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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2007/03/21
by David Steinberg

Losing My Addiction

Looking at my summer plans has been somewhat depressing. While a few minor adventures are planned, I miss the days of the passion. I want to be counting down the days until my next trip. I want to spend days charting out how I can maximize my show attendance with a given amount of vacation days without blowing through all of my spare cash. With 6 months left in the fiscal year and some summer plans already arranged, I still have over a week of vacation time to burn. Jazz Fest is too expensive, High Sierra is pushing it for a road trip, and Wakarusa is still located in Kansas. All of those could be easily overcome if the excitement level were high enough, but that’s a pretty big if.
The juxtaposition became obvious during the week this column was written. At the same time that High Sierra released an underwhelming lineup (at least underwhelming for $200+ tickets and a 15 hour drive), I was looking back to the past. For while now I have plenty of vacation time, reasonable amounts of cash, and nothing to do with that, 1992 was a much different story.
I graduated from Bard in December of 1991 in the middle of the Bush recession. Entry-level jobs were hard to come by and I didn’t have the computer skills that I possess today. I spent my days driving around Baltimore, trying to find places to apply for work and getting frustrated. When March rolled around, I figured that it made as much sense to run off and go on Dead tour as it did to sit around my mom’s house and get frustrated about my lack of employment.
While no one would confuse Spring Tour 92 with May of 1977, there were some classic moments. The tour culminated for me at the Philadelphia Spectrum. While I had tickets for most of the tour, I didn’t have one for the final show. I had lined up some riders to help with gas money on the way to Ontario, so I couldn’t leave until the show let out. As the rain started to freeze, I walked around the venue looking for a way to get into the concert.
The trick to getting a ticket to a sold out concert is to try to find a way that differentiates you from all of the other seekers. The usual techniques are to come up with a clever sign, an interesting chant, or to be a cute little hippie girl. I didn’t have the material for the first approach and obviously the last technique was out of bounds, so it was time to get creative.
I took the first two night’s mail order ticket stubs and held them together. The rain caused the wet pieces of cardboard to stick together. I then walked around offering, ‘I’ll trade this really bad fake for a real ticket!’ That did get attention, but not what I was hoping for. After a lap a scalper walked up to me and offered me $10 for the fake. I explained to him that I was obviously holding the pieces together, that the halves weren’t even the same color and had completely different designs, but he didn’t care. I needed the money so I took it. On the off chance that anyone reading this bought that ticket, I apologize, but I highly doubt that anyone would be quite that clueless.
While I was glad to have some extra cash, my marketing plan was shattered. I didn’t have a backup, so I walked around the venue muttering, ‘I wouldn’t mind a ticket.’ Right before I could give up, someone handed me a piece of cardboard. ‘It’s fake,’ he said, ‘But it’ll get you in.’ I didn’t have anything to lose so I walked to the first open door. The ticket taker ripped it and I ran to where my friends were hanging [1]. I only missed one verse of ‘Touch of Grey.’
Perhaps it was the circumstances of how I got into the show, but this was the best show of the tour. That was fortunate because the night was about to be horrible. By the time I left the parking lot, the freezing rain had turned into a massive snowstorm. There were whiteout conditions all along the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I might not be alive today if it weren’t for the fact that PDOT thinks that the drivers in their state are complete and utter morons.
They were working on the road that March. The road regularly was reduced to one lane with no shoulder. Despite the fact that it would have been completely impossible for a car to pass another without driving through the Jersey barrier, there was a sign every twenty feet ordering, ‘Do Not Pass.’ Those reflective signs were the only way I could see where the road was in the whiteout. After 6 hours of exhausting driving, I finally found a rest stop to collapse in for a while. I still hadn’t made it to Wilkes Barre.
The result of this night was that I was incredibly sick when I arrived in Ontario. I was dying and my lack of funds caused me to sleep in my car in twenty degree weather. This stage of my life culminated in hearing an amazing ‘So Many Roads’ at the second show. ‘So many roads I know, all I want is one to take me home,’ never rang so true as when you’re sick and living out of your car in sub-freezing temperatures.
So what’s the moral of this story? It’s that the Grateful Dead (and later Phish) drove me crazy. I lost (or didn’t take on) jobs for them. I made myself sick. I skipped meals and slept in rest stops because I’d rather spend that money on gas and concert tickets. Logic dictates that my life is better off without these overriding obsessions; even when I could afford to tour without undergoing too many sacrifices, it’s not emotionally healthy to constantly live for future events instead of being grounded in the present.
However, there’s a difference between quitting a drug after doing the work of rehab and quitting a drug because your supplier has run out [2] It might be for the best that I spend my money this summer on a new roof and fixing up the backyard instead of endlessly following the tour machine with nothing to show for it but memories, a few t shirts, and the tour ick, but that’s not going to stop me looking at tour dates and sighing.
[1] For those who never saw the Grateful Dead, one of the oddities of the fan base is that there were people who preferred to dance in the hallway where there was more room than to go into areas where you could see. I always preferred to hang out with the hall dancers because you had a much better crowd there.
[2] Perhaps a more complete analogy would be having my dealer leave, going through withdrawal, and finally coming through the other side only to have him move back to town just long enough to renew the cravings. Curse you Phil and Trey and the Rhythm Devils and the fun I had at Wakarusa and Jam Cruise for making all of my current plans seem so lame. I shake my fist at you.
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
He is the stats section editor for The Phish Companion and is on the board of directors for the Netspace Foundation. You can read more of his thoughts at

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