I'm starting in the Mid-West: St. Louis then to the BBQ capitol, Kansas City. (OK, Memphis, we'll see about that.)
Chick Berry Square in the Loop in St. Louis...
Last week I had work up in Guelph, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, and the Wallenda fever was wall to wall by Friday. Non-stop on TV and radio, it seemed the entire province was talking about the daredevil. Well, did you watch it? I couldn't believe what I saw...and heard.
First of all, Nik Wallenda is not your ordinary stunt dude looking for glory. He is a well spoken, charismatic family man who is as real as they come. And he is driven by his faith. His message is not one of a superhero but rather one of a humble motivator. He is all about reaching your full potential, kids. Oh, yes, and he believes in God. And ABC didn't count on that when they took a feed from his two-way radio connection to his father and coach on the shore. They assumed, and rightly so, that we would find the behind-the-scenes banter riveting. It was (especially the science of what was happening- the harmonic reinforcement of his steps could make the wire one big sine wave whiplash and toss him over. Think Wile E. Coyote.) But they soon found themselves in one Holy Dilemma as we all discovered together that Nik praises Jesus with almost every step. And he was quite vocal about it. By the time he was half way across, the suits and directors had made the obvious decision to mix his live mike down, in favor of the blather of the cliche-filled hosts (who will next be heard at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.) The Toronto Star said he was "Jesus jyving."
The surreal scene of Nik high above the gorge, drenched in Niagara mist, turbulent rocky waters beneath him, all had a powerful Biblical metaphor within it. But the irony of the night came not long after he actually sprinted to the cherry picker finish and met two Canadian Border Agents - who DEMANDED TO SEE HIS PASSPORT! All in mock humor, or so it seemed to the audience. Ha ha, and I have nothing to declare, said Wallenda. This on the day that Obama, circumventing all laws and branches of government, decreed that illegal "youths" were now, legal. But up in Canada you still actually need a passport to get into the country legally. And not a word from the media on this obvious sidebar to the Obama power grab de jour.
So at least for one night, we got to see a real man, a praying God fearing man, actually be himself on national TV. While he didn't walk on the water, like Peter had tried and failed (Matthew 14..."Oh ye of little faith,") he was 200 feet above the falls, defying death and defying the anti-Christian bias of ABC.
In my book, Nik Wallenda dared the Devil and won.
I've been travelling around the mid-West, from St. Louis to Dallas and now Minnesota...just northeast of St. Paul. I have a gig here today but when I drove here from the airport, I crossed Highway 61. Its significance wasn't lost on me. "Route 22" was my song and I had forgotten about Dylan's. Until now.
US Highway 61 runs along the Mississippi River from Tulane Street in New Orleans, through Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin and ends near the Canadian border in Wyoming, Minnesota. It was a major route for poor southerners to take north to find work in the early to mid 20th century. The "Blues Highway" went through Memphis and St. Louis. In Clarksdale, MS, it crosses US 49...the famed mythological "Crossroads" where Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil to become such a good guitar player.
But Dylan's song resonates today. Rocking, crazy (with the siren and Mike Bloomfield's manic slide) and biblical (Dylan's father and grandfathers' names were Abraham) its lyrics sing so well, so perfectly that hip hoppers should go to school on it.
I'm just a sucker for nostalgic places and US 61 even in suburban St Paul makes a connection with me.
Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61”