41 – Strummer Calling
Joe wasn’t sure why he ended up here or how long he’d stay, he’d been shocked by his early death, just fifty years old, and leaving two children. At first he tried to fit into the rock star worlds but soon lost interest in that, went in search of his roots and found them, continued to make music and between it all, kept an eye on his family on earth. But there was no real revolution to strive towards, the Aftermath lacked the tension Joe needed and a chance encounter with John Lennon at a BB King gig found Lennon, surely Joe’s closest relation in the rock firmament feeling much the same. Lennon was there with his Mum, and were about as secluded and as friendly as you can be.
“I spent ten years as bird,” Lennon said. “Sometimes being human is too much but it is still too new to want to deal with other planets or other animals. The life was very simple, very lovely, very settled in its own tradition, you know. I could have stayed there a century, it wasn’t like simulated, you know. These were real birds; they accepted me as one of them. After 40 years at top speed I enjoyed it. I needed to be somewhere else. Then me mum got sick of waiting and came and found me. I now commute to all different places, all different planets. It is strangely different to life, you know. I know I said imagine there’s no heaven and now people are like ‘oh, really?’. Well, this isn’t heaven and if you are sad or uncomfortable, ease downwards.”
Joe thought about it and thought about it and in the end just said to himself, ‘Not a bird but how about a stallion?’
The herd knew Joe wasn’t one of them and quite often people aren’t accepted with different species. No, wait, that doesn’t do justice to the universe and Aftermaths contempt and fear of homo sapiens. When the idea to end the Universe first came around, it was a meme that suggested just get rid of humans, but was modified over time. There are entire genus’ that won’t allow humans near em, try going into places where the trees are. They’ll rip a human limb from limb and throw them out again. Try dealing with cats. Even dogs don’t much like em. Flowers, fruits, anything that lives on earth, even earth itself despises them But Joe got along most places he went, and while rare is the human who joined a herd, there were former cowboys among the horses for so long they stopped considering themselves human at all and Joe got along with with horses from the beginning. There was a kindness about Joe the horses sort of got, and a connection, a need for absolute freedom, to spend their time galloping free in herds, alone, together. Nothing to concern himself with, nothing to be afraid of. On and off, Joe had been among the horses for fifteen years, when he got word he was needed.
What Joe enjoyed most about horses, what he cared about most, was the ritual of the herd, the generosity and wildness of running without fear, without concern, with the glorious alwaysness of speed and stream and beauty and nature. Over the centuries, some species, as their knowledge developed and changed evolved, the apes, the Familias, a different planet but similar to snakes, all became organized with hierarchy and rules, sometimes with difficulties, but the horses remained true to their instincts. When a horse died, one of those old carriage drawers from New York City, died and went to these places, they really felt as though they’d gone to heaven in ways human mostly don‘t.
If becoming accepted among the horses was rare, becoming best friends with a horse was unheard of but for ten years his best friend was a mare he called Mare because, well, it was very tricky. They ran all day and night and when they slept. They slept together. To Mare, Joe was a sort of husband, and for Joe, well, he had died a married man but he did understand why they felt that way.
When Joe first went to live among the horses, he wasn’t run out but he wasn’t embraced, he ran alone, and while a social soul, Joe accepted it, and when he was asked to leave a herd just one more time, he shrugged and went off by himself. One afternoon he became upon Mare, alone, running through a straight as a razor’s edge desert road that went on and on. It was a private road and Joe wasn’t sure how he got there, but Mare had been watching him for a month and decided she liked him. Mare thought Joe had the rare ability to not be needy at all, there was nothing in the way he lived that wasn’t in keeping with the way he should live as a horse and yet at no time was he simply a horse. He was was the other. Imagine there is an ultimate Lucifer, and you see her, and she looks interesting. Wouldn’t you speak to her? Especially if you knew she couldn’t hurt you.
That’s how Mare felt about Joe. He was in the Aftermath a form of absolute wrong, how not to do it, but he was a toothless evil, and he didn’t look wrong, he looked exactly right to her, and so she brought him here, alone, with a nudge, and there they were, racing side by side, neck to neck, no communication except the sound of their hooves on the ground, straight ahead, for an hour, and then hours, and then days, neither side winning or losing, all speed irrelevant, just the urge to be with someone else. Joe had to go back to the birth of his daughters to remember feeling this correct about life, so in the place where he should be and wanted to be. It was Mare who stopped in mid race, near a huge lake, and a field, they drank thirstily and grazed and then Joe was going to sleep standing up, but Mare insisted they lie down so they’d fall into REM sleep. Joe was suddenly elsewhere with Mare, at a stable on earth watching horse racing outside the stable.
“What is this?” Mare asked with a mix of sound and telepathy and foot movement, like underlying printed words, just to be understood. Nothing like human, or nothing like words at least yet, it had become the same as words over 1000s upon 1000s of years.
“This looks like my home planet, people are racing horses.”
“That makes no sense.”
“I know, most things don’t once you stop and think about it.”
“Is it for amusement.\?”
“I don’t think so, it is for human amusement.”
“That isn’t very nice.”
“Stay here, because it gets worse.”
“We’re slaves in your land.”
“It looks like that, but more like property.”
“I don’t think I like you anymore.”
“I can understand that, but I didn’t make the law you know, nature thought up survival of the of the fittest. We’re as cruel =o each other as we are to everything else, you know. We may be tough customers but we don’t play favorites.” Mare thought about it and understood it. “Wanna race with them…”
“Do I have to let a human on my back…”
Mare stopped and watched. “OK, let’s do it.”
“Are you sure about this…”
“It’s a dream, Joey…”
“Doesn’t feel like one, things are so strange and…”
Mare gave Joe a filthy dirty look and the next thing they knew they were at the starting line with the world screaming at them and excitement in the air. “This is incredible,” Mare said. “I am so excited.”
“It really is. What is …”
And then it was over. They came in last.
“Let’s do it again”
But they woke up. “We should bring this to the herd.”
“I’ll be thrown out for sure, I am barely tolerated now.”
Mare was going to answer but instead she stood face to face with Joe, who head lowered, her ears down, and she nuzzled him, the way she once nuzzled her colt when she was alive. It was a sign of deep affection and one Joe hadn’t felt since his death and he felt this deep ache in his heart. He missed his children, his family, his wife, he missed touching and being touched and then he missed nothing at all. It was as if Mare had given him something he was deeply missing, something he had come for and something he wanted more than he ever imagined.
They were back grazing, alone as usual.
“Did you have children, Joe?”
“Indeed, I did. I love them very much and they are still alive.”
“Really, how long have you been here.”
“Nearly 30 years. And you…?”
“Over 500 years ago.”
“Wow, is that why you are in charge of the herd.”
“A little, I kinda assumed”.
“Yes, on earth it is all hierarchy stuff, I was well born. In some horse places there is no longer a hierarchy, this place is more like earth. Were you important on earth?” If horses could blush, Joe would’ve been blushing. He went quiet. “You don’t like to explain it.”
“It was very uncomfortable, people expected stuff and I just didn’t want that, you know. I was a musician; do you know what I mean?”
“More or less, like the horses that used to be in circuses?”
“Something like that, but people go a little crazy over it and there is a sense, do you ever get this, a feeling of fraudulence. I didn’t want to be famous if it gave nothing back, I didn’t want it for its own sake.”
“I think that’s the problem with the hierarchy here, why I have been drifting out of it. After all these years it seems pointless. Or at least completely besides the point, it is like, why lead anyone anywhere where everything is there at a thought. It is like we are play acting our needs. I need more and then I saw you and I thought, I knew, we could come together and I could learn and you could maybe as well.”
“And you’re children.”
“They’re grown, I never see them. The connection was only there for a year or two, it is the way our social life is built.”
“Can you tell me about your life on earth.”
“I can but it isn’t really exciting. I was well born, feral, social, and along with my mare sisters, ruled our herd. Plenty of everything. One day I got caught by some humans who made me slave. I grew tired and died and I’ve been here ever since.”
“And you hate humans…”
“Sure, that’s like saying a horses eyes are brown…”
“What about those that were bred for human use…”
“Yeah, they come back to their normal state pretty damn quickly.”
“I haven’t seen all that old flight or fight.”
“Really, it is interesting isn’t it? We are evolving as a species but more important as part of whatever is going on here, we are this part. We change and change you know, we are more aggressive, happier, and no longer worried about being a lion’s lunch or a human’s ride to the ranch.”
“So your inner life is just like mine.”
“I don’t know, Joe. I guess so. I guess we all are. I have been here 500 years and I want more than this and I think I will get it with you, will you take me when you leave?”
“What makes you think I am going to leave?”
She nuzzled Joe again and they galloped off together.
simultaneously self-effacing and egomaniacs
essentially a disco remix of “Rocket Man” featuring one of the the UK’s biggest stars…
“I literally really need you to jump up and down”
Friday night might kill us but Thursday evening is a blast
it just isn’t the triumph she needed after six years
an impressive sonic ride.
a high-spirited Post Pandemic anthem
a memorable band who were never better than here
almost Pink Floyd-esque