Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Bob Dylan performing his classic early lament, Boots of Spanish Leather.
Boots Of Spanish Leather by Bob Dylan
Oh, I’m sailin’ away my own true love
I’m sailin’ away in the morning
Is there something I can send you from across the sea
From the place that I’ll be landing?
No, there’s nothin’ you can send me, my own true love
There’s nothin’ I wish to be ownin’
Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled
From across that lonesome ocean
Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine
Made of silver or of golden
Either from the mountains of Madrid
Or from the coast of Barcelona
Oh, but if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean
I’d forsake them all for your sweet kiss
For that’s all I’m wishin’ to be ownin’
That I might be gone a long time
And it’s only that I’m askin’
Is there something I can send you to remember me by
To make your time more easy passin’
Oh, how can, how can you ask me again
It only brings me sorrow
The same thing I want from you today
I would want again tomorrow
I got a letter on a lonesome day
It was from her ship a-sailin’
Saying I don’t know when I’ll be comin’ back again
It depends on how I’m a-feelin’
Well, if you, my love, must think that-a-way
I’m sure your mind is roamin’
I’m sure your heart is not with me
But with the country to where you’re goin’
So take heed, take heed of the western wind
Take heed of the stormy weather
And yes, there’s something you can send back to me
Spanish boots of Spanish leather
Copyright © 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music
Love is a tough racket any way you cut it. Not just the sometimes flame-outs that get extinguished in a youthful minute and are soon forgotten, and not just the ones that turn out to be uneven in the emotional turmoil of the affair before it goes south on one side. Sometimes it gets so lop-sided that nothing can fix the thing. That “nothing can fix the thing” is what I want to speak of just now. And give it a name. The late Lionel LeBlanc, my mother’s brother and my favorite uncle while growing up in Olde Saco up in Maine during the 1950s. Uncle Lionel always seemed like a good guy, always gave us gifts on all important occasions, always supported the various athletic endeavors we pursued, always volunteered to help out in the Fourth Of July and Fourteenth of July (French Revolution celebrations, for the heathens) festivities in the summer, always was respected for the forty years that he put in as a skilled mechanic at the old MacAdams Textile Mills, long, long gone, that kept the town and its mainly working class population afloat. And he was always unmarried. Not that he didn’t have lady friends (as my mother Delores, nee hard French-Canadian LeBlanc would say). He just never married.
And that fact, or the facts behind that fact, as I grew to manhood, left for the West Coast to do this and that, including marrying three times, receded into foggy memory until several years ago when my mother passed away. As part of my legacy I was to sell the family house over on Atlantic Avenue in Olde Saco and divide up the proceeds according to her wishes. As part of preparing for the sale I needed to clean out the overburdened attic. I have mentioned before in an earlier sketch that my mother was a “central committee of one” for keeping alive the greater family memories by keeping almost every known memento, letters, prom tickets, whatever for the past couple of generations. She did her work well, although if I wasn’t as curious as I am, I would certainly have cursed her for eternity for keeping some of the stuff.
Naturally she saved all of Lionel’s letters that he left behind in his apartment when he passed away in 1997. Most of the letters were ho-hum notes to family members about this and that, nothing out of the ordinary. Then I came upon one batch of letters, or rather they came upon me, for I could “smell,” I swear, a faint odor of perfume even after all this time coming from the neatly wrapped and ribboned expensive writing paper and envelopes. So I started reading from the bottom (he, or my mother, had put them in order). The first one was dated April 22, 1927, and was filled with all kinds of impressions about the first few days on the S.S. France that was taking Mlle. LaCroix (a family name known even now in the old town) to Paris and a job as a nanny to one of the MacAdams family’s many children (the textile people whose mills ran the town and provided luxury for many branches of that family). Mlle LaCroix also expressed her fervent desire in that first letter that her time would go quickly so that she could get back to Olde Saco and marry Uncle Lionel. The next couple of letters, including her first from gay Paree, were along the same lines.
Then things got a little terser. Uncle Lionel kept asking when she (Laura) expected to return to America, and she kept saying that she planned to take up painting in Paris as someone (gender unknown) had noticed some of her sketches when she was minding one of the MacAdams children. For the next several months the letters from her got more distant, and Lionel’s more forlorn, although each letter from both always contained some reference to their impending marriage.
After about a year, Lionel decided to put his foot down and ask for a definitive answer on her return date. He never received an answer to that plea. But a tip-off, when I thought about it later, should have been when she stopped asking him, as he had in the beginning, if he wanted her to send him some nice silk shirts for their wedding day. He should have grabbed those luxury items with both hands when he had the chance. Right? And that broken, faithless love affair is why good old Uncle Lionel never married. Ya, love is a tough racket anyway you cut it.