Wednesday, December 24, 2008

City Life: Small Wonder on the 49 Bus

Yesterday I was riding the 49 bus up Van Ness Ave. around 12:50 pm. I was sitting in the back of the bus and I overheard an African-American guy and a Caucasian kid having the conversation below. The African-American guy was wearing a green track suit jacket with thin white stripes, jeans, short afro, and huge black aviators. The kid was tall and lanky wearing skinny black jeans, black jacket, and had a red scarf draped around his neck. His blond spiky hair was covered by a hat. He was holding a copy of the DVD "Planet Earth".

African-American guy ("Guy")(gestures at the DVD): "Hey, I seen that. How much did you get for it?"

Kid: "About 50 bucks."

Guy: "Man, I watch that shit on PBS all the time. I saw one called 'Under the Sea.'" And they go down deep in that one, man. I mean deeper than Jacques Cousteau. Like seven miles down there. And it's all dark and shit. And there are weird things down there, man. I mean that shit look likes it came from another PLANET!"

I smile and I'm tempted to turn around and engage the man in conversation, but decide not to. Another African-American man is in the middle of scamming some folks with the three cup shuffle trick that he's performing on a red fabric covered board. He scams them by taking bets. An Asian guy heckles him and we all laugh. The three cup shuffle guy continues with his scam without missing a beat as the bus rumbles on.

I've always been fascinated by deep sea life in the abyssal and hadal zones, but I have met very few people who have even heard of these animals unless they work at the aquarium. Hearing this man talk about it on the 49 bus pulled up a warm feeling of hope, and small wonder. I guess television is good for something.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Better Late Than Never and The Post Below

In the last couple of weeks I've been slowly getting to know Bob Dylan. I don't know how it came about. I was surfing around, saw a blurb about Cate Blanchett's performance in "I'm Not There," and decided to see if there were any excerpts on There were and I started watching them. I was amazed by her performance, but realized quickly that I had no reference point to compare it to so I clicked on a video to Bob's 1965 press conference here in SF.

I was amazed. I had no idea. I couldn't believe it.

I couldn't believe Cate's performance, but even more importantly I was completely mesmerized by Bob. And this was just the 1965-66 time frame I was looking at. That doesn't include anything before or after that.

I have a very superficial knowledge of his life and music. Sure, I know he's a legend. I'm familiar with a couple of his songs, but that's it. I know nothing else.

I still haven't seen all of "I'm Not There" but the film has provided me with a idea to start exploring. I read up on Wikipedia's entry for the film to get an idea of how the film is structured since it's been described as "confusing." I've been watching more videos, such as "Bob Dylan (The Voice of a Generation)," the full outtake from "Eat the Document" of Bob and John Lennon in the car, and Bob's interview with Time Magazine. And I've continued to watch Cate's excerpts from "I'm Not There."

I spoke to one of my good friends who suggested I start with the following CDs: Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, and Blood on the Tracks. I'm a bit embarrassed to have come to Bob so late, but there's nothing I can do about that. It's all so ripe for exploring. I'm excited.

The post below came out of an argument I had with this guy I just started seeing. As I was driving away from his house on Sunday, snippets of conversation started running in my head. I was feeling emotional and angry at myself, then angry at him. Then I was feeling defiant, then I was picturing myself chain-smoking and wearing shades, and that's how the post started. The snippets of conversation came directly out of the Bob Dylan's press releases in 1965-66, and from Cate Blanchett's segments from the film "I'm Not There." Much of Cate's dialog also comes out of those same press releases. I figure if Cate can be Bob Dylan, I don't see why I can't either.

I'm hoping no one takes offense to the post. It was done with love and the deepest admiration. Besides Bob is supposed to everyone (including me) and no one.

Dating Life: Me As The Fictional Bob Dylan

I'm sitting in the back seat of a limo. I'm in my favorite Bob-Dylan-as-Cate-Blanchett mode all tricked out in dark shades and little suit. The interviewer is sitting across from me. He is my age and wearing a nice all wool gray peppered suit. He happens to be the guy who lasted a week, the last guy I was dating. It's early in the morning. The only thing that would make this post better is if Mr. Gryphon were sitting to my right as John Lennon, but he says playing John makes him sad. Since John/Mr. Gryphon isn't here for this post, I'll have to do this interview sober.

Interviewer: "You realize more than anything that you were inconsiderate."

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan: "Inconsiderate?! I don't realize anything at all. I just care about what's going on right now. I know you don't realize anything. You think you can take these ideas and afix them to me like some kind of Avery Label generated by Microsoft Word, but you can't. You don't know anything. I don't blame you for it. Everybody's got to make a living."

Interviewer (wrinkling his brow, his thumbs blunted as he unconsciously pulls on his tie): "You're not making any sense. Are you saying you don't care?"

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (squinting, then blinking rapidly for a moment behind my shades): "I'm confused by some of those words. Words like 'inconsiderate' and 'concerned' and 'care' and 'put me on the spot.' I don't know what those words mean. They have as much meaning to me as 'smoked clams.'"

(At this point in the interview I'm reminded of a quote from Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass "When I use a word it means just what I chose it to mean - neither more, nor less." I'm chain-smoking incessantly, of course.)

Interviewer (starting to glare, but uncomfortably seated): "I think we all know what 'smoked clams' means.

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (I look down at my hands, my cigarette; I lick my lips): "Do we?"

Interviewer (glowering at me, raising his voice as if I can't really hear him): "I told you I don't like people touching my stuff, especially my knives and pots, and I never needed your help doing the dishes. I told you NO!"

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (my eyes pleading like Cate Blanchett, I flick my cigarette): "I just wanted to help a little. You were doing all that great cooking. I wanted to show my appreciation even if I don't know what 'smoked clams' means. I'm not a folk singer, I'm just a storyteller, and I can be a dishwasher sometimes. It's all mathematical."

Interviewer (looks down at his lap, shifts in his seat): "I was just going to say something rude about something that happened between us, something that you just don't seem to understand the meaning of, but I'll spare the readers of this blog."

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (lighting yet another cigarette, my delicate hands gently cupping the lighter): "Thanks for that. It's too bad I'm not pissed in this interview. I was really looking forward to my 15 minutes which would have included me vomiting into the camera. I've done everything else into that camera, man. Plus, I've missed my opportunity to keep yelling questions to Tom the Driver which is more interesting than talking to you."

Interviewer (agitated): "I never needed any space from you. I just needed to pay the bills and you didn't see the obvious. You didn't see the obvious. I never needed to say anything or to tell you the truth when you kept asking me 'do you want me to leave?' You should have just known."

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (I'm in the middle of a massive exhalation of smoke, I look out the window before looking back at him again): "What you just said doesn't mean anything. How am I supposed to know anything about what I should have known when I didn't. I don't have to answer to that. There's a certain class of people who read your magazine and believe in it, but I don't. You're just going to put your readers on. You're trying to put me on and I refuse to let it happen."

Interviewer (with a trace of warmth): "Do you think you'll ever be hung as a thief?"

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (everyone in the room (car) is laughing, he and I share a final moment of levity): "You weren't supposed to say that."

Interviewer (pauses first, searching my eyes behind my wayfarers): "Do you care about what you play every night?"

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (I'm feeling a surge of anger and indignation and I lean forward): "How can I answer that if you have the nerve to ask me? Did you ask the Beatles that? That's like asking me if I care about what I write. You have a lot of nerve asking me a question like that. I'm not questioning you because I'm not expecting any answers from you. I know more about you than you'll ever know about me. I know everything about you just by looking at you."

Sadly, the interview is over, but that doesn't mean I'm no longer pissed off. I step out of the car and start walking down the street. I don't look back until the Interviewer says something to me from the car.

Interviewer (looking smug): I think you either care about nothing at all, or you care so deeply that you're hiding it. Do you have any idea how self-conscious you are in everything you do?"

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (now really angry, almost shouting): Man, who cares what I think or feel? I'm not the President or head chef. Feeling deeply? Is that what this is about? General feelings like pain, remorse, and love? I have none of those feelings."

I walk away, looking awesome in my little suit with drainpipe trousers, slightly stooped posture, curly hair, ubiquitous cigarette, and shades.

Interviewer (shouting): "Judas!"

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (speaking deliberately, looking back at him): "I don't believe you. You're a liar."