“I’m sitting at my desk today, it’s just too windy outside to record the introduction on the move like I usually do. You may hear the wind howling a little in the background, and also the croak of a cold in my voice.
When I was 17 , whilst riding my motor cycle, I was hit by a car, and thrown through the air to be broken upon landing. As I lay by the roadside I slipped into shock.
By chance a doctor was passing and kept me alive until the ambulance arrived some long time afterwards. Whilst doing so, he sheltered my face from the pouring rain. Whatever gallantry I posses, I learned from him.
In my early 20’s I fled my hometown in the Midlands of England, choosing instead an adventure in London as a street musician, which is a poetic way of saying I was homeless for a while.
Some many months into my adventure, whilst playing my saxophone on Baker Street, a man in a suit paused to talk to me about the piece of music I was playing—The Harlem Nocturne. We spoke for about an hour, and to cut a long story short, he turned out to be the President of Elektra Records New York.
A few weeks later I was in Manhattan, working for the Warner Bros Corp. A literal shock of good fortune, as well as a seismic culture shock and a trial by fire to a young man who had never before travelled. Through that man, and his son I was introduced to restaurants, a world of travel, the arts and both what to do and what not to do in the music industry
Following a head injury, some 10 years ago now, within the concussive swirl of post traumatic stress, my sleep could be counted in minutes rather than hours, adding to the dreamlike state I was already immersed in.
During that time, the veil between what we call our shared reality and the alternate consciousness of dreams and visions became transparent to me, and through it I saw clearly that what I believed to be true about myself, directly shaped what I believed to be true about the world.
Agents for change have come in many and varied form, naming them as good or bad is to take the panoramic and make it small; even now it’s still simply too soon to tell.
For many of us, the cold weather is persisting, there is evidence of Winter still, and visible proof of the coming Spring. I cannot find a name for this in-between, but then not all states of flux belong to language.
I’d like to share a fireside tale, a little longer than my usual readings, of when I bore witness to a moment of transition, a dying and perhaps becoming.”
There are approximately 134,000 miles of overhead power line in California, most of which sags loosely between poles of rough, splinter-loaded timber, a menacing crackle and buzz descends from above as cable passes through spacers, fierce and coiled. Photos of missing cats and dogs are frequently staple-gunned to the poles, their owners offering rewards, though the culprits are often Coyotes, who care not for the American dollar.
The Westside has its fair share of electrical substations, colossal transformers going about the business of transforming. There’s one on the corner of Lincoln and Colorado that sits just to the left of our old apartment. I stood more than a thousand times during the witching hour, looking down from our living room window trying not to see it.
A few hours later, the city would stir. First to the white noise of bicycle tyres on asphalt, then the hum of traffic beginning its fourteen-hour shift on the I-10, with accompanying sound provided by airliners descending into LAX and the percussive thudding engines of news network and police helicopters above.
By now, in the 21st century, can we not put some thought and imagination into making aircraft engines sound like a choir, birdsong or harps? Some sound more appropriate and respectful to the purpose of passing through the heavens?
Outside, in the early morning sky, grey clouds faded to violet at their edges, under-lit by orange and yellow rays, and around them the faintest touch of silver-blue. Pollution adding to nature’s pallet, energy from plants and creatures that lived long before light fell upon the face of a woman or a man. Fossil fuels turned to smoke, releasing the visible ghosts we call smog.
Small, drowsy birds were huddled together in commune, dotted along cables that emerge directly from the substation. A Crow landed a little way off to the side of the congregation, stepping a predatory side-step until the flock caught on to his intention and scattered into the air, regrouping in loose formation before landing again.
This scenario was acted out a few times until the Crow changed tactics and landed on the opposite side of the flock, which meant settling onto the main pylon. Upon landing, he unwittingly became a conduit between two terminal conductors.
BLAM! An ear ringing shotgun blast brought nearby traffic to a stop, the lightning bolt flash dazzlingly bright, even in the full light of day.
A dense mustard cloud hung yellow in the air. The Crow had vaporised, atomised, not a feather, toe or piece of beak fell to Earth. Nothing but Crow smoke was left. A heavy, noble gas, unchanging for a while until eventually it diffused and became something sensed more than seen.
Even though I don’t smoke, I wondered (as I’m sure you are now) what mind-altering effect might be experienced from smoking vaporised Crow.
Given the sheer power of the forces involved, maybe the Crow was transported to another dimension? Perhaps showing up beside Schrödinger's Cat, or zapped into the future, watching the first vehicle powered by nothing more than good intentions roll off the production line.
Those birds on the wire, the Crow and I, you and I — I believe we will all meet again.
One would like to comment, to honor the telling of such a story as yours. And, it is not easy to remark on an arc of such truly momentous change told in so few words, as if casually. I do not find the words. I find I am, in the end, drawn to the simplest part of your story, your covering remark «I have tried, in my own way, to be free» which re echoes in my mind.