Posted by: normanlgreen | September 3, 2011

Dream, September 3, 2011 the guitar master


Dream, home 5:08 am

In a hybrid town, bits of Little Rock and Bellingham, my family has left me alone as they have gone off on a trip. I decide to walk downtown for lunch, perhaps to hear some music. Holly street is so steep that I am compelled by gravity to run fast and faster down the sidewalk. It is mid-day and the sky is clear. There are many people walking and driving and visiting the shops and restaurants. I get to the bottom of the hill and am forced to curve back up hill, like an Apollo capsule passing the moon. I find myself on the next street over as I lose momentum and stop in a little cafe.

Inside, the walls are stuccoed brick painted ocher, the ceiling is low in the converted space.  I take a seat and listen to a Spanish guitarrista playing triplet licks so fast that I think he must be playing a mandolin. He is seated on a kitchen chair in the alley outside the window to my right, his eyes unfocused. He holds the six string angled in a formal manner. His moustached face never changes as his fingers of his left hand move with precision and passion, his picking hand is a blur. I stand to leave the cafe and to move closer to this master.

When I get outside, I find that I am out an outdoor bus terminal with many homeless or semi-homeless kids milling about. Rounding a low wall in search of the guitarrista, I find he has transformed himself and his instrument. Now he is in his middle twenties with scruffy beard and frizzy hair tied back in a loose bun dangling over his right shoulder. He leans into an instrument he has built of eight foot long two by fours that he has salvaged from a demolition site. The stringed instrument rests on the ground, and the player sits crossed-legged behind it, leaning and reaching to fret from above on the massive fretboard, something like an out-sized mountain dulcimer, but with no resonator box, just two parallel 2 x 4’s with half-inch spacers holding them at a consistent distance from each other. He wears a beatific smile on face. He would be playing if there were no one else to hear his music. His tune is freely structured and relies on sustained notes of at least one open string to create chords with long intervals. He moves his left hand to fret like a pianist would on a keyboard, discovering his music as it goes along.

Part of me splits off, as one of the homeless youths, to become his student, learning on a slightly shorter version of the same instrument with two instead of four strings. the second instrument has manifested on the sidewalk behind the seated master. Part of me remains an observer of the lesson, which consists of the master returning to improvise on his full instrument while the student portion of me waits until moved to join into the music, fingers moving experimentally to test the tension of the strings before striking his first note.

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