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It was late Friday March 23, that I was checking in on my various social media accounts to see what was happening. I saw a tweet from @DylFan321 stating that Bob Dylan had been sighted in Hibbing two hours earlier by a friend. I immediately tried to contact her but failed to get a reply.
The next day, Saturday afternoon, shortly after attending the 7th segment of the Duluth Art Institute sponsored film series “Shock of the New” I saw a text message on my iPhone stating that Dylan had been sighted in Duluth walking along Michigan Street from the Depot. I knew immediately what was going on, because I was there a year ago when they installed the Dylan-themed manhole covers during Dylan Days.
Mayor Ness was present that day at the corner of 5th Avenue West and Michigan Street where the first manhole cover was installed with artwork interpreting a line from Subterranean Homesick Blues: “You better jump down a manhole, light yourself a candle...” Someone in the gathered assembly cynically said, “I wonder when Dylan will come check this out.” No one replied.
So I made tracks down to Michigan Street Saturday. The sun had come out after an exceedingly foggy week. I began my trek from the Depot along Bob Dylan Way, pausing to look again at the manhole cover.
There were very few people on the street and I just wasn’t sure what I would find, but as I walked east I came across two young people sitting on the sidewalk in front of the Harbor City International where the Rubber Chicken Theater would be performing eight new and original Chicken Hat Plays that night. Derrick Rock, a freelance web developer, was typing away on a laptop with his friend Annika Hansen alongside.
“I noticed him standing in the middle of the intersection over by the Depot but didn’t think anything of it till Annika pointed him out,” said Rock. “All of a sudden I noticed he was walking down the sidewalk toward us, a little hunched over with a hood over his head, wearing sunglasses.” Annika said they were both staring at him, but even with his sunglasses she could tell he was averting his eyes.
“It never entered our minds that it could be Dylan. But it did seem strange to us, the way he stood in the middle of the intersection for such a long time, looking at the road there,” Hansen said. “Then I remembered the manhole covers. I think there’s one up by Fitgers, too,” said Rock.
I continued walking along Bob Dylan Way (Michigan Street at this point) to look for others who might have seen something. I found a couple people outside R.T. Quinlan’s, across the street from another Bob Dylan Way sign. Knute Bergstedt also wondered about the guy in the hooded sweatshirt. “He stood there looking at the Bob Dylan Way sign across the street for the longest time. I can’t swear to it, but he looked back toward the Depot, then straight across at me, and I would swear it was Dylan.” Bergstedt allowed me to take his picture and put it on record. “I think it’s an important day for Duluth,” he said. “Thank God we have the manhole covers.”
I continued on toward Fitgers, and when I reached the underpass near the Zumba Dance Studio I found a third witness. “I don’t want my name printed in the paper,” said Rod Raymond (not his real name, “because people start to brand you as a kook if you see something no one else sees or even believes. I saw a UFO back in the early Seventies and friends treated me like I had an incurable disease.” Raymond claimed that Dylan actually came over and spoke with him, asking, “Uhmm, you know where there’s a bathroom around here? Know what I mean?” Paul was also the first to mention the BMW with tinted windows slowly following about a block behind. I suddenly realized that when you’re a public figure, you’re never alone in more ways than one.
When I got home later that afternoon I did a search and found that more than a few people were buzzing about Dylan being here in Duluth. There were critical comments as well. @snotfaceAl mockingly tweeted, “LOL, why would Dylan ever come back to Duluth? Deal with it!”
But the evidence has been mounting. After posting the sightings on my blog at Ennyman’s Territory, four more people contacted me to say there was a suspicious looking man ambling along Bob Dylan Way in a somewhat melancholic manner. Then there were the pictures.
It’s hard to say, but I’m of the opinion that he misses the city of his youth in the same manner Citizen Kane missed Rosebud. There’s only one Duluth… and at one time Destiny’s Child was part of it.