19 in ’19 Epilogue/Interlude: the Music Never Stops

Reflections . . . & Readying

Nearly 5000 miles traveled, over half of them on the road.  7 states slept in and many more passed through. 3 time zones.  Hundreds of songs. Friends new and old. Countless cheers and even a few tears.  Excitement, anxiety, confusion, elation. New ways of hearing old songs and new ways of learning from old mistakes.  These are a few of the many things I gained along the way during my adventures facilitated by 19 Phish shows on the Summer 2019 tour.

The tour brought taught (re-taught?) a classic lesson I had forgotten to pack with me at the onset:  don’t set expectations (and if you do and they involve other people, make them clear). In Phish jargon, this first part translates to Surrender to the Flow.  If I’m being honest, it took me far too long to let this perspective take root.  This led to a lot of pain and confusion, all of which I acknowledge as self-inflicted.  Nonetheless, this rarely took away from the music and shows themselves. And this is the power of Phish (and live music in general) for me and so many others.

As life goes, there can be a lot of noise.  As I go, I have a tendency to take that noise and turn it up to 11 in my head.  But when the lights go down and Phish takes the stage and hits those first notes, a silence washes over my head and heart.  There is next to nothing beyond the note playing now and the friends I am dancing with (and maybe the lights if my eyes are open).  If there is a struggle before the show I am provided 3 hours of relief. If all is well before the show, 3 hours of enhancement. Then we get to do it all over again.

Writing this I think, “shit, dude, this sounds analogous to drugs and active addiction.”  In a lot of ways, it can be. The obsession and compulsion (and even the “come down”) after a show can emulate that of the pursuit of getting high in a lot of ways.  This is something I learned on this journey. Many core lessons of recovery are applicable to everyday life beyond the use of substance dependence. I am a firm believer that addiction goes well beyond the mere use of substances.

A large part of my struggle to stay clean in periods of abstinence was due to a complete lack of forward momentum.  OK. So you put the drugs down — a crucial and necessary start. But now what? I was still left with myself and all the guilt, shame, and insecurity I’d accrued through active addiction.  Without drugs, certain behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes need to be addressed. The crutch of chemical-induced avoidance is gone.

We can find alternative ways to remove ourselves from our self.  Relationships, work, exercise, and yes, even Phishing. In my opinion and experience, most things are not inherently detrimental to one’s all-around well-being.  But like any good addict, I can turn the shiniest gemstone into a steaming pile of shit.

I will not go quite so far as to say I did this with Phish and its surrounding experiences during 19 in ‘19.  But I did tread that line. At times, I got in the way of others and myself. Fortunately, the lessons taught to me over my now 2+ years of sobriety usually kicked in before I could make a real mess of things.  And when I couldn’t get out of my own way, other people pulled me out. The three weeks from MPP to Alpine Valley were up and down in many ways.

And then there was Dick’s.  And the people. It is always other people.  Before the run started, I had an impromptu heart-to-heart with Wook Bby Alex.  She’s one of those people who can pull out of me something I didn’t realize needed pulling out.  Without preaching, simply by sharing her own experience, she encouraged me to be wary of my motives for Phishing and to not let the whole thing define me.  She reminded me that I am more than just this scene and that any idea of pursuit is an illusion. There is no pursuit. There’s just here and now. This was not an indictment on going to shows, the scene, or anything surrounding it.  It was a real friend checking me on old behaviors manifesting in new ways and it was done with a perfect balance of love and concern and grave reality. And it freed me for Dick’s.

Because of this conversation, I found Dick’s to be the most enjoyable leg of 19 in ‘19.  There was no comedown after N1, no obsession and compulsion over what would happen tomorrow for N2.  Thanks to Wook Bby Alex and all the other characters along the way, I was able to Surrender to the Flow, finally and fully for the last 3 shows.

Or so I thought they were the last 3 shows…

Sometime in the lead up to Dick’s, Fall Tour was announced and I was fortunate to score a ticket for each of the 7 shows.  With a New Year’s announcement soon to follow, I suddenly realized I can reasonably get my ass to 30 shows by the end of the year.  And I turned 30 in March. 19 in ‘19 was phenomenal, but why not go for 30 for 30? Having spent the majority of my 20s in a daze nearly void of any positivity beyond sheer survival, this is about reclaiming and choosing life and the people in it.

And so it shall be.  This next book will begin with family for Thanksgiving and continue through Providence, Long Island, Pittsburgh, and Charleston, culminating with the traditional 4 night New Year’s run at Madison Square Garden.  You and I both will recognize many characters from the Summer and meet new ones along the way. The aforementioned lessons will ride shotgun this go-around.  Buckle up for Fall Tour, folks. It’s gonna be cold, cold, cold, cold, cold…

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