For an entire week, I have let the trip of a lifetime (my mom, brother & I visiting the Windy City) marinate, hoping to do it justice. Let the memories begin…

The three of us took the train from Grand Rapids, about a four hour scenic ride that was pretty chill & fun – we met a fellow deadhead right off the bat who introduced us to some marijuana candies to set the peace train off proper. And I was even able to use internet and show my friends from all over the world our journey.

We arrived nice and early on a Friday, pretty rested since no one was forced to drive. My brother has the best legs, so he was able to do both nights of the concert, whereas my mom and I focused our energy solely on Saturday night. That allowed us to go swimming atop our hotel in a cool outdoor pool, and it really relaxed me and let me to soak in the city.

I’ve always liked Chicago, a fellow hard-working Midwestern town. Upon entering, you could see the rows of apartments where so many people lived; seemingly endless rows of extremely tiny living quarters lining the railroad tracks. You see the poverty when you arrive in Detroit, too, and it is very humbling.

My mom and I went out to eat at an awesome outdoor Italian restaurant Friday night while my brother attended the show. Had about the best meal of my life, some incredible seafood pasta, and the two of us got to enjoy a nice bottle of wine and soak in the culture. My favorite part of Chicago is the diversity, which was everywhere the minute you stepped off the train. I love it so much, it seems so natural to me.

I have been waiting my entire life to visit Wrigley Field. And there I stood, finally, after watching them prepare it in Rookie of the Year a million times, seeing that ivy on TV and feeling nostalgic as hell, and last year, on my birthday, witnessing them win the World Series for the first time in over 100 years with my brother in extra innings. I cried, wouldn’t you?

Next thing I knew, after walking through “Shakedown Street” where all the hippies party before the show, I found myself accidentally inside the stadium! I had stumbled through a beer tent connected to the ballpark where I put my belongings through a metal detector, so I assumed I was in. Nope. A bartender told me, though, that I could keep walking straight back and get in. Sure enough, I never had to scan my $100 ticket. But I did need it to show the usher, who informed me, after walking directly up the first flight of stairs I saw, that I was in my section. Unreal.

I was there about an hour early and got to talk to that usher and some others. She’d worked there for ten seasons, and November 2nd was also the birthday of her twin daughters, both big Cubs fans. I let them know we love our Tigers first and foremost, but Detroit was definitely happy they won. The ushers were really nice and let us do our thing, and we filled the field with more green than it’s ever seen, smoking enough weed for anyone to get high secondhand!

I am glad my mom and brother sat separately from a journalistic standpoint, because it allowed me to experience the love that keeps so many of these fans coming back time and time again. The music really was tremendous, too: John Mayer combined brilliantly with the Grateful Dead, showcasing some all-time talent on the guitar. But it was the people that I will never forget. Seeing an older couple a few rows in front of me seemingly come alive with each song, the bliss in the older gentleman’s eyes cracking in a smile as he found his groove. It was sooo adorable, sooo inspiring, and downright magical at some points.

They ended the show with fireworks on a Saturday right before the 4th of July, giving me and my tripping eyes the sight of a lifetime. Afterwards, I had to hang out and soak up the vibes, eventually running into some awesome guys who were from my hotel and got me home safe. I couldn’t contain my energy, however, and found myself hanging out with some people from the concert at a bar downtown.

I almost feel that’s where I really came alive in the city. I met some Southsiders, some people from St. Louis, from San Francisco, from Wisconsin, from Switzerland, and even Belgium. I’m sitting there in my SagerStrong electric t-shirt, feeling like the world was my oyster. Because that is what I learned, and to be honest, what I confirmed during my trip: YOU CAN LET GO. YOU CAN! The world, even in a two million strong city like Chicago, has your back. You can get lost. You can enter the unknown. And as long as you continue to believe in yourself, you WILL FIND YOUR WAY HOME.

I did. The Dead did. And to me, for the all the world to see one more time in 2017, love won.