The Bob Dylan song "Positively 4th Street" is all about betrayal and duplicity. And now, it's the inspiration for the street where Portland City Hall sits.
With a month left in office, Commissioner Steve Novick tells the Mercury that beginning today at 11:30 am he's unilaterally re-christening SW Fourth Avenue between SW Jefferson and Madison. For the next several weeks, the stretch of road will be nicknamed for the 1965 Dylan track about being double-crossed by a supposed ally.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation is spending $269 to print and install two groovy pink/purple "sign toppers" that will be perched about Fourth Avenue's actual markers. It's a nod to Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in Literature—and a very Novick-esque move. The commissioner has a penchant for making punny references to his passions during even the most mundane council hearings.
"I was raised on Bob Dylan," Novick says, noting he's "exercising my powers" as transportation commissioner, rather than asking council to pass a resolution.
The sign toppers will hang around at least until the December 10 Nobel Prize ceremony, though Novick says, "I'll probably let them hang around for a few weeks after that."
It's not a purely original move. St. Paul, Minnesota—not far from where Dylan spent his formative years—rejiggered its own Fourth Street to honor the musician last year, sending the local alt-weekly into a rage.
We just think it's funny that the street where City Hall sits is being named for a song that includes such lines as "You've got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend, when I was down you just stood there grinnin'" and "I know the reason that you talked behind my back."
"It's not the most uplifting song, for sure," Novick concedes. "But we don't have a Highway 61."
After a moment of reflection, he texts: "I'll accept nominations for Desolation Row."
This is the second nod to nostalgia by Novick in this week alone. On Wednesday, he convinced his council colleagues to pass a resolution in support of retired Major League Baseball player Tim Raines' bid for the Hall of Fame. Asked about the relationship between these two things and his dwindling days in office, Novick tips his cap to a somewhat infamous utterance by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"Squeeze all the juice out of the orange."