Presented gratis in honor of my kind brother, Mark Berman.
Note: I do not own this material. Copyright retained by the writers/performers.
August 12, 1986
Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s overtime and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.
You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”
And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes.
As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?
Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?"
They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.
Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:
“I put in 35 years…”
“It ain’t right…”
“I don’t know what to do…”
They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?
I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.
I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”
One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.
So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.
To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.
Walking through the streets of Los Angeles towards the Greek Theater on that fateful night, I was at the beginning of a new passion in my life. I came up to everyone's belt buckles and had to tilt my neck back to look up at all the adults. I will never forget what I saw, for it became a way of life for me. Men and women wore bright clothing and dreadlocks and sold all sorts of things, from glass items to hemp necklaces to something I later on learned to love, goo balls.
At the time I only had Junta to listen to (it was a gift), and I fell in love with the two disc masterpiece. I made the trek all the way from my native Costa Rica to California to be able to experience this wonderful new sound live. At twelve years old, I didn't know what to expect!
As the crowd grew anxious inside the venue, I looked to my right and saw a beautiful girl (who must have been eighteen or nineteen years old) smile down at me and say, "Enjoy the show little sister". These words have stayed with me at every show I have been to since.
The screaming grew louder and with the lights still dim, I saw four silhouettes climb the stage with a cool ease as if taking a stroll on a Sunday afternoon. That's when it all began: songs I had never heard that blew my mind. A new genre of music to my ears! I had never listened to other jambands, not even the Grateful Dead, so this sound that was coming from these four talented musicians was a new and wonderful experience!
I danced like I had never danced in my life as they kicked off the show with "AC/DC Bag" and kept my groove all the way through "Sparkle" and "Divided Sky". I finally chilled out when "Strange Design" began, a song that I have only had one other opportunity to listen to live (in 1997), after eight years of attending shows. My heart sank with the beautiful words and music that came from Trey Anastasio, a name I would become so acquainted with I would feel as if though I knew him.
After the show I lay in bed and thought about everything that I had seen and heard that night. I knew then that that's how I wanted to live my life. I wanted to follow Phish and live the excitement I had lived that night for the rest of my life.
Almost an entire year went by before I had another opportunity to see Phish live. During that time I acquired most of the albums that had been released up until then and could play some of their basic riffs on my guitar. None of my friends in Costa Rica understood my love for the band, for the music. I was alone in my love of the band, but that never discouraged me from listening and believing that someday I would see them live again.
That someday came July 5, 1996 in Rome, Italy. When I found out that Phish was doing a European tour, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to seeing them again. My mother is remarried to an Italian from Rome, so we spent quite a lot of time there. I was able to convince my mom to leave for Italy a few weeks before schedule so I could see the band perform a second time.
I had hoped that my second Phish experience would be as good as my first"... that show exceeded my expectations. I was more familiar with the music then the first time around and had a much deeper appreciation for the different versions of songs I heard. That night I learned what a kind person was. Some kids I met at the show offered me to go with them to see the rest of the European tour.
Over the years I saw Phish in over 10 states, most western European countries, and Japan. Now, at age 20, standing 5'11, I don't have to crank my neck back to look at everyone anymore, but I still feel the rush I felt that first night back in LA. My knees get weak, my stomach grows knots and my head goes crazy in anticipation wondering "what will they play tonight?"!
I've never formally met the band, though I did have a very brief run-in with Trey in Los Angeles once in 2000 on one of his solo tours. But that's another story for another day"...I've often wondered what I would say to the guys if ever given the chance to meet them. So many questions pop to mind, about the words, about the music, about them"... but in the end I know I wouldn't really ask them anything. I would simply say "thank you".
July 10, 2003 was my last concert, at Shoreline in California. It was my fiftieth show and I enjoyed it as much as I did my first, eight years before. I know I will always love Phish and will continue to listen to their music throughout the rest of my life. I don't know for sure how many more shows I will go to in my life, I can't say how long Phish will continue to perform live, and I cannot promise myself that I will get in to every show that I try to. The only thing I am sure of is that I will hear a little voice inside my head that will say "enjoy the show little sister"... and I know that I will.I happened to attend this show. My experience was not as revelatory, but I enjoyed it all the same. Great to hear of such an experience though!
Anyway, the best known of these paradoxes is called the Russell paradox nowadays. You consider the set of all sets that are not members of themselves. And then you ask, ``Is this set a member of itself or not?'' If it is a member of itself, then it shouldn't be, and vice versa! It's like the barber in a small, remote town who shaves all the men in the town who don't shave themselves. That seems pretty reasonable, until you ask ``Does the barber shave himself?'' He shaves himself if and only if he doesn't shave himself, so he can't apply that rule to himself!The barber shaves all men who don't shave themselves, or he wouldn't, in part, have a business. But that's just one facet, or constraint here. He also shaves himself, and by doing so, according to the setup, he must be shaving someone who doesn't shave himself...