(The following is an excerpt from a longer work in progress.)
How Bob Dylan came to cut my hair during the Pandemic could be a book in itself. I had to imagine the following prologue in order to make this dream recollection work. It is true I once was a VISTA volunteer in St. Paul, Minnesota. In mid summer I was in charge of taking inner city kids for a weeklong visit to the nearby farms. Yes, they have lots of mosquitoes in the land of a thousand lakes. And yes, the rest of this “recollection” is purely out of my head in this 6:30 AM hour.
After the police murder of George Floyd, the Minnesota Tourism Department was on the chopping block. This was right after the state fair was cancelled for the Pandemic, and like other fairs, their planning shifted to 2021. But a newbie in the Minnesota Tourism Department wondered if the state fair could be quickly put back on since things had improved in June. Being new and lacking political savvy, he further asked, “Couldn’t we revive interest in coming to Minnesota if we headlined with one of our Favorite Sons, Bob Dylan?” Dylan had been grown up in the iron range hills of Hibbings, Minnesota. The newbie was laughed out of the building and asked not to return. But before he left, he accessed the state database to find Dylan’s current address and write the troubadour an impassioned plea.
Strangely enough Dylan wrote back. Turns out the reckless recluse still had sympathies for his boyhood state. In his return letter he offers to come back not as a headliner but as a barber. He succinctly and clearly wrote, “After all, my first job training was as a barber. If I’m gonna walk back down memory lane and return to Minnesota, then I’d like to walk it all the way back. I’ll cut hair for donations to the Minnesota Tourism Department.”
This letter revives our newbie’s reputation. In fact, the letter is forwarded to the governor. Tim Waltz, an avid member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, is a long time collector of old Dylan songs. Waltz immediately jumps on board the train. After several conversations with the CDC they give him permission to re-open the state fair in 2020 on a limited basis.
In this 4 AM dream I am back in Minnesota. I’m again a VISTA volunteer. I’ve been sent ahead to scout the logistics for bringing city kids to the state fair that is set to open in early summer. As I roam around the fair grounds in June I pass the barnyard-scented outbuildings and display tents. I head for the entertainment shell and ask if anyone has seen Dylan. An attractive older beauty with long white wavy hair points towards a small building. I follow her long outstretched finger and head cautiously off.
When I enter the low light leaves me in the dark. After my eyes adjust I see the backside of a slight wispy man, about my height but much thinner. He sports a wispy gray hair “natural” on the top of his aging skull. I immediately know who it is and call out, “Hey Bob, I need a haircut, are you open for biz?”
He ever so slowly turns around to view me. As his head rotates ahead of his body, the slightest devilled grins sweeps slowly across his face. He laughs, spits on the floor, and replies in a soft twang, “Sure, but don’t ask me to sing. I have to be in the mood.”
I sit in the chair; he covers me with an apron, takes out scissors and I ask, “Are you in the mood yet?” He chortles, “Whaddya want to hear?” I reply without hesitation, “Mr. Tambourine Man.” His gravelly voice croons away, and I wake up with a smile on my puss and the lyrics in my head.
By Martin Kimeldorf