I was re-watching some of the first season of Mad Men tonight. The final episode is titled The Wheel, where Peggy makes a life-changing discovery, Betty gets some of her own back, and Don Draper gives the Kodak slide projector wheel the term carousel.
I know carousels well, after years in art school, dotting my slides, dialing the little foot to the height needed to center the image on a screen, or a wall, dust motes in the beam.
I suppose I was also feeling nostalgic, just as Don drifts into his own reverie of loss of the unraveling of the family he has that holds little substance for him as he is always trying to capture an elusive affection denied him as a child, or relive the shallow love of the prostitutes who raised him.
The show and the season end with the Bob Dylan’s original Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.
The song is off The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. We had two of those albums in my home growing up since both my mom and dad brought their records to the marriage.
Just like the Linda Ronstadt and Rolling Stones album covers that populated our living room, I would gaze at this young man, and I liked the way Bob seemed so light on his feet and seemingly secure in the embrace of that young girl, his then girlfriend Suze Rotolo.
I didn’t know who she was as a four year old, over ten years after the record release, but in that snowy street where all the cars made sense to my early 70s mind, they seemed needless of warm clothes to stay snug.
I’ve been to Hibbing and Duluth where Bob spent his early years. No pilgrimage, since Bob Dylan was more in my genetics with two early Dylan fans as parents, but an awareness the man hailed from the austere northern climes I wandered into where pine forests stand tall and endlessly forbidding and the Hibbing Hull–Rust–Mahoning open pit iron mine stretches out in startling and intimidating bands of colors.
Where Lake Superior commands respect in its depths and coldness, and people understand summers can be glorious and golden in their rabbit-grey two lane roads endlessly reaching past the thousand lakes, into the shadows cast by conifers.
Where the shimmering heat is a gift from the rigid icy days from October to April, despite mosquito clouds
I wonder at those early years when Bob knew hard, long winters. He would have understood the integrity of a hard-working life and the confines of small towns.
Trains to outrun in old cars, monochromatic February landscapes. July fireworks sent up one at a time seen from the back of a pick-up. Dogs in the road.
Tonight I heard this song and I felt a balm in its simplicity and plain speaking. Of course, like many, I used to play this on my old guitar and I know the lyrics. It’s one of the first songs I learned.
I know when Bob drags out a word. I know when he bellies up belligerently with a lyric, then retreats gently in the very next line.
It is balanced, and lovely, and sad.
I know the picking rhythm that dances like water in a small town fountain park near the county seat where staff have their lunch, clogged with green pennies.
I know this song, but tonight, it felt so sparse and beautiful, and I wanted to share it here. It came at the right time. I go back to work tomorrow, the first day for 2016, and it reduced some of the panic I feel about the year ahead which will bring excitement, and challenge and unexpectedness.
So don’t think twice, it’s all right.