Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Great American Poet
Driving in my dad's purple pick-up truck, I was always a little embarrassed by the color, but he never was. Circa 2005, my dad pops in a Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits album. Song by song, from "Times They Are-a Changing" to "Like a Rolling Stone" my dad's nostalgic, listening to this album to and describing the poetic genius and lyrical expertise of Bob Dylan's work in real time. And there he was 17 years young, but in his late 40's, telling his two best friends, disguised as his pre-teen daughters, which lines were his favorite and what he was doing the first time he heard his favorite tracks. I was 13, hungry for destruction, over-dosed on angst, and trying really hard to keep my "I don't give a fuck attitude" consistent. I didn’t want to listen, let alone understand. But at 13 you don't really know what anything means yet. But there was a line "when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose," and it came stampeding out of the stereo, merciless, drilling itself deep into my head, or maybe it was my heart, I'm not really sure. And like I said, I was 13, so I didn't really know what it meant then but I knew it meant something. It was my dad’s favorite lyric. He talked about it for what seemed like seconds and for what seemed like hours. Caught somewhere in between despise and absolute admiration for the voice of explanation, I could see through the haze of what the last 3 years had been. For the first time since the truth I could see this lesser-than-a-man with clarity again. I knew who he had been, was someone I would have really grown to like. Sight and sound in perfect alliance at this moment. What had 3 minutes earlier been “old people’s weird folk music” was a glimpse into the past as well as the present and the only bridge between the gap of daughter and father, shaky as it was, I was willing to cross. For the whole of the 60 minutes that the album lasted, that the motor turned, that the word "timeless" finally had a definition, I sat suspended above the rushing waters under the bridge and I wasn’t scared. The wind swayed the ropes at both ends of the viaduct and we smiled at each other from just off center, it was effortless. I couldn’t help wishing that the moment would last forever and that music wouldn’t be the only connection we’d ever have again, but we just aren’t as powerful as people. Eventually the hurt, and the memories, and the regret would sever the ties and the water would rise, first soaking our feet, then drenching our clothes and filling our lungs, and the hopes that everything would be alright would die in silence and any second now the music would stop. I’d hoped for one more song so I could finally say the unsaid, but I had to face it, I was no Dylan, no Great American Poet and no arrangement of words could suffice what had occurred and no strength of will would make that moment last forever. I knew it would end, the same way car rides end, the same way songs end, the same way albums end, the same way lives end. Even our smiles end at the corners of our mouths. I knew I couldn’t in front of him, but I wanted to cry. I wanted to run backwards in hopes that I’d make it to the past so we could fix what had already been done. I hear the click of the stereo starting the CD over. I hear my head click back to reality. I hear the click of the transmission back to park. We’re here, or should I say we’re back. I, in a million years, never would have thought that getting picked up from school that day would change my life forever. I had no idea that 7 years later I’d be 20 years old, living in L.A., studying music, sitting at my computer, fatherless, I'd stumble across some Dylan songs, unexpectedly. Remembering that moment that changed my life what feels like centuries ago. Remembering the most special moment I’ve ever shared with my dad and knowing it would remain the most special moment until my own ending. And even though I'm older now, and I understand poetry at greater lengths and I can analyze harmonic structure, and the form of what I’m listening to all I really hear is that voice again, describing the indescribable. And I sit on that swaying bridge and the water is moving rapidly below me. I am alone and I know it but I start telling him everything I’d wanted to say in that purple pickup truck a couple years ago, but this time I’m not scared and I know I’ve got nothing so I’ve got nothing to lose.