Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

February 4, 2007

Estimated Prophet

People sometimes ask me what my favourite Grateful Dead song is. It's really hard to pick just one because I have so many, but the first song that always comes to my mind first is "Estimated Prophet".

Last night Brian and I decided to watch a Grateful Dead DVD, of a Shoreline Amphitheatre concert on June 16, 1990. It so happens that we were at that show, and through pure luck, we'd received 8th row tickets from the Dead's mailorder. We were so excited for the show and we had our list of "I hope they play" songs. The Dead never played the same show twice, ever. They had such a vast repertoire of songs, and the only thing you could count on at each show was "drums/space" during the second set, and if it was a Saturday night, they'd do "One More Saturday Night". Other than that, it was a crapshoot what you'd get to hear.

We'd moved to San Francisco during the summer of 1989, right after we got married. We were so poor that we couldn't even afford cable TV for over a year. We both started out making like $6 an hour, and if it wasn't for the savings I'd built up when I was working at the TV station in Boston, we'd have been in a world of hurt. We bought cheap food, and Brian was the master at making fantastic dinners using cream of mushroom soup, pasta, chicken, rice, etc. In fact, we even bought generic beer. I saved an empty can - it's all white and in big black letters, it says "Beer". I bought all my clothes at the used clothing stores in Haight Ashbury and the Ashby Flea Market in Berkeley; all of which were those hippie skirts from India. But we ALWAYS had money for Dead shows. It wasn't even a question. We spent all of our money on tickets to see the Dead or Jerry Garcia Band. By June, 1990, we'd been to a ton of shows, including our first New Years Eve Show. We were about 2 weeks away from getting to meet Jerry Garcia and Bobby Weir at a benefit. Life was good. We were poor, but we were living the San Francisco Deadhead dream.

So anyway, that night we sat 8th row, they did Brian's fave "China Cat Sunflower/I know you Rider", and I had my fingers and toes crossed for "Estimated Prophet" and I was in 7th heaven when they started to play it.

I'd fallen in love with San Francisco on a trip I took with my friend Charlene after I graduated from college in 1986. I wanted to move there. San Francisco felt like home. In 1987, I took another trip out there by myself but stayed with an aunt and uncle. I fell more in love with the City by the Bay. During 1987, I was making the transition into being a Deadhead. I was listening to WZLX, a great radio station out of Boston and they would play Dead songs from the albums that no one else played. I mean, everyone knows "Truckin'" and "Touch of Grey", but 'ZLX played "Eyes of the World", "Friend of the Devil", etc. They even had a show on Saturday nights called "Dead Ahead" and for 2 hours they'd play live and album cuts. I was working at Channel 56 in Boston, living on my own in a great little studio apartment in East Sandwich.

I still wanted desperately to move to San Francisco, but I wasn't quite sure how to go about it. The Dead are from the Bay Area, and I knew it was Deadhead Central out there. I needed to be close to my new fave band. This was in the days before the internet, so researching a move like that was going to take a lot more creative thinking on my part. My family thought I was insane. I'm an only child and the thought of my moving 3,200 miles away to the opposite coast made my parents crazy. Everyone said there was no way I'd be able to do it. It was too expensive. Where would I work? Where would I live? How could I leave my home? My family and friends? They'd say they'd give it a few months and I'd come running back to Cape Cod.

One night, on "Dead Ahead", I heard a song that would change my life forever. That song was "Estimated Prophet".

The song starts:

"My time coming, any day, don't worry about me, no
Been so long I felt this way, I'm in no hurry, no
Rainbows end down that highway, where ocean breezes blow
My time coming, voices saying they tell me where to go.
Don't worry about me, nah nah nah, don't worry about me, no
And I'm in no hurry, nah nah nah, I know where to go.
California, preaching on the burning shore
California, I'll be knocking on the golden door
Like an angel, standing in a shaft of light
Rising up to paradise, I know I'm gonna shine.

My time coming, any day, don't worry about me, no
It's gonna be just like they say, them voices tell me so
Seems so long I felt this way and time sure passin' slow
Still I know I lead the way, they tell me where I go.
Don't worry about me, no no no, don't worry about me, no
And I'm in no hurry, no no no, I know where to go.
California, a prophet on the burning shore
California, I'll be knocking on the golden door
Like an angel, standing in a shaft of light
Rising up to paradise, I know I'm gonna shine."

I was stunned. The song reached deep into my soul and right then I knew, I was gonna do it. This was a sign. My favourite band in the world telling me I was going to go to California and I was gonna be OK, and sung by Bob Weir who I had an enormous crush on at the time. The next part of the song, when they do it live, reaches a frenzied crescendo, as Bobby practically screams the lyrics, and the band is just jamming like crazy:

You've all been asleep! You would not believe me!
Them voices tellin' me, they tell me you'll receive me!
Standin' on the beach, the sea will part before me
(Fire wheel burning in the air!)
You will follow me and we will ride to glory!
(Way up, the middle of the air!)
And I'll call down thunder and speak the same!!
And my work fills the sky with flame!
And might and glory gonna be my name, MY NAME!
And men gonna light my way!!!!!"

I think I burst into tears when I first heard those words. Then I knew, it was meant to be. I was gonna be alright and everything was going to work out just fine. I just needed to focus on my dream, set a time line, and go for it. So in 1988, I decided to subscribe to the San Francisco Examiner Sunday paper. It got to me a week late, but at least I could get a feel for employment and the cost of apartments, learn the area, keep up on the news. I started saving my money like crazy. Whenever I would think that I couldn't possibly make such a move, or people would say that there was no way I'd leave my high-paying job at Channel 56 to chase a pipe dream, I'd listen to "Estimated" to keep me on track. In the summer of 1988, I decided to take a 3 week trip to California, spending most of that time in SF. I asked my dad to come with me, because I wanted at least one of my parents to see that the City was fantastic, safe and to check out neighborhoods with me. I'd already decided I wanted to live in the Richmond District, a small neighborhood in the western end of the City, sandwiched in between Golden Gate Park, the Presidio and Ocean Beach.

Of course I was scared, and I was trying to find someone to move with me. Holly wanted to, but she'd just started a great new job in Hyannis. Jef and I were dating off and on during this time, but I knew he couldn't leave because his daughter Alicia was only 7 at the time and he couldn't leave her. Brian and I became close friends during the winter of 1988/89, and I asked him to come with me and he said, "Yeah, sure, why not? I have nothing to hold me here!" And the proverbial die was cast.

After the whirlwind jam in live version of Estimated, they bring it down, nice and slow, set you back on your feet:

"My time coming, any day, don't worry about me, no
It's gonna be just like they say, them voices tell me so
Seems so long I felt this way and time sure passin' slow
My time coming, any day, don't worry about me, no
Don't worry about me, no no no, don't worry about me, no
And I'm in no hurry, no no no, don't worry about me, no. ...."

Even though the 1989 quake scared the shit out of both of us, there was no way we were leaving. Those were some really fun times, in the early 90's. We were young, poor and blissfully happy, going to shows, trading tapes, hanging out with all of our new Deadhead friends. I have no regrets.

11 comments:

  1. What a great way to start off your marriage w/Brian. And a great adventure to embark on together.

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  2. You followed your dream and that is fantastic...

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  3. je ne regrette rien...

    You have my deepest admiration; you rock girl!!!!!

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  4. i luv it when you share this stuff with us!

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  5. What a brave move! I live just a couple of miles from where I was born.

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  6. I am impressed that you can even pick "just one" Dead song.I could never pick just one Queen song....I can only pick one song with one hit wonders....that makes choosing really easy;)!

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  7. Lizzzard6:39 PM

    Jo has always been brave and adventurous- all her life! And serious about her music. I wasn't surprized when she said "I'm off"- only that it was to SF and not London!

    Thanks for the trp down memory lane Joanne!

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  8. Lizzard - that's right, I forgot my original goal was to move to London!!! I guess I kinda got waylaid by "Ess Eff's" beauty!

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  9. no place like (((((((SF))))))))!

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  10. Knockin' on the golden door, baby!

    :o)>

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  11. My favourite band in the world telling me I was going to go to California and I was gonna be OK

    Well, as long as you didn't have delusions of grandeur ;)

    Love the song - and as an ex-Bay Area res I loved your story

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