An exclusive interview with Jerry Garcia

by Mike McHone

Illustration by Dave Chung

(Dedicated to Kim Jackson and all her hard work.)

Well, there ain't nobody safer than someone who doesn't care
And it isn't even lonely when no one's ever there
I had a lot of dreams once, but some of them came true...
The honey's sometimes bitter when fortune falls on you
- The Grateful Dead, "Just a Little Light"

"You want to do what?"

She looked at me as if I'd lost my mind, and who could blame her?

"I want to interview Jerry Garcia," I said.

Kim stared at me for half-past an eternity. "Are you serious?"

"Of course I'm serious. You said you can contact people, and I want Jerry Garcia. You can contact people, right?"

"Yes," she said, looking mildly offended, "yes, I contact people."

"Then, what's the problem?"

"I don't have a problem . . . It's just that . . . I don't know . . . Jerry Garcia? The musician? The guitar player?"

"The one and only."

She threw up her hands. "Alright, I'll give it a shot. I'm not going to promise you anything."

"That's all I ask."

I hadn't known Kim for very long. She and I met at a party about three months prior, and the mutual friend of ours who was throwing the bash (an art critic out of Chicago by the name of Chauncy Willit) introduced her to me as Kim Jackson, the "psychic-medium;" meaning that she can talk to dead people; also meaning that she can talk to dead people when there's a fee involved and some sucker is willing to pay the price. Kim gave me her card, and I tucked it in my wallet and forgot about it for about nine weeks or so.

I was never one to believe in psychics, or mediums, or ghosts, or anything like that. But then again, I never really believed in the Republican Party either, but it exists, so I guess not believing in something doesn't make it untrue if my half-logic serves me well.

Anyway, I took her card and forgot about her. Days passed, and then weeks, and then months. And then, as he has a tendency of doing, my editor Joe sent me an e-mail asking where my column was. And then he called. And sent another e-mail. And another. The well had run dry, tapped clean; nothing was there, just dust and bones . . . I could not - absolutely could not - think of anything to write about. I didn't have a case of writer's block, I had writer's paralysis.

I paced through the house one day, back and forth, back and forth, wondering, thinking, shouting out loud, what could I, what should I, what would I write about? I even asked my cat, but she gave no reply, just stared at me stupidly. And then I started thinking . . . Maybe I could tell about the time Bob Oliver and I partied with Jewel's ex-boyfriend Steve Poltz and had him tell us some nasty stuff about the singer/songwriter/fine-piece-of-ass? Or maybe . . .

And then it hit me . . . An interview. I could do an interview! I tried calling Keith Richards, but he was out of town. Alice Cooper's people wouldn't return my calls. The same went for Willie Nelson, and ditto for Eminem. So, who would it be? Who could I interview? Who should I interview? If I had my way, I would've interviewed everyone I just mentioned all at the same time . . . That'd be a hell of an article . . . But I don't have my way because life is unfair and it sucks ass . . .

Thoughts: Thoughts: Thoughts: But if I could . . ., who would I interview? If there was one musician living or dead that I would really like to sit down and talk with who would it be?

And then the answer was as clear as rain . . . Jerry Garcia. I would like to talk with Jerry Garcia. He seemed like a cool guy. Hard working, diverse musician, talented guitarist. Yeah, he'd be cool to talk to. Most people would say Lennon, or Morrison, or Elvis, but tons and tons of interviews have been done on those guys. Lennon and Elvis are friggin' icons worshiped by the masses, so I really couldn't find out anything interesting about them - nothing that anyone else couldn't find out, I guess. And Morrison . . . Although I like his stuff, he'd probably put up a front, or act like a jackass if I tried interviewing him. But Jerry Garcia . . . Yes, legions of fans love him, yes, people adore him . . . But he's not held in the same light as Elvis or Lennon. He's slightly under the radar.

But, unfortunately he's dead, and once again I didn't have my way, and . . .


Oh, God. Oh, dear God, wait a minute . . . Shit . . . It was a stupid idea, but, Christ, it struck me as funny. A lightning bolt of thoughts: Kim Jackson. Psychic. Medium. Contacting. After. Life.

Dear God . . .

Even if it was bullshit, even if she was lying and making it all up and completely fake it still would be a great idea, I thought. It might make for some interesting jokes and gags at the very least. I asked the cat what she thought, but she was asleep.

I was too excited, and I couldn't sit still for the life of me. I immediately pulled Kim's card out of my wallet, called her, told her that there was someone I wanted to talk to, made an appointment, tracked down her store (a place called Inner-Visions in Dearborn), gave her $20, and we went into the backroom of her shop, past racks filed with horoscope books and incense and magic crystals, past Fung Shui maps and Chinese horoscope pamphlets.

She sat down at a table. I sat on the opposite side.

"I'm not going to promise you anything," she said.

"Well, can I have my twenty bucks back then?"

She shook her head no.

"If you can't get a hold of Garcia, try Tiny Tim. I want my money's worth."

She closed her eyes.

I turned on my tape recorder.

She bowed her head slightly and stayed like that for a good minute or two.

I watched her. Her breathing slowed.

I watched her.

Her head rose.

And I watched her.

Her eyes opened. Slowly.

She looked at me.

I looked at her.

And . . .

(The following is a transcript of the audio recording that took place that day.)

Jerry Garcia (supposedly): Hello?

Mike McHone: Jerry Garcia?

JG: Yeah, directly from the astral plane, who's this?

MM: (laughs) Wow . . . This is, uh . . . This is Mike McHone from "The Record," a small . . . uh, a small magazine out of Detroit. How are you doing?

JG: (pause) I'm fucking dead, moron, how do you think I'm doing?

MM: (stunned silence)

JG: And don't make any cracks, like, "Oh, are you grateful now that you're dead?! Huh! Huh! Huh!" Don't wanna hear that crap again.

MM: (pause) Uh . . . You, uh . . . get that a lot, I take it?

JG: Yeah. Morrison says that kinda junk all the time.

MM: Morrison? Jim . . . Morrison?

JG: No, Toni Morrison, ya fuckstick. Of course Jim Morrison!

MM: So . . . Wow . . . I can't believe I have a chance to talk with you.

JG: Well, you do. I don't have anything better on the agenda today.

MM: (silence)

JG: You gonna ask me something, or what?

MM: How's . . . How's heaven?

JG: It's alright, but it has its hang-ups.

MM: Such as?

JG: No acid.

MM: That sucks.

JG: Yeah, tell me about it. I can't get any cigarettes here either. Nothing but cleanliness here. Cleanliness and Godliness and all that crap. And, shit, you try dealing with every Jehova's Witness that's died and come here since the group got started! Shit . . . These pricks are still bugging the crap out of people. It's like it's programmed in them!

MM: Uh, wow. So . . ., besides Jim Morrison, who else is up there with you fame-wise.

JG: Janis; she's up here. Jimi. Louie Armstrong. Bill Monroe . . . David Lee Roth's career.

MM: Have you seen Elvis?

JG: Yeah, but not recently. Not since he went to the Wasteland.

MM: Wasteland? Wa- You mean Elvis went to hell?

JG: Close. He went back to Vegas. He opted to get reincarnated. And when that life cycle is over with he'll come back and I'm sure that stupid hick will tell me all about his adventures.

MM: What did he decide to come back as?

JG: See, that's the thing: You can't decide what you want to be. If we could do that everyone would go back to Earth as either Marilyn Monroe or Gengis Kahn. You want reincarnation, you roll the dice, and the Big Guy sends you back. It's all random.

MM: So what did Elvis come back to Earth as?

JG: An Elvis impersonator.

MM: Ironic.

JG: Well, some days you're the Sacred Cow; some days you're the cow shit.

MM: Hear, hear . . . So, you've checked in on Elvis once in awhile, have you been keeping up on some of the other things going on down here?

JG: Yeah, I do from time to time. But not much. Earth's a bum trip, man. Looking down on it, I'm glad I got out. I might bitch and moan about the whole heaven gig, but Earth is just a downer. And I mean . . . I'm talking about from my perspective, the things that have happened to my music and my band and my image and what-not. It's just depressing.

MM: How so?

JG: How so? I'll tell you how so. They made a fucking toy out of me! That Todd McFarlane asshole and his little company made a fucking toy out of me! I didn't pick-up a guitar and write lyrics so I could have some 12 year old fidget with my Kung-Fu grip! What the hell's that about?! I was in the Grateful Dead, not KISS. I'm Jerry-Fucking-Garcia! I wrote "Rosemary," "Truckin'," "Touch of Grey," and what am I remembered for in recent past? A fucking toy! God! (silence)

MM: (pause) Jerry?

JG: Sorry . . . I said God, and the Big Guy thought I said something to Him.

MM: So are there any bands out today that you like?

JG: Not many. Most of them suck. It's all image, not talent. If I had my other nine fingers chopped off I'd still play the guitar better than half of these douche bags today. But anyway . . . There are a few bands that are okay. Phish weren't bad when they were together, but I had my hang-ups with them . . . Gee, a jam band surrounded by a bunch of smelly out-of-work hippies . . . I wonder where they got that idea. But I do like the White Stripes.

MM: Yeah, the White Stripes are very good.

JG: Man, that Jack White can play the slide. And Meg is just a solid drummer. They're really making a statement in rock music today. I'll tell you, the last time a duo made that much of an impact it was Dale Earnhardt and a wall at Daytona.

MM: Jerry! That's awful!

JG: Oh, gimmie a break! The guy rides around in a machine at over 150 mph in a circle surrounded by concrete and steel, and you want to tell me it was a shock that he died?!

MM: But, still, you shouldn't make light of people dying!

JG: All's I'm saying is don't canonize a man whose main goal in life was to learn how to work the clutch.

MM: Alright . . . Next question: Do you have any regrets?

JG: Lots.

MM: Care to elaborate?

JG: Nope.

MM: (pause) Okay . . . Let's get back to music: What made you want to play music in the first place?

JG: Chicks.

MM: Really? Not artistic integrity, not communing with fellow musici-

JG: Nope. Pussy. That's all.

MM: Okay.

JG: And I got it too, I'm glad to say. I mean, sure doing art for art's sake is great. But if you had the choice between painting a great picture or having a steady stream of orgasms for the next 30 years, which would you pick?

MM: You got a point.

JG: I usually do.

MM: What do you miss about the 60s?

JG: Nothing.

MM: Nothing?

JG: Not a damn thing.

MM: Seriously? It was the 60s! Peace, love, happiness, change . . .

JG: The 60s happened and now they're over, and that's that. (pause) The decade wasn't as life-altering as everybody makes it out to be. If you hear some lunkhead spouting off about how wonderful the 60s were rest-assured the fucker was either too stoned to remember the decade or not there to begin with. All most young people realized was that they were either going to get their legs blown off in Nam, or stay in college a little longer on daddy's dime to avoid the draft, the job market, or reality.

Sure, there was MLK, JFK, and the Beatles, but once you get rid of those three things and boil it all down, the 60s were just like any other decade: filled with corruption, war, death, laziness . . . A few of the kids were trying to say something now and again, trying to organize, trying to stop the war, but for the majority of them . . . they were just floating along, hanging out, not doing shit, just like kids in any other era. But there were the small, small few that felt like they had a purpose, but when the 70s hit . . . Where were they then? Most of them traded acid for coke or speed, anything to make them somewhat ready for reality. On acid, you can't look normal, or act normal. With coke and speed you can still look relatively normal, still sort of function in the mainstream, still go to that job and look responsible, but inside . . . Inside it's a whole different universe.

And I think that's exactly what happened to a lot of the children of the 60s. They learned not to give a fuck about anything beyond the realm of their own pupils. All that counted was what was in their precious little heads. And with all that coke and speed, what was in their heads was a massive filter that took reality and made it cloudy and made life that much more acceptable, because they knew, deep down, that everything they thought they were doing in the 60s - stop the war, remove Nixon, end the draft - was a bunch of bullshit. They realized, finally, that you can't change anything at all with dope, or love, or music, or art . . . You can only remove corruption through tearing everything down to the nervous system and building it back again . . . But once you build it back, it's just going to happen again, and no work of art, no constitution, no mandate, no book will ever change it. Utopia will only happen when there's no one around to live in it.

I really hate to say it, but a chord strummed by Bob Dylan never halted a bomb from blowing the guts out of a Vietnamese kid playing in a rice field.

They realized, perhaps, they were just fooling themselves and others. And that it was bullshit, and if was all just bullshit, might as well buy into it and try to get as much stuff of their own before someone else does . . . And, if I'm wrong, where are they now? There's a war now. There're people getting killed now. There are assholes in power that don't give a flying fuck about the working class right now. Where are the peacemongers from the 60s? Statistically, they still exist. And statistically the young voters - the 18 to 29-year olds - and the elderly - 65 and up - hated the fucking president and voted against him. So, if the Baby Boomers were soooooo peace-filled in the 60s, and so full of love, and so full of hope and spirituality, why wasn't the last election different? Shouldn't those same people that protested one war pour out into the streets to protest another? War is war. It doesn't matter where you're dropping the bombs; it's still a war.

So, where were they? I'll tell you where they were: In the realm of their pupils. Not giving an ounce of shit to what happens on the other side of the globe because it's not happening in front of them.

The common thread between the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today is the Removal of Reality, and this begats the Acceptance of Bullshit. Acid cooked the brain in the 60s. Coke and crack took over in the 70s and 80s, along with cosmetic surgery, and the boom in consumerism. The 90s brought thousands of prescribed drugs that can fuck you up worse than most things on the street, and along with it "new age" ideas and political correctness: all forms of the Removal of Reality.

Today, all of us realize that politicians are cheats and liars and scumbags that will fuck you over at every turn, but most of the Boomers don't care because they've figured out the game: Eat them before they eat you.

I'm not saying that all of them are bad, but I am saying that if a Boomer says the 60s were the time of Love and Revolution, I'll tell them - me, Jerry Fucking Garcia - will tell them to take their fake Revolution and stick it up their ass, because a true Revolution does not stop until the whole job is done; a true Revolution does not cease when there's a Starbucks on every corner; a true Revolution is not made through music - even though the music may incite it, or inspire it - it is made through people and sweat and aching backs and blood and tears and death. Like the brother-man Gil Scott Heron once said: "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." Revolutions do not stop when you yourself are content. They only cease when every single person in the entire world can look around and say, "Yes, this will do. I am happy with what I have. I am not jealous of my neighbor, and tonight I can sleep easy." Then, and only then, will the revolution triumph.

MM: (silence, snoring.)

JG: Hey! HEY!!!

MM: (stirring awake) Huh? Wh-What? What'd I miss?

JG: Nothing. (pause) You didn't miss anything, you prick. Alright, I've had enough of this crap. I'm leaving.

Kim closed her eyes and snapped them open seconds later. "What . . . happened?" she asked.

"I'm not even sure," I said.

Kim sat there. She had the face of a lost person looking for a nice quiet place to vomit.

"You alright?" I asked.

She shook her head. "I'm alright . . . I need to lie down."

I thanked her for her help and left the store. (I tired calling her a few times since then, but she never answered the phone and was never in her shop. I asked our mutual friend Chauncy if he had heard from her recently and he said that he saw her once at a Dunkin Donuts in Toledo; she had gained weight and started experimenting with marijuana, mushrooms.)

Later, I listened to the tape recorder and all I heard was Kim's voice. I don't know her that well, but she doesn't seem like the kind of person that would say "fuck" over and over again, or say something like the five-minute Marxist speech at the end. And I can't say that I know Jerry Garcia either. What I've heard from him . . . He doesn't seem like the kind of guy that would make fun of a race car driver getting killed, or David Lee Roth, or someone that would bash the 60s . . . So, was it him? I'd like to think so . . . But if it wasn't, who was it? Who would be that cynical? But then again, who would speak so much truth, unafraid of the consequences or what you or I might think about it . . .?

Maybe it was Lennon.

Maybe I was hallucinating.

Who knows?

It is now close to 3 a.m. as I write this. I have to be up in four hours to go to a job at a newspaper I hate, to write stories I hate, for a town I hate. My pupils are aching. My back is sore. And I am tired.

Was it Garcia? are the only words that are really going through my mind right now. Maybe I'll never know. There's only one true way to find out, and I'm not ready to take that avenue yet. Maybe tomorrow, but not right now. I'll just have to have faith that it was him.

A little faith never hurt anyone I guess.

At least, I hope not.

(Editor's Note: Three weeks after this column was submitted for publication, Kim Jackson was reported to have set fire to the Peace Frog Head Shop in Detroit. As the city police apprehended Ms. Jackson at the scene of the crime, they noticed that the middle finger of her right hand had somehow become severed. Detectives believed the wound was self-inflicted. During the court proceedings Ms. Jackson made repeated threats on the lives of anyone above the age of 40 and below the age of 60. She was found guilty by reason of insanity and is currently residing in the Jackson State Mental Hospital for psychiatric evaluation where she finger paints multiple pictures of skulls and lightning bolts. Mr. McHone had no comment on this matter.)

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