Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Tag: egypt (Page 1 of 3)

Three Coins In A Fountain That Was Not Made By The Hands Of Man

“Heard those rooty-toots were here last year.”


“Those scooby-snacker. The dopers, for Christ’s sake! The dopers!”

The Grateful Dead?

“Whatever they call themselves. I call ’em bums. The people pay good money to see you. Y’gotta class it up for ’em. Buy a tuxedo, get a new hairpiece, put some effort into your presentation. Blue jeans! They wear their blue jeans!”

That’s what they’re comfortable in, Mr. Sinatra.

“I’m comfortable with my bird in a hooker! I don’t do it onstage, capice? There’s a time and a place!”

Yes, sir. I see you’re playing the Pyramids.

“We’re doing it for peace. And, uh, Jerry Weintraub set it up, and he’s the best.”


“Big Sally! Pop this prick!”


Ow! Why would you do that?

“That’s what I do!”

Yeah, I guess.



I’d Walk A Mile With A Camel

“You sure this is the way to the stage?”

“Yes, sahib.”

“Usually, you know, Parish takes me.”

“Yes, sahib. Barish.”

“Parish, man.”

“Is no ‘P’ sound in Arabic, sahib.”


“Seriously, man, I don’t see a stage.”

“Camel knows way.”

“This is almost as bad as playing Florida, man.”

“Is not as humid.”

“Yeah, okay.”


Thoughts On Egypt Without Research

Uprose the merry Sphinx,
And crouched no more in stone;
She melted into purple cloud,
She silvered in the moon;
She spired into a yellow flame;
She flowered in blossoms red;
She flowed into a foaming wave.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • Egypt is made out of sand and a river, and the river is more important.
    • Unless you’re a dung beetle.
    • Dung beetles couldn’t give a fuck about rivers.
    • They go for dung.
    • Humans, though, need steady access to ample water for societies to flourish, and the Nile was just that.
    • And more!
    • The Nile floods its banks every summer, and the water droplets that once were snows atop Ethiopian mountains now deposited themselves into plains abutting the river’s course, and they brought with them yummy and nutritious microbes and oogie-boogies and they fed the soil and made it as fertile as a Mormon rabbit.
    • And then the sun shines for the rest of the year.
    • That right there is the Garden of Allah, my friend.
    • (Allah did not yet exist. I mean, Allah existed in the way that gods are retroactively eternal, but nobody in Cairo had yet heard of the Almighty Allah, PBUH.)
    • There was so much food that it enabled the Ancient Egyptians to trade and become wealthy, and then get conquered by everybody else on the Mediterranean.
    • The Assyrians, the Persians, the Alexander the Greats, the Romans, and finally the Muslims.
    • Ancient Egypt was a jobber.
    • If Ancient Egypt were a Spider-Man villain, it would be the Shocker.
    • Just there to get whupped.
    • (NOTA BENE: The Ancient Egyptians did not refer to themselves as “Ancient Egyptians.” Their name for themselves was “Eyeball-Vulture-Bread.”)
    • (NOTUM BENUM: I’m proud of that joke and I don’t care what you think.)
    • And Ancient Egypt is dead, anyway; they built a dam on the Nile called as Aswan, and now the river does not overflow its banks every summer, and there is no reason for our species to any longer be there, but still we remain and maybe still they do, too, all shaven and kohl-eyed and cat-fancying.
    • We know so much about the Ancient Egyptians because they chose the most secure file medium of all: chiseled into stone.
    • Tape rots, and so does paper, and digital objects are written in languages that die off quickly.
    • Compact Discs, too.
    • Sony told us CD’s lasted forever.
    • While they were selling us CD’s.
    • Maybe it’s our fault for believing them; in our defense, it seemed correct that the information stored on the disc would remain pristine and whole forever: CD’s involved lasers, and they were shiny, so therefore they would last until the future.
    • That’s Logic 101, muchacho, but no: compact discs hold their charge for a decade or two and then it’s as barren as the deserts of Al Dabaa.
    • Getting a slave to chisel your messianic rantings into the side of a boulder?
    • That’s History 101, muchacho.
    • Stop saying “muchacho” and get to the part with the Dead.
    • This is a blog about the Grateful Dead.
    • Right. 
    • This brings me to the Ottomans.
    • Leave the Ottomans out of this.
    • What about Sadat?
    • You should mention Sadat.
    • Anwar Sadat was in charge of Egypt in 1978; he had been in power for eight years and switched the country’s alliance from the Soviet Union to the correct team.
    • He was also the only Arab leader to attempt peace with the Israelis (after kicking their ass in the Yom Kippur War); the other Arab leaders threw him out of their club for this move, but some Swedish stiffs gave him an award.
    • Concurrently, Sadat was trying to patch up the relationship between Egypt and Iran, which was still a Westernized country at the time.
    • The dude was big on peace.
    • He was, of course, shot in the face.
    • That’s in ’81, but we’re still in ’78 so Sadat has not been shot in the face and Egypt is open and welcoming and willing to let a sweaty, hairy horde of infidels choogle in front of their biggest tourist attraction.
    • But why did the Grateful Dead want to?
    • I submit that there are two reasons.
    • The Grateful Dead loved the Pyramids because the Grateful Dead loved sci-fi novels and conspiracy theories and tales of lost civilizations and secret histories, and the Pyramids figure into all of those categories.
    • You name a hoodoo, I’ll show you a pyramid.
    • Pyramids, Stonehenge, the Ganges, Uluru; you know: the Magickal Places.
    • The Dead loved that shit.
    • That is the first reason, and it is (in translation) what the band would tell you.
    • There is another explanation: Because it was the Grateful Deadest thing they could do.
    • Self-sabotage?
    • Financially ruinous?
    • Performances hampered by chemical dependency?
    • Yes, yes, yes.
    • Pink Floyd played in the ruins of Pompeii, but they had a professional film crew with them, and Metallica went down to Antarctica to do a gig for the scientists who may or not be The Things, but that was an advertisement for Coca-Cola.
    • The Dead’s working vacation was entirely on their dime.
    • 10, 700,000 dimes in today’s money.
    • Which is very many dimes to spend without any return at all.
    • The bill was so high because the Dead brought about a million people, or maybe a couple hundred, either one, and everyone stayed at a hotel called the Mena House and smoked hash and looked at ruins and varied in their levels of native-clothing adoption.
    • (Garcia stuck with his usual jeans and a tee-shirt. Mickey immediately purchased a dishdasha and wouldn’t stop talking about the breeze on his balls.)
    • The band didn’t pull the old-school “back of a flatbed truck” stage routine either; they were scheduled for a place called the Giza Light & Sound Theater.
    • They projected movies onto the Sphinx that made it look–kinda–like he was speaking, and he would thunder his questions at you, and then maybe some fireworks .
    • It was a show for the tourists, but when the Grateful Dead got there it looked like this:

  •  This was the 13th (soundcheck), 14th, 15th, and 16th of September, 1978.
  • Theater holds 3,000 comfortably.
  • They drew around 1,000, but it was a hip crowd.
  • How could any self-respecting weirdo pass it up?
  • There was the Family, and Bill Walton had a big group, and so did Kesey; Texas and New York and Los Angeles sent contingents; London and Europe: a gathering of the tribes.
  • The Bedouin (who are an actual tribe) wandered up and listened, but chose not to gather.
  • Egypt is a nigh-unbeatable card if you’re playing Headier Than Thou.
  • That’s like dropping a Draw Four or a Black Lotus on the table.
  • “I saw them at Winter–“
  • And it’s over.
  • High-end drug dealers, and hustling college kids, and shit-starting novelists, and viscounts with ancient wealth, and NBA centers, and quite a few people who didn’t want to discuss their professions, but were still a ball to hang with.
  • The Grateful Dead had purchased the crowd an excellent party.
  • Which, you’ll note, is the opposite of how that’s supposed to go.
  • So: they’re $1.7 million in the hole and the only possible way up and out is by producing some sort of salable product while in Cairo.
  • This proved daunting.
  • The band was down half-a-drummer, as Billy had broken his arm punching dick several weeks before.
  • He says he was playing basketball, but he’s a lying dickpuncher..
  • And, you know, just saying, no offense, in my opinion: if you have to lose half of a drummer, you wanna lose half of Mickey.
  • That’s a fact.
  • I’ll brook no debate.
  • Garcia and Keith, both opiate addicts, cannot/are afraid to score; they are tamping down withdrawal with copious valium and over-the-counter codeine and it is mostly working.
  • (Keith is usually cited–obliquely–for blame when the Egypt shows are dissected by the band. There are vague stories about piano tuners storming off in a tizzy, but the follow-up question–“Why wasn’t a new one called in?”–never gets asked. Cairo has piano tuners. It’s an enormous city. I cannot detect the piano’s cacophony, anyway. Keith’s pounding basic shapes four-to-the-bar like he did during his decline, but the piano’s not at fault.)
  • Phil is drunk.
  • As is Mrs. Donna Jean.
  • Plus, everyone is tripping their nostrils off and has diarrhea.
  • If this were a movie, it would be the middle of the second act, when things look dire for our heroes.
  • But if this were a movie, the band would have overcome the obstacles to perform a triumphant show, thickly-gooey with jams and maybe even a Dark Star.
  • They did not do that.
  • They went the other way with it.
  • It’s a mess.
  • The last night is the best night, but it’s not a good night because the best part of the night is when someone other than the Grateful Dead is playing.
  • At all three shows, Hamza el-Din and several dozen of his friends played their tars and ouds and tapped and clapped, the sound of the desert, and the Americans would join in piecemeal; the Egyptians would leave the stage, and the music, to them.
  • Which worked.
  • Every night.
  • What didn’t?
  • Everything else.
  • Each set has at least one major trainwreck.
  • Not each show.
  • Each set.
  • One point at which the song totters and stumbles drunkenly towards its own doom, like Peter O’Toole heading towards exposed machinery, at least once a set.
  • And when they’re not actively falling off cliffs, they’re meandering, and Garcia plays poorly for the whole run, hitting clams with a frequency that would recommend him for a job as a clamboxer if such a thing existed.
  • There was not even enough decent material to scrape together a single LP, the band decided after hearing the tapes.
  • (Years later, the tapes would be relistened to and found to still suck. However, the Deadheads were also listened to and found to be willing to purchase a two-CD, one-DVD package with an essay and pictures and whatnot, and the folks at Rhino took the Deadheads’ side.)
  • $1.7 million, never recouped, but no one missed it.
  • It wasn’t about the money.
  • It was about the doing the Grateful Dead thing.
  • Which, invariably, cost a shitload of money.
  • But what is money to the desert sky?
  • What is it to the peek-a-boo moon?
  • To the street vendor, to the smells previously unknown, to the stallions at dark, to the baksheesh, to the hashish, to the Nile at sunrise, to the Tomb of the Kings to the Riddle of the Sphinx?
  • What is money to Egypt?
  • In’shallah.
  • (ADDENDUM: It must be pointed out that during the run-up to their concerts, the Grateful Dead attempted to integrate the Great Pyramid of Giza into their sound system because of course they fucking did.)
  • (ADDENDUS: Go check out Grateful Seconds’ collection of contemporaneous articles and ephemera about the Egypt trip.)

Dishdashing Through The Snow

What is this? Olompali?

“You’re funny, man. It’s Egpyt.”

I know. Just messing with you. How you like the place?

“It’s a trip. You know Canada?”


“Nothing like that. Like, the total opposite in every way. We just talking you and me here?”


“I can’t fucking wait to go home, man. Food’s all weird here. Just try getting a steak sandwich in Cairo. I dare ya.”

What kind of food do they have there?

“Egyptian food, man. Keep up with the conversation.”


“And then once you’re done with the food…”

The bathrooms?

“I don’t know if you know this about me, but I’m not particularly limber.”

Squat toilets aren’t your thing?

“You shouldn’t have to stretch before you take a shit, man.”

That’s true.

I’d Walk A Mile On A Camel

Hey, how’s it going?

“Me, man?”

Not you, Garcia.

“Are you talking to me? Because I have a great story about Coach Wooden and the difference between lava and magma.”

Not you, either, Bill Walton.


Not you, camel.

“Is me?”

Yeah. How you doing?

“Okay, mister.”

What’s your name?


Howdy. I’m TotD.

“TotD? Is not name.”

It’s a nom de plume.


A pen name.


You’re just saying “okay” and smiling, aren’t you?


Awesome. So, what’s the deal with this? You lead tourists around for a living?

“Naam. White people come. Put on camel. Walk around. White people down. Eat. Very exciting them.”

You like your job?

“Is a living.”


“Most money on side.”

What do you mean?



“Beard man and friends good customers.”

I bet.

“Who they?”

The Grateful Dead. They’re a band from California. You know what California is.

“Jews and whores on beach.”

Yeah, that’s it. They play choogly music.

“Please. What is jooooguhl?”


“I no can say. Move past.”


“Why band in Egypt?”

Because the pyramids are sacred and geomantic power and ley lines and secret histories and the Illuminati.

“Is white bullshit?”


“Okay. Why is mustache man punch camel in dick?”

Oh, that’s Billy. He does that.

“Camel get mad.”

I would imagine.

The Dead Did It First

“Hey, which one of us is most unpleasant to look at?”


“Great, put him center stage.”


I’m pretty sure this is a composite photo, but it is a fact that there was a lunar eclipse during the Dead’s last of three shows in Egypt. This picture could be categorized as a recreation, I guess, like on those true crime shows that ladies all like.


He did not get a pyramid. He could have; pyramids are legal and obtainable, but they are a special order. The funeral director doesn’t have any in stock.

He was not buried at sea, nor in sky. He was not shrouded, dumped, eaten, shit out.

There is no tombstone. No inscription telling passersby of his deeds and affiliations. There is no grave, so teens have nowhere to take acid and fuck and pilgrims have nowhere to pilgrimage.

O, wouldn’t that site be a sight?

They cremated him. The oven is attached to multiple furnaces, as the process requires temperatures of 1,800 degrees. Time depends on body mass. What is left is not the fine powder that characters in movies always wind up throwing into each others’ faces, but a chunky, off-white pile that might be mistaken for cat litter.

Half went in the choppy sea off the coast of Marin County. The other half went in the Ganges, which is holy to Hindus. He was not Hindu.

San Francisco Bay empties into the Pacific; the Ganges into the Bay of Bengal and then past Indonesia and Australia until it, too, reaches the Pacific.

The Ten Plagues

And THE LORD said to Moses, “I will inflict ten plagues upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians.”

And Moses said to THE LORD, “Why don’t you just teleport us somewhere else? Aren’t you the Lord?”

And THE LORD cleared His throat.

“Excuse me. Aren’t you THE LORD?”

“Better. Don’t question Me. I have a plan.”

And THE LORD sent down His first plague, which was that all the chewing gum became spicy.

Moses said, “Huh?”

And THE LORD said, “I’m warming up. Don’t want to blow My whole wad on the first plague.”

And Moses said nothing.

THE LORD sent down His second plague, which were frogs.

Moses said, “Frogs?”

THE LORD said, “Just you wait.”

And THE LORD made all the frogs very rude.

Moses said, “Does that count as one plague or two?”

THE LORD said, “Two.”

“Just checking.”

And THE LORD sent down His fourth plague, which were honeybees.

Moses said, “Not much of a plague. Honeybees are very useful.”

“Just you wait.”


And THE LORD made the honeybees libertarians, and gave them Twitter accounts.

“Okay, that’s a nightmare.”

“See? Trust in Me.”

And THE LORD sent down His sixth plague, which was that all the Egyptians got ice cream headaches, but since ice cream had not been invented yet, everyone was totally confused about what was happening.

At this point, Pharaoh was forced to address what was happening.

“The Globalists’ God sends fake plagues!” Pharaoh said.

And THE LORD sent down His seventh plague, which was that politics infested everything like locusts and everyone thought they were a comedian/legal expert.

Moses said, “That last one was a bit much.”


“People are losing their minds down here.”

“You have to unplug, Mo.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Self-care is important.”


THE LORD heard Moses, and so His eighth plague was the water of the Nile turning into blood.

Moses said, “Honestly? Better than the last one. Much rather have a river of blood than all the politics.”

And THE LORD sent down His ninth plague, which was that the day became unto night, and the night became unto day, but everyone just flipped their sleep schedule around.

“I don’t know what You were thinking with that one.”

“I didn’t expect everyone to roll with it so quickly.”

“You made us very adaptable.”

“I’m a little impressed with all of you right now.”

“Humans are a hardy bunch.”

“Wait, I got something.”

And THE LORD did kill all the firstborn sons in the land.


“Too much?”

“YES! Way, way, way too much.”

“Well, I didn’t kill all the children.”

“Is that Your argument? That You didn’t kill every single child? Because that’s not a good argument.”

“Pharaoh said you could go! Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“Not like this. This is pretty much the Jews’ Original Sin.”

“The primal scene?”

“As it were.”

“Then you should thank me. In 5,000 years, when you invent psychiatry, you’ll have something to talk about.”

“I can’t wait for the New Testament.”

“Maybe you’ll get to read it when you get to Israel, Moses.”


“Suuuuuure. You can trust Me.”


“Me bless Me.”

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