How Seattle Could Have Saved Jerry Garcia

It wasn’t the drugs that did him in, it was the egg creams.

Drugs don’t kill people, egg creams kill people. Or at least they killed Jerry Garcia. The egg creams, that is, not the drugs.

Garcia died on August 9, 1995. Most assumed it was due to a drug overdose, for Garcia had a legendary appetite for narcotics of all flavors. While this may have contributed to his death, technically he died of heart failure, probably precipitated by his struggle with sleep apnea, a condition common in overweight individuals—and Garcia was an overweight individual for most of his life.

Enemy number one in Garcia’s failed effort to control his weight was a concoction known as the New York egg cream, which consists not of eggs and cream, but of seltzer, chocolate syrup, and milk (although one could argue that cream and milk are next of kin). Garcia allegedly sucked down egg creams like most people do coffee; and instead of coffee, Garcia often preferred a little toot for the snoot to get him revved up for shows. Cocaine is an appetite suppressant, and yet, when pitted against Garcia’s precious egg creams, the egg creams obviously prevailed. Look no further than Garcia’s midsection for proof of that.

It’s probably not a stretch to infer that, since Garcia loved egg creams, he probably loved corn dogs, too—the two go together like milk and cookies, like cotton and candy, like Seals and Crofts. And had Garcia spent any amount of time in Seattle, where corn dogs and egg creams are in relatively short supply, he’d have been miserable—and probably thinner. Either that or he’d have eaten breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dinkfeast (the late-night meal between dinner and breakfast) at Wonder Freeze, a half-century-old counter of retro–Coney Island gluttony situated across from the newsstand at Pike Place Market. Here, the egg creams are foamy and the wieners hand-dipped in doughy batter—a decadent-enough combo to convince you to give up sweets and fried meats for a month or more. But not so Jerry.

Wonder Freeze is the real deal. Had Jerry found it (and heck, maybe he did), he would have loved it. Had he not, he might still be filling the air with songs today. In summary, Seattle could have saved Jerry Garcia, if only Garcia had let it save him.