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Born In Time Out Of Mind

askin’ the cops wherever I go
“have you seen dignity?”
–  Bob Dylan

Thankfully, there are no time tables for musical appreciation.  Somewhere, over the last five years, I became a big Bob Dylan fan. I realize, of course, that I’m not the first to lay mad accolades on the dude. I’d listened to Blonde on Blonde and revisited Highway 61 plenty of times in the past. But something in his last three releases – Modern Times, Together Through Life and the bootleg compilation Tell Tale Signs in between – hit me like a one/two combination and a knock-out punch. The way he comes back repeatedly to his muse, unconsciously rehashing the old in new light, is truly inspired. Reading various reviews on his performances and articles on his life has left me with the distinct impression that most who try to encompass or critique the guy end up far off some undetermined mark. Even the most recent release, Together, contained deceptive appeal for me. I agreed with my buddy Mark (the most ardent Dylan fan I’ve known over the last twenty years) that it fell short when it first came out. And then a few days later it was playing in the background and I had to check myself and first reaction. Even if they’d all been clunkers, the last three, and I’d agreed with those who painted the Brooklyn show I saw last summer with a disappointing shade of brown, it wouldn’t subtract from the sheer, persistent and unwavering output, energy, and wanderlust that the 68 year old performer continues to exude. As someone else close to me noted recently, “clearly, he’s insane.

Which is an appropriately long way of getting around to Dignity. I’m about as well-suited to define it as I am to write about Dylan. But the older I get, the more I realize that it’s an elusive concept. It’s different from Respect, which Aretha Franklin so famously demanded be given to her when she got home. Dignity isn’t something you can demand, take, or even earn. I’d become fearful for a while that time inevitably strips you of it, but even this proved too simplistic an estimation. You can’t be stripped of dignity – not if you ever really had it. I’ve probably been guilty at times of attempting to tap into another’s reserve, and I’m sure that it’s affected whatever small stockpile I had going myself.  Shame can’t touch dignity either, whether it’s self-generated or dished upon you by others. It’s a poor second-cousin; like comparing Mantle to Mays. They may get mentioned in the same books, but at the end of the day it’s a different chapter. This weak attempt to get at it feels slightly undignified itself, so I’ll cease and end obscurely on Bob.

on the rising curve
where the ways of nature will test every nerve
I took you close and got what I deserve
when we were born in time

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