This was a day of portents on the Ohio Turnpike.
Today was really about the challenge of transporting a two-ton car and its cargo of two human beings from Ashtabula, Ohio, 300 miles down the road to Chicago Ill., a major stepping stone to the North Country of Dylan’s youth. We were both looking forward to our one planned stop, which was just an hour from our motel: the Rock ‘n Roll Museum & Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Let it be said from the get-go that Larry and Bill give the museum a 5 out of a possible 4 stars. From film clips to artifacts to information, the museum presents the complex history of rock in a vibrant and substantive way. Yes, Bob Dylan was an inductee of the Hall of Fame in its 3rd year, but that was a mere footnote to our visit. If you find yourself stranded in Cleveland–as the joke goes, “I spend a year there one week”–definitely go to the museum. The ocean called Lake Erie in its backyard is quote impressive as well.
The weird stuff actually began the night before. Larry was reading a free student copy of the NY Times we had picked up in Ithaca, when Bill heard a scream from his adjoining motel room. Turns out there was an article about a Brazilian dance that is captivating New Yorkers. But what caught Larry’s attention was the huge color photo above the story showing Manhattanites gyrating in….the Café Wha! Of course that was one of the first (then) folk clubs that Dylan performed in when he came to Greenwich Village in 1961. Where we pursuing this guy, or was he pursuing us?
After the museum visit, as we were trucking down the Buckeye Pike, things got a touch weirder. Bill decided to Google the speech Bruce Springsteen gave on the occasion of Dylan’s induction. There is a video available on the web, but not the print version Bill was hoping for. Still, Google offered up a link to an article that was quite strange. It turns out that Bob Dylan had been detained by the police in 2009. His never-ending tour had arrived to play a date in Long Branch, New Jersey. Before the concert Dylan had gone out for a walk in a heavy rainstorm, and concerned residents of the neighborhood called the police about a suspicious, hooded elderly man prowling the streets. Dylan was picked up but eventually managed to convince disbelieving police he was who he fantastically claimed to be. The article speculates that Dylan was trying to find the little house blocked away where Springsteen wrote his “Born to Run” album. What supports this speculation is that some time previously Dylan showed up at Neil Young’s boyhood Canadian home, asking the startled current owner if he could look around. He also asked questions like: “Do you think think Neil would be looking out of that window when he was playing the guitar?” Moreover, Dylan was noticed taking a public tour of John Lennon’s childhood home. All this raised the question: had Dylan gone on trips to pursue the truth about these artists in the same way we were pursuing the truth about him? This was about the only curve we had to negotiate on the relentless straightaway of the Ohio Turnpike.
The rest of the trip had us returning to our favorite conversation: the source of Dylan’s genius. As soon as we thought we had grabbed the answer, we opened our hands to find nothing there. There was some disagreement between the human cargo, but perhaps there was even some confusion about the nature of the disagreement. We listened to more early Dylan, and returned to some historical accounts of Dylan’s youth. This line of inquiry will be continued tomorrow.
Somewhere in Indiana, lightning bolts flashed and the heavens opened up. The window wipers couldn’t keep up. We were forced to seek “shelter from the storm” on the side of the road twice. A Hard Rain Did Fall, and not only after we had listened to the song.
We arrived in Chicago around 6:30 pm. Tomorrow: Madison, Wisconsin, where Bobby Zimmerman spent some time after leaving college.
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