How to stay curious (in your life and work) — and wipe out incuriosity
“To each his own, it’s all unknown/If dogs run free.” — Bob Dylan
Nothing was more pleasing during last summer’s horrific global pandemic than outdoor walks with my K-12 teacher friend Chris. Since he was off for the school year, he was feeling expansive and I — well, while I was able to hold down my job remotely, I still needed to get away from all the screen time.
Sometimes we biked or, if it was too hot, we’d take circuitous walks around the neighborhood and chat about arcane music history. At the time I was toying with a podcast about songwriting, since singer-songwriters (more solo artists than members of a group) were a subcategory that particularly interested me, mainly because if you’re in a band and it breaks up, you’re likely back out on the street “trying to form a new band.” It seemed like way too much trouble. Artists like Carole King, James Taylor, or Jackson Browne struck me as “self-contained” — that is, the band was inside them: concept, vision, style and all. If the band inside them “broke down” (as I’m sure they had moments when the creative well ran dry) they had no one to blame but themselves.
I liked that idea a lot — it was something I could relate to.
On one walk Chris and I were joking around and trying to one-up each other with the most bizarre music history factoid we could recall. We’d both seen a recent documentary about the Laurel Canyon scene in the 1960s and ’70s, about Joni Mitchell and fights between Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but then I remembered a story told to me by one of my old screenwriting buddies (who for the purposes of this article asked to be called “Diego”), probably during our weekly script group sessions in the 1990s.
Instantly I felt I’d hit the brass ring. “So,” I said, “one of my friends went waterskiing with Bob Dylan.”
Chris stopped, doubling over with laughter.
“ — Wait, WHAT?!”
“Yeah, that’s what my buddy Diego told our script group, probably when we were taking a break and fishing around the table for celebrity stories.”
Chris tried to contain his chuckling. “I can’t even picture that. So…how did that happen?”