Tuesday, May 27, 2008


................................................My first college house, New Paltz..................................Dylan's childhood home, Hibbing

MY OLD SCHOOL (Guadalajara wont do)

After enduring Memorial Day Weekend traffic on my way to New Paltz, I hopped off the bus and headed straight to China House. Everything remained the same: same white triangle-framed house; same tiny sign with red lettering that reads – CHINA HOUSE, same waitress. The carpets haven’t been shampooed since I first ate here twenty years ago, and it’s still two-star cuisine featuring mystery meats. The only change over the years was a sign that was put in the window about seven years earlier: “GOOD NEWS: WE HAVE BROWN RICE.” Yes, that’s fantastic news, welcome to the new Millennium.

I tried to recall some of my hazy college days when I went to SUNY New Paltz. I lived in a light blue house where I terrorized my neighbors with a constant barrage of Dylan and Garcia. This house, strikes a resemblance to Dylan’s childhood home in Hibbing (see above). Today is Dylan’s birthday

It was a lush spring afternoon in Ulster County: seventy degrees, partly sunny skies, billowing clouds, a steady breeze rustled the leaves of the trees in the valley. I celebrated Bob’s sixty-seventh birthday by woofing down three chicken tacos and washing it down with several pints of Hoegaarden at Bacchus – a dark musty bar with billiards, hippies, decent food and over 400 varieties of beer. I could wreak substantial havoc if I were to be locked in their beer cellar/ cooler overnight. When I was a student, I spent more time at Bacchus than I did on campus.

I resided in and around New Paltz for ten years – a decade of my life blew by like a puff of wind. Somehow, the Huguenots found New Paltz in 1678 and built stone houses that still stand today. I paid a visit to Huguenot Street, the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood in the U.S. with the possible exception being some areas that are still inhabited by Native Americans. After my historic stroll, I pulled up to the banks of the Wallkill River and watched her flow.

I lined up the I Tunes for Blaise’s 40th birthday party at his Mom’s house somewhere in the sticks of New Paltz. His family is originally Woodstock – they all dig Dylan. I started the evening off with “Thunder on the Mountain,” and encored with “Huck’s Tune” (“When I kiss your lips, the honey drips”) at 4 AM. After catching a nap on the porch, I watched the rising sun return. I also saw deer, blue jays, robins, and a woodpecker doing his thing – impressive sights for a city boy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008



An alarm clock shakes you awake from the thick of strange dreams at 5:30 AM. You gather what you need for your trip to Lewiston, Maine and stuff it in a backpack. Manhattan is quiet except for the yellow taxis rushing the changing traffic lights – you flag one down and tell the driver that the destination is Penn Station.
On a train bound for Boston, you think about the good times you’ve had in Maine, especially that trip to Oxford when you were part of an invasion force of 100,000 Deadheads in town to see a pair of Grateful Dead concerts on Independence Day weekend in 1988. You blew off the second concert because you found out Dylan was playing at a Minor League Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach. You convinced your friend Perry to leave the Dead behind and join you. It was a prudent decision. With G.E Smith by his side, Dylan rampaged through an eighty minute set –something was born. You didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the first leg of Dylan’s Never Ending Tour. The Grateful Dead played their last show thirteen years ago (Jerry RIP), but Dylan’s still on the road, sounding better than he did twenty years ago. Dylan will be performing for you in Lewiston, tonight!

Drifting in and out of sleep, Hank Williams is yodeling in your headphones as you honky-tonk past Providence. After hopping on a Greyhound headed for Lewiston, you know three things happened there: 1) On May 25, 1965, Ali knocked out Sonny Liston in the first round of the weirdest Heavyweight Championship boxing match in history; 2) The Grateful Dead played at the State Fairgrounds on September 6, 1980, unleashing a thirteen song first set featuring a blazing “Sugaree;” 3) Your favorite periodical, The Farmer’s Almanac, gets published there. As the bus turns on to the quaint main drag of Lewiston, you notice there’s a store called Zimmie’s, and a few feet down the road there’s a bar called She Doesn’t Like Guthries. Enjoying the pleasant spring weather and sipping iced-coffee at the Bon Bon CafĂ© while in the company of attractive hippie girls, you remember why you’re drawn to arcane Maine.

At Chick-A-Dee’s, a twin lobster feast with two Shipyard Export Ales and a Glenlivet on the rocks only costs $47.95. Feeling omnipotent, you make a donation to the Lewiston Little League team, dropping three dollars in the collection bucket. A taxi takes you to the see Dylan at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee which was formally known as the Central Maine Civic Center. When Ali delivered his “Phantom Punch,” this venue was simply known as St. Dominick’s. Whatever you call it, it’s nothing more than a banal high school hockey rink with limited seating, exactly the type of place you love seeing Dylan at. The beer lines are long, you feel obliged to grab two.

Leaning up against the corner of the stage, on the extreme far left side, Dylan’s looking at you as he surprises by opening with “Watching the River Flow.” You can only see Dylan; the black equipment cases in front of you block out the Cowboy Band. Perched behind his organ, Dylan’s a sheet of black from his top hat to shoes. He’s really digging deep and growling viscerally during “Lay Lady Lay.” Sweet looking ladies surround you, apparently this is where the groupies hang, vying to get into Dylan’s big brass bed. Between two romping blues remakes, Dylan delivers a delectable “Shelter From the Storm,” that’s unlike anything you’ve heard before, complete with a harp solo that flutters. The Cowboy Band sounds tight as they shine the light on the maestro.

It’s masterpiece theatre - Dylan breaks into “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” The musical backing is sparse and spooky as the words ricochet off the brick walls and low-lying rafters dangling overhead. This is incredible. Looking at the centrally located soundboard, you wonder if that’s where Ali took out Liston with that short choppy right in round one. Imagine the intensity in this building that night. Malcom X had been assassinated three months earlier; there were death threats to both fighters. The year was 1965; Ali and Dylan were two young men changing American society with their creative powers.

The hard charging beat of “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” emerges. Dylan zaps you into the 21st century with the opening number from Love & Theft, the CD you bought at the Nobody Beats The Wiz in the Garment District, on the morning of 9/11. The place is reeling and rocking, but Dylan suddenly motions for the band to abort the song halfway through. Alright, it’s time for track two of L&T, “Mississippi.” Is this really happening? It’s a mysterious dream. Dylan’s a howlin’ and growlin’ one of his modern day masterpieces, plinking ring tones on his keys. It’s a funky, shuffling arrangement with a distinct country & western twang. You’re ecstatic, you last saw “Mississippi” at the Beacon Theatre on Friday, April 28, 2005.

“Highway 61 Revisited” roars by, full throttle, as the band rattles this dinky rink in the middle of nowhere. You’re seduced by the serene and hypnotic beginning to “Workingman’s Blues #2.” Dylan sings, it’s poignant, yet the words sound like they are being barked out by a motivational speaker. It works. The eleventh song of the evening is another 1965 classic, “It’s Alright Ma,” in a new spot in the rotation. Disorientation sets in. You go score a brew, and leave a few brews in the urinal. “Spirit on the Water” follows, so you decide to get some chicken fingers and strike-up clever conversation with the girl who sold them to you before returning to the ceremony. The thirteenth song is “Ballad of Hollis Brown.” Everything is beautifully out of whack and surreal.

You relocate. You’re dancing and shuffling in Ali’s footsteps, in the center of the ring as the Cowboy Band explodes on “Summer Days.” Dylan boasts, “You can't repeat the past. I say, You can't? What do you mean, you can't? Of course you can.” Garnier and Recile grin and smirk confidently as they manipulate the tempo. Dylan jabs at his keys offbeat, hitting the wrong notes at the right time, just like a jazz master. Freemen and Herron are plucking leads; Stu’s doing his thing. It’s old-time swing music in a dance hall – Looney Tunes with cat and mouse professionalism. You howl in disbelief when you realize “Ain’t Talkin” is the final statement of the set – a dark apocalyptic epic for the finale. The preacher sounds incredible; acquire the tape, you must.

The Dylan eye logo banner drops, everybody gets up and prances around to “Thunder on the Mountain.” You’re awed by Dylan’s new classics and how well they stand up along side his 60’s anthems. “The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind,” he sings; there’s a harp solo; the lights go out; he remerges in front of the stage with his Cowboy band; briefly accepts applause, and then Dylan disappears into the darkness.


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