Fearing my brain would quickly turn upside down, I had to set aside, momentarily, my copy of Jane Mayer's new book The Dark Side, a sobering account detailing the Bush administration's elevation of torture from abhorrent medieval practice loved by the Inquisition (and certain Nazis) to officially sanctioned U.S. policy. There is only so much trampling of the rule of law I can take in one sitting, thank you very much Alberto "The Geneva Convention is Quaint" Gonzales. I needed to take a walk. To clear my head. To think back on those halcyon days when Torquemada was the bad guy and not, say, some mid level U.S. government lawyer armed with dubiously written memos so Top Secret no one's allowed to read them and thus judge their legality.
Heading out the front door, I grabbed my trusty iPod shuffle. This is the tiny iPod not only with the ability to cram 500 plus songs in its miniscule flash drive but also the iPod with the wonderful inability to then choose said particular song from the 500 plus playlist. There is no screen on this iPod. You can't see song titles. And it has only one button -- Press; you are at the mercy of whatever tune comes next.
Personally, I like this randomness and the ensuing musical juxtapositions. Hank Williams next to Los Tigres del Norte next to Pantera. Sublime. And sometimes, like this time, as I was heading out the door beginning my walk and pressing Play, actual meaning can be divined from what appears to be mere chance, sort of like a Magic 8 Ball, only with songs: Dylan's Tombstone Blues, you see (listen here), comes up right away. I listen to the lyrics. And, as usual, in the context of Bush's "Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals" I was just reading, Mr. Zimmerman proves as prescient as he is poetic:
Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thief
Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief
Saying, "Tell me great hero, but please make it brief
Is there a hole for me to get sick in?"
The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly
Saying, "Death to all those who would whimper and cry"
And dropping a bar bell he points to the sky
Saying, "The sun's not yellow it's chicken"
There's even a reference, I submit, to my fellow Tejano, Alberto Gonzales. The waterboarding vato is, I suggest, the "faithful slave" named "Pedro" Dylan sings about here:
Gypsy Davey with a blowtorch he burns out their camps
With his faithful slave Pedro behind him he tramps
With a fantastic collection of stamps
To win friends and influence his uncle
Admittedly, I'm not sure who Gypsy Davey could be. Donald Rumsfield perhaps? But my theory is worth exploration. I'll get back to you after closer readings.
And believe me, the words make much better sense when you hear Dylan sing them. So again, go here to listen to the 1965 song off of Highway 61 Revisited, a cut one critic described as "if Salvador Dali or Luis Bunel had picked up a Fender Strat to head a blues band, they might have come up with something like 'Tombstone Blues.'"
I concur. As my man Pirri Thomas would say, "Punto."