Thinking of that afternoon, I want to pull Doug to his feet
and tell him, “we’re missing something here,”
though even recognizing that we were obviously a little lost, could we then know what
it was we should have been focusing on and somehow penetrate to
the inner core of importance?
Of course not,
But I still get that urge all these years later.
Still, at that moment the scene in my head is Doug sitting on the floor
on the stage rolling joints from a bag of pot that is
the worst, worthless shit anyone has ever rolled into
In my memory, it wasn’t until Jerry Garcia shows up, driving up from New York City
to Connecticut in his rental car that we get something decent to
smoke and then the stuff he’s got is so potent it’ll knock your socks off
and even he will only take a few puffs, confessing that if he smokes any
more he’ll be too stoned to play the concert. (And somewhere I have a
tape or I had a tape, it’s been gone for years, of him stumbling through
the guitar solo on Casey Jones and even though he’s only trying to play maybe
five or six notes, he gets lost, drifting off on whatever psychedelic substance
he had ingested that night, the notes like oddly timed drops of water drifting down
a window pane during a rainstorm.)
And then we jammed, Garcia on banjo, a bunch of other guitars, Vassar Clements on fiddle,
I played a little bit of six string on the sound check and I barely remember the
performance afterward, I was working with the sound crew juggling speakers, chords,
electronics, microphones my memory of it after all these years blank as to what transportation
everyone got into when everything was wrapped or even who I was riding with that night.
But a few days ago, the radio in Tennessee, more than forty years later talked about how Doug was a genius and that someone had just put out an album of his songs and the DJ played some and the songs, to my ears,
all had practically the same melody over and over again and forgettable interchangeable words, or so it seemed, guess I should surf the Internet and explore the songs of Doug to see what he was really up to back then aside from rolling joints with the weakest pot I ever hope to smoke.
And in the middle of all those thoughts and half-remembered memories, the central spotlight for me will always be Doug
pre-performance, sitting on that stage with his giant bag of pot rolling joints and my urge today to pull him to his feet and tell him that we were missing something, overlooking something and, in the harsher light of hindsight warning him that he was going to die young and soon after that afternoon and that it seems important we should recognize what the hell it is we’re missing.
Though you could argue that in some way he didn’t miss anything, he wrote his songs, played them, and lived the life he wanted and now he’s got an interesting kind of middle-of-the-road immortality, his music still getting put out there long after he’s gone while I’m sitting here on a rainy Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee remembering him explaining to me how his manager made him change the name of his group and how years ago he had been a young guitar-playing prodigy with a couple of top-40 hits and a big following in Texas and I can still remember the awful taste of that pot