Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Manhole Covers Placed This Afternoon On Bob Dylan Way
The occasion: Bob Dylan's 70th birthday.
The event: Two new manhole covers placed on Bob Dylan Way featuring Dylan-themed art.
A small collection of friends, family and Dylan fans assembled to watch as two artist-designed manhole covers were installed, plus a few members of the media. Mayor Don Ness and David Ross, president/CEO of the Duluth Chamber, were also present for this unusual and ground-breaking event. Mayor Ness made a few remarks at each location.
The first manhole cover to be designed was at the intersection of Bob Dylan Way (Michigan Street at this point) and Fifth Avenue East. Designed by Laurel Sanders, the concept was derived from Dylan's song "Subterranean Homesick Blues." When I listened to her speak to the camera for our local TV news, she expressed that she's been a "huge Dylan fan" since 1963.
The second manhole cover was placed on the sidewalk in front of the Fitger's Brewery complex. Mayor Ness again made remarks and the designer of this second piece, Marc Zapchenk of Shoreview, was likewise photographed and interviewed. Zapchenk's design utilizes two guitars drawn like a yin and yang symbol with the inscription, "Bob Dylan Way, Duluth Minnesota."
While waiting for the first manhole cover to be installed I overheard the parents of one of the artists exclaim regarding Mayor Ness, "He looks like a kid." Yes, indeed, he is youthful in appearance, but far smarter and wiser than his appearances belie. On the several occasions we've spoken, including a short spell while waiting for the family and fans to arrive at the second location tonight, he's clearly demonstrated the astuteness that has made him successful in a city that tends to maul its elected officials. The respect he's achieved was earned the hard way.
Interestingly enough, Bob Dylan had to earn his respect the hard way as well. The folk scene and the New York scene were as complicated as any place where power is at stake. Folk musicians were expected to churn through the deep traditions of folk to create their play lists. According to John Hammond, young Bob Dylan chose an alternate path. He wrote his songs, at an amazingly fast clip. Folk music peers were both annoyed and impressed.
This afternoon I had an opportunity to mention to several people that when I came to Duluth the papers were aflame with arguments about selecting a road to name after Bob Dylan. This political scruff went on for near two decades until Mayor Ness championed the cause and put an end to the bickering. Duluth's most famous native son deserves the recognition.
After the manhole covers were put in their places we went inside to the Red Star Lounge to sing happy birthday to Bob (whom we believed was with us in spirit) and listen to Jim Hall (right) play a sparkling set of Dylan songs in tribute. Various musicians will continue to make music til midnight, but I slipped out early. We still have a busy week ahead and I just wanted to share here some of what's happening.
Tomorrow night, there is an art opening from 6-9 at Ochre Ghost Gallery featuring Dylan-inspired art... and once again, I plan to be there. Some of it is likely to be mine.