Pete's Blog

"A Freewheeling Time"

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I got a good book out of the library the other day, the new memoir by Suze (pronounced Susie) Rotolo, who is required to go through life remembered chiefly as the 19-year-old girl walking arm-in-arm with Bob Dylan on the cover of his album "Freewheeling." When I knew her Suze was a nice lady, living on University Place with her husband and teenaged son, and she took very little interest in the music scene anymore. But she and Leyla, who I eventually married, and Andrea Vuocolo, who married Dave Van Ronk, were a trio. You could see the two younger women taking unspoken pointers from Suze, a certain way of walking down the street, a certain sense of yourself. She was a powerful and subtle person, Suze Rotolo, and I expect she still is. "A Freewheeling Time" is a great memoir of New York in the '60s and a portrait of a certain kind of New York City girl, one who may not exist anymore. Certainly, there can't be many girls or boys of the current generation who can say that their parents were, in the happy phrase of the day, "card-carrying communists." Nor can many of these remember when Greenwich Village was a place of industrial lofts, whose workers ate lunch in small restaurants and bars which later in the evening became music venues, like Gerdes Folk City. Much of that neighborhood is gone, quite literally, replaced by the highrises and sports bars of an expanding New York University. But the bright-eyed young people of today, in search of their own Elysium (Elysia?) might well benefit from Suze's clear-eyed take on the original Bohemian playground and a girl's path through it. How many other women do you know who were named Slum Goddess of the Month by a paper called the East Village Other?

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