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Higher Education Blues

& The Cover Band Conundrum 

Dear Ask A Deadhead,

I’m a high school junior. I gave my straight-laced parents a list of schools I’m interested in — California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Massachusetts and Vermont. And my dad took one look at it and said: “Nice try, Junior. Every one of those schools is in a state with legalized marijuana.” I acted shocked and surprised. But he says my list won’t fly. Any ideas?.

Teddy, Urbana, Illinois.


Teddy! Arrrgh!!! Dude! You TOTALLY shanked this one, man! But don’t worry, you are not alone, judging by the mail I get from other very HIGH schoolers. Also, there are a couple of ways out for you.


But first a public service announcement to all kids getting on the college train who have eagle-eyed, hardass parents: Every pothead junior or senior needs to have a few safety schools that are located in states that don’t welcome weed sales. This is called misdirection.

Adding these safety schools to your list will hide your pure and noble motives of getting a HIGHER education. Got it? Good.


Back to you, Teddy. Here are two strategies. The first is to hand your dad a new list, with schools in Kentucky, Florida, Alabama and  New Hampshire. Chances are he’ll say, “Hmm, Junior, this is a curious list.” Then you say, “Dad, I can’t go to those schools! Those states are battling opioid epidemics!”


Of course, he may not get the irony or the point. So I advocate resubmitting a list that includes schools that are close to states with legalized pot. In this case, I’d add New York and Connecticut to the list to get him off your case. If you wind up going to one of the schools, you can always road trip to Massachusetts to boost your stash.



Dear Ask a Deadhead,

Settle a bet. Do you think it is theoretically possible for a cover band to ever transcend the actual original band, even for just one night?

Stevie Axeman, Eugene, Oregon


This question is so heavy, Steve., I printed out two copies and taped one to my refrigerator and the other on my bathroom wall.  For two weeks, every time I ate or peed, this question was staring me in the face, causing massive conflagrations of cogitations.


Yes, it is theoretically possible. But not in the way you probably expect. You might get a headache listing to my explanation. So vape now.


A tribute outfit that tries to mimic/recreate the original band, the way, say, the most excellent Dark Star Orchestra, does, can never achieve true transcendence because sonic forgery is, well, forgery. Are they great craftsman? Sure. But their modus operandi — that’s French for their operating system— stops them from reaching artistic greatness.


The singular magic of The One and his brethren Dead was a natural sonic big bang, a miracle that was borne magically out of Keseyian chaos, Owsley chemistry, roots music and rock ‘n’ roll. That can’t be matched, never mind beat. And the same law prohibiting transcendence applies to Doors and Floyd tribute bands, too. They are limited by the inorganic nature of their mission.


I know this may bum some of you out. I’m not trying to kill your buzz. I’m just being, like, totally intellectual, and saying what my heart feels.


That said, I believe it is possible that some pickup band of dudes who want to rock “Sugar Mag” or “Truckin’” just for fun and then stumble into their own bag of tricks, without the focus on forgery, may transcend our heroes with a big bang of their own. Theoretically, of course.

Listen carefully, everyone: Dumbfounded Dead Dad is not alone. I get similar pleas for help every week, and I usually answer them individually and advise parents not to get too harsh on their kids. But it’s getting tiresome, so I’ll address it here. Look, we all had to find our own way, our own people, our own tribe.Your kids have to, too.


Let me first share, a cautionary tale about my ex-road warrior, Mikey Microdot, then, I’ll give you a righteous solution that has totally WORKED.


Mikey Microdot had a 15-year son who was all into Electronic Dance Music and computer programming. As Mikey told me when I went to visit him in prison, “The friggin music is like disco for mentally deficient robots. I had to do something.” What Mikey Microdot did was stage what he considered was the ideal situation for an awakening. During his one weekend of custody with his son, Microdot baked some mega-potent pot brownies and just left them out on the coffee table in the living room, where his unsuspecting son quaffed, like, four of these mind-melting munchies down. One hour later, the kid is having a panic attack and calls his mom — Mikey Microdot’s very pissed off ex-wife — who calls the EMTs who then call the cops after seeing Microdot, who’s had too many brownies himself, rush to put away the evidence.


This, my friends, is exactly what NOT to do. And don’t do what Microdot did after getting busted, either. Telling a judge that your motives were pure and righteous after you’ve been convicted by a jury does not go over too well.


Now, this is how I connected with Nephew Stew, my sister’s kid, Stew, like practically every teen, was all about rap. Odd Future this, Kendrick LeWhatever  that. Jay-Z everything else. I was wracking my brain on how to win him over. I knew that if I tried to share my music with him, he’d just glaze over and lump me with all the other old farts that tell him about the good old days. Still,I knew there had to be a way for him to see the truth. Then it hit me:

The Grateful Dead Hour!


Nephew Stew doesn’t give a shit about what his uncle Dear Ask A Deadhead thinks. I’m just some weirdo authority figure to him. But if he hears a guy on the radio, a guy like Grateful Dead Hour host David Gans, who wrote an excellent oral history of The Greatest Band in History, who speaks authoritatively about The One and his band of brothers, who can wax lyrical and musical about the Dead’s place in American music and name-check other Americana greats, who can explain the interplay, the cosmic collision of folk and psychedelic music — well, Nephew Stew might actually listen to that.


And that’s just what happened. I visited my sis in Boulder, Co., and on Saturday night, I took Stew out to grab some dinner and see The Shape of Water, which his mom and sister had loved. I called “DJ Rights!” when we got in the car and put on David’s show on WGNU. When we got to the restaurant, Stew, said, “Let’s go to the drive-thru,” cause he wanted to listen to the whole show. We even missed seeing the movie and decided to bowling. (Actually, that turned out to be a good thing, because my pal Scooter in Marin County swears Shape of Water is really a boring, lame romance posing as a monster flick. What a drag!) Now Nephew Stew tunes in every week to the show, and asks me to send him MP3s of my favorite Dicks Picks. He becoming part of the Tribe. So tune in, and innocently turn your kids on!  



To read Dear Ask a Deadhead's response to "Ann Coulter, WTF?"...

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