The coast looks clear for a fine afternoon among the garbage. Macdougal Street is almost empty of passers-by. The lights at Bob Dylan‘s house are off, indicating no one is home. Even the New York Sanitation Department is cooperating in its own inimitable way by being late for the daily collection: Trash cans full. Excited with his good luck, Alan Jules Weberman, Dylanologist, reaches into the metal barrel incautiously and pulls out a lump of something wrapped most seriously in a wad of newspaper. Briefly thoughts flash of rare manuscripts, of trinkets from Bob’s trip to Australia, of discarded and badly worn Spanish boots of Spanish leather.
“Dogshit! Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeecch!!!” he screeches with a cry that could wake half of posh Macdougal Gardens. Quickly, he wipes his hands on the side of the garbage can as he curses out Dylan for not housebreaking his mutt, Sacha. “Fuckin’ bitch . . .”
To protect himself against a repetition of the dogshit disaster, Weberman decides to move the entire garbage picking operation to a location where he can work in a careful and scholarly manner . . . and where soap and running water are more readily available. So over the shoulder goes the green plastic bag and A.J. jigs the eight blocks to his home.
In front of Weberman’s place on the Bowery at Bleecker Street, A.J. spreads out his remarkable haul on the sidewalk. It’s the Bowery, so no one really notices. No one except a fellow longhair who passes and thinks there is something odd about a guy wading through a ton of garbage.
“Hey, did you lose something in all that crap?” the guy inquires solicitously.
“Oh, no, no,” stutters A.J. nervously. “This ain’t my garbage. It’s Bob Dylan’s. I just grabbed it from in front of his house.”
“No shit,” the passerby exclaimed ironically. “You went all the way up to Woodstock just to get at Bob Dylan’s garbage?”
“Oh, no. Dylan’s living in New York . . . over on Macdougal Street. I got his garbage from over there.”
The passerby stops for a moment. An idea dawns. There could only be one person in the whole world who would bother to carry Bob Dylan’s garbage all the way from Macdougal Street to the Bowery. “Hey . . . is your name A.J. Weberman? Are you the guy I’m always hearing on the Bob Fass Show on WBAI?”
“Right on,” answers Alan, giving the fellow a tip of his Bob Dylan-style cap.
Aha! So it is. This fellow in the rimless glasses, Army Surplus boots and jacket and frizzed-out hair — looking, in fact, like a seventh carbon copy, 90 pounds heavier, of Bob Dylan circa 1965 — could only be A.J. Weberman, Dylanologist.
Excrementwise, the garbage picking scene was not getting much better — even with the change of venue. As A.J. pored through the trash, all he could discern was a mound of dog crap and a mountain of odoriferous, soiled disposable diapers.
“Fuck,” complained Alan to his old lady, Ann Duncan, a tall, willowy blonde who had come down to the sidewalk to help with the sorting. “What does the cat do with all these Pamper shitcatchers? Buy ’em by the gross?”
“Well,” answers Ann, “you’ve got to understand, the cat did go out and have four kids in five years. I mean, if he can’t even housebreak a dog, what do you think he can do with four infants?”
Beyond the wads of excrement, after a good half-hour of picking, some potentially valuable bits of Dylan memorabilia begin to emerge. Included in the haul is a fund-raising letter from a rather artsy-craftsy Greenwich Village private school attended by one of Bob’s children, a false start to a letter to Johnny and June Cash, shredded remains of various fan letters, Polaroid negatives of Dylan and his brood, and empty granola and cookie mix boxes. Also found in the trashmine is a medical report from a veterinarian on the condition of Sacha, some torn-up drawings of Bob a la the Self-Portrait cover, notes on the out-takes to Self-Portrait, an original poem, and a note from Mama Zimmerman: “Fort Lauderdale is great. Enjoy the candy!” Underneath all this trivia is a pile of rock and music magazines, including Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy.
Weberman lets out a wounded moan upon seeing the discarded Crawdaddy. “Sheeeeeeet! He threw out this issue . . . the one with my article on him in it. You’d think he’d have the decency to collect my stuff the way I collect him.”
A.J. performs this ritual with diligence and love, daily, for nearly a month. But after the first two weeks the pickings begin to get meager. There are still some prizes to be found in the garbage: a torn up drawing of Jimi Hendrix made on the day of his death, some fan letters. But on the whole the quality of Dylan’s garbage has degenerated to diapers and liverwurst wrappers.
Alan is beginning to wonder if Bob is burning his valuable trash in a fireplace — or even if he is taking it over to a friend’s incinerator for more private disposal. One night Weberman has a nightmare: he dreams Dylan has gone out and bought himself a garbage compactor!
* * *
For a man with such an unusual life mission, Alan Jules Weberman’s background is remarkably uninteresting. He is Brooklyn, Jewish, an only child. He considers himself a revolutionary communist. As for his past, the most interesting things about him are that he was perhaps the first Jewish dope dealer arrested in the history of the state of Michigan; at the age of eleven he was president of a fan club for a three-hundred-pound wrestler, Haystack Calhoun; and that his second cousin is the rock critic Richard Goldstein.
But how does the former president of the Haystack Calhoun Fan Club get into Dylanology? Interviews with Alan provide few concise answers. Evidently, the seeds of Dylanology were sown somewhere around 1964-1965, when A.J., out on parole for his dealing bust, was working as an interviewer for the Lawrence Employment Agency in New York. “I hated my job. But I had to play straight to keep out of jail. So at night, I’d come home and dig on Dylan. I liked his music. His songs were political. They’d talk about the things that mattered at the time. You dig me? He was singing about the problems of black people and the poor. Nobody was singing those songs the way Dylan was and he totally turned me on.
“I used to come home from work and listen to his stuff hour after hour after hour. When his fourth record, Another Side of Bob Dylan, came out, all my political friends were up in arms. A lot of them asked me if I thought it was right for Bob to go off on this apolitical riff. I said I thought it was great, that Dylan was trying to reach a wider audience with his message — but that there still was a message there.
“What’s more, there was this riff on the back of the album about ‘door enlargement’ — a blatant reference to LSD. I had taken some acid and dug the fact that Dylan was linking drugs with politics. Besides that, his song, ‘Ballad in Plain D,’ was all about his breakup with Suzie Rotolo, his girlfriend, who was on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. I could identify with that song too ’cause I had just broken up with my girl.”
Dylanology moved from passive admiration of Bob’s message to active appreciation when Bringing It All Back Home came out. At the time, Weberman was living with a super-leftist dude named Dana, and the two of them were very into Dylan. For days on end they’d do nothing but listen to Bringing It All Back Home. Sometimes they’d trip out on acid . . . and then they would get some simply phenomenal insights into Bob Dylan.
One night, during a particularly insightful acid trip, A.J. asked Dana to listen to a particular excerpt. “Hey, dig this,” he called. “‘With time rusted compass blade, Aladdin and his lamp / Sits with Utopian hermit monks, side saddle on the golden calf!’ Dana, I read somewhere that Dylan is down on the left. In this verse, it sure sounds to me like what he’s really doing is putting down the left. The ‘golden calf,’ see, it’s materialism . . . dialectical materialism.”
“Holy shit,” exclaimed Dana, “you’re right! And dig this riff on ‘Maggie’s Farm.’ I think ‘Maggie’s Farm’ is really capitalism. So is ‘Baby Blue!'”
By the time the evening was over, the pair had discovered an entire hidden language inside Bringing It All Back Home.
He found that words that didn’t make any sense to him in their own context would make sense when they appeared over and over again in Bob’s lyrics. The word “rain,” for instance, made little literal sense when Dylan sang, “A hard rain’s gonna fall.” But from later Dylan tunes A.J. was led to conclude that “rain” was really a symbol for violence. By carefully matching up the frequency and context in which Dylan’s symbols appeared, Alan was able to decipher what he was certain was a deliberate code.
“Dylan was trying to get a political message onto AM radio,” Weberman explains. “The only way he could do this was to make his ideas as cryptic as possible. His language had to be something that straights wouldn’t respond to — but that kids would find. I knew that Dylan had put the meanings there for people like me to find. So, I decided to dedicate myself to explaining The Secret Language of Rock to the world.”
Shortly after making his discovery, A.J. quit his job at the Lawrence Agency, dropped out of City College night school and began working full-time on a book that would explain all of Bob Dylan’s hidden messages. Two 500-page volumes were written, neither of which was a hit with publishers. From the ashes of Michigan’s first Jewish dope dealer arose America’s first living Dylanologist.
* * *
To dismiss Weberman as an over-enthusiastic male groupie is to completely misunderstand him. Alan likes to think of himself as a scientist — and indeed few encyclopedists have catalogued their subjects as well as he, nor distilled their raw materials through as many test tubes and retorts. Every word that Dylan ever published has been advertised, analyzed, categorized and finalized by A.J. Weberman’s life, matter of fact, has become so intertwined with Dylan’s that the apartment/loft he lives in has been dubbed ‘The Dylan Archives.”
Hundreds of hours of rare Dylan tapes line the bookshelves at the Archives. Alan’s reel collection is the product of years of studious gathering. He has traded, bought, begged, cheated, lied and stolen to be able to say that he has the best Bob Dylan collection in the whole wide world. Everything is there: Bob putting on Studs Terkel in Chicago, Bob in London, Bob in Minneapolis, Bob singing with Joanie Baez at Forest Hills. Dylan himself probably doesn’t have as complete a treasury.
Then there are pictures, hundreds of them, black and white and color. A complete clipping file of every article ever to appear mentioning Bob Dylan’s name. There are Dylan songsheets, letters from friends of Dylan gossiping about D.’s life, and 2000 xeroxed bootleg copies of Dylan’s suppressed novel, Tarantula. (Peddling Tarantula is the nearest A.J. comes to making a living. He sells them on Greenwich Village street corners for prices ranging from two dollars per copy on down.) And, of course, the Archives include Dylan’s garbage, all neatly filed according to date and contents.
Early in Dylanology, Bob’s poetry was put on file cards in alphabetical order, a cumbersome index to where each Dylan word appeared. Modern Dylanology has kept up with the latest technological breakthroughs, though. Weberman and Ann Duncan recently keypunched every one of Dylan’s words, and with the help of a friendly computer programmer, the Dylan Archives will soon be in possession of the first Dylan concordance. This compendium will consist of every word ever uttered by Mr. D., the frequency of its occurrence, the title of the song or poem, and the context it appears in. When the computerized word concordance is finished, Weberman is convinced he will hold the key to Dylan’s most inner thoughts.
What will Weberman see on that printout? Smack! Dope! Scag! Dogee! A.J. never will say as much in his own articles, but in private he broadcasts the theory that Dylan’s recent music is nothing more than a love song to heroin. “I get my evidence,” he explains, “from Bob’s lyrics. It’s there clear as day. Nobody can tell me any different. I know it!”
Weberman sees dope symbolized everywhere in Dylan’s music. For instance, the word “morning,” according to A.J., means dope. So does “nighttime.” He has even developed an elaborate theory to explain Dylan’s current lifestyle. The theory, known as the Current Bag Theory, or the CB, runs something like this:
Once upon a time Bob Dylan walked the earth, a revolutionary prince with a guitar on his back. He loved poor people, black people and the disinherited. He was a regular John Wesley Harding.
Then came the CB. The CB enslaved our free-spirited hero and turned him into a quiet, fear-filled little man who lives with his family on Macdougal Street afraid of political contact.
Armed with his implacable faith, Alan has decided to make his life’s mission the saving of Bob Dylan from the evils of dope. His ultimate goal: to return Bob to the Mother Church of revolution.
That’s the other part of Dylanology: re-radicalizing Dylan. To this end, Weberman has formed the Dylan Liberation Front, an organization of indeterminate membership whose motto is “Free Bob Dylan from himself.” Phones at the Archives are usually answered: “Dylan Liberation Front, we mean business!” Further, Weberman teaches a course at the hyper-left Alternate University in New York. The subject: Dylanology. And there are various radio appearances and a column in the East Village Other, where broad hints are cast that Dylan is subject to a Current Bag, and that this bag is habit-forming.
“How do you know for sure that Dylan is into heroin?” I asked once while we were listening to part of Weberman’s collection of basement tapes.
“I get it from his music. He tells me about it in his lyrics.”
“Well, is that enough evidence to go spreading that kind of rumor about a person?”
“Well, I was going through his garbage in search of something more concrete . . . like maybe a syringe or something. But I couldn’t find anything at all there. Dylan’s really clever about that. All I found was a prescription for a muscle relaxant which a doctor friend tells me he needs on account of his accident. But still, I’d bet my life that his Current Bag is what I think it is. I’d bet my life on it.”
Notice in the East Village Other: “If anyone has a sample of Bob Dylan’s urine, please send it to me c/o EVO, 20 East 12th Street, New York, New York.”
* * *
Jann Wenner: “There’s a cat named Alan Weberman who writes in the East Village Other. He calls himself the world’s leading Dylanologist. You know him?”
Bob Dylan: “No . . . oh yes, I did. Is this the guy who tears up all my songs? Well, he oughta take a rest. He’s way off. I saw something he wrote about ‘All Along the Watchtower,’ and boy, let me tell you this boy is off. Not only did he create some kind of fantasy — he had Allen Ginsberg in there — he couldn’t even hear the words to the song right. Can you believe that? I mean this fellow couldn’t even hear the words . . . or something. I bet that he’s a hard working fellow, though. I bet he really does a good job if he could find something to do, but it’s too bad it’s just my songs, ’cause I don’t know if there’s enough material in my songs to sustain someone who is really out to do a big job. You understand what I mean?
“I mean a fellow like that would be better off writing about Tolstoy, or Dostoevsky or Freud . . . doing a really big analysis of somebody who has countless volumes of writings. But here’s me, just a few records out. Somebody devoting so much time to those records, when there’s such a wealth of material that hasn’t even been heard or read . . . that escapes me. Does it escape you?
“I understand putting time into it, but I read this, in this East Village Other: I read it . . . and it was clever. And I got a kick out of reading it on some level, but I don’t want to think anybody was taking it too seriously. You follow me?”
Rolling Stone, November 29, 1969
* * *
Ann,” Alan howled on a sweltering Sunday morning last August. “Ann . . . Ann. Today is Sunday!”
Ann Duncan, standing in the middle of the Archives, was working at a painting of Bob Dylan. Ann is an artist and is working on a series called “Great Moments in Rock.” Her first subject is a portrait of Bob, shooting himself into his Current Bag. “Mmnn,” she answered. “. . . I know . . . yeah . . . yesterday was Saturday!”
“It’s Sunday, baby. Sunday! Sunday is one of Dylan’s metaphors for his Current Bag. I think we just ought to head on over to Macdougal Street and see what ole Bob is up to.”
And to Macdougal Street they headed, he dressed in his Sunday Hudson’s Army-Navy Store Dylan outfit, she dressed in an American flag miniskirt and a red pullover.
BRRIIIIINNNGGG!!! BRIIINNGG!!! BRRRRIIIIIIIIIINNNGGGG!!! Smartly, Weberman rang the bell marked “* * * *” “* * * *,” he explained, “is one of Dylan’s pseudonyms. I can’t understand why he picked ‘* * * *’ though. I mean, it doesn’t make sense. It’s not literary or anything. One of these days, I’m going to have to check into that.”
The door moved slightly ajar, revealing a lock-chain and one naked eye staring angrily outside.
“Hey, lemme in. It’s me, Alan J. Weberman. I wanna talk with Dylan.”
The eye disappeared. The door slammed shut. Weberman was left to pound futilely on a wooden door that just wouldn’t give.
“Alan, why don’t we just go away for a while and come back maybe in a half hour,” suggested Ann, after A.J. had frustrated himself with a good 20 minutes of door pounding and bell ringing. “I mean, if we went outside and came back again, maybe they’d think we were somebody else and let us in.”
“Good thinking, Ann.”
A half hour later the pair returned. As luck would have it, Sara Lowndes Dylan had just opened the front vestibule door on her way out. With an energy that would have left a football player impressed, Weberman lunged at the door, tackling it successfully and touching down inside the Dylan home.
“Sorry,” he apologized, tipping his hat to Sara Dylan, “but I gotta see him. I’ve just gotta talk to him about my book.”
Sara Dylan, who by now must really have been tiring of her role as a Bob Dylan watchguard, went on her way.
Inside, Weberman still had other doors to go beyond. He rang the bell of the first door by the staircase. Through the peephole, another eye. “Hey Bob, lemme in. It’s me, it’s A.J. It’s The Landlord.” Weberman was certain at that time that Bob Dylan wrote the song “Dear Landlord” to him. By now Weberman was pounding and kicking every corner of the door that stood between him and his object.
Suddenly, Ann tapped him on the shoulder. “Look up there,” she beckoned.
And there he was, Bob Dylan, standing at the head of the staircase, glaring with fury at the pounding, kicking, screaming Weberman.
“Well, my name is A.J. Weberman and I’m here to talk to you . . .”
“Well, whadaya want, man?”
“Well . . . uh . . . I don’t even know . . . eh . . . where to begin. Just lemme in and I’ll expla . . .”
In a long, deliberate, furious drawl, Bob Dylan answered back: “All business is haaandled through my manager.”
“Hell, I’ve had no luck at all in dealing with Grossman’s office. I’ve been trying to see you for three years and they just throw me out every time I try. I mean, I’ve written a book . . .”
“Ahhll business is handled through mah maan-e-jah!” Dylan turned away, heading back to the cavern from which he had emerged. “And we’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t come around the house anymore.”
“Ok, man. Anything you say, Bob.”
Suddenly Dylan turned back to Weberman: “What was it you wanted to talk to me about?”
“It’s about your poetry,” Alan answered with great humility.
A voice shot back sarcastically. “About mah poetry! Ohhh, how nice!”
And then he was gone.
* * *
Midnight phone call in New York. On the line’s Alan Jules Weberman, America’s most intense student of the life and music of Bob Dylan, and Naomi Salzman, fortyish, private secretary to D.
“Yeesssss?” says Naomi in an adenoidal and slumbersome voice.
“Ohhh, this is Alan Weberman. I got a message that you called.”
Hurriedly waking herself, Naomi informs Weberman that his request to interview Dylan, alas, must be denied. “He asked me to tell you that he’s absolutely not giving interviews to anybody now and therefore it would be kind of sticky to give you one. But what he suggests is that you send him a list of questions and he’ll try to . . .”
“I want to give him a list of demands,” interjects Weberman, rousing Naomi permanently from her sleep.
“Well . . . do whatever you please . . . um . . . ah . . . I just want to ask you something?”
“You want to give him a list of demands?”
Silence. Naomi hesitantly picks up her cue: “All right. Why don’t you just send him the list. I’ll give you the address.”
“Post Office Box –,” chimes in Weberman, beating her to the punch. “I found his address in his garbage . . . Dylan’s garbage.”
“What are you doing going through his garbage?” inquires an incredulous Naomi. “Don’t you have anything else to do with your time?”
“No, no,” he answers defensively, “it’s a really good thing. There’s going to be an article about it in the East Village Other.”
“So you want him to move. You want him to move, eh?”
“That wouldn’t be such a bad idea . . . the way . . . the way he is now. I mean . . . why come back to the culture you helped to rip off? You know?”
“No, I don’t know!”
“Well, you wouldn’t because you work for him — you’re in Dylan’s employ.”
“Ohhhhh, listen, Mr. Weberman. You don’t know everything! You’re not God. And don’t tell me who I am. Maybe you can tell me who you are — or what you think Mr. Dylan is, but don’t tell me who I am.”
Weberman throws the killer punch. “I think Mr. Dylan is a heroin addict!”
“All right, if that’s what you think. That’s your hang-up!”
“It’s not my hang-up,” Weberman retorts ferociously, “it’s there in his poetry. It’s clear as day. Anyone who’s hip to Dylanology — the Dylanological Method . . . the Secret Language of Rock — can observe it. I’m a scientist, you dig! I’ve looked at these things objectively! I don’t want Dylan to be a junkie, but there are all these references to heroin in his poetry. Like ‘saddle me up a big white goose’ — which means cook me up a fix of white heroin. ‘Tie me on’ — which means tie up my arm.”
“You’re telling me,” she spits back at him, “that my employer is a heroin addict and I’m telling you that you’re full of crap! Listen, you don’t want to talk to me, you want to talk to Bob . . . so just send him the list already . . .”
“I’ll send him my list, but it won’t be on paper. It’ll be action!”
* * *
I was really fucking hassled the day I met Dylan. Pigs. Heavy shit. I was goin’ fuckin’ crazy. I made it to the D class that I teach each week at the Alternate U & gave a short rap & then said — “Tonight’s the field trip to D’s pad.” About 50 of us headed down 5th Ave. towards Macdougal St. When we got to 4th St., I pointed out the pad D lived in from ’62-’64 and tried to explain how it related to D’s single “Positively 4th Street” but this drunk wouldn’t let me get in a word edgewise. We continued to march & picked up a couple of street kids along the way (that’s the dangerous part about doing something like this — like I could trust the people in my class but these kids were full of undirected violence). Soon we were all standing in front of D’s.
East Village Other, Jan. 19
* * *
Hey, hey, hey, Bob Dylan — time to give away your million!”
“Free Bob Dylan! Free Bob Dylan!! Free Bob Dylan from himself!!!”
“Hey, hey — Bobby D, the revolution is in need of thee!”
Down they marched. Down Sixth Avenue from their starting base, the Alternate University on Sixth and Fourteenth Street. Down past Eighth Street, where an amazed group of tourists, NYU students, and Greenwich Village junkies stared in disbelief. Down past Fourth Street with a quick stop at the house where Dylan had lived with Suzie Rotolo. Positively Fourth Street . . . Right on to Macdougal Street.
As the group moved north toward Washington Square, a marcher approaches A.J. with an urgent question: “Alan, what does ‘In the empty lot, the ladies play blind man’s bluff’ mean? . . . It’s from ‘Visions of Johanna.'”
“Ummm . . . It means . . . uh . . . it means, in America, the ladies play meaningless games with the nation’s wealth, you dig? There’s so much wealth in America, but people still go hungry because it’s not being distributed right. You dig?”
Weberman looks self-satisfied with his rapid fire interpretation. The kid looks puzzled. “Alan, is that the house up there?” he asks as they near Macdougal Street.
“Yup!” answers Weberman. “Free Bob Dylan, Free Bob Dylan! Free Bob Dylan from himself!”
At the house a delegation parks itself in the vestibule and begins ringing Dylan’s bell mercilessly. Another half of the group stays outside and commences picketing.
“HEY BOB,” screams A.J. “SOME OF YOUR FANS ARE DOWN HERE. WE WANNA TALK WITH YOU!”
From inside, one of Dylan’s babies runs to the window to view the commotion.
“FREE BOB DYLAN, END ROCK RIP-OFF, FREE BOB DYLAN!”
One fledgling Dylanologist climbs up on Dylan’s window. “Hey look! Farrrroutttt! They’ve got furniture inside!”
“Get the fuck down,” screeches A.J., “or I may have to deal with you. It’s illegal, man, to go climbing on people’s windows.”
“FREE BOB DYLAN! ALL POWER TO THE GOOD DYLANOLOGISTS!”
Weberman decides to give his class a lecture-tour of what they are seeing. “This is the door . . . This is the doorbell. This is the house that Bob bought a year and a half ago, when he moved here from Woodstock. He’s lived here in relative anonymity ever since he’s moved here — ever since today! And this is Bob Dylan’s garbage. Perhaps the most interesting part of him since Highway 61 Revisited.”
For a moment, Weberman halts his rummaging act and looks up: “Hey Bob, come out! We wanna talk with you! I need your permission to reprint a few songs for my book.” Then he continues: “See this — it’s a piece of newspaper. Inside is some of Dylan’s dog shit. Dylan is currently housebreaking his dog. And here we have some diapers. Yeeech! Dylan is currently housebreaking his children. But what have we here? A cereal box!”
“Hey, Alan,” whispers Sharon, an active DLFer student in Weberman’s class, “look over there.”
“Don’t bother me,” Weberman screeches. “I’m going through his garbage.”
“But A.J., he’s over there . . . it’s him . . . standing staring at you from across the street!”
* * *
We went outside & decided to go thru D’s garbage with the class & so they formed a circle around me. David Peel (DLF) pointed out that his garbage bags were green, like his money. My “Garbage Article” had already come out so there was nothing of interest to be found but we did the thing anyway.
Then one of the street kids decided he was gonna enter D’s thru a window. I was explaining what we’d do to him if he tried it. (I wasn’t ready for an illegal demo yet) when Sharon (DFL) groupie tendencies comes over and says “There’s someone standing across the street who looks JUST LIKE DYLAN.” “Holy shit,” I thought, “What the fuck am I going to do? D’s caught me redhanded going thru his garbage. He’s gonna be pissed off . . . he may get violent. I may have to beat the shit out of that slimy bootlicker here and now.” I looked up and saw Bob standing directly across the street from me — he was dressed in denim, wearing rimless glasses & it looked like smoke was coming out of his head. I just stood there. David Peel came over and pushed me forward. It was like ‘High Noon.’ “Do not forsake me oh my Dylanology.”
East Village Other, Jan. 19
* * *
And it was him, fuming and red-faced underneath his scruffy beard. He had emerged from the back entrance to his townhouse and had circled around to get a closer look at the maniacal scene going down in front of his place.
“Bob . . . Bob,” A.J. stuttered in awe. “We’ve come to talk to you.”
“And I wanna talk to you,” snarled Dylan as he grabbed Weberman by the collar and dragged him halfway down Macdougal Street. “What’d ya bring these people around to bother my children for, huh?”
“We came to talk to you, Bob. We’ve got some demands to make.”
“Well, if you wanna talk, let’s go around the corner.”
A.J. and Bob walked two blocks along West Houston Street, and then sat down on the stoop of the building in which Dylan has a private recording studio. They talked for nearly an hour, Weberman insisting that he had come to save Dylan’s soul. “There’s injustice in this world. You’ve gotta help the Panthers. You’ve got to use your influence to free John Sinclair. You’ve got to use your millions to help people.”
Dylan smiled quietly. He had been to this movie before.
And Weberman gesticulated on about the Palestinian guerrillas, Self-Portrait being a rip-off, the New York Panther “21” frame-up, the famine in India, and the case of Pun Plamondon in Michigan.
“You know,” said Bob, “a lot of people have been asking me about your theories. They’re going around saying you’re telling people I’m a junkie.”
“Well . . . man . . . are you?”
Then a most incredible scene happened: slowly and deliberately, Bob Dylan removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. “Clean,” he said, pointing to his arm. “No track marks.”
Weberman looked at Dylan’s eyes. They were unpinned and not glassy. A junkie’s eyes wouldn’t be as clear as Bob’s were. Quickly the wheels began to turn in Alan’s mind: Well, his eyes may not be pinned, but that’s because he hasn’t shot up in a few hours. As for not having trackmarks, I bet he’s just doing that to outsmart me. I’ll bet that ever since I’ve been publishing hints about my theories, people have been asking him about dope and he’s taking it through his leg.
Weberman eyed Dylan’s legs. Bob was wearing lace-up boots that he was constantly tying and untying out of nervousness. That tying, A.J. thought to himself; it’s really symbolic of his tying himself up for the needle.
“You’re a junkie,” Weberman whimpered, staring at the naked arm. “You can show me what you want. But it’s there . . . it’s there in your music. You sing the praises of heroin. You can’t convince me any different.”
* * *
D sat down on this stoop a few blocks from his pad and we continued the conversation — “What about your CB, Bobby?” He denied it and did something that makes many people believe he was telling the truth. But not A.J. Like he says — “We’ll fly over the ocean just as they supect” (fly over ocean is a metaphor for D’s CB from other contexts). Later on he told me — “Everyone’s been asking me about your writing.” THE RUMOR. “The man in Dylan would do nearly any task when asked for compensation . . .” just give him his current bag. “From my TOES up to my HEELS.” Dig what I mean.
–East Village Other, Jan. 19
* * *
Dylan is a man who jealously protects his privacy. In an effort to be left alone, he has granted almost no interviews to the press in the past few years. He gets furious when articles appear discussing his private life or any mention of his family. It is said that he once threatened to sell his retreat in Woodstock to real estate speculators if that community didn’t do something to protect him from the legions of curious buses, cars and trucks that regularly stopped near his gate for a glance at Mr. D. And now demonstrations!
A.J. came home weary and elated from the demonstration. He had barely taken his coat off when the phone rang. “Hello Al, this is Bob . . .”
“Shit,” thought A.J. to himself as he fumbled with various pieces of electric equipment, “my phone recorder isn’t working. Dylan calls me and I can’t even get this on tape.”
So Alan and Bob talked — unrecorded — despite Weberman’s otherwise careful practice of recording every mumble that passes through his phone wires. What transpired in this call was a promise by Dylan that he would see A.J. the next day.
“Do you have a driver’s license?” Dylan is reported to have asked Weberman.
“No, why do you wanna know?”
“Well . . . I was gonna offer you this job as a chauffeur.”
But Weberman caught onto the game immediately. “What are you trying to do, man? Buy me out? Bribe me with a job?”
“Oh no, Al. I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that ever. I just thought you’d like to see life from a different seat!”
Dylan called again the next day. This time, A.J. had the phone hooked up to the tape-recorder most perfectly. Dylan’s words, even over the phone, are precious additions to the Dylan Archives. A.J. wasn’t going to miss out on them twice.
“Al, you wanna come visit me?”
“You got a tape recorder?”
“Reel to reel.”
“Oh . . .”