The Pump: I Can’t Handle It

[The Pump. Located at the village green in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.]

“How does it feel?”

–Bob Dylan Like A Rolling Stone

For many years Bob Dylan has provided a plethora of quotes for me for use in most social situations. Armed with these literary bites, I have made something of a name for myself as a Dylanologist. Yes, I’ve read many books about Bob and I can often be seen leafing through the big volume of Lyrics, looking for just the right wording, the satisfying cadence, the rhyme, the syntax and the deep theology found within his five hundred + songs. If you’re a follower of mine, you know that I often find appropriate places to insert a quote or two into a Blog (like I’m doing here) or a Facebook post.

Dylan was not awarded the Nobel Prize for scratching girl’s phone numbers on phone booths or public bathroom walls.

Just the other day I asked an attractive woman:

“My warehouse has my Arabian drums, should I put them at your gate?”

She stared at me with a blank expression. “Watch it, buster. My husband lifts weights.” I closed my trench coat and retreated back into the alley. I didn’t want to hear that her husband was kicked out of the Soviet Secret Police for being too rough on snitches.

Years ago I walked over to the Typing Teacher at the school where I taught. “Time is an ocean and it ends at the shore. You may not see me tomorrow.”

“What? Are you taking a sick day?”

Another time I was struggling to recall the name of a somewhat obscure song by Dylan. My head was lowered in concentration. A woman standing near me apparently thought I said something. She asked: “What did you say?”

At that very moment I recalled the song.

“Wiggle. Wiggle,” I said. I can still feel the stinging of my cheek. It was a left hand swipe and I can tell you that she was sporting a ring on her finger the size of an oxen yoke.

You can see that I’ve had varying degrees of success with these quotes. And I have the scars to prove it. But there is one line, buried deep inside Subterranean Homesick Blues. In fact, there are several keepers from that song. I once asked a woman who was sitting next to me in a bar: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” She glared at me with big brown cow eyes which quickly narrowed to evil slits. She seemed to breath fire, and not the good kind.

‘Hey grandpa,” she said, “I don’t need a weatherman. I have an App.” She shook her iPhone with a barely hidden malevolence that would frighten any witch in MacBeth.

But I digress.

The real story I intended to tell you about is how a long-time search on my part led me to a quaint upstate college campus on a day just like today. Actually, it was yesterday, in the afternoon. After several Google searches I finally located the famous pump that does not have a handle.

“The pump don’t work ’cause the vandals took the handle.”

You may have seen the music video of the song. Dylan is standing in an alley near the Savoy Hotel in London. He’s holding large cards which has bits of the song written on them. He drops each one as the words are sung.

[The Pump. A Closer Look]

I read somewhere that there is a picture of a street in London supposedly showing the Beatles crossing the intersection. Maybe there’s a song about that. Maybe there are some lyrics that I can adapt for a supply of pick-up lines.

I heard a song from those days once. Now I remember. I was riding an uptown M104 bus in New York. I was sitting next to a ravishing redhead with green eyes and a provocative plaid flannel shirt from L. L. Bean. I turned to her and, pointing to the Chrysler Building, I said in my best Ringo nasal voice: “You know that in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

It took three doctors and four nurses, using industrial strength Saline Solution to wash the Mace from my eyes.

I waited for everyone to leave except the younger blonde RN. I quietly said to her: “Cast your dancing spell my way, I promise to go under it.”

I woke up in the ER twenty minutes later.

My jaw was wired shut. No more quotes from me for a while.

[The video.]

[All photos are mine with the exception of the Dylan picture with the sign Government. Credit: Tony Frank/Sygma/Corbis.]

Passports 15: Good-bye England [I Want You]

We sat in an Irish Pub, O’Neills, in the west end of London.  It is my last night in England.  I can see Bushmills Irish Whiskey etched into the glass of the large window.  The letters are backwards.

Two singers–one on an acoustic and the other on an electric guitar.  They are playing a Beatles tune when we enter.  Then they switch to a Dylan song as we sit.  The singer says the next one was penned by Robert Zimmerman.  They play I Want You.

Through the window and across the street is the massive and glorious St. Pancras Station.

It is my last night in England–until the next time.  But, then there will be another last night…and another.

I recall the hills I walked, the rocks where I rested and the hedges where I conquered my fear.  I think of my British friends, people I’ve known for thirty years.  People who have aged and matured and moved homes and raised children.  I am thankful for the friendship these people have shown me.  I think of Tim, Jo and their family in North Dorset.  I think of Marion and Bill in Purbeck.  Bill, the old quarryman who cut Purbeck marble since his youth.  I think of Alex and Janice in Hampshire.

They are the best of mates…all of them.

Tomorrow, I will climb the steps of the Basillique du Sacre-Coeur in the Montmartre section of Paris.  I will climb to the last step and turn around to look at the magnificent City of Light.

There, I will celebrate my 67th birthday.

I will ache when I climb those steps.  The ache that comes with age, old bones and unused muscles.

But, I’ll be happy…happy just to be alive.

Then I will descend the steps, one by one.

I will reach the bottom step a year older, but a thousand years wiser.

 

Non, Je ne Regrette Rien.  

–Edith Piaf