Teen Spirit catches Dylan fever

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Smartmom did not go to the Bob Dylan show in Prospect Park last week. Instead, she was dining on grilled salmon, fresh corn and arugula salad in the backyard of a Sag Harbor summer rental while the world’s greatest songwriter was singing “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.”

It’s not like she didn’t want to be there. When the tickets went on sale in June, she was quick type “Tilden,” the special code that she read about on that enabled her to charge two $85 tickets to her credit card before the rest of the Dylan-loving masses could buy them.

Expensive, yes. But it was Bob Dylan in her own backyard. Who could resist?

Smartmom could tell that Hepcat was dubious about the purchase.

“That’s an awful lot of money,” said Hepcat, ever frugal. “Besides, aren’t we going to be in Sag Harbor that week?”

Well, yeah. But that didn’t matter. They could always Jitney back to the city for the night.

“It’s Dylan, after all,” she said.

“It’s Sag Harbor, after all,” he said.

In the end, Smartmom gave the tickets to Teen Spirit, a huge Dylan fan. In a sense, she was passing on the baton. Just like she’d given him her old acoustic guitar.

“You got tickets? Wow. Of course I want to go,” he yelped when she gave them to him. Clearly, he was expecting a life-changing experience. First, he had to choose whom to take. Then he decided that he was going to bring his guitar to the show.

Afterwards, he wanted to play Dylan one of his songs.

Smartmom and Hepcat did little to disabuse Teen Spirit of this wacky idea. A boy can dream. Besides, he never listens to them anyway.

In some ways, Teen Spirit is just like his mom.

Smartmom and Dylan go back, way back. Not only was he the voice of her generation, but he’s been the soundtrack of her life.

When Smartmom was 11, her parents gave her a vintage leather jacket (from Ridge Furs on Eighth Street) and a Dylan songbook.

Boy, did Smartmom love that aviator jacket. But that songbook was her bible for so many years. She was a budding singer/songwriter, after all. And he was her hero.

Smartmom saw Dylan at Madison Square Garden, in upstate Binghamton, at Madison Square Garden again during his Born Again phase when he sang with those great back-up singers. She saw him with Tom Petty and later with GE Smith in concert with Joni Mitchell.

She even ran into him once on Eighth Avenue in Park Slope across the street from the Montauk Club on June 12, 2000, Teen Spirit’s ninth birthday. The musical legend was wearing a white cowboy hat and walking with a photographer.

“Omigod,” she screamed. “That’s Bob Dylan.”

“Who?” Teen Spirit asked.

Boldly, Smartmom asked Dylan for an autograph. He obliged and signed his name on the back of an American Express billing envelope she had in her bag. Luckily, she didn’t mail it.

That envelope, now framed, sits on the bookshelf in her and Hepcat’s dining room.

A few years ago, Teen Spirit bought Smartmom “The Definitive Bob Dylan Songbook” for her birthday. He dropped hints for days, “You’ll probably start to cry when you open my gift.” And he was right.

So fair is fair. Smartmom has had plenty of Bob Dylan in her life and last week was Teen Spirit’s chance to revel in the legend. He knows that Dylan can barely sing anymore. He knows that you can’t recognize the songs because Dylan changes the tunes; it’s a veritable game of “Name That Tune” when he starts to play.

Still, Teen Spirit was ready for anything (though he was, fortunately, talked out of bringing his guitar by a friend).

In Sag Harbor, Smartmom thought about her son at the show.

But she was there in a way. Through her son’s eyes and ears. Plus, she got to hear about it in the morning.

“He can’t sustain a note,” Teen Spirit said. “He basically just yells the words.”

And that was worth it all.

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
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Reader Feedback

mimi from bed stuy says:
the third person writing approach is so obnoxious.
Aug. 19, 2008, 2:29 pm
TB from PS says:
Did he give the deprived youth of Brooklyn one of his guitars? Certainly he could spare one. You know there's a child in Bushwick or Flatlands that sure could use a pre-CBS Fender or a nice Gibson Les Paul.
Maybe he got one from Mr. Zimmerman of Duluth and wants to trade, no?
Aug. 19, 2008, 10:40 pm
Lilith Beitchman from Park Slope says:
Hey there Louise,
Your neighbor here just got around to checking out your Dylan story. Since I was raised on Dylan and spent many years on the road , mostly through Western Europe--my parents being the ex-pats and all,,,my mom had like 3 cassettes she played in the car-Blonde On Blonde, Blood On The Tracks and a homemade compilation (of scratchy, static ,off the radio from b4 we left America) songs by Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Joan Baez, The Kinks, Janis Joplin, Boz Scaggs and of course MORE Dylan! They were warped and scratched and she knew every syllable and intonation and like a mantra holding on for dear life murmured his phrases to a T for several of my formative years--I hardly knew where Dylan ended and my Mom began. Years later when I was in HS, someone popped these tunes on the box and I began singing along with it and people were amazed at my Dylan 'impersonation' and the fact I knew by heart Sad Eyed Lady, in its entirety--there have been times I am torn up about Dylan, not knowing if it's a brainwash of state of mind impacted by my mom's obsession, like a genetic predisposition for whaling out his electric poetry or my own
exploration and discovery of his profound effect on my life's struggle and euphoria (which I find to be the case--for me it runs the gamit on how intensely Dylan has grounded me, instilled insight, intelligence, help to form my values, my art, my psyche is etched indellibly with Dylan's meth-amphetamine Ginsbergian, messiahnic cult-loving germs)...
I have already begun to cultivate this process with my own children but not to the extent that my mother's obsession did -- my children are obviously not trapped in a car going across desolate roads through Morroco without any other choices of listening tunes.
I have a deeply singular, private experience of Bob Dylan wrapped in childhood memories and later on as I gained ground throughout my adolescence to register the effect on how I saw the world at large, it made me strong and guided me through the whirlwind backroads of my mind-- when I see him in a public venue it fractions out the prism of his profound effect on my life and since i already am deeply satisfied not to have to 'share' him with a throng/mass of other folks that may baulk or wonder at him, as if he is hard to nail down and they can't relate--I enjoy Dylan as illusive as he is and his public appearances shatter the myth and the legend into fragments that dilute my inner soul's pang.
Maybe I just feel lost in the crowd and uncomfortable coming to terms with what might be the destruction of my ideal--as if i might be misunderstood by the celebrity of Dylan's persona--this whole time, practically my whole life has to answer to the man up onstage as a patriarchal figure, as if being my mother's lover-in a strange Oedipal effect, I must evaluate that dynamic..It does become a complex and woeful tale for me to 'go there'. I can hardly enjoy one of his concerts , albeit i am unhinged and forever at his mercy when I hear his voice and lulled by his songs as if from an ancestral calling --fills me up , makes me whole again. I realize who I am and where I come from when I hear Dylan sing.
Nov. 8, 2008, 11:41 am

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