Friday, January 4, 2019

Master Blueprints # 49: “Try Imagining a Place Where It’s Always Safe and Warm, Come in She Said I’ll Give Ya Shelter from the Storm”

(Personal reflections inspired by Bob Dylan songs)

Song: “Shelter from the Storm”
Album: Blood on the Tracks
Release Date: January 1975

Well, I’m about at the end of the line with this yearlong odyssey of routinely listening to the music of Bob Dylan and then writing down follow-up thoughts that percolate to the surface on a weekly basis.  One more entry to go after this one.  It’s hard to fathom I’m on this end of the storyline, seeing as there were points this year where I’d felt drained of the energy and time I needed to fuel this nova.  At other points I’d felt intimated to carry through with a specific idea.  Are some things better left unsaid?  Will I be putting myself out there a bit too much for my own wellbeing? 

I’m grateful to say I persevered on all accounts, guided by good conscience and prayer, but I could not have done it without support.  And so, this entry is to acknowledge everyone who helped me get to the finish line.  I’ll be breaking it up into 2 sections:  Acknowledging those who I’ve connected with for the first time this year, followed by acknowledging my long-term support.  Finally, I’ll close with a bit of gratitude to Bob Dylan himself.

Let me begin with Karl Erik Andersen, who hosts the phenomenal Bob Dylan internet news site “Expecting Rain” ( ).  Karl posted my blog entries every week on his site, never missing one.  There were a handful of times where I thought a given entry may have been a little too personal or outlandish or spiritual, or verbose, but this did not deter him.  My thinking is that Karl could see from the beginning that my proposed entries aligned with the goodwill nature of his site, and always had Bob Dylan deep in the mix.  Expecting Rain is as classy a website as you are going to find out there, which one can sense almost immediately upon entering.  Thank you, Karl

Next up, Linda Stroback.  Linda welcomed me into her home in Hibbing, Minnesota back in March, as I made my way through town on a work trip to International Falls (see Master Blueprint # 10).  Zimmy’s - the Bob Dylan-themed restaurant that Linda and her husband ran for close to 2 decades - was a labor of love and will always be recognized as such by myself and many others (for a ‘taste’ of all this, see: ).  Linda was as genuine as I’d deduced after our online exchanges.  The real deal.  She brought to life the town of Bob Dylan’s upbringing, and then went on to support my writing endeavors for the rest of 2018.  Thank you, Linda

There was a second Linda at the Stroback residence when I visited Hibbing.  Linda Whiteside.  This ‘thank you’ entry is not in top down order, but if it was, Linda Whiteside would likely be first at bat.  Our deep discussion on the music of Bob Dylan in Linda Stroback’s kitchen carried on throughout the year via email.  Linda has been a reliable sounding board as ideas brooded in my mind from entry to entry.  She has also been the most kindred of kindred spirits in all things Bob Dylan, from Theme Time Radio Hour to “Forever Young” musings, to Al Kooper to transfigurations.  Thank you, Linda.

Kees de Graaf delves into the spiritual interpretation of Bob Dylan’s lyrics more than anyone I know.  His brilliant web site is ‘Testament’ alone to this conclusion, be it Old, New, or otherwise ( ).  I had several enlightening exchanges with Kees on a handful of Bob Dylan’s lesser understood spiritual songs, including “Roll on John”, “Jokerman”, and “All Along the Watchtower”.  I believe Kees is a soothsayer in terms of understanding where Dylan’s legacy is heading (Read: In a deeply spiritual direction).  It’s always good to know you have someone of like mind when you make such statements yourself.  Thank you, Kees.

Glenn Pud Parker Jr., the administrator of the Facebook Page Dylanology is next on the docket.  As be the case with Expecting Rain (see above) I could sense nothing but goodwill on these pages.  Entries submitted to Dylanology must pass the ‘sniff test’, which requires “Due Dylan-gence” (I just came up with that one).  With over 16,000 members, this can take time, and I appreciate that level of effort from Mr. Parker (and his cohort Tony Rockwell).  By the way, my original title for my blog series was going to be “Dylanology”, but once I saw this name taken by Parker, Rockwell, et al., I resorted to “Master Blueprints”.  I also take this moment to recognize the other Bob Dylan Facebook pages that supported me in this endeavor (8 in all).  Thank you Pud Parker. Thank you all. 

Musician Dave Tilton recently produced an excellent album, Street Legal Revisited, which covers every song on the original Bob Dylan album Street Legal.  I highly recommend it ( ).  I had just done a writeup centered on a song off Street Legal (“Changing of the Guards”) when Dave reached out to ask me to give his new album a review.  I was honored.  Dave was emblematic of the many folks I heard from this year whom I’ve never met:  Real, creative and engaging.  Like Bob Dylan’s character ‘Alias’ in the movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, a good number chimed in anonymously with their thoughts.  Thank you, Dave Tilton and all you other contributors; both those with associated names, as well as the anonymous.

A thank you too goes out to 1) the wonderfully quirky cast of characters I met in Woodstock - see Blueprint # 34, 2) Ou Kaiwen, who is in the process of tuning my ear into Bob Dylan’s ‘Never Ending Tour’ vocals, 3) Ms. Joan Osborne, 4) Mr. Al Kooper and 5) all you Facebook Thumb-uppers.

Ok, now for my more long-term network.

First up, Mom and Dad.  As a son who has the love and support of parent’s such as mine, you never want to let them down.  In that regard, an endeavor such as this one has its risks: Topics can be misunderstood in a multitude of ways be they faith-based misunderstandings, generational ones, political.  A writer’s thoughts can also be too revealing for those close to them.  I delved into all these territories at one time or another, and so I always wanted to be sure that anything I was writing about was coming from the heart.  My parents were the motivation behind not straying from that focus.  Their weekly support has been my reward. Thank you, Mom and Dad.

My wife, Nancy has been a stalwart too.  Often, I’d ask if I could read a draft copy of any given entry to her before release.  She would readily oblige.  Listening to myself during these times would allow for off-the-cuff auto-correct to kick in.  The two of us worked in tandem as verbal editors, and immediately I’d go and make the changes.  I am certain we did not catch everything, but enough so that when I would go back to a given release I’d rarely be embarrassed by grammatical screw ups.  Nancy was also a trooper in observing that she was the most frequent subject matter in my writeups (other than Bob Dylan and myself).  There’s something to be said for that.  Thank you, Nancy.

My brother Fred has been my strongest support over the years, particularly during my blog series on Neil Young (Forever Young) and the Who (Under the Big Top).  This year he sits in a three-way tie in this regard with my close Canadian friend, Luc Polnicky, and my cousin Tommy Gilligan.  Fred, Luc and Tommy have given me amazing, heartfelt feedback all year long.  With each of them, I could tell I touched a chord at one time or another, and is that not the goal of such an effort: To make those strong bonds in your life even stronger?  Solid, insightful feedback can inspire.  Thank you, Fred, Luc and Tommy.

I credit Jeff Strause, my colleague of many years at USGS, for expanding my knowledge of Bob Dylan back in the late 80s.  At the time, I was already well versed in my other top-tier musical influences: The Who, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles.  Jeff added Bob Dylan to the list, and that musician would ultimately rise to the top of the heap in terms of my coming to understand that, of all these songwriters and bands, his contributions to the world are the most profound.  Jeff’s approach to educating me was not what one would expect.  Yes, he did tie me more strongly to the music of Bob Dylan in a direct way, but in many ways he did it indirectly too, by opening me up to the music of several of Dylan’s contemporaries and compadres: The Band, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot are a few examples. Jeff also connected me to Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour, sending me dozens of tapes that I’ve listened to again and again.  He’s also been a regular on my Master Blueprint site and has given me some great feedback, which I’ve quoted in these pages.  Thank you, Jeff.

Three others I’d like to single out: My sister, Jen, my brother, Joe, and my cousin Becca.  In years past, Jen and Joe rarely gave me feedback, which was perfectly fine by me.  I have no qualms about someone passing over such commitments; I do it myself.  However, this year, for whatever reason, both Jen and Joe responded on numerous occasions with one insightful comment after another. I felt the brotherly/sisterly love.  As for Becca, well, these are heavy times we live in, and on the occasion where I would address them (and other occasions as well), Becca was there, like she always is.  Thank you, Jen, Joe, and Becca.

Thank you too goes out to all my other family and friends who contributed thoughts at one time or another, including Charlotte, Peter, Amy, Pat, Mac, Tim, Karen, Conrad, Madeline, Jeff, Dave, Pete, Bob, Patty, Chris, and Kitty.

Finally, my gratitude extends to the man who inspired this year’s lengthy chain of thought: Mr. Bob Dylan.  That chain really began in the winter of ’87, as I listened to the Rolling Thunder Revue’s live version of “Shelter from the Storm” off Hard Rain, ( ), on my car radio, which I chronicled in Master Blueprints # 1.  It opened a new world for me; a world where I could indeed be sheltered from the storms raging around me, around all of us, if only for isolated moments. 

How is that?  Well, it is always good to know that there are people out there who can rise above it all.  Seems like a paradox, ehh? …. sheltering someone from something vs. motivating them to rise above it?  Think about it though, they really go hand in hand:  The best shelter is the shelter of a knowing, caring, faith-centered, searching, yearning, hoping, loving mind.  At the same time these are the types of traits of someone who can give you the fortitude to make the best of yourself.  To get out there and rise above.  To be a soul who is busy being born, not busy dying.  Bob Dylan’s got it in spades.  I find myself fortunate to live at the same time with such brilliance.  Thank you, Bob Dylan.

49 down, one to go.

- Pete


  1. So, (Resolution # 3… Listen again to Dave Tilton’s lovely covers on Street Legal Revisited and take the time to have a good listen to the original).

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