Tag Archives: Blind Willie Johnson

Hopetown… [ii]

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(c) Robert Crumb

For as long as he could remember, Ricky had been looking for something, but in truth he couldn’t really say what it was…only that it was always just around the corner, almost within his grasp, but never quite close enough to reach. And always in the back of his mind, the voice of Blind Willie Johnson singing “Nobody’s fault but mine”.

A mass of contradictions, more than half a century of searching had led Ricky down dark alleys and dead ends, through doors that had closed behind him, and to places that seemed to suck the life from him. They were his choices, and there were times when he believed in them with absolute certainty. But for each moment that he imagined himself to be the troubadour who could change the world with music, there were many more when he despised himself as the feckless, weak willed drunk who had pissed his life away. One minute he was the anti-hero with a wellspring of stories that everyone wished were theirs. The next, he was the clown that everyone else pitied when they needed to feel better about themselves. He was the one who had taken life by the scruff of the neck and wrung every last drop out of it but was still drowning in the rough seas of his own making. A life made up of fragments that seemed to no longer join together, in a world lit up by small shards of light that glistened in an ever darkening void.

That morning, trying on the jacket, Ricky’s world lit up momentarily. Taking the sealed envelope out of the inside pocket, he peered at it, struggling to make out the barely legible writing. A series of drunken loops, ill formed letters, and random ink blotches seemingly made by someone for whom each mark on the envelope was an act of sheer willpower and determination.  Words that had meaning for the writer, but which remained a mystery to Ricky, even after he had managed to decode what was written on the envelope.

 “John Salter, (1704). There’s another world outside this one”.

Who was John Salter? What was this other world? Was this a message to Ricky? Whatever, he knew that he had a tale to tell, regardless of what might be inside the envelope…