The all-night bash was big, bright, bold, beauteous. The air was righteously thin that high and the beat was bumping. Though it may be true that I had not been exactly invited, it can’t be denied that I was there. And though it could also be claimed without much dissent that I was being used, I was used to that. Better to be used up here than down there. I was also used to that. Without any shadow of a doubt, and not only because there were no shadows to be found after midnight near the summit of Mt. Loma Prieta in the Santa Cruz Mountains, my presence was for this one night only both necessary and sufficient. That’s a fucking shit load better than being merely tolerated.
My vital contribution to the high flying circus came in the old-fashioned format of a portable compact disc, playing Conference of the Birds, with Dave Holland on bass, Sam Rivers and Anthony Braxton on sax and flute, Barry Altschul on drums.
I was trying like darn fucking heck not to flaunt too much smug false pride in front of the tawny owl. But, tautologically, you know it ain’t easy. Some false sentiment invariably gets slurred in the process of uplifting. To become both necessary and sufficient, even for a short time, is no small accomplishment for any human, and not only my kind, to pull off.
The tawny owl said, “That could be the best reason why you’ve still managed to stay alive.”
I said, “But not the only reason.”
“I never forget I chose the right side to be on. I’m on your side.”
There were green hummingbirds in attendance, California blue jays, golden finches, red-tailed hawks, adorable yellow warblers, and a raucous family of black crows. The hummingbirds often paused in rapt concentration before dive-bombing, which is not an easy maneuver to perfect for a hummingbird who does not as a practice prefer to pause when stoned on delicious nectar.
The tawny owl was in charge of maintaining the music along with everything else in his role of Supreme Leader at the Thee Tawny Owl Institute of High Flying and Rising Consciousness. That’s how I was able to slip in through the very large loophole he left opened, though in my own mind that in no way diminished the luster of my achievement.
I said, “It’s so easy to be against the other side who are by evidence and fault always wrong and deserve what they get, which is to lose, and so much more uplifting to reach the higher realms and be on your side, the right side that is bound by right to win.”
After success, sort of, in conquering gross smugness, I settled on a minor smidgen of cocky swagger as an acceptable alternative. I compulsively practiced moderation, moderation, moderation. Any common advertiser with half an enterprising brain knows that the almighty moderate sells big time in most major markets. Soft drinks get gulped, hard drinks, pot pies, donut holes, steam irons, operating systems, lip balms, panty liners, latex stuffings, bikini waxes, studded collars, running shoes, long leashes, mood enhancers, escape mechanisms. Major brands sporting unforgettable logos sizzle when touched up in all narrow passageways that haul and distribute not only dollars into the morass of least common denominators, but yuan, yen, pesos, pounds, rupees, dongs, francs, shekels, baht, rands. Even silly loonies up north where the frosty air is clear make the point sharply. If worthless rubles can muddle along without blowing smelly chunks, what fishy denomination can’t? Look how far cockiness has carried shrimpy little douche Putin.
The tawny owl said, “Don’t let all you think you know get too far up into your head.”
“I thought that was what I was striving for.”
“Then you’d better not look down.”
What if it’s already a done deal?”
The right side on which I chose to be as a Benedict Arnold to my species in the critical war against clueless human enablers of venal cats who murder beautiful birds has not, does not, and will not change. One thing humans are good at is staying stuck with one plan, on one plane, at one time, on one long leash, where qualms about razor edges at vital junctures are best confronted by enlightened detachment.
In addition, I maintained to the tawny owl, “Doubts never did me no darn good.”
He replied, “You’d best get going now.”
I only paused to count my lucky stars two times. I understood about limitations. Sort of. I said, “It’s been real.”
Climbing down from the pinnacle, however, with no clear plan in hand, was no easy task. The dense forest remained dark. No convenient beacon shined a guiding light. I crossed diagonals and grids. Square roots entwined. Sticky thistles pricked. I evaded bare clutches by thin hairs and feathers. I slipped where it seemed wiser to slide. Sprinkling systems soaked me. Motion detectors betrayed me. Alarms resounded. Whistles tootled and blew. I traversed a great divide and fell over an unseen bump on the next hidden log. I cut to the fucking chase and fled. Scabs formed in wiggly lines. Callouses thickened. But I made it. That’s what counts for something. It took a little longer than any known norm but I pretended I had no expectations. I pretended no goods had been damaged.
In my opinion, it worked out pretty good, or good enough. Night flowed into day. I stayed sated. Sort of.
By the time I returned home, though, a Santa Cruz County Deputy Sheriff was waiting. He was a well known quantity to me. He tapped his billy club against a hefty thigh where chunks of meat clung tenaciously to the bone. The rotating red light on his black and white patrol car glowed somnolent and blue. I had seen him standing erect in that same sad way before.
I asked, “Now what?”
“You’re charged with disturbing the green peace of a tidy mowed lawn.”
“But Deputy, ” I exclained, “That green lawn had been ammonium nitrated, potassium sulfated, and petroleum phosphated.”
“But, it was still tidy.”