My wife, being only half my age, sometimes asks me why I was born so soon.  “Why didn’t you wait for me?” she asks. “Because I wanted to see Bob Dylan, “I reply.  “I wanted to live in the same time as he. I wanted to be ten years younger so I could look to him and see where I was headed in the coming years.”  In 1966, my stepmother bet me five dollars that I would have forgotten all about Dylan in five years.  I have never bothered to call her on the bet, happy enough that my life has been enhanced by his work.  He has set a standard for all of us who pick up a guitar and write a song, a standard we rarely meet, although it is surprising how much work has been done in the field that is the equivalent, and sometimes even superior, to his.

I don’t think Bob Dylan is intrinsically better than the rest, but he is the one who opened the vaults. He brought the music of the ages and the music of the spheres to us, tuning is all into that music that had always been in the air but was obscured by the trivial junk that filled our lives and television screens.  Before Dylan, songwriters were clever and wrote a lot of sweet serenades, but they were cut off from their roots in Elizabethan ballads and Afro-European blues. Before Dylan we had Paul Anka, Bobby Vinton, Gene Pitney, and Fabian.  After Dylan there was the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, and many ore songwriters worth listening too.

But I didn’t come only for Dylan.  I came for James Jones, Norman Mailer, Susan Sontag, Sam Peckinpah,  Lenny Bruce, Henry Miller, John Cassavetes, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Marlon Brando, and Richard Burton.  I came to the country at the time when it was brimming with intellectual and artistic fervor. Every time you turned around, there was somebody worth listening too.  Even Nixon, when he was Vice-President to Eisenhower, set forth a transparent and articulate elaboration of the Cuban situation on the Jack Paar show. John Lennon sang “Woman is the Nigger of the World” on Dick Cavett, and Neil Young sang The Needle and the Damage Done” on the Johnny Cash show.  Even assholes like William F. Buckley were thoughtful and well-spoken when it came to expressing their views.

This was the American Experience I came to experience.  These people made me want to be a writer.  It took decades for me to get any good at it, and by the time I learned to write, Americans had forgotten how to read.  Today, there are no thinkers to help the young understand what is going on in the world. There is just a mass community of tweeters.  On person will write a word such as “Pink” as their Facebook status, and a hundred or so friends will respond with inane phrases they somehow find related to the stimulus word. And God protect the dissident who dares write a phase in conflict with the color pink. He will be de-friended and ostracized in an instant. 

Someone asked me recently if I missed Seattle.  The only think I could think up in response was that the Seattle I missed no longer existed.  And I could go on to say that the country I had so much fun growing up in no longer exists.  So I decided to conclude my American Experience and look for something better elsewhere. But there are still a few things that make America great, and principal among them is Bob Dylan. Others are a lot of people you have never heard of.  In Charlotte, North Carolina there is a magnificent artist by the name of Alex Clark. On Whidbey Island in Washington State, there is an outstanding violinist named Talia Toni Marcus.  Another violinist of celestial note is Anna Presler, who leads California’s Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. Seattle is home to so many obscure musicians who shoot light sparks with every breath that you could walk around inspired every night if you happened to stumble into the right hole in the wall.  There are a lot of non-talented nincompoops who fight their way into careers, pushing out those reticent souls who deserve to make a living spreading the glory of their creations. But it is the weeds of a dumb and wicked society that are growing and choking the things of beauty that once thrived on those lands. Kel read that horrible piece of trash that is the top best seller there and she thought it was like a Mexican soap opera laced with pornography, 

America doesn’t cherish her poets.  That is why there are so few of them remaining.  Seattle’s David Horowitz is one of those who should have developed into a major figures, but he had to spend half of his life in a work cubicle so he never quite broke through to who he was destined to become but was stunted by America ill-will towards seekers of truth and all others who don’t think a shit sandwich is all that tasty. America needs a renaissance, It needs some nerdy egghead from a nowhere town to stumble across a Bob Dylan album and believe that he, too, could aspire so something beyond the cage into which he was born. There is still a glory land out there somewhere.  But to get there, you first have to pay off the debts of your forefathers. You can’t just be a Michael Corleone, a nice guy who turns into a killer because it’s the only way to successfully run the family business.

Someone said the blood of the land is in Dylan’s voice.  It is going to take more than that to raise another Dylan from these comic-book streets.  The blood of the generations of dispossessed needs to be in your voice, the blood of the lamb and the blood of the martyrs.  Or we can just forget about this blood shit altogether and open ourselves to the spirits of our ancestors and maybe they will show us how to live, how to make amends, how to turn away from the course of destruction and embrace a future America that does not strive to be the military center of the universe, but a country that uses humanity, love, and art to earn its position within an emerging world where all are equal, and nobody is left to die on the road.