When I recently called to register a spirited complaint to the formally stellar public radio station in Santa Cruz about the the axing of my favorite rhythm and blues show on Friday evenings that I enjoyed each week along with a bottle or two of my favorite brown beer…
… it was explained to me that the techno-yuppies who commute to their ocean view homes over the Santa Cruz Mountains from Silicon Valley, and support the station with mucho big bucks, prefer the news from NPR on Friday evenings, same time, same place, as the news from NPR on a Thursday evening, or a Tuesday evening, or any other evening. Apparently, they had been polled, and infallible statistics were tabulated in spades.
“The news from NPR is just the same old re-heated shit,”I smartly pronounced.
“According to our consensus, it establishes a regular and coherent pattern before the week-end formally begins.”
“Regular, as in a moderate sized turd, you mean.”
“No one likes unpredictable and unwelcome surprises,” I was informed.
“That show has been at the same time and same place for thirty years.”
“Change is good sometimes.”
“Though not regularly.”
“Now, you’re getting it.”
“Not where I’m wanting it.”
“I’ll try to interpret that generously.”
“I want the boogie woogie as well as the ramma jamma.”
“As I was saying…”
“We need to take drastic action.”
“All I can tell you…”
“That makes no sense.”
“Then what can I tell you?”
“Say it ain’t so, Joe.”
“Now, you sound like you’re crying.”
When I explained the situation to the tawny owl, he was incensed.
“You mean Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, too?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Dem dweebs are missing the aesthetic gene,” he spat. “That is the only redeeming value of you humans.”
“C’mon, be fair.”
“They done already buried Charlie Parker.”
“Not all the way.”
“They don’t call the man Bird for nothing, you know?”
“I understand. I’m sorry, too.”
“Why don’t they stick to building blank walls and tall statues?”
“Why, so you can have more targets to shit bomb?”
“Well, yeah, like…duh.”
I know that myriad wrens, warblers, swallows, and hawks would often fly in leisurely circles above my open windows on Friday evenings in order to appreciate Otis, and James, and Bobby, and Betty, and Ike, and Tina, and Marvin.
And I know that as an exalted member of the higher ornithological community, the tawny owl accepts his mandate to rule at the top of the food chain with a seriously enlightened claw. But it that any reason to denigrate an entire genus and species? Including me.
“What about our remarkable thumbs,” I countered?
“You know where you can stick ’em.”
“That’s not very enlightening.”
“Put it in a sad song and sing to me.”
“I think these dweebs are just out of balance.”
“Aren’t they supposed to be good with numbers?”
“Only the numbers that add up to billions of dollars and euros.”
“They frustrated ’cause they can’t rotate. That big brain ain’t good for shit if you can’t rotate the neck proper. Apparatchiks and assassins, that’s what they really are. It used to be a lot more peaceful around here before the Catastrophe of 1949, when them pink dweebs arrived to take over.”
“Please let’s not start in on that again.”
The tawny owl has been residing in the redwood tree near my back door since before there was a back door, or a house that was attached to a back door, or a Silicon Valley that spilled out dweebs by the millions who ransacked most of the comfy nests in the Santa Cruz Mountains, back when the redwood tree was just a sprite no more than twenty feet tall, and the birds did not have to hide from marauders. I was just a sprite back then too, sort of, though not here, or anywhere close. But, I knew that the tawny owl was not talking about me anyway. How could he be? I’m not pink or even pinkish. And I support my local birds 100%. I’m sure that the tawny owl was really referring to my techno-yuppie neighbor, a pinkish dweeb I have to admit, with a thick skin that crisps up like turkey bacon and highlights his inner crimson when the sun beats down on his bald head while he is poisoning plants that threaten his artificial lawn.
I said, “You know it’s hardly ever a good idea to refer to a human by color.”
“You know the one,” he hissed. “The pink dweeb with the lame white cat.”
“You know I know.”
“I’m talking about the pink dweeb that sets the traps out to help the lame white cat stalk and murder sleepy birds.”
“Those nets are a crime, I agree.”
“That white cat gonna pay. All the white cats.”
“Must we dwell on the negative?”
“That white cat wears cologne, you know.”
I said, “Yuck, that’s gross.”
“That white cat is gonna get caught a step late one of these nights. I got him good that one time. I know for a fact that pink skin slices up real easy.”
“I’ll probably be sleeping.”
“It’s probably best I don’t know anything.”
“It’s been best so far.”
“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?”
The tawny owl said to me, “I noticed you were trying to fly the other day.”
“I was just exercising,” I lied.
“Except you doing it backwards.”
Sure, I know in my own way that a day of reckoning is coming. I can look out my window and see the sea rising. Most days I feel like a fragile herky-jerky toy that snaps together at the joints. Breakage is endemic, after all, and replacements are nearby. My voice cracks and I have to strain hard to hear. And I know that I can’t swim for long, and I can’t hold my breath for long, and my bed won’t float. And I know that the tawny owl can reach the tops of mountains that will remain beyond me. But, that doesn’t mean if I close my eyes just right, and barely breathe, and don’t look down, that I can’t see what’s not there, and fly.
Do you believe in letting bygones be bygones?
What happens when your bygones come back to bite you on the ass?