Feel Like a Stranger

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

We adoptees often share notes about common struggles. One that comes up a lot is that many of us feel as if we are on the outside looking in on others participating in life. I went to some extremes searching for group belonging, an effort that always left me feeling incomplete. One of the places that I sought connection was within the Grateful Dead scene. I was deeply involved for many years and saw dozens of shows across the US and Canada. There was a lot of good to be found there and it had its share of bad too. Being on the road in strange towns and cities with even stranger people wasn't an easy life, but it was never boring! I wasn't aware at the time that my CPTSD symptoms were emerging right on cue, according to the expectations of life course epidemiology. That made things even more interesting, but also a lot more terrifying.

From the Manuscript:

"I had that sick feeling you get when something important is missing. I ducked into the tunnel leading to the arena to get out of the foot traffic and looked into the great expanse. The Civic Center was an empty waffle iron waiting to be filled in with second generation hippies. We had traveled from near and far, from major cities, sprawling suburbs and little Mayberries all across the United States. Jubilant voices bounced off the tiled walls with yelps of exuberation occasionally breaking through the constant static hum. I leaned back against the tunnel wall and untied my backpack. Loose strings were left uncut by a faceless Guatemalan seamstress. They tickled my wrist as I rummaged through the bottom of the sac. I imagined the woman expertly stitching the purple patchwork before turning it right side out and stacking it in a heap with others beside her. They’d be shipped to the US and sold in the parking lots of Grateful Dead concerts.

A warlock handed me an enormous joint as he disappeared into the abyss. He grinned like the joker on a deck of cards when our eyes met, as if he’d just dealt me a losing hand. I filled my lungs with smoke and jetted the excess out of my nostrils in staccato spurts, like a steam train leaving the station. The smoke made my eyes tear and my brain burn. But oh, that flavor! It was that that sweet and skunky Humboldt County weed that you’d only get at Dead shows if you lived on the east coast. This alone was worth the crowded bus rides and the night sleeping under someone’s van parked on the street in downtown Providence.

I passed the cone along to a shirtless mountain man who suddenly appeared next to me. His eyes were fixed on the wall behind me with great intensity. He’s trying to win a staring contest with that wall - I thought, he just might win. Impish boys with legs as thin as pixie sticks looked like photographs flipping by in an old kinetoscope. Oh, I’m starting to get off - the LSD was taking effect. I became aware of feeling the adrenaline and cortisol pulsing through my body. How can I find what I’ve lost if I don’t know what I’m looking for? I paced the tunnel from the caravans of gypsies traveling the main thoroughfare at one end, to the entrance of the wide-open stadium on the other, searching the ground as I went. More feet moved through the tunnel - green Chuck Taylors, moccasins, sandals. The air reeked of patchouli, grass, and sweat. Space was filling in."


Those were interesting times, for sure. I can't give too much away now, but suffice it to say, adventure ensues. There was a lot of ground before me as I popped between cities and I would have never guessed where that ground would lead me. My motivating thought back then was that I needed to get out of my little conservative home town. So, as they say, 'the bus came by and I got on, that's when it all began."

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