The Authentic Experience
My family and I stopped at the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, Il, during our drive up to Peoria the day before the concert. It's a cool historic diner located on route 66 full of neon lights and great food. They gave us a bunch of complimentary goodies I'm guessing for no other reason than we have cute kids. I thought J.D. might like one of the route 66 postcards so I picked one to give to him.
The morning of the concert we noticed two conspicuous buses parked across the parking lot and I noticed a man, who clearly looked like a musician (cool glasses and a fedora), walk from the buses to the side entrance of the hotel. I eventually made it over to their lobby and saw the guy sitting at a table reading the paper. I almost chickened out and left without saying anything, but, before hitting the doors outside, got a surge of courage and made a 180 and approached the stranger. I asked him if he was with the tour buses and he said (slightly stunned), "yeah, uh-huh." We chatted for a second and I asked him which band he was with. He gave me look that said, "I wish I could tell you, but I can't," I caught the vibe and dropped the topic. I told him this was my 3rd Dylan show and he hoped I enjoyed it. As it turns out, J.D. put together it was Stu Kimball that I had unknowingly met (I'm not quite the super fan J.D. is, so please forgive my not recognizing Stu right off the bat). We went over a little later to get him to sign our post cards but he was gone (arggggg!).
The day progressed and we saw a couple other band members from a distance walking from the hotel to the bus, but still no Bob. We then went to the riverfront in Peoria for a few hours and, upon our return back to the hotel, my wife and I saw a very hobo-ish figure with sweats and a hat on walking from the hotel to the bus. I freaked and grabbed J.D. who was already in our room. We scoped the site until the figure came out. We barely got a glimpse of him as he went back into the hotel. J.D. and I debated the possibility of it being Bob. The figure then became know as the "Hoodie Weirdo." It was from quite a distance and his clothes were really baggie, but, man, his posture and gait sure seemed to fit the bill. After a few minutes we headed back into our room and I took a nap until it was time to leave.
At around 4:30ish we gathered our stuff and headed out for an evening of music and fun. As we approached our fish doctor friend's car I asked J.D. if he had the tickets. He said "oh s***, man, no I'll be right back" and headed back to the room. Me and the fish doc hopped in the car. I was looking her direction and she was looking my direction, which gave her a view of the buses. She noticed the "hoodie weirdo" we had been discussing earlier, and before she could finish telling me what she was seeing, I was out of the car making a B-line for the buses. I didn't really expect it to be Bob, but hey, maybe it was another band member. I wanted to catch the person before they disappeared back onto the bus so my pace was fast. As I approached the buses I could see the figure's reflection on the further bus and it was getting closer to me. I slowed my stride but my heart started to really pound and out from in between the vehicles a little man appeared. My eyes and brain scoured his facial features, much like the Terminator as he searches for a positive ID on John Conner, and within milliseconds I recognize him as Bob Dylan, holy s***!!! BOB DYLAN!!! Pure instinct kicked in and I managed to stay relaxed (I'm a nurse, so I'm used to breaking the ice with sick grumpy people, not that Bob was sick or grumpy, just that breaking the ice comes naturally to me now -- actually I think I've always been good at striking conversations with strangers, but anyway) as I shouted "We were just hopping in the car to head to your show, Bob!" He looked over at me a little startled and said "what." I repeated and by that time I was to him. We greeted and shook hand (he has a very distinct hand shake). He asked me more questions than I asked him -- my name, occupation, where I worked, lived and so on. He seemed really curious and had a groovy way of putting things. Its true that his stare is piercing, even through his sunglasses. I told him about J.D. and what a big fan he is; and that I'd like them to meet. Bob said that would be great, but I was terrified that J.D. would take too long doing whatever he was doing (I had forgotten by that point -- just hurry up J.D., dammit, its Bob Dylan!) and Bob would have to go. I felt like every second with him was a privilege. Finally after a few minutes -- that felt like an hour -- J.D. showed up. Haha, finally! Bob would definitely be roped by J.D. long enough for me to get those cool postcards!! Bob said again as I left to get them that he wasn't going anywhere, but I wasn't about to risk it -- would you? I scurried into the hotel, struggling to fit the damn key card into the damn slot reader to unlock the damn door because I started shaking so much. I rallied the families, "HE'S OUT THERE! . . ." it was hard to bring words to my mouth at this point, " . . .WE'RE TALKING TO HIM!" The girls, "who?" Me, ". . . BOB DYLAN!!!!" The girls "WHAT! REALLY!!" and so on. I managed to grab the postcards and booked it back to the action (it didn't occur to me that our families were allowed to meet him until I was about to leave with the cards. I told my wife to grab the kids, barefoot and all, and lets go). Bob made good on his promise to give us personalized autographs and seemed tickled the whole time. While I was gone J.D., the fish doctor and Bob had an interesting conversation about the fish doctor's job. Here is that conversation from J.D.'s recollection:
Then, once I return with the postcards I ask him the only music related question of the whole conversation:
His bodyguard looked like he could have smashed us with one of the buses, but he waved once he knew Bob was ok. One other thing that really impressed me was Bob's humbleness, whether intentional or natural, he said 2-3 times that he hoped we would like the performance. He'd say, "I'll do my best." It was nice to hear. In fact, he shouted it when we honked and waved as we headed to the show. It was as perfect of an experience as one could hope for. I got 1 on 1 time with Bob, J.D. got 1 on 1 time and our families met him too. My daughters were too shy to approach him, so they clung to mommy and flirted with their eyes. My wife gave an ecstatic, "Hi Bob," and gave a huge half circle wave. Simply blessed.