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.