"Naw, I think Rainbow still lives here." I surveyed the sinking hulk of a house before me. "If he'd left, the city would have hauled away the bus and burnt this place down for Vector Control." Besides, I thought to myself, this might be the way Rainbow Warrior likes it. The place looking like this, he don't have to keep propping up the fence to keep people away. Fear of Some Deadly Tropical Disease was scaring off the transients and neighbor kids just fine. I noticed Bob was still holding her breath.
Rainbow answered the door, looking thinner than I remember, healthier, and surprised as hell to see me. After I reminded him who I was, and offered to smoke a joint with him, he genially invited us in. He's a giant of a man, Rainbow is, 6'4" if he's an inch, bred in North Dakota where you need a big stride to make any headway against the wind. He'd owned half a million acres of strawberries until the local Sheriff beat him up for his long hair. Rainbow took his settlement and his autoharp to Oregon, where on his first trip to the Pacific Ocean, he had a run-in with the local Police Chief, who turned out to be the same cop who'd beat him up in North Dakota!
The cop had ruined his back, and Rainbow spent a lot of time in bed reading conspiracy theory and watching Three Stooges movies on tv. Spel-czhek wants me to capitalize TV- they're in on it together! Rainbow told me that the Three Stooges represented America in its basest, most truthful form. Stupid, Violent, Vengeful, Mean-Spirited, Greedy, and did I mention Stupid? He would watch them for hours while I read about the Kennedy assassins, who went on to work for Nixon, and how Bush was put in place by the Illuminati, and I remember being pretty convinced, and this was even Before we got Bush II! Oh, no! Does that look like Bush 3? I meant Bush, two, cuz two's plenty, even for eighties tv! excuse me, Spel-Czchek, i mean, TV.
"Got rid of the renters, looks like..." I began, after introducing Bob to Rainbow Warrior. She was staring around his living room/kitchen/garage/storage unit/WTF? Cement floor, unfinished walls, refrigerator and range, cardboard and metal boxes, bikes, trailers, this looked as unlivable as the outside of the house did! When I lived here, the other half of the duplex unit had been pretty nice, for a hippy house. There was a big living room and kitchen, decent carpets, a little greenhouse built onto the back, a garden space and a laundry line, it was a nice little rental unit, but Rainbow's side of the duplex had always looked pretty much like this.
"Where's the big recording board? I remember you had a 24 track digital recording board in here..." Rainbow looked so confused that it took me a while to remember just how long ago it had been that I had lived here. He led us into the spare bedroom, now lined with acoustical foam and filled with microphone stands and digital recording gear. He showed us his new electric autoharp, just waiting to be finally assembled, and for the first time, when I heard her gasp, I got the feeling that Bob realized just exactly who we were dealing with here.
Shaped like a perfectly symmetrical Klingon Fighting Weapon, in a five ply laminate of Mahogany, Alder, and Purple Heartwood, twenty pounds of lumber teased and primed into the perfect sounding board for Rainbow's custom-strung Electric Autoharp, fitted out with damper foam specially designed for the Space Shuttle by the Jet Propulsion Laboratories out of Pasadena, charged up with electronics from a Les Paul on Steroids, plugged into a personally customized digital recording system that once recorded the voices of fairies so clearly that the elves came and asked if Rainbow could just "Make us sound a little sweeter..."
"I just got this all set up again and recorded a little sound check, just fooling around...," he told us, leading us into the bedroom, which was surprisingly clean and livable, a bachelor pad within the outer storm, although his sound system, cobbled together since the seventies and stacked far too precariously in a corner for these earthquake-ridden times, preserved a little of that Louisiana Swamp Look that dominated the rest of his property. We smoked while he cued up the disk and I watched Bob's face for the moment when the music hit her.
Have you ever been Experienced? Have you ever Heard an Electric AutoHarp? Have you never heard Rainbow Warrior ranting in the moonlight, a simple little string-lute turned saxaphone, gone accordian, loosed like a bagpipe into the Warrior's Winds? Have you ever been to an open mike where someone you've never heard of plays something that you don't expect that turns into something that you can't believe? Have you ever had to nudge your friend and say, "Hey! Fishface! Having a stroke there, or would you pass the pipe?" because they can't believe what they're hearing?
Happens all the time around Rainbow, sometimes just because of the things he says! , but mostly, and best, because you've never heard anything like it. I'd never heard anything like what I heard that day with Bob, and I've heard Rainbow play before! I remember one summer when he stunned the Ruch Barter Festival with a song about Kurt Cobain's death that put the blame squarely where it belonged....
"I've got a rejection letter from Dr. Dimento here somewhere..." Rainbow tells us, for his song, "Piss Test the President!" "No one would touch it for fear they'd be piss-tested themselves!" The CD began with Rainbow warming up his harp, modulating strangely through a set of chords, the strings dividing as if on their own accord into several competing themes, contesting and challenging one another, a surging bass line pulsing through a shimmering upper reach, like a lite-brite rainbow glowing above a river of lava.
"Here's where I let the instrument open up, begin to speak for itself a bit, " Rainbow camps on the pipe while he explains what's going on in the music, and I'm forced to use all my old tricks to get the damn thing back for a re-load.
The bass line begins to coalesce into what sounds for all the world like a Hammond B-3 organ, a dozen lines of music bundled together and sent throbbing through a speaker spinning like a merry-go-round through the bottom end of a song that sounds now like those very elves cheering as they ride that merry-go-round, topped by a silvery string of sound that could be streaming from the wand of Glenda, the Good Witch of the North, if it weren't being wielded like a riding crop in a Richard Burton dreams of Elizabeth Taylor fantasy....
Finally, I think that Bob has heard enough. She's sitting stunned and silent, and I don't think she remembers where she is. I'm having trouble escaping that extremely fine high line Rainbow's recorded on the Harp. The tone of that one note....it's so deep, so colorful, so fully wrapped around the wish that brought it forth that it cannot help but come true...