the corner I painted myself in

I am still struggling.

I forced my way through my last posting. It was awkward and uncomfortable to write, but I managed to hit the ‘Post’ button after I finished it. I had hoped it would help me start a new narrative: back in CoMo and rediscovering my life here. It didn’t.

There is still a narrative to my post-travel life, of course. One day leads into another and I bring the experiences of my prior day into the next. That alone is enough to constitute a narrative. But it’s of a subtler nature than the narrative of bicycling from Columbia to Washington. The narrative is just a structure to hang details and feelings on, but it’s the format I gave this blog from it’s conception (…Possible Adventures…) and I don’t want to abandon it. I like playing the protagonist.

But, as I say, it’s a far subtler operation now. While I was biking, the narrative would continue whether the blog kept up with it or not. When I posted, I was generally in a rush to give an update on my progress before I fell asleep or before I moved on to my next rest destination–which may or may not have cellular/data coverage. So I would continue the narrative and grab whatever details I could to fit them into the post. I never ran out of things to say and more often than not I would think of things I didn’t say, as I rode the next stretch, that I wished I had…

I don’t think I have any shortage of things to say now that I’m back in CoMo either. But, so far, geographic stasis has been accompanied by the temptation to define just what, exactly, it is that I’m doing. Instead of being a record of the narrative of my life as it happens, it becomes a statement of purpose–an attempt to create a less subtle future narrative (see ‘Mr. Derrick goes to Washington’ for example) out of the details as I’ve watched them evolve in my long periods of not blogging. There is nothing inherently wrong about this distillation or repurposing process, and I think it probably has some valid uses, but I don’t think it makes for very interesting blogging. Or, at least, it doesn’t keep me as actively engaged in the blog: unposted blog entries are not half as satisfying as posted blog entries, and I am wary of posting half-hearted definitions.

In the long run, none of this blogging business is nearly as important to anyone else as it is to me. I’ve watched my blog stats over the course of this blog’s existence. I’ve been surprised by the amount of traffic it has received, but the derth of new posts since my arrival in DC has probably contributed significantly to the decline in the number of people checking it on a regular basis. I’ve also learned since my rearrival in CoMo that at least one member of my readership probably checks it compulsively more as a defense mechanism than in any spirit of fellowship, which detracts a bit from the reward. But, then again, it’s not for me to judge…

Further, I’m sure that my arrival in DC was probably the end of the blog for some people regardless of future updates. I don’t blame them either. I considered ending it then too, but that thought was immediately followed by the a question of what I would call my next blog. And then I thought there was no sense in abandoning this one. As I said before D Rex is Derrick is Mr. Derrick (thanks Lil’ Wayne!); and the adventures are still very possible with or without a bike.

So, there you go. All this business is another attempt to move forward the narrative and get back to the details. I am listening, right now, to the most recent release in Bob Dylan’s ‘official’ bootleg series. The title of this post is from a line of Dylan’s Mississippi. It appears three times, in three different versions, one on each of the three discs of this particular ‘bootleg’ release. And that’s just fine with me, it’s one of my favorite songs. It originally appeared on his 2001 ‘Love and Theft’ album.

I like Dylan’s three most recent albums ‘Time Out of Mind’, ‘Love and Theft’, and ‘Modern Times’ better than any other albums in his discography. It was hard for me to acknowledge this preference because I started my Dylan listening with ‘Blonde on Blonde’ back when I was in high school and I spread my way backwards through the sixties to his first album and then forward into the eighties and nineties and aughts while I was in college. Can I really believe the greying Dylan more, after having felt so much sympathy for a younger Dylan who stood before the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee and criticized them for being bald?

I can because, more than believing, I find myself having recourse to the poetry of these later albums in my daily life. Maybe it’s just that the couplets of these later albums are more accessible, but for me there is a greater wealth of wisdom in these compiled couplets than in the sustained narratives of his earlier albums.

There’s that word again: narrative. But we’re working in different mediums. Where would Moby Dick be without its narrative?

There’s no sure solution to these difficulties. Larry Charles, who cowrote Masked and Anonymous with Dylan, in his director’s commentary to that film, brought up the emphasis that Dylan put on the creative process over the finished product. There is definite merit to that emphasis. But recordings can sometimes leave us with a bad impression of a good effort. Reviews of Masked and Anonymous were mixed but leaned toward negative, in spite of its pedigree. And Dylan has certainly had an uneven recording history according to popular consensus. The difference may be that Dylan gets to perform his compositions over and over in different renditions at his concerts even after a bad recording has been committed to an album. He definitely takes advantage of this flexibility of his medium in his live performances. He performs the same song many different ways (this, by the way, is a major argument to be made against those that disparage Dylan’s voice–he has fabulous vocal acuity and uses it to effect different meanings through phrasing and inflection), hence the three versions (four including the original) of Mississippi. Whereas Larry Charles will probably only ever get one take at Masked and Anonymous.

On the other hand, as we get further and further into the age of recorded media, there may be less and less doubling up on sources. In other words, with all of the books, music, movies, and blogs out there, why am I devoting so much time to four different versions of Mississippi? If I were following the readyist narrative convention, wouldn’t I just move from one immediate influence to another, rather than researching and stockpiling the efforts of Mr. Dylan? Or, is it the readyist convention to stick with my proven protagonist and study the four Mississippi’s rather than trust myself to soak up all of the wisdom of Mississippi in the original version–especially having already been exposed to Bob’s alternate live versions?

I’m just really not sure.

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