——–The first time he offers a description of himself, he is some of kind of music agent, who represents bands, books their gigs I imagine, handles publicity one would assume. He has a jaunty air, and looks the part, a little secretive, decidedly smug; he’s got crazy colorful badges sewn onto his denim jacket, and he’s staking out the bar, you can tell, just by standing there right at the moment. Being a scout is his nature–the way I figure it. He doesn’t know I am established as a celebrity around here, we just met. In fact he is so much younger, he is no doubt just being polite, standing next to me with his pint of Guinness half-raised to his lips. He is a kind of a manikin, I am thinking. The plausibility of such an occupation, music representative, here in this city, which we like to refer to as medium-sized–we always say, Rochester is a medium-sized city in upstate New York, or we say Rochester is a town in Western New York, which sounds better to my ears anyway–the viability, in other words, of such a job as full-time agent for musicians, I would have to say flatly, is nil. So one wonders when they meet someone who advertises themselves, though only providing sketchy details I note, as such. Now every time I try to write anything even faintly reportorial, these days (though I used to be a glib journalist, capable of the prolix, and the jocular vein), the sentences take a certain trajectory, as if on their own, roping me into conclusions, and absurdities. Expanding, go these sentences, as if I had only an ill-defined grasp on my subject, and then (of course) pulling defiantly up to a stop. Thought itself in a grand, but futile metaphor describes the flight of an aircraft which takes off well enough, but then has engine trouble and crashes, similar to that plastic motorized Piper Cub, I had when I was twelve. After being laboriously assembled in the living room, this doomed craft only took one flight in the schoolyard. Now, though, it is one of the handiest of my parables, the maxim derived from it being: picking up the pieces is part of life. People configure occupations that relate to what interests them, or confounds them; this is why the rebel fits the bill, better than the straight man these days. And I could tell my new friend, whose nickname was Fletch, was well suited for this occupation of music agent, even if he was faking it, or crashing in the act.
——–Another night, and the next time I endeavor to get this young man to enlarge upon the activities that keep this music representing business of his going, he is friendly, but brushes me off the topic. He says it is going slowly right now. I also note, at this juncture in our slowly evolving friendship, that he isn’t very articulate, to begin with. One would think this, whether it is shyness, or too abundant thoughtfulness, or tragic lack of verbal skills, might hamper him in a field where he has to interact with creative persons . . . like musicians. In my experience with musicians, which is appreciable, they need constant coaxing. (Not to mention lyrics!) Or maybe it is a slow season. Then of course I have to realise this is not New York City, but indeed a mere ”medium town”, as another writer put it. It is possible that Fletch, or Scratch, which some call him, believes you are trying to encroach upon his territory, I say to myself, because, after all, all he knows about me is that I am a free-lance writer–which hypertrophied self-description I often use when first talking with interesting characters at this bar–those who are unaware of my celebrity status, past and present.
——–It seems like I am always in between times in my life, I reflect, either days of former glory in the memory, or days of promise yet to flower, while the day at hand fairly drab and dimly lit, with only a few inarticulate stragglers, needing encouragement, immediately in my sight. But suddenly it seems like Fletcher has undergone a catharsis, of some sort, or suffered a crisis of conscience over the impression he has given me, and probably others, and wants to confess that he really isn’t a music representative at all, at least not full-time. Well! I hadn’t challenged him, though I might have been trying to figure out how to undermine him, emotionally, because I knew there was something implausible, as I keep saying here . . . But now he is telling me that he has a day job in his Uncles’ hardware store, where he handles shipping, and works behind the counter. He makes keys (here is a subject we can get into: you would be flabbergasted to know how many people lose their keys). The hardware store, one of the last of it’s kind, is over on Dewey Avenue, and now I wake up and I realise this kid is way younger than I thought! He has made a great effort just expressing this set of facts, like he didn’t know what order to put them in, so as to build a plausible presence, in my presence; and I realise that I am like a rock-of-ages, an institution, if you see what I mean, from this kid’s point of view. I am, well, like his Uncle, but with added depth and mystery, and after all, in his scene. He is perhaps even awestruck by my presence. Seeing it from his point of view, I quickly therefore endeavor to relax the whole flow of our suddenly burgeoning comraderie, and I make bold to substantiate the talk, by way of the sacrifice some biographical info. More or less correct even.
——–Confidentially, I told him I was self-conscious, myself, about how I appeared to be the oldest fellow in the bar, tonight at least. That is the way I put it too, “the oldest fellow”. The interesting thing, though, I told him, is I always used to be the younger person, in whatever crowd, and now–well, to make the general assessment, it seems that I have never been the person who was the right age, anywhere, in whatever scene I was in. How’s that? Always younger, or older. Like in this bar, these days–and you could say I actually haunt this place!–I joked. “I guess I never will be the right age, if this is where I am going to end up,” I said. That was a joke that crucified me, but it was more important that I make this kid real. The point is, I went on, Bob Dylan isn’t just a song writer who provides other people including himself with lyrics. No, he writes songs for himself, and if he couldn’t sing them they wouldn’t get written at all. I made this transition so smoothly, and with such authority, it was not about to be countermanded.
——–“That is what I am talking about,” I asserted. I was hoping Scratch, or rather Fletch, whose real name I was to find out is Richard, had been listening–but, whether he could see the expansive analogy or not, I was willing to appear suddenly an as old codger talking Bob Dylan, as so many of do, for this is a distinction, that needs to be made when it spontaneously occurs, wherever. It isn’t the first time that exact point, about Bob Dylan being a singer first and providing himself with his own material, and not the other way around, has been dragged in; I think I used it, though futiley, in a conversation with my brother, who thinks Dylan shouldn’t even try to sing his own songs, because “he has the worst voice any singer ever had.” But it turned out my young friend was earnestly listening, and whether or not he saw the beauty and logic of the transition in the larger conversation, he did clue into the Dylan bit–and was puzzled by it. Mostly puzzled about how sure I was about it, he’d have to think about the point itself, himself. “You sound like you are pretty sure about that,” he said.
——–Well, it is always a question whether one wants to appear as a man whose thoughts have come from meditation, or as one who lives from one inspiration to the next–when called upon to defend your self-confidence. I decided upon the former, which, in a pinch, I usually do, these days. Since a man of my age should (perhaps) have considered most everything by now, every mystery and every absurdity, and shouldn’t just be getting around to . . . crying over the flight of his first toy airplane. Meanwhile, this all related to the music business, and that might be the best that could be said of it, because the whole description (the one I carry away, and the one you are reading, Theopolis), is corrupted from the outset, because from the very first sentence it set up a situation that isn’t even accurate to what happened. It’s like elementary school fiction writing.
——–I feel like starting over! This young man never offered descriptions of himself, much less consciously revised one. He stood there implacable, inscrutable, ageless; and what are those patches on his sleeve! What, does he belong to ten different secret societies? I think, he is like some overgrown Boy Scout . . .