Sunday, August 16, 2009

Like a Complete Unknown

Gates and Dylan
In a recent incident that swept across U.S. newspapers, media outlets, and T.V. screens, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested at his own home when a Cambridge neighbor called 911 and reported that he appeared to be breaking in. The subsequent confrontation, handcuffing, and the fallout with powerful racial overtones wound up involving President Obama, who invited Gates and Officer James Crowley to have a beer at the White House in order to smooth things out.

In a far less contentious but equally baffling incident, Bob Dylan was stopped by a police officer a couple days ago while the singer was wandering in a New Jersey neighborhood prior to a concert with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp. Admittedly, Dylan can look pretty scruffy, but the 22-yr-old cop didn't recognize the rock icon even when he showed her his i.d., so she insisted that he return with her to his hotel, where others readily vouched for him. To his credit, Dylan seemed to take this all pretty calmly. This gives a new ironic meaning to the phrase, "like a complete unknown," from the song that many (including me) consider the greatest rock song ever written:

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