“I’d like to speak to Bob, please,” said the Nobel Committee Chairman in his best Norwegian accented English to the person who answered the phone at Ram’s Horn Publishing, the only number of any outfit that had anything to do with Bob that his underlings could find.
“Bob’s not here,” answered the person at the other end.
“When do you expect him?” the Committee Chair asked.
“He is not expected,” was the reply.
“Can you give him a message?” asked the Chair.
“We can try, but he usually doesn’t look at the ones we leave on his desk, nor does he seem to respond to them as far as we can tell.”
“Please tell him that he has won a Nobel prize. We’d like to speak with him as soon as possible. It is urgent,” said the chair.
“I read about that in the news,” said the Ram’s Horn employee. “I expect Bob did, too.”
“But we haven’t heard from him.”
“Neither have we.”
And they may likely not. Or they may get their phone call. No one knows but Bob. His mysterious, enigmatic ways are one of the things I like about him. He does what he wants in the way he seems to want to do it. He tours constantly, which is no longer necessary, so it must be that he simply wants to. He seldom speaks to his band members, it is reported to us. He seldom gives them a set list. He may make them play an entire show of things they have never rehearsed. He may give the crowd what they want, or he may play ten Buck Owens tunes in a row. He may give the folks the real Bob, or he may give them his very best caricature of Bob, then the crowd doesn’t know which one they may be hearing, the crowd never knowing whether they are getting the real Bob or Bob’s best Bob impression.
Only Bob can get away with being his own caricature of himself.
Bob may be impressed with his award. I think he should be. If he isn’t, then he should know that I am impressed on his behalf and think it is one of the best humanities awards the committee has made in many years. It is well deserved, since Bob’s lyrics have influenced multiple generations. New artists take his music and repackage it and make it fresh for new generations, and have done so for generations. I’m sure Bob likes that more than he likes getting a Nobel prize, but I’m not too sure; only Bob knows, and so far, he ain’t saying.
“Can I make an appointment to see him?” the committee chair asked.
“Bob doesn’t make appointments, sir,” said the Ram’s Horn employee.
“Can you tell me anything about him?” asked the bewildered Norwegian.
“I can tell you that he comes and goes as he pleases,” was the reply. “Sometimes he comes in here twice a week. Others, it is two years or more with no visits to this office, and only a phone call or two.”
“Do you have a number where he can be reached?”
“No. He won’t give us his number, and if he did, he probably wouldn’t answer his phone.”
No one knows Bob but Bob. I’d like to think that through his music, I know him better than most, that he is the person I have claimed him to be through how I perceive myself through his music, but I know better than that. The image I have of Bob is my own creation. Bob is much different. Bob is Bob. Bob is not my perception of him. I think he prefers it that way.
Perhaps Bob knows that this is one of the things that keep him relevant to the grandchildren of the people who first thought him relevant. That is perhaps why their children’s children’s children (that’s the Moody Blues, not Bob) will still find him relevant. He has revealed of himself what he has chosen to reveal so I could form my own image of him. Getting to really know him might tarnish that image. I’d prefer to keep it, though at times I like to think of myself as knowing what he is really thinking. I may be right. I may be wrong. But, he sure keeps me on my toes.
If I ever got to see him close enough to engage him in conversation, I’d probably thank him for that.
As I wandered off, he’d probably say to his aides-de-camp, if he has any, “That guy is nuts!”
He is the poet I wish I was.
Congratulations, Bob. The Nobel prize in literature is well deserved. I’m so glad they didn’t give you the Nobel Peace Prize. Those have somewhat lost their lustre. You, on the other hand, have not.
I salute you, glad and proud: prouder, no doubt, of the image of you I hold than I could ever be of the real you, prouder still that the Bob I hold dear has gotten one of the world’s greatest acknowledgements of achievement. Was that the real Bob, or the perceived Bob? Maybe the real one. Maybe not. Maybe the real one and the image are the same. My hope is that you are greater than your image, but that is a hope that has failed humans for as long as humans have been around to create images, for humans see the towering gilded exterior without ever acknowledging the clay feet until the relentless water has washed the clay away and the foundation crumbles, toppling the tower.
I have clay feet. So do you. So does Bob.
I’d just as soon not be reminded of that, as I prefer perfect heroes. I do not like to be presented with their flaws, which so closely resemble my own.
©2016 Mississippi Chris Sharp