A year in review – ;br; Oh, the people and the places seen

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 4, 2000

Looking back over the past year, thinking about the people who influence my thinking and being, outside my family, this has been a year to remember.

Tuesday, April 04, 2000

Looking back over the past year, thinking about the people who influence my thinking and being, outside my family, this has been a year to remember. I saw them.

Email newsletter signup

A year ago I listened to Vaclav Havel, the Czech President and former dissident, deliver a talk at Macalister College on Cival Society. Soon finding myself seated beside the Czech delegation. I was able to greet them in Czech but it ended there. I was able to squat down in front of our controversial Governor and shoot some pictures of Havel – seated after his presentation, while wearing my old tattered cattle buyers hat that seemed to draw his attention.

The hat is similar to one Bob Dylan wears on the "Blond on Blond" double album recorded in the early 1970s about the same time I bought the hat at Leutholds.

And speaking of Bob Dylan, he is one of the other living people whom I have held in high esteem. I still remember hearing "Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan" for the first time in 1964 in an apartment in Mankato with other friends from Austin. Tom Griffin brought the album.

I remember being struck by "Talking World War III Blues." His singing didn’t matter – he was a poet.

Dylan later helped to make our stay in Vietnam bearable. We listened to him often in our ‘hootch’ on "Artillery Hill" outside Duc Pho, Vietnam. His words prophesized.

My cousin describes Bob Dylan as a chameleon, always changing.

I was with my cousin in Grand Rapids when I was suffering the down side of manic-depression years ago. We ran into a young lady in a 3.2 bar on the edge of Grand Rapids, a relative of Echo, the women Dylan cared about in high school. Meeting someone that close to Dylan sorta lifted my spirits then.

Years later at a Zen-writing workshop at St. Thomas with Natalie Goldberg we were assigned to write about Bob Dylan. Reading mine out loud the next day I broke down after the first line – it read… "If it weren’t for Bob Dylan I wouldn’t be here today…" Now some may think that’s stupid, and maybe it is. Natalie gave us permission to "write stupid" – something schools should think about. It’s difficult doing everything right.

Barry Moen, former Austinite, good friend and long time Dylan fan, C.L. Keller, the Herald’s newest reporter and yours truly sat in the ninth row last Friday night at the Mayo Civic Auditorium listening to Bob and four of his friends play 2 hours of new and old songs along with a new rendition of Buddy Holly’s "Not Fade Away" – a song that was a vanguard in music when we were in eighth grade.

He also did a nice rendition of "Girl from the North Country" which I believe was written about Echo. "Highway 61" was another that I too believe is somewhat based on Highway 61 that runs along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border and heads on north to the north country where Dylan used to be Bobby Zimmerman.

"Blow’n in the Wind" brought a rousing ovation as did his closing number with the house lights up "Everybody Must Get Stoned." Unlike days gone by, not everybody did. Of course I didn’t see where the governor was sitting.

And yesterday, I sat down with the third person after my lunch at the Main Street Coffee Shop, the person I mentioned a couple weeks ago in this column – Edith Morey. Edith defines dignity and as mentioned before is the person who most influenced my decision to go into teaching. She was the teacher who ignited our desire to learn.

Edith had ducked in out of the cold, not realizing that our weekend spring like weather was relinquishing its presence and letting winter like weather make an encore.

Edith and I have had conversations off and on since I returned to Austin. These conversations are always delightful and interesting. She talks often of the wonderful support she received from her parents, the faith that helps her sustain the just and unjust hardships she has faced. And again, she is calling on her faith as another hardship faces her.

Barry Moen, mentioned above, also had the opportunity to share in the excitement of being one of Edith’s students.

A teacher like Edith is difficult to replicate but easy to emulate.

Just as Edith yesterday talked of her own fourth grade teacher, Kristin Johnson, who had come here from Sweden and knew more about the United States than most Americans did – who took the time to teach her algebra in fourth grade at the back table when her assignments were finished.

Tears welled in her eyes as she talked about the way a wonderful teacher influenced her life – and tears welled in mine.

Bob Vilt’s column appears Tuesdays