Sunday, March 16, 2008

Shake the Hand

My friend Lee Altenberg wrote me an email a few weeks ago with this anecdote. — Warning: Deadhead stuff! :-)

I shook Phil Lesh's hand by the baggage claim in SFO tonight. Both his right and left hands.

When I saw him standing there, I wasn't sure it was him. I haven't seen photos of him since the Grateful Dead, so I am comparing my memories of 13 years ago with this fellow. I looked at how he was dressed — finely tailored leather jacket. Don't rock stars wear leather? My posterior probability was raised.

He was right by the baggage claim chute. I got up the nerve to ask, "Are you stationed right there to grab your bass as soon as it comes down? I ask because you look like a famous bass player, I know."

He said, "I wouldn't check my bass."

Ahah! It was him. "So, you're Phil?"


"May I shake your hand?"

He shook my hand. I had shaken the hand of Bobby Weir years ago when he walked up the car ramp at the Pauley Pavilion. My brother had a method of sneaking back stage where you hide under the bleachers after the show until everyone is gone, and then you just walk out confidently and go back stage — if you are there at that time then you are supposed to be there. We had successfully done this but didn't last long back stage before we were ejected, and ended up by the exit that Bob Weir and his woman would take a bit later. Weir's arms were full, so he gave me his left hand which I shook. Flashing back to the present moment with Phil Lesh, I asked, "Can I shake your left hand? I shook Bobby's left hand years ago."

And he gave me his left hand.

I said, "I love your bass playing, man," and departed. I soon realized that I wish I had really told him of the extent of my appreciation: "I want to thank you for giving me the greatest musical experiences of my life, which I treasure along with Beethoven." Alas, the moment had passed...

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