A String of Impressions

Nighttime. A rural Louisiana down-the-bayou-bar. Somebody here knows everybody here which means I must know him too. And a family neighbor playing the guitar, just screwing around in the casual but accomplished way of a professional musician.

It occurs to me that there’s a unique economy to the best guitar riffs. That the way the chords follow one another lends itself pretty well to stories about journeys.

So many of the places I go in my mind are refuges, excuses, something I’m doing that’s a reason for not doing what everybody else is. I write and I ponder to be busy in a busy room. I’m going on a journey too: is it any different?

Note for travel: is it more or less pretentious/obtrusive to write in a notebook vs. type in a phone?

And then there’s the beer. Whatever that’s about. Not addiction, not dependence, a fondness, a longing. A blanket almost. Something familiar to do, something familiar to feel. A familiar place to be, wherever I am.

A casual conversation or two, a slack line swinging between appropriate apathy and polite interest. Try not to toe the line of trying to hard. Try to be something better than what you think they think you are. Relate, but don’t be creepy. On the road, homeless, creepy is relative though, depending on how lonely everyone actually is.

I notice floors a lot. I’ve decided that I should think that they’re interesting. They kind of are. Complicated stories written at my feet I can study while I try to listen to everyone around me. I’m trying to work out the atmosphere of the room: the friends, the enemies, all the connections and the people who are actually too cool to give a shit. It’s never the ones you think, but there’s definitely more of them down here.

The music is still going. It’s great. One guy with a guitar who may or may not be winging it. It’s hard to say, the difficulty is that it’s both good and fun, a rare combination that usually indicates the musician’s talent, or my level of intoxication. Tonight, fortunately, it’s his talent that’s obvious. I remain anonymous.

The players and their cues, hunched over their pool and circling in front of the video poker. The geometrics keep catching my eye.

He’s making most of this up as he goes along. Sort of. It’s like he’s threading his notes around a pattern, a formula. Music is just math after all, and this man is dancing within a set of probabilities, but right at the outer edge, with confidence, so it works. You’ve got no business in the outer reaches of anything if you don’t have your confidence to lean on. I’ve got to work on that.

Writing does not need a purpose.

There are two people dancing now while he sings nonsense lyrics to some slow and tender ballad he admits he doesn’t really know. It’s weirdly sweet. Then he launches into Black Sabbath. The couple dances a little faster.

I’ve seen shows that were widely agreed to have been “epic”. I’ve seen some of the greatest musicians in the world at the top of their game. I’ve seen these events in clubs and bars many people don’t know exist. All that’s still not a Louisiana backroad bayou bar with 23 people and a guitar player in it.

Those two people are still dancing. The pool players keep wandering aimlessly into the musician’s territory between shots. Why am I cataloguing all of this? Is this an obsessive-compulsive thing? Why do I care? I can’t remember because he’s playing “when the levee breaks” now and everyone in this part of the world really gets this song. If you go out the back door here you can see the levee.

These notes can be held for so improbably long.

These things seem so improbably important to everybody.

To think every day now I’m trying my hand at improbability.

We ride back to what we’re calling home this month in the coastal dark, down the shining lines of the back road.