Current Issue Details

Buy Current Issue


Published: 2003/05/28
by David Steinberg

Featured Column: Some are MathemeticiansCan’t This Wait ‘Til… Oh DAMN! [aka zzyzx- older, wiser?]

David Steinberg has written more than 50 columns, not an insignificant number. This summer he is buying a house and hitting 14 Phish shows. Read on…

"Won't you step into the freezer?
David is a geezer!"

-my friend J’eliz every time we’re at a show together and they play

It starts out so easily. Sure when you’re in college, you might have
to spend most of your summers working, but it’s relatively easy to
take a few weeks off to see some shows. It’s never a problem to skip
a few classes here and there to see three, four, five… seventeen
shows a semester if you really want to. With youth comes energy.
All night drives are trivial and the urge for adventure is strong.
With a little bit of time and a little bit of money, anything can be
done. Drive to The Gorge for a weekend run? Sure! It’s not that
far from Des Moines after all.

Despite the old joke, your memory isn’t the first thing to go.
Long before that, the ability to do pull all nighters with no
consequences disappears. It starts out slowly. First you have to stop
a few extra times on your drives. Then the recovery time gets greater
and greater. Your mind might still think that you can go to
Jazzfest and stay up the entire two weeks, but your body starts to
rebel. The ravages of age strike us all. Athletes can’t hit the
fastball anymore, movie stars can’t get the choice roles, tour
warriors discover themselves blowing off shows so they can get some

If this were the only consequence of aging, it wouldn’t be too bad.
Salaries also tend to increase with age. Maybe you have to stay in
hotels instead of sleeping in your car, but you will be able to afford
to do that. Instead of driving to a show, you might have to fly out.
Those aren’t that big of a deal; the lack of available time off
doesn’t have to affect your number of shows seen if you’re good at
weekend warrioring it. However, that isn’t the only consequence; life
starts to get in your way.

Weddings happen, maybe even your own. Your touring buddies start to
have kids and can’t travel with you all the time. Maybe you are the
one that has the kid and finds your life completely changing. At
some point decisions have to be made and shows are the first thing
that get sacrificed.

Mind you it is possible to still tour as you get older. I’m 34 and I
still plan to see fourteen Phish shows this summer. It’s just that
the conditions change. Plane tickets aren’t my only expense for the
year. By the time I get to Phoenix, I will be a home owner…
barring a disaster upon closing of course.

I don’t even own the house yet but my priorities have already
changed. As recently as last winter, I was fantasizing about how a
fortuitously timed layoff might get me to more shows. Now the
thought just terrifies me.

It’s not just the need for continued employment that changes.
Different expenses seem important. Over the next five years I intend
to replace all of the windows in the house, add insulation, and get a
new roof. This eats into my self image as much as it does into my
tour fund. I have bachelor concepts about spending money. A big screen tv?
Sure. A plane ticket to see a concert on the east coast? No
problem. Video games? Great! Double paned vinyl windows? Uh,
let me get back to you. In a way though, this all makes sense. It’s
the reverse mid life crisis.

Traditionally, men my age have been more tied down. With a mortgage
and a family, their dreams of traveling and exploring have been put
aside. Frustration builds and builds until they run out and buy a
new sports car. That story gets told a lot. What doesn’t get
related is what happens to people who spend their twenties and
thirties playing the whole time. At least in my case, the
wistful thinking still happens but instead of dreaming about being
able to take a trip, I’ve been thinking about having a home and
settling down a bit. I’ve been looking at my friends who are married
and are starting families and wondering if it really does make sense
to spend my entire life on a quest for adventure.

Of course then some new tour dates are posted and I forget all about
that question.

Aging isn’t all bad. Between having a lot more life experiences and
not having quite as much energy, many people start to mellow their
beliefs. At 18 things are obviously true. At 23 they’re
interesting ideas. If you continue to quest and explore and discover,
you become sure of less and less and less as you age. [1] Maybe my
days of seeing twenty shows in a road are over, maybe this fourteen
show summer tour will be my last big tour ever, maybe I’ll start to
see my out of town friends less frequently. It’s ok though.

The older I get, the more I understand the importance of compromise.
A life can be defined where I get to see a reasonable number of shows
and still live somewhat like an adult. It’s a change sure, but it’s
not the end that I might have thought it would be. Maybe you can’t be
a tour rat after 25 [2], but would you want to anyway? I do believe
that getting older and more responsible does not mean that you have to
change the core of who you are. As long as I’m alive, I’ll still
find a way of traveling and adventuring. Look for me on Summer Tour
2023. I bet I can get a great Starman outfit to play off of my white

See the house

[1] Yes there are people who spend all of their time within circles of
people who agree with them who grow more and more sure of
their beliefs as they get older, but the good thing about going on
tour is that it forces you to encounter people with different beliefs.
Tour is more of a homogeneous population than I would like, but life
on the road is never predictable. Anyone who travels and listens
can’t help but to have their horizons broadened.

[2] On Grateful Dead tour, there were some 30-40 year old people
living the spare changing nomadic lifestyle. The younger people were
annoying but at least there was a sense that they were having
adventure. These people were just sad.

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

Show 1 Comments