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Kafka by Flashlight

“Dark star crashes, pouring its light into ashes.” ― the Grateful Dead

For years I’ve planned the Sound of Silent Film Festival for the second weekend in April but for some reason this year I put it on Saturday of the third weekend which coincides with not one but two religious holidays which is bad enough but, to make matters worse, apparently 4/20 is some kind of stoner holiday as well so now I have no idea who’s going to show up.

And, because we get a day rate on the theater, we hold our music school fundraiser on the same day as Sound of Silent Film so now I’m having our school fundraiser on 4/20 too which is kind of weird right? Thank goodness we’re not selling muffins or brownies or something as part of the event.

I was told recently that 4/20 came about because it was police code but according to Wikipedia it’s because of five high school kids who called themselves the Waldos because they met at a wall to get stoned way back in 1971 which technically should have made them the Walldos but let’s let it go.  They had a treasure map leading to an abandoned cannabis crop and were going to meet at 4:20 to go find it.

They never found the treasure but they coined the term 4/20 and inspired the movie The Goonies though obviously some changes were made. One of the kids later became a roadie for the Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh because of course he did and he told Lesh their word for getting high was 4/20 and it became a common term among Dead Heads from whence it eventually leaked out to the general public.

You may not know this about me but I followed the Dead for one summer way back in 1993 when I was a tender lad of twenty-one.  My girlfriend and two friends and I concocted a scheme to go to a Dead show in Ohio and sell a ton of tie-dye T-shirts and veggie burritos and make so much money that we could drive to Nova Scotia and spend the summer camping out and reading Kafka.  Well I was planning to read Kafka all summer, not sure what they were going to do. Not that Kafka would have lasted the whole summer.  I would probably have gotten through his complete works in a couple of weeks and then gone stir crazy.

Anyway, as you can probably guess, the plan didn’t work.  Although sales of the shirts and burritos were surprisingly strong, the VW van we bought to get us to Ohio and which we were going to live in in Nova Scotia was a piece of junk and kept breaking down and we traded it for a gas-guzzling black van with no windows.  Basically we earned just enough money to get us to the next show where we would sell more burritos and shirts and earn just enough to get to the next show and so on.

Instead of reading Kafka in the serene Prince Edward Island countryside I spent my nights in dingy campsites reading The Castle by flashlight to the accompaniment of drum circle jams which frankly is less than ideal.  I went to four or five shows that summer and never saw one of them though we did get “miracle” tickets once but our sculptor friend Takashi really wanted to go so we gave him the tickets.

I don’t remember anyone saying 4/20 that summer but I kind of had my nose in a book the whole time so I’m hardly a reliable witness.  I wonder if Phil Lesh still celebrates it?  Maybe he’ll show up to our fundraiser.  We could do a Dark Star jam.

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