BD: Every man with medical problems has children.
Q: What are your medical problems?
BD: Well, there’s glass in the back of my head. I’m a very sick person. I can’t see too well on Tuesdays. These dark glasses are prescribed. I’m not trying to be a beatnik. I have very mercuryesque eyes. And another thing – my toenails don’t fit.
(Bob Dylan, in a 1968 interview)
I went to the doctor today. An orthopedist. (Thank you spell check.) I told him my upper left arm hurt, that I thought maybe I had arthritis, because my mother had that. He looked thoughtful. He put me through some motions — some fine, some that made me wince — and then he announced that I probably had rotator cuff (RC) issues. After an X-ray, he was more definitive: “Darn. Definitely rotator cuff” something or another.
I said what do you do for that. He said therapy. I said great, I need therapy. He said physical therapy. I said good I guess I need that too. I said why does this happen, and he said there was a chronological component to this. You mean old?, I said. He smiled. I’m regularly reminded that I am old as dirt. That’s OK.
At least I don’t have glass in the back of my head.
Q: What do you think of the new Bob Dylan?
BD: What’s your name?
Q: Dave Moberg.
BD: Okay. What would you think if someone asked you, What do you think of the new Dave Moberg? What new Dave Moberg?
I was walking across the street to the doctor’s office one day not long ago. A white-haired elderly man was walking briskly across the street, head down. When he reached me he looked up and said, ominously, “Growing old ain’t for sissies!” I nodded. I was thinking he’s not that much older than me.
The doctor said look, we do this, you’ll be a new man. The new Steve West? I’m skeptical about that. I’m thinking that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Bye, bye old; hello, new. But that’s not for sissies either. Growing new, growing younger, is hard. And getting born is not an exercise, but grace.
Q: Why do some of your songs bear no relation to their titles?
BD: Give me an example.
Q: “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35.”
BD: Have you ever been to North Mexico for six straight months?
Q: Not recently.
BD: Well, I can’t explain it to you then. If you had, you’d understand what the song’s about.
So I have my first therapy appointment tomorrow. The therapist is supposed to show me some exercises that will help get rid of this issue with the RC, eventually. Th last time I was here he put needles in me. Needling, they called it, though it’s really acupuncture. The doc said that if I can’t tolerate these exercises I can get a shot of cortisone. And if all that doesn’t work, I can have surgery. I can?
I’m not even going to say anything about the glass in my head. Or the mercuryesque eyes. Or my tendinitis, heel spurs, floaters in my eyes, or sleeping habits. But I might tell him about Queen Jane, Georgia Sam, Poor Howard, Mack the Finger, Louie the King, Cain and Abel, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Cinderella, the Good Samaritan, Orphelia, Einstein disguised as Robin Hood, Dr. Filth, the Phantom of the Opera, Cassanova, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Angel, Sweet Melinda, Saint Annie, Louise, Johanna, the guilty undertaker, the lonesome organ grinder, a dancing child with a Chinese suit, Shakepeare, the senator, the preacher, the rainman, Ruthie in a honky-tonk lagoon, Queen Mary, sweet Marie, the Persian drunkard, Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands (saying prayers like rhymes), John Wesley Harding (friend to the poor), Frankie Lee and Judas Priest (“don’t go mistaking Paradise for that Home across the road”), St. Augustine, the hobo, the drifter, the landlord, the immigrant, Frank, Vera, Terry Shute, and Peggy Day. (Take a breath.)
Thank you, Bob Dylan, for all those people, real or not.
And the Father of Night. The Ragman. The Bearer of All Burdens. And the One who makes all things new, even me. Even dirt. The One who makes the new Steve West.
I might tell him that Bob Dylan and me are not that much different. That he has ailments too. That he just writes better songs. That the new Bob Dylan looks old as dirt but is growing newer everyday. That eventually I’ll get over this RC thing and all the rest and all to come. Me and Bob Dylan. When he returns.
When He returns.
What are you getting at? What’s this blog post have to do with anything, anyway? What’s it mean?
Have you been to North Mexico Lately?
Then I can’t explain it to you. If you had, you’d understand what I’m talking about. I’m sure you would.