“Sugar Magnolia, blossoms blooming, heads all empty and I don’t care” — Grateful Dead


I shared an outdoors lunch table at a restaurant in Phoenix with a ghastly looking guy name Jacob–glazed eyes, long matted hair, a distant disposition.

His story:

Jacob grew in up Palos Verdes, CA—an affluent neighborhood—but in his early teens he ‘disconnected from his family’, left home and became a Dead Head—a devoted fan of the Grateful Dead. For the next 20 years, he followed the Dead on tour. Not ‘with’ them or working for them, but following them. Twenty years of endless music, rambling jams, parties, pot, pan-handling, acid, and caravanning onto the next show. When Jerry Garcia died, Jacob dropped off the band wagon and ended up in New Jersey, where he committed multiple counts of fraud with stolen credit cards, pulled cash, rented cars. Three times arrested, three times he ran away.

Several more years of drifting; then in quick succession, his brother died, then his sister died. Jacob sunk into a deep depression [I was thinking: ‘Weren’t you already depressed?!’). Then Jacob got addicted to heroin.

Six or so months on smack; then he turned himself in. Said he wanted to get straight and make amends. Given his record, the judge was so surprised by his appearance in court that he took him at his word, gave him a reduced jail sentence and sent him to drug rehab.

After a couple months, rehab sent him to the Phoenix Dream Center, a faith based recovery center. He met a street preacher who got in his face and said “Only the Blood of Jesus will save you! Only the blood of Jesus will do! It ain’t nothin’ if it ain’t the Blood of Jesus!”

Remarkably, those words resonated with Jacob. He turned to God and became a follower of Christ.

Soon thereafter, still at the Phoenix Dream Center, Jacob got a new roommate who just 24 hours earlier had been released from prison. One night they were hanging out in a common area with a group of guys, when a Pastor nicknamed ‘K-Man’ came in, prayed for the men, sprinkled holy water on them, and blessed them. When Pastor K-Man touched the prison guy, his eyes rolled into his head, he fell to the ground and started growling and snarling. Shock & awe! Everyone ran out of the room except the pastor and Jacob, who was mesmerized. “I thought demon exorcism was a scam used by TV evangelists to raise money,” said Jacob,  “but this cat—my roommate— snarled, twitched, foamed; then relaxed, came too, and said ‘What happened?’ After that, he was a different guy.” And so was Jacob.

He has been at the Dream Center for several months. He said he is studying scripture intently– he wrote out the entire book of Proverbs – and he is loving it. He says “For the first time in my life I’m getting answers on how things work.”

It was an astounding conversation.

“You miss the old life on the road?” I asked.
“Naa,” he grinned,  “I was dead. Now I’m grateful.”