the cut on tuesdays

How My Husband Tricked Me Into Caring About the Grateful Dead

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The Cut on Tuesdays

A weekly podcast from the Cut and Gimlet Media, with host Molly Fischer.

On this week’s show, we’re talking about what it means to commit — to experience some life-changing moment of epiphany, and actually follow through. The tricky thing is that you’ve got the life-changing moment, and then you’ve got all the moments afterward. And there’s no way of knowing what will come next.

For example: You don’t know whether the person you fell in love with will turn out to love the Grateful Dead.

SARAH: You had her committed and then you became a Deadhead. Like, that’s the order.

SAM: Roped her in first and then sprung it on her. 

My husband, Sam, presented it as a whim: Like, “Maybe I’ll start getting into the Grateful Dead.” This was misdirection. Sam had, in fact, been a latent Deadhead all along. The jam-band impulse lay deep within him, dormant — present and buried since his preteen years.

SAM: I remember driving around in my brother’s red Jeep Cherokee, one of the sort of boxy Jeep Cherokees, Dead stickers on the outside, listening to tapes. 

One of the things you learn about the Grateful Dead, if you or someone you love loves the Grateful Dead: Because they were touring constantly, and people were recording them constantly, there’s an almost limitless supply of material to hear. Which means you can listen to the Grateful Dead all the time and never ever run out.

SAM: The Dead are like my default music — making dinner, washing the dishes, cleaning the house, whatever. Molly will often say, like, “Maybe we can listen to something besides the Dead …”

SARAH: Have you tried to bring her in?

SAM: Oh, constantly.

SARAH: How do you do that?

SAM: Um, just try to, like, make my enthusiasm catchy.

He really does try. He likes to ask, in a hopeful voice, what my favorite Dead song is. I cannot tell him because to me they all sound the same. I do like hearing him explain what exactly he likes about them … mostly because I enjoy marveling that our brains, which I think of as similar, can be so different in this particular way. That I’m married to someone who is capable of hearing 45 minutes of guitar noodling as a “nonnarrative jam.”

Very occasionally, though, I’ll get a hint of what it might feel like to be Sam — that is, to be capable of profound interest in the Grateful Dead. Like a few months ago, when he showed me a clip from a Dead documentary. There was old footage from a concert in the ’70s — a bunch of roadies were hammering together speakers to assemble the band’s “Wall of Sound.” And in the middle of it all was a woman talking about audio engineering while casually nursing a baby.

That woman’s name is Betty Cantor-Jackson, and she’s become a legendary figure among Deadheads. I wanted to know how a breastfeeding mom had wound up at the center of this very male-centric scene. What had that been like? What became of her?

To find out, listen to this week’s episode … which also includes an announcement:

We’ve decided to wrap up the show at the end of 2019. This wasn’t an easy choice. Making this podcast has been amazing. But, as you may have intuited from episodes about stuff like anxiety, and quitting, and new jobs, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately. And I’ve realized that as much as I’ve loved making this show, what I want to do in the long run is write — and if that’s what I want to do, eventually I have to commit and actually do it. So at the beginning of next year, I’ll be heading back to the Cut and New York Magazine as a staff writer.

Next week we’ll be coming to you with our final episode of the Cut on Tuesdays. But this isn’t the last you’ll be hearing from the Cut — we’ll be cooking up new audio projects next year as part of the Vox Media Podcast Network. So stay subscribed, and keep listening to hear what we do next …

My Husband Tricked Me Into Caring About the Grateful Dead