Archive for April 12, 1993

Magic Disco Shirt

Posted: April 12, 1993 in Writing
Tags: ,

I went to the Grateful Dead shows in Las Vegas and didn’t have a ticket, which usually isn’t a problem at Dead shows except that there were throngs of tie-died fanatics gambling on other generous deadheads to have extras. It’s Las Vegas; you go there to gamble.
“I just walked here from Pakistan to see the Dead.” I was trying anything to get into the show. I was hoping that I would get some sympathy for the incredibly ugly disco-era shirt I was wearing to try to be colorful in the land of the tie-die rainbow. It was a sickly green and covered in silver sparkles and the material looked as if it would be irritating to bare skin, but it was too hot to wear anything else. Then again, I didn’t have anything else. I tried to trade the girl standing to my left for a ticket and got a sharp kick in the rump. The carload of out-of-place fraternity guys actually looked interested. Not only did I have to find a ticket for myself, but my friend Dawn was having a ghastly weekend of losing her wallet at the Friday show (now it was Saturday, the peak of the frenzy), leaving her tickets that she had so wisely mail-ordered back in Isla Vista, and having a newly torn ligament in her right knee, so she needed a ticket, too. I didn’t have the balls to tell her that one of the fish she left my roommate to watch for three simple days had died even before I had left, floating bloated and bulge-eyed to the surface with the fake little seaweed wrapped around it’s corpse like a green shroud.
I didn’t care why the fish died, though I think that in trying to spoil it I overfed it; I was leaving early the next morning for Las Vegas and was a third of the way through a fifth of Jim Beam in true Bukowski style, bitching and grumpingabout everything that could go wrong. I hadn’t guessed that the fish would die, though. But I was using anything as an excuse to drink more whiskey, so I saluted the fish and finished the water glass. I was drunk over twenty four hours, from the night before leaving for Las Vegas until early Saturday morning, when Dawn roused me out of the corner of the hotel room I had seized from the other fifteen people staying there and demanded that I escort her across the street to Bob somebody-or-other’s “Vegas World”.
We had two hotel rooms reserved, but somehow the telephone lines from Las Vegas to Isla Vista distorted the amount that it was supposed to cost. Siobhan, another friend of mine from IV, got stuck with the credit card bill, so we sold one room for 120 bucks to two guys going to the show who smoked our entire party out with some crippling marujuana, and I wasn’t really in the mood to go anywhere, especially “Vegas World”, which has Bob’s name emblazoned on the carpet every three square feet, but I was too wasted to argue coherently, so there I was with Dawn, a handful of nickels and a Budweiser being assaulted by the noise of four million slot machines being run by silverheaded women with the knack of winning while I watched. Dawn was darling, limping around on her bad knee in a blue splint with a little change bucket and bright eyes and the hopes of hitting that nickel slot payoff at 2:30 in the morning. But I really wanted her to play a table, any table, so they would bring on the free incentive drinks.
Earlier, I had somehow convinced everyone to walk to Circus Circus with me for the buffet, $4.23 with tax so that you not only get to choose from forty-seven wonderfully decorated types of cardboard, but you really end up spending five bucks because you get three quarters and two pennies back and in Vegas you sure as hell aren’t going to keep any pocket change unless you’re a Jedi knight. They might as well not give you any change, they’ll get it all back somehow; luckily the only money of my own I gambled the entire weekend was those three quarters, which I converted into $3.50 then into nothing in the space of five minutes. My friend Calvin showed up at six Saturday morning with the tired look I imagine the people who play against James Bond have after losing some ridiculous amount of money and sending his ATM machines into the red. He’s worse in Vegas than me shopping with somebody else’s billfold.
I don’t rightly remember exactly how I convinced two separate people that I was more in need of extra tickets than the other million people flocking the parking lot and surrounding roads with hopeful looks and their fingers raised, but I secured those extras. They cost forty dollars each, and I think the green disco shirt is what did it, since nobody was having any luck but the scalpers selling the GA tickets for eighty to a hundred dollars apiece. And I even watched one of them get busted by the police and they wouldn’t sell his tickets on the spot; they said they had to check to see if they were genuine – yeah, right: everyone knew they were just going home to call in their lunch break, grab their Jerry Garcia Band tie-dies and head back to the show. Even the ambulance drivers were wearing tie-die T-shirts. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t get lost from the people I came with while I was on LSD. On the way back from 7-11 where I bought my breakfast – a super-big-gulp mix of Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper and a king-size Snickers bar – I stopped a Deadhead who laughed at my shirt so I offered to trade it to him for an extra.
“Almost, man.”
“This shirt is a classic,” I cajoled, “Real vintage stuff. The Trammps wore this gear. Cost me a hundred in Milan”
“Gotta save ‘em for the parking lot.” I paused; he was still admiring the sparkles. “Doesn’t it itch?”
“Got any doses?”
“You need a tab if you’re wearing that.” He gave me a hit and I dropped LSD at ten in the morning on the way to a parking lot of colorful crazies with no tickets. And then, three hours later, I was standing on the road into that lot clutching two precious extras in front of twenty or thirty jealous fans, peaking, with no idea where anyone was and feeling like my life could be threatened at any moment by a real die-hard Deadhead.
At the Grateful Dead, though, if you’re on acid, you came with everybody else at the show because they all know you or your friends from somewhere or through somebody or at least respect you for liking the same music they do; it’s a friendly phenomenon found nowhere else. There was no hope of me losing anyone anyways because I was wearing the green disco shirt. I got more admiring looks and compliments because of that shirt than I could understand; I was introduced to some girl named Marjorie who was wearing an even more widly colored dress, and I could see that she was happy that there was somebody else dressed as garish as she was. I was feeling a little out of place because I didn’t have anything tie-died or with a logo that was punning on the Grateful Dead’s name (“What do you do if you meet a bear in the woods? Play Dead!”), but I was content after a while to stick out like a fan at his first Dead show. It was my first Dead show. Probably not my last though, I’ve got a closet full of wacky disco clothes and I’ve got to wear them somewhere.