The Marriage Interpreter (No. 52)

The Husband upside-down dancing with psychedelic chickens.

THE HUSBAND walks into Bluebird’s office carrying two pairs of trousers on hangers.

The Husband: Hey! Guess what I got for school!

Bluebird: (Sets down pen.) What’d you get?

The Husband: Some trousers! On sale! See this pair? They’re Pollos!

Bluebird: (Squinting at trousers.) Uh . . .

The Husband: (Oblivious.) You know! Pollos? Like the chicken? They have a little man on a chicken holding a hammer on them. VERY classy.

(Bluebird is speechless.)

The Husband: Hey! Guess what I got for school! Some trousers! On sale! See this pair? They’re Pollos!

THE HUSBAND is reading on the living room couch.

Bluebird: (Squinting from kitchen.) What are you reading?

The Husband: This? Oh, it’s the Lolololag Largolarginaut.

Bluebird: Wha—?

The Husband: —the Hoolag Hoolighuganao!

Bluebird: I still don’t know what you’re saying.

The Husband: You know! You gave it to me! The Ololololoo Loo-loo-ooginoh!

Bluebird: Do you mean “THE GULAG”—

The Husband: Yes.

Bluebird: —”ARCHIPELAGO”?

The Husband: Yes! (Clears throat.) It’s a very good book. You should read it some time. Lots of vowels AND consonants. That’s VERY important to me, you know. Also, syllables. I like them a LOT.

The Husband: You know! You gave it to me! The Ololololoo Loo-loo-ooginoh!

THE HUSBAND is in the kitchen eating something crunchy. Bluebird walks in.

The Husband: (Mouth still full.) Man, these cookies are really good!

Bluebird: (Covers eyes with one hand.) Do you mean the dog cookies Karen gave us?

The Husband: (Swallows rest of dog cookie.) Yum. Peanut buttery. (A beat.) I won’t eat any more. (Another beat.) Ask Karen for the recipe, will you? (A third beat.) I need it for… the dogs.

Bluebird: Uh-huh.

Brightly colored photo collage of The H. dancing with psychedelic chickens.

Psst! Here’s the first volume to Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. It is an amazing story of life in the early Soviet Union and the gulag system.

The Marriage Interpreter (No. 51)

Advil Lavigne: Just tell me which one fixes the headache.

The Husband: Dude, your neck is thick! Just like that girl on Downton Abbey.

Abelard: ???

The Husband: (Grasping for name.) You know who I’m talking about—the one with the thick neck!

Abelard: ???

The Husband: (Remembers her name; face lights up. ) Lady Instagram!

THE HUSBAND is washing dishes and ruminating. Bluebird is reading.

The Husband: Bluebird?

Bluebird: Yes?

The Husband: Did you know there can only be one Highlander?

Bluebird: (Dreamily staring at open book.). Okay.

The Husband: Are you listening?

Bluebird: Yes. (Looks up.) You’re a Dr. Pepper—

The Husband: —Highlander.

Bluebird: (Returns to reading.) Congratulations.

THE HUSBAND calls Bluebird from the ranch.

The Husband: I need to ask you a serious question.

Bluebird: Okay, shoot.

The Husband: Who is Advil Lavigne?

Bluebird: I don’t—how did you…? Huh. Would you look at that.

THE HUSBAND is standing in the hallway ready to go to the hardware store. Bluebird is reading a book on the couch.

The Husband: I have your list.

Bluebird: (Without looking up.) Mmm-hmmm?

The Husband: (Scanning page.) So you need a dust mask and air filters—

Bluebird: (Still reading.) Hmmmmm.

The Husband: (Squinting.) —and a squid widow for a wool herring…

Bluebird: (Eyes still on book; shakes head.) Uh-uh.

The Husband: No squid widow?

Bluebird: (Dreamy voice.) Squeegee.

The Husband: Wool herring?

Bluebird: (Turning page of book.) Whole house.

The Husband: Your handwriting is awfu—

Bluebird: (Interjects.) —Are you wearing my glasses?

The Husband: No. (A pause.) Maybe. (A pause.) I’m going now.

Bluebird: (Turns another page.) Mmmm-hmmmm.

The Marriage Interpreter (No. 50)

Photo-illustration of The Husband making Bunny Ears.

THE HUSBAND strolls into Bluebird’s office. BLUEBIRD is on the phone with Phillip.

The Husband: What are the din deets?

Bluebird: (On the phone with Phillip Lozano.) Wait, this is for you Phillip. (Turns on speaker phone.)

The Husband: What are the din deets? That means ‘dinner details’— it’s for people who are too busy to say entire words.

Phillip: (Laughs.) How are you?

The Husband: (Grabbing the speaker phone and walking away.) What have I been doing? I’ve been busy, busy. I’m busy growing out a mustache and that takes time. . . .

THE HUSBAND looks glum.

Bluebird: What’s wrong?

The Husband: I was just listening to a Gwen Stefani song and now I’m confused.

Bluebird: Okay?

The Husband: (Frustrated.) What’s a hollowbacked girl?


Wait! Don’t tell me! Your talking about Eggy Strop. (Flustered.) I mean, Streggy Loop! I mean, Piggy Ope! I mean—


THE HUSBAND is driving south. BLUEBIRD is in the passenger seat talking a mile-a-minute.

Bluebird: …and that reminds me of—

The Husband: Wait! Don’t tell me! Your talking about Eggy Strop. (Flustered.) I mean, Streggy Loop! I mean, Piggy Ope! I mean—

Bluebird: (Wide-eyed.) —Iggy Pop?

The Husband: (A beat. Then, casual-like.) Well, naturally it’s…that guy.

THE HUSBAND IS SENDING TEXT MESSAGES to Bluebird from the ranch.

(Ping! A message arrives.)

The Husband: I’m changing my pen name to Verdana Fontt.

Bluebird: (Texting back.) Okay? What’s your middle name, then?

The Husband: Futura. (Ping!) But she’s thinking about changing it to her mother’s maiden name—

Bluebird: (Realizes what’s coming.) (Small voice.) Oh no.

The Husband: (Ping!) —San Serif.

(Bluebird covers her eyes with her hands.)

The Husband: (Ping!) Are you still there? (Ping!) Anyway, Verdana Fontt is also a superhero. (Ping!) She can give you an instant migraine at will if you stare at her too long.

THE HUSBAND is calling Bluebird from the ranch on Easter Sunday.

Bluebird: (Answering phone.) Hello?

The Husband: Happy Halloween!

Bluebird: ??? (Pause.) Are you having a stroke?

The Husband: (Ignoring question.) Did you know you can make an omelette with Cadbury Cream Eggs? (Talking faster.) I’ve had six cups of coffee! (And faster.) I think I may go for a run this morning!

Bluebird: I…(Stumped.) Hunh.

The Husband: (Talking at the speed of sound.) Thenewespressomaker fromthethriftstore worksgreat! (Even faster.) I’mgoingtohavemorecoffeenow! Iwillcallyouafter Ifinishstudying! HappyEaster!

(The Husband hangs up.)

The Bluebird looks at her phone in wonder.

Bluebird: (Out loud.) What just happened?

(Happy Easter, everyone!)

Illustrated Husband making bunny ears.

Humor | Sports Mania Special Broadcast: Post-Saint Patrick’s Day Wrap-Up

Action shot of Irish Stepdancers in Ireland.

BRIGHT BLUE SET of SPORTS MANIA television sports show. Newscasters CHET and ERNESTO sit behind a bright blue DESK tapping their PAPERS and chatting as the Sports Mania’s THEME MUSIC plays.

(ESTABLISHING SHOT of Ernesto and Chet sitting behind a bright blue desk of bright blue Sports Mania set.)

Chet: (Deep in conversation with Ernesto)…so then I sez to the produce guy, I sez to him—

(CUT TO: MEDIUM SHOT of Ernesto and Chet.)

Ernesto: What’d you say to him? Jeeeezuuuu— (Startled. Realizes show just started.)-ssssszzz. (Clears throat.) Hello! And welcome to Sports Mania’s St. Patrick’s Day post-game wrap-up. It was an exciting St. Patrick’s Day this year wasn’t it, Chet?

Chet: (Professional smile) It sure was, Ernesto! We had wins and losses all over the map! From Omsk, Russia to Lowell, Massachusetts, Irish Stepdancers and local revellers went head to head!

Ernesto: (Professional laugh.) They sure did, Chet! But there was one memorable moment from yesterday, wasn’t there? Let’s go to our interview with Niamh Ni Dálaigh, Irish stepdancer. (Trim dark-haired young woman comes up on a built in screen behind the Sports Mania desk. Ernesto and Chet turn to face screen) Niamh, how are you this morning?

Niamh Ni Dálaigh: (Sounds tired and hoarse.) I’m fine, Ernesto—just fine, all things considered.

(CUT TO: CLOSE-UP. Ernesto and Chet share a SPLIT SCREEN with NIAMH NI DÁLAIGH.)

Ernesto: (Serious face.) Now, Niamh, I’d like to show the footage from your midnight St. Patrick’s Day performance at the Wise Rhino last night. Sports fans, let me set up this clip for you. The Wise Rhino is a pub infamous for packing in the St. Patrick’s Day crowds and skimping on stage space. Niamh, how big was the stage where you danced your final show last night?

Niamh: Two feet by two feet, plus two feet high. (Pause.) And I had to share it with the band and five other dancers.

Chet: Well, that is one small stage, Niamh!

(Niamh laughs uncomfortably.)

Ernesto: (Cutting off Chet.) If you’re tuning into the broadcast just now, Irish Dancer Niamh Ni Dálaigh from Reno, Nevada is talking about last night’s performance.

Chet: Let’s run that tape.

(Footage shows Niamh dancing in place on a two-foot high stage. Amateur drunks are standing in front of the stage bobbing and weaving and shouting. The traditional Irish band sits behind her—they’re nearly sitting in each other’s laps.)

Chet: Now, watch carefully as this guy over here— (Circles a drunk guy in front and to the left of Niamh with a green screen pen.) —starts to reach out to touch Niamh’s dancing costume right here. (Chet draws wobbly green screen arrow to Niamh’s dress.)

(Footage continues. Drunk guy starts to grab the skirt of Niamh’s $1500 performance dress. Niamh executes a quick turn, yanking the dress out of his hand, but the turn sends her sprawling into the band right behind her. )

Chet: (Excitedly.) Right there— (Draws six green screen arrows on the footage.)

Ernesto: (Slaps pen out of Chet’s hand.) Shhhh!

(Niamh, still on the split screen, covers her eyes with one hand.)

(Footage: A random drunk hand goes over the lens of the camera, but viewers can hear a SQUEAK and a YELP and the WHINE-POP-PING of several squashed INSTRUMENTS.)

Chet: (Excitedly.) Wow, I’ve never seen—

Ernesto: Shhhh!

(Niamh, still on the split screen, covers her entire face with her hands.)

(Footage: Normal filming resumes. A stunned Niamh sits sprawl-legged on stage surrounded by pieces of mandolin. Three of the four musicians are wearing the remains of a smashed hammer dulcimer. The fourth, a CONCERTINA PLAYER, has the bellows of his instrument wrapped around his neck, which he’s clawing to remove. The dulcimer player is weeping loudly. His tweed vest is in ribbons. )

Chet: Can I—(Waits to be shushed again, by Ernesto. Ernesto nods.)—talk now? (A beat.) So, Niamh, what was going through your mind when you executed that turn?

Niamh: Well, not much of anything, Chet. That was my 40th performance in three cities in five days—

Ernesto: (Looking at camera.) —the standard lead-up to St. Patrick’s Day, right?

Niamh: Yes. Yes, it is. (A pause.) —but, like I said, like every year, I’d been doing these performances since the first of March, really, and by last night, I didn’t even know my own name. Ernesto, I was so tired that I put on one soft shoe and one hard shoe at the beginning of that performance, and I would have gone on stage like that had another dancer not stopped me.

Chet: Wow, that IS tired, Niamh!

Niamh: (Nods.) Yeah. So, if I was thinking anything, I don’t remember it. But I remember what happened after the drunk guy grabbed the skirt part of my solo costume. I fell into the band, Chet. And all you could hear around me in the blur of the moment was Pop! Twaaaa-aaaang! Blawwp!

Niamh: (Continues.) I was smacked in the shoulder with that concertina—that thing should always be holstered when not in use—and somehow I sat on Jim’s mandolin. (Covers eyes.) All those smashed instruments and crying men. I’m never going to get that sound out of my ears, Chet. Never.

Ernesto: We’ve only got another minute here, Niamh. What I want to know is, what happened to the original drunk guy who grabbed your dress?

Niamh: Well… (Hand covers her mouth.) He started laughing.

Chet: Wow! What did you do?

Niamh: At first I was too stunned from the accident, but then I saw him doubled over, and like I said, he was laughing at us.

Ernesto and Chet: (Spellbound.) Yes?

Niamh: So I, uh, got up from the stage floor. (A final pause.) And then I walked over and punched him in the nose.

Ernesto: Whoa! That’s a serious party foul! How many Feiseanna do you have to sit out for this penalty?

Niamh: (Genuine smile.) Six. My Claddagh ring broke off in the drunk guy’s left nostril, and he smashed his face with his own beer bottle trying to pull it out. So, I’m out for one dance competition per stitch.

Chet: (Mouth open.) How much of your Claddagh ring ended up in his nose?

Niamh: The heart, the hands, and the entire crown broke off inside his nose, Chet. It was bad. It was really bad.

Ernesto: If you had to do last night all over again, would you have done anything differently?

(Niamh hesitates, then—)

Niamh: Yeah. (A beat.) I would have worn a bigger ring.

(Sports Mania theme music plays.)

Chet: Folks at home, we’ll see you after the commercial break. We’d like to thank our guest, Niamh Ni Dálaigh, who had to wake up before noon on the day after St. Patrick’s Day to be with us!

( Niamh waves a bleary hand at the camera. The split screen dissolves.)

(MEDIUM SHOT of Ernesto and Chet behind Sports Mania desk.)

Ernesto: (Continuing on.) After the break, we’re going to talk to a an eight-hand Irish figures team who got into a fight with half of the metropolitan symphony in Poughkeepsee, New York! This is Ernesto—

Chet: —and Chet. Live, with our day after St. Patrick’s Day wrap up on—

Ernesto and Chet: Sports Mania!

(Theme music swells.)



Niamh Ni Dálaigh   NEEV   NEH DOHL-lee 

(Irish name. “Ni” replaces “O’” in feminine names.)

Feiseanna  Fesh-eAN-na  

(Irish Stepdancing competitions.)


Black and white picture of woman using an old-fashioned  sit-down hairdryer to dry her hair.
NATURALLY, I vacuum my hair. Doesn’t everybody? (CREDIT: Nationaal Archief of the Nederland.)

At Bluebird Blvd., we take certain things seriously, but housekeeping is not one of those things! No sirree-bobcat tail! Regardless of our ignorance, we feel perfectly qualified to tell you all about cleaning your house during the three months of spring. Didja catch the part where we said we don’t know diddly jack about housekeeping? Keep that in mind as you answer these questions, will ya?

A housekeeping expert would call your home:

    a) Perfect. We don’t breathe or touch anything while we are inside the house. And we vacuum our ceilings twice a day just like my daddy taught me.

    b) Clean enough. Everything you can see is clean. But for cripes sake, don’t open that closet door! Don’t even look cross-eyed at the cabinets! Nope, don’t go in that room! Or that one! And don’t EVER look under the sofa, okay?

    c) I don’t know? Lemme ask you a question— Why do people wash bath towels? I mean, don’t they stay clean?

    d) A wonderland of unclassifiable smells.

What makes your cleaning style unique?

    a) My special origami laundry folding technique. All my t-shirts are in the shape of cranes! It’s a family specialty!


    c) Wait a sec. I can’t stop laughing! Unique? It’s unique when I clean at all!

    d) I cannot hear you through my HAZMAT suit. Sorry!

In one sentence, describe the best way to tackle Spring Cleaning.

    a) Take off a month from work and make a twenty-page checklist. Then you rent all your heavy equipment. That’s how five generations of my family have tackled Spring Cleaning. Tradition is good!

    b) On the first day of April, check underneath your sofa to see what’s collected there in the last twelve months. It’s like a piñata filled with dirty pocket change and dust bunnies! Whee!

    c) Well. . . honestly? I try to get the crying out of the way first. That takes about two days, tops.

    d) Hibernate until June.

What’s the one Spring Cleaning task you’d like to delegate to an expert?

    a) Mr. Clean is my witness: No cleaning “expert” will ever cross the threshold of my house! I’m the expert around here! Tradition!

    b) I want to delegate everything to the expert from all the “a” answers in this quiz. Damn, that person sounds efficient! I want a self-cleaning kitchen. And I want Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons to come live with me, and clean house while cracking wise, sitcom style!

    c) Here are all the keys to my place, cleaning expert. I’m going to stay in a Motel 6 in Barbados until you call me, okay? Bye-byeeeeee!

    d) (Humming to self.) I’m moving to a yurt in March! I like potato salad!

In a few words, tell me what you do when you’re not cleaning:

    a) Thinking. About cleaning. Will you excuse me? I need to vacuum my ceiling again.

    b) Two words: I work. There’s your answer. I need a 72-hour nap from my workweek.

    c) “Hello! You have reached my cell phone. I am in Barbados while a team of nationwide experts cleans my house. Did you know that you have to wash bath towels? Crazy! Leave a message after the—. . . .”

    d) I collect asphalt!


Put on a fez. Now take it off. Do a hoochie-coochie dance. Now stop. Wow, you’re really following the directions here, aren’t you? No fooling now. Count up your letters and whichever letter you chose most is your answer. The key is below.

    YOU ARE AN A-TYPE SPRING CLEANER: Martha Stewart wants to bring you on her show to talk about your sixteen methods for cleaning grout. You’re the only person we know who can wear an all-white outfit to an outdoor barbecue and come back home looking cleaner than when you left, if that’s possible. You are a natural dirt-deterrent and an excellent launderer. In fact, we’re a little embarrassed that you stopped cleaning to take this quiz.

    YOU ARE A B-TYPE SPRING CLEANER: As the Average Joe/Jolene of the cleaning world, we know that cleaning makes you moody, and not cleaning makes you feel guilty. You are a cleaning product advertiser’s dream: a picture of scrubbing bubbles will send you hurtling to the store to get the latest hyper-toxic all-surface spray that claims to cut your housekeeping in half. Listen, do us all a favor and vacuum underneath your couch every once in awhile. We know that on April 1st of last year you found over a thousand dollars in change under your sofa cushions. Clean your sofa more often. We also think you need to get trousers with better pockets!

    YOU’RE A C-TYPE SPRING CLEANER: We worry about you a little bit. How could you not know to wash your own bath towels regularly? When was the last time you cleaned your stove top? Do you know you have to dust your light fixtures periodically? Get a housecleaning book and read it cover to cover. Think of it as a detective novel and you need soap to find all of the clues. Give us a call when (or if!) you get back from Barbados!

    YOU’RE A D-TYPE SPRING CLEANER: Good luck with your teepee move. We also like potato salad, but we try not to eat it in bed. This thing over here is called a “broom.” It moves dirt from one spot to another. This is called a “dustpan.” It picks up the dirt you moved, and you throw it into a “garbage can” outside where the city can pick it up. Here you go! You’ll get the hang of it… we think!


Old-fashioned photograph of woman in chair.
You want me to make HOW much pho?
(Credit: George Eastman House)

The last time you went to a party, you:

    a) swiveled through the door doffing a cowboy hat owned by Bela Lugosi’s cousin’s housekeeper. You were a boffo smash!

    b) strolled through the door of the party—started to feel light-headed—and kept going straight out of the back door where you flung yourself over the hedge. You’ll come back for your car tomorrow.

    c) walked through the door, threw your arms wide, and said, “DARLING!” to the hostess, but it turned out you were in the wrong house. You really frightened that lady.

    d) danced through the door and yelped at the sight of the clown blowing up balloon animals. You are terrified of balloon animals.

Your idea of a great night out is:

    a) a whirlwind evening at Ciro’s! You want to drink fizzy beverages out of an expensive shoe, by golly!

    b) two bowls of your favorite takeaway Vietnamese pho (soup). Extra fish sauce. Keep it coming! Don’t you look at me crossways, buddy!

    c) that one time when you went to that party. Not the part where you frightened the lady who lived next door, the part after that, where you ate cake. Caaaaake!

    d) Out? At night? Are you wild, man? There are balloon animals floating around out there!

Your ideal party would include:

    a) Walter Winchell! Everyone talking fast like a 1940s movie star! Boffo! Gonzo! Kid! Dame!

    b) a self-serve pho bar with a fish sauce fountain and an accordion band. Phun with pho!

    c) clearly marked directions. Maybe a sign on the front door. People need to be able to find the right house the first time without any trouble with police or whatever involving a stolen cake.

    d) a rally to ban balloon-based life forms. Trifle for dessert with extra cream. During the day. We’re not Visigoths around here.

What is the one rule you follow when planning a gathering?

    a) What Would Walter Winchell Do?

    b) One liter of pho per person is the most accurate ratio.

    c) I base all of my socializing on Google Maps, so . . . .

    d) It’s best to start with canapés and crudités. It gets people talking. About banning balloon animals.


Give yourself -3 points for each A answer, -2 points for each B answer, -1 points for each C answer, and a scrap of used tinfoil for each D answer. Add that number to eleventy-teen. Think about cocktail napkins with clever sayings on them for two minutes. Please compare your pleasant thoughts to the answer key below.

    IF YOU HAD MOSTLY A’s— You are a 1940s movie star, or you aspire to being a 1940s movie star. Or you read a lot of old Walter Winchell columns. In this century, we do not drink beverages out of shoes. We drink out of nice, clean drinking glasses. It’s a novel idea, I know.

    IF YOU HAD MOSTLY B’s— You are sitting in a pho restaurant in the corner booth. A man approaches you and says that he can help you cross the border and see your children again if you help plant an idea in a person’s head through their dreams, but actually you may be dreaming, so you make plans to go to Mumbai to eat more pho. You’ve also watched Inception one too many times.

    IF YOU HAD MOSTLY C’s— You can team up with the balloon animal person— who seems to have a grasp on simple street directions. Most people like food at parties. Try thinking about that for awhile. Use your experience with eating cake that one time as a springboard for fresh ideas. Like donuts for instance. Look, let me give you directions to the nearest bakery.

    IF YOU HAD MOSTLY D’s— The next meeting for the banning of balloon animals and all other balloon-representative life forms will be held at Frank’s house. Bring the trifle. I’m going to do a big plate of canapés— I just learned a new thing involving fish sauce and puff pastry. Everyone else is bringing either a main or a side dish. I may bring a friend who has problems with directions. That’s cool with you, right?


Photograph of Irish soldier in field holding the leash of a goat, apparently.
Goat ranching in the fifth dimension is where it’s at! (Credit: National Library of Ireland)

We here at Bluebird Blvd. are always looking for ways in which we can improve our lives. We improve our lives by writing personality quizzes. Like this one, for instance!

A real estate agent would call your house:

    a) A demi Tudor A-frame half-caf with a detached air conditioner

    b) That’s a house?!? I thought that was a cat tree. Never mind. Tell me the amenities, and I’ll fix it up in the listing.

    c) Imaginary. And if you try to sell it, you’d better hope the buyer is imaginary too.

    d) Big. Reallyreallyreally big. Like, it has its own time zone, y’all.

The first thing visitors notice when they enter your foyer is:

    a) that you have no foyer. This is an entryway.

    b) What the hey-ho is a foy-yay?

    c) the great big gaping pit with a pendulum swinging over it. Bwah-hah-harrrr… *Cough*

    d) This foyer is where George Washington got sick after eating some bad oysters on a bet. See the plaque? That’s where he rested his clammy forehead.

Your ideal living space has:

    a) me. Living in it. Yup. That’s it.

    b) walls that go all the way up to the ceiling. And a ceiling. A full one that goes all the way to the walls!

    c) a raft of inflatable couches filled with helium. Take a helmet! We’re gonna play airship.

    d) Living space? That gives me an idea. I would like to buy a little area in the fifth dimension. For goat ranching.

What is the finest feature of your bedroom?

    a) That charming little room? It’s called a closet. I keep my clothes in there. Tee-hee!

    b) A bed… room? Just for the bed? Explain please.

    c) I have pajamas made of magnets for sleeping on my Foosball table. Best sleep I’ve ever had!

    d) Sleep? Who has time to sleep? I’m goat ranching in the fifth dimension!

The one improvement you would make on your home is:

    a) Oh, everybody says that we really need a new carportzzzzzzzzzzz. Whar? What was the question again?

    b) Well, the outhouse is a one-seater. I’m aiming to make it a two-seater. Scorpion season is fierce ’round here.

    c) If I buy one more fiberglass pink gorilla for the front yard, the neighborhood association is threatening some sort of inquisition? No worries. I own three muskets!

    d) I want a pool on the ceiling. My team of physicists is sorting out the details. You know how it goes. Blah, blah, blah, gravity! Just fix it, I say!


Give yourself one point for each A answer, two points for each B answer, three points for each C answer, and four points for each D answer. Then divide that number by the square root of thirtyleven. Write it on a scrap of paper and pray fervently to the linoleum gods. Throw that scrap of paper into a bowler hat, pull it out, and read it upside down. Please compare your upside down number to the answer key below.

    IF YOU HAD MOSTLY A’s— You live in a house, which is fantastic. However, you have very little imagination and you cannot buy this product at Ikea. They don’t stock it anymore. How to fix this: Do something goofy and spontaneous. Not a knife fight, though. Never a knife fight. Ouchie.

    IF YOU HAD MOSTLY B’s— We are probably related. I’ll be over later to help you build the two-seater outhouse of your dreams. You’re gonna have to loan me a pair of boots. It’s almost scorpion season.

    IF YOU HAD MOSTLY C’s— Your house is mostly imaginary and you drink too much caffeine. Drink less caffeine. Should you buy another pink fiberglass gorilla, invite me over. I want to watch the neighborhood association plotz. Again, we are probably related. I have my own helmet for those inflatable couch airfights.

    IF YOU HAD MOSTLY D’s— Then you shot J.R. It’s also 1988. Nobody goat ranches in the fifth dimension anymore. It’s all about koala wrangling in the second dimension these days. That’s where the money is, m’boy!

The Bluebird Sessions | Highway 61 Revisited, Revisited

Bob Dylan with guitar singing to vast blackened out audience.
St. Lawrence College 1965 yearbook photo of the on campus performance of Bob Dylan made available by Wikimedia Commons.


I came to Bob Dylan late. Very late. In fact, if I’m being totally honest, I think I was 31 before I listened to an entire Dylan record. Specifically, an interesting stranger at a party said, “You need to buy a copy of Highway 61 Revisited. If you’re a writer, you have to listen to Dylan at least a little bit.”  I said, “Okay?”

The stranger nodded. Looked over his glasses. “I’m serious.”

“Well, let me get out my notebook. I’m not going to remember this in five minutes. Highway. . . sixty-what?”


If you’re wondering why I never listened to Dylan, any Dylan, I will tell you this about that: I was told there was a folk singer who played these pretty little ditties about peace, and then he had a motorcycle accident and a head injury, and the next thing you know, the folksinger with the pretty songs and the lingering head injury was writing creepy lyrics like “Lay lady lay. . . lay across my big brass bed.”

Does that sound appealing to you?

Now, you know why it took me so long to listen to Dylan.

Plus, there was a period in the ‘90s that if you saw a picture of Dylan (which was rare), he looked so pissed off and so tired of you already, that you just didn’t want to bother the man.


Since then, I found out what ticked him off so badly, and between you and me, the tiredness was merely the aftereffect of what turned him from the guarded young man in the black jacket and the white t-shirt staring out from the cover of Highway 61 Revisited to the guy in the ‘90s who shrugged on stage with his guitar, looked at the audience, blinked like an owl, played three songs, and called it a night.


Here’s the short version:

Bob Dylan was a brilliantly talented young folk singer who was supposed to take folk music into the next generation. Dylan decided that he had absorbed everything folk music had to offer at the moment, and he was done.

His final gift to the folk world, which was then coaxing along to it’s apex of popularity in 1965, was to write this album, the one we’re talking about now, full of electric instruments: organs, electric guitar, and some opaque, hard-as-dirty-diamonds lyrics.

His cocked eyebrow on the cover says it all: “Yeah?  I’m your folk poster child?” (Looks over his shoulder to the rest of the members of The Band.) “Got the noisemaker ready? Let’s go, man. Play it loud.”


Around the same time that I bought this album, I watched the comprehensive, heartbreaking Scorsese documentary No Direction Home, which informs a lot of the history of what I’m writing to you now.

When I watched this documentary, though, I was going through a period of artistic crisis, and this crisis was ripping me up. I watched pop-eyed as Pete Seeger, folk music’s nicest frontman— who looks like a guy who would hug you and buy you dinner and loan you his car for the day— shake with rage at the memory of Dylan playing an electric set at the Newport Folk Festival.

He pissed off Pete Seeger.

How the hell do you piss off Pete Seeger?!?

By telling Seeger, in blasting form, that his time is over and that you’re not going to be his creature any more:

“How does it feel?

How does it feel?

To be without home.

Like a complete unknown.

Like a rolling stone.”

Now, I understand that sounds harsh, but I’ve seen the Seeger interviews, and that guy thought Dylan was his man.

And I know all the rumors that Dylan wrote “Rolling Stone” about Edie Sedgwick, the loveliest, most artistically- and aesthetically-talented bleached blonde carwreck-darling of her generation.

(I’ve read a lot about Sedgwick. It’s a sadder story than anyone could get from a biopic.  You will want to give that one a hug after reading her story.)

But, Dylan wasn’t writing her story and he wasn’t Seeger’s fancy folk boy, either.

Dylan belonged to Dylan, and that’s the way it was gonna be.

It was the way it always had been with Dylan, but nobody was paying attention to what he was saying.

That’s how real artists are, my friends. Who owns them? Their art. On a short leash.


To me, “Like A Rolling Stone” feels as though Dylan is talking to himself. He’s walking away. He knows the cost of his own choices. The cost is high, my friends. 

Here’s a little taster of his European tour for this album:

Bristol, England: First set, acoustic.

Audience response: Cheers!

Second set, electric: Dylan and the Band play the first chords of “Tombstone Blues.”


Paris, France:  First set, acoustic.

Audience response:  Bon!

Second set, electric: Dylan and the Band open with “Tombstone Blues.”


In the cascade of clips of the European tour for Highway 61, you get to witness Dylan go from a young genius with a hard set to his chin, to a young genius with the gritty, gritted teeth of a musician who has been booed in at least 10 languages.

He’s going to see this through because he believes in what he’s doing, and by the way, F–k you, Europe! Very much! Let’s GO, man! PLAY IT LOUD!

(The Americans booed and cried. The Europeans booed, cried, and threatened him bodily.)


And what does The Band look like during this whole manic, sonic disaster of a tour? 

They look as though they’re refreshed from their nap, and wondering what’s being served for dinner. And, oh, we have a gig tonight, Dylan? Do you think we’re gonna get booed Dylan?

Dylan: (Sound of jaw grinding like an old lock.)  Sure, why not?  With the advance press, this crowd will probably throw rotten fruit.

The Band: (Shrugs off the psychic baggage.) You eat dinner yet?

Dylan: (Pinches eyes shut with thumb and forefinger like closing a pair of window shades) Does broken glass count?

(The Band wanders off to find food or a bed or fool around with their instruments.)


And all we have is Dylan, in the dark, that night and forevermore, biting off the lyrics to you and me and everybody:

Well, the sword swallower

he comes up to you and

then he kneels.

He crosses himself

and then he

Clicks his high heels.

And without further notice,

he asks you how it feels.

And he says,

Here is your throat back.

Thanks for the loan.

And you know something is happening,

but you don’t know what it is,

do you, Mr. Jones?”

A long time ago, I went through an intense, sweaty, long artistic crisis that marked me hard. A stranger suggested I buy a Dylan album and I did, after a fashion.

But watching Dylan punch his way through the tour for this album, sticking to his ideals as if his life depended on it, and in a way it did, I’d like to say that I was healed miraculously, and returned to writing.

But hat’s not how it happened for me at all.

Still, I’ve got Dylan in my soul now, and if he could take some European boos and American tears and one manically pissed-off Pete Seeger wandering around the Newport Folk Festival trying to find an ax to shut him down— I think I can figure the rest of my stuff out.


This is a personal essay, and not a piece of gen-u-ine rock criticism. In fact, I’ve played with the facts in a few important places.

    The three songs Dylan played at Newport in ’65 did not include “Like A Rolling Stone,” as that was recorded months later.

    The quotes I made up, obviously, but it turns out he actually DID say “Play it loud!” (!) (When I was making up the dialogue, this statement felt Dylanesque, but it turns out, he said that exact statement at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965!)

    To support this album, he toured the U.S., Europe, and Australia. (So, Acoustic set, Australia: YEsssss. Electric set: OiiiiIiiii!)

And finally, an answer to the million dollar question:

Did Pete Seeger really go looking for an axe that day?  



Buy your own copy here: Highway 61 Revisited [Amazon] or [iTunes].