April 3, 2003

From the Horse's Mouth

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It was a beautiful day and I, a junior in high school, was enjoying the sun and reading Kerouac’s Dharma Bums during my free period. I smelt stale tobacco behind me and knew it was Mr. O’Toole, an English teacher bearing a striking resemblance to Edgar Allan Poe. O’Toole was that rare breed of high school English teacher that had a true passion for literature. Upon seeing Kerouac on the cover he said, “I remember when that book was published and I really loved it. Yet over the years it became very difficult to read. It has an idealism that stops ringing true once you remember that Kerouac drank himself to death at his mother’s house in Queens, completely alone.”

Over spring break I remembered that moment. I was attempting to work but my mind was vomiting images of war — a CNN hangover. I wanted music, so I put on Dylan’s Times They’re A Changing. Two minutes into it I could bear it no longer. It felt fake. I’ve always idealized Dylan, particularly that album, as representing a time when art, poetry, and music had a power over people that was effective in an arena grander than the musical venue. One that could resist the arrogance of power and sway public opinion. My ideal is probably historically inaccurate but it’s just a framed picture with some shades of truth that hangs in a special gallery of my mind. Lying on the couch, Dylan’s “Come gather round people