We set out at around 9am from Brookline, fought our way through strangling traffic, and finally reached the open road on the Pike en route to Beckett Mass. This provided a fit opportunity naturally to read aloud Whitman’s Song of the Open Road. (The Good Gray Poet influenced Dylan’s free verse indirectly via the Beats). Arriving in Becket, we searched out the place where Dylan’s 1970’s movie Renaldo and Clara was filmed. The setting for some of this strange and forgettable movie was the remote Dream Away Lounge buried somewhere deep in the Berkshires. We found it in an area Larry turned out to know well. Larry’s brother Ben was sitting there waiting for us as planned. The proprietor was busy watering plants and was not terribly happy to see any of us pull into the driveway at 11 am since it didn’t open until 5 for dinner. Nonetheless he did warm up a bit and told us a bit about the history of the lounge & how it was chosen to be a scene in the movie- maybe because Arlo Guthrie lives nearby. Most importantly, we were allowed to use the men’s room. “You might as well,” said Danny grudgingly, “seeing as you are already here.” Danny did not seem to be bursting with that welcoming 60’s attitude, but at least we were on the Dylan trail. While cruising heading west to New York on the Thruway, we listened to some classic “hard travelin’” Woody Guthrie songs. Guthrie, who inspired the young Bob Dylan, was born 100 years ago. Happy Birthday, Woody. We couldn’t help but puzzle over how much Woody would have related to Dylan’s post-folk repertoire.
Next stop was Woodstock, NY, where Dylan and The Band lived in the 60’s, hung out, and played music (and also where the Woodstock Festival was planned). We needed direction to the Big Pink house and the Dylan residence. While Larry was checking the town out, Bill headed over to the “Free Style Realty,” figuring realtors knew their way around. The office was empty except for “Uncle” Mitch Rapoport, the boss. After a while, Larry joined Bill. Mitch was quite a character: a Woodstock native for 50 years (having left NYC in the early 60’s), former opera singer, and “PhD in product development.” He had a number of great Dylan photos around, so we popped the key question: where? Before giving us driving directions, Mitch nonchalantly told us he knew Dylan and The Band quite well. We were dumbstruck, and he generously regaled us with stories about them and the Lovin’ Spoonful for the better part of an hour. Turns out his parents “adopted” many of the rock famous musicians who lived in town. He also told us that the Woodstock Festival was planned at the old Mill Stream Inn that his parents once owned. What of Dylan? What could he tell us? Mitch laid it on the line. “An enigma, said Mitch. Had a hard time in dealing with people. Haunted and hunted by fans and by his own demons. Still they had a relationship. He would call Mitch up and ask him to set up his table at the Inn. This was code for “set up the card table” in the kitchen where he could eat without being harassed by fans. He was hard to know Mitch told us. Well, but isn’t that what this quest is all about? We were getting closer thanks to Mitch. Fame is a problem, a real paradox. Dylan, like many stars, became a prisoner of his own celebrity.
The directions he gave us to a Dylan address and to Big Pink were on the money. Alas we misread the former, and jumped out at one house to take some hurried photos from behind a bush, thinking we had found The Band’s pink ground zero. But as we drove away, it did trouble us that the house was not pink (of course , it was pink 45 years ago & maybe not since). Damn. We retraced the route and found the right road: Parnassus Lane. Alas and alack a private road. We ignored the first No Trespassing sign since it was kind of hidden by foliage. But then came to a tree plastered with them. That was as close as we could get. Whoever lived there now clearly didn’t want visitors, even aging pilgrims on the Dylan trail. Later after dinner, we found ourselves at Ohayo road, another place Dylan had lived. Is this important piece of the puzzle? Hmm.
End of first day. Very productive. We feel we are closing in on some major insights. Mitch was a gift of God. Tomorrow, Day 2…the site of the Woodstock Festival in White Lake, 60 miles away from the town of Woodstock. Who knew.