It was 1974, and I was living with my first real girlfriend in a first floor apartment of a brownstone on Washington Ave. in Brooklyn. We were both attending Pratt Institute. The apartment was really cool; it was a studio with 12-foot ceilings, a loft the previous tenant had built, and a two-foot platform by the windows that faced the back yard. The windows were more like doors, three six-foot high windows with iron shutters that had little firing ports cut into them at the height of a man’s head. The house was built during the civil war and the shutters were put in as a defense system against a possible invasion from the South. We loved our quaint little apartment.
One night there was a fire. The apartment upstairs was burning, and a fireman was banging on our door telling us to get out. We threw on some clothes (we both slept in the raw) I grabbed whatever money we had and the 13-inch TV. She got the dog and we ran outside.
The fire was in the back, so all we saw was a lot of smoke pouring out of the front door and the firemen racing in and out. We stood on the sidewalk with all of the other tenants, My friend Bob Ipp who had gotten us the apartment, Breslau who claimed to be in the JDL and always carried a camera, and the stars of the show, our upstairs neighbors who’d started the fire, Tom and Sara. When the Red Cross people arrived and asked whose apartment had burned we all pointed at the skinny barefoot couple wrapped in sheets; Sara blonde and vacant, Tom dark curly haired and sullen.
Sara had one day confided to us that Tom was really Bob Dylan, and he was hiding out incognito with her here in Brooklyn. That’s why he never spoke or looked anybody in the eye. When she told us that we both agreed she was crazy.
They had no electricity, Sara said it was because Bob was so anti-establishment he didn’t believe in paying for something that belonged to the people, we just thought it was because he was a broke bum con artist. In lieu of electric light, they had candles everywhere, and a knocked over candle had started the fire.
The fire was extinguished, and after the white firemen had left, the black firemen arrived to clean up and secure the place. I had never seen a black fireman before, but here they were, cleaning up after their white brethren.
We were allowed back in, and I wanted to cry. Our apartment had a good five inches of water on the floor, and all of my albums were floating in it. The ceiling was bowed in at the center from the weight of the water and looked like it might collapse any moment. At least our bed was dry.
After the black firemen left, Bob Ipp suggested we sneak in and have a look. We pulled the tape off the door and slipped in, Anna, Bob, and me. Everything was wet and charred. The refrigerator had no door, and had an 8×10 glossy of Bob Dylan’s face taped to the back wall of the inside. There were a bunch of half-melted candles on the bottom shelf; it looked like a shrine.
There was a phone, and that surprised us, that they would have a phone but no power. The phone was partially melted from the heat, but I picked it up and there was still a dial tone. We guessed Sara’s parents paid the phone bill, probably the rent too. On the floor we found a baggie filled with weed. It was wet, but Bob Ipp said it would be fine after we dried it out.
Sara came back the next day, and tried to stay in the apartment. The landlord, who lived in the basement called the police. The police came, along with an ambulance, and we all stood on the sidewalk once more to watch as Sara was brought down strapped tight to a gurney and screaming for justice. There was no sign of the faux Dylan. We never saw either of them again.