I was compelled to fly to New York on the luxurious red eye because I lack control over my own destiny, but I escaped from the slippery chains that bound me on the second day following the third night. Unless it was the other way around. It was dark, but not only. That was coming and going. Either way the toll was high, which was no less than expected. New York was suitably cold, wet, slimy. I was largely numb as a consequence, but not only.
I don’t as a rule sleep well in exorbitantly high rising hotels or eat sensibly from widespread public troughs but that’s war in the frozen trenches and I assumed I could make up for my losses by gaining the hours back on the westward flight home to California, which was wrong, categorically, empirically, and imperatively. I stumbled haplessly like a galoot out of the soft drivers seat and onto my concrete driveway after a typically harrowing trek across the Santa Cruz Mountains from Silicon Valley. The tawny owl was there at the right time and place to laugh his ass off.
I partially realigned myself, and said, “Sup.”
The day which followed the night happened to be the dawning of another festive national holiday commemorating the necessity of dying for the profitable cause of eternal vigilance in wars against all comers, and the flags and pennants were flying from gasoline stations with attached mini-marts. Cheap American beer was selling cheaper by the twelve pack, along with marshmallows and sharp sticks for skewing. Profits were not too shabby. Manifestly, and again categorically, the refined gasoline stations were well worth defending.
Ignoring my original question, which he understood was actually more of a lame statement of sorts, the tawny owl asked, “How many wars does that make by now?”
“Don’t ask,” I replied sheepishly.
“You know ants are the only other animal…”
“I know,” I brazenly interrupted.
“How do you know?”
“You’ve told me often enough.”
He said, “Well, all right then,”
The appearance of the tawny owl in the tree above my driveway came earlier in his busy day than usual unless it was later than I was aware, which is always a distinct possibility, especially when sleep deprived and malnourished. I of course had nothing better to do. I don’t remember clearly what it was that I was supposed to be ideally doing instead. Whatever it was could not have been that important. My mother used to remind me of that a lot. I can’t deny that I had been neglecting my figure eights for more lightweight pursuits like earning a supposedly decent living in order to feed the voracious tween twins but I was confident that wasn’t a significant obstacle.
The tawny owl was chewing on a substance of uncertain vintage as he spoke, in more of a hurry than I am accustomed to seeing him, but I do not think that was the reason I was less than able to understand the repetitive point or points he was hammering out like a staccato drum machine. The sharp words came at me fast, but decidedly not furious. When he spit out something reddish that landed nearby, I did not flinch, cringe, or overreact in any typical way. It looked remarkably akin to beef jerky, although far more red, wet, and inherently disgusting, but I admit I did not look that closely.
I said, “Aside from that, sup?”
This time he deigned to respond. He began to explain areas of my metaphysical weakness in which I was attempting to focus more in general than in specific terms, where for example I was neglecting elements of a well balanced sweet spot in the vernacular, which was naturally less than the help it appeared to me that I would need. Unless, that wasn’t it at all.
I said, “I still don’t think I’m quite getting it.”
He said, “That’s right.”
The tawny owl was on his way to accompany his lovely wife Thee Mrs. to the park at the bottom of the hill on which I reside where the annual Santa Cruz Blues Festival was underway. When the wind was blowing just right I could catch the drift of the plaintive guitars if not each note. The lovely Thee Mrs. had agreed to forego her extreme aversion to multitudes of humans in order to check out Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings in action. She was not disappointed.
The tawny owl had found a perfectly suitable roost to shield the delicate sensibilities of the lovely Thee Mrs. near the top of a hundred foot redwood tree and she was soaking it in. Intermittent clouds kept the harsh rays of the sun at bay. Sharon Jones was singing a well known American ditty written by the well known dirty Communist agitator, Woody Guthrie.
This land is your land, this land is my land.
From California to the New York island.
Later, after the park was cleared of the daytime riff-raff so that the indigenous homeless population could return to drink tall cans of that good cheap American beer out of domestic paper bags, which were not to be confused with the plaid sleeping bags fashioned in distant Bangladesh from the same oil refined into domestic gasoline in which they were entombed, I conscientiously tried, but naturally failed, to count the wars just in my so-called lifetime.
It seemed as if it took no damn time at all before I became bogged down and stuck right smack dab in the middle. Meanwhile, the big fool said to push on. I did not know how to start and where to end and what calculations to count and not? I remember when body counts were such a big deal. And then not? When is a deal no longer a deal? What came next? I have a hard time remembering that one. Or was it two? Was Granada a war? How about Nicaragua? Is/was Iraq a war and a half? A sequel? A premature ejaculation followed by a coitus interruptus? Or a fraction thereof? What was the deal with this so-called war on drugs? Does that count as the longest running war? If not running, limping? Or if not exactly that what about approximately this? What about the war on Christmas? Or the war on guns? Or the war for guns? Or against guns? What about the wars against men, women, children, others? What about the war that wiped out Esperanto? Or religious wars, sectarian wars, wars against the sexes? Take your pick and you might be right. Wars, it seems, have proliferated like tubes of toothpaste and spermicide. Is it out of hand? What about feet? And boots on the cold hard ground? Whose joke is that and on whom? And how does the side that’s winning get to stop when ahead? And why do losers never win? What about the war to end all wars? Which one was that? Perhaps, only the heroic ants know the answer for sure. I think it may have been before I was lucky enough to be born.