In the middle of this summer night, a large, round box eyes me questioningly from its place on the table. It´s been open for a while now, overflowing with photos, reflecting my cocked head in the mirror on the inside of the lid. This reflection of a top hat and narrowed eyes retells me the story of that night in July 1967 when - without quite believing it – I had the bad luck of beating Dylan at a bet.
The weather was very hot, and in the morning we went swimming in one of the streams near Big Pink. There was a group of about six or seven of us; I remember a blonde girl and someone with a camera. Hamlet was with us and Rick played with him; he ended up diving into the water in his striped t-shirt, happy as a kid. Somebody took some great photos of him. Richard had preferred to stay back home to wait for Dylan in order to go over a song on the piano. We couldn´t persuade him to come with us, that song mattered more to him than anything else at that time. It was to be called Tears of Rage, he said.
When I got back to Big Pink that afternoon, I slept for a while in the caravan. It was the smell of burning wood that woke me from a desert dream. I went out and saw Garth was lighting a fire, just a few meters away.
“How was your siesta, Nar?” he asked me with a grin. “Look, I´m about to hit 30 and I was thinking I might have a party out here tonight with some people. Dylan said it´s ok. If you want to invite someone, you can call from here.”
“Ok, I´ll see. If you need anything, just let me know -I went shopping yesterday and I´ve got everything in.”
“Thanks, I´m sure we´ll find a use for it.”
I sat down to smoke on the steps of the caravan and spent a while thinking about who to let know. Then I went into the house and made a couple of calls. Simone was at a farm in Woodstock. Ash was spending time in Zena, with some friends. They were surprised by the invitation, but when I assured them that it was Garth´s idea and that Dylan had okayed it, both said yes straight away, promising to bring “all the necessary provisions”.
“What was all the laughing about?” I heard Richard ask behind me as I put down the phone. His voice sounded sort of fogged over.
“Nothing, I was just inviting some friends to drop by tonight, Garth just proposed that we…”
“Oh yeah? Well, I'm not in the fucking mood to have this place full of people today, you know?”
“What´s wrong is that Dylan just fucking stood me up again! He didn´t show up here all day and we were supposed to finish that song… And, it´s urgent, at least it is for me.”
“Well… He can still turn up later, right?”
“Maybe. But 'later' is never 'on time'. He should know that.”
He left without another word, turning his back to me whilst he lit a cigarette. I understood he wanted to be alone. I put a hand on his shoulder, fleetingly, and went back to the caravan in silence.
Evening was starting to fall and people were beginning to arrive bit by bit. I hardly knew anyone and preferred to avoid introductions, so I decided to people-watch instead whilst I helped Garth keep the fire going and waited for Ash and Simone to show up.
Rick came out of the kitchen door carefully balancing an enormous glass ice-bucket overflowing with ice cubes and was soon greeting everyone, with hugs and knowing laughs: Girls with hair that matched the colours on their dresses and guys holding bottles and orange mirrored sunglasses which they´d end up forgetting on tables next to empty glasses and full ashtrays.
One of the men, who arrived on his own and didn´t join any of the small groups that were getting together, caught my attention: he was wearing a hat that seemed out of place amidst the fading sunlight and increasingly animated voices. And he didn´t take it off even when, voice after voice, the crowd fell silent due to the sound now coming from inside the house. Richard had opened the windows to the living room and placed two speakers on the sill. The unexpected music turned the scene to stone. A band of rockers manning a ship heading for the unknown: instruments in freefall and vocal experiments somewhere between a joke and a groan.
Down in ol’ Frisco
That Tiny Montgomery’s comin’
Down to say hello !!!!