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BOB WEIR INTERVIEW
After the tire repair, it turns out the other riders are Deadheads, so a photograph is required as proof of the encounter. I'm in the middle.
(Interviewer) "Why don't you expound philosophically on why bikes are the coolest invention since the guitar?"
"They're almost as good for meeting girls."
(Interviewer) "Would you say you meet a different class of girls?"
"Yeah, but without variety you can't have a horse race, everybody knows that. But aside from that, I've heard...that the bicycle is the most efficient machine ever devised by man in terms of calories expended for work done. Philosophically, I like that a lot. It's Technology, Servant of Man, in its very finest form."
(Interviewer) "How about a comment on the fact that a lot of people in your immediate social circles have taken up mountain biking?"
"It's a really pleasurable form of exercise, which appeals to all the guys I know. I was into running, and I was a real tough guy. I thought bicycles were for yuppies initially, and anyone who wanted a real workout could put on their running shoes and go out the door and get a real workout.
"All the time I was thinking that, Howard Danchik...was saying that sooner or later he was going to get me on a bicycle and I would be hooked. And he did and I was. Now I get every bit as good a workout on a bicycle as I did running, and I have more fun."
(Interviewer) A lot of runners get more and more into their sport until they reach a point where their bodies start to rebel. Did you ever have any problems like that?
"I was fortunate and I worked through a lot of that. If you get maniacal, you can hurt yourself with anything. I realized that and I took it slow and easy. Bicycling too; I've hurt myself bicycling, and I didn't waste any time. You can hurt yourself doing anything; you could drink a lethal dose of water. There's a toxic or lethal dose of just about anything, and I found the toxic dose with both running and biking, but I realized that and was able to cut back to well within my limits.
"Whatever you do, if you intend to do it for any length of time, you want to adjust your way of doing it, your schedule or whatever, to make sure you allow for fun, or you'll start inventing reasons why you can't do it. And I need the exercise. I also need the fun."
(Interviewer) "Just so I have it on tape, you said that Bill [Kreutzman] was the only other bike rider in the band."
"And he not much, but that may all change."
(Interviewer) "Does he own a bike?"
"No. If he did he probably would [ride]. He's into running. I'm not pushing him, but I think sooner or later he'll discover bicycles himself. From what I can see, anyone who's into running can get into biking, although there have to be a few people who prefer running to bicycles."
(Interviewer) "I could never appreciate the pounding on my body."
"You don't do it smoothly enough then."
(Interviewer) "I have fragile ankles, and I worry about getting hurt running."
Bob laughs, interviewer rationalizes.
(Interviewer) "All right. What you're risking in injury on a bike is a completely different thing."
"The risk factor is not really in the same neighborhood. It's your approach; in both cases, if your approach is right, it's not going to get you, and if it's wrong, it's going to get you. If you're a little bit careless by nature on a bicycle, sooner or later that'll get you. But if you're a little bit careless by nature at running, sooner or later that will get you in terms of a long-term injury like tendonitis. [By comparison], bicycling got me real quick."
Several nights later, the same group of Bob, Gary Fisher and myself took a more adventurous ride, a full-moon excursion to the same mountain top, starting at 1 a.m. from Bob's house. Just as on the previous ride, the pace up the hill was brisk, and conversation was sparse and punctuated by heavy breathing. Arriving at the top about 2 a.m., we watched while the lights of the Bay Area were slowly obscured by fog.
"This is Technology, Servant of Man, this is what it gives us. You were talking about stuff that works right; we made it up here in not much more than an hour.
"I've got a hurdle that I'm just about past, if I can train my way past it, that would put me up here pretty easily under an hour. On certain inclines I've just got to sustain a spin, or one gear that I'm not quite [using]. All I have to do is just get mad."
Bob consults his wristwatch, which he has laid on a rock. "Seventy-one point one degrees.
"If there's a fixation that I hold on stuff that works right, this is why. [The bikes] got us here quickly, quietly and pleasurably. Nothing more need be said. For the Gentle Reader, we're sitting on top of a mountain, surrounded by moonlit clouds maybe five hundred feet below us in all directions, with a couple of holes, through which we can see the lights of civilization, peeking and winking at us. All is quiet."
(Interviewer) "I'll say. Except for that damn cricket."
"A couple of years ago I was in Cabo San Lucas (Baja). One of the friends I was visiting had a boat and we went out fishing; I got bored with that. We found ourselves in the middle of a big school of dolphins, I mean acres. I had fins and a mask and a snorkel, and I lost my little mind and dove in and just started swimming along with them. At first they wouldn't pay any attention to me; it's not like they were running away, they just wouldn't pay attention to me. I was sort of chasing them, and I didn't notice how far away from the boat I was getting. I got somewhere between a quarter and a half-mile away from the boat before I looked back and saw it way off.
"Suddenly I was surrounded by those guys, and they'd come up to me and check me out and swim around. They were curious. They made squeaking and clicking sounds. As far down as I could see, about a hundred feet, and as far around me in any direction as far as I could see, there were these six to ten foot dolphins swimming around. Really beautiful; it was just another world. I lost all sense of time and any consideration other than the desire to communicate with these guys. And they were trying to communicate with me, and I was trying to communicate with them, and I don't know that we didn't get something across, because we were all trying.
"God knows what level they communicate on; I don't think they see time like we do. Or much of anything else for that matter."
(Interviewer) "It would be pretty hard to have any common concepts."
"All we really had was just eyeball to eyeball."
"I got pretty close [to a whale] on a surfboard once. I was going out to play with a pup where they were breaching. I headed out to play with the pup, and up popped mama. I tried to go around her one way, and she moved a little bit forward, and I tried to go around her the other way and she moved a little bit back, presenting an insurmountable obstacle. They don't like stuff that's hard, apparently, and she could hear the waves against my board.
(Gary Fisher) "The fog is moving in."
"It's going to be thick when we go down there. I'm going to have to go slow."
(Interviewer) "A reasonable premise."
"I'd piss a lot of people off if I got myself hurt right now."
(Interviewer) "That would fuck up everything. I'm not going to let that happen."
"Why don't more people do stuff like this?
(Interviewer) "Everyone wants adventure, but they want it to be safe."
"Or just fun. 'I want to be a real cowboy for two weeks I'm not talking about no Frontierland, I want to be a real cowboy.'"
(Interviewer) There a a lot of people who have never done anything remotely as physical as this...
"They could be here too, rather easily, in a few weeks time, if they took it easy, a little bit at a time. It isn't like they would be sacrificing themselves; it would be enjoyable for them, and they just don't know it yet. But they will; I have a lot of confidence in people."
(Interviewer) "You put the tape recorder on your bike because you said you get inspiration while you're riding. Does the rhythmic activity of bike riding give you musical ideas?"
"As often as not I get lyrical ideas; the lyrics come with a melody and the whole thing [is] in a complete package.
(Gary Fisher) "Riding a bike is one of the few places you can go any more and not be interrupted."
(Interviewer) "That's true; a lot of people want your (Bob's) attention. In this instance I can get it because I'm willing to jump on a bike and follow you around."
"You get an entirely different side of me, almost necessarily, than the people who get me between the hours of ten and six on the telephone. I'm a fairly busy fellow, and the number you have, only the people I want to talk to have. Even so, during the hours when we would normally talk...well, you know what it's like; I've got a billion projects."
"I do it, and I don't mind it so much that I'm thinking pretty fast. My manner of speech and my delivery must be a little bit different when you get me during those hours. I use different language; it's just that I'm in a different world. When I'm up here...we went for ten, fifteen minutes at a time without saying anything during the ride up here, and I was never under the fear that the conversation would be over and the phone would be down, and that you'd be unreachable on the phone."
(Fisher) "Haven't you played telephone tag, where you call and the guy is on another line, and he calls back and you're on another line."
"Charlie and I have already done that."
(Interviewer) "That's right. I talked with [you] yesterday, and [you] got three calls while we were having a one minute conversation. Bob, your gig is creativity, but that kind of activity denies it to you..."
"No, that's not true, because I get flying when I'm thinking and talking that fast. I have times of day when [I deal with] mundane matters, like taking care of my gate, my garden, the mechanics of keeping my business rolling... I do [this] in late morning. In the early afternoon I get in touch with people with whom I have projects going, and we go through mechanics. By early mid-afternoon most of what I'm doing is going into the meat of whatever projects we're talking [about]. That's followed by a bike ride on a good day, if this is a well-orchestrated day. Then I get back, have a couple of capper conversations on stuff that I've been working on, and it starts turning into evening.
"There are times of day when certain stuff works best. Often I'm not going to be at my creative best when I'm fresh out of bed, but I can think nuts and bolts pretty well."
(Interviewer) "You say you don't do all your creating on a bike, but you must do some."
"Oh yeah. I don't generally get on my bike until after I've had a few good flings at something fairly creative, and then I get to pack that off on my ride."
(Interviewer) "You kind of chew on the stuff before you ride, then digest it while you're riding."
"It works out really well that way. On a ride, I'll put the headphones on and remove myself from everything entirely, going uphill. I don't wear headphones going downhill because I consider that to be dangerous. Uphill, I figure if I stay to the right, I'm not going to get hit by anything behind me, and I can see ahead, and I'm not going fast enough to present much of a danger to anything. What are the current modes on that, do you know?"
(Interviewer) It's illegal to wear headphones on the streets of California while you're riding a bike. It's illegal in a car for that matter. But I've seen plenty of people wearing headphones and I've never seen anyone cited for it. Current thinking is that you can get away with it.
"For training, it's great; it's just like music in the dentist's chair. You get a better workout.
"When the song ends, I can click the tape off, and what I've pushed aside when I clicked the tape on, comes flooding back, and it'll all be different."
(Interviewer) "So you get your subconscious working on the problem while you devote your higher brain to riding."
"I don't even need the headphones to do it. I can get myself far enough away from what I've been thinking of just by pushing myself to the point where I'm starting to deal with things like pain and...my aerobic limit."
(Interviewer) "I like to think that I get a lot of ideas on my bike."
"It isn't a particularly new way of thinking. Socrates used to teach his classes at a brisk walk. He was a firm believer in the notion that aerobic exercise produced higher thought."
(Gary Fisher) "Do you do some type of thinking when you're playing your music?"
"Yes... It's thought, but I'm not thinking in English. It's just a different language. I really like it, needless to say.
"When I'm on a bike and I'm listening to music, I often bring tapes that I might not normally listen to and might not normally expect to appreciate. But when the endorphins kick in, and I get to that aerobic high stage, I'm a little more open, I can accept things a little more easily, and I appreciate things a little more readily. I'm a big fan of a lot of kinds of music now that I never thought I'd be. It's opened me up, and as a musician that's nothing but good for me. These days I'm really big on Shostakovich (SP?)"
"For the Gentle Reader's information, the fog has completely surrounded us, and there are no lights peeking through. We are an island at this point, in the bright moonlight."
(Interviewer) "What's the smallest place the Dead have played in the last few years?"
"Maybe the Beacon Theater in New York. It's about 2500 [capacity].
"People think when we play a little room it's a big treat, that it's intimate... We can't play those little rooms... We hear the sound back from the back wall and it scares us. We're into the Big Reach; we're starting to get the hang of playing stadiums."
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