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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2001/12/19
by David Steinberg

Year Without Phish? Boo Hiss

Those of us who regularly go on tour lead a very unhealthy life. I
don’t mean physically – although anyone who has spent time living on
the road knows about the tour crud – but emotionally. Instead of
living for the moment, we live for the future. There’s always some
event on the horizon to be excited about. From the time that tour
dates are first announced, our mind is on those shows. Careful
calculations are made. (‘Let’s see, I only have 10 days of vacation
saved up, how can I maximize the number of shows I can see? A four
day weekend there… a 5 show run there…. Can I afford two plane
tickets?’) Mail order is done and obscure Ticketmaster locations are
scouted out as backup plans. Travel plans are made… and then
changed… and then made a third time… and then switched back to
the second plan.. and then completely changed when you discover that a
close friend will be at Deer Creek. Sleeping arrangements are made.
Rental car rates are compared. Fly on Tuesday night or Wednesday
morning? Months and months pass thinking about these plans, getting
more and more excited about them… and less excited about the
Phish’s hiatus this year was an opportunity for me. One of my
resolutions for 2001 was to live more in the moment, to stop spending
all of my time thinking and planning for the next big event, and enjoy
everyday life. For a few months it actually seemed to work. Local
bands like Das Rut kept me entertained and I spent more time with my
friends in town. I got a lot of work done. The Mariners’ 116 win
season kept me entertained. (*sigh*... stupid Yankees) I even flew
out a few times to see some music. However, there was a theme.
Whenever I left to see a band, I had the same question the
week before the show. ‘Do I really feel like flying out to see this
band?’ Of course I did every time – well except for my proposed trip
to see TAB down in Berkeley – and I had fun each time, but come the
next trip I had the same questions. It took a long time, but around November I
really caught on that this live in the moment plan was just not
Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year for me. As a sun
loving person, the bleak Seattle winters really get depressing.
Around mid-December, the lack of light starts to get extreme. Since
I’m morally obligated not to celebrate Christmas [1], the only way
that I make it through this month is by keeping my attention solidly
focused on my favorite holiday of the year – New Year’s Eve.
Wondering what Phish would do, what the stunt would be like, what Tom Marshall
would sing, which show would be the amazing on kept me busy from early
November. It was the most important event of my year. Losing that
has been the thing that’s most upset me about the hiatus; I would be
willing to have a ten year hiatus if they just broke it every year
for a New Year’s run. It’s December, it’s bleak, it’s raining, and
while I will be seeing a member of Phish on 12/31, it’s just not the
same. Next year? Please! [2]
[1] As a Jew, it just doesn’t feel right to celebrate a very religious
Christian holiday. However I do have a solution that would make a lot
of people happy, even if it will never come to pass. As both Pagans
and Fundamentalist Christians complain, most of the trappings
of Christmas were taken from Pagan celebrations of the equinox. [3]
Fine then. Let’s fork Christmas into two holidays. One holiday would
happen on December 21/22 and would celebrate the fact that the days
will be getting longer. Trees, lights, holly, gifts, all could be
used to celebrate that day. People would get that day off, there could be
big displays on government ground, and no one could complain. After
all, the solstice wouldn’t be celebrated as a religious holiday in
this context, just a secular excitement over the return of the light.
Meanwhile, there would be an unrelated religious holiday
three or four days later. Then people who actually believe in
Christianity – not just people looking for presents – could celebrate
the birth of their Savior.
Ok this would never happen in a million years, but the little Jewish
boy in me can dream that one day he could go to the parties and have
the tree and exchange the gifts and decorate the house without feeling
like a sell out. Oh and don’t mention Chanukah.
As I
wrote last year, that holiday only gets attention because of its convenient
location on the calendar.
[2] Nothing in this column is meant to attack any other band. SCI,
moe., TAB, Phil and Friends, the Disco Biscuits, SKB, they all have
their good points. I’ll see them when they come to town. I’ll even
use some of their shows as an excuse to travel. It’s
not that they’re bad, it’s just that they don’t excite me the way that
the Dead did or Phish did or even SCI did in 1998. I have just
figured out why; I hope to milk that for another column down the
[3] I’ve heard that that theory might be a myth actually. For the
point of my great idea though, I choose to believe it.
David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New
Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live
music at the Capitol Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His
Phish stats website is at
and he was the stats section editor for The Phish Companion.

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