I dreamed I saw Bob Dylan, and he was more real than you or me. Somehow finding myself in his band, we were onstage finishing a sound check before thousands of empty seats when I unplugged my Fender Jazz bass, which looks like the one Dylan holds in a famous photograph, although he never really was a bass player. On the other hand, I am a bassist who doesn’t sing like Dylan. Only he can get away with that because when you write elusive lyrics that resonate like moonlight in a cypress swamp, you can sing however you want, and people had better listen up and pay attention.
While I consider myself as one who does indeed pay attention, I noticed Dylan only as he turned around with a Stratocaster slung across his shoulder like some kind of fascist-killing weapon. He had that crazy head of hair going grey but wild as ever and the pencil-thin mustache he adopted after shaving off his patchy rabbinical beard. Dylan propped that guitar against an amp and moved offstage, not so much walking as simply relocating without the suggestion of movement. I never noticed who else was in the band, for we were all dwarfed and rendered insignificant in Dylan’s presence.
After unstrapping my bass, I followed the others to a room where Dylan sat at a table while the rest of us gathered, caught up in a mood weighty and silent like the reverent pause in church before communion. Dylan bowed his shaggy head. Understanding that he was about to pray, I closed my eyes, thinking this former Mr. Zimmerman still believed in Jesus, just like when he made those records about the Messiah so many years ago, alienating fans and critics alike. It was a pure thrill to be there with Dylan, prostrating our hearts before the Lord, but a sudden intrusion dispersed the sanctified air, so Dylan never prayed aloud.
When I looked up, a thick-necked man in a yellow SECURITY t-shirt leaned in close to Bob and asked, “Do you have concerns about crowd control at tonight’s show?”
Dylan answered in a bent and raspy voice: “I got no concerns, just so long as people don’t drink too much. You know, a man ought to drink alcohol the way he eats rice.”
I yearned to ask, “What do you mean? While you obviously do not endorse total abstinence from booze, do you propose that we drink very little in the way Americans eat rice, just a scoop of pilaf with an occasional steak or salmon fillet? Or should we ingest libations in the Chinese manner of consuming rice, thereby making alcohol a daily staple?”
Before I could speak, I awoke from my dream beneath a broken ceiling fan with heat in my bed and the morning sun glinting across my face. Troubled in mind and full of grief, I rummaged around in my brain, seeking what Dylan had meant, and could find no answer.
But wasn’t that just like Bob?