Lloyd Schwartz

Jerry Garcia in a Somerville Parking Lot
November 11, 2012 Schwartz Lloyd

Jerry Garcia in a Somerville Parking Lot


Past midnight, a man in his late 60s, tall, with long
gray hair and a bushy gray (almost white) beard,
returns to the side street public parking lot
where he’d left his car. It’s hot, and dark, and the lot
is unlit. At the far end he can make out two men
smoking, leaning against the car right next to his.

Alone and apprehensive, he starts across the lot, and
soon catches a whiff of what they’re smoking.
Suddenly one of them asks:

“Want to hear a joke?”

Startled, he hesitates, but obliges. “Sure,” he says.
“What’s the joke?” “OK: What do you call a woman

with only one leg?” “I don’t know,” he plays along.
“What do you call a woman with only one leg?”


It takes him a second, he almost groans, and then
begins to laugh.

“Want a drag?” the guy asks. He’s just a kid
(the other one never says a word). “No, no thanks,”
the man answers, “I can inhale from here.”

This time it’s the kid who laughs. “OK. I only asked
because you look like Jerry Garcia.

—Have a nice night!”

“You too,” the man answers, unlocking his car.
“Thanks.” And all the way home, he keeps chuckling
at lucky escapes, wildly mistaken identities, sweet

dumb jokes (how little it takes to restore his
affection for the city), and at least for the moment
gratefully alive, can’t stop laughing—or laughing at

himself for laughing—at his latest temporary reprieve.

Lloyd Schwartz is the Frederick S. Troy Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the poet laureate of Somerville, Massachusetts, for which he has just been awarded a 2021 Academy of American Poets Poet Laureate fellowship. His poems have been selected for the Pushcart Prize, The Best American Poetry, and The Best of the Best American Poetry. In 2019, he was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in poetry. A noted editor of the works of Elizabeth Bishop, he is also the longtime classical music critic for NPR’s Fresh Air and was the classical music editor of The Boston Phoenix, for which he was awarded the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. His latest book is Who’s on First? New and Selected Poems (University of Chicago Press).