Blood on the Tracks
She works odd hours, evenings and nightshifts, so the times are unpredictable. But without fail, soon after the door to her basement apartment clicks shut, her stereo will come to life. Not too loud, but loud enough for my remote listening post. It’s the same album, over and over: Blood on the Tracks.
I decide to like my downstairs neighbour—like her even more—when I discover we have Dylan in common. I appreciate how she lets the CD run from start to finish. No pausing, no skipping. She plays him with purpose.
The two of us were quickly introduced a few months earlier. She scored a Top Ten on my Hot 100. Before anything could develop, a boyfriend materialized. She fell off the charts.
I tried to be a considerate neighbour. Her bedroom was under my office, so I always played my own music quietly—just in case she was sleeping.
When I was young, I never kept a journal. Instead, my understanding of the world—and myself within in it—got wound up in 500-plus battered tapes that have followed me through life. I’ve been fluent in Classic Rock, with an ear for Singer-Songwriter, since I was a teenager in the Eighties.
As an adult, I once found myself indulging an ancient Sony with a nasty habit. Every time it disemboweled a cassette, the crimped and twisted guts of Neil or Van or Joni spilling through my fingers, I’d silently eulogize another touchstone of a long gone youth lost in headphonespace.
Lost. Not wasted.
After a few days of relentless Blood on the Tracks, I ask a friend: “Is your colleague still seeing that girl who lives below me?”
And Bob’s your uncle: she’s back on the charts. Number One with a bullet.
There’s no shortage of Dylan in my collection. Did I put him on, crank him up? Send a big 10-4 through my black floor? No, I didn’t. But it’s a nice idea.
Turns out, she actually has an Uncle Bob. He wasn’t at our wedding. Immediate family only.
The photos of that November day further confirm the absence of bridesmaids and groomsmen. And yet, I see now that my best man is clearly there: our anguished matchmaker with Jewfro and shades. Listen close, real close, and those images will sing a nuanced wedding song we never thought to play: “Shelter from the Storm.”
Come in, I say, I’ll give you—
Dark and Stormy
(Unless you have a time machine, in which case, it’s a pint of Grizzly at the High Country Inn, Whitehorse, Yukon, circa 2002.)