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Worthless Foam From The Mouth

by MARK CARTER

I was interested to read Chris’ article last month. Always good to see someone else doing a bit of soul searching – it makes me feel as though I’m not alone. With that in mind, and unable to Email him with my response, I thought I’d put a few ideas on paper here. Much of what Chris asked are themes that I addressed in my Take Me On A Trip cartoon series last year, so, at the risk of repeating myself, here goes.

WHEN DOES A HOBBY BECOME AN OBSESSION? AND WHEN DOES THE OBSESSION THREATEN YOUR NORMAL EXISTENCE?

Tough one. Speaking from experience – and I’d guess that this is probably true of all ourselves, Dylan or otherwise – you only realise that you have turned the corner from fan, collector, whatever to obsessive with the benefit of hindsight. For me, it happened during the mid-80’s and early 90’s. Those were the years when I collected books and bootlegs and tapes and videos not because I wanted them all but because I felt that I had to have them. Much of what I bought, traded and collected remained (and, if I still have them, remains) unplayed but it felt good to have them and all those creaking shelves stockpiled with stuff was kind of reassuring that I was keeping, if not ahead of, at least up with the game. Except, of course, I wasn’t; there was always something else to get and so I was never satisfied with what I had but always fretting about what I didn’t have. It threatened my normal existence because it wasn’t a normal existence. I didn’t even have time to watch the videos because my evenings were spent corresponding with others or cartooning and writing for Freewheelin’, Isis, Homer and then, for a while, Dignity. As Chris says, you start Bob projects and pretty soon they’re ruling your life and, once again, you end up continuing with them because you feel you have to, even when you really don’t want to.

HOW DO YOU PRIORITISE THESE THINGS?

It’s easy nowadays. I’ve dropped a lot of what I used to do. I no longer feel the need to collect video and have gotten rid of much of what I used to have. The same goes for the audios. I still collect several shows on CD-R but play them when I have the time and the inclination. Some don’t get played for weeks but at least they do get played. Other than that, my main priority is the Freewheelin’ material – the cartoons because I still enjoy doing them and 20 Pounds which, in it’s new format, is easier and more fun to do. My correspondence is down to maybe half a dozen contacts and nowadays I’ll write perhaps once a month instead of once or, at the height of the madness - twice a week.

WHO DO YOU LET DOWN?

Anyone but my family. Jamie’s arrival helped me put everything into perspective. Chris knows more than me that, as soon as you stop doing something you’re going to disappoint someone. It’s a problem and one that carries it’s fair share of guilt complexes. I’m over it and I guess that, if I did ever let anyone down, they’re over it too. Of course I’m sure that the people who relied on me are a mere fraction of the people who rely on Chris and I don’t want to sound too casual about this. People do tend to take you for granted , though. I realised it and I’m sure you must, Chris? I guess my decisions were somewhat easier to make through a steady decrease of interest in all things Dylan (and, at times, with Dylan himself) until I reached a sensible and manageable level. Still, they were decisions that had to be made and ones that we all have to make if we want a degree of “normality” in our life. Perhaps, Chris, the easiest course for you might be to decrease everything to some degree rather than cut out some things completely. Just a thought, and one you’ve probably considered anyway.

IS TIME AN ENEMY OR NOT?

I try to be friends with time these days. Chris, if you want my humble opinion, retirement and total immersion into the Dylan world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week would be the worse thing to do. As you say, there are so many other things (family, movies, books, music) that deserve attention. Like Chris, I’m lucky in that Angela learned to live with it and never forced me into a “Bob or me” ultimatum. If she had, even at the peak of my craziness, I’d like to think that I’d have done the right thing, but am I 100% sure that I would have? Ask me another.

These days I am probably more relaxed than at any time during the past couple of decades or more. I set aside time for my family, time for Bob and Freewheelin’ and, just as importantly, time for me. Time to get to know me for the first time ever. If that sounds a bit New Agey, it isn’t meant to but I find that I like myself a whole lot more nowadays than I ever did. I guess I hit a kind of mid-life crisis a couple of years ago and I’m still working through it. I’d been pissed off in my job for a while so, three months ago, I went out and got myself a better one. Now I’m working at Norwich’s Crown Court and so I even get to feel that I’m doing my little bit for society. Yes, friends and neighbours, I am a happier bunny these days. Could I be happier? Possibly, but I don’t worry about it so much anymore.

There we are, I hope this may have been of some help. If nothing else, it was good to get it down on paper.

Finally, in response to C.P.Lee’s article, you might be interested to know that Johnny Depp, who bought Bela Lugosi’s old house in 1996, starred in Tim Burton’s affectionate 1994 homage to eternal B-Movie maker Ed Wood and played alongside Martin Landau as a stunningly accurate Lugosi (deservedly winning an Oscar for Best Actor). Wood discovered Lugosi as a morphine-addicted, broke and broken old man and, though he never realised his dream of resurrecting Lugosi’s career, he did at least give him the chance to act in front of the cameras again and spend his last few years with a little dignity. It’s a quite marvellous movie (like Dylan, Burton has had far, far more artistic – and commercial – successes than failures) and one that I would not hesitate in recommending to anyone who has not seen it.

Two years after making the movie, Depp buys Lugosi’s old place. Coincidence? I think not. Unfortunately, I can’t find a Dylan connection to add another thread to C.P.’s pretty impressive collection of threads, though “Ed Wood” was shot in black and white, which is Dylan’s preferred medium and the young Zimmerman would have been the right age to catch Wood’s infamous “Plan 9 From Outer Space” upon it’s release in the late 1950’s. Not so much a thread as a little piece of cotton but enough for this month, I think.

Dylan

 
 
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