I used to have a Grateful Dead sticker in the back window of my truck. I put it there my senior year in high school in Alabama, and immediately began getting pulled over. I suspected the sticker, but didn't know for sure.
But then one day one of my parents (I forget which one) was driving my car, and got pulled over. The cop, realizing it was a kid's car, more or less told my mom or dad that he had pulled him/her over because of the Dead sticker.
One thing I miss about Alabama, and to a lesser extent a lot of the South, was the way that different people from different cliques would hang out together. My friends saw nothing wrong with listening to The Grateful Dead and the Dead Kennedys. Goths, deadheads, punks, skaters, and any other kind of outsider, all ran together, largely because we were all different and all aware of it. And there just weren't enough weirdos for us to divide ourselves up into camps.
In Atlanta, things were different. By and large, the deadheads didn't talk to the punks, who didn't talk to the skins who didn't talk to the goths who didn't talk to the ravers who didn't talk to the mods and on and on and so it goes. I think, to a real extent, growing up like that made me more accepting of different styles of music, and more broadly, different lifestyles. It was Us against Them: they told us so. I was just a kid with shaggy hair who didn't play football and didn't like the music on the radio. I never really thought of myself as opting out; I felt like I was forced out.
I have digressed. But my point being: the act of putting a Grateful Dead sticker on my car--there were also Jane's, REM, Pixies, and other circa 1990 mainstay band stickers on there--made me an outsider, and suspect. It was oficially discouraged. Different is bad, you dumb fuck, and don't you forget it.
And so the other day, when we walked over to check out a housefire in our neighborhood, I noticed for the first time that all the firetrucks from our station have a certain familiar logo on them. These are city vehicles.
I wasn't born here in San Francisco. I miss my family; they are so very far away. I seldom listen to the Grateful Dead anymore (not out of animosity, I would if they recorded something new and it was good. I just get tired of listening to the same stuff over and over). But this made me really happy. When I see things like this, here in the city that I love, I feel like I'm at home. Finally, at home.