My Back Pages
My how time flies when you’re having fun. This week, on June 22, I celebrated my birthday by having dinner at my favorite restaurant, with prime rib for dinner and Mud Pie for dessert.
Don’t bother asking me how old I am now; let’s just say I’m gettin’ older…“Old as the hills and twice as dirty,” Hey, who said that? Oh, it’s Fred Flintstone. Yabba dabba doo, Fred! But I don’t really feel older. In fact, I feel younger than I was yesterday.
Crimson flames tied through my ears, rollin’ high and mighty trapped. Countless fire and flaming roads, using ideas as my maps. ‘We’ll meet on edges soon,’ said I, proud ‘neath heated brow. Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. (“My Back Pages” – Bob Dylan – 1964 & The Byrds – 1967)
OK, I know what you’re thinkin’. Dylan’s lyrics, though often esoteric or confusing, in this instance refer to how he felt when his fans rejected his switch from acoustic folk guitar to electric. As for myself, the lyrics are emblematic of the changed person – the so-called “free spirit” – that I am today, compared to my upbringing in the uptight environment of Orange County.
It all stemmed from being born into a family that was filled with prejudice against people who were different from us…I think you know what I mean. My dad, born and raised in Danville, Va. – at one time the Confederate capitol – was old school. He even convinced the local school district to change its boundaries so I wouldn’t have to attend school with people who were “different.”
Actually, this attitude was pretty typical of the area I grew up in. (Sorry, I didn’t mean to end a sentence with a preposition) And it wasn’t just my family; it was all around me. For instance, my next-door neighbor’s grandpa was a conservative congressman who introduced a bill in each session of Congress to get the U.S. out of the UN, who repeatedly voted against the Civil Rights Act, believed that Martin Luther King was a communist, and who used to lecture me on how rock ‘n roll was the devil’s tool and that it was part of the international communist conspiracy.
Man, am I ever glad I got out of that environment and replanted myself in the middle of a national forest! I felt like I was so much “older” back then, but I persevered and went on to college, where I learned from some very wise professors that hatred and prejudice are morally repugnant. I believe I’m now a better and “younger” person.
Half-wracked prejudice I leaped forth. ‘Rip down all hate’, I screamed. Lies that life is black and white, spoke from my skull. I dreamed romantic flights of musketeers, foundational deep, somehow. Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.
Keep it flyin’, Uncle Mott