Monday, February 4, 2008


It has been almost two years since we have heard from our old friend, Lemuel. At one time, he was Los Angeles' undisputed master of blues guitar, able to coax a myriad of emotions from the old Gibson he treasured more than life itself. Watching him play was like living in a kaleidoscope; notes becoming colors, blazing runs careening off the walls and landing in the heart of hearts, leaving the audience exhausted, and fulfilled. He would have been the king, but for chronic depression hanging around his shoulders like an old black coat.

his gibson SG —
soul rocket to the moon

We are screaming across the Painted Desert in a van packed solid with musicians and instruments headed for Tuba City, on the western edge of Navajo Country. The Dine knew it as Tó Naneesdizí, or "Tangled Waters" for the many underground springs that had attracted the desert dwellers of a time long gone. This is the place Lemuel had escaped to when the old black coat became too heavy for him. He made his run for solitude, and hopefully, a little peace.

We have two travel days between the Flagstaff and Vegas gigs, so by unanimous decision, a visit with Lemuel is our agenda. The washed out dirt road tends to appear and disappear, leaving the driver no choice but to utilize psychic navigation until he spots a weathered adobe shack on the horizon. As we approach, Lem's elderly Dodge comes into view, a reassuring sight until, on closer inspection, it seems to be gradually crumbling into the desert floor. We knock on the door, answered only by the wind moaning in the rotted rafters. Scraping dirt from a window, The bass player says: Hey! There? Someone in there? But no amount of pounding and yelling has any effect.

We force the door. There, in a straight backed rocker, is our old friend, Lemuel. The low humidity and nearly constant wind has mummified him; the Gibson still perched on his knee.
unplayed guitar
symphony of silence
written in dust

by John Stone
Northern California
first published in Contemporary Haibun Online, V3, N1, March 2007

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