Reporting From Desolation Row...

Watching “Mad Men” reminds me that divorce carried such a powerful stigma until the late 1960s that it could disqualify someone from being elected President (see Nelson Rockefeller). And the negative social consequences of divorce on women were almost impossible to overcome.

Adultery was not far behind, although (as Mad Men demonstrates so well) it was probably no less common (at least among men) than it is now, because back then it was privately tolerated (or suffered if you were a woman).

I mention this because I recently heard some national bloviator go on about how hypocritical it was of what he called “The Right” to rail against abortion, and not against divorce and adultery.

But values really got scrambled in the 1970s – so much so that now we read about young women across all social strata thinking they need to incorporate aspects of the porn world into the way they present themselves. This is because guys, they think, spend all their free time (when not watching sports, or gaming online) watching porn, and they perceive this as the competition.

While marriage may still be their objective, there is a tacit assumption that divorce and adultery are always options for them in the “futures” market.

“The Rules” have certainly changed.

So it wasn’t surprising to read this morning that ashleymadison.com, which appears to be an eHarmony for adulterers, has begun advertising its services on mainsteam media outlets, with little or no objection.

"'The agency was drawn to advertise here [Boston]," Biderman said, because many Bay Staters were seeking out his Web site, and because Boston is “a heck of a sports town” and "male fans are a target demographic.'"

"Biderman said his agency has more than 2.7 million members - 70 percent men and 30 percent women. The average male member is in his mid- to late-30s or early 40s and has been married five to 10 years."

While the membership numbers may be suspect, and how different this may be from an "Escort Service" is certainly debatable, and the advertising rollout may still catch a lot of flack, it would appear that a mainstream market may in fact exist for this kind of service.

You don't need to lean your head out too far from Desolation Row to know which way the wind blows (sorry, Bob).

Visions of Johanna

Well I'll be damned
Here comes your ghost again
But that's not unusual
It's just that the moon is full
And you happened to call

(From "Diamonds and Rust" by Joan Baez)

We recently saw Joan Baez in concert at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston.

The concert was on the Sunday night before Election Day -- which made Election Day the day after tomorrow, which is the title of her new album and of the title track, a fine Tom Waits song that Joan performed midway through her concert.

Stephen Holden captures the essence of Joan's voice and style at this point on her journey in his review of her concert last month at Town Hall in New York:

"With many of her high notes gone, Ms. Baez’s bread and butter is now her middle range. This is the section of her voice that embodies motherhood more completely than any other folk singer does. You want to rest your head on her lap and be soothed by the sound of the cosmic lullaby emanating from within. Her comforting embrace promises shelter from the storm in a corner of the world where peace and common sense prevail."

Elsewhere on The Freeway, I've written about how much I had looked forward to this concert, and we were thrilled to see her again, especially in her Barack Obama tee shirt, from our seats in the front row. It was wonderful to re-establish the connection with her.

This cover of an overlooked Bob Dylan song (from Martin Scorcese's "No Direction Home") has become one of her signature songs, and is pretty representative of Joan today (and yes, she did goof on Dylan at the concert, too):

Great White Wonder

I bought my first bootleg LP, "Great White Wonder," almost forty years ago at a head shop on Mass Ave in Cambridge MA, halfway between Harvard and Central Squares. I paid $6 cash, which was a lot. (The head shop is now a store for gamers)
"Great White Wonder" was the first of what would be many Bob Dylan bootlegs to appear (and the first bootleg rock album), and we had all read about it in Rolling Stone -- our newspaper of record. The double LP (which I sold on eBay a few years ago for $125) was a collection of live performances and basement tape stuff with The Band. I bought three copies -- one for myself and copies for two of my co-workers at a bookstore on Boylston Street in the Back Bay. The trip and purchase ate up my lunch hour and my lunch money for the week, but the album was selling out everywhere and we had to have it.
The sound quality was pretty good, and there was something exhilirating about the whole experience of acquiring it -- sort of like early Napster.
I was thinking about this the other day, while listening to my second bootleg recording -- "The Rolling Stones Big Bang Boston 08-21-05," which captures the entire opening night concert at Fenway Park, one of the best concerts I've ever attended. The recording is pretty good, considering that it was captured surreptitiously from somewhere in the audience that night.
I bought it on eBay for $9 with PayPal -- a process that was less exhilirating but a whole lot more convenient.