miércoles, 24 de diciembre de 2014

Back Pages - Brown Notebook - Bright Summer Night 1967

          I see a light come shining

          From the summer unto the winter.

          To be here and then

          After decades and now

          Sharing the brightness of a star.   

jueves, 18 de diciembre de 2014

Back pages – Brown Notebook (d) Early June 1967

There are some things not spoken about,

and others
that are spoken about without being things ...

That caravan parked behind the house
- when I arrive the sun shines just above it

and I see it shine

and I stay for a while watching it
(narrowed eyes)

and I know there's someone (on the) inside,
who I still don't know


the caravan
as a metaphor for myself
in these spring days
as my Olivetti takes up
some old rhythms

- yes, I'm thinking in terms of rhythm, too, these days-

and at the same time
it accompanies with a corn-spike-green torrent
from which joy and reaction keep rising,
the complicity of a band
that is myself before and myself now

If we talk about it,
or better yet play it together,
what I still don't know
could join us any afternoon now,
in the basement

Who is it that inhabits that "metaphorical caravan"?  
                               ( psychedelic pillows:
                                     why should surrealism be
                                            the patrimony of a single side? )

Talk to me, Nar!
- the guys told me you have this name,
sort of Shakespearean jester style ...

Now I wonder how might your voice sound like .

domingo, 14 de diciembre de 2014

Caravan (6) Early June 1967

     I get back to the caravan and Richard is sitting on the steps, still finishing his coffee. He smiles at me, doesn´t ask me where I’ve been, but I explain anyway by answering the question he´d asked himself earlier, including a reminder that I am still waiting.

      - I´ve been thinking that maybe you´ve told me about the “Upstairs, Downstairs” thing only because you want to share it with someone who is not on the “inside”, because you are interested in my perspective from the “outside”. I´ve not been invited down to the basement yet, so I haven´t got that image of Dylan on the basement stairs going up and down, then up again, engraved in my mind. You must be truly obsessed with it if you take it with you to dreamland …
       - OK.  You know I mentioned to them the other day that you might  join  us  any  afternoon  now  in  the  basement  to watch us play  - ´cause we all know you listen to us anyway, from the outside – but it´s not my fault they haven´t brought the idea up again. Anyway, I´m not talking about dreams in other people´s hands – your fault, Nar- but of an image of uncertainty – I don´t know if you get it- which has something to do with the feeling I´m getting as I try to write this song…
    - What are you unsure about? Is it more the words or the music?
   - Well, I´ve been talking about uncertainty, actually, which is more suggestive than the word ´unsure´… But since you ask, it is the words I´m most hung up on … The chords I´m clear enough on, you´ll see.
    Leaping up, he disappears into the caravan and emerges holding one of my guitars. He plays five chords, droning random words to a descending melody which at times recovers its verticality, climbing sharply alongside his burning voice. When he finishes, we sit in silence. He breaks it himself:
    - From now on, Nar, I´ll be coming to your caravan every Wednesday at 9:30 so we can discuss the matter further - he says putting his hand on my shoulder, looking rather serious.
      - I don´t believe you, Richard
      - You´d be wise not to.
      Getting up, he leaves his empty coffee cup on the bottom step and sets off towards the forest, waving goodbye with his hand. I watch him head off, barefoot, and somehow I know I have just heard the untaken photograph of a legend: with my ears, with my eyes, with my anticipatory love for myths in the making   .-.-.-

      If you find me in a gloom or catch me in a dream

martes, 9 de diciembre de 2014

Caravan (5) Early June 1967

Yesterday, I decided to sleep in the basement, you know? The vibe had been especially good, real good vibrations all evening long – the Voice of Conscience microphone was connected and the light felt like a gift from heaven on his birthday. I thought I might just keep the vibes alive if I went to sleep ...

     ... And there, on the basement sofa, I had a dream, you know? I dreamt I could see Dylan like I do most days, on the stairs, just there, as if suspended between levels of reality, like he´s looking at something no-one else can see …

     ... But I also saw him as inside a song, or the idea of a song, and now that is harder to explain … though I´ll try anyway.

      I´ve been thinking about this stuff for weeks: “Downstairs, Upstairs” or “Upstairs, Downstairs”, as you like. How when you see Dylan on the basement stairs you have no way of knowing if he´s going up or down. Sometimes, he does both things at once (I swear, Garth said so the other day too). And when he´s in this trance, the guy always has a piece of paper in his hand, sometimes a whole bunch, and it´s from there that stories and sounds seem to come during our sessions, and they amaze us all, starting with him.

      And I want to make a song with all this, you know? And I´m writing it, though it´s hard to do. Maybe that´s why I still haven´t talked about it with anyone, not even Rick. I don´t know what the hell I´m doing telling you here, now, when I haven´t woken up properly from the dream ..."

     Richard is telling me this the next morning, on the caravan steps, where we are sitting cradling mugs of coffee and something to smoke in the other hand. Suddenly, he stops talking, his gaze fixed in the distance, and it´s like he has gone.
     I get up slowly, leave him to his thoughts for a while.

miércoles, 26 de noviembre de 2014

Present (V)

       I was waiting. I waited for several days, many days, I lost count. From my caravan, I would see them go in and out of the house, open windows at noon and turn on lights at dusk. Dylan would arrive in his car and stay mostly in the living room for a long while, typewriting. Then he would go down to the basement with the others and I would hear them play from the outside, me sitting beneath the windows to the right of the house. The sound coming through them breathed as a living being, smelt like a plant under water and flowed like dance steps executed forward, backward and to the sides. Five musicians together enjoying his greatest achievement: the stopping of time. Nothing else, no one else; just me, unseen on the other side, listening and waiting.

       Now, nearly five decades later, I place myself on this side to tell the tale. The memory of the hopeful expectation of those days has given me back a feeling for life that had blurred with the passing of the years and the inevitability of the losses. On my desk sits the brown notebook that Dylan gave me the last time I saw him at Big Pink. I open it at random -a folded sheet, only two lines separated by a chasm of blank page:

           I know it because it was there.

               But I'm not there, I'm gone ...

jueves, 20 de noviembre de 2014

Caravan (4) May 1967

     I´m writing in the sun, sitting at a table I´ve put outside the front of the caravan. I´m trying to finish an article on the Monterey festival, it´s coming up soon and everyone is speculating on who will and won´t be performing, on audience numbers and on various other rumours that are flying about. The magazine I work for is bugging me for a piece with as much information as possible. I´ll do what I can. If everything goes well here at Big Pink, I may just drive the caravan across the country one more time to get to California for mid-June. It´d be great to meet Janis there again.

      I look up from my papers to see Richard and Garth roll up laden with grocery packages and five hundred bags. They say hi as they get to the slope that leads to the door of the house.
      Hi Nar, whatcha up to?“ asks Garth, gasping for breath.
    „Oh, just writing. Though I should´ve been down to do some shopping like you, because I´m actually out of coffee...“ I say off the top of my head, searching for something to say.
    „Well hey, why don´t ya come get some of ours, we´ve got a couple of packets of the stuff,“ Richard calls across at me, struggling with armfuls of bags whilst trying to open the door.
     „Wow, that´d be great!“ I say, jumping up at once.

    I follow them inside the house. This is the first time I am in and I notice my legs are trembling. They put the shopping down here and there, in the living room, on top of sofas and on the table set in front of the big window that looks out into the forest. I notice it is covered with coloured bits of paper -some with handwritten notes, some typed- sitting between ashtrays both full and empty and an array of harmonicas, one of them in its case: a collage under which I sense the signature of Dylan.
   Fuck, there´s stuff everywhere!“ gripes Richard. „Maybe we´ll just leave the bottles here, the food we can put in the kitchen.“

      I help them take the bags through and on the way I make a
mental note of as many details as possible. A rack full of jackets,
scarves and hats; guitars and boots littering the floor; mirrors
and pictures of different sizes hanging on the walls of the corridor
where I see several doors, open here and there.

  Now in the kitchen, I´m immediately surprised by its spotlessness – and bothered I should even be thinking of so stilted a word. Maybe that´s why I blurt out idiotically:
    „Not a single dirty plate! You should see the sink in my caravan... How do you manage it, there´s so many of you?“
     Well, I generally take care of it,“ murmurs Garth, putting the milk away in the fridge.
    Yeh, despite our best efforts, this kitchen still looks like a goddam operating theatre, ain´t that right, man?“ says Richard with a laugh.
     Everyone sure does their bit,“ Garth concluded on his way out.

    Now on our own, Richard offers me a beer and a bourbon mixed in with a vague question:
    Rick mentioned you´d like to come down to the basement sometime and hear us play.“
     Well, I did drop a hint, just on the off-chance... He said he´d ask you what you thought about it...“
     „And he did, I think he likes the idea. I also said it was ok. I don´t know you that well, but you seem alright. Robbie kept quiet and Garth wasn´t around. Dylan asked a couple of questions, then changed the subject, but you know what he´s like...“
      So that means...“
  So that means... Well, though Big Pink ain´t exactly a democratic republic, we usually decide on things together. Best not to get excited. Things change every day, you know, we´re having more and more fun and I don´t know if everyone is willing to share that with the strange bird that is nesting in the goddam caravan parked behind the house.“
     Well, sometimes „strange“ birds of a feather flock together. On the subject of strange, can I ask you a question?“
      Fire away.“
    What is that you´ve got round you neck? It looks a lot like this I´ve got, look...“
      Hmmm... We´d best talk about it another time.“
      Ok, I get it. I´m off."

     I gulp down my bourbon and leave the kitchen. He stays there finising his off. On my way out, back down the corridor, I stop at the door that leads to the basement. It is ajar. I can see some steepish stairs going downwards, a dim light at the bottom. I don´t know how long I´ve been standing there when I hear Richard´s voice to my right.
    We´re just warming up the engine, Nar. You´ll have to wait, ok?, but it will be worth it.“

      I´m sure it will. I'm waiting.

sábado, 15 de noviembre de 2014

Caravan (3), May 1967

       Returning from one of my habitual  walks to the stream bed, I find Rick seated on the stairs of the caravan. He’s singing a song that I don’t know, has not heard me coming, so I wait for him to finish before beginning to applaud.
      “Hi, Nar. I just came here with the guitar for a while, I like watching how the sun shines at this time behind the house. I’m already gone…“
      I offer him a coffee and, upon entering to prepare it, he follows me and remains standing at the bookshelves, perusing. He’s left his guitar in the sun.
      “A lot of paper in such a small place”, he comments.
      “Well, it’s my world. You musicians live amongst instruments, and those of us who write tend to accumulate books and notebooks. It’d be because we like to surround ourselves with objects we feel comfortable with.”
      “Yeah, I guess, although at times you really have to work at it. Yesterday, we carried down the drums and the piano, they took up too much space upstairs, and moreover we're getting a taste for playing in the basement, although it has everything wrong with it for a great sound: cinder block, concrete-block walls, and a cement floor, the usual make-up of a fuckin' garage, and a steel furnace as loud as hell. It occurred to us to put in a rug, try that out. If that don’t do much good, at least it’ll make Hamlet feel more comfortable, as Dylan says.”
      “I get the impression that he’s coming here to meet you guys more and more frequently.”
      “Yeah, it’s true, he says that he likes this pink house and what we’re convertin’ it into… Add to that, playin' together at his is just more complicated, especially with the kids all over the place.”
      “Do you think that I could come down and listen to you guys sometime? I usually do it from outside, but it would be great to sit some evening in a corner of the basement…”
      “I ain't got no problem with that, but I don’t know what Dylan and Robbie would say about it. If you’d like, I can ask ‘em.”
      “You don’t know, how grateful I’d be. I promise not to bother you.”
      “I”ll let you know. I’m off now. Thank you for the coffee.”
      “Listen, what was that you were playing when I showed up?”
      “A song I’m still shootin’ around ideas for, it’s not finished. Deals with the hardness of waitin’, or somethin’ like that. Did ya like it?”
      “A lot, Rick. I know all too well about impatience.
       You’ll let me know soon, OK?”

sábado, 8 de noviembre de 2014

Present (IV) - Numbers, birds


What was to come
 is already here.

Those ten words recorded by Dylan in his notebook on that first Tuesday of April 67, formulated an intuition the corners of which have rounded over the years.

Now, seventeen thousand three hundred and eighty days later, on a palindromic date of fours and ones, a collection of one hundred and thirty-eight songs reaches us like a flock of birds from another world that began their flight oblivious to fate, to any destination. Some fell by the wayside, others may yet arrive.

One by one, they shine; taken together, they beam.

With an absence of purpose, Dylan foresaw that their joy of songs sung in circle, that atmosphere of buddies and forests beyond applause and haste, were also to bear future fruits.

                                                                                        Like his dreams, and mine.

martes, 4 de noviembre de 2014

Back Pages - Brown Notebook (c) 4.4.1967, Tuesday


             What shall come

          is knockin'

          on the door of dreams.

domingo, 2 de noviembre de 2014

Back pages – Brown Notebook (b) 2.4.1967, Sunday


We've been playing for more than two hours.

hills of Mexico,
whaling ships,
Williams, Mayfield, Woody
- smoke and bottles of six colors;
we jam,
I'm coming up with melodies
and they follow me.

We have fun.

We ain't going nowhere
- nor are you;
this is gonna grow
in some direction,

Being true to yourself,
that's the thing
- I suppose.

viernes, 31 de octubre de 2014

Present (III)


On my return from Dylan’s recital, I read again the opening fragment of the brown notebook he gave me when he bid farewell. Seeing 1st of April ´67 puts my life into perspective. Intuition inflamed in a blinding flash, it sheds light on what is a sad revelation.

     That all these years I have followed his career closely, been at many of his concerts and crossed several continents to the rhythm of his tours, always burdened by the writing of other books, unable to tackle the one awaiting me, germinating in the darkness of a suitcase.

     And that it is only now, watching and listening to him soar over the relative coolness of a Central European stage in his performance tonight, his harmonica moving me like never before – not more, but somehow different. Only now, when the idea of another form of farewell settles itself over that leave taken at my caravan door, and heightens my thankfulness for that written gift; only now, will I take on the writing of this; will I dare amalgamate his texts with mine, sift them together with a catalogue of goodbye songs-stories which started in '67 and have only deepened with time.

     I decide to recreate conversations, atmospheres, reinvent a world of happy days assisting the prodigy, days which the company of summer ´67 helped bring about so many evenings in a basement, out of which four conspiratorial musicians look on impatiently at Dylan on the stairs, going up, coming down, sitting sometimes on a step -tilted head, a pencil in one hand a typed page in the other- knowing that they were sharing a treasure.

martes, 28 de octubre de 2014

Back Pages - Brown Notebook (a) 1.4.1967


    The editing of the film is progressing.
    It will be a document to eat.
    In the mornings,
    arguing with Howard and Robbie
    about the meaning of that
    may take us hours.

    In the afternoons, I play.
Sometimes Maria accompanies me with her chocolate-coloured tambourine,
sometimes Jesee drifts off by the amplifier,
sometimes Sara looks at us, caressing her belly as round as a moon.

I try out chords to test my voice.
My voice now, with nobody listening.
Manchester + the Triumph dying on Striebel Road
[defending yourself by attacking, then disappear].
Only I can hear that, no one else could sing from there.
I hear it -my voice,
I listen to me -something has changed, and not.
What was different with the band around?
What would it be like to listen to us playing together now?

Rick told me at times they get bored.
Howard needs them less and less,
he says we've already filmed enough material
and we should now focus on the editing
of the edible document. 
We have time.
We all have time, and I also look forward
to listening to myself
surrounded once again.
I want to know what has changed, or not.

I'll ask them to come round and play in the evenings
from time to time,
after the kids are in bed.

There's enough place in the Red Room,
four and twenty windows,
a wet bar
and a couple of sockets for whatever comes up.
They'll feel glad.

A certain way to miss each other
consists in wanting to know
what we would be now (what we would be again?)
along with those who once were part of us.

Tomorrow is Sunday, a good day to start.