A date with history
I thought about this on Thanksgiving day, because it fell on Nov. 22:
1. It was the 55th anniversary of the day John Kennedy was assassinated.
2. It was the birthday of Anna who is the daughter of my friends Wendy and Dean and the sister of Joely.
3. It was the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles “The White Album,” which wasn’t actually its name but, you know, the white cover kind of swung people in that direction.
I don’t own a copy of The White Album and it’s highly unlikely that I will invest many dollars in buying the new 7-disc release or that I will go to the used CD/Vinyl shop in Keene and seek a two-record set because I’ll bet money they won’t have one or if they did, they would want a lotta bucks for it.
But once upon a time, I THOUGHT I had a copy.
It was Christmas of 1968 when my friend Steven and I still exchanged presents and God knows what I’d given him – unless that was the year I gave him the very large sun medalion on a chain that I bought at an Aztec shop in Englewood, N.J., and I call it an Aztec shop because that was the bulk of the merchandise, so don’t get on my case.
Anyway, Steven showed up at my parents’ apartment in Tenafly with a wrapped gift that was clearly a vinyl something and when I ripped off the paper there was a two-disc set with no title, just a white cover and I thought, “Oh, cool, the new Beatles album,” which wasn’t all THAT cool because I was not a big Beatles fan, except for “Rubber Soul,” and I don’t even own that.
But it WASN’T The White Album. It was a two-disc Dylan bootleg – one of the first bootlegs, I think, and not one he’d authorized – that I still have but haven’t played in probably 40 years, at least, because I don’t use my stereo system much anymore because it’s not all that convenient and I have an Internet radio that I have on all the time with stations from all over the world and … well, you get it.
And I thought about this on Thanksgiving because of all those significant things that happened or happen on Nov. 22 (and in case you care, I got Anna a Ruth Bader Ginsburg coffee mug).
I think about lots of things like that on holidays and now, because of what I’m telling you here, I will think of the white Dylan album and Steven on Christmas and I will even play the album and sit in the family room and listen and remember all the good and weird (not necessarily mutually exclusive) times Steven and I had from the time we met when I was 15 and he was 14 and lament the fact that in the last two decades of his life, we saw very little of one another.
He died a few years ago of lung cancer which was no surprise given that he was smoking when I met him and never stopped nor did he bother with those boring, dorky filtered cigarettes. No, like my mother, who also died of cancer but not of the lung, he stuck with unfiltered and made it to age 70 but, as was the case with my mother, could have probably had many more years if not for … ah, you get that, too.
And of course on Christmas I will think of my mother and my father, dead for many years now, and my brother, who died on either Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning in 2010 and whose ashes were scattered at a beach along the Metedaconk River in New Jersey where my parents’ ashes had been scattered.
No, mine will not go there. I spent hardly any time at that beach. I don’t know where I want mine scattered. I waffle a lot.
But, yeah, Nov. 22 is a weird day and I probably would have spent little time thinking about it, except for Anna’s birthday, were there not so many stories about The White Album and maybe I ought to try to find someone who has a copy that they’d trust me to borrow so I could listen to the entire thing. Maybe next Nov. 22.
But this I promise you: On either Christmas Eve or Christmas day, I will dig out the Dylan bootleg and listen to all four vinyl sides and think about Steven and my parents and my brother.