Twice Born A Vagabond
A Novel [Copr. 2008]
By D. DeWitt Thomas
As we draw closer to Allen's Landing in the Old Quarter, near the original but now abandoned Houston ship channel, Chris pulls up sideways into an alleyway between two freight storage warehouses next to an iron fire escape stairway and parks Tommy's Nash Rambler. The stairway is the entrance to Love Street, the club where we are the house band. We see the small greenspace park underneath the nearby freeway overpass. The side of the warehouse is lit up with a gigantic fifteen foot yellow blinking sign spelling out Love Street with hundreds of tiny light bulbs. Love Street is lit up but it is early yet, about 10:00 PM and only a few people have gathered. Some are milling around looking to score. Things don't start happening until about midnight. Sometimes things will go on until the wee hours.
Getting out of Tommy's car, we begin to walk down the narrow alleyway stopping to sit under the fire escape stairway on the steps. Chris went into the club upstairs to set up the equipment for a sound check. Love Street Light Circus is on the third floor of an old warehouse building and it is hell getting the equipment up three flights of stairs. At the front of the building is a small grassy park with benches where the hippies sit and smoke pot. I can see from my place on the fire escape stairs the fog rising from the old Houston ship channel. It is beginning to rain and the mist rising from the poluted blackness of the old canal sent a reverberating chill up my spine and the ripples from the tarpitch black surface of the water lapped at the banks of the shore. I heard the faint sound in the distance of freighter's horn moaning along with the plunk from Johnny's acoustic guitar. He was sitting on one of the benches in the park, axe in hand, playing for spare change provided by the small group of hippies sitting cross-legged on the grass in front of him. Johnny Winter had tried several times to get Cliff Carlin, the owner of the club, to book his band with drummer Uncle John Turner and bassist Tommy Shannon but nothing has materialized yet. Johnny just camps out on that bench every night with the hope of something will break for him and his mates eventually.
His long skinny neck where the blood veins pop out on the side is covered by his long pearl white hair dripping with sweat when he is really jamming. He strains crooknecked over the fretboard searching for the blend in the chords that gives him a unique blues style. As Johnny's guitar licks permeate the dank air, I thought about rekindling the conversation that I was having with Tommy on the way to the club. I still haven't shared a new revelation that I had recently and I was eager to tell him about it.
I began to explain to Tommy and Clementine that I imagine my lifespirit is like a water balloon. "Do you know how the water in a balloon makes it all squishy but how somehow it always reverts back to its original shape?" I ask. "No matter how hard that you squeeze it, it always goes back to its natural shape, right?" I continue. "Yeah, so what's the point?" responded Tommy. "OK," I press on, "imagine that the water balloon in its natural state is encompassed by an absolutely perfectly shaped transparant crystaline sphere... like a glass bubble."
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