You could say I was born in the taper section. In the mid 1970’s, Grandpa Jimmy recorded three-year-old me singing and proudly answering questions about my birthday, address, and parents’ names. In January 2020, I found a few such cassettes, along with the reason you’re reading this.
The tapes turned up in the final few weeks of helping Dad downsize from a house to an apartment. The move was never possible while Mom was still alive, thanks to her hoarding.
Sorting, sifting, trashing, gifting. It was five months just to get the house on the market, and over eight months between Mom’s passing and getting to leave the US again. More than enough time for reliving 47 years of mismatched temperaments with Dad.
On top of grief, his familiar frustration, anger, and scorn toward my playfulness and laughter as an adult invited us to revisit old memories that influenced me beyond his awareness.
For example, the chatty three-year-old who Jimmy recorded sometimes got told by Dad that if I didn’t stop talking, I’d run out of words. While growing up, many other long forgotten messages and messengers fostered my insecurity about being verbose, both for worse and for better.
Freshman year at Cornell University, fall 1989, I started training to be a radio DJ at WVBR in Ithaca, NY. Barely escaping with my communication degree four years later, my first job was the overnight show on WKGB in Binghamton, NY. These were the years when Phish and the other HORDE bands became my passion. I did my part sharing in the grooves on the air.
First Phish memory: listening to A Picture of Nectar with future Nugs.net founder Brad Serling in his room next door to mine at Thumpty, our fraternity.
First Phish show: 7/10/92 at Empire Court in Syracuse, one of the three original eight HORDE shows I attended with radio station comp tickets (only two with Phish).
First Phish interview: 4/9/94 at the Broome County Arena in Binghamton, Jon Fishman generously talked with me for 43 minutes live on WKGB before the show. That recording lived for a while on an early version of Nugs.net but has apparently been lost to time.
First (and so far only) time going on tour: summer 1995, six shows in eight days from Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center through Jones Beach (skipped Waterloo Village). This is still my favorite vacation ever, and what a blessing to get all the tickets from my job plus extras for every show! My coworker and tour buddy Chaz and I randomly miracled the same hippie chick at both Mann and SPAC.
Concluding with the two MSG New Year’s shows, 1995 was my most active year as a Phish fan, including heavy tape trading and participation on rec.music.phish. In all I attended 12 shows, including 12/14/95 in Binghamton, later immortalized as Live Phish 01. Between soundcheck and this show, I interviewed Trey live on WKGB for about 12 minutes.
Starting NOW, on the 25th anniversary, you can stream the interview right here on Phish.net:
On reflection, it seems I was totally in the moment because as I introduced Trey, I wondered if I’d pronounced Anastasio correctly. At the time it felt to me like a faux pas but Trey said there was lots of confusion about this and eagerly shared some family history.
A few other noteworthy nuggets:
Listening to this interview now, I hear myself as a cheeky young performer (23 at the time). I interrupted Trey a few times in ways I wouldn’t today, as a better listener and more authentic person.
However, I knew our time was limited and being such a fan my ego clearly drove me to show that. This is especially noticeable at the end when I toss it back to the studio claiming Trey is on the record about a future Gamehendge recording (he wasn’t).
Overall, I hear a career highlight for me. There is also synchronicity with the direction life would take me 15 years later. Describing the spiritual essence of making improvised music, Trey said “the map is not the territory.”
This phrase reappeared in 2010 as a basic concept in training to be a hypnotherapist and life coach. I chose this career path specifically as a return to “making a living from my words,” as I had on the radio, only going forward I’d have more freedom to improvise.
That freedom largely translates to exploring intentional laughter as a form of exercise, self-care, and self-discovery. The insight that laughter is hypnotic took me around the world to share my laugh and my words about it.
I had been living in Vietnam for nearly two years when I returned to New York for Mom’s final 19 days. We were at peace saying goodbye, and now thanks to her hoarding I found the recording of this interview amid Grandpa Jimmy’s tapes. I waited all year for this anniversary.
I arrived in Melbourne, Australia, in late January 2020 and have ridden-out the COVID pandemic here so far. Our long strict lockdown was creatively and spiritually fertile and inspired the book Laughter Lost and Found, covering laughter life lessons that helped me navigate Mom’s death and Dad’s anger. One of my dreams is to perform an acapella “Ha Ha Ha” with Phish. - Dave Berman
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