Down by the Gulf of Mexico Beyond the sea, beyond the shifting sand

Flowers of Indulgence's picture
I've made many trips to Florida over the years. Usually to Key West, but only twice for Bob. So when the news that Bob would be gracing the Sunshine state the wheels started turning. I'd promised family friend I would help her clear out her condos for sale earlier in the year. Low and behold Bob would be nearby for 2 nights. A perfect opportunity to pack up the Roo and hit the road. Driving long days and nights occupied a large part of my life in the past so I welcomed the opportunity to take it a little further. After a couple days of organizing, unwinding and helping Aunt Linda flip, dig and toss a few decades of her life there, it was time for Bob. I underestimated my rush hour drive time to Clearwater by the time I parked myself in my preferred spot right next to the exit, it was dangerously close to show time. I said my hellos to a few friends outside, I hightailed it in. The venue was sort of sterile for my taste but the drinks were fairly cheap. My seat was in row J on the right. I was actually quite pleased with it for the first night. I had a great eye line to Bob. The crowd around me was a little annoying. This is my main reason for not sitting so far back. This whole tour False Prophet was a real standout. Bob's singing is always so strong and emotive on FP.  On Black Rider, I didn't notice the echo effect. Having seen it mainly from up front, I think it really comes through better up front.than when you sit further back, which is a shame because it sound spooky and moody.  I hadn't listened to the new version of Masterpiece, though I'd read the description and had an idea what it would be like. This is such a perfect example of why I love Bob so much. This guy has ideas. He's thinking about his songs and there's always a new way to try them. He's still hungry to do what he's always done. It's certainly a masterpiece of a career in my eyes. Rubicon had some nice jazzy Bob piano solos. Bob was really going at on the Piano during Serve Somebody. This was the first hint of this new smooth version of Serve somebody which I really went on to love in Ft Myers. With the way Jerry is drumming really add to the vibes. It's almost a tropical jungle feeling or a desert coaster, south Texas Blasters, Link Wray feel. I can't make up my mind what it is to me yet, but I like it. This night featured more of the emphatic breaks of the fall tour than the upcoming night. Tired from the long days of driving in traffic I'm no longer used to I quickly made it back to the car and drove back south. Living in appalachia where the roads are open and welcoming or aboard in Stockholm where I barely ever rode in and never drove a car, it took me a minute to get back into the traffic swing of things. To add to the fun, the clouds that had been hanging over the warm gulf decided to move in and drench Tampa Bay for an hour or so. My murphy bed was looking mighty welcoming.
  Clearwater 2
After a few runs to the thrift store for Aunt Linda I decided to take an early day and get ready for the 1.5 hr (but 20 mile) journey back to the other end of the bay. With the venue sort of just out in the middle of nothing interesting, I decided to go have another bite of the delightful grouper in the gulf and take in a beach view for a little bit. The beach, full of families, spring breakers and a helluvalot more buildings than the last time I was there had me making an about face to the refuge of the upstairs tiki bar. Quiet and calm, I watched the sun set below the clouds which had been threatening, and occasionally following through, with rain. Today mother nature was more accommodating. I got to the venue and ran into a friend from years past and we chatted a little about what we heard in the shows these days. After we got caught up on each other's “who, what, when, where and why” I saw another friend from across the porch and went to take a seat. One mentioned the Bob Dylan Fan Club, asking where we talked with Bob about starting it several times. St Paul, MN I reminded them. A few minutes later, another friend asked me the same question a couple times. To the point I thought they were fucking with me. I was happy with what happened later.  My own version of you of Clearwater was more plodding and baroque feeling. Different than the closing shows of fall tour. A lot of great piano solos on mother of Muses and very gentle singing.  When Big River started, I almost lost it.  “I met her accidentally in St Paul, MN...!” It's fun, the cosmic coincidences that can happen in a day.  After the show I quickly called Caroline, pulled into a restaurant parking lot and waited for the night to thin out before heading back to the murphy bed. Ft. Myers
I cruised down to Ft Myers with relative ease aside from a small stent trapped on the Sunshine Skyway. Bridges like that aren't my thing. I almost didn't go to Ft. Myers. It's in a basketball gym? Another few hours to drive to the list.  It's a day that I have to get a hotel on Spring Break in a Beach town in South Florida.  It seemed like a lot of effort. 
But, in the end, a friend down there really wanted to take his dad so there I went. We had dinner (more seafood) after I checked into my hotel full of construction workers. We arrived a little earlier, but with no where to sit as far as benches, I plopped myself down on the curb and waited...just like the old the arena shows. Couple quick chats and in I went and found a wide array of kinds of people. Interesting!
After I got into my seat I started to feel more relaxed. I've seen Bob in some many arenas, and I don't particularly like theatre shows, not being one who likes to sit around at shows. It felt a little more normal than the theatre shows to me. The opening Most Likely had some great soft and gentle singing. The “It Can't Be this way Everywhere” verse had some classic Bob singing that reminded me of the way he'd sing it in the later nineties.  Bob's singing was very precise on Masterpiece this night. Every word was very sharp and enunciated. At the beginning, the band was a little subdued compared to the Clearwater shows aside from killer violin solos by Donny.Bob was gearing up for what was to come during Baby Tonight. Really slamming the keys. Of course, the real surprise came when Roll Over Beethoven started. I stayed up the rest of the show and danced with Greg.  After the show Greg and some friends from up north who had been on a Key West vacation for these shows all crammed into my tightly packed car and I shuttled us to one of the only bars open past 10 in this highly retirement driven area. It was a great dive and once another friend showed up we really started to get down to how great Bob is and talk about the great moments past. Orlando 1
After the day off that I spent in St. Pete again, I heard from Caroline as soon as I was up saying she was delayed until wayyyy too close to the show. Kinda panicking, trying to pack the car, I decided to contact the air bnb and see if I could check in early. That was a go. Great! I started to head out knowing that I-4 goes straight to Orlando. The directions... they didn't say that. Time to drive way north to drive south again. C'est La Vie. I stopped on the very windy flat farming area of central florida to get a call from a friend also on the road. He said he'd just arrived and I-4 was a parking lot. At least I missed that! Then caroline gets off and on her way. Things are looking up!
Driving to Orlando this crazy way was a trip. I got off into what was obviously going to be houses, but it was just a wind driven plain dust storm now, aside from the neatly arranged roads with evenly spaced lights and roundabouts. It felt apocalyptic. After I made it back to road civilization and a little more traffic, I saw the city. I fairly easily found our air bnb, an upstairs bungalow over a garage. Rustic but lit in a bright green glow by a neon sign, it said “good vibes.”
I quickly unpacked the car and changed into my show clothes and got fixed up just in time to head to the airport. I pulled into the cell phone lot just in time for the sun to illuminate me from under the clouds that were starting to clear. Shortly, Caroline said that she was on the ground and I crept, trying not to race out at top speed to grab her and start our mini adventure. After we got back to the Bnb, it was time to have a bev, check out our outfits and plan the night. Preparing to have a long night, we gathered everything we might need. Swimsuit, portable bar, mixers... we decided to leave our car in the garage for easy access to our needs and headed for the venue. We stopped out front to find that the venue staff seemed a little more amped than they needed to be. Why were we standing there? Uhh just waiting for someone. Our friends came and went and we headed inside. Again, the staff and one woman especially, really wanted to herd us into our seats. Wanting to get a drink we shuffled by her. We still had a few minutes so we took a seat, at a table and chatted. The same woman was back again asking where we were going. No where, lady! We're just sitting here with a friend before the show.
We got into our seats which were essentially second row behind another friend. The crowd was pretty dead and Bob barely acknowledged the audience compared to the previous shows that were full of “thank you”s all through the shows. Bob directed the band a lot and songs were changing. That said, a standout was Serve Somebody, featuring the new smooth sound. After the show we met up with some my my very oldest Bob friends. In fact, the friends Id say I took my first wild overnight nob journey with in 2003. I had flown out to Seattle to travel down the coast from Seattle to Berkeley for my 21st birthday. I had somehow arranged to meet a guy my age and ride from Eugene to Arcata, CA where i'd catch a greyhound to Red Bluff for the day off. That drive was long, 6 or more hours. I crawled into the back seat with Mike, Drew and Jennie. Overnight during our drive through the redwoods, we saw a child on a bike on the middle of the road, a moose and a bunch of chickens I think. I remember the sun was about to come up when we got to Arcata. I hadn't seen Drew since then I think. We had run into Michael at the last show in Evansville in the fall. It was so great to be there with them, 21 years later, so far from where we all met. We continued long into the night with other friends and had plenty of harmless misadventures for the rest of the night. Second Orlando
I woke up to a “good morning sunshine” text saying let's go eat! Wearily we dressed, coffeed and trekked downtown. It was a beautiful day thankfully, and we settled on sushi (which I had insisted on the night before but wasn't so sure about at that moment). We took a leisurely day, hit another tiki bar, a grocery to restock the mixers for the newly acquired Rum I'd picked up (shout out to Papa's Pilar Blonde Rum). We couldn't get it together to meet up with anyone before the show so we got ready slowly, called an uber and stashed our supplies in our friend's room for later.  Tonight, we had second row, but it was actually the front row on the left.  Bob was on fire tonight, seemingly revived from a night in Orlando. He was locked into every song and did some funny hand gesturing on Key west. We laughed a lot, us and Bob. He was definitely Performing and having fun doing it. One of the highlights were the extra long band intro to Baby tonight. We looked at each other, as it has been our new thing to dance for the last part of the song, and the intro went on and on. Bob came out to bow a couple times. Clearly feeling it more than the first night. We had a somewhat mellow evening, only getting together with a couple friends. Again the apocalypse came back. All of the street blocked with police cars with lights flashing. We waited in the cold breeze for our uber back home. Jacksonville
We awoke to me realizing we had to be out of the place at 10, not 11. Rushing, we managed it and pulled out just as our host was pulling up. A cold front had come through but we stopped at the beach in Daytona for a very short beach walk and lunch before finding our bnb north of Jacksonville. The neighborhood seemed nice, surrounded by a pretty run down city. The immediate feature was the excess of cats. Like, A LOT of cats. We unloaded, and headed into town for a coffee date we'd set the day before. After a stroll and dolphin watching opportunity we came back to the bnb, driving through the bombed out and lost city. Later we took a little drive back to downtown for a little hang and headed home before it was too very late. During the day, we decided to head down to St. Augustine for the day for a little more lively and interesting surrounding. It was good medicine and the sun was warm despite the cold wind. We took the coast road home and leisurely go ready for the last night of our little adventure. We arrived at the venue and said our hellos and goodbyes from the road. Some old friends and some new. It always kind of brings my energy down. Saying goodbye, knowing some will travel on and wishing I could too. Wondering if that's the last time I'l see them. That said, we went in, got our drinks and got down to our seats. We were in the front row today. The crowd was subdued and there was no dancing to be done this night, not because the crowd didn't want it too, but because the security, which had corralled us into the front area with several safety checks and wrist bands, said so. The show was solid. To Be Alone With You Bob does some step down singing reminiscent of the album version. Long harp Solo. The kicker of the show was the guy who was in the front row who had been up and clapping during the show. He held up a sign saying, can I have your harmonica. Bob obliged. What a happy guy that must be! After the show everyone was tired from the last few days of excitement and we went home. Caroline to fly and drive all day, and myself driving all the way back to Ohio. Neither of us could sleep.... See you in Austin, Bob!