Birthday Cousins

Born on the same day, five years apart.

♫   May you smile into the camera
And squint against the sun
May you stay forever fun
Forever fun, forever fun   ♫
May you stay forever fun.

Happy happy birthday to two of my favorite people on the planet!

Happy birthday to my sister

On this Sunday, I’d like to thank you for a gift you gave me thirty-five years ago.

(Peace Sunday was a concert to support nuclear disarmament,
and it included an impressive lineup.)

I wanted to attend this amazing live music event, but didn’t have a ticket. You, despite not liking crowds or concerts, said we should go. Right then! So you drove us in your “Blue Goose” from West LA to Pasadena, where 85,000 people had converged on the Rose Bowl. It took us a while to find a parking space and then we walked and walked and walked. Well, meandered was more like it seeing as you had your camera and were being meticulous about noting f-stops and shutter speed for each photo you took along the way.

When we finally reached the Rose Bowl, the concert had started and, of course, there were no tickets available. We needed a hand-stamp to get in. There was a chain-link fence near the entrance and some guys standing nearby had our answer: they licked the stamps on the back of their hands and then pressed them against the backs of our hands. It worked! We had our own hand-stamps and were officially part of Peace Sunday!

Many details of that day are hazy (cough, cough), but I believe our seats were to the side and slightly behind the stage. Wherever we were, we couldn’t see the stage. And the sound was pretty crappy right there. But we’d made it! We were part of the Peace Sunday experience.

I do remember when Joan Baez brought out Bob Dylan. It gave me chills, knowing two of my very favorite singer-songwriters were so close. It was rather surreal, hearing them sing from a stage we couldn’t see.

Joan and Bob’s performances weren’t great, but because of you, I was there! Because of you, I was able to join a swath of humanity that’d come together for an incredible day of music and to say NO NUKES! It was an unforgettable gift. I hope you also have fond memories of Peace Sunday. Thank you again for being my generous and funny big sister who gave me a very special day.

Happy birthday to you.

Freewheelin’ Bob nabs the Nobel

As has been documented here over the years, I’m a long-time Dylan fan, so wasn’t completely surprised when it was announced today that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Although, as I said in an email to a friend, I do wonder whether Bob should’ve been disqualified from consideration due to his Victoria’s Secret commercial years ago.)

Bob Dylan in November 1963 (Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Bob Dylan in November 1963 (Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Nonetheless, this year the committee chose to honor Bob Dylan’s work which, on a personal note, feels very fitting because Zebu is studying in Sweden right now. The award also feels fitting because of one Dylan song in particular that tragically never, ever goes out of style. For “Masters of War” alone, I’m good with Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Masters of War
Written by Bob Dylan

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
’Til I’m sure that you’re dead

Copyright
© 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music

Friday Five: The TracyWorld Edition

1) While much of Bob Dylan’s HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED is good music to run to, Ballad of a Thin Man is not a song that will put pep in your step.

2) Zebu is binge-watching all six seasons of LOST (and luring me in from time to time), and what pops into my head at least once per viewing is How are none of these people badly burned and peeling?! Yo, Dharma Initiative, you remembered the lima beans but forgot the sunblock!

3) I want to live in a world in which cookies and beer have no caloric consequences.

4) I have SO. MANY. PHOTOS on my computer that haven’t seen the light of day, so here’s a random selection (capture of a Red-Tailed Hawk eyass from the Cornell Labs cam a couple years ago):Capture

5) I recently read T.C. Boyle’s WATER MUSIC and Zadie Smith’s ON BEAUTY (part of this effort), and am trying hard to be inspired by their prowess for description rather than allowing their mad skills to intimidate me so much I take a match to my manuscript.

Remembering Levon Helm

I grew up listening to The Band.
My parents had one of those huge cabinet stereos
that they’d hooked up to our intercom system
so music played throughout the house.

I washed dishes to The Band,
tanned outside on the deck,
lemon-oiled paneling and washed windows to their music.
I spent hours in my room, studying the album covers and liner notes
as I listened to the stories-in-songs they sang while trading verses and
marveled at the many instruments they played and the sounds they created.

These were the soundtracks for much of my childhood:

   
   

Rick Danko
Levon Helm
Garth Hudson
Richard Manuel
Robbie Robertson

I knew their names and faces.
And I loved them even more when I found out they’d been
Bob Dylan’s back-up band before becoming The Band.
(Dylan painted the cover art for Music From Big Pink)

I spent my fourteenth birthday at home during a snowstorm
in Wisconsin while they played their very last concert together
in San Francisco. I was heartbroken I couldn’t be there with them
and their many friends: Bob Dylan (see#23), Joni Mitchell, The Staples,
Neil Young, EmmyLou Harris, etc.  But I’ve watched that concert
“rockumentary” (see #24),
 many times since.

In the spring of 1985, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel
played a small club somewhere in the San Fernando Valley.
My friend, Scott E., and I went, lining up at the door well before the show
so we’d get good seats. We were front row. No Levon and no Robbie, but it
was still remarkable basking in the music and memories.

Richard died the following spring.
Rick died in 1999.
And today, we lost Levon Helm.

Levon was the drummer but he also sang some of their most famous songs.
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Up On Cripple Creek. And not-so-
famous Ophelia. When I was pregnant, I made a mix tape of songs for my labor soundtrack. I wanted music so familiar to me I wouldn’t need to expend any energy on
thinking or processing the songs. I wanted to be able to sing every single word
without hesitation. The Weight was one such song.

But right now, as I mourn the passing of yet another member of The Band,
I offer you Levon singing All La Glory.

Thank you for all the beautiful music, Levon.
Wherever you are, I hope you’re still smiling and laying down the beat.