We both felt left out, left over, left hanging out to dry, or left high and dry, or maybe left for dead. We were good friends. We lived in different states. This was in the days when people wrote letters. So we wrote each other letters, thinking out loud in print, weeping our woes and joking our joys and up so many floating poems down.

And we quoted Bob Dylan, especially the liner notes, written by Dylan himself, for the back cover of the album “Planet Waves.” Many of the songs Dylan recorded for that album also hit home with us then: “Something There Is About You,” “Dirge,” “Forever Young,” “Hazel”…every great song resonated on that great underrated album.

But the liner notes! I quote selected phrases that I remember we quoted to each other, finding some hidden meaning known only to us — and, maybe Dylan:

Back to the Starting Point!…I dropped a double brandy & tried to recall the events…headwinds & Snowstorms…We sensed each other beneath the mask, pitched a tent in the Street & joined the traveling circus…searching thru the ruins for a glimpse of Buddah…Yeah the ole days Are gone forever And the new ones Aint far behind…the Laughter is fading away, echos of a star…Energy Vampires in the Gone World going Wild!…My brothers of the flood…

And we quoted “Desolation Row” from the album “Highway 61 Revisited.”

We were lost boys who had lost true loves and had no idea where our lives might lead, and so we quoted the lines about eyes being fixed upon Noah’s great rainbow and nobody escaping from Desolation Row, and especially the last 12 lines, beginning with “Yes I received your letter yesterday…” and ending with the plea not to send any more letters unless they were postmarked Desolation Row. I believe, in fact, although the memory is hazy because I was in such a foggy haze, that the last letter I received from my old friend ended with those very lines — don’t send me no more letters no….not unless you mail them from…Desolation Row.

This all came to mind recently when I came upon a website featuring  a fascinating painting in which Shane Balkowitsch and Theo Cobb depict and portray every single line and character down on “Desolation Row,” even the restless riot squad — and thrown in for good measure are visual allusions to “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “Shelter From the Storm” and even the day Dylan wrecked his Triumph motorcycle outside of Woodstock, New York.

Here’s a video montage of the painting — accompanied by Mr. Dylan himself, singing one of his greatest songs:

I enjoyed it and so will my old friend — even though neither of us lives anymore on “Desolation Row,” I know we both remember it well.


3 thoughts on “We sensed each other beneath the mask

  1. Hello Nick,

    A great montage posted by a great writer. Our time in those days might also be characterized by a quote from Dylan’s ‘Senor (Tales of Yankee Power):

    “Well, the last thing I remember before I stripped and kneeled
    Was that trainload of fools bogged down in a magnetic field.”

    Also please take note: from time to time my heart still takes up residence along ‘Desolation Row’. I keep a place there just to be sure there’s ‘sacred space’ around when I need it. Survival instinct, I suppose….

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