I got my merit badge.
For every gig of the summer tour, all eighteen of them, Phish sells a merit badge. Yup, just like the Boy Scouts…if you get ‘em all, you can buy a sash, sew ‘em on and show off.
That’s what we used to do in the Boy Scouts.
Yes, I’m an Eagle Scout.
Who knew it was a paramilitary organization? But hell, it was where I had my first homosexual experience. I was too dumb and naive to realize that when Harold wanted to get into the sack and warm his hands between my legs…
Shit, that’s when I freaked out.
Anyway, I decided to become an Eagle Scout to go to the World Jamboree, in Idaho, it was a requirement… But I never made it, there were too many people with seniority. But Eagle did look good on my college application. Remember when we used to acquire those totems to create an identity to impress people we didn’t really respect anyway?
That’s how I always felt about teachers. Or was it the administration? Oh, I had some great teachers, inspirational, but I can count the good ones on one hand… And mostly they were in high school, especially Pamela Hurley and Mr. Harrity. Thinking back, it was Mr. Harrity who influenced my writing style…he’d taken a sabbatical and came back telling us we had to write for five minutes every morning, and if we ran out of things to say, we had to repeat the last three words ad infinitum. I think this is what makes me able to write off the top of my head so fast…I’m not sure.
ANYWAY, they ran out of merit badges.
But then Jason found one on the ground, it had literally fallen between the cracks. It’s in my wallet. An embroidered mountain with two clouds and the words "Phish 2010". Means more to me than all those academic achievements.
Anyway, again, the venue was SPECTACULAR! The sun set and you could see the tips of the peaks swathed in gold…someone leaned into me and pointed and said "There’s your purple mountain majesty…"
The band hit its groove halfway through the first set, the audience was boogieing, it was a private party all about music, and vibes. To paraphrase Robert Plant, you remember music, don’t you?
And yes, we had plenty of laughs.
It was thrilling to stand on the side of the stage. To look out through the lights and the fog at the assembled multitude.
And I loved hearing "A Day In The Life". And "Mighty Quinn".
But I wasn’t expecting Traffic’s "Light Up Or Leave Me Alone", that got us started.
And equally thrilling was the exit. The last note was played, each band member got into his bus and we ambled behind in a van, with concertgoers bowing at the vehicles carrying the players.
And also cool was going into the room behind the stage where they record the shows and mix them on the fly. The other night, the MP3 and FLAC files were available for purchase thirty eight minutes after the gig ended.
And I loved connecting with the head of security. He remembered me from Jackson Browne. He said he started off doing security for Steve Jobs, it was after John Lennon had been shot, when celebrities got freaked out.
This was the circus. Dead center. Bull’s-eye. This was the heart of the action. With Strasburg delineating the costs and logistics, the fee for going past curfew. And multitudinous unheralded players coming together to present a show. And then on to the next town.
It was like Jackson Browne’s "The Load Out". Or "Almost Famous". But for real.