As teenagers, my friends and I made fun of Dead Heads. We didn’t like the music or the scene. My one friend Janis has a younger sister Helene who was a Dead Head in high school and since she was adorable and sweet, I thought maybe I’d been unnecessarily harsh and judgmental but found after a modest amount of effort that I was still unable to warm up to the Dead Head phenomenon. I’m not saying that Donny Osmond was the cat’s meow (really early teens), or that James Taylor (middle teens) was or even that Motown (my favorite for the last 30 years) was the only music worth listening to but, for the most part, other than Helene, Jerry Garcia seemed to attract musical extremists which was a real turn off for me.
Skip ahead to today.
I am now driving around with a license plate that says JGARCIA.
For those of you who don’t know, Jerry Garcia is the mastermind and musical talent who defined the Grateful Dead for many years.
In my wildest dreams, this would never have been the case. So how did it happen, you ask?
First, I fell in love with a Dead Head.
Second, after we were married about 9 years, my husband felt he had to have a license plate that honored Jerry. I have to admit this took some getting used to. I had toyed around with buying him one years before (that’s progress on my part, don’t you think?) but changed my mind when I realized that meant I’d have to look at it or hear about it all the time. However, when David told me he ordered tags with Jerry’s name, I knew there was no escaping this. My husband, a grown man, was going to have a license plate that advertised his musical idol. Now everyone would know he’s one of THOSE guys.
The reality is if you know David, you’d know about his obsession with the Dead. They go hand-in-hand. The fact that anyone could throw out a date as far back as the 1970s and he could name where the Dead played along with his review of the show pretty much says it all. This band shaped his youth and even his adulthood in many ways, but advertising this seemed a bit over the top. Couldn’t he keep this love affair private?
NO, he couldn’t, and he enjoyed every minute of his new license plate. He’d come home with tales about drivers honking, rolling down their windows and shouting stuff about the Dead, and isn’t this so cool, he’d ask? No, it’s very weird, I wanted to say back, but instead I nodded and thought…WHATEVER.
Some months later, he decided to get a new car; I took his, and guess what happened next? Since new cars need newly issued tags – initially, at least – I automatically inherited JGARCIA. That’s right…it’s on my car now.
I could’ve stomped my feet and said NO WAY, and believe me when I digested what was happening I wanted to do just that – but when David said he’d exchange the plates within a few months, I felt I had no choice but to act like a good sport about this. Plus, I couldn’t be the one to render JGARCIA homeless, not even temporarily – perish the thought – so yours truly came to the rescue. Meanwhile, David’s had his new car for nearly 10 months, and there's no sign of a tag exchange.
Interestingly, I’ve learned that not everyone thinks about the band when they see the license plate. I took my car in to be serviced a couple of months ago and the Volvo guy called out “GARCIA," thinking not of The Dead but that GARCIA was my last name. He may have even thought the J stood for Judy. That was an entertaining twist, and one that made me chuckle.
The other twist is that, believe it or not, I like driving around with Jerry.