February nineteenth, 1991, at 1 a.m. I met him. He’d been singing for thirty years and I would’ve known his face anywhere. The sixties was my era. I caught on as the sixties was running out of steam. Being slow to bloom, I simmered then suddenly sprouted as the seventies began. Bob was my idol, a hero to all of us who wanted to emulate that Rolling Stone and have One More Cup of Coffee with Queen Jane in Mozambique.
I took the plunge, strolled over and said, “Hey Bob, how are ya?” We were at Kennedy waiting for our luggage. He stared at me deadpan. “You are Bob Dylan, aren’t ya?” I said.
Bob narrowed his eyes, and glared. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s dangerous to talk to strangers?”
Maybe he was only joking. “Well,” I continued, “that’s the only way to meet anyone!”
He growled, “Strangers could cut out your liver and kidneys.”
“Hum,” I replied, smiling and refusing to be put off, “A bit hungry, Bob? Perhaps we can arrange that.” That almost worked! He fleetingly grinned, (it could’ve been a sneer), then he scowled again.
I only wanted his autograph and a few kind words. I figured I’d start over. “They sure keep this terminal hot!” I said, pulling off my black down coat, exposing the purple with yellow trimmed lining. Bob had on a thick and heavy white cotton hooded sweatshirt with the hood up. On top of this, he sported one of his legendary leather jackets and over this, hanging from his head, hung a heavy gray woolen overcoat that fell to mid-calf. I didn’t quite understand why no one else had noticed him. I would’ve looked twice at anyone with a coat hanging from his head.
“Luggage is taking a long time,” I said. “Something's up.” Sure enough, at that precise moment the announcement came over the loud speakers informing us of a delay in transporting the luggage to the terminal, but not to worry, it was on the way.
Someone from Bob’s entourage brought him a luggage wagon, then left after exchanging some words. Bob stood alone. I peered at him curiously, “You must be sweltering with all those clothes.”
He leaned on a luggage wagon with both arms, stared unwaveringly into my eyes then past to some bleak horizon which only he could see. “I have all my things here in this bag, cause I like to travel light,” I chattered on while he remained unimpassioned and uninterested, “except this one thing,” I held up a finger, “that I found cheaper in England than anywhere else; a decorator’s table.” He wasn’t my captive audience; he could just spin his wagon away at any moment.
And now I had finally gotten his attention! Weird. Why would he be interested in my talk of a decorating table? His steely eyes scathingly pierced mine. “Don’t think twice Bob, it’s all right.”
“Whaddaya you need to know?” Bob said.
I wondered if this was this a trick question, or could I ask him for his autograph?’ I began slowly, “Aren’t ya Bob Dylan?”
He squinted his eyes.
“I’m not planning to advertise,” I added reassuringly.
“Ask me something else!”
I was thinking, Get that autograph, but I hesitated. As I opened my mouth to speak, Bob reached out with his black leather-gloved hand, grabbed my chin and shoved my face in the opposite direction.
“Stop doing that!” he said.
I moved a few feet away and gave up the autograph idea. What had just gone down? I surmised he’d been uncomfortable with my eye contact and friendly overtures. The man lacked social skills. Guess Bob has no appreciation for the high regard in which his admirers hold him as hero and stupid star, oops, I mean, superstar. But that’s o.k. Bob isn’t known for his graciousness, he’s known for his songs.
Ten minutes later I caught him staring at me. I stared back but no change registered. I wondered why now he’ was staring at me. I averted my eyes after several moments. If he had gotten what he needed by my withdrawal why was he now provoking me beckoning me, challenging me, with his stare?
I was tempted to tell him off, to say, This is a hell of a way to treat the people you make a living on.
A man to my right stood nearby, watching. “That’s Bob Dylan,” I said, thinking it likely he had observed the entire encounter.
“Big deal!” he said. “The world doesn’t shake for him anymore. Who cares? You could sue him for pushing your face!”
Later that day, totally jet lagged after so much traveling, I fell into a deep Bob Dylan sleep. My lover and I were attending a meditation retreat in the countryside. A sea breeze caressed me and the foliage was green and full. We walked, holding hands, through the French Doors of the beautiful palatial home where the retreat was being held. Bob Dylan lay awake, stretched out on a sofa.
I said, “Hi, Remember me?”
He answered, “How could I forget?” I thought he was being romantic because his posture and voice were seductive. Then I realized he meant how could he forget someone so crazy.
I said, “I’m so glad to see you again. I didn’t know you were into this,” meaning into meditation. I felt happy he was behaving so personably.
My lover and I retired to the bedroom to sleep, but the bed was very lumpy so we decided to try the big bed in the living room. It was very comfortable. I couldn’t take off my clothes because I was afraid someone would see me and there wasn’t a big enough blanket to cover myself. I wanted to get up and go to the bedroom to retrieve my bag, which I’d forgotten. I was afraid someone would steal my comfortable sleeping spot but I also needed my bag. I walked down the long hallway and suddenly there was Bob, holding something out to me.
“You forgot something”, he said and I’m like, “Oh did you find my bag in the other bedroom?” He held up a plastic see-through baggie and I saw my liver and kidneys inside.
another true short story © Joy Leftow, 1991
published previously 2005 by author - publisherPatrick Dent
currently published NYC Jewish Currents fall issue 2009 (get your free issue by clicking here)