Monday, May 16, 2005

Zimmy(or How I Went Kicking and Screaming and Learned To Love Upsinging)

Spring 1990. The Big Bang II(electric boogaloo). I was working as a dishwasher in a soup & salad joint on the west side. I had dropped out of college the year before and moved to the Virgin Islands in hopes of finding something, anything. Now back in Houston, I was hurtin' to see the Grateful Dead again. It didn't seem likely that they were gonna come down south, so I was gonna have to go to them. I quickly made plans to return to Chicago in June. For now, I was just gonna have to suck it up and count the days until my return to the great mid-west.

So there I was, washing dishes in a 10X10 room with only a dusty AM/FM radio with one speaker to ease my mind. I had it tuned in to the only classic rock station in town and quickly became familiar with their song rotation. "Lay, Lady, Lay" was one of them. How could I have known it was Dylan's cigarette-free voice floating above those tasy pedal steel licks? I loved that song and it brought a shit-eatin' grin to my face each time it came on. But wait!....Since I didn't know it was Dylan, I still wasn't a convert.

(rewind a few years)

Ya see, I have this old high school chum who is the biggest Dylan fan I've ever known. We'll call him Jake S. No matter where I saw him, he was always more than willing to humor me in the great Beatles vs. Dylan debate. There we were in Marfreless having the same debate we always had. My only argument at that point was "his voice". I couldn't get past THAT VOICE! "He makes up more notes than Janis Joplin", I proclaimed. Jake just sat back in his chair and grinned. He knew. BOY, did he know. Bob's voice was exactly the thing that was gonna shake me to my soul in that little room at the back of the restaurant.

My hands puckered from dishwater, my feet throbbing with pain, and my face greasy from youth, I couldn't wait to escape that 10X10 prison cell. Day in. Day out. The classic rock rotation did little to make me feel better. Suddenly, there it was. Like a shock to my nads. The electricity came from the radio, but it was Bob who had tripped the switch.

It was raining from the first
And I was dying there of thirst
So I came in here
And your long-time curse hurts
But what's worse
Is this pain in here
I can't stay in here
Ain't it clear that--
I just can't fit

How did he know? Could he have possibly felt the same way in 1966 as I did at that very moment? This guy was talking to ME. Not with some bullshit mumbo-jumbo. But with simple, elegant phrases that cut me to the quick. My heart skipped a beat. I was blown apart and reassembled in the blink of an eye and...I was HOOKED.

Less than a week after returning to Chicago, Jake and I were on the road heading north to my first Dylan show at Alpine Valley Music Center in Wisconsin. BUT, that's a tale for another day...

It all came together that summer in the mid-west. Jake S. was there to witness the blooming conversion. I couldn't have asked for a better guide through a universe of poetry, pain, and passion. I am eternally grateful for his patience and wisdom in this matter. My hat is off to you both.

iPod song of the day: Texas Trash from Horseshoe live on KPFT
(My rhythm guitar playing on this is pretty wicked. It wasn't too long after this they kicked me out because of my guitar playing.) :^)


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