When one year rolls into another, every blogger with even an ounce of social responsibility prepares a summary of the prior year‘s great events. Bloggers with more than an ounce actually wait until the year is over before posting their list, in case something happens during the final days of the old year. For example, the 2004 tsunami that took a quarter million lives struck December 26. Those impatient bloggers who just couldn’t wait and had to be the first ones out with their list missed it completely.
We at the Whitepebble Historical Society positively reek with social responsibility. That’s why the final days of 2007 were firmly in the can before I posted my list, just in case something should happen in those last few days. As it turned out, nothing did.
Now….the big Rochester event of 2007 is that Mr. Jones died, the same Mr. Jones that Bob Dylan sang about in Ballad of a Thin Man:
You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, "Who is that man?"
You try so hard
But you don't understand
Just what you'll say
When you get home
Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
Turns out that Mr. Jones was a real guy and he lived in Pittsford, not ten miles from my house. I had no idea. Until I read it in the Democrat and Chronicle Nov 13th, that is, and found that Jones was a dorky kind of kid back then, a know-it-all most likely, and probably from the suburbs, ill-prepared to interview the inscrutable Dylan, yet given exactly that assignment by Time magazine back in 1965 at the Newport Film Festival. The young intern probably pitched a lot of pseudo-hip questions at Dylan, and Bob threw it all back in his face the way he likes to do or at least used to.
Mr. (Jeff Owen) Jones went on to do a lot of things, the D&C reported, even working at that newspaper for awhile. All his relatives said nice things about him at the funeral, how he was a regular guy and all, and how he finally settled in as a film professor at RIT (I wonder if he was at the concert) before he died of cancer at 63.
Regarding Dylan’s 40-year-old portrayal of him as an over-educated fool, the stuff music critics were made of back then (and now?), Mr. Jones had long been philosophical. After all, he reflected, Dylan was right enough: something was happening back then and no, he didn’t know what it was. Dylan appeared with electric guitar the next night at the folk festival, roughly the equivalent of farting in church. Wasn’t it just after that he released Like a Rolling Stone, the greatest song of all time according to Rolling Stone Magazine? Besides, Mr. Jones wasn’t even that uncool. He drove a Volkswagen. And he played the harmonica himself, just like Bob!
Jones’ death can’t be good news to the singer/songwriter. Weren’t they around the same age? And aren’t I not too far behind them? Bob is conscious of his mortality. Aren’t we all?
I see people in the park forgetting their troubles and woes
They're drinking and dancing, wearing bright colored clothes
All the young men with their young women looking so good
Well, I'd trade places with any of them
In a minute, if I could……..
The sun is beginning to shine on me
But it's not like the sun that used to be
The party's over, and there's less and less to say
I got new eyes
Everything looks far away
Highlands, from Time Out of My Mind, 1997
After putting this mortality interpretation on Dylan's words, I came across a source in which Bob denies that's what he meant. Rats! It reminds me of that scene from Up the Down Staircase (the book) in which a kid gets an 'F' for misinterpretting a poets' words. He tries hard to change his grade, but to no avail, even when he brings the poet himself to school and the poet says yes...the kid was right, that is exactly what he meant by his line! The kid's only bittersweet consolation is to know he's changed school policy; from then on the school only asks questions about dead poets.
And so I too am going to leave my interpretation right where it is. You'd think a songwriter would be able to interpret his own songs!
Other things happened in Rochester last year too, at least I think they did, but the reason I led with Dylan is because I have learned that if you want readership to go off the charts, you mention him. At least that’s what I discovered in October when I went to his concert at the Rochester Institute of Technology's Gordon Field House and posted about it afterwards. One of those Dylan fan sites picked up the post and I got over 1000 hits in a day. The only other time I even came close to that was when some anti-Witness forum site latched on to my blog and all participants had to take several looks and bat it around for days on end. Only, whereas feedback from my Dylan post was positive, feedback from the sorehead site ran more along the theme of “can you believe this jerk!?”
I told Moristotle about my findings and he promptly put it into practice, sprinkling Dylan throughout his posts, whether it fit or not. I did the same for awhile, referring to Richard Dawkins and Bob Dylan, Ronald Reagan and Bob Dylan, Pope Benedict and Bob Dylan, and so forth. And now I’ve allowed him to top my 2007 great events list. Will lightning strike twice?