Among all the wise, kind words coming my way after announcing my retirement a couple of weeks ago, there were a bunch from a fellow you may have heard of, Bob Dylan. They arrived on a farewell CD from my trusted music columnist Jon Woodhouse and felt like a bolt of lightning from the past.
Several of the songs came from an unreleased collection called "Walks like a Duck, Smells like a Skunk." Featuring rough cuts and rejects, it was recorded in the early '60s, when I was still a high school kid in Tulsa, Okla., making the acquaintance of this young folksinger in the era when albums were made of vinyl about the size of a pizza.
The artist formerly known as Robert Zimmerman had recently arrived from Hibbing, Minn. to the Manhattan neighborhood he called Green-witch Village. He was still playing traditional folksongs while finding his way into his own voice and the lyrics that would change the world.
Accompanied solely by intricate finger picking and a wailing harmonica, the voice more resonant than I remembered reminds us that folk singing was still about folks back then, and country music could be about the whole country. But mostly it's a throwback to a time when a song was, first and foremost, a story.
It's music from an ambitious young artist who hasn't yet glimpsed the revolutionary icon he will become.
The thread running through all his writing is time. The word Time is there in the song titles at both ends of his half-century career that's still roaring right along.
While Dylan is one of those rare humans able to see time from both sides, hearing this recorded blast from the past had the opposite effect on me. It got me unstuck in time.
It was like the piece in the Alaska Airline in-flight magazine I read flying to Montana last week. The article marked the golden anniversary of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, birthplace of the Space Needle, amid its other visions of the future.
Photos from the fair, in faded shades of Kodak, trigger memories in people of a certain age, of what we once thought the future would look like. Putting our faith in technology, wrapping it in mushroom-curved skins in the infancy of the age of plastic, it all looks so quaintly old-fashioned now.
"Retro" is the term we use, trying to hide our longing for that sort of simple sentimentality behind a mask of hipness that we now wear for armor.
Bob Dylan hadn't come far from Minnesota when he wrote "The Times They Are A-Changin" in the early '60s. The times have not only changed, a lot, since then, but now they are changing faster than ever.
It's all food for thought as I sit in Missoula, Mont. We arrived in time for the Wildlife Film Festival in this Rocky Mountain college town, which ironically enough, had one day of films devoted to the ocean. We're spending a few cherished weeks with family here before heading home to Maui.
It's going to take a while getting used to being called grandpa-"Bappa" in the mouth of a 2-year-old-while stubbornly refusing to take my foot off the gas and merge into the slow lane.
But "Bappa's" the best word I've heard in a long time that wasn't written by Bob Dylan.
Speaking of times changing, let me try to clear up a little confusion created by this column a few weeks ago: Yes, I have retired as editor of Maui Scene. But the column is still going to be here each week in my new capacity as a contributor.
This perch will still give me a chance to observe and comment on creative things happening on Maui, but will relieve me of my duties correcting grammar or worrying about what's going to be on the Scene cover each week.
As more of a private citizen, I can finally put an Obama bumper sticker on the truck, if I feel like it. After 35 years walking the Society of Professional Journalists' conflict-of-interests tightrope, I can allow myself a feeling of pride, rather than guilt, at mentioning that "When the Mountain Calls," the made-on-Maui documentary I scripted for filmmaker Tom Vendetti last year, has its Hawaii premier on KHET Channel 11, at 9 p.m. May 31 and has begun showing on 120 PBS stations across the U.S.
But mostly it means we can stay in touch, if you want. I know I'd like to.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org