Aretha’s amazing grace

I took the day off from being productive and instead went to see the documentary  AMAZING GRACE. In 1972 Aretha Franklin taped a two-album gospel album over two nights at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church with help from Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir (led by their incredible choir director, Alexander Hamilton).

I’ve listened to the Amazing Grace album numerous times and was thrilled right from the start of the film. Why? Because it turns out Aretha started her two-night concert with my absolute very favorite song from the album. She sang Marvin Gaye’s “Wholy Holy.” I watched, listened, and wept.

Aretha on the first night, bejeweled by perspiration.

I encourage anyone who loves Aretha to give yourself the treat of AMAZING GRACE. Her performance with the backing of that magnificent choir is mind-blowing. Witnessing it will do your soul good.

Check out the trailer:

Sorry to Bother You, but go see this film!

I laughed and nodded my head throughout this movie that absolutely nails where we are as a country (and have been for some time). The acting is superb, the visuals are amazing, and the music is a perfect fit. Best of all, I left the theater feeling like there’s hope for us after all. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU shows us how it can be done.


The shape of one-dimensional characters

Zippy and I just returned from our weekly date. It was his turn to choose and he chose Guillermo del Toro’s THE SHAPE OF WATER. I would not recommend the film. However, Sally Hawkins’s performance was lovely and the movie was so visually pleasing that I debated whether to recommend watching it without sound. Alas, I believe the heavy-handed characterization and plot line would still sledgehammer their way into your consciousness even without audio.

As a writer, I’m kinda pissed. The characters were lazy stereotypes, including Michael Shannon’s character who was so  over-the-top I nearly burst out laughing. That character didn’t have one shred of decency. Not one. Plus, there wasn’t a whole lot of nuance in the film and absolutely zero question as to justice vs injustice. Zero question.

And you know that quote from Chekhov about the gun? (“One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.”)  Yep, THE SHAPE OF WATER committed that sin when a hard-boiled egg didn’t go off.





I’m out.

Sunday Confessional: So.Much.Stuff.

Today I was looking in our linen closet, and unearthed this shirt:





Neither Zippy nor I can remember which son owned it. I’m guessing it was Wildebeest, but am not 100% sure. Why do we still have it? Why is it taking up space in the home? For that matter, why are we holding onto half the crap in our lives?

The good news is, I haven’t come across any Napoleon Dynamite moon boots.

This week’s date

It was Zippy’s week to choose our date and he chose LOVING VINCENT.

It’s the first ever fully painted feature film, painted by a team of over 100 artists.
That’s 65,000 painted frames.

Visually, the movie was stunning. Narratively, it was a bit bumpy.
Still and all, I’m glad to have experienced it. Vincent Van Gogh felt  things very deeply, and any celebration of sensitive people can only be a good thing for humanity.

Solar Eclipse or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Shadows

Zippy got up at 2:45 this morning to drive north to Torrington, Wyoming, so he could experience the total solar eclipse. If I could’ve been teleported back home, rather than sitting in gridlocked traffic after witnessing the eclipse, I would’ve gone with him.

I chose to stay home. When I spoke with Zippy after he arrived in the little town of Torrington, I felt pangs of regret for missing out on what he was experiencing. Why didn’t I go with him? Why didn’t I have those special glasses?

But it was too late. Peak eclipse around here was at 11:47, so I busied myself building a pinhole projector. Then while I waited, I played around with a colander.

As the peak moment approached, I watched in my pinhole projector.

NASA-approved viewing apparatus

I was momentarily confused when the sun spot appeared to be getting larger rather than smaller. Was it possible I wasn’t clear on the whole eclipse concept??? Then I realized that my progressive eyeglass lenses were distorting the image and if I held the projector farther from my eye, I could see the diminishing sun. So then I t ried photographing that projector image.

As you can see, I was nowhere near aiming my camera phone at the correct angle. The lighting was really throwing me off and I couldn’t see what I was doing. But don’t get me wrong, I loved the eclipse lighting! Rather than being the usual mid-day harsh lighting, it was subdued and trippy. I had so much fun looking at my plants in the yard. It was like being on a pyschadelic trip.


My absolute favorite things to look at were the crescent-shaped shadows from the maple tree. 

My brother called me about 20 minutes before peak eclipse to verify I had special glasses. When I told him Zippy had taken our only pair, my brother urged me to jump in the car and drive to his house. I opted to stay put, and I’m so glad I did. While I couldn’t look directly at the sun to see what millions of people saw today, I thoroughly enjoyed my backyard eclipse experience. The sky was off-limits to me, so I focused on all the cool details down below.


Actually, unlike Dug the Dog from the movie UP, I maintained my focus today. I woke this morning with a game plan for working on opening pages of a new middle-grade, and I kept to that schedule. I made good progress and am feeling (slightly) less nervous about sending those pages (plus more) to my critique group on Monday.

I declare today a WIN for this writer.


Life is just one gigantic marble maze

Exhibit A:

Look at all the bright and shiny colors!
The rocket ship! The stars!
There’s even a dotted line to map out the route.
There’s so much potential in the marble maze of life.

And at the end of some days, I go to bed feeling like a WINNER.

Other days it seems as if I keep falling into the same damned hole.

But the secret  to the marble maze of life is finesse,
a little bit of TILT,
and a willingness to fall down,
get back up,
and show Hole 15 that this aggression will not stand.




Happy Windsday, Piglet

Zippy and I just went for a run.
It is very blowy out there.

It wasn’t quite that bad.
I mean, neither of us went airborne.
But that’s only because we’re not chubby little cubbies all stuffed with fluff.

Otherwise . . . WHOOOOOSH.
Trust me.



Vermiculture or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Worms

These days there isn’t even the option of pretending not to see the bad things being done to the planet and its inhabitants. Agent Orange and the Billionaires’ Club are taking what was formerly done on the down-low, cranking it up a couple hundred notches, and shoving it in our faces. Anger, anxiety, and despair (just to mention a few) are running high. I’ve made tons of phone calls and sent emails, and while those are important tasks, I’m not feeling overly swell about my influence on Washington, D.C.

Enter the worms.

Back in mid-December, I blogged about nabbing some free wooden drawers off Craigslist. I wanted them for worm bins. And now, after lots of reading and research, I’m pleased to say Zippy and I have converted some of those drawers into worm bins.


Zippy did all the construction. He drilled holes in the bottoms of the bins and ventilation holes on both sides. Then he lined the bins with shade cloth.

ventilation-holes  bin-interior

I prepared the bedding using newspaper, phone book, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, and an ancient newsprint drawing pad that I must’ve brought with me from North Hollywood (via Santa Rosa, Bakersfield, and Anchorage). Yes, I sometimes lean “hoarder.” But hey, isn’t it cool that the worms are benefitting from my issues?!


Bedding supplies


Shred, shred, shred some more!

On Saturday, we went to pick up our two pounds of worms from a worm farmer in the Denver area. Unfortunately, I don’t have photographic documentation of our worms’ homecoming because I was focused on getting them out of the cloth sack and into their prepared bins. But here’s a fair representation of what those worms looked like when I released them from the sack:


And here’s a quick and slightly blurry overview of the bin in use (didn’t want to dawdle since worms are light-sensitive):


The worms are working away in the damp shredded paper, etc., beneath a damp “blanket” of newspaper. They’re eating our kitchen scraps and their bedding. They’re helping me feel less horrified about my footprint on this planet.

Today the Senate voted to confirm a wealthy, unqualified, anti-public school fundamentalist to head the Department of Education. I had no influence over that vote. I do, however, have control over my worms’ well-being and my household contribution to landfills.




Gump philosophy

Life may, indeed, be like a box of chocolates. The chocolates in this Belgian sampler were certainly full of surprises.

All that remains from Zebu's gift to us from his travels in Belgium.

All that remains from Zebu’s gift to us from his travels in Belgium.

Yum, chocolate curry.



I’m leaving on a jet plane

Heading off to see my mom.

I don’t anticipate an Albert Brooks-Debbie Reynolds kind of visit (if for no other reason than Mom and I aren’t quite as funny as Albert and Debbie), but this movie tag line from MOTHER feels appropriate:

No one misunderstands you better.


I’m eminently qualified to joke about such things. One: I’m a daughter. Two: I’m a mother. Pretty sure my sons gird their emotional loins for visits with me, too.




How to ruin a move in four words

“It has a twist.”

That’s what the ticket-taker said to us yesterday at the movie theater. The older woman informed us who starred in the movie (as if that was something we hadn’t already researched), said she’d loved it and then added that the movie had a twist.

As soon as those words were out there, I felt cheated. I didn’t want to know anything about the movie (aside from the actors and the basic premise), but it was too late. The ticket-taker had spoken.


And boy oh boy, her words had a major impact on how I watched that film. I kept thinking, “Is this it? Is this the twist?”

Will he let him go?

Was he actually killed by the rattlesnake rather than the gun?

Will the gun now go off and kill that other guy?

Will he go for his gun and start a shootout?

It was distracting; my brain wouldn’t stop contemplating the possibilities. All because that well-meaning woman thought she needed to make small talk.

And you know the worst part? There wasn’t even a twist in this movie! The closing scene left the viewer with a few questions which only means that the movie was open-ended. Open-ended does not equal twist.


Rant over.






Garden gone mad

I’ve neglected my flower gardens this year and it’s very crowded out there, both front and back yards. The thistles and bindweed are giving the perennials a run for their money. I spent two hours out there today working on one small area in back, and it still looks like a garden gone mad.

Asters, day lilies, sedum, yarrow, and three shrubs that have run amok.

Asters, day lilies, sedum, yarrow, and three shrubs that have run amok.

It’s a vicious cycle:
I’m overwhelmed by the mess
and avoid going out there
which means more stuff grows out of control
which I then avoid.

Some women fantasize having a cabana boy,
but I dream of Chance the gardener.




Waving goodbye to Gene Wilder

I was very sad to learn Gene Wilder had left the planet until I found out he suffered from dementia. Then I said, “Good.” Because fuck Alzheimer’s. But my heart still hurts knowing there won’t be any other wonderful performances from that gentle genius. I grew up on Gene Wilder movies and it’s hard to wave goodbye.

Gene Wilder accomplished the impossible: his subversive performance as Willy Wonka made me love the movie more than the book. That never happens! I ALWAYS prefer books to movie adaptations.

WillyWonka GeneWilder as WillyWonka

Thank you for the many laughs.
Rest in peace.





Friday Five: The New-to-Me Edition

ONE: The right headlight on our 2004 Prius went out and Zippy fixed it with a new bulb (something he’s done four times over the years, thanks to the kindness of people who post YouTube how-to’s).

New bulb in the old car.

New bulb in the old car.







We replaced our garbage disposal splash guard (taking only three trips to the stores to find the correct size), again thanks to the kindness of people sharing DIY knowledge.

My new view from above.

My new view from above.








THREE: One night this week Zippy and I watched WILD, the movie based on the book by Cheryl Strayed, and an image from that film that’s stayed with me is Cheryl writing in her journal and then tearing out the page after it’s filled, and feeding it to the campfire.

WILD movie






FOUR: One of our two old dogs is suddenly walking like a drunken sailor and yesterday the vet told us Coco is (hopefully) suffering from “Old Dog” Vestibular Disease, so she’s now on some medication and we’re hoping she’s soon upright and back to herself.

Coco's got a new tilt to her head.

Coco’s got a new tilt to her head.










FIVE: Last fall Zippy and I dug out the raised bed on our patio that had been destroyed by our two old dogs, and replanted it with new perennials (before adding a barrier fence to keep out Coco and Zoey), and the new plants are poking through.

A new penstemon has joined the garden.

A new penstemon has joined the garden.

Friday Five: The Next Chapter

(1) Zippy and Zebu were at the tail-ends of their colds when I got sick two days before we had to start our drive to Washington. Of course. We left on Thursday morning with a big box of ultra-soft tissue and the rental car trunk loaded with Zebu’s stuff. We’d chosen a chevy impala trunkChevy Impala for its impressive trunk capacity and ended up getting one equipped with satellite radio. We drove many of our 1600 miles laughing at comedy routines and only once did I fear for our safety when Lewis Black had Zebu and me (behind the wheel) in tears. I highly recommend comedy for road trips.


(2) Zippy and I are now officially empty nesters (if you discount the two dogs and two cats), and I’m handling the transition pretty well. We arrived back home late Sunday night and while I did wash my face and brush my teeth on Monday, I spent the day in my jammies on the couch, watching flawless movie stillmovies (Party Girl with Parker Posey and Flawless with Philip Seymour Hoffman, pictured here with Robert DeNiro), some television (The Mindy Project and Californication), and staring into space. I’ve since roused myself, put on real clothes, and rejoined society.

(3) Now that we have Zebu settled at college, I can no longer put off finishing my YA. I thought my slow progress was solely due to feelings of trepidation regarding what happens when a manuscript is polished Daggerand ready to go (something that feels like the equivalent of putting my heart on a platter so that others can stab it over and over again), but a couple days ago I had an epiphany about my slow progress. I haven’t just been procrastinating in an act of self-preservation, but have been writing slowly because I was headed in the wrong direction. I thought I knew the ending, but I did not. Rather, I knew the final scene but had a few key details wrong. I believe my middle-office mind knew that and was patiently waiting for me to wake up to the truth of the story.

(4) I applied to and was accepted into the Rutgers One-On-One Plus Conference held next month, which is another motivator for finishing my manuscript. Yikes.

(5)  I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but as a result of all the preparations and then the emotional aftermath of getting Zebu off to school, I’ve largely ignored the fear-mongering and bloodlust dominating the airwaves. May I just say, for the record, that I am so very tired of the U.S. government thinking it can end fundamentalist ideology by bombing it out of existence? It hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. Also? Not only is it stupid, this latest bombing is illegal. But, hey, we’re Team USA! However, . . .


On ‘Boyhood’ and My Boy

I knew from the moment I read about Richard Linklater‘s latest film, Boyhood, that I had to watch it on the big screen. I was intrigued by the fact that he made the film with the same people over a 12-year span, and I couldn’t wait to see it. One of the reviews said it was a movie composed of universal childhood moments and emotions, moments and emotions recognizable to anyone in the world who’d experienced childhood. Hey, that’s me! I’m a former child.

boyhood movie poster 3

Yesterday as Zebu, Zippy, and I walked into the theater, I was prepared for what I was about to see. Or so I thought. In reality, I’d overlooked some pertinent facts:

  • ‘Boyhood’ isn’t only a story of childhood and growing up, but also what it means to be a parent.
  • Filming began in 2002, when the main character, played by Ellar Coltrane, was seven. In 2002, my son Zebu was six.
  • The movie ends with the main character arriving at his college dorm.
  • In two days, Zippy, Zebu, and I begin our drive to Zebu’s college where he will move into a dorm.
  • In five days, Zippy and I will fly home to our “empty nest.”

No, I didn’t bawl throughout the movie. Yes, I did tear up near the end with Zebu sitting between his father and me. Mostly, I was gobsmacked by how it felt as if our lives were playing out on the big screen. And that’s where those universal moments and emotions come into play. Because while our family dynamics have not followed anything like the film family’s trajectory, it all rang true because every single one of us on this planet is either a child or a former child. And if you’ve had parents and/or are a parent yourself, the film conjures up an additional whammy of recognition.

I’m grateful to ‘Boyhood’ for capturing the moments my family experienced over the past twelve years. While the faces and haircuts aren’t exactly the same, the feelings are spot-on.

Ellar Coltrane as Mason Evans, Jr.

Ellar Coltrane as Mason Evans, Jr.


In Which Tracy Ventures Back to the Movie Theater

I love movies. But because I very much dislike watching movies in theaters with people who talk and rustle candy wrappers, I’ve missed many films I wanted to see. (Some I’ve seen at home on our little screen, and while that’s not ideal, it is better than nothing.)

When I found out the Coen brothers not only had a new movie, but that it was about the early Greenwich Village folk scene, I knew it was one I had to experience on a big screen with big sound. It wasn’t until last Friday that Zippy and I finally got our butts to a matinee showing of Inside Llewyn Davis. And it was wonderful. More people in the audience than I would’ve liked, but we were strategic about our seat selection and people were well-behaved. I enjoyed the movie very much and frequently thought about it in the following days. I highly recommend it.

Because last Friday was such a success, we did the same thing today. Zippy took time off from work and we went to see Nebraska, another film we knew needed to be seen on a big screen. (Here’s the premise that hooked me from the moment I read it:  After receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, a cantankerous father (Bruce Dern) thinks he’s struck it rich, and wrangles his son (Will Forte) into taking a road trip to claim the fortune. Shot in black and white across four states, Nebraska tells the stories of family life in the heartland of America.) I laughed and cried, and Bruce Dern’s wild, white hair alone is worth the price of admission. (There was a bit of talking today in the audience which temporarily rattled my focus, but I was able to block it out and the guilty parties soon shut the hell up without me having to give them that instruction. Whew.)

One of the coolest parts of the afternoon was that we met a woman in the ticket line who was there to see another movie that had already started, and she wondered what we were seeing. When I told her, she said she hadn’t heard of it so I gave her the blurb and she decided to try out Nebraska. Well, as the credits rolled she stopped by our seats (where I was wiping away tears) to say, “Thank you. That was great.”

Word of mouth, baby. Which is why I’ll say it again: Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska are two excellent films worth seeing.

Next Friday? I’m thinking maybe Dallas Buyers Club.

My Top 70 for Bob Dylan’s Birthday

Bob Dylan turned 70 years old today and in honor of his birthday, I’m sharing 70 Dylan-related memories:

1) I joined the Columbia Record Club when I was a kid and bought lots of early Dylan records for not much money (because he was a Columbia artist), eventually defaulted on my membership and then had a collection agency after me until they figured out I was a minor and they couldn’t touch me.

2) I kept a harmonica in my car to practice while stuck in L.A. rush hour traffic but never advanced beyond basic discordance.

3) When I was a kid, I took over the care of my younger brother’s gerbils and renamed them Frankie Lee and Judas Priest.

4) After having trash and beer thrown at me for singing and dancing during a Dylan concert in Orange County, CA (otherwise known as Behind the Orange Curtain), I vowed never to attend another concert in the OC, a promise I kept.

5) I once dreamed of ex-wife Sara Dylan and woke up really indignant about Bob treating her so poorly.

6) I used to work for a man who shared a rabbi with Bob Dylan, and contemplated staking out the temple for a sneak peek.

7) I had a class at CSU-Northridge with a young man who was friends with one of Dylan’s sons (Jakob?) and who used to hang out with the son and listen to Blonde on Blonde, an album my classmate described as “Okay.”

8) When I was a high school freshman, I gave a speech on Bob Dylan; the teacher was thrilled but the other kids could not have cared less.

9) The first time I ever saw Dylan in concert my seat was behind the stage but Dylan turned and played to us so it was a great experience.

10) My parents allowed me to miss a day of school to get those tickets.

11) Maybe because I’m not a fan of organized religion, I’ve never been offended by Dylan’s swings between Judaism and Christianity and back again.

12) I’ve logged a lot of miles on my treadmill running to Highway 61 Revisited (although “Ballad of a Thin Man” kinda takes the pep out of my step).

13) I listened to Street Legal the other night for old time’s sake but had to quit after a few songs because it made me miss best friend S (who loved the album) too much; I especially wished he was still alive so I could point out the album is highly overwrought.

14) At the last minute, I bought a single ticket to see Dylan at the L.A. Forum and got a pretty decent seat but after he played a couple songs, he said he wouldn’t continue until the seats in front were filled so I rushed the stage and spent the rest of the night a few feet from the stage.

15) I also went alone to see Dylan at the Filmore in Denver and made friends with some people who, for years afterward, invited me to their birthday parties.

16) I named my cat Isis.

17) I bought my copy of Desire at the JC Penney in Portage, Wisconsin, and took it back because the record skipped.

18) Literary agent Edward Necarsulmer IV is a huge Dylan fan and I used to think that meant we were destined to be agent and client, but I’ve since deduced that is not true.

19) Wildebeest loves nothing more than to disparage Bob and his rhyming ways.

20) When I was in high school, Doonesbury included a series of strips featuring Dylan and I taped those strips inside my locker door but was so eager to vacate the premises on the last day of school, I left them behind.

21) Zippy used to quietly pooh-pooh Dylan’s talent but now recognizes his channeling-from-beyond genius.

22) Let’s face it: Joan Baez has aged much more gracefully than Dylan.

23) I was sad on my birthday, November 25, 1976, because I knew Dylan was playing at The Band’s final concert at the Winterland, San Francisco, while I was in Pardeeville, Wisconsin, watching a blizzard out the window.

24) I later went to a matinee showing of Scorsese’s documentary of that concert (The Last Waltz) and smoked cigarettes in the nearly empty theater. I know!

25) Sometimes waiting for Dylan tickets was more fun than the actual concert (see #4), even when I burned my ankle on a motorcycle muffler getting a ride across the immense parking lot to the port-a-potty.

26) There are few more dull or predictable discussions than those focused on the quality of Dylan’s voice.

27) I think the Rolling Stone panel missed the boat by not putting more Planet Waves songs in its top 70 list.

28) I used to be in a critique group with Dylan’s lighting guy who went into instant panic, covering his ears and yelling, “I don’t want to know!” when I mentioned a friend with a bootleg tape.

29) I once spent about three hours trying to get through on a call-in show to ask Dylan who’s saying “Yes!” in these “Isis” lyrics:
“You gonna stay?”
“If you want me to.”
(See, it’s not clear if it’s “If you want me to, yes!” or “Yes!” as in “I want you to stay.”)

30) It’s safe to say that over the years I’ve driven some people away with my Dylan fascination.

31) A former boyfriend didn’t believe I knew all the words to “Isis” but after I performed it for him, complete with gestures, he had a (short-lived) light of respect in his eyes.

32) Zebu had the chance to see Dylan at Red Rocks a few years back but didn’t have much fun because (1) there was a thick cloud of pot smoke in the crowd and (2) he couldn’t recognize any of the songs.

33) The first novel I wrote has an incredibly original storyline about a teenage girl who loves Dylan but is teased by friends and classmates for that love.

34) My critique-lighting-guy friend invited me to sit at the light board during a Dylan concert but I declined because it was soon after September 11 and I couldn’t face being in a crowded venue right then.

35) In 1982, my sister and I went to PEACE SUNDAY in the Rose Bowl to hear Dylan and Baez (among many) but the concert was sold out so we stood next to chain-link fence while guy inside licked his hand-stamp and pressed it on my hand so I could then lick and pass along stamp to my sister.

36) I’m one of two people I know who saw the looong and oh-so-confusing Renaldo and Clara (and the other person is the guy who went with me).

37) Zippy and I watched the Dylan flick, Hearts of Fire, which is one of the worst movies made. Ever.

38) However, trust me when I say Dylan’s pantry scene from the movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid in which “Alias” reads aloud the labels on canned vegetables is hysterical.

39) Early on in our relationship, Zippy said the soundtrack to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid was his favorite Dylan album because it was mostly instrumentals (see #21).

40) I strongly disagree with Keith Richards’ statement about Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country” being better suited to a solo than the duet with Johnny Cash.

41) When I try to imitate Dylan I always end up sounding like Joan Baez imitating Dylan on her version of “Simple Twist of Fate” which means it’s really me doing Baez doing Dylan.

42) A long time ago I told a friend if Dylan ever did a commercial, I’d take all my Dylan albums into the street and destroy them but here I am post-Victoria’s Secret and Bob-knows-what-else, and my albums are intact.

43) I went to the record store the day Empire Burlesque was released to buy it and another customer commented on how refreshing it was to see someone so loyal to an artist, but in retrospect, I have to question that loyalty because the album has some definite clunkers.

44) I once called information to get Bob’s home phone number.

45) I never feel like I’m in the mood to listen to “The Time’s They Are A-Changin,’” but then I hear it and am blown away all over again.

46) Sometime in the last decade, Dylan was on the Grammy’s singing a song that everyone later ridiculed as being unintelligible but within a couple mumbles I identified it as “Masters of War.”

47) When I was a teen, Dylan was scheduled to be on Soundstage and I talked to my parents ahead of time about watching it when it came on late that night, but in a fit of absolute bullshit parenting, they didn’t let me.

48) My father-in-law named his dog “Dillon” after the Gunsmoke character but in my mind’s eye whenever I said his name, it was “Dylan.”

49) I was always of the opinion that music class ruined “Blowin’ in the Wind” for a lot of young people much the same way The Scarlet Letter was ruined by high school English classes until a friend told me “Blowin’ in the Wind” holds a special place in his heart due to learning all the words in Sunday School.

50) Way back when in Wisconsin, I listened to Dylan’s early song, “Highway 51” but, being the spatially-challenged person I am, didn’t make the connection with the Hwy 51 running past my hometown.

51) If not for Bob Dylan, I’m not sure I’d know Woody Guthrie’s work (or Arlo’s!), or Phil Ochs or Dave van Ronk.

52) I’m not usually a fan of “greatest hits” compilations but if not for Dylan’sGreatest Hits Vol 2, I wouldn’t know one of my all-time favorite Dylan songs “When I Paint My Masterpiece.”

53) It was hard times when I lived in a tiny North Hollywood apartment but I remember smiling in the dark as I listened to Bob’s laugh when he messed up the opening to “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream.”

54) Wildebeest just stuck his head in the room to see what I’m working on and when I told him he said, “70? That’s a lot of memories. You really love Bob Dylan, I think Bob Dylan’s a goober.”

55) A friend and I went to the Dylan/Grateful Dead concert at Anaheim Stadium and I swear Jerry’s guitar solo on “All Along the Watchtower” was so incredible it flustered Bob into singing the same chorus twice (but I seem to be the only one who noticed).

56) I have another friend who won’t ever let me forget that on the day of a general admission Dylan concert at the Filmore in Denver, I “forced her out of the car on Colfax” because of road work and detours so she could get in line while I looked for a place to park, and then we ended up arriving at the line at the same time.

57) We were about halfway back on the floor during that show with the misfortune of standing behind a basketball team, but then “Cold Irons Bound” started and I danced and didn’t care about limited visibility.

58) When Wildebeest was a baby he’d calm when listening to Blood on the Tracks except for “Idiot Wind;” he really disliked that song.

59) Wildebeest and Zebu just told me something I can neither confirm nor deny: when they were little and would screw around at the dinner table, I’d get pissed off and send them downstairs while I cleaned up the kitchen, “Tombstone Blues” blasting (“I’m in the kitchen with the tombstone blues”).

60) All I can say in my defense is “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.”

61) Actress Jenna Elfman reportedly lost her virginity while listening to “Lay Lady Lay” but I can’t listen to Dylan while having sex because, for me, there’s no tuning him out; I can’t write while he’s playing, either.

62) Hard Rain is a phenomenal live album, and don’t even try talking to me about the distortion and poor sound quality.

63) If it weren’t for the Rolling Thunder Revue, I wouldn’t know about T-Bone Burnett and Mick Ronson and Ronee Blakley and Scarlet Rivera.

64) Come to think of it, I started reading Crawdaddy magazine in hopes of finding a mention of Dylan, and was introduced to all sorts of musicians along the way.

65) From the very start my attraction to Dylan had as much to do with his use of language as the music and while I never mastered the guitar or harmonica or singing, or anything even remotely musical, I consider him a huge influence.

66) I still haven’t landed in Publisher’s Marketplace but it’s cool Bob’s gotten deals for turning songs into picture books; however, it’ll be hard to take if he sells a middle-grade before me.

67) I can’t remember ever putting on a Bob Dylan record and deciding it wasn’t what I wanted to hear; no matter the mood, it’s always a good time for a little Dylan.

68) And with his catalog, a little Dylan can easily turn into a marathon listening session.

69) So many people were outraged when he went electric and, in their minds, turned his back on “the movement,” but Dylan’s Dylan no matter whether he’s singing about a miner or a clueless reporter or the exquisite pain of a breaking heart.

70) When I listen to Joan Baez sing about Dylan in “Diamonds and Rust,” I want to weep for her lost love but then “Winds of the Old Days” plays and I’m in awe of her graciousness:
“singer or savior, it was his to choose
which of us knows what was his to lose”