Augustus Owsley Stanley

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A tribute to Augustus Owlsey Stanley who died in a car crash in 2011.

Peter Green tilts back on his stool.

‘What do you know about Owsley?’ Looks at Alwyn, then at me. Turns back. ‘Augustus Owsley Stanley. The Third, to give him his full title. Or the Bear, as they all called him.’

Alwyn shrugs and grins.

‘Less than zero,’ he says.

‘Interesting bloke.’ Peter Green stares at me through the smoke expectantly now, shadows dancing behind him. ‘Soundman for the Grateful Dead at one time.’

‘Ah, of course,’ Alwyn says. ‘Now I’m making a connection.’

‘The visual stuff that you see when you take acid is like noise, Owsley said. Stuff that’s there all the time, but you ignore it, see. It’s filtered out. What did he say, Mister Novak?’

‘The background noise of your visual system,’ I can’t help myself saying. Emboldened, serene. ‘Both in your eye and your brain. Opening up all the portals. Deactivating the filters, that’s what he thought it was all about.’

‘Deactivated mine alright,’ says Peter Green. ‘The guitar used to speak for me, as you know. And I was over at Owsley’s place once, across the bay in San Francisco, with Suzy, on acid of course. Suzy Wong took care of us back then, knew everybody out there. All the heads, the freaks. And of course, we were swimming in it, melting into each other and the furniture. Nobody had a clue what was going on. And there were owls everywhere, pictures and coffee cups, forks and spoons, salt and pepper pots. Owls on the blotting paper. Melting owls in the curtains, on the cupboards, in the carpets, Even in the toilet – you know the flusher thing? Had an owl on the end of it. I remember pulling and it would stretch out of shape, and then standing there for a time. And eventually, it came off in my hand, put it in my pocket, forgot about it. But somehow things stay with you. That’s what I’ve brought here today.’

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