The classic stereotype of a Deadhead is the aging burnout, the elder who assaults our senses with a salt-and-pepper ponytail and let-it-be optimism.
"Hey man," he mumbles from beneath his mangy beard and faded tie-dyed shirt. "Jerry lives in all of us."
But let's revisit that old cliche. By the mid-'80s, the Grateful Dead had been around 20 years and earned a fan base that spanned generations. Anyone who attended high school in the mid-to-late '80s - and worshiped at the respective altars of Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose - can recall the last pop culture holdouts: the pack of young Deadheads.
They're now in their late 30s and author Peter Conners is among them.
Conners recently penned "Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead," a memoir about a teenager from the suburbs outside Rochester, N.Y., who caught the Dead bug early and hit the road. Tonight, Conners reads from "Growing Up Dead" at Books Inc. in San Francisco. On Friday, he'll appear at Book Passage in Corte Madera and then return to San Francisco later that night for a reading at Giordano Bros.' monthly Acoustic Grateful Dead Night.
"It was for kids, like me, who were looking for something beyond fitting in," Conners said. "But it was also for kids who were more than just having a rough go of it, but seeking more out of life."
For Conners, the Deadhead lifestyle offered an instant network of creative souls and high adventures on the open road. For a budding writer, the cast of characters and touring lifestyle offered a glimpse of the good life - a new, head-melting experience every day.
"It took me out of the suburbs during a very formative time in my life," Conners said. "It cut across school boundaries and rivalries and expanded outward: One night you find yourself in a rest stop in Kansas. Another, you're all in Atlanta."
Today, Conners says he wouldn't qualify as a practicing Head. Though he's attended 150 Dead-related shows and has a few favorite set lists committed to memory, he's no longer absorbed by the scene on a daily basis. Still, those years left him with something lasting.
"I became a writer," Conners said, "and looking back now, I found my way into the world of art through the Dead."