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THE WARM DARK TUNNEL

Freddie Hudson was cursed with a great memory. He could remember everything that ever happened to him. Every slight, every cruel comment disguised as humour, every kiss that led to heartache, every promise not kept, every humiliation, every betrayal by a friend, every stumble and fall in a life lived in search of meaning.

There were also bad memories too.

He remembered coming out of that warm dark tunnel of darkness and gazing up at the doctor painfully dragging him into a cold and clinical world. He had tried with all his might to scramble back but it was no use as the uncaring determined doctor gripped his little head harder and forced him into a place he wasn’t sure about. He always thought perhaps that was why he had a long neck. Some told him, much later, that it was the sign of good breeding but it never convinced him enough to give up his own theory.

On first viewing his parents seemed nice so Freddie decided to hang about and a short time later found himself cradled in his mother’s arms, his grinning dad beside them, in the backseat of a taxi on its way to what would become his boyhood home.

Once settled in his cozy compact blue room he began thinking about the meaning of it all and what all this fuss would eventually come to. He felt awkward imposing on this obviously struggling couple and guilty for the pain he had already caused his mother. This fear of imposing on people would remain with him all his life.

His dad like to drink stout and this miracle brew seemed put the old boy in high spirits – although it clearly had the opposite effect on mum.

“Stout is good for me!” his dad would utter with all the urgency of a serial killer pleading Not Guilty.

“Not when you’ve had ten bottles it isn’t!” Mum would counter in her best Perry Mason voice.

Observing all this sitting on his dad’s lap, Freddie was beginning to suspect he may be a genius. Well, at least in this household. After all, surely the solution to all this was simple. If only mum could just down a few pints herself she could join father and son in singing sea shanties that made absolutely no sense to anyone. And see the fun in it?

She didn’t. And so most nights his parents played another game where they would both reenacted the Battle of the Somme. Freddie very much appreciated the obvious effort they both put into this but it invariably left all three dissipated and feeling defeated.

It wasn’t long before Freddie was up and about and dispatched to school, an institution he loathed with every cell in his body. He thought it truly fraudulent that the teachers spoke gibberish and got paid for it. Yet part of him marvelled at their trickery and on several occasions offered to take over the class with his own form of gibberish which, instead of being rewarded for, got him beaten by the said teachers until he could hardly walk home. Upon completing that long painful journey he’d be greeted at the door by his smiling mum and the words, “How was school today, son?” On one such occasion Freddie found it difficult to speak so his mum cut in with her motivational skills, “Don’t worry, your dad and I were idiots at school too!” Freddie was tempted to ask if he could crawl back into her warm dark tunnel and shimmy up far enough to fall through some trap door and back to whence he came before he was so rudely awakened to this mad place. But refrained in the spirit of good taste and reverence.

Having survived school, Freddie realised he was old enough to be married so he did. He found a girl who seemed to honestly love him so he figured she was a good candidate to try and recreate the joyful association his parents had endured.  And so they took that huge journey down the aisle and thereafter were happy and life was simple and good for a time. Until it wasn’t.

Oneday she said something to him that he couldn’t forget. Or forgive.  So he went on alone trying to forget her and failing.

But as things developed, there was much to do, and shopping lists of things to clutter a life in order to distract a mind that never slept. Freddie’s religion was to stay busy. In a way he thought this would ward off death. For although this life had holes in it, it was all he knew.

He liked to hang out with his friend Jimmy Helle who’d never uttered anything that wasn’t a lie but his choice of words was compelling. Together they whiled away the days, one telling tall tales and the other pretending to buy them for the sake of a friendship. It was a fine relationship because they needed nothing from each other, other than the shared knowledge that they were witnesses to the futility of the passing parade.

Another pal was Alby who had more moves than a snake and was just as quick to disappear when a bar bill was presented. Alby was so dumb he joined ISIS thinking he was working for the CIA.

Around this time, Freddie had the sobering realisation that he had $32.56 to his name so he wrote a bunch of film scripts and hit the jackpot. Suddenly he found that he was irresistible to many women and it wasn’t long before he chose one of them to accompany him down the aisle. Again.

Things went swimmingly for a number of years and he found himself to be on everyone’s lips, especially actresses in need of a job. Or therapy.

Money rolled in but Freddie was too   busy to enjoy himself. Luckily he had a wife who wasn’t so busy so every day she very kindly thought up ways to spend his new found fortune. She was genius when it came to spending money and Freddie thought himself blessed to have her.

Freddie was also surrounded by a team of men who were good with numbers, which was a great relief to him as he’d found math to be as ridiculous as geomatry at school. He was told by these numbers men to just keep on doing what he was doing, whatever that was, and they’d handle the rest.

After Freddie had exhausted himself making 193 films in two years, the numbers men seemed disappointed that the workload hadn’t killed him. So crestfallen were they that they all took holidays at the same time and never returned. Freddie thought it was a little strange that he hadn’t received a postcard or any information on where all his money could be located. This was a major inconvenience as he’d been planning to take his wife (if he could get her out of the shops) and young son on a little holiday of their own.

The kindly men who were good with numbers finally popped up again years later and made a splash in the irrigation business before finally discovering their niche grading horse semen.

Soon Freddie’s name was mud everywhere, including his own home, and it wasn’t long before the Tax Department thought it might be opportune to lend a boot to the situation by charging Freddie with fraud. It wasn’t long before he found himself facing Judge Kafka in the Farce of the Century. Unfortunately Freddie didn’t have Paul Hogan’s millions, or even his own, to make the Laxative Department look like fools, so he had to rely on plain old common sense. Representing himself, Freddie stood and asked the Judge if the definition of fraud was “to financially benefit yourself through deception?” Judge Kafka smiled and affirmed that that was indeed the case. Freddie then stated, “Well I don’t have any money. So I guess I have disadvantaged no one through the deception of myself that the numbers men would take care of business whilst I was making 193 films. No further questions, you Dingbat” and sat.

This sent the court into an uproar. It had been a long while since common sense had been heard in public and the judge toyed with the idea of having him charged with contempt of court. The Lax Department then dropped the charge altogether and wanted to have Freddie retried on the grounds that they couldn’t understand the plot to one of his movies. Freddie stood  and asked them if they were able to follow The Lady From Shanghai to which they replied, “Not on your Nellie, no way” and asked the Judge to have Orson Welles joined in the proceedings. That’s when pandemonium broke out in the courtroom and Freddie was convicted for a parking offence, paid the appropriate fine and walked free. Then caught a tram home.

Urged by his wife (it was a public holiday and the shops were closed) to go to Hollywood and make another fortune for his family, Freddie accepted the challenge. Unfortunately, once he was away his wife, trying her own hand at fiction, told his impressionable son that Daddy had deserted them, leaving them penniless, except for a mansion and everything in it.

Whilst pounding the pavements in Hollywood, Freddie’s wife scored another bargain and moved one of her co-workers into the master bedroom to cope with those long, lonely nights and had Freddie served with divorce papers.

Pretty soon Freddie was seen drinking in bars that even Charles Bukowski would’ve turned his nose up at. He started on white wine and soon hit the harder stuff. One night he had a terrible nightmare and glimpsed hell in all its ugliness and debauchary surrounded by lost souls all screaming for mercy.  But taking a second look he realised he was actually standing on the corners of Hollywood Boulevard and Western at 3am waiting for the lights to change.

Work started to come Freddie’s way and soon he was being invited to all the right parties. Demi Moore wanted him to write a screenplay and Sharon Stone wanted him to take a shower with her.

Every day without fail Freddie sent home, well what was once his home,  gifts, cards, drawings, letters and, when he had it, money,  to his son. But strangely the money never seemed to reach his son and somehow ended up in the bank account of a doctor who shot Botox into women’s faces.

Freddie thought it was about time he wised up, so he married a bipolar movie star in Miami. They returned to L.A and settled in a rented home in Sherman Oaks and there was peace in the Valley. For a time. Some nights her mood swings suited the music and somehow together they stumbled through it. Two against the world. At times Freddie didn’t know if he was coming or going but after four years he found himself between leaving and gone. One particularly hard night, Freddie walked into the darkness and laid down in the road waiting for a bus to run over him.  Unfortunately for him there was a bus strike that night and misfortune followed misfortune until the marriage ended.

Somehow he came to be running a restaurant and proved to be so popular with patrons he was voted the unofficial Mayor of Santa Monica. He made some great pals amongst those he worked with like Ben, Gordon, Cathy, Pat, David, Neth and many drinks were consumed after closing time amidst shared laughter and stories. For a time it felt like he was part of a family again.

On the other hand, the two owners he worked for, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, were insane. Dum had the personality of white wallpaper and was the only wealthy Jewish doctor in L.A who couldn’t get laid. If he sat beside an attractive woman at the bar of his own restaurant and struck up a conversation with her, she’d be gone within 10 minutes. Sometimes less. Freddie named the empty bar stool next to Dum as the Seat of Death. His partner, Dee, always had a smile on his face even when you told him your mother had just died. He also spoke at a thousand miles an hour like a man who’d found the secret recipe of how to make speed.

Doctor Dum would sit on his regular bar stool every night after boring off every attractive woman in Hollywood and snarl at how popular Freddy was with people. It wasn’t long before Freddie was given his marching orders and on his way again, into the night with a thousand eyes and no particular place to go.

On one such night he gave all of his remaining possessions away and made his bed on the beach thinking, like the Indians do, that it was a perfect night to die. No sadness. No self-pity. In fact he welcomed the chance to now depart this strange world, leaving it like he came into it, with nothing. He closed his eyes and drifted off expecting to enter that warm dark tunnel again that would hopefully lead to a light. Or something.

But instead, he awakened to a new dawn and the disappointing realisation that a homeless person hadn’t killed him during his sleep. Then he looked around and witnessed a dawn of breathless beauty, and finally heard the voice of God as it said unto him, “Leave your cross here and find the music again.”

Freddie misinterpreted this message to mean go forth and populate so he found a jumpin’ little joint on Pico and exchanged numbers with lots of Black girls, until finally he got the right translation that it was all about the music being played at this club by a band of all stars led by Wadstar and Turk.

One night the doorman Basil Wrathbone sussed that Freddie had nowhere to go so he invited him back to his pad to share another 437 beers until they collapsed on the carpet and awoke a week later.

Sometimes between late at night and early in the morning, the bewitching hours, Freddie would see his new best friend appear giving a perfect impression of Creeping Jesus as he quietly inched in the darkness towards the Venetian blinds and nervously peeked out, whispering “The C.I.A are looking for us!” To which Freddie would reply from his living room sofa bed, “Why?” This question would rattle Basil and he’d give a knowing smile and creep back to his room. Sometimes they’d get so paranoid from this nightly activity that they’d watch endless repeats of Sherlock Holmes on TV in the hope that something, anything, would be resolved.

One day Freddie’s cousin thought he may be useful to him so he paid for his airfare to get him back to his suspicious homeland, Australia, the land of second chances and forked tongues.

Freddie returned and everyone patted him on the back.  Yes, everyone seemed pleased to see him except his old editor, the famous drunk about town Peter McBland who was genius at cutting the plot out of every film he edited.

Freddie was excited to see his son again but found that the young man’s heart and head had been poisoned by a woman who resented that her only achievement had been hitching herself to Freddie’s wagon. One night he invited his son to dinner and excitedly prepared a roast with all the trimmings and waited. And waited. Sometime after midnight Freddie turned the oven off. And something deep inside him too. Possibly the hope that the truth would win out and a happy ending might prevail. But life clearly wasn’t a movie.

An old friend Richard Masters, whom Freddie had once given a big break to, remembered enough to repay the favour. Richard was now running a very successful underground film festival aptly named P.U.S.S.Y and honoured Freddie by presenting a retrospective of 8 of his old movies. It was a roaring success and audiences cried in all the wrong places and the films were now deemed to be classics.

Freddie was hailed as a legend and people thrust awards at him in the hope that they’d weigh him down and he’d become stagnant like good old safe legends are supposed to behave. But it didn’t work and the bastard continued to live and produce new works.

In fact he lived to be 100 and received a telegram from the Queen  which read, “You’re a fucking miracle, Brad.” The fact that the silly old bitch had gotten his name wrong after too many G&Ts didn’t dilute Freddie’s delight in receiving this thoughtful correspondence and so he went on about his life, making mistakes, taking people at their word, searching for meaning in everything, and just being human.

His final words were reported to be, “Awwwfuckyasall!” Or something to that effect as he passed from this earthly world back into that warm dark tunnel of mystery, taking his place in our cherished and grossly rewritten history.

Text (c) Frank Howson 2017

Painting (c) Frank Howson 2017

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IN BLOOD AND TEARS

There's nothing more I need in a woman's eyes
It's a lonely, hollow, comforting feeling
Finally knowing that
I am empowered and can no longer be conned
With the promise of something wonderful 
That will ultimately be paid for
In blood and tears
I now appreciate all people without any agenda
Other than to laugh and share some joy while we are still here
And at the heart of it that's all that matters
We hide behind so many veils in our youth
Playing roles that can't be sustained
Even the greatest actors can only summon up King Lear
Once a night
Free at last
I thought
God almighty free at last
All I wanted was peace
And some joy
And someone to share the good times with
But each candidate brought their carriage of problems
Their hurt caused by another
Their suspicions caused by another
Their jealousy caused by another
With no one to take it out on but me
So what should've been joyous times were ruined
Laughter replaced by tears
Kindness viewed with cynicism
Until it was turned into something nasty
That could only be understood by them
And this was called a relationship
Others would deem it a prison
Some, hell
It reduced life to a death
And made fools of those who had craved it
I still believe in some things
But less by the day
I wonder how much of us must whither
Before we pass away?
I am not a killer
And yet the faces of several people who have used me
Flash through my mind every day
I am considered a kind man
By some, a strong man
And yet I could kill a handful of people without a thought
Maybe most of us could
With a clear conscience
As we would write it off
As a public service
Our act would save other good souls
From being exploited and then
Thrown away to be useless
Having given them mansions
So that we could settle down on someone else's couch
While they rewrote history to alienate the ones you loved 
The most
Yet they weren't charged with your murder?
But perhaps justice is yet to be served
And if we took it upon ourselves to render it
Would the government not erect statues to us?
They would've in bygone days
Some people don't deserve to be called human
They don't act it, they don't think it, they don't care
They love to destroy other people's lives and values and then 
leave others to deal with the mess
They are spiritual vampires
Why should they be allowed to get away scott free
Sipping their white wine
Repeating other people's opinions
Only to laugh
And destroy another day
Another life?
I missed my calling
I should've been Wyatt Earp
or Bat Masterson
Riding the range
With the power to take or give life
Where and how I saw it
But instead of a badge and a revolver
I was given a suit and a tie
And an expectation of what I had to achieve
In a gentleman's world
I failed
Because of those I let into my life
with their promises of "This will be fun" and 
"I will always love you" and 
"Thank you so much for your kindness, it won't be forgotten"
But it was by the next day
Which brings me back to the gun
And why I am lost
Between the cracks of right and wrong
Watch your step
Night is falling
I'm considering becoming Jewish
Just so I'll know where my home is



(c) Frank Howson 2017


photograph by Vanessa Allan.

 

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NAPOLEON IN DEFEAT

I don’t know where I’m going

But I’m starting here

I dueled with my demons

And conquered my fear

I’d reached a place

Where I was at peace with myself

And the joy that that brought

Meant more to me than wealth

To sit in the garden

and feel the sun on my face

Was to reach an unknown destination

And yet to know this place

But you crashed through my door

With your bag of moods

And a bottle of water

That you’d stolen from Lourdes

Escaping from a man

That’d unfriended you

And his songs of misery

That’d all come true

I don’t know where I’m going

But I’m starting here

All the things that I treasured

You smashed them, my dear

 

 

(c) 2015 Frank Howson

 

 

 

 

 

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R.I.P

Killed by the slow moving internet connection.

Killed by the small print.

Killed by the waiting.

Killed by the people who never showed up.

Killed by the opportunities lost.

Killed by never being fully understood.

Killed by the loss of parents.

Killed by the orphanage.

Killed by never finding your way home again. .

Killed by too much false love.

Killed by too many people asking how you are but not wanting the answer.

Killed by being too honest.

Killed by too many battles fought alone.

Killed by reading between the lines.

Killed in your sleep.

Killed by the mediocre.

Killed by finding out too much.

Killed by never finding yourself.

Killed by the dull eyed crowd.

Killed by giving more than you had.

Killed by the slow cooker.

Killed by critics who only enjoy sport.

Killed  by gossip.

Killed by pacifists smelling blood.

Killed by mistake.

(c) 2016 Frank Howson

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MY FAVOURITE BOOKS LIST

A friend asked me to pick my 10 fave books of all time. The 10 best of anyting is a hard ask but here’s goes. I have chosen those 50 books that moved me the most and had the biggest influence.

1) THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

2) GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens.

3) THE DISENCHANTED by Budd Schulberg.

4) THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY by Oscar Wilde.

5) NODDY IN TOYLAND by Enid Blyton

6) A LIFE by Elia Kazan.

7) CRAZY SUNDAYS – F. SCOTT FITZGERALD IN HOLLYWOOD by Aaron Latham

8) CHRONICLES by Bob Dylan.

9) THIS IS ORSON WELLES by Orson Welles & Peter Bogdanovich.

10) A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway.

11) THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

12) IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote

13) A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens

14) HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain

15) WHAT’S EXACTLY THE MATTER WITH ME by P.F. Sloan

16) DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller

17) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee

18) TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald

19) POWER WITHOUT GLORY by Frank Hardy

20) PETER PAN by James M. Barrie

21) DIARY OF AN UNKNOWN by Jean Cocteau

22) ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE by William Goldman

23) THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD by Ron Hansen

24) SCOTT & ERNEST by Matthew Bruccoli

25) THE POWER OF MYTH by Joseph Campbell & Bill Moyers.

26) ERROL FLYNN – A MEMOIR by Earl Conrad

27) ON THE STREET WHERE I LIVE by Alan Jay Lerner

28) DON’T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD by Eric Burdon with J. Marshall Craig

29) OLIVIER ON ACTING by Laurence Olivier

30) THE MUSIC GOES ROUND MY HEAD by David Johnston

31) FREE ASSOCIATION by Steven Berkoff

32) THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE by Robert Evans

33) MARILYN by Norman Mailer

34) HITCHCOCK BY TRUFFAUT

35) A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway

36) JOURNAL OF A NOVEL by John Steinbeck

37) PICTURE by Lillian Ross

38) HOME BEFORE DARK by Ruth Park

39) TINSEL by William Goldman

40) PORTRAITS by Helmut Newton

41) THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT by Quentin Crisp

42) THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES by Joseph Campbell

43) TEN GREAT PLAYS by William Shakespeare

44) FINISHING THE HAT by Stephen Sondheim

45) W. C. FIELDS – HIS FOLLIES AND FORTUNES by Robert L. Taylor

48) THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN Volume 1 by Mark Twain

49) IN HIS OWN WRITE by John Lennon

50) THE ENTERTAINER by John Osbourne

Boxer

BULWARK

Empty like the dawn. The news channel plays static in my region. Ghosts haunt this apartment wearing masks of old lovers in order to taunt me. The telephone screams and the toaster purposely burns my bread. Sullied like thy father whose art is in heaven, leading me hot into Perdition, chained and whipped by forces of my own undoing. Gentle be thy name until I am called at midnight to visit the homes of the stars. Everyone of them shooting for a living, making stories of redemption and compassion while they condemn their workers to a hell on earth. Overt your eyes, dear servant, for nothing good comes of intimacy just pain and hang overs and the search for meaning in the nothingness of this bottomless well. Arise you cripples and walk, proud-like, James Arness-like, from this Holocaust we called home.

Beyond this space is the room nobody lives in. I have glimpsed pictures of it in a magazine in the days when such things mattered. Whatever happened to the Kinks and their sibling hatred as I darn my socks before throwing them out. All things must be mended before they are discarded says the good book but I have lost my place.

I watch movies of dead people acting happy in front of painted sets, their witty dialogue an offence before God.

People who are friends push past on their way to talk to those who hate them. Their name must’ve been in the paper this week and one senses they should know where “it’s all happening.”

I’m not sure Tonto was happy.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend sings Marilyn but she smiles as though she knows the truth about the Kennedys. She was always a smart girl, it’s there in her eyes.

I have been plotting my demise for some time now but can’t find the right door. Perhaps Tuesday.

Gladiators are felled by bad luck and a chip on their shoulders. Sometimes in the morning mist it is possible to see clearly.

The sea has risen around my island and although I find the view pleasing, the water is cold.

(c) Frank Howson 2014

 

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BOB DYLAN

Like all great things, Bob Dylan is an acquired taste. Some people don’t like caviar. Others will pay a fortune for it. Who is right? No one. You get out of it what you need, or you don’t at all. And that is cool. In the words of Dylan, “it’s all good.”

One of the most frustrating things about Art is none of us can agree about it. Look at the critics. They can’t even agree. You read some reviews about yourself and you’ve failed magnificently. You pick up another paper to read that you’re a genius. And again, who’s right? The truth is neither of them. What it is is what it is to each individual person based upon their own personal life experience. Some people can stand in front of the Mona Lisa and feel nothing. I say time is the only true judge of somethings’ worth. And after 50 years and at 73 years of age Bob Dylan is still going, God bless him, and we are all the better for it.

It always intrigues me when someone goes to a Dylan show and says “He didn’t perform he just stood there, or sat at the keyboards, and sang the songs.” Well, that’s all he’s ever done. Even when he burst onto the scene like a meteorite, he just stood at the microphone and played his songs on guitar and sang, with a shyness most of us found endearing. Like he was singing something so personal it was too revealing even to himself.

He now says those early songs he must’ve channeled from a higher being because he doesn’t know where they came from. And even he remains startled by some of the things that young boy wrote. “They had a magic to them. I can’t do that anymore. I do something else now.” The magic has been replaced by craftsmanship. And what a craftsman he is.

There are those who say they hate his voice and he can’t sing. Well, which voice are they referring to? He’s had about six different voices over the journey. You want to hear a pleasant voice that is an instrument? Go see Tony Bennett next time he comes to town.

Some people have voices that are technically brilliant, and I’m in awe of their gift. But after a few songs I find my mind wandering and it all becomes a bit boring. Just my personal opinion. I think that’s why I’ve always gravitated to the originals. People who sing with individuality. Perhaps it’s called passion. As Don McLean described Dylan in “American Pie” he sang in “…a voice that came from you and me.” And that voice sang songs about losers, drifters, hobos, dust bowl survivors, slaves, forgotten blues singers, Jewish prophets, misunderstood gangsters, a lawman who became Judas to his best friend, people who’d been shut out of society because of the colour of their skin, and men who’d been wrongly imprisoned for things they hadn’t done. His voice was their voice.

I one day played my son the song “Hurricane” about the travesty, or the pig-circus of justice that convicted Rubin “Hurricane” Carter to many years in jail and a nightmare he couldn’t wake from. I told my son, “Bob cared so much about this man that he wrote this song and the reaction to it led to a retrial for Rubin and his eventual release.” My son, Oliver, a wise old soul, looked at me and said, “But dad, Bob cares about everyone. Don’t you listen to his lyrics?” I told that story to P.F. Sloan who’d known Bob for many years, and P.F looked at me, smiled and said, “Oliver got that right.”

In many ways I think Bob’s gift has been a huge burden to him. At the heart I think he’s a shy, very sensitive man, and the fanaticism surrounding him embarrasses and probably sometimes angers him that it’s made him a prisoner. He once said, in answer to a question about why at his age he still tours, “The only time I know who I am is when I’m onstage.”

Many creative people know what that is like. It’s like we weren’t given this life for our own enjoyment, but rather to serve the gift. And this gift has taken us from our loved ones, our home, and the wheels that drive a normal life.

When I was young I was very shy, some find this hard to believe, but I learnt how to push through that. Or perhaps you get to an age where you don’t give a fuck what others think of you and with that comes a great relief. A liberation. In my younger days I could easily perform to 2000 people but was far more nervous having a one to one conversation with anyone. That is the ultimate contradiction of most performers.

I also love and admire Bob’s bravery. His guts to follow his own instincts without an eye on the box office or the record charts or even what his fans want him to do. To me that is a true artist. That boldness and commitment to follow your gift’s course at the expense of your own comfort and career safety.

There is a lovely and very revealing story about the young Bob Dylan. He was one of the few great artists of his time that didn’t perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, although he’d been booked to do it. He got as far as the rehearsal for the show and sang a new song, “The John Birch Society Blues,” a song about America’s paranoia of communists. He performed the new tune and the producer of the show came down from the control room and told Bob that the song was unacceptable for prime time viewing in America, and that Bob should do “Blowin’ In The Wind” instead. Bob went to his dressing room and thought about how his parents and all his uncles and aunts were excitedly gathered around the TV set in Minnesota awaiting his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. They were so proud of him. He then made a decision that would define the rest of his career. He put his guitar into his guitar case, put on his jacket, and quietly walked out of the TV studio onto the winter streets of New York and went home. What a huge decision for a young boy to make, and yet that decision determined who he was going to be. If he’d compromised then, how could he not compromise again in the future? Once you sell your integrity you don’t get it back.

I love Bob. He has inspired me most of my life. And like any bold artist he is not afraid of trying something and being laughed at. In fact, there were many times in the 80s when he was laughed at and, even more cruelly, dismissed as no longer relevant. But he stuck to his course and has, over the last 15 years, made one of the most stunning and unexpected comebacks in show business scoring 3 Number One albums, more than he’d had in his supposed heyday.

So many of the great ones are gone. And so sadly missed. Imagine, no pun intended, just what John Lennon may’ve done over the past 30 years. We are so blessed that Bob is still with us. And still bravely evolving, going where others are too scared or compromised to tread.

Long may you reign, Bobby.

(c) Frank Howson 2014