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"Jerry's dead."

A half-dozen street kids came up the sidewalk, chanting, "Jerry's dead, Jerry's dead." It was barely noon, I was awake but not widely, and the scene seemed surreal. For just a moment I wondered whether this was a dream. No, this was Telegraph Ave, which is always a little dreamlike.

Next I wondered whether street kids are a reliable source for the news of someone's dying, and lastly I wondered which Jerry they were on about.

The Jerry of Ben & Jerry? He's made my life better, and I'd be sorry to hear he's left the ice cream business.

Jerry Lewis? He's not funny and I'm not French, so my grief would be only momentary.

Jerry Lee Lewis? Isn't he already dead?

Jerry Rubin? Jerry Falwell? Jerry Mathers? Jerry Rice? Jerry Brown?

The vendor next to me said, "No, Jerry Garcia," so I must've been talking out loud. It's a bummer, babe. Of all the world's Jerrys, Garcia from the Grateful Dead might be the only one I'd miss. Damn it.

You have to have seen them in concert to call yourself a deadhead, and I never have, but I've heard them in concert. Local performances of the Dead are sometimes broadcast live on non-commercial radio, at least here in SF, so I've had that pleasure. Guess you could say Jerry Garcia pleasured me.

There's no money at KPFA and no commercials. If the station paid for broadcast rights, it must've been less than ten dollars, and I'll bet it was nothing. Is there any other band that would allow that?

Truly I am saddened at the news that Jerry's dead, as reported by street kids and confirmed on Telegraph Avenue.

Mr Testosterone was especially in mourning. He's a local head-case whose habit is to stand on the sidewalk and roar like the MGM lion, or the Incredible Hulk. He's a bare-chested, rather ugly hairy-headed and muscle-bound psychotic — harmless, but when he's roaring at random every few minutes, you can enjoy watching pedestrians jump. His roaring today was certainly sadder than its usual loud.

Soon a news crew came, in a van marked BBC News. Several people got out, and I watched as they worked their way up the Avenue, sticking their camera in people's faces. Berkeley was a good choice for gathering person-on-the-street responses to Jerry's death, I thought, until they approached me.

It was a moment when the fish stand had no customers, and BBC News isn't a joke like ABC NBC CBS et al, so when their reporter, a woman with an English accent of course, asked if she could ask me a few questions, I smiled and said, "That's one."

I wondered what I could say about the passing of the late, great Mr Garcia, but instead the reporter said, "Have you read any of the Unabomber's manifesto, and do you agree with his principles or his practices?" Their camera was focused on my face, and the video must've shown a fat man in great confusion as that bogus question rolled around inside my ears.

"Did the BBC send you across the ocean to Berkeley, hoping to find some idiot who might be sympathetic to a murdering lunatic?" Then I went on to say that sure, I've read some of the Unabomber's maifesto, edited to fit the Tribune, and it's as boring as any bullshit political speech. And yeah, I probably do agree with some of it, but bombing random people is despicable, and who does he think he is, Henry Kissinger?

That's when the reporter said "Thank you," and signaled for the cameraman to shut off his machine. I wasn't the man on the street they were hoping to hear from, so don't bother looking for me on the Beeb tonight.

From Pathetic Life #15
Wednesday, August 9, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. I never cared for the Dead, but I have a very clear memory of when I heard that Jerry Garcia died. I was on my road trip with Natalie, the year before I moved to SF. We were somewhere warm and it was the afternoon, and heard the news on the radio, I think.

    That's it. Not a traumatic memory or anything, I just happen to remember that moment.

    1. Do you ever Google Natalie's name, after all these years?

      I was not a fan of GD either, until those free concerts on the radio snagged me.

  2. I have looked for her probably 5 times over 10 years. I know her name, college, town she lived in back then. I got nothing. No news, no facebook, no obituary. And I am NOT paying for any extra services.

    1. Sorry, man. Most of us lose our first love, but losing her without trace has to be worse.

    2. I don't say this much, but yeah, she is the first true love I ever had. First one that I felt actual pain over, I think. Not knowing literally anything sucks, but ehhh.

    3. Hug from Doug.


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