A Very Dylan Christmas:#3

Posted December 13th, 2011
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If this blog has a yearly tradition it is my ongoing efforts at photographing Bob Dylan’s Christmas Decorations. Not everyone thinks of Bob Dylan as a Christmassy sort of guy. I know I didn’t. But I do now.

It started because I like to inspect the neighborhood Christmas decorations every year and Mr. Dylan has a house in my neighborhood.  I grew up worshipping Mr. Dylan. Not too many artists had more impact on my development than he did. And now I believe the same holds true for his Christmas decorating style. Let us examine his approach. There is much to learn.

Of all the outdoor decorating styles on display in my neighborhood, year after year Mr. Dylan’s is  the most low key. It appears casual to the point of almost seeming unplanned. At first glance it may look thrown together without much forethought. Yet when we examine his efforts in years past,his astonishing consistency reveals the stylings of a very specific Christmas artist at work.

First: a brief trip down memory lane.

Here is Mr. Dylan’s decor in 2009.

Here is Mr. Dylan’s Christmas offering in 2010.

And now behold, The Dylan Christmas of 2011:

This year we see a variation on last year’s theme as he repeats his signature lack of formality. He has again hung the lights in what can now be referred to as a prototypical Dylanesque style.There is resistence to symmetry, the avoidance of an obvious pattern or design.  In the detail below we see the return of a classic Dylan touch: the low hanging loop, which some call ‘Dylan’s Necktie’. Others prefer to call it ‘The Crutch’.

Also this year the lights are higher up on the bushes than  in previous years, perhaps indicating  a more spiritual intention. Then again, they may be providing a comment about  the hopes of the common man in an economic downturn.

As with all of Dylan’s best work, ultimately we are left with more questions than answers.

Yet tears well up and there is a quiet joy. Or something.

Happy Holidays everyone. From me. And from Bob.

PS: No matter what the copy on the page reads, my new book is in stock again now. They just restocked them. Buy one, won’t you?


Barnes and Noble


A very Bob Dylan Christmas, part deux

Posted December 2nd, 2010
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Its the hap hap happiest day of the year for me. The holiday season has officially started.  I am talking about the unveiling of this year’s Bob Dylan Christmas tableau.

As you can read here, I have been fascinated by Mr. Dylan’s Christmas pyrotechnics for a few years now, probably because I am generally fascinated by Mr. Dylan. He is one of the few figures in entertainment I still regard with awe. In fact, I recently re-watched Don’t Look Back and liked it better than I did the last time I watched it . What I am saying is that he was a big big deal to me growing up. And I guess because he still looms so large in my consciousness, I am completely entertained by his Christmas decorating ideas.  As I mentioned in last year’s post, he and I live generally in the same neighborhood. (At least I do. I have no idea how much time he actually spends at the residence that is widely known to be his.) And that is the extent of my contact with him,( except for the time when I saw him perform at Berkeley High School when I was fifteen and got to sit on a folding chair right on the very stage.)

I guess what I like most about his Christmas decorating approach is the understatement… reminiscent of the way my irritable Uncle Mike used to put up his lights, after a few too many beers…as though they were thrown at the hedge in a fit of resentful rage in order to shut up my nagging Aunt Edna.  But this year, relatively speaking, Bob has gone all out. He not only appears to have used a ladder for the second year in a row, but he has added several items to the little free standing display that looms just beyond the fence opening. Now there is a larger pre-lit Christmas tree and five LED- candy canes beside the LED reindeer. Its a veritable winter wonderland.

So thumbs up to Bob for contributing another seasonal marvel.

A very Bob Dylan Christmas from me to you.

Posted December 12th, 2009
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Bob Dylan's Christmas Lights Bob Dylan has a new Christmas album out. Here is a link. Click on this:(  I’ll Be Home for Christmas) and let’s listen to him sing “I’ll be Home for Christmas” together as I tell you the heartwarming story of what Bob’s version of the song means to me.

Lets begin with Exhibit A…the photo above which I also use as my blog header. I’m that fond of it.

But first a little back story: I live in lovely Malibu by the sea; fabled in story and song.  I have a nice, kind of modest A framey home, but my neighborhood  also contains some private residences that look like The Pitti Palace .  And when the holidays roll around, some of the inhabitants of these homes spare no expense in terms of their decorating. They hire professional crews to  transform their grounds so that you  might easily confuse any of them  with the courtyard at The Helmsley plaza  or The Beverly Wilshire Hotel.  Their tree trunks and branches are evenly wrapped with mini lights. There are multitudes of inflatable  and electronic figures.

Down at the end of one of these streets , two years ago, I took the above picture of the Christmas lights out in front of the Bob Dylan residence. They were so casually tossed on to a vine out in front of the fence, almost at street level, that they made me laugh. As someone who grew up in awe of Bob Dylan (and my awe list is a very short one) I spent a lot of time that Christmas enjoying the idea of a drunken pissed off Bob begrudgingly trying to get those lights on to that hedge somehow to please someone or other , then getting frustrated and fed up because they were getting tangled and he couldn’t  make them look right, plus it was taking too much time, how much time was he supposed to waste on these damn things anyway? After all, he didn’t exactly know how  to fucking do it since he was raised Jewish and spent the other 364 days on the road , dammit.

(To be fair, I have no idea if Bob Dylan had a hand in putting them up. I know he owns a house that is hidden behind that fence. But all that is visible from the street are some old aquamarine dumpsters and a couple of rusting car corpses. I have no idea if he ever actually sets foot on these premises. That didn’t effect my enjoyment of his overall decorating prowess.)

Cut to 2009: Bob’s got the new Christmas album out. He’s Mr. Christmas now and its time to wrestle with the damn lights again. So  I went out tonight to see how he did. And I’ve got to give him some props. It looks to me like this year Bob apparently bought a ladder. The lights are higher up. They’re more evenly lined up,except in a few places. I think he’s definitely improving his over all decorating technique. I’m am very impressed, sort of.Bob Dylan #3Bob DYlan 2009 #1

Bob Dylan’s Biggest Fans

Posted April 27th, 2009
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Only a few people in entertainment retain real icon status for me. Bob Dylan is one. And so, I thought I would use the release of his newest album as an occasion to expound on my “relationship” to Bob. Such as it is. He had a huge impact on my ideas about music and creativity when I was a kid. I was never “in love” with him, like I was with John Lennon, (he was too incomprehensible and prickly, whereas John Lennon was just the right amount of both.) but I actually snuck out in the middle of the night once when I was in high school and Dylan had just gone electric, and some how finagled a ticket to a performance he was giving at Berkeley High School.(!) Our tickets entitled my friends and I to sit on folding chairs on the apron of the stage, only a few feet from him. It was so surreal, even then, that I sometimes wonder if I made the whole thing up. Anyway, over time I have become a lot more jaded and cynical ( though I was doing a pretty good job of appearing to be both even when I was in high school) but I still think Bob Dylan is a very big deal.

Cut to : Now. Bob Dylan lives generally in my neighborhood. And when I say “lives” I have no idea what that means. I don’t know if he’s ever there.  I have never seen him. I definitely LIVE in my neighborhood in every sense of the word. I know the cashiers at the markets by name.  But I never have seen Mr. Dylan waiting on line with a basket full of groceries or standing at the dry cleaner with an arm load of soiled pants. Perhaps he throws his clothes out after one wearing, like I read that Jerry Lewis does with his socks. I really have no idea.

But I do know two fairly amusing things about Bob Dylan. The first one is that he puts up the most enjoyable  Christmas decorations on his block. In a neighborhood that is filled with huge homes that are constantly in a state of getting even larger, and home owners who hire day laborers to carefully finesse the seasonal decorating of their yards almost as though they were department stores or hotels, someone at Bob Dylan’s property put up this  string of lights :20071215_0019

I instantly loved his approach so much that I snuck out to take a picture. In my fantasies, I like to think it was Bob himself who hung them because who would hire an assistant this sloppy? It reminded me of something someone’s irritable  uncle might have done as a concession to his nagging wife. “There! I put up the God Damn Christmas decorations,  are you happy? So shut up and stop talking about it, for crying out loud.” Now I hear he has a Christmas album coming out. I can only pray that he brings the same insanely casual and off center approach to his interpretation of the Christmas classics. It might not sell that well but I would definitely get a kick out of it.

The second slightly amusing thing is  that Bob Dylan has apparently ticked off the people who live across the street from him. And when I say “live across the street from him”, these people  do appear to live there. They have a house and cars and a mailbox. But they overlook a piece of the Dylan property that is kind of a no-man’s land. There is a chain link fence and slightly visible behind it are large rusting storage dumpsters and a number of deteriorated car exoskeletons that never move. There is also dirt road that leads to what, I do not know. Somewhere in the midst  of this tableau is a porto-potty that apparently Mr. Dylan rented to service his security guards. And  that is what is driving these neighbors to distraction.

I first read about it all when a friend of mine sent me a link to an article in the L.A. Times. It explained the nature of the brouhaha in general and the fact that the  people across the street had  apparently felt the need to deflect the wafting porto potty odors by filling their front yard full of fans.  We, at my home, looked at each other quizzically since we had walked down this block millions of times and couldn’t remember smelling any human waste or seeing any fans. So the next time I went out for “A Full Bob” (we have a couple of different  routes we take . The one that takes us past the Dylan storage dumpsters is about a three mile route that we refer to as “A Full Bob. “) I brought a camera. And there they were.  Poor Bob. Still being hounded by fans.bobs-big-fanas