Up close, this Oris watch is very black and very large and very square and very manly. The picture on the back is, as I think you can see here, a poor tracing of the well-known photo. It comes in a box with a shiny harmonica and a greatest hits CD which I hope will show up on eBay soon because it’s got a lovely photo on the cover.
When I walked in the door of the Tourneau watch emporium on 57th Street and Madison Avenue, I was battered by artful bright lighting that picks out the hundreds of extravagant watch faces and then by the staff’s rapacious desire to help me. Many people motivated by obscure commitments to something or other will consider the battering a perfect greeting for this latest example of what they will call Bob Dylan’s unfortunate sell-out to the commercial world. The rest of us can be ardently grateful to the person Tourneau contracted to assemble a small exhibit of Dylan items in the lower level of Tourneau.
There’s a special charm in descending past all the shininess and the noise and finding yourself in a small dim chamber, surrounded by photos of Bob Dylan, album covers arrayed in a neat chronological line, two of his Drawn Blanks lithographs (one of the shakeshake mamas, and one of urgently receding train tracks), a wall showing a brief loop from The Other Side of the Mirror. So while you’re falling into the photo of Bob and Allen Ginsberg al fresco by Kerouac’s gravesite, or Bob adorably cradling his head in his arms at the New Morning sessions, or young flanneled Bob examining a record we expect he will *borrow* from the owner as soon as the photographer is looking somewhere else, or Bob leaning leanly in a doorway during the “Love and Theft” sessions–you hear over and over “….you know him, he’s yours….” and “All I really wanna doo-oooo is baby be frenz with you…” If you time it right, and you’re willing to tear yourself away from that 1978 photo–a favorite of yours–of Bob reflecting, and being reflected by the window alongside him you get to see the great shot of Bob tousled and grinning turning to the Newport crowd and starting the song. You could, if you wanted, do this 15 times, and no one at Tourneau will ask you to leave. And it’s all free.
Laying out album covers sounds like a cheap copout for an “exhibit”, but oh no, mon freres, I was surprised to find this oddly captivating. Just quietly lined up, each cover felt like a window into songs, performances, images, and my mind was full of the particular life of each album, and then swam pleasurably along to the next. A lot of the early ones looked like reissues, but so what.
Photos, Bob’s own artwork, the Newport footage, songs called up by the album covers. Over and over. Round and round in this dim, carpeted chamber. Wow. It felt like the general state of the inside of my own head. I have the Tourneau watch emporium to thank for this experience, and I regret that I cannot foresee any development in my life that would allow me to be a customer of their wares.
Here’s the link to the succinct description of the exhibit on expectingrain: