At 2:30 a.m. this morning I finally shaved off two weeks of beard, shaggy and graying. It was only appropriate as it served as my vacation badge. Sadly but gloriously, the music from the show still on fire in my head and my body scrubbed clean of the sheen of dance sweat and pot smoke, my whiskers silently swirled adieu to my days of sun and leisure.

I am more deeply tanned than I've been since I was eleven with only a thin strip of pale to spoil the absence of tanlines. Alas, I have not made it to the nude beach as I had planned. That trip became a victim of squirrelly scheduling and pesky responsibilities. Oh well. Here it is summer until almost Halloween so I still have a chance to fix that cottontail problem.

The Lovejoyman family made it to the (clothed) beach once for an afternoon of sandcastle building, brother-and-cousin burying and bodyboarding, which the older boys tackled with giggling ferocity. RunningHammer stayed within splashing distance of the water with the ever-radiant Supervixen, filling up his small bucket with sand and water and dumping it on her knees. We left in time for the afternoon thunderstorms to do their thing. Once home, everyone except the Hammer (who had fallen in to a gaping cavern of nap, only ropes and winches would retrieve him so we decided to let him be) cannonballed in to the pool instead of showering. Pizza was delivered. Movies were watched. Sleep guerrilla-attacked. Small boys smelling of sun and water and sunblock were picked up and carried to bed.

Except for minor itinerary changes, that's how my days went: wake up early (4 or 5 a.m.), run, yoga, skinny-dipping, read paper while drnking coffee, get RunningHammer from crib ("Daddy hey DaaaadddYYYYYYY!!!"), breakfast with him, gently kiss everyone as they stumble to the kitchen, then go outside (to mow, tend orchids, clean pool, garden, swim, play with my guys) until the storms rolled in at which point I'd come inside (to nap, read a little, code, read stories to RunningHammer), rustle up some chow and then drive the herd to bed.

All the time my beard got scragglier and scragglier.

Then yesterday I pulled on a recently-made tie-dye and made the uneventful drive to Tampa to see The Dead and Bob Dylan and reconnect with thousands of my friends in spirit. I figured it would be a fine capper to a fun run of days. This would be my first concert of any sort since following the Grateful Dead around in the early '90s, selling tie-dyes from show to show.

A few pockets of primeval Deadhead culture survived in the parkinglots surrounding the arena, and I felt reassured. Like a world without whales or butterflies or ice cream or pot, I would not want to live in a world without swirling communities of hippies.

The Dead
St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, FL

Set I:
Help on the Way --> Slipknot! --> Franklin's Tower teaser --> Blackbird (acoustic Bobby > Friend of the Devil (acoustic w/Dylan on keyboards and vocals), Gotta Serve Somebody (w/Dylan on keyboards and vocals), Like a Rolling Stone (w/Dylan on keyboards), Milestones --> Why Don't We Do It in the Road --> Night of 1000 Stars ( Joanie vocals) --> Jam --> Lost Sailor --> Tennessee Jed --> Saint of Circumstance

Whew!! Incredibly jammy, joyous music. I wanted to replicate myself so I could dance more. And no, blessed noders, I was not tripping. I tend to fall less that way as I'm trying to twirl my bones from my body.

Robert Hunter did a few songs on a reverbing guitar during the set break. I decided to get some air at that time, but came back in time to join the Ripple sing-a-long.

Set II:
Jam --> Jack Straw --> Jam --> Mountains of the Moon , Only the Strange Remain ( Mickey vocal) --> Caution (Joanie vocal) --> Drums (w/Mickey in a long lab coat playing the Beam) --> Space --> So Many Roads --> Slipknot! --> Franklin's Tower ( Phil and Joanie vocals).

Completely sick, twisted, beautiful, crystalline jams dominated this set, diamond ropes woven to form a sonic eagle each one of us gladly hopped aboard. To end it with Franklin simply turned the show in to a moebius strip of sound.

Phil came out. "So you guys were having fun too, huh?" Then he urged everyone to become an organ donor and a blood donor, admittedly inspired by his own liver transplant in Florida a few years ago. After his low-key PSA and vowing that they will return next year, they launched in to Johnny B. Goode.

The early morning air did nothing to cool me off. Seventy miles an hour with the windows down and tapes blasting barely kept me awake until my driveway. I grabbed a cookie in the kitchen and washed it down with shower water. I buzzed with completeness both from the show and the lazy grace of the past almost-two weeks.

Maybe because I was so tired, I don't know, but letting the water roll over me I wasn't that unhappy to shave. I'd just heard nearly four hours of my favorite music, my family slept soundly and sun and water and movement had licked my body to a hard teak glow. No reason to feel glum about ending a temporary freedom.

Besides, these whiskers grow back pretty easily.