Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sunshine Daydream - One Girl's Tale... Book Review

I got higher spinning continuously to "Morning Dew" than I could ever get off any drug.  I went places that are not of this plane. My soul was cleansed and the strength to carry on filled my body and mind. "Morning Dew" became my church.  - excerpt from Sunshine Daydream - One Girls Tale of Life on the Bus

Wow, what a great read.  This is the story of "real" Deadheads - the kind that went on tour for their living and made it a real life choice. Talia's book chronicles several years on tour in the late 1980s (and a little bit in the 1990s too I think).  

When I went to Dead shows (always on the West Coast for me and I made it to Vegas too), there were the righteous hippies that had school buses and really seemed to live in a completely different "system" than the rest of America.  These folk were active in environmental issues, would clean up the parking lot, and would generally "walk the talk." This is the kind of Dead family that Talia Rose was a part of.
Incidentally, as I've attempted to recapture the Dead experience at other types of shows (Phish, etc), one of the main things missing is the presence of these kind of "rainbow family hippies" who really would enhance the experience with their presence.    

An Ethnographic Foray Into an Often Dark Subculture 

The book is detailed and long.  For me it was hard to put down, but I am not sure if it would be nearly as addictive to someone who's not a Grateful Dead fanatic.

One thing is for sure  - Talia pulled no punches and you can see the dark side of the Dead tourheads in this book.  Within the first 40 pages of the book (420 pages long!) she is addicted to heroin - and that's the very beginning of life on tour for her.  She manages to get away from that deadly addiction and experiences the ups and downs of life on tour for a few years. 

There's lots of great shows and beautiful experiences - including a lot of psychedelic adventures. Talia is influential in getting Deadheads to take care of the parking lot in order to make a better impression on the surrounding communities and lessen the Dead tour "footprint."  Talia also shares many great camping and travelling adventures, including her experience travelling to the Telluride Shows for the Harmonic Convergence (which would be the #1 show to go to if I had a time machine).  

But as much joy and fun as there is "on tour"  there's also many disturbing accounts of shockingly bad parenting, addiction, betrayal, and the Feds infiltrating Dead tour.

Talia and her Dead family network are based in Northern California in between tours and make money selling legal and illegal items on Dead tour.  Talia experiences more car trouble during this few years than most people will experience in a lifetime, and really makes me glad I never bought that VW bus I always fantasized about.

Talia has constant obsessions that people are photographing and watching her on Dead tour and it seems she is being paranoid but then she eventually gets busted by the DEA.  In once scene the Feds offer her a deal that she can walk away from her (very serious) LSD charge if she can implicate one of the band members in conspiracy to traffic LSD! This indicates to me that there really was a war against the Dead  by the authorities and I think the fact that people were tripping and starting to "think differently" or "radically" might have been been part of "the system's" fear.

Prison Life and Unfair LSD Sentencing Activism

Sunshine Daydream does a great job telling the reader what it was like to be plucked away from tour to go on trial and then eventually to prison for drug trafficking.  This was a part of the experience for a lot of Deadheads that I've met.

Talia was a influential in the movement against unlawful LSD sentencing (unlawful due to the practice of weighing the material that LSD came on).  She was part of an underground network of prisoners who communicated via letters and she got in trouble many times in prison for this type of activity.  Ultimately, I know the Grateful Dead band members even spoke out about this unjust sentencing practice and the issue got a bit of media exposure.  I am still not sure if the unfortunate souls who who were unfairly sentenced for exaggerated LSD quantities ever got much leniency as a result of this kind of activism.

The prison experience part of the book was very interesting to me.  Talia continues to experiment with psychedelics, frequently tunes into to The Grateful Dead Hour show (which understandably becomes a lifeline for her), and ultimately makes peace with the prison experience so it does not destroy her.  She also dedicates herself to writing (probably she was working on this very book). I found this kind of inspirational.

Life after prison shows her looking in on the touring lifestyle, but things have changed - but has she changed or is it the Dead scene?

...This is a great book about life on tour, and anyone who is a Deadhead will enjoy it

Sunshine Daydream -One Girl's Tale of Life on the Bus Book Rating: N/A(not going to do any more numerical ratings of books like this because they are not perfect yet I am too appreciative of their existence to give anything but a 10.0).

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