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Dreams, Memories and a Train Whistle

January 19, 2014

“Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it’s gonna sweep my world away
I wanna stop at Carbondale and keep on goin’
That Duquesne train goin’ to rock me night and day”
– Bob Dylan
from Duquesne Whistle

Mark Heyer at station at Rt. 19 and Bartlett Rd. 10-28-78 5

My car mate trying out his mask as we were leaving town.  We made all arrangements without cell phones, text messages, emails and satellite technology.  We did not miss a beat.

In October 1978, I set out on a short road trip with a friend to Carbondale, Illinois.  It was a gorgeous fall day and perfect for the six-hour drive to visit  another friend from our childhood cast, who was in his second year at Southern Illinois University.  Even though we don’t see each other very often these days, we easily and instantly get back in stride with one other when we do.  There’s still no lag all these years later.  Back then, we picked it right up during summer and other school breaks, but we wanted a visit on campus also.

We were encouraged to fuel up and get on the road for Halloween weekend, which was billed as a big holiday at SIU.   The tricks and treats didn’t have special appeal to me.  However, Bob Dylan was playing a concert on campus that weekend, so I didn’t need much coaxing to mark the calendar.  Neither of us did.  We had both seen Dylan play in Chicago twice earlier in the month, liked what we saw and heard and had one more show in us.  As it goes, my memories of the Carbondale show are a little vague.  I think they may now be colored by the “Live at Budokan” album, which Dylan recorded with the same big band that was on stage with him in Chicago and Carbondale.  The passage of thirty-five years may also play a part in this.  That October, we learned first-hand how Dylan changed the arrangements of his songs from one tour to the next.  If someone was expecting another “Rolling Thunder” or the shows that he played with The Band just a few years earlier, they would be surprised to find little relation to either.

Bruce in 76 Nova on 10-28-78 trip to see Pete and Dylan show

It was a beautiful autumn day – perfect for a purple face, yellow eyes and white hair.  We drove down Friday with the books clear until 4:00 Monday morning, when our next work shift started.

I do remember going to a a fraternity party after the Carbondale concert and making a swift exit humming to myself Randy Newman’s Mama Told Me Not to Come.  This was my first and last time in Carbondale.  

Happy to have visited, I was ready to get back on the road north.  And beyond; within a few short months, my friend went east to New York and I headed west to California.

My most extravagant dreams didn’t prepare me for all that would come.

“Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she never blowed before
Blue light blinking, red light glowing
Blowing like she’s at my chamber door

You’re smiling through the fence at me
Just like you always smiled before

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she ain’t gonna’ blow no more”

But dreams change with time.

“Can’t you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing?
Blowing like the sky’s gonna blow apart
You’re the only thing alive that keeps me going
You’re like a time bomb in my heart

I can hear a sweet voice steadily calling
Must be the mother of our Lord

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like my woman’s on board”

The train whistle blows steady as the sun.

“Can’t you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing?
Blowing through another no good town

The lights on my native land are glowing
I wonder if they’ll know me next time ’round
I wonder if that old oak tree’s still standing
That old oak tree, the one we used to climb

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she’s blowing right on time”

Keep on goin’.  Let the old oak tree stand, but ride on past without a glance.  Memories change with the dreams.

12 Comments
  1. “There’s still no lag all these years later.”—Rare to find someone that can be true with. Very nice.Takes away all that awkward getting to know them all over again.

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    • Oh, yes. I have the good fortune to have easy and wonderful relationships with several of my childhood friends. The “how’s it going?” part of the conversations aren’t the same as with others.

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  2. Amen to that good fortune. :)

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  3. Grant Bevill permalink

    The guy who stayed in the middle went east to see the guy in the mask last night. Time goes too fast between the appetizers and the dessert. You were just on cocktails in Carbondale. Good lord we are lucky. Every year I appreciate it more.

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  4. Old friends, the best kind, Bruce. A stray thought– “Blowing like she’s at my chamber door.” Reminds me of “Rapping at my chamber door.” Today is Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday. –Curt

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    • Curt – Perhaps Dylan was thinking about The Raven when he wrote Duquesne Whistle. He draws on a lifetime to express himself.

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  5. Such a lovely post, Bruce. Thank you for sharing!

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  6. “A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of Nature.” Not our words, but those of mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thank you for a heartwarming post, LMA

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