Saul Williams

I first met Saul Williams while cruising down Santa Monica Boulevard in a fireapple red 1968 Cadillac Eldorado with the top down drinking a Singapore Sling and trying to figure out why it was 1974.  Neal Cassady was in the passenger seat smoking a H. Upmann Dunhill Selección Supreme No.87, which was making my eyes water.  Disrupt was laying across the back seats playing on a Gameboy.  I was paying attention to a world I had never seen before.

You’ll get used to it, said Neal.  Now, you live by different rules.  You’re a fan, like me.

I don’t feel like I care, I said.  I mean feel, like actually feel.  In my head, my thoughts, I have no idea what the hell is going on.  But, my feelings; I’m as calm as a Lilo on a midnight lake.

Poetic, said Neal.  It’s because of who you are.  You check your heartbeat, it won’t go above 80.  You’re solid.  You’ll panic in your mind, but never in your body.  You, my new, dumb, stupid friend, are on a journey towards boredom.  These early days, enjoy them.  Pretty soon, there won’t be anything new in the world.

Turn here, said Disrupt from the backseat.  I know a great burger place.

I’m not hungry, I said.

It’s not all about you, said Disrupt.

Waiting at the lights a tall man with wild hair and a look in his eyes that I can only describe as ethereal stepped up.  Amethysts, he said, showing us some stones, I’ve got all shapes, all sizes.  No?  Rose quartz? Am I right? No?  Jade?  Jasper? Malachite?  I got all the gemstones, moonstones, soothstones you gonna need.  I got stones formed from a strangers need, I got stones with wings that defy gravity, don’t laugh at me, you laugh at yourself.  I got stones formed in asteroid belts.  Come on, man, I gotta eat, too.  I’ll clean your windshield. I’ll shine your caps.  I got stones that open up maps.  I got solid stones you can see through.  I see through you, he said to me.  Looked me straight in the eye.  You’re a fan.

For fuck sake, Saul, said Neal, just get in the car and stop lecturing the kid.

We’re getting burgers, said Disrupt, sitting up to make room for the man.  You stink like a sweaty lemon tree, Saul.  What is that, citrus oil you’re using on your hair these days?

I squeeze lemons on my body, said Saul.  I’m allergic to water right now.

Who is this?  I asked Neal.

This is our guide, he said.  Well, your guide.  You’re dropping me and Disrupt down at the Astroburger.

At the Astroburger, Neal and Disrupt waved me off.  Just have fun with it, said Neal.

Get a wash, Saul, said Disrupt.

Reprobates, said Saul as he moved to the passenger seat.  To the beach, he said.  The smell of citrus fruit and sweat made me glad the Eldorado was a convertible.

So, you’re what?  A shaman?  Some kind of mystic?  Saul didn’t answer.  I’m hoping you can give me answers, here.  I’m a little lost.

Follow the signs to the beach.

I meant… I took one hand off the steering wheel, waved it around my head.  All this, being in 1974, Donovan, Neal, the tower, all this weirdness.  I’m pretty sure I should be freaking out right now.

If I give you better questions, you’ll be better.  Saul began to hum, the tone was deep, sonorous, relaxing, it made my sight shimmer.  The humming grew louder and the colours around me became more pronounced, like life had the saturation turned up.  I wasn’t driving through 1974 Los Angeles, I was driving through something else, some kind of fog that made everything sharper, a vibration.  The cars, the buildings, the people on the street, their clothes, all began to change, all in the same position, but different, the styles becoming more those I was used to, people were talking into phones, the lights became more numerous, the shop fronts more appealing, the cars with less corners, more curves.  The world manipulated itself around us and we drove smoothly into the future.

I pulled the car to the side of the road.  I’m done, I said.  Who are you?

I’m Saul Williams, he said.  He put his arm around my shoulder, pulled me close, the smell made my eyes water.  We are all gateways.  Some open to more places than others.  You will learn soon enough that there are gifts in the worlds that give themselves freely, while others pay a heavy price.  You are a seeker, a walker, a fan.   There are not many true fans left.  You have the sight.  Wars will be fought in the peripheries of your soul.  Armies will advance to your heart.  I am but a music maker, a creator of worlds and, as much as I can make and mould and shape, I can move between all creations, just as you will be able to.  Now, come.  Let’s leave this beast.  Our feet will be enough.

Saul vaulted out of the car.  I left the engine running and scampered after him.

What you have to know and remember and hold in your heart, said Saul, his feet moving fast, is that music is not something we created.  Music was here before us.  Music is a temple.  Music is a stone falling from the top of a mountain to cause an avalanche that breaks a forest into splinters that float on a river to the sea to feed a shoal of fish that have never breathed air so thin it is called atmosphere.  They see visions of eagles and dream of splinters of water falling from the moon.  Music is a force.  It is weather.  It is light.  Music creates worlds that already exist.  All possibilities exist.

The difference between me and you, he turned, his finger pressed into my chest.  You are not a light bearer, an illuminator of worlds.  You are a light surfer.  It is the difference between an architect and a tourist.  We need each other.  There is no hierarchy.  What is the reason to create beauty if none can witness?  Hey, Billy.  Saul directed these last words to a man sat on the corner surrounded by tubs of different sizes.  Drop me a beat.

Sure thing, Saul, said the man, and he began to play a break-beat on the tubs around him.  I felt the same shimmer in the air from when Saul hummed us through time.  Saul began to talk to the beat.  He performed Coded Language from the album Amethyst Rock Star(2001). As he performed, I watched the sky move in timelapse, the street we were on went from dense urbania to dense jungle to flowing lava to digital dream.  The moon grew smaller, exploded, grew larger, the planets came up and shook my hand one by one, the stars played a chorus.  The drum beat on, the rhythm that life danced upon.  I watched the Earth form from gas.  I watched the sun engulf the universe.  Roads unrolled like carpets across the face of the planet and cities danced into being.  I held a fragile bone in my hand, it became a bird that carried me and dropped me on a moving train.   I clung to the boxcars, I travelled the rails of the world.  I lost all sense of myself.  I melted at the edges into air.  Saul’s voice emerged , the drums caught up, and my feet found themselves on the pavement, tapping.

Do you understand now?  Asked Saul.

I’m not sure, I said.

Good, said Saul.  Certainty is a lack of imagination.  Billy, you joining us for falafel?

The drummer stood, shook my hand.  I’m Billy Cobham, he said.  Don’t mind Saul, he likes to make a song and dance of initiating the newbies.  Saying that, I always enjoy the falafel after-party.  He winked, threw his arm around me and laughed to the sky.  Let’s eat, he shouted.

The three of us walked down Ocean Park Boulevard.  I wasn’t not sure what year it was, what time it was, or who I was.  I liked it.  I could get used to this, I said.

So you will, said Saul, and we’ve been friends ever since.