Aug 01, 2023, 05:57AM

To Woodstock! (Part One)

Red said, "Huh."

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Red Mazzo basked on the front-porch swing, puffing his pipe, groggy after a big lunch, a heaping plate of Ronzoni and Ragu. He was startled when a new Cadillac rolled into the driveway, but assumed it was just going to turn around. Instead, it sat there, idling for a minute.

The engine turned off. Now Red was baffled, getting concerned.

Out stepped Jack! Instead of his usual work attire he was wearing a crisp white shirt, tie, sport coat, a nice pair of gray trousers and a shiny pair of black Bass Weejuns. He was freshly shaved, his hair had a neat part. "What th'," said Red.

"C'mon, Reddy! We're going on an adventure!"

Red was confused, speechless.

"C'mon, c'mon! And grab some of your poems, 10 of your very best! And copies of that review you were in! This is going to be great! Don't question, just get a move on! Hour's getting late!"

Bemused, Red stood. He hadn't seen Jack so elated in years, maybe a decade, so why look a gift horse in the mouth? Red's days had been humdrum, August doldrums. Whatever Jack has in mind will be livelier than sitting around the house. He trotted upstairs, grabbed his 10 best and a few copies of "Poems Upstated," an obscure pamphlet that published one Mazzo poem before their imprint, Cedar & Cider Press, bit the dust. He cursed the memory of their misspelling his name as Red Muzzo. With a black ballpoint, he'd corrected his copies. He'd been pretty precise; his alterations looked almost legit. Poems in hand, he flew down the stairs. What did Jack have in mind?

"C'mon, let's hit the road, Shakespeare! Heh, heh!"

As they got in the car, Red said, "Just promise you won't drink. I get, well... nervous when you drink and drive." In truth, Jack's drinking made Red anxious at any time. On the booze train Jack transformed to a Mr. Hyde.

"Have no fear! Scout's honor!" Jack held up his right hand with the proper Scout salute. "I never made it past Tenderfoot, but you have my word."

The bright afternoon soon found them on the highway headed north and west.

Beside himself with delight, Jack finally spilled the beans, "Chum we're going to meet... Bob Dylan!"


"Yep! And we're going to wind up millionaires!"


"Yep! We're going to Woodstock. He lives there. And Big Pink is near there, in West Saugerties. A guy at a bar drew me a map of how to get to Big Pink. I figure that from there, we nose around, ask some questions. It may involve a hike of a mile down a secret driveway, almost invisible unless you know where to look. This guy at the bar had a pretty good idea of how to find it; he drew a map of that, too." From a jacket pocket, Jack produced two napkins, handed them to Red. Indeed, on each was a scrawled map.

"Just relax and leave the driving to me."

Red's mind reeled. What if we meet Dylan!

"Okay, okay, okay... Suppose we do meet him? Then what?"

"No suppose about this, Reddy. We're practically at his door, him inviting us in for coffee and conversation. You can’t convince me that it was happenstance that I met this guy, out of the blue, at Marino's Tap and Grill, and that this guy had actually been to Woodstock, had touched Big Pink, looked in its windows for cryin' out loud! And, pièce de résistance, he almost saw Dylan!"


"Yep! It was at a bookstore off Mill Hill Road, Woodstock's main drag. Elmo's Books and Such, he said, I think. Anyway, Dylan had just left, less than a minute before this guy walked in the door! Needless to say, he rushed out. He thinks he might've seen Dylan getting into a VW bus, but it drove away before he could get to it. He really wanted an autograph, but no such luck. He was beside himself with regret. Y'know, if he hadn't lingered at Big Pink he'd have seen Dylan! Gotten the damn autograph, maybe gone to lunch with him!"

Red frowned. If he saw Dylan, he'd never ask for an autograph. That's so presumptuous, an invasion of privacy. No, it'd be enough, thank you, just to see the hero walking around in real life, not just on a stage, as he and Jack had witnessed in Waterbury when The Rolling Thunder Revue performed.

And even in real life, Red wouldn't stare. Again, rude! A glance would be plenty. Just to know that was Bob Dylan over there, perusing a book.

Jack cleared his throat and continued, "We will find Dylan. How big can Woodstock be? Relax, chum!"

"But why did you want me to bring my poems?"

"Are you dense? Look at me."

"Yuh! What's up? I haven't seen you dressed up since high school!"

In way of explanation, Jack reached into his shirt pocket and handed Red a business card. It was on an expensive stock the color of ivory. In a tasteful font it read:

John O'Brien, Esq.

Literary Agent

New Haven • Dublin

In addition, there was a New Haven PO box, and a phone number.

"By the by, the phone number is for a professional answering service. This is going to be a class act, top shelf. So, I am now your agent, at 10 percent, if'n that's kosher by you."

"Heh, sure! Why not! Okay, I can understand New Haven. Can you explain Dublin, please?"

"Yah, my cousin Patti lives in Dublin. She writes for tabloids and mags, and she knows a few writers. She said it was okay to count her as a client. A little of the flim, a dash of the flam, a dab of gab. That is how it is done! Presto! Change-o! I'm your friendly neighborhood literary agent-o!"

"Okay. But where did you get..."

"The Caddy? Ronnie and Joanie are in Jamaica for a month, and they left me in charge of Casa Campello. I'm living there, keeping an eye on things. The Caddy's her car. The keys were in the bureau."

"You mean you went into their bedroom? Snooped in their drawers?"

Jack shrugged, lit a cigarette.

"Wait! Won't she notice the mileage?"

"A broad? Reading the odometer? Don't make me laugh, it hurts when I laugh."

Jack reached under his seat, handed a ring binder to Red. "Put each of your poems in a leaf, and put a copy of the review in the inside flap. I've also got this to show, a friend of Patti's, call him a client."

It was a chapbook titled, "Belfast Blues and Other Tarantulas," credited to one Billy Joyce. Red opened it, read the first one, titled untitled, as the car consumed highway:

midnite rotten

drury lane and pain a-knockin

the winder pane the

time has gone a

spawn defrocked & Mock'd

& blockt.

sutton place joe south.

damn ye all.


oscar's wild

mild is the plague made

a maid!! !

a maiden in

eden. four

too fade. gobi

sahara o'hara.

damn ye all. 


mort walker

walked the

final mile searching

foe a camel. but

there wasnt no drugstore

know ware. so mortie said,

yeah the mother said,

damn ye all.

Red said, "Huh."

"Patti says he's the Irish Dylan. Sometimes, at readings, he accompanies himself with an electric guitar. He hits it with a hammer, jabs it with a switchblade. His hair is like Dylan in 1966, and he wears sunglasses all the time, even at night. And the tab collar."


"So, my plan is this. We meet Dylan. And he will love us. Seriously, he's a genius rock poet, a sensitive guy, yet he's surrounded by executives and lawyers and agents and sycophants and God only knows what else. He sees us and he sees that we are as he was, when he was young, when he was struggling in Greenwich Village. We are his past. He is our future. We show him your work and he will recognize its greatness. You are a published poet and you are an American original! As is Dylan. If he can't use your work, he will know those who can. You know, other tunesmiths. And publishing houses. And Ginsberg! He will connect you to Allen Ginsberg! You will be on the Top 40 and the bestseller lists. Hey, just look at John Lennon. He was bored to tears. So he broke out and hung around with some radicals and musicians, so-called losers, in the East Village, added them to his entourage. The losers became winners."

Jack zipped his window down a few inches, tossed his butt out, zipped the window back up. The brief interlude of fresh muggy air reminded Red that they were riding in air-conditioned comfort. He could get used to luxury!

Jack went on, "We might wind up living in L.A., in Laurel Canyon, hanging out with our idols, written up in all the trade journals and music rags. No joke." Jack sang, "On the cover of the..."

Red's imagination ran away with him. He struggled to breathe.

"And just think where this can lead, my lonely poet friend. Look at some of the babes on Dylan album covers. That will be you, boot heels a-wanderin' the Village with a gorgeous piece of ass. Or a lady in red by the antique fireplace, some real intellectual egghead Jewish chick who will appreciate you."

Red's imagination skyrocketed to the ionosphere. It was almost as if G-force pinned him against the car seat. (In the ionosphere the air is thin and cold and pale-green and vertiginous.)

Jack turned on the car radio, it tuned to an FM rock station. The DJ's baritone was confidential as a child's prayer while shilling for a regional stereo equipment chain. Jack said, "If the next song is Dylan, I take that as one very good omen."

Indeed, the very next tune was a Dylan number, a passionate ode to a cold-blooded killer. The two friends screamed, "YESSS!" Red's Wallabees beat a tattoo against the floorboard.

Next up was Joni Mitchell singing, "Well, I came upon a child of God, he was walking along the road..."

Jack was almost smug as he nodded to Red as if to say, "See? See! We have got this in the bag!" Red had to admit, things looked pretty darn good! He settled back in the plushest seat General Motors had ever created and sighed the profound sigh of a man who has arrived. Jack whispered, "Made in the shade with pink lemonade."

They sat, silent, intent, as the radio serenaded, "We are stardust, we are golden. We are billion-year-old carbon..."

Jack lit a Winston. "I quit drinking three days ago." He held his hand for Red to witness. "See? No shaking. Not one tad."

"Huh," said Red. Maybe this is a new Jack, a new morning, if you will.

"Look, pally. I know I've been a bum, a rat to you. I could blame the sauce. But in truth, it's my fault. Maybe this can make things up to you."

"Oh, you don't have..."

"I know. But I want to. You're my best friend."

The Cadillac sailed the highway like a schooner through the Bahamas o’er a glassy sea on a blessed day.


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