Local View: Memories, love of Dylan just can't be shared
Bob Dylan is as real to me as the strands of hair on my head. His was the last vinyl I played after a night of drinking at Mankato State University in 1982. He was the instigator of my confessional altar while I played his song, "Every Grain of Sand." His music was my wake-up call in 1975 when men were being slaughtered on both sides in Vietnam.
Bob Dylan belongs to me. He is something I can't share collectively with others, not even with Duluth Dylan Fest 2018 running through this weekend.
I discovered after my one attempt at Dylan Fest in 2013 that I don't want to share my memory with like-minded comrades. Like the foreshadowing nuances of his ballad, "Ring Them Bells," in which Sts. Peter and Catherine serve as messengers of a prophecy, a conjuring image of Dylan will not emerge even if I had boarded the Blood on the Tracks Train that was part of this year's festival in Duluth. Being in a crowded train with Dylanites wasn't going to bring me closer to the last prophet after Malachi.
My first Dylan concert was in 1988 in Orange County, Calif. He appeared with the Grateful Dead. It was early enough in history where VW vans were still around, and I had to weave between the masses of Deadhead fans in tie dye and carrying Jerry Garcia handmade posters.
Just as Dylan stood on the stage delivering his melodious message, he was as distant as a ghost at Gettysburg with a detachment that didn't lure the crowd. Yet I understood him in his unshakenness and his declaration, not in any desire to entertain in a pleasing, Mick Jagger kind of way.
I felt his deliverance through the sound system, but it wasn't because he was lavishly present in the stadium. His songs and lyrics were a memory-laden blood lineage through me bound by the same Minnesota-raised soil. I was bound to him in the same way novelist Bernard Malamud penetrated my soul in seventh grade after I read "The Fixer."
When I sang "Disease of Conceit" from Dylan's "Oh Mercy" album at the Red Herring Lounge in 2013, I felt that similar sense of isolation and unreachability to audience members, although they cheered me on. The contestants had to sing a song they wrote in the framework of the Dylan mind. A drunk at the bar spilled his beer on my lyrics, but I survived.
In the last three months, a pseudo Dylan Twitter person has posed as Bob Dylan with an authentic-looking account on the social network. After a few replies, I confronted him for duplicating the renegade genius from Hibbing. It disturbed me that I was chosen by the imposter as a target. I asked the poser, "Do you know my cousin Toivo whom 'you' rode tricycles with when you were 3 years old?" It really happened, but he couldn't answer with authenticity.
In the same way, in every fan-based Dylan crowd, I am the poser. His incredible impact on my life, my spiritual and socially elevated choices, and my sublime consciousness though his words puts me in the highest loyalty to Bob Dylan.
But only alone. Only alone can I recite his lyrics and know he is an unreckoned force inside of me.
Jane Hoffman is a behavior specialist for Traumatic Brain Injuries Residential and Community Services and a special-education assistant at Cooper Elementary School in Superior. She ran for Duluth School Board in 2015.