I’m sitting in the sleazy grimy Greyhound station waiting for the bus to New York, and I’m thinking: it was “My Fair Lady” that screwed up Todd’s mind. That was the turning point; before he played Henry Higgins he was a straight kid who never cut classes or smoked weed or mouthed off to teachers. All the applause he got made him dizzy, and instead of going to music college like he planned to he decided to be a rock star. He went to New York City, just threw himself into the middle of everything to see where he’d end up. Which I thought was amazingly great. I just never thought it would be Todd, of all my friends, to go and really do this.
Now he’s in a band and they’re supposed to play their first gig tomorrow night, and the bassist is sick and can’t make it. Which is why Todd called me, and which is why I’m heading for New York. I wish I had time to get myself in the right mental state, to get rid of the weird nervous feeling in my stomach. I always thought Todd was half-nerd and that I was his guide when it came to anything cool, but now he’s in the city playing in a band and I’m a college student writing papers on Plato and Aristotle, which makes me think maybe I lost it and Todd is cooler than I am. A scary feeling. I catch my reflection in a bagel stand’s clear plastic shield: I’ve got neat moussed hair, no dirt under my fingernails … I’m a fucking Connecticut wet dream. I try to mess my hair up with my fingers but the gel I used this morning refuses to give up control and now I just look like an idiot. An old lady is looking at me. I curl my lip and stare her down. I decide I need cigarettes. I don’t smoke, but I’m desperate to change my image. I buy a pack of Marlboros and light one up. It tastes good. I stub it out on the back of the seat in front of me, watching the antiseptic sea green molded plastic congeal into burnt black bubbles.
I step off the bus in New York City with the best bad-ass expression I can come up with on my face, and catch the subway to Atlantic and Flatbush in Brooklyn. I walk six blocks to the apartment where Todd is staying and he buzzes me upstairs. I step up to his door and he swings it open and doesn’t even say hello; instead he leaps at me and whirls me inside and drops me on a couch. “Thank fucking god you’re here,” he says. He starts trying to force a large black Fender bass guitar under my armpits.
“Todd!” I yell. “Calm down! Say hello for fuck’s sake! Offer me a drink or something!”
“Oh,” he says. “Yeah, hello. Shit, I’m hyper.”
I kick my sneakers off. “Aren’t you gonna ask me how my trip was?”
“Yeah, yeah. How was your trip?”
“It sucked.” Todd doesn’t hear my answer, and I allow him to strap the black bass around me and plug it into the amp. He manages to do this despite the fact that his own guitar is hanging from his shoulders by a strap. He checks his tuning and looks at me pleadingly. “Todd,” I say. “You don’t wanna play some music or anything, do you?”
“Shit, man,” he says. “I’m dying. I’m so nervous. This fucking thing with Spencer getting sick has me so damn mad. You know, I was nervous enough already. And the fucking dickhead isn’t even sick. He’s got the fucking sniffles. Man, I’ve been a lot sicker than he is without it slowing me down … I can’t believe he did this to us the day before our first gig.”
“Okay,” I say. “But just calm down. Look at you. I can’t learn songs with you hyper like this.”
Todd takes a deep breath. “Okay. Okay. Sorry.”
“Anyway, maybe Spencer’s just chickening out,” I said. “Maybe he’s afraid to go onstage.”
Todd gives me a long, significant look. “Maybe,” he says. “I’ve been thinking the same damn thing.”
Todd’s had a lot of trouble finding good people to play with. For his first six months in New York he was bummed out playing lead guitar in a Pink Floyd copy band called Eclipse. He wrote me letters about the drummer who couldn’t figure out the beat on “Money,” who kept pacing the room babbling about 13/8 and 26/15 time signatures as if his crummy drumming was a mathematical puzzle he could solve in his mind. Finally Todd dumped this crew and hooked up with a decent drummer named Ragusa. Together they found Spencer the bassist, and this completed their band.
I check the tuning on the bass and play the beginning notes of “Dazed and Confused.” I don’t play rock bass at all; the only reason Todd thinks I’m a bassist is that I used to play classical bass, and I wasn’t even good at that. I played classical bass because I was told to in third grade. One day Mrs. Pearsall stuck her hands under my armpits, lifted me up and placed me on a wooden platform in front of a six-foot-tall instrument. She instructed me how to put my arms around the instrument and caress its wide womanly waist, even broader than my mother’s or Mrs. Pearsall’s, and she held her hand over mine to show me how to stroke a horsehair bow across the glittering thick steel strings. I did everything Mrs. Pearsall told me to do and she made a big fuss over me and said I could play Carnegie Hall someday if I worked hard enough at it. I held the first seat in the junior orchestra during seventh, eighth and ninth grades, and Todd was first violin. After ninth grade we joined the senior orchestra, but now instead of nice Mrs. Pearsall we had mean Mr. Minkof. He was a skinny angry guy with greasy black hair falling over his forehead who had a Ph.D. from the Harvard Music Department and was furious that he hadn’t become a famous performer. He hated me because I was one of the crowd that smoked pot in the fields by the bike stands between classes. I came into his class late one day with a pretzel in my hand and a goofy smile on my face. Mr. Minkof went insane and descended on me like a “Fliedermaus” and smacked me on my cheek and sent me sprawling onto the floor on my ass. It totally shocked me and I sat there with my cheek stinging and my arms and legs spread out on the floor, and I started to scream “You asshole!” but I was so stunned my words came out in a choked sob, and the story went around that day that I was crying. Mr. Minkof got in trouble for hitting me, but I still hated him so much I never took a music class again.
Todd is still standing over me waiting to rehearse. “Todd,” I say. “There’s something I’ve always wanted to ask you. You liked Mr. Minkof, didn’t you?”
“What?” he says. “Why are you talking about Mr. Minkof? We gotta get going here. Can I start the tape?”
“This is a serious question,” I say, intending to drag this out as much as possible. I love watching Todd get frustrated. “If I’m going to play music with you it’s important that we demolish any barriers that stand between us and prevent us from truly rocking out. This has been buggin’ me since tenth grade. Did you really like him or were you just kissing his ass all that time? You liked him, didn’t you? Just admit it.”
Todd flaps his arms in desperation, willing to give me any answer I want but not knowing what answer I want. “I liked him,” he says.
“You fucking slimeball bastard,” I say. “I knew it! You traitor! How could you like him? Why?”
“He believed in music,” Todd says with finality. “Now. I’m starting the tape. The bass is already in perfect tune. I tuned it while I was waiting for you. First song’s in D.”
“You don’t have to tell me what key it’s in,” I say. The tape starts. The first song is a fast Primus kind of thing, cheaply recorded with a single mike. Todd watches as I start plucking at notes until I find the bassline. It’s a simple progression, D to E minor for the verse and a chorus of D, G and A.
I feel better once I realize I know how to play, and after the first song Todd breathes a sigh of relief. “So how the fuck is college going, anyway?” he asks me.
“About the same,” I say. “It’s college.”
“Why don’t you blow it off and be our new bassist? We need somebody who isn’t a dickhead like Spencer. You’re a dickhead too but we’ll take you anyway.”
“Todd,” I say. “I don’t know how to play bass.”
“Yes you do,” he says. He starts up the second song, which has an even easier bassline. This one is called “Quiet Mystery,” and I start to pay attention to the words Todd is singing on the tape.
A network of secrets that you spin like a web
I stand at your ocean but the tide does ever ebb
I want you here beside me but you’re way too far to see
I gaze through a haze at your quiet mystery.
“Shit, Todd,” I say. “You wrote this stuff?”
“Yeah,” he says, embarrassed.
I smile and shake my head. “You think things like this? Man, you’re fucked up. You better get some professional help.”
He shrugs. “I don’t even know what I’m writing, I don’t know what it means. I think I should see a shrink myself when I read some of the shit I write.” He plops down in front of me what looks like a white $2.49 nylon-covered photo album from Woolworth’s. I open it and see page after page of handwritten lyrics under clear plastic photo sheets. Some are illustrated with crayon sketches or magazine photo collages. I see a section labeled “Fuck You Poems” illustrated with a bleeding black heart and a color yearbook photo of Todd in his nerd mode, clean V-neck sweater over a nylon shirt, hair neatly combed, in the middle of the heart. The first poem begins “Fuck you mom, fuck you dad,” and Todd stutteringly tries to turn the page, pretending he wants me to see something he wrote on a different page, I guess because he realizes that I know his Mom and Dad, who are actually fairly cool people.
There’s a knock on the door and it’s Ragusa, the drummer. Ragusa has bleached blond hair cut so short that at first I think he’s bald. He sits and stares at me like he doesn’t like me. I think of a joke I once heard: what do you call a guy who likes to hang out with musicians? A drummer. Todd starts the tape for the third song, and while I work out the bass line Ragusa takes two plastic Chinese Restaurant chopsticks from his jacket pocket and starts to play a beat on the coffee table.
We get through both sides of the tape and smoke a joint. Todd turns off the tape player and we start to jam for a while. Ragusa tip-taps away with his chopsticks on the coffee table and performs cymbal crashes on the lamp. When we hear the lock turn in the front door Todd jumps up. “Shit! I forgot to tell you, I don’t live here. I’m sponging off my brother, and the other two people who live here are kind of pissed off about it. We gotta get out of their way.”
“Who are the other two people?” I ask.
He listens to the heavy footsteps as somebody opens the door and steps inside. “That sounds like Wayne,” he says. “He’s just some guy, a lawyer or something, I don’t really know much about him. I don’t think he likes me.” We gather our guitars and picks and patch cords and poetry books into our arms and get it all into Todd’s brother’s bedroom and slam the door behind us just as we hear footsteps enter the living room.
“Who’s the other person who lives here?” I ask.
“This girl Tara. She does modern dance or something. She doesn’t really talk to me either. I just try to stay out of their way.”
“How did your brother meet them?”
“An ad in the Village Voice.”
“Wow,” I say. “Just like ‘The Real World,’ except MTV isn’t filming it.”
Todd sneaks into the kitchen and returns with a two-foot-high plastic bag of potato chips and three bottles of Miller Beer. We go over some more songs until Ragusa goes home. At ten- thirty Todd’s brother Paul arrives from work. Paul works as a computer programmer for a Wall Street bank, and he peels his suit off as he walks into the room. He is tall and thin and more serious looking than Todd, with a trimmed beard and red weary eyes from staring at computer screens all day. I see that he and Todd have a thing worked out that Todd doesn’t speak to Paul until Paul has finished changing into a t-shirt and gym shorts and calling his girlfriend. “Paul hates his job,” Todd whispers to me as Paul mutters into the phone across the room.
“Why doesn’t he quit?” I whisper back.
“He makes pretty good money.”
Paul hangs up the phone and asks where I’m going to sleep. Todd shows him how he’s rearranged the blankets on the floor to make room for both of us. Paul shows me the Motorola beeper he’d taken off his belt when he came in. “It might go off in the middle of the night if there’s a systems problem at the bank,” he tells me. “If that happens I’m gonna have to turn the light on and log in from here until I fix it.”
“How often does that happen?” I ask.
“Couple of times a month. Probably won’t happen tonight.”
Todd hands Paul a joint and Paul takes a long hit, exhaling and staring into space with his raccoon-ringed eyes. “I’m beat,” he says. He gestures towards a gigantic record and CD collection spanning an entire wall and asks if I want to pick out an album. I stand up and study his collection. He’s got as many records as a small record store. About half are bootlegs, and I find stuff I never knew existed: U2 in Japan, Neil Young at the Bottom Line, the Beatles at Shea Stadium. “I never knew there was a Beatles at Shea Stadium bootleg,” I say.
“There’s a bootleg of most anything you can think of,” he says. “Especially if you’re willing to spend your entire fucking salary on it like I do.”
He pulls himself up from the bed to show me something in his Bob Dylan section. “See this bootleg?” he says. “This was recorded at the Coffee Grinder. That’s where you’re playing tomorrow night.”
“You’re kidding,” I say. “You mean we’re playing one of those historic old Village clubs? Shit, now I’m even more scared.”
“Ah, don’t worry. The place is a dump. Once Dylan got famous he never played there again.”
I look at the album cover, cheaply printed with a xerox of a skinny young Bob Dylan playing guitar in front of a brick wall. The club date is March 1961. “Can we hear it?” I say.
“Sure.” We listen to the first three songs, but Paul and Todd are both tired and want to sleep. I’m still wide awake, so Todd, his eyes closing, suggests I go into the living room and watch TV.
I step out of the bedroom and see a pretty brown-haired woman sitting in the dark watching “Love Connection” on TV and eating Ben and Jerry’s Fudge Brownie Frozen Yogurt slowly with a spoon.
“Oh,” I say. “Hi.”
She stares at me like she just turned on the kitchen light and I’m a cockroach running across her stove. “Ohh,” she finally drawls, understanding that I’m yet another person there to sponge off Paul.
“I’m Jonathan,” I say. “I’m sitting in with Todd’s band tomorrow.”
“Todd has a band?” she says blandly, and I realize that the bare minimum of communication has not taken place between the people currently living in this apartment.
“Yeah,” I say. “Is it all right if I sit out here?”
“Not really,” she says. “But I don’t want to make you sit out in the hall so I guess I have no choice.”
I sit on the chair farthest away from her and face the TV. The wavy-haired California boy in the middle chair says “When the night began she was tame as a kitten but after two drinks she was wild as a tiger.” Chuck Woolery smirks and the audience goes crazy. Tara licks the matte silver surface of the bottom of her spoon. I think about the gig tomorrow night. The next day we walk to Ragusa’s apartment over a bicycle shop with a greasy window in a rusting black iron frame. We practice for about four hours with our amps turned low so Ragusa’s neighbors don’t complain. I know the ten songs we’re going to play by now, but I have no idea how we’re going to sound at performance volume. We cook spaghetti for dinner and carry our instruments outside. Ragusa spends about five minutes removing the bolts and chains wrapped around the steering wheel of his broken-down yellow ‘82 Mustang. “You’re telling me somebody would steal this thing?” I ask Todd in a whisper. Todd nods.
Ragusa drives us over the Brooklyn Bridge while Todd passes around a joint. I take a long hit and suddenly see that we have entered a National Geographic article about life in Beijing. I see red awnings with painted white chinese characters, yellow and blue paper dragons flapping in the wind, a red and orange pagoda over a two-story McDonald’s cramped between a vegetable stand and a jewelry store with glittering tiny mirrors pasted like a mosaic into ‘DIAMONDS AND GOLD BOUGHT AND SOLD.’ The air smells like fish. “Did you hear about this new fucking crime wave in Chinatown?” Ragusa says. “I probably shouldn’t even drive through here anymore.”
“Yeah, man,” Todd says. “Fucking Chinese crime gangs, I hear even the Mafia’s scared of them.”
“I got stuck behind a Chinese gang funeral the other day,” Ragusa says. “Fuck, man, there were like fifty guys in identical black suits with red carnations just walking behind this old black limousine! It was like something from The Godfather!”
It occurs to me that they are babbling because they’re nervous. Todd is snapping his little rectangular armrest ashtray open and closed. “Will you fucking cut that out?” Ragusa yells. I look out the window and think: I want to be a Chinese gangster. I want to walk behind a black limousine with a red carnation on my lapel. I want to sit at the back of a restaurant eating a plate of Pork Lo Mein with a shiny silver gun on my lap.
We cross some invisible line that divides Chinatown from Soho, and I forget about being a Chinese gangster and think about being an abstract artist. We reach the intersection of Bleecker and Bowery and I see the decaying silver awning of CBGB’s. “Bow before the temple,” Ragusa says as we drive past. “One month from now, I want us playing there.”
“He always takes the long way so we can drive past CB’s,” Todd tells me. Ragusa runs a red light by mistake and a flannel- shirted baseball-capped guy bangs our car with his fist. We find a tiny parking space near the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal, and go back and forth for five minutes while Ragusa squeezes us in.
The Coffee Grinder turns out to be a cramped little cellar with craggy red brick walls and black wood tables thickly shellacked to an unnatural shine. Jared Kaplan, the big droopy-eyed, black- bearded old man with tattoos on his biceps who owns the Coffee Grinder, tells us to put our instruments in the back room. We carry them back to a dark cement chamber filled with mops and pails and waterlogged cardboard cartons of plastic-wrapped packages of cocktail napkins. “There’s gonna be fucking roaches climbing all over my drum set, I know it,” Ragusa says.
There’s a tight passageway between the back room and the bar, and on the way back we have to stand against the wall to make room for the guys in the band who’ll be playing before us. We don’t say hello as they squeeze by. We find a table near the front of the bar and order beers. “Look at this shithole,” Todd says. “Look at these bricks.”
“Looks like somebody’s fucking uncle built this place on his day off,” Ragusa says. The bricks are laid at uneven angles with glops of cement between them. Todd pulls a crumbly ball of dried cement from between two bricks. I do the same, examining the round little moon-rock before I crush it into gray powder between my fingers. We start flicking the little balls at each other until Jared Kaplan saunters up to us. “Hey, stop taking apart my goddamn walls.”
After he walks away, Todd says, “Doesn’t Jared Kaplan look like his name should be Snake or something?”
“Yeah,” Ragusa says. “He looks like he’s about to fucking murder someone.” We all stare at Kaplan, who stands with arms folded behind the bar, his big meaty biceps bulging from beneath his black t-shirt.
“Remember the biker named Snake in the Partridge Family?” Todd says. “Remember when he fell in love with Laurie Partridge?”
“No,” Ragusa says.
“The guy who was Meathead played Snake,” Todd says.
“The guy who was Meathead,” Ragusa repeats. “Who the fuck is the guy who was Meathead?”
“Meathead,” Todd says. “You know. Meathead.”
The first band is on stage tuning up. It’s a five-man band with keyboards and two guitars. I wish I was playing in a five-man band tonight. It’d be so much easier to hide. I listen as this band starts their first song, and I’m relieved that they sound fairly wimpy. Jared Kaplan walks over to us and asks us what we think. “They suck,” Ragusa tells him.
“Yeah,” Todd says. “They kind of remind me of a bunch of musicians with no talent who don’t have anything to say.”
Jared Kaplan nods as if considering this deeply. It occurs to me that he’ll later ask this band what they think of us. I yell “‘Scuse me!” to him over the noise. He squints at me and comes over.
I say, “How long have you owned this place?”
“Always,” he grunts. “Opened it in 1959.”
“Is it true Bob Dylan used to play here?”
“Sure it’s true. They all played here. Peter Paul and Mary, Judy Collins, Sonny and Cher.”
“Did you meet Dylan?”
“Did I meet him? Yeah, I met everybody. I was the guy who paid them their money, they all made damn sure they met me. Bob Dylan, he looked like a little hillbilly kid who needed a bath. Judy Collins, now there was a beautiful lady.”
I want to ask him something else but he’s still talking. “Hey, Bill Cosby used to come here all the time. And whats-her-name played here, Melody. You know … ‘I got a brand new roller skate, you got my key.’ Johnny Cash used to play here too.” He points to a photo hanging over the ancient cash register behind the dark wood bar. I squint to see it and he walks away so quickly I think I did something to make him mad. He yanks the framed photo off the wall and brings it back to me. I see a younger thinner Jared Kaplan, beardless and bespectacled, with his arm around Johnny Cash, both of them smiling broadly for the camera.
After an hour the first band leaves the stage to disinterested polite applause. About forty people are sitting around drinking beer and talking, and maybe ten more are playing darts or pinball. Ragusa climbs onto the stage and starts setting up his drum kit. Todd and I take our time finishing our beers because we have less setting up to do. “Nervous?” I ask Todd.
“Yeah,” he says. “What about you?”
“Nah,” I lie.
“Hey,” he says. “Even if we fuck up, at least I’ll have gotten the first one over with. That’s the only reason I’m doing this. Next time won’t be as bad.”
We step up on stage and I plug in my bass and stare into the crowd, trying to remember that I’m a Chinese gangster, that I smoke cigarettes in bus stations. I take a long slug of my Molson Golden but my hand is shaking and the beer spills down my neck and under the collar of my blue and white striped t-shirt. Now my hands are wet and I’m afraid I’ll be electrocuted if I touch my bass, and Todd is plucking his low E string and waiting for me to pluck mine so we can tune up. I dry my hands quickly on my jeans and do it, trying not to get Todd more upset. We tune quickly, and Todd tapes a copy of the song list to the floor in front of me. It says:
Do You Want
What You Said
I tell Todd that I always wanted to have somebody tape a song list to the floor in front of me. He smiles and we look back and Ragusa nods: he’s ready. “First one’s in A,” Todd reminds me, although I know this. Ragusa taps his sticks together to signal 1-2-3-4 and we dig in and a strange rush comes over me as soon as I realize we’re making music. Maybe it’s because I’m stoned but the moment I hear the noise we’re making come blasting out from the amps behind us I feel a great surge of pleasure course through my body. “Fuck!” I say out loud. Todd is playing a grungy lawn-mower-engine rhythm and I’m just booming on the A, hammering from G to start every measure Dee Dee Ramone-style, and it sounds great. I look at Todd and he’s leaning into the microphone getting ready to sing and then he bursts out with his screechy vocal, and I look at him and think: this is not the Todd I used to know. Digging at his guitar strings like he’s scratching an itch, singing at some pretty girl’s face in the middle of the bar, he is doing this for real and the Todd I used to know has been put away somewhere for holidays and family occasions. Ragusa and I are right on the beat, and I feel so good I start playing improvising on the scale just for the fuck of it, and it makes the song sound even sturdier. Todd howls into the mike. I look back and see Ragusa grinning as he bangs away; he’s having a good time.
The song ends on a cymbal-crash A-chord and a long pained wail into the microphone from Todd, and we pause for one second, holding the tension, until Todd yells to me “F-sharp!” and we blast right into the next song. I look into the crowd and nobody hates us, even if nobody seems very interested either. Todd’s brother Paul is sitting with his girlfriend at a table in the back, and he sees me looking at him and toasts me with his beer mug. Nobody is dancing, but a couple of people are bobbing their heads up and down a little. Todd yells “Get up and dance!” between the third and fourth song, but nobody does. We go through the whole set so fast it seems like five minutes to me. When it’s over my ears are ringing and I feel dizzy, and I think Todd is confused that it ended so quickly too, because he gives me a quizzical look and I shrug to show him I know what he’s feeling. I flick my amp off and unplug my bass and take a long dramatic swig from my beer bottle, which is now disgustingly warm from sitting on the hot surface of my amp through the set. We look up hopefully when we hear someone yell “Encore!” from the crowd, but it’s just Paul at the back table, happily waving his glass mug in the air.
“Were we good?” Todd asks me as we hop off the stage.
“Yeah,” I say. “I think we were good.”
We help Ragusa carry his drum set to the back room. “We rocked, man,” he says. “Hee hee!” He slaps me hard on the back. “You’re joining the band. You blow Spencer away.”
“Thanks,” I say.
“Nah, he’s too much of a wimp to join us,” Todd tells Ragusa. “He’s gotta go back to fucking college.” We’re in the back room now and it’s all over; we’re back to our regular selves. The next band is already up on stage setting up their stuff.
We pass Jared Kaplan on the way back into the bar. “What’d you think?” Todd asks him.
Jared Kaplan looks at Todd for a moment as if surprised by the question. He shrugs. “Good sized crowd.”
It’s three in the morning and the last band of the night is finished. Todd plops a Molson down in front of me and we sit with our feet up on the chairs around us. The guys on stage click their humming amps off, and a pleasurable soothing silence fills the room. The place is empty except for us and three or four stragglers. Todd’s brother Paul is with us, though his girlfriend has gone home. “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf starts playing on the jukebox, and I hear it through cottony deafened ears. Jared Kaplan sits yawning on a stool by the front door.
Ragusa is falling asleep and wants to leave. About five beers ago he announced there was no way he was driving home in his condition, so we’re going to leave the car on Bleecker, hope it doesn’t get stolen, and take a cab home with our instruments. “Can we go?” Ragusa says.
“Let us just finish our beers,” Todd says.
“Let us diminish our gears,” Paul rhymes, drunkenly and sleepily.
I drink again even though I have drunk too much. I guzzle the watery brown liquid feeling like my belly is a tank of gasoline and I’m standing at the pump topping it off to get to an even twenty dollars. The alcohol no longer brings a tingling warmth; I am fully beer-soaked and can saturate no more. I stare at the dark shimmering wood surface of the table. “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett begins playing on the jukebox.
Paul is nudging me. “Hey,” he says. “Want to try something? First take a last hit of this.” He is handing me his small brass pipe. He holds his lighter to the bowl and I take a hit. “Okay,” he says. “Close your eyes. This is what I always do when I’m here.”
I close my eyes. “Okay,” Paul says. “Now open them and look at the stage. Don’t look at anything else, just look at the stage. Then imagine that the room becomes totally silent and starts filling with a strange, weird fog, and then a single blue spotlight cuts through the fog and points at the middle of the stage. And there’s this young guy standing there, he looks like somebody’s teenage kid, he’s wearing a sloppy corduroy jacket and’s got frizzy messy hair and a big nose and you wonder what the hell a kid like that is doing up on stage. Are you with me?”
“Then he starts to play, and the whole room gets quiet, and then he starts to sing and you realize he’s singing the most amazing words anybody has ever heard sung. And this kid is standing there with the light shining on him and everybody’s listening in total silence … Ah! Listen to him! It’s Dylan! Can you hear him?”
I stare at the stage. Paul and I are both staring like we see a vision there. If anybody was looking at us they would think we were crazy. “I hear him,” I tell Paul.
Soon we’re out on the street waiting for a cab. The night air feels as fresh and cool and clean as a bowl of vanilla ice cream. A tingly happiness creeps into my legs and arms and fingers and toes. The moonlight shines on the streets and I look up at the darkened windows of the apartments over our heads. Everybody in the Village is asleep. A yellow cab pulls up and we collapse into a pile on the cracked steel-blue leather seats and that’s about the last thing I remember from this long great stoned cool Bleecker Street rock and roll Greenwich Village night.