Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: russia

Five Red Balloons



“Lieutenant Colonel Petrov! The general alarm has sounded!”

“I heard it, Private Jenkins. It’s an alarm. Loud as shit. Marlee Matlin would’ve heard it.”

“Colonel, the alarm means the Americans have fired their ICBM missiles at us.”

“The M stands for ‘missile.’ You don’t need to say missile.”

“Sir, please.”

“You think we should shoot ours at them?”

“This is what the manual calls for.”

“Are you authorized to read the manual?”

“No, sir, but I assumed you were.”

“I am.”

“Oh, good.”

“But it’s on back order. They said it would be here in September.”

“Of this year?”

“They didn’t say. Jenkins, don’t tell the KGB I said this, but Communism is not very detail-oriented.”

“Sir, we don’t have time to discuss the inherent flaws with any ideology. The Americans have launched their nukes at us!”

“How many?”

“The computer says five.”

“The computer’s working again?”

“Almost all day.”

“Jenkins, why would the Americans shoot five nukes at us? That makes no sense. I mean, one nuke makes sense. That’s a rogue general or an accident. And all the nukes makes sense. That’s World War III. But five? Something’s hinky.”

“Maybe the Americans are trying to confuse us, Colonel.”

“Yeeeeah, no. Nukes aren’t really ‘confusion weapons.’ You’re thinking about flash-bang grenades. Only thing confusing about a nuclear weapon is, you know: Hey, didn’t there used to be a city right there?”

“Sir, the computer says we’re being attacked.”

“Jenkins, it’s 1983; the computer’s a moron.”

“I cannot believe you’re going to sit there and ignore this.”

“I’m not going to ignore it. I’m going to monitor it closely. But it’s a malfunction.”

“What if it isn’t?”

“Are there still just five missiles?”

“Yes, sir.”

“They haven’t launched any more?”

“No, sir.”

“Yup! Computer’s a moron. This is a false alarm.”

“Sir, may I speak freely?”

“Of course not: you’re in the Soviet Union.”

“Regardless. I believe you quite presumptuous to think yourself smarter than the best computer Mother Russia could build.”

“Jenkins, it’s 64 K. I can beat it at chess. And we smoke around it constantly. The machine is wrong, and I’m right.”


“It is much louder than you, Colonel.”

“I’ll give you that.”

“Sir, I must insist that you respond to the alarm.”



“There you go.”



“Colonel Petrov, under Soviet military code 663.1–”

“You’re making that up.”

“–I must insist that you turn your key.”

“Are we doing this bit?”


“Jenkins, this isn’t where we launch the nukes from. We don’t have the button. I make a call to my boss and then he does it.”

“Really? I totally thought we pushed the button.”

“How long have you been working here again?”

“Four years.”

“Sounds right. Jenkins, this is a false alarm. I’ll make you a bet. If I’m right, you owe me a bottle of vodka.”

“And if I’m right?”

“We get incinerated in a nuclear fireball.”

“This is a terrible bet.”

“Not for me.”


For Slanislav.

Things Less Russian Than Wikileaks

  • Bear on unicycle.
  • Big furry hats.
  • That dance where you cross your arms and crouch down and kick your legs out. (Current international tensions aside, I gotta give this one to the Russians: their national dance is better than ours. Because the American national dance is either line dancing or the Electric Slide.)
  • The Emancipation of the Serfs by Alexander II, 1861.
  • Thousand-page novels about misery and winter.
  • Misery.
  • Winter.
  • A dashcam video of a drunken man in a tracksuit firing an uzi while surfing like Teen Wolf atop a stolen school bus.
  • Brutally exterminating kulaks.
  • Debating Nixon in a kitchen.
  • Debating a bear in a kitchen.
  • Being uninvadable.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

You look like Chico Marx.

“Shut up, putz. This is how you open up the conversation? With insults and little jokes? I’ll throw your ass out of here, buster.”

I’m in my own house.

“You think this matters to Bill Graham? I’ve thrown people out of their own houses before. I knew they would cause trouble at the show that night, so I swung by their pads in the afternoon and 86’ed ’em. Never saw it coming. Most thanked me for the professional manner in which I tossed them out a window.”

Why would they thank you?

“I opened the window first. Most promoters wouldn’t do that. John Scher used to buy orphans just so he could hurl them through plate-glass. A real schmendrick, that guy. Not Bill Graham. I go the extra mile The crowd needs? I provide. The artist wants? I get. Carlos Santana needs cocaine in Moscow during the Cold War? I get.

“Phone rings. This is ’86. That schmuck with the splotch, whatshisname, he’s in charge over there. Gorbachev! Gorby, right, Gorby. This guy’s no Kruschev. Wants to open up the Soviet Union a little bit. Not too much. Just a bit. Economy’s terrible and the kids are getting ansty. Figures a rock concert might mellow them out. There’s no bread in the country, so he’ll import a circus.

“I pick up. It’s Gorby. I scream at him in Yiddish for ten minutes and hang up.

“Phone rings again. Gorby again. Now I got him on the ropes! Little nudnik thought he was talking to some moron like Reagan, may he rot in Hell that bastard. Who’s this asshole ever negotiated with? I could get 80% of the door and all the tee-shirt revenue from him with my dick tied behind my back, never mind broadcast fees. Putz.

“At this point, I still do not know why he’s calling.

“He tells me about his idea. Rock concert in Moscow. My mind starts racing. Bill Graham presents The Wall behind the Iron Curtain! Bill Graham presents Bruce Springsteen in Red Square! The Stones. Baruch hashem, the Stones. I might just end the Cold War myself through the power of my promoting.

“Then he tells me about his budget. I end up begging Steve Wozniak for half-a-mil and hiring the Doobie Brothers, Santana, Bonnie Raitt, and Jackson Browne. I didn’t have to pay Jackson because of a favor he owed me about a thing I didn’t tell anyone about.

“We fly in. I got 40, 50 people with me. Lights, production, lawyers, a couple CIA guys I knew through the Dead. Every one of us is wearing at least a dozen pairs of Levi’s, and we peel them off throughout the day in exchange for drinks and Communist blowjobs. Go to the stadium. Dynamo, it’s called. DEE-nah-mo. Place looks like if concrete could take a shit. Gloomiest fuckin’ stadium you’ve ever seen. We ask to see the power supply: it’s a babushka holding an extension cord. We’re gonna have to bring in everything.

“When I get back, I ask Steve Wozniak for another half-a-mil.

“He says yes, but only under one condition.

“What, Steve? Anything, I say.

“I wanna meet the Doobie Brothers, he tells me.

“So I stare at the phone for about a minute wondering if I’m being fucked with. I’ve met the Doobie Brothers a million times. Never that fun. Who am I to judge? Woz wants an audience with the Doobies, then he gets one.

“The show! We’re going to Moscow! I got two passenger planes and a cargo plane for the equipment. Carlos Santana talks to a stewardess about Jesus for the entire flight. The Doobies are drunk and crawling under seats to bite ankles. That one with the hair like a girl and a mustache does it hard, too. Bonnie Raitt has talked one of the pilots into letting her fly. Jackson Browne has accidentally been loaded into the cargo plane. Rock and roll, baby.

“Upon landing, all of the equipment and Jackson Browne are confiscated by the Red Army and held for ransom. I call Woz and ask him if he’d like to meet Santana. He wires me another half-a-mil.

“You thought the stadium was bad before; it’s worse now. Soldiers everywhere, but they’re not in uniform. Track suits and army boots and AK47’s. I start to wonder if maybe a week before I had a psychotic break. Maybe I’m in the booby hatch imagining all this. Because it can’t be happening. It can’t be real. The one thing–the ONE THING–Bill Graham had INSISTED on was that there be no soldiers. How can the kids groove and get loose with all that heat? I’m screaming at the top of my lungs.

“I want to see Fedesov. He’s the big megilla. He’s the macher. Supreme Soviet, this guy. It’s July, and he’s wearing a giant overcoat. I never saw a hat this fuzzy. He’s not used to being yelled at. Well, they called me, motherfucker. ‘Please, Bill Graham, come help our shitty country with no lettuce.’ I didn’t call them.

“I’m serious about that. Didn’t see a piece of lettuce the entire trip.

“So I’m screaming at Fedesov really letting him have it, and the translator’s frozen in fear. You don’t talk to a Supreme Soviet like this!

“But this guy’s tough. He smiles. Says in English,

“Is no soldiers. Is security.

“I start screaming again. Ten full minutes. I WILL PUT MY ACTS BACK ON MY PLANES AND GET THE FUCK OUT OF YOUR NO-LETTUCE-HAVING SHITHOLE, that sort of thing. I’m giving him the full shpritz.

“He says, no can do. Is security.

“This is gonna kill my show. Guys with rifles all around. Something bad’s gonna happen. What if the kids get rambunctious? The Doobies get the party started. Drunken anklebiters that they are, they can turn any floor into a dance floor. It’s a dangerous situation. I play my hole card, which was seeing if Steve Wozniak wanted to meet Bonnie Raitt.

“It turns out he did, and I bribed Fedesov with half of the half-million. I kept the rest in overhead and assorted fees.

“The soldiers marched out of the stadium, and the kids came in. Jackson Browne, who had been bought back from the Russians, played his songs about California. Bonnie Raitt came out and did her thing in a pair of remarkable trousers. These little Commies had never seen pants like this before. Everybody danced to the Doobies, and then Santana closed. There was no politics, no mishegos, nothing. These kids lost their mind for Santana. Rapture. That’s what it was. The whole place was in rapture. This was something new. They’d never heard anything like it, and Santana felt it and so did the band and everyone backstage. It was a magical moment.

“Santana came offstage, demanded cocaine, and threw his sweaty do-rag at me. The magical moment was over.

“Shocking as this may sound, it wasn’t easy to find rock star-grade cocaine in Moscow in 1986. The Doobies and I had to break into a hospital. I got the cocaine for Santana, but all the Doobies were arrested.

“I call Steve Wozniak and ask him if he wants to meet the Grateful Dead.

“He tells me that he’s met them.

“I ask if he wants to meet them again.

“He sends me a half-million dollars, I get the Doobies out of jail, and we fly home. Three years later, the Soviet Union would collapse. Funny story: Fedesov was executed.”

For what?

“Caught him taking bribes.”


I Don’t Know What The Weather Might Do

A question for the Enthusiasts:

What country has the widest single-day weather variation?

As you know, the Northeast is socked in today due to a winter storm that is not officially named Stella, but Fillmore South has had the AC blasting all day: the thermometer hit 80 here for an hour or so. It is simultaneously arctic and tropical in America today; no matter what type of skiing you enjoy, you could do it on March 14th.

(And I’m only counting the mainland. No territories or holdings or military outposts. Guam’s weather does not count towards America’s total. And y’know what? Alaska and Hawaii are out, too. Alaska and Hawaii and fake states. I like states that are contiguous, okay?

Don’t do that.

Dude, I’m in a parenthetical aside. You can’t come in here. This is my dojo.

Dojos aren’t built out of punctuation.

What about commakazis?

You’re a lousy, rotten son of a bitch.

Get out.

Get back to the point.


But where else? The key is the north-south axis–you need about a thousand miles or so of latitudinal coverage–but global placement matters, too. Canada stretches up towards the North Pole for almost 40 degrees of latitude, but starts up too high for huge swings. (Canadian Enthusiasts may tell me I’m wrong in the Comment Section, or they could just be nice about it and agree with me, and perhaps tell me I’m pretty and special.)

I posed the question to the Champion of Cascadia, Mr. Completely, and he came up with Chile and fuck me if his answer didn’t beat mine: Chile’s 2,600 miles from top to bottom, even though it’s only 25 feet wide at certain points. Chile is a bit drier than the States, though: the northern part is the Atacama (the world’s desertiest desert) and the southern tip is tundra. Reindeer could live there quite comfortably, especially because of the low cost of living.

Russia also has a long north-south span, but it’s got Canada’s problem of being too far up on the globe. Look at this bullshit:

That’s where Santa lives, for Christ’s sake. (Or, lived. Putin had Santa poisoned.) Little bits by the Black Sea supposedly have a subtropical climate, but I don’t buy it. Can’t fool me, Russia: you’re cold as a grinch’s dick everywhere and all the time.

And, of course, China. China is so large that all the weather happens there every single day: typhoon, blizzard, mostly sunny with a few puffy clouds, all the weather. China has places where it’s never rained, and places where it’s never not rained. Frogs fall from the sky regularly; they are immediately eaten, as the Chinese will eat absolutely anything up to and including skyfrogs.

What am I missing?

Just, Y’Know: Thoughts On The Dead

We forget how long ago it was, what a different world it was. To  understand my point, you must listen to Pig absolutely fucking KILLING IT on It’s A Man’s World. That was April 15th, 1970. Listen to how crisp and present the recording is, how clean and separate the instruments sound: I would wager most lay-listeners wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between this recording and an official release from the era. Marvel at how such a recording got made in the same world where there is absolutely no record of a show from that same month: no tape, no poster, certainly no film but there is a contract and cancelled check, so it must have happened. There are shows as late as 1973 just…gone. Compare that to today’s DeLillo Barn of a culture, all of us pointing our iThings at each other the second anything notable happens. Holding our phones vertically, all of us.


Everybody’s new favorite fun game: Play in One Key, Sing in Another!


Is the most terrifying moment of your day the Silence that comes before the Fretting that comes before the Waffling that comes before the Choosing? An ’89? Surely, a Summer ’71! The wrong choice–it’s like throwing the i Ching, only to lodge the coins in your cousin Kevin’s throat and Kevin dies right in front of you and you just LOSE IT and decide that you can’t get in trouble if EVERYONE ELSE IS DEAD, TOO, so you kill your way halfway down the street before they take you down. No matter which Ching translation you use, that’s an unhealthy omen.

I almost had one of those rolls today. I chose an ’85 (4/27/85 Frost Amphitheater, Palo Alto, CA) to start off the morning. The 80’s are a giant tushee: fun around the edges, but dangerous in the middle. (I apologize for that.)


I’ve written before about Garcia’s guitar tone being friendly, but the entire band had an ethos of friendlyness-ship. (Of course that’s a word. And if not a word proper, at least wordish.) All those references to following and leading and sharing (women, wine (Not Persian, though. Persian was not a share-y kind of substance.).) There was very little aggression in the music: no one will ever enter the Octagon with Brokedown Palace blaring. This made them a different band then–say–Slayer, who once wrote a song about Josef Mengele from Mengele’s point of view.  While many Dead songs featured unreliable narrators, none of them were so unreliable as to have committed war crimes. Committing war crimes is the very definition of being unreliable: you need to be watched, apparently. The second everyone turns their back, BOOM: you’re sewing twins together.

Slayer’s always been a bit of a mystery to me. Not the “why are they popular” part: there will always be ugly 15-year-old boys and money to be made catering to them being all evil and shit. I’m referring to the actual music. A friend burned me the Compact Disc. My good friend, Inter-Natalie. You should see her record collection. I like to listen to the hard-charging angry stuff when I am up in the gym working on my fitness, Sabbath and Titus Andronicus and the Boom Boom Satellites, so I tried a little Slayer and halfway through the third verse describing what can only be classified as “atrocities,” I quietly bowed out. I prefer to keep my tunes free of graphic descriptions of torture labs. Cartman was right: hippies hate Slayer.


Who was it, precisely, that was clamoring for the return of Dupree’s Diamond Blues?


In May of 1969, the Dead jammed with legendary conga player Mongo Santamaria.  Also legendary was the lecture given to Bobby afterwards concerning his giggles upon hearing the name.


Merl should have been the keyboardist after Keith. They would have looked like the Celtics in the 80’s, racially. Also, Walton.


I don’t care if Putin has turned the place in to a Latveria-of-the-mind: THEY’RE THE BAD GUYS, FUCK THEM. They were THE BEST bad guys: evil enough (gulags, proxy wars), but not, you know, too evil (that thing that made the 40’s such an inherent downer.) They had an ideology and an aesthetic, none of this “at night, it is my bed; during the day, my clothes” bullshit these Al Qaeda fuckmuppets smell up the room with.

%d bloggers like this: