Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

Shelter from the Storm

Whoosh!

That was a storm!

It may have been a genuine eyewitness-authenticated “frog-strangler”. I went out après-cataclysm and inventoried the frogs in our pond. I’m missing two. Perhaps they’ll reappear after a jaunt to Oz, but I’m doubtful.

Vanishing with the frogs was electrical power, internet access, and cable TV to the house. Quel horreur! I wasn’t sure how I’d survive till the generator kicked on thirty seconds later and gave me enough light to find the pizza delivery phone number.

Janie fled the state, leaving me with a compromised house, instructions on feeding feral cats three miles away, and two depressed critters (oh man, we have to put up with the white-haired geezer all week!)…and a giant plate of brownies for the ciné-cabal assembling at the house Saturday night.

She’s a complex woman.

I waved as she drove away to the relatively storm-free Finger Lakes. Bob Dylan’s protective heroine in his wonderful song “Shelter From the Storm” came to mind.

“In a world of steel-eyed death, and men fighting to be warm, ‘Come in,’ she said, ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm.’”

Not my lady! She’s hittin’ the road, Jack, and won’t be comin’ back till the electric coffee-maker’s perkin’.

I confess.

I felt bitter.

Then I turned and walked into my generator bubble of quasi-comfort and munched on a couple of muffins she’d baked and left for me (I gave half of one to the depressed dog).
Shelter from the storm…it can take many forms. One form may be a roof, or a hedge, or a generator, or a muffin…or a gathering of friends.

The clan assembled Saturday night to enjoy three of the many good things in life; laughably-lousy films, any pizza, and each other. It’s a group of geezers of an age yet undetermined by carbon-dating. They’ve suffered some losses. Some physical; alacrity, hue of hair (or hair itself), stamina… Some of the heart; Sidney, Georgeanne, Tonda, Glen, Craig, Harlan… They’ve also gained from the years; thoughtfulness, vocabulary, timing, patience…waistline inches…

They are a group that has done and continues to do much. They teach, act, think, write, care, sing, paint, think, direct, care, speak, manage, organize, think, and care. In the stormy outside world they are looked to for answers: they are authorities in various fields. Tonight, however, they gather in the shelter of each other’s company to laugh.

And laugh they do, often and raucously, loudly and sometimes inappropriately.

Their moms would probably be ashamed.

I’m proud to know ‘em and thrilled I can bribe my way into their busy company occasionally with pizza, bad flicks, and shelter from the storm.

“Cathedral Bells Kept Time”

“Cathedral Bells Kept Time”

Nanci Griffith made that observation in her song/reminiscence; “Three Flights Up”.

I lived it…

…for a while.

I’m an unrepentant…nay……make that a gleeful old hippie. If you don’t know that term…look it up…please!

In my college years and early twenties my friends and I generally lacked;

  • Money
  • Computers, laptops, cell phones, fitbits, I-pads or pods, thumb drives…
  • More than three TV channels
  • Multi-tasking urges
  • Regular haircuts
  • Pizza delivery (don’t laugh at that, gasp – it’s basic human right in my book)

It was a nightmarish time; a time to survive and be made stronger by surviving.

<<  snort!  >>

We didn’t have reality shows. We had reality.

We didn’t have social media. We had each other.

To quote Ms. Griffith’s song again;

“There were blinking pictures

Of how we’d sit and chat.

Some of them are scattered

Some are shattered in my mind.”

I remember many all-night random congregations over kitchen tables in shabby apartments. Discussions that originated at that evening’s rehearsal or that evening’s session at the Paddock Club continued after hours, sometimes till dawn.

Bob Dylan nailed it in his “Dream”.

“I dreamed a dream that made me sad,

Concerning myself and the first few friends I had.

With half-damp eyes I stared into the room

Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon,

Where we together weathered many a storm,

Laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of morn.”

Earnest discussions, at times lubricated by beer and wine and carry-out burgers from Tolly-Ho.

We solved everything and solved nothing.

We knew everything and knew…the same nothing.

“As easy as it was to tell black from white,

It was all that easy to tell wrong from right.”

We basked in the surety of our opinions about Vietnam, the draft, Artaud, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Prine, Richard Nixon, Malcolm X, Ginger or Mary Ann; every burning issue of the day.

We were most sure of each other.

We listened to each other. We didn’t check our phones or email. We didn’t channel-surf. We didn’t update our Facebook page. We didn’t fact-check each other’s lies and stories. We listened and were entertained and, I think, mostly enlightened by each other’s presence.

“Cathedral bells kept time.”

Yes.

We were rarely in a hurry to part.

Once a year a small group of people representing almost 400 years of friendship gather with Janie and me at the house, ostensibly to celebrate Halloween, but really to celebrate each other. Dinner’s great, Janie’s Halloween decorations are always over the top, and the conversations are usually suspended (not ended, mind you…suspended) by the chime of Christ the King Church ringing 2:30am (perhaps I drift happily and deliberately from verisimilitude here, but you get the idea).

We solve everything and we solve nothing.

We still know everything and we know…less.

Checking in once more with Mr. Dylan…

“I wish, I wish, I wish in vain

That we could sit simply in that room again

Ten-thousand dollars at the drop of a hat

I’d give it up gladly if our lives could be like that.”

These nights…

…it is.

As nice as it is…I’m glad I don’t have to fork over the $10,000 though.

I Invented Love

“I thought I knew what love was, but…these lovers play new music; haunting me and somehow taunting me. My love was never half as true.” – RAGTIME.

 

I invented love.

That probably comes as a surprise to you, but it’s true.

It happened sometime in the early 1970s – I don’t remember the precise moment – odd considering the importance of the event. Oh yes, I am fully aware that love has been written of by poets for hundreds of years before that. I myself have performed and recited and sung words of love written by Shakespeare, Cole Porter, and Harry Lauder that were written long before I was born. All I can say is there are far more prophets in the world than talk radio would lead us to believe.

I invented love.

I invented it a few years before I invented sex.

Didn’t we all?

I could make a big deal out of it. In a Trumpian mood I could say it was “huge”. Channeling my inner Al Gore I could aver that the movie “Love Story” was written about me. But why? I don’t need it. The glory, the satisfaction, the thrill of knowing that no one else had truly known love before I invented it is enough.

Oops.

How does Bob Dylan say it? “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

I have a tiny role in a production of RAGTIME. That requires me to immerse myself every evening in a room full of 40 to 50 impossibly young dancers and singers who insist upon calling me “Mister” and “Sir”.

I hate them.

I love them.

Utterly.

I could not be more pleased with my companions.

There are moments in RAGTIME precisely……painfully about just that moment of knowing that you are old and successful and still able to grow and experience new things if only you will allow yourself to do so.

At the age of 21 I knew the full glory of what love could be. How could I not? I invented love.

At the age of 65, I’m just beginning to get a glimpse of what the full glory of love can be. That doesn’t denigrate or belittle the loves and passions of the past. It reveals and exalts the fact that we can grow at any age if we allow ourselves to do so. It validates the idea that we can move toward something better and that something better may not be that far away. It may be as near as lyricist Billy Rose says; “back in your own backyard”.

In RAGTIME (America of 1906) characters are confronted with the disturbing possibility that (as the Firesign Theater puts it) everything they know is wrong – or at least could be better and bigger. How do these RAGTIME characters react? It’s the whole story.

On CNN/Fox/MNBC (America of 2016) we are confronted with the disturbing possibility that everything we know is wrong. Can we be better and bigger? How do we react? It’s the whole story.

How did the writers of RAGTIME know that we would need their guidance at this time?

There are far more prophets in the world than talk radio would lead us to believe.

Maybe we can invent a love twice as true as we believed possible. To do so we would have to first accept the tantalizing promise of “new music”.

I’m good with that.