I have a piece about to come out in Word Riot (Nov. 15th issue) that features a narrator who spends a lot of money on a guitar that looks like one that used to belong to Stevie Ray Vaughan. It’s not about Stevie Ray, per se, but his image and power are essential components to the narrator’s worldview. The reason I bring it up, though, is that even though the piece tops out at a mere 300 words, the writing of it was more pleasurable than any in recent memory, mostly because it’s given me a reason to reminisce about a certain Saturday afternoon a long time ago.
I was seventeen. Mike was eighteen. And we’d both been in a Stevie Ray stranglehold for what felt like a lifetime, though for me it had only been a year or so. All we listened to was Stevie Ray, spun the CDs in a loop, watched “Live at the El Macombo” on VHS, jaws agape. Mike, who’d been a fan for a while and could play some mean blues guitar himself, had introduced me to the late guitarist’s output the summer before. The music, like that of Keith Jarrett a few years later, was a life changing revelation from the first note. Found a secret place inside me I didn’t know was there.
We’ve all had this experience.
That day, we were stopped by the side of the road on a small highway in Oneonta, New York, waiting out a bad storm that had forced my teal Hyundai to the curb and made us ditch our cigarettes and roll up the windows. It was the kind of rain that obscures all sight. That leaves the existence of the outside world in doubt. That makes you wonder how many animals you really could fit in an ark, and whether there’d be any room left for you once they were all in there.
As the rain pummeled the hood and my hazards blinked out through the downpour, we did what seemed only natural, put on Stevie’s take on Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” And it all went away. The rain. The car. The highway. Even us and our teenage lives that felt so much bigger than they were. The only thing that existed was that music. All these years later, I can still feel it rattling around in my soul somewhere. Still find it seeping into my thoughts, and, it would seem, into my words.