We are sixth or so in line in front the imposing stadium security gate at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It is August 24, 2006 and it is early hours yet – only 2:30 – which leaves us with three hours before we can even enter the stadium where we will see Bob Dylan. If you count the warm-up acts as part of our wait, we have about six or so hours of waiting time before Bob Dylan comes on stage. So we wait.
Behind the gates, a flock of security guards in orange t-shirts mill importantly around as do a murder of policemen who look generally intimidating and eyeball the crowd, which is now beginning to grow quickly, beginning to disappear around the cement curve of the stadium wall.
The two women in front of us in line sit on the ground and smoke Marlboro Lights. One says she is dying to find a bathroom. I’m with her. There’s no way we’re getting into the stadium and there is nothing around that we can see. Cheryl (we exchange names, introductions) spots a fire-station just across the parking lot. “Do you think…” she asks. "Just smile a lot,” I tell her. So it is that approach, hips swinging, our faces beaming and smiling — two freckled blondes in desperate need. The firemen laugh, take mercy, and let us use their facilities, and thank god, because we have another two hours of waiting yet.
In a half hour, the crowd has grown considerably and wraps as far as my eyes can see. A mix of people stand or sit in line. Different age groups are represented, which for some reason surprises me. I expect most people to be my age and about a decade or so older. Nope. There are people of all ages.
Behind us, a group of young people, about 19 or so, sit in a circle with their legs crossed. One boy plays some Dylan riffs on his guitar; his girlfriend makes bracelets by carefully braiding various strands of colored strings and beads that she carefully winds together. Into her unkempt hair she has also woven some of the strands that run streak-like, a sort of rainbow of colors against her rich brown waves. All are dressed grunge style, which I thought had passed a while back, but what do I know? Maybe they are from Seattle, I think, then I wonder if I am up on the latest styles for that age group anyway. They make me think of Kurt Cobain.
Mixed in the crowd are those of age in the sixties who have come to revisit a time and the so-called poet of their generation, a title that Dylan has often shrugged off, depending on the day and the interview. The sixties crowd sport Tevas and flip-flops. The women have long, straight grey and brown hair, while the men all seem to have grey and brown unkempt beards. The women wear flowing and loosely cut dresses flecked with Indian print designs in muted colors. They wear silver ankle bracelets that tinkle when they walk.
I can’t reconcile this crowd with the teens just behind me. In fact, a quick scan of the crowd shows people of all ages and types, from preppy to hippie and back again to the utterly suburban. I wonder where we fit in in all of this, if we fit in at all or if we are simply misfits. I can’t place us anywhere in the group and begin to wonder if we are a complete anomaly, but then, surely there are other writers and editors in this crowd, there have to be, since I’m certain that my review will not be the only one. Maybe each sub-group represents a different decade and phase of Dylan’s career. I start matching the Blonde on Blonde people and then try picking out the John Wesley Harding crowd.