My boyfriend Damon and I were in Philadelphia last week and his friend David picked us up to take us to a Bob Dylan show in Asbury Park.
As we drove, I told David about the first time I saw Dylan. It was 1990, and I was 14 and couldn't name any Dylan songs beyond "Like a Rolling Stone."
But when Dylan stepped onto the stage and started singing, I feel in love in the deepest sense of the word. My soul had found its mirror. An avid reader, I had not yet found Rimbaud or Baudelaire. And so Dylan was the first person I encountered in my life that clearly understood the ineffability of language.
By the time the show ended, I was entirely convinced that Bob Dylan was my best friend.
In the following weeks and years I bought a dozen cassette tapes of Dylan albums. I listened to them endlessly. I bought a hefty volume of Dylan lyrics and spent evenings and weekends poring over them.
I was convinced that if, as I stood in the audience at one of his shows, Dylan laid eyes on me, he would understand me completely and know in his core that we were best friends. My big sister, with whom I shared a room at the time, bore the brunt of this crazy talk.
I hung onto the belief that Bob Dylan was my best friend all through high school and college. It dissipated around the time I turned 21 and was gone entirely soon after. I have remained a Dylan fan all my life; but have never again been a superfan.
David laughed at this story. He said that while I had grown out of my delusions, he had talked to a few Dylan fans who hadn't.
David, Damon and I arrived at Asbury Park a good four hours before the doors opened. A motley group of fans had already assembled in line. As we waited, David chatted with Dylan superfans he had met at other shows.
He pointed out an avid fan standing near the very front of the line, a baby boomer with generous boobs and long brown hair hanging in two braids tied with red bows. She looked innocuous and not at all out of place. Her name, David said, was Trixsee.
When the doors finally opened, we hurried in to stand in the second row of people packing in against the rail for the General Admission show.
Squeezed in together against the stage after having waited for hours to get in, the bunch of us quickly developed a feeling of camaraderie. We all pressed in close for Leon Russell's opening act. And then we waited as Dylan's roadies set up the stage for him.
And then, just as Bob Dylan came onto the stage, Trixsee came pushing and shoving from off to the side somewhere to plant herself directly in front of us. The happy energy of the crowd around us shifted as people protested Trixsee shoving her way into the space we had diligently homesteaded. The 20-something girl in braces in front of me, and her previously cheerful boyfriend both began to scream at Trixsee to get away from her squatted position in front of the stage.
"I've seen her do this at other shows!" the young man yelled. "Get her out of here."
"Bob wants me here. I'm here with Bob," Trixsee screamed.
"Then why aren't you up there? " the girl with braces yelled back, gesturing at the stage.
"I don't want to be!" Trixsee screamed.
"I'm so sure!" the girl with braces said.
For a moment it seemed the tightly packed crowd would mutiny and try to shove Trixsee out of the way, but things settled down and we all turned our attention back to Bob Dylan, who was playing better than any of us had seen him play in years. He had his I-Give-a-Sh*t pants on tight and was alternately playing keyboard and singing in front of the mic while doing little dance moves. He even played guitar on a few songs and punched out his familiar lyrics with a new zest; and we were all drinking it down.
But Trixsee continued to be a distraction. She shook her ass and her hefty bosoms and screamed enthusiastically and bumped into the people around her with her elbows. David, who stood directly to the side and behind her, was taking the brunt of her wiggling. Every time I looked over at the two of them -- Trixsee's face bright with joy, David's dark with annoyance -- I started to laugh. I had never seen a woman so capable of sucking the joy out of the people around her.
By the end of the show, Trixsee was screaming at the top of her voice at Dylan, "Yeah, baby! Yeah, baby! Yeah, baby! YOU'RE MINE!!!!" The crowd around her rolled their eyes at each other and tried to focus on what was happening on the stage. I felt sure Trixsee must be the nuttiest Dylan fan on earth.
But then, during the encore, a pretty blonde 30-something elbowed her way towards the front of the stage. She asked David if she could stand in front of him. "Sure," he said. "If you'll be sure and elbow her." He gestured at Trixsee. The blonde swore that she would.
The blonde pulled a rolled up piece of paper tied carefully with ribbon from a plastic bag. "I wrote five notes for Bob!" she screamed for the benefit of anyone close enough to hear. She cocked her arm back to toss the first note onto the stage, but stood there frozen, waiting until Dylan glanced in our direction. "I want him to see me!" she screamed. "I want him to see me!"
When Dylan looked more or less her way, she lobbed the first note onto the stage, reaching into her bag for another. "I wrote my phone number on them!" she yelled.
After the show, as David, Damon and I left the Asbury Park Convention Center, we talked more about Trixsee and the blonde woman's bizarre behavior than we did about the show.
As we talked, I wondered why -- with such an early start as an obsessive Dylan nut -- I had been blessed with growing out of being a Bob Dylan superfan.
Curious to find out more about Trixsee, a woman with the power and ability to ruin a Bob Dylan show for him, the next day David started emailing other Bob Dylan fans to ask about her. The emails he received in return all stated clearly that Trixsee was the worst and craziest of all Dylan fans, and routinely wreaked havoc on other fans' enjoyment of the shows with her loud, pushy, inconsiderate behavior.
But Trixsee's true sin, one email said, was to drive Dylan himself away from his own followers. The email recounted the following story: One time Bob came out and was talking with some fans, including Trixsee, and Trixsee asked him if he was breastfed as a baby. Dylan hurried away from the group saying, 'That's why I don't talk to my fans.'
Bob Dylan likely doesn't look at his super fans and see himself reflected in them. He doesn't look at them and see lifelong best friends or future lovers. He looks at them and sees people who know his voice, who know his words. But he doesn't know their voices; and he certainly doesn't want to know their words.
And, perhaps sadly, neither does anyone around them.