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The Children of Rock

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"The weird thing about my mom is, after we got signed, she got a little bit – I don't know – maybe resentful? She was threatened a little bit. I guess because I was the only other one in the family to get into music. For my mom, it was an ego thing. I was pretty detached from her at the time. Like every kid, I just wanted to get the fuck-you money. And, for me, have the fuck-you band. And get the fuck-you record deal. And, you know, say, Tuck you.'"

Elijah pauses. Indian ragas softly emanate from a speaker above the Krishna center's entrance. These days, he is concentrating on staying sober and putting out a new Deadsy album. His relationship with both of his parents seems to have improved. Cher was instrumental in helping Elijah before he went into rehab. "I had a bunch of talks with my mom," he says. "You know, when you get as far gone as I was, it's not like you're saying, 'Of course I shouldn't be wasted on drugs.' You kind of have to take other people's word for it."

Elijah has been also been trying to get to know his father better. He recently told him about his drug problem and, in true rock fashion, that turned out to be a bonding experience. "It's been good, because it's something we have in common," Elijah says. "He's doing great now. He's been sober for the past seven years. But he's fifty-five. So at forty-eight he finally figured it out. I don't wanna do that. I hate to say this, but I didn't want to be my dad. I love my dad, but he wouldn't want me to be him either. Not reaching my potential is a devastating prospect for me."

Trixie Garcia lives in a vintage gray bungalow in Oakland, California. The house is nestled on a hill in a relatively ungentrified neighborhood, just blocks from a strip of Vietnamese shops and restaurants. Thirty-five years ago, Trixie's parents, Jerry Garcia and Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Adams Garcia, were the Kurt and Courtney of freak-rock-era San Francisco. Before Mountain Girl was Mountain Girl, she was the middle-class daughter of academics. Then she discovered psychedelic drugs and met the writer Ken Kesey, with whom she had her eldest daughter, Sunshine. After splitting with Kesey, she hooked up with Garcia, just as the Grateful Dead were beginning to meld live rock & roll with consciousness-expanding drugs; they had two daughters together, eventually marrying in 1981.

"It's just such aweird family," Trixie says. "If I wasn't with the Grateful Dead, I was with the Merry Pranksters." When Trixie was six, Mountain Girl moved her girls to a farm in rural Oregon, near Kesey's commune, in part to get away from the harder drugs that had invaded the Dead scene.

Ask Trixie Garcia a question she thinks has an obvious answer – e.g., "Did your parents ever give you a drug talk?" or "How old were you the first time you were allowed to wander around a Dead show unsupervised?" – and she will fix you with a hard stare and a sly smile that's all her dad. That bemused look, both Trixie's and Jerry's, reads as a gentle "Gimme a break, you square." It's a look that seems to have been made permanent, after years of gazing at the straight world from far outside.

The answers to the above questions, incidentally, are no ("I mean, I had the best drug education ever – it was pretty much watch and learn") and whatever age you learn to walk ("We weren't coddled. We had to figure it out for ourselves"). Aside from helping to manage her dad's musical estate, Trixie mostly paints – these days, a cool series of geishas in traditional poses but with skulls instead of faces. ("It was only after I started doing these paintings that I realized I've been looking at psychedelic skull art all my life.") She has long dark hair that's slightly witchy-woman and lively eyes (also her father's) set in an otherwise sleepy face (ditto). Though her house is filled with what might be interpreted as stoner paraphernalia – multiple Xboxes and an enormous toy-robot collection, with Method Man and Cypress Hill playing softly in the background – making presumptions based largely on someone's genetics seems a bit unfair.

"Wanna do a bong hit?" Trixie asks a few minutes later.

OK, but still, stoner, with all the slackness it implies, is not a word that applies to Trixie, who is among the sharpest and most articulate of the rock children. Nodding at a painting of Tupac Shakur, she explains, "I did that the year he died, because we were friends in high school. I dated one of his friends. I guess it was my way to rebel.

"My older sister did punk rock. I did hip-hop. My parents didn't like it at all." Once, when her dad was on tour, Trixie threw a big party at the house. Tupac and all of her hip-hop friends came. They weren't exactly clear on what the Grateful Dead was. "That my dad was a rich, famous guy was all they needed to know to make me hang-outable," Trixie says. "I think I've searched out people who don't really know about him, so I can do my own thing anonymously." She chuckles. "But then I end up getting mad that they don't know."

At any rate, the house ended up trashed – things stolen, keyboards thrown out of windows. "My poor dad," Trixie says, laughing. "He was so nonconfrontational. Such a pushover. All he did, he left a note the next time he went on tour: 'Dear Trixie, Please don't have a party with more than a thousand people.'"

Jerry Garcia would begin smoking heroin soon after his family's move to Oregon. His wife and daughters did not return to the Bay Area until his lapse into a diabetic coma in 1986 — "he'd been living off Tang and Twinkies for ten years," Trixie says – though the family often spent summers and holidays together.

In talking about her childhood, Trixie goes back and forth between expressing a clear love for her parents and, at the same time, acknowledging the clear shortcomings of certain of their hands-off approaches to child-rearing. For instance, she describes Mountain Girl as "a really great mother" who, on the farm, tended a garden, cooked wonderful meals and made the girls shear sheep and knit sweaters. But Mountain Girl could also be quite embarrassing in public (making loud noises, sticking things up her nose), and at night she would often be doing acid with the Pranksters. "My mom's partying, it wasn't in an immature way – it was in a mind-altering, expand-your-consciousness, social-experiment kind of way," Trixie is careful to point out. "But still. It does become a role reversal, in a way, being a kid raised by kids. You end up being the one saying, 'No, you shouldn't do that. That's unsafe.' When I started really acting out, in high school, I was running the house. I suppose it was a classic plea for discipline, like, 'Please fucking do something! I'm gonna kill myself over here! Be a parent!' There were a couple of moments where my dad was on the verge of almost putting his foot down but then was like, 'Fuck it. I give up.'"

Was it ever scary, having all of the adults around you tripping?
"No, because they were just such professionals. It would be like straight people having a cocktail party. They'd been doing it for so long by the time I came along, they could do anything while they were tripping. Playing poker. Making dinner. They weren't having these trips like, 'Oh, look at my hands! The floor is moving!' They were beyond that. On the other hand, in the crowds at the Dead shows, you'd see it all. Identity crises. Back-rub circles. Hugathons. But yeah, even today, I don't like doing drugs with my mom. She's just such a pro. I'm never as good at having fun on psychedelics, and so I end up feeling really insecure.

"You know, I was a real straight kid. Early rebellion for me, before hip-hop, was trying to be straight. I wanted to have matching socks and American cheese and get an office job. My parents would be like, "What is wrong with you, little square?' Like, 'Oh, God, one of our own!' That would have disappointed them the most. If I'd discovered Jesus and become a soccer mom, I think it would've really broken their hearts."

What did your dad thinly of the scene that surrounded him?
"The funny thing is, Jerry and the rest of the band were a bunch of cynical, shittalking, dark-humored guys. A band of pirates, really. And they were being followed around by these tofu-eating love people."

Ultimately, Trixie seems to feel like her parents' status as social explorers makes whatever mistakes they made as parents forgivable. "In retrospect, our parents probably wished they'd protected us more. But they were pioneers. It was always 'us' and 'them.' I didn't realize how small 'us' was until I went to public school in rural Oregon."

Moving into another room, Trixie perches on the edge of an enormous beanbag chair with a jungle print, resting her head on a hand. "I was talking to my friend the other day about where my happy place is – you know, when you close your eyes and see the field of flowers or whatever," she says. "Mine is on the top of the bus, Furthur. with Kesey, crossing the Bay Bridge, on our way to a Dead show. Just a perfect night."

What's the most important thing your parents taught you?
"I don't implement it always, so it's hard – I have my own trouble enjoying life — but they taught me that it's about the now. About having fun and not being heavy. About the joy of being free from the norm. I think youth lasts forever, or a youthful perspective. You don't ever have to let go of that. There's always things to discover and value. I can only hope to be as dynamic and interesting as some of the people I grew up around."

This story is from the April 7th, 2005 story from the Rolling Stone. 

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