viernes, 22 de diciembre de 2017

Caravan (18) August in Christmas

     First, it comes in through the window, sort of a breath of wind. You barely notice it until it tousles your hair. That is when you lift your head from the keyboard and see your reflection in the glass, and you stare at yourself and try to draw what looks like a smile. You grab a pencil and gaze at the way your fingers encircle it, and you start turning it around, trying to understand how that wind takes a hold of your inner self. You write scattered words, keys with aerial chords—or that is what you think, perhaps it’s only what you’ll imagine later... Notes from Rick’s bass float from the basement, intertwined with Garth’s newly-created harmonies and Dylan’s laugh. You try to capture everything: that air, the open window, your reflection, and the casual feel of those purposeless sounds, of that joy—you try to bind them to that melody you have been chasing the whole summer... And then, the wind slams the window shut, and it startles you, and the pencil falls down to your feet. When you lift your head up again, you know that all those things will play a part in a song that mentions tears... And you realize that it is already gone.

      Richard tells me so while sitting at the wheel of my caravan, looking out the windshield as if driving through the snow. When I’m about to inquire after that absence, he finishes his story with three sad and short words, an unseasonal farewell he mutters as he lights a cigarette:

       Merry Christmas, Nar.”

      We are in the middle of August, and he smiles at me, as if he knew that we won’t be living at Big Pink when the year is over, because, by then, the miracle of the basement will be over too.

sábado, 21 de octubre de 2017

Present (XX) On Tour – Salt Lake City

       I have had to come to this city called Salt Lake and with a two-tier silhouette of jagged buildings set against a mountainous background sculpted with canyons, to reconnect with the desire that drove me to start this story three years ago. And last night’s Dylan concert at the Eccles Theater was something of a dreamlike movie, a film from another time edited upon a familiar soundtrack, embroidered with a host of little lights that shone like stars over the auditorium. It was I who added the final surprise to the plot.

     I had bought a ticket in the central section of the first row, slightly to the left of the piano, to see how, on yet another night, Dylan takes cover behind it as if cloaked in a glass robe. And with a bit of luck, to try to get a photograph of him with some rare expression. I waited until the second encore, and as the chords of the Ballad Of A Thin Man struck up, I opened the bag whose contents when I came in had caused such amazement at the security checkpoint. During the fourth verse, I put the top hat on.

      Several voices behind me complained, but I managed to stand still until, on taking centre stage for the “final bow”, Dylan spotted me. It would have been the perfect moment to take the perfect photo; that snapshot of time standing still and an expression of astonishment that took both of us back to that summer night in 67 on which a biblical bet allowed me to win that tall black hat. Then Dylan called me innocent, and idiot too. I don’t know what he must have thought last night on recognizing that old trophy on my head. When I began to raise it in a gesture of greeting, he had already turned round to leave the stage. I didn’t even get my camera out.

      Perfect pictures never get to be taken, not with any kind of device, but they are tattooed behind our eyelids. Like Dylan’s voice.

      Tonight I’ll go back to the Eccles Theater to attend his second concert in Salt Lake City, this time in the first box on the left. I’ll try to get a message to him beforehand, perhaps some of his favorite flowers too.

Oh, what a lonely soul am I,
Stranded high and dry
By a melancholy mood


martes, 11 de julio de 2017

Back Pages - Brown Notebook - Triadic Lullaby (11.7.1967)

                 Triadic Lullaby

                             Say hello to Anna Lea
                             Say hello to BBAnn !!

                                  It’s all been written in the book
                                  ten thousand nursery rhymes

                                                         I'd rather sing her a warm nook
                                                         Lord, protect my child

                                Someday little girl, everything for you is gonna be new...

(To My Newborn Daughter, 11.7.1967)

domingo, 25 de junio de 2017

Present (XIX) The Basement Tapes : 42 Years Young

Bob Dylan & The Band



Released June 26, 1975

Side 1: Odds And Ends; Orange Juice Blues (Blues for Breakfast); Million Dollar Bash; Yazoo Street Scandal; Going To Acapulco; Katie's Been Gone.
Side 2: Lo! And Behold; Bessie Smith; Clothes Line Saga; Apple Suckling Tree; Please Mrs. Henry; Tears Of Rage.
Side 3: Too Much Of Nothing; Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread; Ain't No More Cane; Crash On The Levee (Down In The Flood); Ruben Remus; Tiny Montgomery.
Side 4: You Ain't Goin' Nowhere; Don't Ya Tell Henry; Nothing Was Delivered;  Open The Door, Homer; Long Distance Operator; This Wheel's On Fire.


“Beneath the easy rolling surface of The Basement Tapes, there is some serious business going on. What was taking shape, as Dylan and The Band fiddled with the tunes, was less a style than a spirit -- a spirit that had to do with a delight in friendship and invention.

[...] The Basement Tapes are a testing and a discovery of roots and memory; it might be why The Basement Tapes are, if anything, more compelling today than when they were first made [...]”

Greil Marcus
Bob Dylan -- Acoustic Guitar, Piano & Vocals
Robbie Robertson -- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Drums & Vocals
Richard Manuel -- Piano, Drums, Harmonica & Vocals
Rick Danko -- Electric Bass, Mandolin & Vocals
Garth Hudson -- Organ, Clavinette, Accordion, Tenor Sax & Piano
Levon Helm -- Drums, Mandolin, Electric Bass & Vocals

Recorded in the basement of Big Pink, West Saugerties, NY., 1967
Recording Engineer -- Garth Hudson
Mixing Engineers -- Rob Fraboni, Nat Jeffrey, Ed Anderson & Mark Aglietti
Mixed at Village Recorders & Shangri-La Studios
Mastering Engineer -- George Horn
Photography -- Reid Miles
Design Consultant -- Bob Cato
Compiled by Robbie Robertson
Produced by Bob Dylan & The Band


sábado, 17 de junio de 2017

Caravan (17) July 1967

     Sunlight glimmers inside my caravan and wakes me from a dream of books and whales with jazzy piano chords floating in the background. I fell asleep last night looking at the box, not daring to open it. Now here it is at my feet, round and closed like a perfect question. Without even asking, the answer resonates inside my head: "You wanted something and you don’t even know what it is, Nar."
      I make coffee and put the box on the table. I realize that the emptiness of my desire has found its fulfillment in a threat: “It’s alive, and it bites,” Dylan had warned me. His anger at losing the bet resembled somewhat my own bewilderment, multiplied now by its echo and by the minutes ticking by, none encouraging me to undertake the denouement.
      I smoke cigarette number six and caress the round lid before lifting it. As I do, I catch my image reflected in its inside mirror and I see, in the circular belly, a top hat. Black, worn out, upside down. "You're more innocent than I thought," Dylan had told me. "What did you expect, idiot?" he would add now, witnessing the mute perplexity of my realization.
      “Can I come in?”
      The laughing voice of Rick knocking at the caravan door rouses me from self-absorption. In a reflex, I close the box before answering.
      “Come on in.”
      “ ‘Morning, Nar. Would you like to come and have breakfast with us? Garth fixed a mountain of good stuff to help us recover from the hangover. What a fucking night!”
      “You said it ...! I don’t know, I've already had a couple of coffees and I'm not hungry, but thanks anyway for ...”
       Rick interrupts my sentence, coming closer with a laugh.
       “What’ve we got here! The box of discord! Dylan was really pissed off when ...”
       “Don’t open it!” I hear myself saying in a despotic voice.
       “Okay, okay, cool it. You don’t have to be like that ... Besides, I already know what’s inside that hatbox. I've opened it a hundred times.”
       “What did you call it?”
      “Hat-box. Why do you make that face?”
      “Nothing ... I understood something else. Forget it.”
      Rick looks at me closely for a few seconds, then smiles and pulls a crumpled sheet out of one of his jeans pockets, torn in half.
      “I came to bring you this too, I thought you'd like to have it. It was bitch having to take care of your desires, you know?” he says as he unfolds the papers.
      I immediately recognize the sheet on which Dylan had written what he wanted to get from me in case he won the bet. Without thinking, I rip the two fragments out of Rick's hand. Then I put them in my box, which now has a name like that of anyone: a few letters on a safe-conduct for the territory of the rational, I think as I see Rick out.
      “Thanks man. And now go, please.”
      Rick looks down and, turning his back to me, speaks quietly.
      “I suppose it fucked you up making Dylan so mad and maybe not being allowed to get back into the basement, all to win an old box with a hat inside ... Well, now you have it, and also these pieces of waste paper. Read ’em and weep, as we say in poker. And then you better throw it all away; what happened will keep fucking you up. When something hurts a lot, Nar, it doesn’t matter what you do: it makes no difference.”

      When Rick leaves, I pick up the hatbox and sit on the steps of the caravan, placing the box to my left. I light a cigarette. Then I open it. I put on the top hat, and in the end I read that one single word Dylan wrote to shape his desire and at the same time appease his fury. Six letters, six strings that he was playing for me right here, just a few days ago:  


domingo, 14 de mayo de 2017

Present (XVIII) Relics of a bet (6)

       Dylan came back from the basement just a few minutes later, with a stormy look on his face, bringing the round box I´d won in that unexpected bet. He threw it at me with the same rage that infused his words.

       - Watch what's inside! It´s alive. And it bites.
       - Thank you for the warning.
      - You're an idiot, Nar. If you were so sure you´d win, why didn´t you go for something more valuable?
       - That's precisely the reason I went low -I said as I watched the box land at my feet.

       Dylan looked like he might reply but instead his face froze and he gave me a stare I found difficult to hold. Then he turned his back on me. Suddenly the scene was over.

      - Fuck you, "Nar of the Mysteries"!

      With a kick that followed his furious farewell, the box rolled towards the bonfire. It stopped just short of the flames, though it didn´t open. Groups of dismayed faces scattered to make way: with hands in pockets and seven-league strides, Dylan was disappearing again towards his car.

       Feeling the weight of everyone´s eyes upon my shoulders, I stared at the box for a moment before moving to pick it up. It seemed smaller now than when I´d seen it in the basement. Rather than hold it by its strap, I lifted it up and held it close to me with my arm around it, and casting my eyes downwards, I went to my caravan. People were silent. Dylan´s car revving loudly on the way out to the road sounded like a cracking whip in the midst of that mutism.

      I was opening my door when I heard what sounded like a slow, glum, arrhythmic clapping coming from the speakers at the living room windows. I turned around and saw Richard closing them from the inside, gesturing me with his hand.

      Everyone realized that the party was over.

sábado, 25 de marzo de 2017

Back Pages - Brown Notebook - July Of My Years

               I would probably be like a method actor,
                                                           whatever a method actor is ...

                                              … I could sing anything

                                      this warm July of my years


               Remembrance of things past, 

                                                     I do that all the time.

sábado, 11 de marzo de 2017

Present (XVII) Relics of a bet (5)

      The bonfire came alive as Rick tossed in logs under Sally’s sleepy gaze. I sat down next to them and facing the fire began folding the paper Dylan had given me before. Forced into a blind bet, I tried to fathom the enormity of the situation- if I won, I could have anything of his. Garth came over with some tumblers and a half-full bottle of whiskey. My sheet became a ship, my wish, five words, a sketch.

      You know if you’re not sure, you can just throw it into the fire”, said Rick.

      I was about to do that when the hush that settled nearby told me that Dylan was coming back. I turned around and saw him walk up to the bonfire circle. He’d brought a brown, leather-bound book from which he produced a piece of paper, folded in four. It was a large well-thumbed Bible, with a very worn cover.

      “Here’s my part of the bet, Nar. You’ll be really pissed when you lose out.”

      He held out his paper to Rick and with one look made me do the same. He looked at my boat, hiding any surprise.

      “Rick can hold the papers and Garth can read from the Book of Isaiah. Here’s a King James. I said the quote about ‘standing upon the watchtower…’ is from Chapter 24 and you said it’s from …”

      “Chapter 21, verse 8”, I finished off, without shifting my gaze from the fire.

      “Pedant” he muttered as he handed the Bible to Garth.

      Sally poured whiskey into the glasses scattered across the floor. Dylan grabbed one, Rick too. I lit a cigarette and stood up to hear how this improvised duel was about to end.

      “ ‘My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime…’. Isaiah, Chapter 21, verse 8,” read Garth in an almost liturgical voice. And glancing down, he returned the Bible to Dylan who held it in silence while the people who’d gathered around us started to move away.

      “Don’t go without knowing what I’ve lost!”

      His shout stopped most people in their tracks and many turned to look at me as if waiting for a reaction. There was none.

      “Hard to believe but you’ve won, Nar. Now I just need to know what the fuck you’ve written on that ridiculous paper boat. What did you want to win off me to dare such a foolish move? Pass it over, Rick.”

      He held out my sailing boat on the palm of his left hand. Dylan grabbed it in his fist and unfolded it clumsily.

      “The round box in the basement...” he read out questioningly.

      He looked me straight in the eye for a few slow seconds, tilting his head first one way and then the other, forgiving me my life. His voice sounded like hail, I felt it fall on my face.

      “You’re more innocent than I thought.”

      He drained his glass of whiskey and threw it into the fire. Then he turned on his heel and strode over to Big Pink, going in through the back door. I went over to the living room window where Richard had just appeared.

    “What the fuck just happened, Nar?” he asked quietly. “Dylan’s gone down to the basement like a shot. And he looked seriously pissed off”.

      “I’ve just lost something by winning a bet. I’ll explain another time.”

      The man with the face like a mask walked right by us and, briefly raising his black hat, made a gesture as if to say goodbye.