Blue Heron in flight

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Eyes of the World (Live Boston Music Hall, Boston 6/9/1976)

A cool thing about being a deadhead is that I know exactly where I was on certain dates a near half century ago. 48 years ago today I was at the Boston Music Hall, seeing the Grateful Dead perform for their first time back after a two year band hiatus.

I had seen them at the Music Hall in 1973 as well, it was one of my favorite venues. Beautiful old room, neat balcony. Boston was a great city to trip around in, with the mixture of both very old and space age architecture.

I had just returned from a year abroad, most recently spending several months on the Greek island of Ios. I got into a spirited entanglement with a girl from England who worked in St. Moritz. She left me with a nasty souvenir of our times together with a serious little itch that required antibiotics to cure.

I hastily flew to NYC and stood in a line at the public (and free) Beth Israel Hospital, watched a clearly disapproving nurse with a gloved hand jab a needle in my ass and yell for the next in line. There are certain things in life one never forgets.

After receiving the cure I managed to get to Boston, where I stayed with my sister Liz for a couple days. She was working as a stripper in Revere, if memory serves correctly, and it does. But that is a story for another day...

The Dead show was wonderful and quite joyful. St. Stephen second set opener, Franklin's Tower standalone encore.  Early Cassidy. This was my lifelong friend Doug Garn's first show and I remember meeting him there, maybe for the first time. Great times. Hank and Gabe might have been there, Richie Patrick as well.

Anyway I pick Eyes of the World to commemorate the show because of a funny twist. 

As I said, I had been living on a remote Greek island in the Cyclades. 

When I got off the boat from Piraeus a fisherman met me in the harbor and asked me if I wanted to rent a room in his small house for about forty cents or drachmas a night. I did. 

His ancient home was located a few hundred yards up the hill.

I went out fishing a couple times at night with him and his son, dropping our nets and then going to sleep, waking up in the morning to check our catch. 

At night his wife would make spaghetti bolognese and serve us homemade red wine.

It was an idyllic time. 

But it took me a few weeks to figure out that there was actually a village a mile or so up the hill. I'm slow like that sometimes...

I lit out for civilization and began the steep walk, singing this beautiful Grateful Dead song Eyes of the World to myself the whole time along the way. 

After twenty minutes or so I found a small bar on the side of the road.

As I entered the rustic tavern I was amazed to hear this exact song playing on the jukebox, the very same tune I had been humming to myself the whole way up the hill. 

How does that happen?

Curiouser and curiouser as they say, not to mention serendipitous, synchronistic, completely unexplainable and absolutely wonderful. 

Pretty much like the rest of my time watching this band play and meeting the fine cast of characters who followed them from 1972 to 1978 (back when the music was really good), many of them who have remained my most trusted and loved companions for over a half a century.

Thank you Grateful Dead. Thank you one and all. We had us a high time, living the good life and I wouldn't change it for anything.


Back to Ios. I only made it to the other side of the island once. It was like a four hour trek over the hills. I believe there was a prison somewhere out there but it was very remote. I was passed repeatedly on the path by townspeople riding sidesaddle on ridiculously small donkeys.

Somehow I found a small lonely taverna on the far side in order to get out of a passing rainstorm. It was there that I had one of the greatest meals of my life. The proprietor shot a rabbit and made a stew with local root vegetables. The cheap homemade red wine was robust and glorious. I was in heaven.

I still look back at that as the finest repast I have ever enjoyed. Rustic, pure and unaffected, just a few natives and me enjoying the fruits of the land in a timeless manner, the way they had for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

It was a late Sunday. As I came back over the mountain I walked by the old church and I encountered the most beautiful and innocent local rite. Sunday evenings, mothers and grandmothers would parade their closely chaperoned daughters in one line. The boys would be in another and they would walk past each other in an age old courting tradition, not even allowed to speak. 

For how many centuries had it been practiced? I wonder if it still takes place. It was a beautiful thing.

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