Saturday, July 4, 2015

"Just Landed in Hanoi"

It has been a nice week, but it's been lonely because my wife Beth, who is the Webster University president, has been on a business trip to Southeast Asia, visiting the Bangkok campus and meeting with education officials in Vietnam. She doesn't mind these long flights and overseas trips; they would wear me down.

This July 4th weekend will feature the farewell concerts of the Grateful Dead, in Chicago. Jerry Garcia's last concert was in Chicago, prior to his 1995 death, and thus the "core four" surviving members will play the band's last three shows there. Drummer Bill Kreutzmann was just nineteen when the band began, fifty years ago.

When I was a younger teenager, I loved browsing the LPs at the old Sav-Mart store in Collinsville, IL, during Saturday shopping trips with my parents. I remember looking at the Dead's 1971 "skull and roses" album and wondering if I should buy it. I didn't, but in hindsight I would've greatly enjoyed their music, which I never really listened to until I got satellite radio in my car and found the Grateful Dead station, to which I turn fairly often.

Beth texted me early this past week that she had "just landed in Hanoi." That place name created some cognitive dissonance for me, an old fearfulness. I was too young for the draft but did grow up during that era, when the war and its daily casualties were daily features on the evening news.

Of course, bands like the Dead thrived during the peace-and-love movement associated with the war. Who would have thought about the band's remarkable longevity?
The war has been over for many years. Beth (and some people we know) tell me that the country is a beautiful and interesting place. One of these days I'll try to accompany her on such an Asian journey, and think about history's strange paths.

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