Crossroads in the Fog
from As It Were
I’d given a formal education the old college try until one night when I found myself speeding north on the Pacific Coast Highway with new clarity, back into the fog.
On a pier in Sausalito, I met a degenerate bluesman. The old troubadour had once been something of a sensation, but it all got to be too much for him, he said, and he just drifted off. He was playing that night at a little bar on the water, and he invited me to have a beer and sit in with him. So I went over there and we played a few tunes together. When we’d finished the set, he gave a wink and a nod in my direction, packed up his guitar, and extracted a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket and set it between his lips. He placed a bill on the bar and thanked the bartender, and then he grabbed a matchbook from the crystal bowl beside the stack of spiraled cocktail napkins and slipped out the back door. I was suddenly ensorcelled by a strange man who appeared in front of me. This man wore a pale pink three-piece suit; his hair was jet black and slicked back immaculate, and his well-groomed beard and mustache suggested Svengali. His smile was Ellingtonian, incandescent and almost too perfect, and his handsome face seemed familiar but also queer and somehow incongruent. His voice and the words he spoke were fanciful and hypnotic: stardom, he told me, was imminent, and he was going to see me to the moon…
I took his card and promised to get in touch, and then I hurried outside to catch up with my new friend. But there was only the fog, thick off the water, and the moon shone bright and illuminated the pier. It jettied straight, intersecting with the harbor half way out, and continuing on into the bay.