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Well folks, it’s official. I am now 33 years-old.

My birthday weekend was a great one, spent with new and old friends in Austin, alongside my beautiful and sweet girlfriend. We did not go for a run, nor did I grade papers, instead we spent the long weekend doing the things we wanted to do.

Some of the events include:

  • Eating enough Tex-Mex to (almost) officially make me a Texas citizen.
  • Finishing up “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” I enjoyed it.
  • Touring the Texas state capital. LBJ painting was AWESOME!
  • Listening to an old school (as in 1950’s) country band while chowing down on some ribs.
  • Hanging with my old buddy Steve Davis, and catching up on all things post-Knoxville.
  • Eating with my family at the CB Lounge (our name for Cracker Barrel) for my birthday dinner.
  • And finally, constantly stretching, because my back is somewhat on the brink. Although I am starting to think that it might have to do with my core turning into the same consistency of the banana pudding I keep eating.

 

Now I am back in Nashville, grading quizzes and essays…and still stretching.

I have always dreamed of this 33rd year of my life, or my Larry Bird year as I have come to think about it. Last year was the Karl Malone year (who played as #32 for the Utah Jazz…who I loathe!) I hope that this year is a good one. I hope that I move forward in all things, deepen friendships, keep in touch with old friends, connect with new people, stay in shape, laugh more often, teach my students well, and perhaps a few adventures and surprises as well.

I hope that I also remember to occasionally visit this blog and let everyone who reads it know what I have been up to.

Until the next time, hope everyone is well.

Oh wait, I have a blog???

Good Sunday afternoon to all the people out there. By out there I mean those who may just happen to stumble across this blog, be it your Google reader, CSS feed, or somehow mysteriously wound up here while trying to find the “Western Wind” a cappella music group, who has been bringing high quality non-instrumental music your way since 1969.

If you are here to read my musings on life, music, running and school teaching, then you have indeed come to the right place.

Since I last wrote on July 7th, the school year has begun and life is once again filled with grading papers, catching up on emails, and various meetings throughout the week. I hate to say it, but by Friday evening of each week I am usually in bed by 9:30, with barely enough energy to read two pages of whatever novel I may be working on at the time.

So I have decided to try my best and give a quick update on all that has happened over the past couple of months in short little bullet points of information.

  • My girlfriend and I went to Cancun, I drank way to much water there and got sick on my return home, thus causing me to miss the Bon Iver show at the Ryman.
  • I read all the Hunger game series, book two was my favorite.
  • The have watched all the Titan’s games so far this year and have been impressed. As I say that, they are getting killed by Pittsburgh right now!
  • I watched both seasons of Twin Peaks this summer, and I thought it was AWESOME!
  • Like I said before, the school year has begun, but I am really excited about it and love every single one of my classes. I now know each of the students names, although I have yet to come up with any great nicknames so far.
  • My girlfriend and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary. Part of the celebration was acknowledging our relationship via facebook.
  • Finally I have begun assisting in coaching the middle school boys’ soccer team. Sure it take more time out of my day, but I am happy to lend a helping hand and spend my afternoons out in the beautiful Fall weather.

So that is about it. I leave you with a little film footage I shot of birds flying at sunset yesterday in downtown Nashville. My girlfriend and I had just visited with her cousins, in town for a concert the night before. The song is “A Short Reprise…” by Sufjan Stevens

I hope to not be a stranger to this post for so long in the future.

#2 “Bob Dylan’s Dream” off his second album The Freewheelin Bob Dylan (1963)

***

Similar Feelings

“I dreamed a dream that made me sad
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had”

I am not sure exactly the title of the poem, the author who wrote it, or where I was when I read it, but I have a vague recollection of once reading about a poet watching children play while taking a walk one afternoon. If my memory serves me right, the poet looked to these children, and their free-spirited games, with a sense of remorse. He himself longed for those days again, wanting to be a part of world no longer offered in adulthood. His response, naturally, was to write a poem reflecting that moment. Whenever I read it, I recall wondering if I too would one day have these feelings. This of course leads to my choice of a song on Bob Dylan’s second album, The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963.)

Just a year after releasing his first album, Bob Dylan wanted to be rid of it. He disliked everything about his first effort, from the songs on the album to how Columbia promoted his work. His main problem with it was that he no longer performed 75% of the songs from the album. By 1963, Bob had committed to the idea of writing and performing his own songs. Perhaps it is the natural reaction, to be self-critical and continue moving towards something new. Being our own worse critics is an easy part of the creative process. Anyways, on some nights Bob would write five songs in a sitting, at other times he would go two weeks without putting pen to paper. Much of the music that came out of him reflected the topical news at the time. News headlines of the American Civil Rights Movement, or the Cuban Missile Crisis would appear in his new songs, although they would be recreated or subverted in new directions. Sometimes the songs would come out satirical, poking fun at the panic of war or bombs, but at other times his songs were significant, using powerful imagery within the lyrics. It is no wonder that master folk singer Pete Seeger declared that Bob Dylan was, “”the most prolific songwriter on the scene,” even when Bob was only 22 years old.

The political songs off of The Freewheelin Bob Dylan, ended up earning Dylan the title, “Spokesmen of a Generation,” a moniker which he would later resent. The album also got him recognition from another groups on the rise, including a quartet from England called The Beatles. But perhaps what it really reflects is a gigantic leap towards what Bob Dylan had been attempting in his musical career. Songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Masters of War,” and “A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall” made it clear that people (mainly the youth) were interested in hearing songs about the political un-rest that surrounded them. He also sang interesting love songs, such as “Girl from the North Country, “ and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” These unconventional songs likely dealt with Suze, the girl who is wrapped around his arm on the album cover. She had decided to study art in Italy for semester, leaving Dylan alone with just his thoughts and a blank piece of paper throughout the recording of Freewheelin’. It is important to acknowledge that instead of writing about holding hands, and summer moons that hung in the night clouds, Dylan spoke of his truthful feelings, with an approach that was at once straightforward and partly obscured. And just like that, Bob Dylan was already beginning to change the face of music forever.

The song that interests me more than the others though is a hidden gem titled, “Bob Dylan’s Dream.”  With nostalgia as its primary focus, Dylan sings a song dedicated to the friends of his youth and the fun they had growing up. Loosely based on an English traditional folk song “Lady Franklin’s Lament,” the song opens with Dylan telling of a dream he experienced while riding a train. What develops throughout the song however is two-fold; it is both a reflection of his past and understanding of his future. The structure is fairly simple, with just a guitar and harmonica to accompany his lyrics. The poignancy of the song is extraordinary, well at least to me.

“Our words were told, our songs were sung
Where we longed for nothin’ and were quite satisfied
Talkin’ and a-jokin’ about the world outside”

While growing up my family and I moved around a good amount. By the time I reached 5th grade in Ohio, I had already lived in Florida, Louisiana, and Nebraska. My father, being the hard worker and professional businessman that he is, quickly moved his way up through his company’s corporate ladder. So it was no surprise that we would get called to Akron, Ohio, the capital of the tire and rubber industry in the early 1990s. I ended up attending Northwood Elementary, less than half a mile from our new house in the Bob-O-Link subdivision. There, like so many of the places I had lived before, I had to make new friends, and learn a completely new set of social norms. Luckily for me, although I was pretty geeky throughout my years in North Canton, I managed to befriend other kids in the neighborhood and at school. Thus began my glorious coming of age sequence (if this were a movie). As I sit here, listening to Freewheelin’ in the background, I think back over all those years. I remember (among various other events) sledding at Arrowhead golf course, wasting hours at Belden Village, cliff jumping at the rock quarries, skiing at Boston Mills, spending time at the North Canton YMCA, May Fiesta, Dance Plus, art class, Dogwood pool, Memorial stadium, Apples grocery, Ro’s ice cream, the Chicken Manor, Quonset Hut, Trivium coffee shop, and a thousand other places and stories. (One of the reasons this post has taken me so long is that I began to write out a memory from each of these places, but I am not trying to create a novel out of this yet.) With each of these above-mentioned memories, a special time and significance has been placed in my head for the people that were there and the experience of it all.

 

“We never thought we could ever get old”

Throughout my years in Ohio, I never did think about growing old. I guess I did develop into my own identity there (musically at the very least,) but the idea that I would ever be 32 years old and sitting behind a computer at a coffee shop in Nashville never really appeared as a reality. I believe that most of my friends and I back then lived in the present, which maybe is the way all teenagers think. As my very intelligent and thoughtful girlfriend pointed out recently, perhaps what we see as we reflect on our past is a sense of “timelessness.” I don’t think that it would be going for too much of a stretch to say that Bob Dylan might have been seeking the same idea through his music. Without even recognizing what we were trying to achieve in our childhoods and teenage years, my friends and I pulled from the ether of life a unique story that was wholly our own experience. Also, with the benefit of hindsight, we have the ability to focus on the good times and exciting moments. I guess there may have been rough patches along the way too, and maybe even moreso for friends of some mine. Realizing this makes me eternally thankful for all that my parents gave me during that time. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the reason my life has always had a feeling of balance is due to their efforts in raising me.

Now back to the song. If I, like Dylan says, was given the opportunity to go back to that time where kids can be kids, I am not sure if I would put down the $10,000 dollars (or any amount of money) to recapture that time. For as thankful that I am of that time and place, I believe that right here and now might be my favorite time to experience life. I love that I can still keep up with all of the people I crossed paths with, from the cornfields of Nebraska, to the hallways of Hoover High School, and everywhere in between. I feel as if I live in a universe that Charles Dickens (or any great novelist) has created, where fascinating characters and events all intertwine with one another, and the culmination of it all is my life. Perhaps that is the reason why I have such a desire to be a writer?

In my research for this post, I went on an internet searching hunt for the poem that I referenced at the beginning of this piece. After searching through a list of 20 or so poems (including “Jabberwockey” by Louis Carroll, “Frost at Midnight” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Children’s Hour” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” by William Wordsworth,) I came to realize that my memory of that poem may best fit with all those other “timeless” events of my life. And to that moment in my life that I will never truly recapute, and all the rest, I am grateful.

Fireworks and U2

This 4th of July weekend was a pretty BIG one. But since I am on vacation, I can actually go all the way back to Wednesday, June 29th, to when all the fun really began.

Me and Erick B.

On the one year anniversary of the departure of my good friend Hugh Mundy, my brother and I celebrated the exact same way by doing a little stand-up comedy with…Hugh Mundy. After preparing a little bit the night before by watching our 2010 debut of the “The Jones Brothers Experience,” Drew and I both agreed that it at least could not be any worse than our first time out. We decided to take a different approach and separate our sets, with introductions by Hugh, and I personally think that it worked for the better. I created a very standard stand-up set that focused on the origins of my name, the joys of traveling with my brother Drew, and of course the world of education today. Overall, I enjoyed getting up and performing for my friends, and it made me aware of just how lucky I am to be surrounded by such wonderful people on a daily basis. Also, a special element to the show was that my great friend for life, Erick Baker, was able to come and perform before us, to which I am very grateful again.

The next big event (besides dinner and time well spent with my girlfriend’s parents) was the U2 show at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday night. Love um’ or hate um’, that show was absolutely EPIC! It was kind of like seeing them at the Basement in Nashville, as the stage and everyone felt so close together. The opening four tracks nearly caused me to walk out, because they were so unbelievably good. I honestly thought the show could not get better, but it did. With every single track they played, the audience only grew more amped up. We all sang “Amazing Grace” with Bono leading the way, and then the true treat of the evening was what everyone on the news has been talking about, “A Blind Man plays with U2.” Not only was the moment something special, but the song he played (dedicated to his loving wife) was an untold classic, “All I Want is You.” It just may be the concert event of the year!

Then came the 3th and 4th of July, and YES I meant the “3th” as it has been dubbed in East Nashville. On Sunday, a large group of East Nasty’s headed over to a nice little BBQ at Lee-Roys. Conversations were had, people discussed U2, and community hotdogs were consumed. All and all a great time. Finally for the grand finally, my girlfriend and I headed out to my parents for the 4th of July fireworks show of Murfreesboro, TN. It was a nice, cool evening, and we enjoyed sitting out in the yard and lifting our heads to the sky.

A wonderful way to spend 5 days, and I am forever thankful to those that I got to spend time with over these past couple of days.

 

I would be posting my update on A Year with Dylan today, but instead I am heading out to Bonnaroo for the second year. Wish me luck. I will give you a full report sometime next week, as well as my updates on everything else happening in my world. Until then, keep rockin!

Rod

I was first acquainted with Werner Herzog during my International Film Studies class while at UNA. My professor, Brooke Perry, introduced us to worlds of cinema that I never even knew existed, and he took us deep within the minds of the film makers that created these obscure worlds of vision. The most interesting, bar none, came when we began our study of all that film that came out of Germany, which is how I came to watch Herzog films. We studied his work for a couple of weeks, including his remake of Nosferatu, some of his short documentaries, and the astounding Fitzcarraldo. Anyway, long story short, I became a pretty big fan of his. If you have not seen any of his documentaries, such as Grizzly Man or Encounters at the End of the World, you really are missing out. His newest documentary is an exploration of the oldest paintings ever found, the cave paintings found in southern France. The film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams was shot entirely in 3D, and it is something that has to be experienced to fully enjoy. But it was simply amazing, from the story itself to the visuals throughout the entire documentary. If you get the chance, I would go see it if I were you.

Also of note, my picture from The Flaming Lips show at the Ryman Auditorium was picked for “photo of the day” over at USA Today. Click here to see it.

Now off to Bonnaroo.

*Author’s note: A few years back I attempted this concept, but with little success. The idea was relatively simple, to listen to each of Bob Dylan’s albums in chronological order (as they were released), reflect, and then write about the whole experience. Truthfully, I am not going to stray far from the original idea, except instead writing about an entire album each week, I will only be writing about one (or maybe two) key tracks from the albums. After the introspection I will then turn to this blog and talk about what I learn from the music each week. I hope you enjoy what follows, and I will try my best not to keep it too Dylan-centric.

Getty Images

#1 “Song to Woody” off his first album Bob Dylan (1962)

***

My story and His

 

“I’m out here a thousand miles from my home
Walkin’ a road other men have gone down”

I discovered Bob Dylan during my junior year at Hoover High school in North Canton, Ohio. It happened in my English class with a standard assignment to read a biography from the library, write a two-page report, and then give a short one minute speech about our subject. Simple stuff really, and had I been any kind of average student, I should have been able to complete the requirements with ease. But per usual I took the easy way out. I had picked up a short Dylan biography from the public library, but when it came to the night before the due date of the project, I ended up just reading the back cover of the book and a short two paragraph summary on his life from the 1970’s encyclopedia in my house. My (barely) page and half paper and subsequent awful 35 second presentation was filled with about 20% fact and 80 % fabrication. Surprisingly enough my teacher saw right through it.

 

Turns out my teacher was a bit of Dylan fanatic himself, and therefore my lack-luster efforts not only insulted him as a teacher but on a much more personal level, as a Dylan fan. I was forced to not only redo the essay, but I also had to present my findings once again to my peers, thus illustrating how much of a liar I had been. So this time I actually did the assignment right, I picked up the actual biography of the man and I read it from cover to cover. I also decided to give his music a chance as well, and at the Quonset Hut (a local record store) I bought the cassette of “The Times They Are A-Changin.” To say that moment changed my life would be a slight understatement.

 

Up until the moment that I discovered Bob Dylan, my musical world really only consisted of two major components: the oldies radio station of northeastern Ohio and Led Zeppelin. The oldies music was thanks to my dad, who still to this day has an uncanny ability to remember the names of almost all the one-hit wonders between 1955 and 1965 (especially if it was an old soul song.) Zeppelin on the other hand came from a mixture of friends and teenage angst, all in the hopes that our loud Rock N’ Roll music would represent the soundtrack to our rebellious ways. I am fairly certain that all of suburban America in the mid 90’s followed this same design, unless of course you feel under the pressure of grunge music. Anyway, I listened to so much Led Zeppelin in high school that I can still tell you almost anything about their music. For example did you know that ‘Achilles Last Stand’ is the 1st song on the album Presence, and that the song ‘Houses of the Holy’ does not actually appear of the album with the same name, but is actually the 4th track disc one on Physical Graffiti. I did not even have to look that stuff up! Bob Dylan thankfully came along and saved me from a musical path that would have eventually landed me in the world of heavy metal, the appropriately named “butt-rock,” or perhaps even the scarier world of “progressive rock.”

 

“I’m seein’ your world of people and things
Hear paupers and peasants and princes and kings”

            Dylan’s music offered up a new world to me, one filled with lyrics that made me think and visual imagery that painted a new portrait of the world that I lived in. His voice was something new to me as well. Although most people I knew found it rough and unharmonious, I heard something raw and captivating. His music was minimal, torn down to its simplest roots. All that truly mattered was what was being said, and maybe more importantly what you yourself took away from the song.

 

***

“Hey, hey, Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song
‘Bout a funny old world that’s comin’ along”

 Bob Dylan arrived in New York City in January of 1961, and he only had one mission to fulfill. He simply wanted to meet Woody Guthrie. To make a long story short (read his autobiography Chronicles to get a better picture of his life in the East Village in 1961), Bob Dylan quickly made a name for himself as an up and coming folk musician.

            He ended up meeting the right people, which one day landed him in a studio meeting with Columbia Records A&R Director, John Hammond. His covers of standard folk songs were good (copies of what everyone else was doing at the time), but his original songs absolutely knocked them out. It is reported that he played “Blowing in the Wind,” and that by the end of the 1st verse, Columbia was ready to sign him. He was Columbia Records first folk artist, and for his first album they wanted him to follow his folk roots and record a set of standard covers, such as “Man of Constant Sorrow,” and “House of the Rising Sun.” Bob also recorded one original song in that session, a tribute to his hero and inspiration called, “Song to Woody.” Whether he ever performed it for Woody himself when Dylan would go and visit him at the Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital is unknown. But what is important about this is that Dylan got a chance to honor someone who was important to him. Like so many of his songs, Dylan says that this one was something he “had to write.” And I for one am glad that he did.

 

Getty Images

***

Hey, Woody Guthrie, but I know that you know

All the things I’m sayin’ and many times more

I’m singin every song but I can’t sing enough

‘Cause there’s not many men done the things that you done

 

My final thoughts over this song, and Bob Dylan’s first album are nothing grandiose or life changing. I see Bob Dylan in the same light that he looked at Woody Guthrie, as an inspirational figure. Bob Dylan has taught me a great amount throughout the past 15 years of my life, both through his music and through his own personal highs and lows. Just like all of us, he is not a perfect human being. In my opinion, he is a humble artist who has done well with the gifts that God gave him, in particular writing lyrics that go deep within our souls and help us make sense of the world. I probably will not ever write a song myself as a tribute to Bob Dylan, but perhaps this series is my way of saying thanks.

Thanks for reading.

NEXT WEEK: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)