The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 99
They arrived early in The Village at the club where Dylan was going to perform. It was not what Rich expected. It was a small club, smaller than imagined, dark and dingy. In an hour the place filled.
“Ya see, yous guys,” Carmine said leaning over the table and whispering. “Roaches will come out in any weather.”
Dylan walked to a microphone and sat at a stool on a small stage. Before the applause ended he began singing. He was impervious to the audience. Rich supposed it was part of his mystique. He stopped applauding after his second song. Rich watched the audience. They were enthralled. It reminded him of the coffee house crowd back at Alford. Rich began to think that perhaps his social consciousness was not raised to their level to grasp his message. Or was it as he often cynically surmised - it’s all about money. Rich wondered, “would he sing for free? Is he different than McCarthy, making a name for himself over the fears and discontent of the next generation. I want so badly to talk to him. Of course, those sorts of questions he would not respond to, but just a conversation about his lyrics would be nice. I just wish he’d tell me what he‘s singing. I can‘t understand a word.”
Rich scanned the room. He noticed what appeared to be a door that led to a room off-stage. When he finished singing Rich sprung to his feet and hurried to that door. It was guarded by a guy bigger than him. Rich dashed out the door and down the closest ally, to another ally, and back to where he thought the back entrance to the club might be. A man soon walked out. He wore a pea coat and a stocking cap pulled down over his ears. It was Dylan.
“Mr. Dylan,” Rich said and ran up beside him. “I’d like to interview you.”
“I don’t do interviews,” he said sharply.
“Just a couple questions,” Rich tried to sound reasonable.
He turned quickly and walked the other direction.
“Get lost,” he said.
Rich laughed and said, “That’s the clearest and most concise verse you’ve said all night.”
He stopped and stared down the ally and to the street in front of them. Rich jogged up to him. “Let’s get out of this ally,” Rich said. “We’ll get mugged if we stand here too long.”
They walked out on the street and Dylan walked at a fast pace, as if Rich wasn’t beside him. “I don’t do interviews. In fact I don’t even talk much.”
“Then I’ll respect that,” Rich said. “Really.”
He slowed his pace.
“I really don’t want anything from you,” Rich said. “My friend wanted to see you. My life will be just as complete without you.”
“That’s kind of the way I’m feelin’ about you,” he said.
“I’ve got to be getting back to my friends,” Rich said, “but there is one thing, Blowin’ in the Wind, I don’t get it. I know you didn’t write it, but something bothers me.”
He stopped and looked up at Rich and asked, “What?”
“Blowin’ and wind is too close to really make sense,” Rich said.
He began walking again.
Rich said to him as he strolled away, “It’s kind of like steppin’ in the walk. Like steppin’ is walking and blowing is wind. The title doesn‘t make sense. I mean, it‘s how you look at it.”
He walked back to Rich. “What would you say?”
“Maybe Floatin’ in the Wind,” Rich said.
He bobbed his head and moved his lips as though he were singing the song. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, but it’s too late.” He walked away as if in deep thought.
“Hey Dylan,” Rich said. “It ain’t a complete waste. One thing is for sure, the answer is in the wind, right.”
He smiled, tipped his brow with his finger, huddled down in his jacket, and trotted across the street avoiding the traffic.
Rich hurried back to the club.
Gordy and Carmine were huddled together outside the club. “Where did you go?” Gordy said.
“I caught up with Dylan,” Rich said.
“Did you talk to him?” Gordy said.
“A little,” Rich said.
“What did he say?” Gordy said.
“He doesn’t do interviews,” Rich said.
“He never saw Dylan,” Carmine said. “Let’s go to a jazz club down da street. Maybe Hayseed can talk to da ghost of Billy Holiday.”
They walked to a jazz club and sat in the back of the room and talked amid the thick smoke. It was near midnight before Rich and Gordy got back to their room.
At nine the next morning, a Sunday, they were back in the Jeep and across the Harlem River on their way back to Rockland.
On the way they talked about what they might propose to Sam in the way of a story about Dylan. Rich told him about his conversation. Ethically they decided not to mention it. The drive back was much better. All the snow had been pushed to the sides of the road. They were back in Rockland by seven and Rich was in my apartment at seven-thirty.
Rich sat at the typewriter for two hours and pecked out a story about the Dylan performance and his songs. The next morning he handed it to Sam and told him what Gordy and him had in mind.
He read it and made a few notes in the margin. “This won’t do in Rockland, but I’ll see if I can pass it on to Portland, Augusta, or Bangor. I think this could be read in Boston too, but it’s not for Rockland,” Sam said. “It’s good.”
“Thanks,” Rich said and walked toward the newsroom.
Rich was in the hallway. “Hey!” Sam said.
Rich walked back into his office. “Go home tonight and write about how it effected you personally. I’d like to see that.”“I’ll do that,” Rich said.
Rich sat in front of his typewriter as soon as he arrived at the apartment after work. An hour later he had a waste basket of full crumpled paper and no words on the current page in his typewriter. At the end of two hours he called Sam and explained the dilemma.
“Sometimes a writer has to reach deep inside and pull something out. Until you are able to do that it’s just a string of words on a page. Writing is the easiest thing in the world to do. You just sit there and heave your guts onto the page.”
Rich finished at two in the morning. At 7:30 AM four pages of double spaced copy was placed on Sam’s desk.
“Get to work and I’ll take a look at this,” Sam said.
They ate in his office at noon behind a closed door as he critiqued Rich’s story. “One thing I notice is that you seldom make the same mistake again. When it comes to form and style I see you moving around the problems. Good job. Do it again.”
They did the same thing the next day and he gave Rich another assignment. He asked him to write about sailing past the lighthouse at Owls Head. He critiqued it the next day and told him to show it to Dennis.
Rich drove to Dennis’s, but he wasn’t home. He stuck it in his door.
Dennis called Rich later that evening. “Don’t tell Sam, but if you had to make up a story about a man on the rocks looking for something what would it be - in five hundred words or less.”
This continued with Sam and Dennis for the rest of the winter. It effected Rich’s writing for the paper in the most positive way.