At 5 p.m. Sunday, more than three hours before Bob Dylan's concert at the Murat Theatre was due to start, a small but determined group of devotees gathered near the stage entrance in hopes of getting a glimpse of their idol.
There was nice couple in their 50s, who live in Tampa and drove up especially for the show. They had seen 300 Dylan concerts and had no intention of slowing down. They were speaking reverentially of their autographed Dylan album, which hangs on their living room wall.
There was a young man, a student at Alaska State University, looking weary from the previous night's show in Chicago, who'd been waiting in the Murat parking lot since early in the morning with an armful of items he was looking to have autographed. He's been following Dylan on tour for years.
A few other people stood around and boasted of how many Dylan shows they'd attended. Twenty-five was the smallest number – except for me, a slacker at nine or 10 times, and my wife, Katie, who'd never seen him play.
My wife and I were there more out of curiosity and boredom than anything else. True, I had a CD booklet of The Basement Tapes and a Sharpie in my pocket just in case. But the truth was we were passing the time, walking around on Mass Ave and enjoying the brisk fall weather.
Then we met Kate, the Dylan fan to defeat all Dylan fans. A woman like Kate is ageless. Neatly dressed, blonde and sharp-looking, one could tell that she must have been a ravishing beauty in her 20s and the intervening 30 years or so had done little to diminish her attractiveness.
She started talking to us and I casually mentioned that I had first seen Dylan play when I was 13 years old.
When shewas 13, she told us, she ran away from home and hopped a bus to New York City with the goal of getting to meet Bob Dylan. She immediately went to the famous Cafe Wha? Dylan was nowhere to be found, but the poet Allen Ginsburg met her, let her crash at his place and was kind to her.
One of Ginsburg's friends eventually called the police, who bought her a one-way ticket on a Trailways bus back to Speedway, where she bided her time until she was old enough to go follow Dylan more or less full time.
In the late 1970s, she was backstage at a Dylan show when the great man left his leather jacket hanging on the back of a chair. On an impulse, she swiped it and kept it in her living room, draped on a mannequin, for 25 or more years.
A year or two ago, she says, she encountered Dylan again backstage, this time bringing along with her the stolen jacket. She says that she asked him, "Does this jacket look familiar?"
Dylan peered from behind his shades, looked at it and said in a distracted-sounding voice, "That's a nice jacket. A fine one."
"You should like it," she says she told Dylan. "You wore it during the Rolling Thunder Revue tour."
Dylan looked at it again, this time more closely. "Did I give you my jacket?" he asked."Really?"
"No," she said. "I stole it."
Dylan took the jacket, looked it over, handed it back to her and said, "Well, I guess it's yours now."
She produced a paint marker and asked that he autograph it. He balked, saying that kind of ink would wash away the next time she wore it in the rain. She assured him she wouldn't.
She said Dylan was a tough autograph, usually saying things such as, "Give me your signature first," or, "I've signed for you before," so our chances weren't all that good.
Just then, Dylan's black tour bus backed up near the Murat stage entrance. The crowd surged forth while a few security men looked nervous. There he was, face completely covered in a gray hoodie, walking towards the door. He sort of gave us a nervous half-wave and never stopped walking.(See my video of the brief encounter below.)
So our dreams of saying hi to the legendary rock and roll singer were over.
My wife and I left to grab a bite to eat at Bazbeaux. As we walked back to the Murat, Kate was still out there, proselytizing to someone else. You don't meet people like Kate every day.