Quarantine started around St. Patrick’s Day. The sequel to quarantine, Quarantine 2: The Pseudo Quarantine began a few months later; I don’t remember exactly when but we’re still there now. A third installment of the series is still in development as the writers can’t decide what direction to send the plot in.
Over the course of both versions of quarantine, I’ve learned some things about myself. I learned that I can get past the itchy phase of growing a beard but ultimately, I’m not into having a beard. The idea of a beard was better than the beard itself. Plus the hair on my chin is white and everything else is kind of red and so overall it makes me look old. I’m good. On top of that, our daughter isn’t a fan and we’ve reached the point of our lives where her opinions on things have really started to matter. So beards are out for the foreseeable future.
I also learned that I like my hair shorter instead of longer and I don’t need an alarm clock to wake up at six AM. I also realized that the dream I have of living in a world where the only clothes I needed to wear was a t-shirt, board shorts, and flip flops has proven to be a good dream because that’s exactly what I’ve been wearing every day since probably May and it’s fantastic. At some point, I’m going to have to wear pants, a collared shirt, and shoes, and with each passing day, that sounds more and more terrible and hard to stomach.
One other thing I learned over the course of the past five months (eff word, has it really been that long?) is that Phish is great and I know that we’ve had our differences over the past couple years, but despite that, I’m officially into Phish again.
Now I don’t know when this all happened but yeah, at some point during quarantine I started listening to Phish again and it just kind of picked up momentum as the weeks went by. I started listening to the band more and more, diving into old shows courtesy of this website re:listen.net I heard about on Twitter and checking out what live shows the band had thrown up on Spotify. Phish’s Ventura show is especially delightful and the show’s opener, “NICU” had become a tune I listen to and sing while kicking around the house on a regular basis.
I even got my daughter into Phish, with both of us agreeing that “Ocelot” is a really good song. Although one day she was singing part of “Punch You In The Eye” and my darling wife had a slight issue with that, our daughter advocating violence and all. I didn’t have it in me to explain any of the back story regarding the song, so I just kind of went with it.
On Tuesday nights, Phish had launched their Dinner And A Movie series and while I never watched it on Tuesday nights, I did on Wednesdays and Thursdays. There was one episode in particular where the show featured was from 1997 and watching it during some quiet time one morning, before anyone else was up, brought all sorts of feels and emotions. Shows from that time period were in heavy rotation for my friends and me back in college and there was something about how the band sounded during that show that felt so familiar. Shit man, Kenny probably had that very show amidst his vast collection of Phish bootlegs that he brought back to school with him at the start of sophomore year. The chances of me having heard the show before were pretty, pretty good.
I started texting with some of my old buddies, dudes I had run with during those days, reminiscing about that fantastically weird time in our life. And then during the first weekend of August, which was the something or other anniversary of the band’s IT festival, that same group of dudes started texting again, prompted by one fella sending us a picture of all us, looking all sunburned and haggard and happy back in 2003 up in northern Maine.
Full disclosure: I definitely don’t remember who at least two of those people are in that picture.
Since graduating college back in 2002, Phish had been a presence in my life, but how much of a presence had been something that was constantly wavering. I would come back to them every so often, but it was usually pretty short-lived. It rarely stuck.
But this time has felt different. Before I would listen to a show here or there or perhaps a few songs and that was that. This time though, I’ve been listening to them on almost a regular basis, whether it’s those old shows or studio albums of theirs I had never really gotten into. I had started to become overwhelmed with all the choices when it came to listening to a live show of the band’s so to make things somewhat easier, I put a couple playlists together of Phish live (there’s Live Phish Vol. 1 and Live Phish Vol. 2 if you’re interested) and while I’m sure a fan more diehard than myself would take issue with some of my choices and have strong opinions of say, a better version of “Fee” than the one I picked, I’m fine with that. The playlists were like quick resources, not definitive declarations of fact.
And then recently, I found myself in Florida, waiting for our second daughter to be born. Because of restrictions put in place courtesy of COVID, I set up shop in the hospital’s parking garage as I wasn’t allowed inside the building (I’ll get into the particulars at another time.) At one point during day two, with us reaching something of a crossroads in regards to what would happen next, I needed to calm myself down and center myself. I needed a break from episodes of The Wire and needed to turn the car off, which was rough given the stifling weather in southern Florida in mid-August. I turned the car off, opened the car door, and just sat there, staring off at the now empty parking garage. I did some breathing because that’s what Zac Efron’s friend on Down to Earth suggested.
Then I put on Phish, one of those aforementioned Live Phish playlists, and “Everything’s Right” came on. I stood up and I walked around some. I turned the song up more and a few minutes in, I had bought into the message of the song with the kind of enthusiasm reserved for buying something you saw advertised on television late at night.
Everything’s right, so just hold tight.
And everything suddenly did feel right.
And then an hour or so later, our daughter was born.
I think I’ve fallen back in with Phish over these past couple months because, in the end, Phish is comforting to me. It’s music that makes sense and I think that’s partially due to how it brings me back to such fun, carefree times. Everyone has been dealing with all kinds of craziness since lockdowns began in March and while I’m not saying my life has been harder than anyone else’s, I have been planning for the birth of a child that was being born in a hot zone, so I’ve definitely had my fair share of stress. Phish has helped me make sense of things, sometimes by just removing me from the present and taking me on trips to random corners of memories. I could say I always would benefit from something like that happening, but as of late, it’s been incredibly helpful.
In trying times, it’s good to turn to old friends. They know you best; know what you need to get through.
I turned to Phish and I’m better off for it.
And this time, I think it’s for keeps.
Now please, get me out of Florida.