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My 115th Dream (About Bob Dylan)

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?

 

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We were married in a 7-11 parking lot

More than three decades ago, my wife and I were wed in front of a convenience store. The decision to do so was practical: our church met in a school, and getting married in a gym or cafeteria wasn’t our idea of a dream wedding.

My parents came to the rescue and made it possible to use the church building I had grown up in. Unfortunately, our pastor wasn’t licensed in Washington, D.C. where the church was located, and making him “legal” would have been a bureaucratic hassle.

The solution was quite simple. On the evening of our wedding rehearsal, we simply went out the church doors, crossed Eastern Avenue, and improvised some vows for the pastor on the first piece of Maryland real estate we came to, the 7-11 parking lot.

The maid of honor and best man, my brother, witnessed it all, and a snapshot commemorates the event. In it, we are all smiling with the 7-11 sign in the background while my brother is holding a Slurpee and a Marlboro cigarette.

That night my bride and I went to separate beds in different residences. The 7-11 was good enough for the government, but God deserved better, and we held to a notion some find rather quaint and outdated, that sex is reserved for a man and woman after making life-long promises before the Maker of the Universe.

The next day my wife and I celebrated a church wedding with vows we had written ourselves, and there was some inspired preaching and lots of good music. Some guys from our church used guitars, electric bass, keyboards, and drums to create instrumentals prior to the service that could best be described as jazz-rock, a classical guitarist provided the processional, worship choruses were played and sung, and a couple of friends shared special songs.

My buddy, who looked a lot like a young Sammy Davis Jr without a glass eye, offered a fine gospel rendition of “You Are Everything to Me,” which my bride and I selected because the song was about Jesus, not us.

The service was very beautiful, and that night, my wife and I consummated our marriage, as they used to say before people reversed the order, like is so often the case now. You know, have sex, live together, maybe even bring a child into the world, and then get married. Or not. Whatever makes you happy.

So much has changed in thirty-one years. A couple of summers after the wedding, my buddy who sang the gospel song came out as gay and left the church.

Not long after that, my wife and I moved from the area, but he did visit us once. We have a photograph of him smiling and holding our infant daughter, but now she’s grown up and married, and my buddy and I drifted far apart as friends too often do.

I have no idea where he is, but I hope he’s well, and it would be great to get together. There is so much we could talk about.

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