Dylan that is.
The other night Ralph and I went to what was at least the fourth Bob Dylan concert we have attended together over the years. And since it was probably the last Dylan concert we will attend together, it was bittersweet. It has often felt as if our shared love of Dylan has been the glue holding us together as a couple despite major differences on politics, religion, childrearing, and who forgot to roll up the car windows before it rained.
Dylan has been a bond with our kids and our extended family as well. Ralph took his oldest son to a concert when he was about eleven and took our daughter when she was sixteen; our middle boy got gypped, especially given that he wrote at least one high school English paper on Highway 61 and looks a lot like Dylan (as do I according to one family joke). My daughter has kept all the vinyl records from our complete pre-1985 Dylan collection, but we still have a framed Milton Glaser graphic that came inside one of the album covers hanging in our bathroom. We also have a limited edition Dylan self-portrait print that my Dylan look-alike son gave us one x-mas and a long shelf of books by and about Dylan that my sister, another Dylan fan, has given us one at a time over the years. My daughter chose Forever Young for the father-daughter dance at her wedding last October, but first she and Ralph went through every Dylan song to find the lyrics that worked best. I am not mentioning all the hours of Ralph singing Dylan or the Christmas get-togethers set to Dylan instead of carols.
Yes, we are just a teensy bit fanatical.
Yet Ralph was not enthusiastic about going to the Dylan concert. He doesn’t listen to music much any more, and he considered getting dressed and driving somewhere (or being driven by me) “too much trouble.” But I pointed out that getting out of the house one night a week is literally what his doctor has ordered in a written prescription—she now writes prescriptions for things like “art lessons” and “no more than three beers a day”—so Ralph reluctantly agreed.
Of course our daughter and her husband were also going to the concert—she wouldn’t marry a man who wasn’t a Dylan fan– so we met them and some of their friends for funky Mexican beforehand. Ralph enjoyed the meal and the company although time and place anxiety kicked in as it does whenever he is out of his regular at-home groove. Fortunately I had reserved parking only two blocks from the venue, but Ralph, who strolls with his dog on the farm for hours, complained the whole five minutes that “we have been walking forever.”
There was a lobby full of people to contend with and the visit to the restroom, which frankly filled me with anxiety because it would be so easy for Ralph to get confused and lost. But all went well and we sat down in our seats just as the lights dimmed.
And there was that small 73 year-old man strutting his stuff and singing, in pretty good voice too, that he is “an artist, I don’t look back.” At other Dylan concerts purist Ralph has not appreciated Dylan experimenting with his arrangements, but this time he didn’t seem to mind that Dylan only sang four or five songs that Ralph actually recognized, perhaps because he doesn’t remember the originals that well himself. And he loved Dylan’s harmonica riffs and his new version of Tangled Up in Blue. The new Ralph is non-judgmental. He just flows with the experience.
On stage experience and in the audience experience. In the past, Ralph might have been furious at the man in the row in front of us drunkenly spilling liquor everywhere and shouting requests for Isis when he wasn’t making out with his girlfriend. This time Ralph just laughed the guy off as part of the fun, a new story he might tell.
When we joined up with my daughter and her friends for a nightcap afterwards, Ralph told the story he has told ten thousand times, about when he was supposed to meet Dylan. Actually he told the store that night about six times before I stopped counting. For a man who goes to bed by eight every night, he was full of energy. I had to drag him away shortly after midnight. Walking back to the car, we passed a jazz club. Stopping to listen at the door, Ralph announced, “We need to come back here soon and do this again.” I agreed wholeheartedly, thinking what a magical night we’d had, how lucky we had this bond of music and family to remember. Maybe:
Ralph has not mentioned Dylan, the concert, or our night out since.