It was the summer of 2001, the summer after my first year of college. Six months earlier I had driven down to Baltimore with my new friend J to see the String Cheese Incident play a gym. The music was complicated — Jay said “try to listen to each instrument.” It was all new to my ears.
Phish, leaders of the scene, was newly on hiatus. Trey Anastasio, lead singer, lead guitarist, musical genius, was playing with his new band at the Mann Music Center, in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. It was a beautiful day. I was there with friends and aquaintances from high school — they tried to buy mushrooms beforehand and I had a gooball. Goofball. The mushrooms didn’t work but the gooball did.
I remember still sitting there on the grassly slope, surrounded by people, staring at the stage and listening to the music. This is our religious experience, I thought, this is our temple, sitting there, with friends and strangers.
So much of my life was ahead of me. Surprises — joys and tragedies. Deaths, war, and love, and journeys and new friends and old friends. I sat there, listening to Trey Anastasio play guitar for the first time ever (first time for me, first time in the historys of the universe that I had heard such a thing).
We are here to witness. We are here to participate. Times moves on, like a song, without any regard to any attempts to slow it down — but we are here. Our presence does not go unnoticed. While God may be silent, gone, or absent, there are others in this world and we can see ourselves reflected in their eyes — we give each other meaning — we give each other love — we are very small, we are, we are so fragile, so fragile, and our time together is brief, so brief. We are unique and beautiful. The songs we sing linger in the air — the lives we touch are touched and are forever changed — though our names will be forgotten, and our minds and egos and lives will blow away like the wishes of a dry dandelion, we are a part of this thing — liquid screens may fool us, and artists make up tales (shadows of shadows) but the sun burning shines on us. It is real. Our love is real. The world is real and sad and painful but joyous and every day is another day another opportunity to listen to the music and sing along to feel connected to go home to love to tell someone you love them to thank them to be thankful to journey home. I sat there watching Trey, surrounded, surrounded by strangers, happy strangers, and the drug was a mild one, smoothing the ridges easing the pains and I felt joy and I felt happy and between then and now there has been darkness and love but I can still feel joy I can still be happy and I am happy no matter what the winter comes and the winter passes and spring comes and summer and long days will return long days will return and Phish returns and Phish returns — and I return to some leaf covered road and —