TULSA, Okla. — Standing in the doorway, I heard Bob Dylan's voice in the distance. His words beckoned me to turn the corner, then I realized: There were no other visitors at the Bob Dylan Center.
It was the day before the May 10 opening of the $10 million new museum/archive, where his voice was emanating from a splashy, multi-screen installation to an audience of exactly one.
A rare commemoration for a living — and still working — artist, the center is called the "BDC" on T-shirts and hoodies. How bland. And confusing. (CBD?) This grand place needs an appellation that sings — how about "The Bob"?
I was having a solitary experience at The Bob, not unlike the way I engage with his recordings. Absorbing lyrics, responding to the rhythm or melody, lost in my thoughts.
How does it feel to be on your own, amid two stories of Bobness?
Immersive and exclusive. Overwhelming. There was pride, too — that one of our own had dreams and visions he couldn't realize in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, so he reached out to the world. Now the living legend, who turns 81 Tuesday, has left us with tens of thousands of items from his personal archives.
What a saver he's been: Artifacts like the leather jacket he wore when he went electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Priceless ephemera like a 1964 letter of admiration from Johnny Cash and a postcard of apology from Pete Seeger. And oddities like the autographs he reluctantly signed for a 1981 band member three wiseass ways — with his right hand, left hand and pen in his mouth.
There are four drafts of his first book, "Tarantula," and three pocket-size notebooks with lyrics for 1975's "Blood on the Tracks" — the kind of items that will draw Dylanologists to Tulsa. Some are on display, others available by appointment in the archives (with white gloves).
The center's 29,000 square feet are packed with Bobabilia: performance footage and interviews, posters and paintings, articles and essays, bootleg LPs and outtakes. Just no Grammys or trophies of any kind.
That's Dylan: Put him on a pedestal but don't treat him like he's on it.