Walking home from work, I take a different route down Emerson Street and pass a curious house with nonsense written on it. Wacky Californians, I think. Posting poetry on their houses.
While I’m snapping a photo, a woman stops and smiles.
“Trying to find all the Dead Houses?”
“Sorry?” I look at the house. It doesn’t look deceased. A little love worn, maybe…
“They’re named after Grateful Dead albums,” she explains. “You know, ‘Box of Rain,’ ‘China Cat’…”
I nod slowly, but I don’t understand. I never took to the Grateful Dead.
“This guy bought up all these houses and fills them up with students and they split the costs. They’re like communal living houses. He thought it would be cool to give students a cheap place to live. And I guess he’s a big Grateful Dead fan.”
She points out a few more down the street. I thank her and snap more photos.
According to a recent article in The Stanford Daily online, there are nine of these Dead communes in Palo Alto and a few in San Francisco. The juxtaposition intrigues me. Here in the heart of Silicon Valley, down a stretch of street lined with millions and millions of dollars of real estate, a bunch of Stanford kids are growing organic tomatoes and sharing household chores. I wonder if, in the wee hours of the night, they strum a guitar and sing the Grateful Dead song for which their tiny paradise is named.
I reckon there’s still some of that hippy love left in Palo Alto. Some dude out there is keeping it real. That’s good to know.