Monday, November 4, 2002

Warm Sake that Doesn't Even Make You Sleepier

For a history major I sure don't know much about famous dates and events. I can't tell you when Aphrodite invaded Lebanon nor can I tell you when Cecil B. Demille served as the Vice President. This gap in my education occurred to me the other day as I was standing in line to buy my morning extra large latte at Caribou Coffee. The more annoying than most woman in line in front of me was holding all us others up as she was engaging the clerk in a not necessary conversation.

As I finally stepped to the register I heard her saying something about when the United States boycotted the Olympics. She wasn't sure of the year so I chimed in, "1980." The woman and the clerk both looked at me and thanked me for my trivia knowledge. I really don't know much about anything important in history but just ask me what year Supertrain aired (and quickly derailed) on NBC and I'm most definitely your rare man.

Not knowing what I should about history perhaps the only justification I can give about the degree I hold (with my 3.3 grade point average) is that I truly love witnessing historic moments. I chuckle and behold my fortune every time I participate in a first for humankind. Such was a moment the other morning when getting ready for work I stepped on something that clearly wasn't carpet but rather was cold and slippery. Since Max has had a increasing vomiting "issue" I just figured I as usual had lived up to my knack for stepping in the exact wrong spot at the wrong time.

So commonplace has this particular discomforting event occurred I didn't even think twice. Yes it's gross and yes a part of my heart drops to my ankles every time it happens but I've learned not to get upset and to go over to Max, pet him and reassure him and then eventually get around to cleaning up the mess.

This particular morning however I happened to finally turn on the light and look down and what I stepped on. It wasn't kitty urpings but rather it was a penny. I thus made history by saying something that likely has never been uttered by another soul in the history of civilization: "Hey Max, it's not vomit it's currency!"

History indeed. When I heard Bob Dylan was playing at the Xcel Energy Center I quickly got on the computer and ordered me up two tickets. There was little doubt in my mind who the person was that I wanted to attend the show with. Having attended a Dylan show with just about everybody and anybody who is important enough in my life to share what I consider to be one of life's greatest pleasures I must admit some shame that none of those people has ever asked me to go to a second show with me. I dragged my sister to a couple of Dylan shows, and she enjoyed them but she ain't exactly ever going to fly across the country to see the man perform like her eccentric brother would possibly consider doing.

Last year I went to a Dylan show with a new friend, an important friend who earned a double major in college (French and Mass Communications), along with a 3.95 grade point average, who is one of the writers and opinions I admire and trust most and who after seeing Bob for the first time actually mentioned some interest in seeing him again with me.

I love this friend's laugh. That I have the ability at times to draw out this delightful sound from her will always mean the world to me. That Mr. Max absolutely loves her too says as much to me as my favorite Bob Dylan song. This friend came along in the recent past and she was the first friend I made after my Mother's death that made me feel like I may someday, somehow move forward just a little bit again.

"I'm forty miles from the mill/I'm dropping it into overdrive/Set my dial on the radio/I wish my mother was still alive ..."

Just like we did last year before the concert we had dinner at our favorite Japanese restaurant where we ate a delectable meal of sushi. My friend, the soon to be Masters student ordered some warm sake with her meal. I never cease to disappoint her with how not Japanese I truly am but I have never had that particular beverage. She asked me if I wanted some but with the extra long work hours I've been putting in and the constant lack of sleep I figured if I partook and let the devil's drink touch my lips I would be rewarded by falling asleep right as Mr. Dylan pulled some obscure favorite out of his bag of tricks. So I politely declined but was talked into it later in the meal. Ummmm, warmed up rice wine (served in the most perfect little serving apparatus and cup).

Our seats in the arena were quite good- off to the left of the stage (guitarist Charlie Sexton's side) eight rows up. When the band tore into Seeing The Real You at Last it was great fun from our wonderful vantage point to see the real Bob at last after having attended many a show where he looked about the size of a bobblehead doll.

I absolutely hate people who say so but can I say that it was clear from the first notes that the band was really cooking this evening? Bob's keyboard playing seemed much more confident and aggressive from just a few weeks back when I saw him in Berkeley. And his singing? Just tell me this guy isn't one of our greatest. He growled. He snarled and most importantly he gave up the annoying habit he displayed earlier in the month when he would begin a line in his lowest register (his most effective register at this point) and end the line at the top of his range. He did that a couple of times during the evening (most noticeably on "Girl from the North Country" and the annoying "Blowin' in the Wind") but most of the time he really seemed to make an effort to put some wasabi like bite into his singing.

A couple of weeks back in these pages our very own trainer extraordinaire Pat Wheeler wrote something kind about me being a "disciple" of Dylan. I'm really not so sure if that term applies but I will admit there has been no other artist among the many artists that has tripped me up a time or two, that has reached me in such a profound way. There are just certain times I need to hear a particular Bob song for its insight, its wisdom and wit and because it makes me smile while revealing something new over and over again.

The second song of this evening's performance completely ensured that it would be a night I will never forget (even if somewhere down the road that's what I wanna do). The song was from my second or third (depending on the day and who I have spent time with) favorite Dylan CD 1981's Shot of Love. The recorded version of "In the Summertime" has one of Bob's most moving harmonica solos ever. This live treatment was an absolute ear to ear smiling rollicking delight.

"Fools they made a mock of sin/Our loyalty they tried to win/But you were closer to me than my next of kin/When they didn't want to know or see..."

I looked next to me at my friend and it was one of those rare indescribable moments in life where it is just so clear, just so right that you can say without any uncertainty that you are in the right place with the right person (even if she or he wouldn't take a bullet for you the gray hat wearing worrying neurotic). I could live to be seventy (a figure that doesn't seem quite realistic) and I don't think there would ever come a moment when I would have thought "In the Summertime" was a Dylan song I'd be fortunate enough to hear live. It reminded me of my own past summer, and the discovery of a friendship with a blue eyed and kind intern that has made me think twice or a time or two about what I am doing and where I am going.

"I was in your presence for an hour or so/Or was it a day? I truly don't know/Where the sun never set, where the trees hung low/By that soft and shining see/Did you respect me for what I did/Or for what I didn't do, or for keeping it hid?/Did I lose my mind when I tried to get rid/Of everything you see?"

It made the papers (coincidentally or not the very one my fellow Dylan show attendee is employed by) and created a buzz when Bob dedicated a song ("The Times They are A-Changing") to Sen. Paul Wellstone both when performed in Denver and Kansas City. I was kind of amused by the media coverage of it all. Yes Bob usually doesn't speak much during his performances (if ever a rock star's music says all that needs to be said...) but this ain't exactly Greta Garbo going from silent movies to talkies. My friend and I made a bet whether or not Dylan would acknowledge Wellstone's tragic death during his St. Paul performance. I said no, knowing Bob's stubborn trait of avoiding what is expected of him. My friend answered "mu" and reluctantly took the dollar bet. When the band broke into "Times...." my friend handed me a buck. But the bet wasn't to be mine. In the darkness he dedicated "High Water (For Charlie Patton)" for "my man who came to the end of the road in Eveleth." It's bad out there... high water everywhere...""

I've never heard Dylan sing better particularly on "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and a nice cover of Don Henley's "End of Innocence." He made some noticeable lyrical flubs particularly on "Forever Young" and "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" but his ability to give a unique cadence to a line, to hold back the words and then spit them out all at once reinforced what a delightful singer he can truly be. And the band? They were a-smoking specifically on "Cold Irons Bound" and the last song of the encore "All Along the Watchtower." And let me finish by how much I must smile at the way the band takes its bows. Obviously under orders of the one who pays they bills the gentlemen stand at attention and dare not crack the smallest of smiles. Any heights achieved during the current night's performance in the current city isn't to be acknowledged by the performers. This is what they do. This is what is expected. It's time to move on. How cool exactly is that? I wish I could be that way. And one day I'll try.

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