(image / Liljenquist Family collection, Library of Congress)
I was off today and took it as a chance to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Because they are doing limited ticketing due to the pandemic, I booked my reservation ten days ago. I was the third person in line and, as you can see from this image, had the place essentially to myself for a brief period. This is the facade of the Branch Bank of the United States, later the Assay Office, that stood on Wall Street next to Federal Hall until the 1910s. When the building was torn down they boxed up this exterior, put it in storage for several years, and in the 1920s repurposed it as the entranceway to the American Wing. How one walks through the enclosed atrium with its natural sunlight into the doorway adds to that ambiance. Immediately inside are portraits of Alexander Hamilton and DeWitt Clinton, a nice touch by someone at the Met who obviously knows the facade’s provenance and connection to where it once stood in Lower Manhattan.
I was telling a friend earlier that The Met is one of those places, like Gettysburg or the old Yankee Stadium, where when you’re there time seems to have stopped. The last time I was here was Lincoln’s Birthday 2020, fifteen months ago. I had an brief talk with one of the guards who was telling me about what the shutdown was like for those who work there. Returning was a sign that in the coming weeks and months things may be returning to a semblance of normalcy.
Have a meaning Memorial Day Weekend.
It is extraordinary to believe that Bob Dylan turned eighty today. When we think of the music and culture of the Sixties we associate it with the Baby Boomers. It is worth remembering, however, that many whom we associate with that era actually pre-date the Baby Boom. The Beatles, just as one example, were all born during, not after the war. Run down the list and you will find it’s pretty much the same. Dylan et al were the Baby Boomers’ elders, not their peers. Of course Dylan was and is so much more than what he did during the 1960s. We have been fortunate that he found his way again in the mid-1990s and has been going strong ever since. The release of “Rough and Rowdy Ways” last June was just what I needed as it became obvious that the world was shutting down for the long haul. Along with jazz, Dylan has been my pandemic soundtrack.
I love the image above of him and Allen Ginsberg taken during the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975. I know someone who worked in the English Department at Brooklyn College with Allen Ginsberg. She told me he was always on time for faculty meetings and had read the files of prospective hires when serving on appointment committees and the like. Don’t let the hedonistic stories, true though many of them are, fool you. People like this are serious about what they do. Scribble out some nonsense five minutes before class and try to pass it off as your stream-of-consciousness prose inspiration? Don’t even think about it. He would have seen right through you, and called you on it.
I was talking to someone about Dylan yesterday and wondering aloud if the Never Ending Tour will pick up again. Who knows if he’s been writing these past fifteen months, which might mean a few more works before retirement. One of the best things Dylan did was re-image himself as an ageless balladeer, as opposed to an aging rock star. Time will tell what he may still have in store.