Bob Dylan / Girl From the North Country

When we lived in a proper house, Daniel owned the ultimate La-Z-Boy. It was absurd. It had not only a built-in massager and heater, but also a mini-fridge that fit an entire six-pack hidden under one of the arm rests. Like I said, absurd.

Dylan hated that chair. It rocked, so he could never jump up on it without getting launched right back out. And he hated that the footrest could fly out on a seeming whim. The footrest didn’t stop at your average 45 degrees, either. This sucker went full horizontal, turning the chair into a veritable bed. Dylan wanted all of us to sit together on the couch as much as possible. He was happiest lounging with both his Humans in close proximity, well away from that rocking, sprawling, humming chair.

Very early in our relationship, before I knew how much Dylan hated the chair, before I came to share his preference for the couch, I gave the La-Z-Boy a try. And because we were in that heady early blush of love where you can’t stand to not be cuddling at all times (she says, as if she doesn’t still insist on cuddling at all times) Daniel joined me in the La-Z-Boy. It was big enough for two.

Daniel was trying to show me how to make that footrest stretch all the way to its most ridiculous extent, and in a flash, the whole dang chair had tipped backward, dumping us out upside down and tangled. And it was the funniest moment. Dan and I looked at each other like startled meerkats and then I started laughing and simply could not stop. I laughed until I wheezed. I laughed until tears were streaming down my cheeks. I laugh-cried until Dylan grunted a superior little, “I told you so.”

I finally caught my breath and said, “It’s like that Bob Dylan song. ‘Whoo-ee, are we gonna set, down into the easy chair.’” And Daniel said, “I guess tonight’s the night, my bride’s a-gonna come.” Pure saccharine, we were.

I may not have known The Grateful Dead before Dan, but I knew Bob Dylan. When I first heard about Dylan the Dog I asked, “Named after Bob?” A test, easily passed. Naturally.

Being in New York gives us so much exposure to art and music. Our access is radically heightened (although we can talk about the prohibitive cost of, well, everything here) and it’s hard to choose where to begin. Dan chose to begin with Bob Dylan.

Dan, a lifelong New Yorker though not a New York City-er, has been to The Beacon more times than he can recall. I’d never been. Making my first trip to see Bob Dylan was pretty magical.

Bob Dylan looked like a tiny, cute Jew on stage, in an oversized blazer and trousers with a racing stripe down the leg. Somehow, he looked exactly like how I imagined our canine Dylan looking like, if he could have transformed into a human. Fitting, isn’t it? And like our beloved Dylan, the human Dylan refused to pander. Bob Dylan did not once acknowledge the audience, who sat respectfully through the entire show (except the two drunk ladies in the front row who stood up to dance for the last half of Jokerman). Bob Dylan did not say hello, goodbye, thanks for stopping by… not a word.

He also has an aggressive stance against any video or photography, so security spent the entire show racing down the aisles, shining flashlights into the faces of everyone who tried to sneak their phones out. We couldn’t believe the utter lack of suave these fools had. Honestly, you’re going to try to sneak another photo and you’re not even gonna turn the damn flash off? Amateurs.

We followed that show up a few weeks later with Girl From the North Country, a musical based on Dylan’s work, at The Public Theater. It was our first trip to The Public, and we were charmed by the many theaters in one building. It’s sort of like a movie theater for live performances. Girl From the North Country does Bob Dylan with his own beautiful, no-nonsense delivery. Same aggressive stance against photo/video too, as the usher gleefully repeated no fewer than three times, “Even during curtain call! If you take a picture I will make you delete it!”

Living among all this beautiful art is as special as I’d imagined it would be— it was one of the parts of NYC living I was most looking forward to. And it’s been amazing. But like all the best art, it wasn’t the consumption that struck me, it was the journey I took, the place those shows led me, that I felt the most.

After our trip to both The Beacon and The Public Theater, I thought about our Dylan, and that night in our ridiculous chair, when we fell over and laughed until we cried. I’m so grateful I have the memory of that night, and that I can be brought back to those little moments with our Dylan, those little moments that built our love and shaped our lives together.

Helloween

You may have heard terrifying tales of NYC on Halloween, of violence and gang activity, and things that make you want to stay inside. I heard several horrifying first-hand accounts from my native Staten Islander colleague.

In comparison, our first NYC Halloween was quaint. We went to the Village Parade, which was delightful and heavily policed– no mayhem!

And yet… it was truly a hellscape. A claustrophobic nightmare. West 4th, the station I breeze in and out of every work day was overrun. There was no breezing. There were flagrant violations of fire codes and an uncomfortably visceral understanding of how unruly crowds cause stampedes, leading to Death by Trampling.

A real Hell-o-ween:

Every single person in this photo looks possessed.

How to Go To a Spooky Club

So you want to get spooky in the city? Can do!

  1. Find a Cool Friend who knows about Cool Events. My Cool Friend is Vani, a Gal Pal from Grad School, the smartest person I’ve ever met in my life, and an NYC resident tapped into Cool Culture. (I know that this step is a bit of a stretch if you do not have access to a Cool Friend, but just roll with me on this one.) Pick a Spooky Halloween DJ Party!
  2. Get your costume together. If you forget about this, you can make like me and borrow your dog’s costume! The devil cape that both Dylan and Marcy hated wearing was the perfect last-minute solution. Throw it on top of a tight LBD, layer on a ton of smoky eyeshadow, blood-red lipstick, and serpentine accessories, and you are Ready To Go.
  3. Board a Brooklyn-bound train.
  4. Revel in the extreme weirdness of the costume-clad commuters. This is what you thought New York City would be like all the time. In fact, most of the time the residents of NYC look like perfectly regular folks going to perfectly regular jobs. So enjoy this moment! There will be glitter. There will be mythical creatures and comic book creatures and sexy professionals, and full-body makeup, and a lot of weapons that will make your heart skip a beat until you realize the crossbow is part of the costume and not the start of a massacre. (You can never be 100% certain about impending massacres in these deeply troubling times.) You will see people participating in Cultural Appropriation and other people telling them to stop being racist. It is the magical NYC of your dreams.
  5. Find a dance club hosting a queer/feminist/neo-liberal party. This is TRULY the most magical part of NYC– there are places you can go dancing without ever once being grabbed, groped, or nonconsensually grinded upon. God bless.
  6. Pop your Made-for-Concerts ear plugs in, because you already have hearing loss and don’t need to further damage your little eardrums just to get your Spooky Dance on.
  7. Dance it out, you spooky devil!
  8. Leave before midnight. Nothing good happens after midnight.
  9. Stop at a bodega for some rehydrating.
  10. Go home, wash your face, and snuggle with your Anti-Clubbing Husband.

Phil Lesh at Summerstage

On our very first date, I told Daniel my favorite band is The National. On all previous first dates I’d been summarily informed that The National is not a band most young 20-somethings would call their favorite and/or even know about. My musical tastes have always veered toward Sad Dad Rock, which isn’t a particularly hip genre. But Daniel immediately told me that he both knew of and liked The National, and then told me all about the collaboration The National was currently (at the time) taking on with The Grateful Dead, which happened to be his favorite band.

To be completely honest and at the enormous risk of embarrassing myself, I will admit that before I knew Daniel I thought The Grateful Dead was a death metal band. I’d seen the skull logo (a “Steal Your Face” I know now) and, I mean, Dead is in their name. As it turns out, The Grateful Dead is a hippie band with a knack for extending a single song to the length of an average sitcom episode.

In the years I’ve spent with Daniel I have listened to countless hours of The Grateful Dead. I have read Box of Rain, a book of their lyrics that read as lovely poems. I have stared at the Steal Your Face tattooed on Daniel’s bicep. I have even gone to huge Dead and Company stadium shows.

And to again embarrass myself with honesty… I didn’t really get it. I could tell how much this band meant to Daniel, but I didn’t get it. Those stadium shows were the first (and only) place I’d seen people doing hard drugs. What can I say? I’ve lived a sheltered life. Daniel ushered my through throngs of smelly guys whispering offers to sell me (me!) hard drugs. Everyone wore grungy tie-dye and nobody wore deodorant. Daniel kept greeting people he remembered from the years he spent following The Grateful Dead on tour.

It was enormously interesting for me, but very clearly not for me. Not my scene, you could say. And again with the honesty… the music itself didn’t do much for me. I know; I blaspheme. But Daniel loves it and I love Daniel, so here we are. The Grateful Dead and me.

Phil Lesh (listen, I could Google and find out what his role in the Grateful Dead was, but the truth is, I don’t know. And I’ll forget as soon as I Google it. He was one of the originals.) played Summerstage in Central Park. Daniel bought tickets before we even moved, and it was the first show we went to in NYC. I wasn’t expecting much. I geared up for a night of fending off powdered stimulants, stinky armpits, and echoey acoustics.

But it turned out to be the night I finally got it. It was small. Out of the stadium, the music sounded great. The songs sounded like poems.

Most people are surprised to learn that Daniel is actually a shy introvert, because he is uncommonly good at making small talk and befriending strangers. We made friends with finance guys, and a pregnant young couple, and an older gay couple, and yeah, some young smelly people too. Between songs, Daniel chattered and proudly told everyone to, “Meet my wife! She’s a genius!” 

That night, Daniel’s face was joyful. It was the first time I’d seen him truly happy since we moved. He hollered the lyrics until I was sure his voice would go hoarse. When Phil Lesh made his case for organ donation (this happens at every show, I’ve learned) Daniel shouted that he became an organ donor because of Phil Lesh. I didn’t know that! I married the man and I did not know that.

Watching Daniel at that show, I finally got it. I can’t say I reach for The Grateful Dead records myself, but I finally get it in a way I didn’t before.