I don’t know where it was or how long ago it was that I read it. What I do know it was in one of the local alternative papers that get handed out around campuses and in bars. It was right there at the end, where all those personal ads begin to appear. You know the ones I’m talking about, the ones you publicly ignore but secretly read in private. There were a couple of words that caught my eye – “Bob Dylan Coming to Columbus. One Night Only”.
Its been years since I’ve attended a concert of any kind. My days came to an abrubt end just a little after Jerry died and at most shows I figured I was starting to look old and out of place. I’d be the one the kids smirked at as they laughed to themselves and said something along the lines of “Get a load of the old geezer trying to recapture a piece of his youth. Asshole.” For some of you out there, you know what I’m talking about. Its that funny sideways look you get from kids when you try and become part of their world and try to be hip and cool but all along they’d rather be left alone. Now that I think about it, I was one of them once.
We all were.
Anyway, I mustered up the courage to fork over fifty bucks for a ticket and then I discovered that kids twelve and under could get in free if they were accompanied by an adult. An idea began to take hold and after some initial promises about not drinking (me, not her), Anna’s mom gave the thumbs up and her world was about to change. It was her first show and if it remains burned in her brain like my first show was, well, someday she’ll look back and smile.
So we’re sitting there listening to the warm up band when the front man says something like “Folks, I’d like to bring out a good friend of mine to play with us for a little while. Would you please welcome Mr. Eric Clapton."
Naturally the crowd goes ape shit and Anna and I turn and smile at each other. Something special is in the works and we’re gonna be here to see it.
What follows is the set list and some excerpts from August 13, 2006 interspersed with some personal insights and observations. Some of them might make sense only to me and for that I apologize in advance. Others however, might have more mass appeal. Either way, it’s just a small indicator behind the genius that is Bob Dylan.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
Well, I wake in the morning,
Fold my hands and pray for rain.
I got a head full of ideas
That are drivin' me insane.
Excerpt from “Maggie’s Farm”
So far, this summer have been real good to me. There’s no job to go to and enough money to get by. Sure, I spoil myself and my kid on a regular basis. What the hell, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it. Some of my friends have called into question my so-called “work ethic” and I tell ‘em that after close to thirty goddamn years of sweatin’ and slavin’, a man deserves a break. After all, you never know if you’ll be here tomorrow.
Well, that mockingbird's gonna sail away,
We're gonna forget it.
That big, fat moon is gonna shine like a spoon,
But we're gonna let it,
You won't regret it.
Excerpt from “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”
As the lights come down and the show was about to begin, Anna’s face took on a certain glow. I think it was anticipation. She was looking around at the crowd and at me and when the band hit the stage and the light came on, the smile on her face is one I won’t soon forget. As far as her smiles go, I wish I could remember them all but this one was something special.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?
To be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again.
Excerpt from “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again”
We’ve all been there. Stuck in one place while wishing we were in another. Not tonight though. Since the whole crowd is standing, Anna grabs my shoulder and stands on her seat her seat to get a better view.
Well, God is in heaven
And we all want what's his
But power and greed and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is
I'm gazing out the window
Of the St. James Hotel
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell
Excerpt from “Blind Will McTell”
During my lifetime, I’ve spent more lonely nights in the sterile environment of a hotel room than I care to count. Sometimes the only escape seemed like a trip to the hotel bar and along the way you’d offer up a silent prayer that they had a decent jukebox to help you drown away the loneliness and self pity that those kinda places inspire. More often than not, they didn’t. They don’t make their living catering to the introspective types.
Can't you feel that sun a-shinin'?
Ground hog runnin' by the country stream
This must be the day that all of my dreams come true
So happy just to be alive
Underneath the sky of blue
On this new morning, new morning
On this new morning with you.
Excerpt from “New Morning”
I glance over at my kid again and she seems spellbound by what’s happening on stage. Dylan doesn’t do much along the line of theater. He doesn’t go for smoke machines or light shows or fireworks. It’s like he’ll just let the music and the words do all the work and tonight they’re working just fine.
And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They'd probably put my head in a guillotine
But it's alright, Ma, it's life, and life only.
Excerpt from “It’s Alright Ma,” (I’m Only Bleeding)
I’ve had some harebrained schemes come and go through my head. Like the time we were growing pot in our little backyard in Brooklyn and a little light went off in my head. Hey, what if we feed the plants some Scotch? After all, it fucks up my dad real good and it’d be sure to make the weed more potent?
Fuckers died in the next day or two. Hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Tweedle-dee Dee and Tweedle-dee Dum
All that and more and then some
They walk among the stately trees
They know the secrets of the breeze
Excerpt from “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum”
When I was kid, I thought I knew it all. These days, I can hear it in Anna’s voice and see it in her mannerisms. The exasperation in her tone when she’s frustrated with me for being so “lame” combined with the hands on her hips posture she assumes when she wants to make a stand on something makes me want to smile and kindly inform her that she doesn’t know shit.
But then I think that maybe she’ll be better off when she figures that out herself.
I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail,
Poisoned in the bushes an' blown out on the trail,
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give ya, shelter from the storm."
Excerpt from “Shelter From the Storm”
Oh, there’s a whole ‘nuther node that deals with that topic. If not for the caring nature of others, I wouldn’t be here today.
Would any of us?
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul
Excerpt from “Masters of War”
So far in this w/u, I’ve tried to avoid politics but with Dylan that’s damn near impossible. Looking over those words and putting them into context about what’s going on in the world right now, you’d think he’d written them yesterday.
They were written in 1963.
Tells you something about staying power.
Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man, you must be puttin' me on"
God say, "No." Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"
Well Abe says, "Where do you want this killin' done?"
God says, "Out on Highway 61."
Excerpt from “Highway 61 Revisited”
Okay, where do I go with this?
I’ve always told my kid that it’s okay to question authority. That it was her duty to keep us old folks like her parents and her teachers on our toes and if our explanation didn’t make sense, she should ask more questions. I’ve tried to teach her that blind obedience (except of course to yours truly) would lead to nothing but regrets and trouble in the long run and that if something wasn’t right in her head, she shouldn’t do it. So far, I’ve been pretty lucky.
I got my back to the sun 'cause the light is too intense
I can see what everybody in the world is up against
You can't turn back - you can't come back, sometimes we push too far
One day you'll open up your eyes and you'll see where we are
Excerpt from “Sugar Baby”
What can I tell ya, I’m one of those guys that likes to reminisce over a few beers about the days gone by. I like old photo albums and scrapbooks. What’s that old saying?>
“You won’t know where you’re going until you’ve seen where you’ve been”
Or something like that.
Summer days, summer nights are gone
Summer days and the summer nights are gone
I know a place where there's still somethin' going on
Excerpt from “Summer Days”
Well, it is winding down. Summer that is. In a week or two my kid starts back at school. Funny, when I was kid, I can’t recall ever going back until after Labor Day. It made my summer feel a lot longer than hers.
How does it feel?
How does it feel?
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?
Excerpt from “Like A Rolling Stone”
This tune has been debated to death and that’s about all I can say. I’m sorry for those of you who don’t “get it”. Someday, hopefully you will.
Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl
Excerpt from "All Along the Watchtower"
So what might lay in store for us as Anna and I get older and hopefully wiser? Will we continue to soar or will we come crashing back down to earth? In the song, Dylan leaves us guessing as the riders approach. As for me, of course I’ll always have my doubts. Things can turn on a dime and there are too many intangibles in play to even hazard a guess.
But, if we gaze into our crystal ball hard enough and keep on showing each other a little bit of magic on a fairly steady basis, I’m guessing things will turn out ok.
As for Mr. Dylan playing in Columbus for “One Night Only”, that might indeed be true but sometimes that one night is all that you need.