure happiness, all eight or nine of us decided we were NOT upper-tier people. We strolled down toward the lower tier. At the bottom of what seemed to be an Acapulco-cliff jump from first tier to grass stood two security guards. They scrambled back and forth, section to section as happiness-addled folks shimmied down the walls trying to get closer.
But not me. Oh, I did my best to touch the sky. From the second step, onto the silver barrier. Launched with my right foot, and ran in the air. Time stopped with multi-colored flags waving in the breeze on the stage as Bob Dylan sang whatever the hell it was he was marble-mouthing. I smiled the biggest pre-having-a-baby smile imaginable. Then, I landed. Mid-stride, about three steps from a guard who'd seen me flying through the air with the greatest of ease.
Wide-eyed and blurry-pupiled, I faked to the left in the RFK end zone. Picture M.J. getting ankle-cracked by rookie Iverson times 10, and that's what happened to guardboy when I pulled back to the right. Running past, arms pumping like a Tyson-to-Spinks flurry, I turned back to see the guard on the ground waiting to get Aminu Timberlake'd by the rest of the crew who just strolled on past his broken soul.
It was heaven on heaven. See ...
Jerry et al soon opened with Shakedown Street. They closed with Wharf Rat into Not Fade Away. We watched from a few rows back on the cusp of the real world, giddy despite the finality of pure responsibility-less glory of it all.
So anyway, six weeks later, while driving to cover some unmemorable story in Florence, SC, an adult working for a paycheck, the radio guy announced that Jerry Garcia did what the last song I heard at RFK promised not to do. I'll always thank him for getting that weak-ass security guard hired, though. Jocomo feena nay.