Owls from a who’s who of perches and nests among the tallest redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains, owls from the Diablo Range, the Gabilan Range, a big contingent of alto hooting owls from the Big Sur wildness where astral traveling to Galaxy NGC3314a and Galaxy NGC3314b launches, and owls from the three highest peaks at the nexus of the Santa Lucia Mountains, were all drawn to the same point of clarity by emanations throbbing from the San Andreas Fault. They arrived on the top of Mt. Umunhum to hoot and huzzah from tenor to bass, no jive, and swivel hips and shake a tail feather, on the first night of the resurrected appearance of a slightly off-center James Brown who was gracing the big obsolescent screen at the last drive-in theater in Santa Cruz. The diaphanous picture from three miles away was as clear as the oily slickness of a scum sucking rat under a sliver of the silvery moon. Juicy snacks aplenty were provided.
Gaseous tendrils of Wilson Pickett swirled in the air and were absorbed into the interstellar mix, along with Bobby Blue Bland, Marvin Gaye, and of course Otis Redding. Where would any of our so-called philosophy of ideas be without Otis Redding? Humdrum and dumber, that’s where. Just try to think about harmonic convergence on a multiplicity of levels without him. There’s a conundrum that can fuck your head up but good.
The lovely wife of the tawny owl, Thee Mrs., who is uniquely able to replicate sounds from the entire history of rhythm and blues since Clyde MacPhatter, started out the evening slow and rumbling like an earthquake out of the loins of Big Mama Thornton, but soon felt the urge to shimmy and shake. Sparkles of electricity flew from her feathers as if Tina Turner had reunited with Ike again. Consciousness was soon rising like the next big thing busting up the block. Picture a synchronized chorus of Rockettes in flight. Picture James Brown with wings.
I became privy to the scoop due to acute observation of events in the redwood forest while attending a class at the Thee Tawny Owl Institute of High Flying and Rising Consciousness in my role as a traitor to my species in the war against human enablers of venal cats who murder beautiful birds. And I am not ashamed to admit that I used the inside information to gain personal advantage. I was positioned on a level spot in the cracked asphalt parking lot, though also slightly off-center, shortly after the gates to the drive-in opened at dusk.
My friend the Unpaid Internet Content Provider was strapped into the suicide seat beside me, proactively evading responsibilities at home due to excessive spending of his mother’s money. His phone was unhinged and his key chain unhooked. He was drinking from a bottle of brown beer that I had brewed in the space between my washer and dryer. It was a breach of no natural law we knew or recognized.
He said, “As a rule, I only listen to house music. I’m mostly down with the newest up and crunching machine fidelities.”
I said, “Without rising consciousness where are you? What else is far out there but consciousness existing in other forms?”
He said, “To the tuning of my ear, there’s no match for a finely plugged machine. I know James Brown is a big name and all that, but check out Detroit house.”
I said, “Every time you hear, ‘It is what it is,’ that’s James Brown talking. Before that it used to be all: Sit up straight, stand up straight, stay in a straight line, keep your shoulders held back, hands to yourself, your ass kept tight, and never let your backbone slip.”
He said, “I don’t get it.”
I asked, “What does it feel like when you sing along? Does it feel harsh in your throat, are your limbs constricted in any way?”
He said, “Sing, what do you mean, sing?
As the show began, I attempted to closely follow the metallic distortion trapped in the single monophonic speaker that was dangling on my smudged window. I wriggled to get loose behind the wheel like a captive insect in a frosted glass jar. When I looked to the sky, I felt strongly as if James Brown was working hard to get down and funky to save me for my sins. He was getting dirty along with down, but not in the same wriggling way as me.
Sure, I’d like to be free like that, where my ass is not dragged too far down into the soil, sort of. Who wouldn’t? As long as the cuts don’t get too deep and the lines too etched in stone. And I would greatly like to know that when I got down I could get up again and rise above. That’s just a plain sort of common sense. Confinement is unbecoming to any animal strapped into a tube of steel, plastic, glass, and composites. Isn’t that what all the constant yowling is about?
The yang twin, who had accompanied us as far as the front gate, and then slipped out of the back seat of my uncool sedan before he could potentially be seen by any of his peers, stopped by long enough to receive a few dirty bills that I slipped discreetly through the slot of my window. After a whirlwind visit to the snack bar he returned to the aggressive task of destroying the new wheels on his skateboard. The Skyview Drive-In was awaiting its transformation into a massive rehabilitation center adjacent to an expanded emergency ward that was still on the drawing board. Demolition had been delayed due to uncertainties in the democratic dispersal of funds. Liberals wanted union employment with upgraded benefits. Conservatives wanted to dig the trenches deep. Lenders wanted guarantees. Consumers wanted more heft and weight. Handicappers wanted odds. Corporations wanted profits. Politicians wanted to be accepted as real people like corporations. The cracked asphalt in its current state provided an excellent backdrop for jumps not landed that could be blamed on abject conditions beyond any rational human control. In the course of humans events, bones had been known to become broken. Among guinea pigs, the yang twin served as a prime example. As a result, I was familiar with the crew at the emergency room and they were familiar with me.
All the beautiful birds wanted was more trees that made more forests.
Much too late, after the facts had passed me by, and to the back of his shrinking head, I called out to the yang twin, “Where’s your standardized crash helmet?”
The Unpaid Internet Content Provider said, “How do you let him get away with all the shit that he pulls?”
I said, “How do I not? Do you know the staggering number of personality disorders available out there?”
Then, the Unpaid Internet Content Provider said, “Wait, do you smell smoke?”
And I said, “Now that you mention it.”
And then I really did. My eyes started to burn like loaded dice. Once clear white lines virtually disappeared. It was early in the year for diablo winds but sharp corners began to turn diffuse and muddled like herds of ameoba. I knew this would not be good news for the rising consciousness of owls. Even a pair of urchins who had been fucking quasi-quietly under an oak tree in an old Olds 88 that was rocking like a combustible Chevy Nova paused to reconsider. Unless less is supposed to mean more, and quiet includes episodic shrieking coming from the back seat, in which case what I heard might be known as the elusive boomerang effect. I held my deep blue breath until the picture in the inset seemed to fade away. Unless that corner was a blind spot meant for my eyes only. Then I’d probably have a whole shit load of explaining to do in the morning.
My next thought, of course, concerned the welfare of the yang twin. Not where so much as why and how. The usual. He was a perennial candidate to explain cause wherever there was effect rearing its ugly ass. There are only so many primary numbers in a stacked deck.
I said, “I”ll be back.”
“What if I can’t breathe on my own that long?”
“Meet me in the emergency room. The sign in front is bright red. You can’t miss it.”
That’s where I found the yang twin, as expected. He was trying to shake off the light that had inadvertently reached his eyes. The rest of the joint was jumping as usual. There were excellent examples of fractures, poisons, abrasions, occlusions, hysteria, hallucinations.
I knew what the yang twin was going to say before he said it, as did he, but he said it anyway.
“Don’t blame me.”