Friday, April 29, 2016

Kraftpark (Micro Trip Edit)

Back at the hotel, with the cheers of the crowd long gone and all papers signed and business performed, by 1 a.m. Kraftpark's three members finally felt really ready to relax and party.

Frontman John "Ralf" Smith ruffled in his backpack, smiling youthfully. "Wanna get high, guys?" He was as young as he looked, fresh and optimistic, scruffy but dressed in a suit in reference and reverence to the classic costume of Kraftwerk. He'd dropped the fake German accent - it was tiring and annoying to keep up nonstop.

The other two members, Jack "Florian" Wray and Dave "Klaus" Klaus nodded - Florian more energetically. Klaus was only around 35, but you could see the depression and... lostness on his face. A good reader of faces might see that Florian had been through the same in the past, but he was in a different, better place in life now... he was more silver than gray.

Only when it was too late did Florian remark "Hey, this doesn't look like-"... and then they were all on their way into the clouds for their ten minute micro trip.

"-grass at all," he finished, as Merle Haggard took another sip next to him.

"Aren't you Merle Haggard?!" he asked Merle Haggard.

"Yes. Aren't you still alive?"

"I hope so?"

"Good. Too many suicides today."

"Now you have me worried." He passed the cigarette to Merle, who had a toke. "I don't see why I'd be dead -"

"-Unless it's ego death," Ralf butted in. "This isn't grass at all."

"Ohhhhhhh," exclaimed Florian and Klaus exasperatedly. "You didn't."

"I did."

"What do you think of this crap, Merle?!" he demanded, but Merle was gone.

"Ego life," muttered Klaus. "...What's the point." There was no question mark at the end.

"Ralf," Florian shouted, grabbing Ralf by his tie, "I am so sick of this one-man revolution klanging around in your ananas! I mean you could *tell* us, maybe we'd say yes!"


Florian sighed, resigned. "How much longer will we be gone?"

"Hardly at all!" Ralf chirped, in his best "I'm helping!" voice. "Five, ten minutes at the most. But..."


"...That's real time. I don't know how long that will mean over here."

Klaus took stock of the situation, like the good little author insert that he was. The three of them were nearly alone. The bartender was nothing but a prop, Merle didn't seem to have any other company at the moment, and the piano player looked like he doubled as a bouncer... poor conversation, probably. Gray.

Klaus's mind was gray, so everything he saw was gray, even when he wasn't sitting in a bar made of a cloud, which he was. Klaus felt colors in only two places: synthesizers and video games. He was an addict and a disaster. Once, he had been like Ralf. One day, he would be like Florian. But he could hardly see backwards, let alone forwards. He was always one failure from being kicked out of the band, but because he loved synthesizers so deeply, he was irreplaceable for the sounds he could squeeze from them, and so he had as many second chances ahead as he had behind, even if he couldn't believe it.

Meanwhile in another time, it was the original year 1997 (not to be confused with the year 1997 after everyone suddenly died and humanity re-evolved), and Merle Haggard had just materialized next to Johnny Cash, who was sitting in his hotel room, pointing a gun to his head. "Hey, this doesn't look like grass!" Merle blurted.

Johnny dropped his gun, which plopped softly and cuddled safely onto the bed. He gawked at Merle, startled.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Pre-After Life Party with Co-Creator Bob! (SUPER PSYCHO switcheroo HYPER EDIT)

Bob, a frustrated Co-Creator at JoeCo, sat at his typewriter, frowning.  He'd really better get back to work, not stay here, typing away at some silly nonsense.  But he was "inspired" so he stayed.  He wrote.  He wrote about nothing in particular.  His unease and anxiety lay revealed before him on the paper, covered with the thin gauze of prose and not very subtle symbolism.

     In the story, it was a party of sorts...

" ...with Merle Haggard and some piano player, and Bob.  Was it after life?  He didn't think so, but maybe.  All he knew for sure was that you can't trust anything anyone posts on the internet social media sites without extensive fact checking.   Oh, and that Merle could drink him under the table.  Luckily Bob was on the wagon, and the liquor he and Merle were tossing back by the bucket-full was merely purgatory, or perhaps pre-purgatory blend.  As in--it did nothing to you, as a spirit is not a physiological being and therefore not subject to laws of biology and chemistry, i.e.-other spirits, if you know what I mean.

Merle was clearly getting annoyed.  He started his query again.

"So you aren't even dead yet?  What are you even doing here, wut wuzzit, uh... Bob?" 

Bob slammed his shot glass down, and looked at Merle Haggard with red eyes.

"I think this is a dream, that, or I am making it all up in a Joe story."

Merle blinked. "A what story? Are you another suicide?  You aren't making a whole lot of sense."

Bob smiled.  He stroked his hair that wasn't there, trembling hands smoothing over bald shiny pate.

"I am not suicidal.  Just happy and energized.  I've been taking stock of my life as of late, and have discovered that I am a made man.  Not only in a financial sense, but my creative life is a surprisingly rich garden of masterpieces, my family life is a precious gift, my wife works her butt off all the time and is totally awesome to me, my kid is amazingly beautiful, and my spirit is aloft and feeling triumphant.  I'm lucky.  I must be dreaming this because I wish I were dead.  But I can't afford to die.  I'm too happy."

This time Merle smiled.

"Oh, I don't think it is as good as all that.  But perhaps you should stop spending what little spare money you ever get on LP records and crap.  Try paying down that student loan debt a bit?  Try being responsible with your money instead of acting like an ID with no super-ego.  Since they have you with your back to the wall to begin with, best not to let them grift you of your last dime.  That's why I quit drinking the first time."

Bob laughed cynically, having not heard the last half of Merle's little speech.

"Not buy vinyl. Yeah, right!  Collecting LP's is one of my only pleasures.   As to my student loan debt-- If I want to get out of default I have to let them keep garnishing my paychecks AND pay them $250 a month extra.  It is simply not possible!! I don't make that much income.  I cannot pay them what I already spent on rent and utilities.  I am 43 years old and have two kids already, what am I supposed to do, move back in with my parents?  I couldn't even if I wanted to.  My only choice is to get a CDL so I can be a truck driver, then MAYBE I can dig out of debt someday.  Even though I do NOT want to drive a truck."

"Ah, quitcher bitchin'," snapped Merle, "...have you ever been in prison? There was a fellow in here just now who suffers from extreme chronic pain ALL THE TIME.  Are you dying of cancer?  Do you have all of your extremities?  So your lifes' ambitions fell through and your dreams are shattered, you don't think this kind of thing happens to all artists nowadays? People don't buy art or music anymore, they steal it.  Nobody cares about your music, Bob.  Nobody ever will care, not enough to fulfill your very unrealistic vision of yourself as a famous touring singer.  You will never be Jim Morrison or Johnny Cash.  Never.  But you will be those boys' Daddy forever.  It's about time you get over yourself and deal with the real reality.  Which is that you are a father first, a husband second, a person who is in debt third, and an artist LAST."

Merle sighed.

Bob asked for another round from the bartender, who, though he/it was never visible, always kept the glasses full.

"I always thought I would be further along than I am by now.  Own my own home and stuff..."

Merle couldn't stand it anymore. "For Christ sake!  You babies and your depression.  In my day we didn't have depression.  We just DEALT."

The piano player started playing "Hey Bulldog" by The Beatles as Bob woke up.  It had been a dream.     "

Bob rolled the page out of the typewriter, inspecting it.  Ah, editing he said, putting the cap back on an enormous bottle of Liquid Paper.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cloud Chips

"I suppose you could talk to me," replied Umbrage Shavier. "Answer me!"

Umbrage had changed his name to match his nature. Umbrage was an angry man. His anger was cold. The cold froze the clouds. The clouds turned to chips. The chips circled in the air, dangerously. On the other hand, what were the chips going to do, kill somebody? It was too late for that.

"Well, all right. Maybe it will help," answered Merle. "But what is your question, actually?"

"Why was my life full of pain?"

"Well, how was your life full of pain?"

Umbrage told Merle of his years growing up as the son of a very conservative pastor. In moments of great relived anger, cloud chips sliced through all three of them men present... but ghosts don't bleed.

"Sounds like you have really been through the wringer in life," said Merle when Umbrage stopped to breathe. "You're a tough one for holding out as long as you did."

"Yeah, I guess so. Even my father said that he couldn't believe that with all I'd gone through I was still alive. Nice of him, eh?"

"That's a bit of a dramatic way to put it!"

"Considering he was a huge part in those problems, yeah."

Merle sighed. "What is it about preacher fathers?" He sipped his drink like a prop. "I had a friend who wasn't too happy with his preacher father for years as well, Umbrage.
They seem to get along better now though."

"It was our generation for dissent. You see, for some reason parents seemed for that generation to have children which were more intelligent than their parents - which seems to be a continuing trend in our children, a good thing in my opinion." (Umbrage smiled here.) "And in Christianity the deal is to be better than everyone else. As happened with my father, and probably your friend's also - though I can't speak for him - there was jealousy in how intelligent were were. Anything they said or did, we had a better way to say or do it. Virtually any punishment they handed out - besides physical - we could find a way around it. I actually found a way to blackmail him into doing what I wanted, so I payed attention to his secrets.

Not just that, but we questioned our religion, a HUGE no-no. Another thing is that with many preachers God comes first and their families a distant second. My father was never really around. He may have been around sometimes when he wasn't worrying about his church or his hunting, but he was never really 'there' if ya know what I mean. He actually spent $300 on a deer stand, and we had to go without much food for a month. My mom had to get two jobs to try to support us.

My mom only stayed with him until we kids were out of the house and then she divorced him, something I would have been happy with her doing a long time before. He used to smack me around a bit, but my mom threatened to leave him once if he ever did it again so he stopped until I was 15 then he challenged me to a fight and I beat his ass all over the yard."

"But now you're here."

"I died."

"Well, yes. It's the same thing."

"Lots of pain."


"Living. A rare and horrible condition."

"Living's a rare and horrible condition?"

"No... what I had."

"What did you have?"

"Pain. Every day incredible pain."

"You mean emotional, right?"

"No, it really was a medical condition."

Merle sighed again. "I think I can guess where this is going. And... two like you in a row... I think Someone is trying to tell me something. You killed yourself, right?

"You're judging."

"No, I'm just weary. It's hard talking to a suicide. It's harder talking to two. Had another one just a minute ago. I need a break, but I can take it with you. Let's just... talk. Just like you talked before the pain."

Umbrage took no umbrage, and the cloud chips' razor-sharp dance died down. The two soon passed on to idle chit-chat.

How Low Can You GO? (Limbo dance Segment)

Benny the Bouncer sat back down at the piano and started playing an old reggae song. Just then, who should walk in but Michael Keaton, all dressed up like his iconic character Beetlejuice. 

"How low can you go, Keith?" 

Everyone started dancing as a pole lowered from midair and stopped in front of Keith and Merle's cocktail table.

"Daaaaaay-O!   Dayy-O!  Daylight come and me wanna go home!"  sang Beetlejuice.

Merle did the limbo first, since he was oldest, and then they looked at Keith. 

"I really don't feel like this will help," he muttered but waited for the pole to lower again, and did the limbo. 

A split second after Keith passed underneath the pole, Michael Keaton/Beetlejuice began laughing maniacally and morphing into a giant earthworm, which then started furiously digging into the cloud ceiling. 

"Come along boys, let's get lost and see if we can't find us a little bit of heaven!"  the worm screamed, disappearing into a hole in the sky. 

They all looked at each other.

Merle shook his head. 

"All my friends are downstairs.  I have no reason to ascend,"

Merle looked at Keith Emerson, "So how about you, Tarkus, ol' boy?" 

"Well,"  he said, mind still hazy from this new after life reality, "I guess I'll try it out."

Merle gave him a boost up into the hole.

He was whooshed away like into a vacuum hose. 

 Merle sat back down on his stool and sipped his drink lazily.

"Wonder what I'm supposed to do to get down there," he muttered.  "I really want to talk to Johnny and Hank."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cat House

Cat House

“So… am I in heaven?” Keith asked queruously.

“Suicide is a mortal sin, Keith,” said Merle—not unkindly.

“So am I in Hell?”

“We don’t know. I don’t know. I guess we’re in our thoughts.”

“A dying hallucination?”

“Maybe. But I don’t think so. It’s so long and calm and feels so shared. But maybe. But I don’t even know how long I’ve been here.”


“I like to call it Friends Revival Unlimited Checkpoint Five. Just a playful phrase I made up. But we… meet. We share. We’re sharing. You’re with us right now and not somebody else for a reason. Maybe you’ll be with someone else later.

What do we got in common? What’s in the mental worlds of all three of us?”

Just then the mists rolled back to reveal a player piano, which began regurgitating badly-memorized tones.

“Benny the Bouncer!” Keith cried.

“Ah yes, the Wild West… our three Wild Wests,” Merle smiled.

“Benny the Bouncer!!” Keith repeated, unhearing in his bliss, happy for the first time in his forever.

“At cher service,” replied Benny the Bouncer, who had just walked into the cloud-top saloon—“Oh,” Merle thought, “it’s about time” - looking eagerly around for someone to bounce.

Lemmy had had one cocktail too many, just about enough of Keith, just about enough of this bouncer—who did he think he was, anyway?!

“Well you can service me, mate!” he shouted, wobbling up.

“It’ll be my pleasure! Chopped or fried?”

“Excuse me?”

“Or would you prefer to just leave?”

“I don’t want anything to do with your bloody sort anyway!”

“Very well mate! Where shall I throw ya then?”

“Might as well throw me into a bordello!”

“Very well mate!”

Benny hoisted Lemmy up effortlessly, brimming with violent glee. Lemmy, no slouch, was still no match—just a sack of potatoes to Benny. Lemmy’s limp body sailed off the shared Wild West cloud, onto the Cloud of the Cat House.

Tragily tacky, the Cat House was shared on and off by a variety of deceased former prostitutes. A cat-themed bordello. Tacky.

“Meow can I help you?” purred one of Lemmy’s most fondly remembered exes.

“Cathy! You said you never—!”

“I lied,” Cathy responded warmly.

The cloud poured grey sheets.

Lemmy didn’t weep. He didn’t really know quite what to do.

The Cloud

High above the crowds and the smoke and the lasers, Lemmy sat on a dark cloud.  Torrential rain poured from its gunmetal guts.  Lemmy was an opaque shadow, seated at a cocktail table with another gentleman who could barely be made out in the darkness. Just then, a third man appeared and sat with them.  The cloud pulsated and throbbed in the sky as a Pennywise themed balloon farted past limply, expending its last bits of hate filled air, and slowly began to plummet.

"Why did you do it, man!  You remember when we saw Sun Ra, right at the end, when they wheeled him out on stage in a fuckin' wheelchair, man.  As it happens, this Kilmister didn't have a say in the matter, my fuckin' body just gave it up."

The other gentleman barely distinguishable in the darkness sighed.  It was Keith Emerson.

"Lemmy, it just hurts when you don't have it anymore, you know?  You start to wonder, am I a joke?  A has been?  I couldn't bear going on stage giving lackluster performances after rising to the heights I got to.  It wasn't fair to the fans, and it--"

"FUCK the bloody FANS, Keith, you had SO much LIFE left.  You just don't fuckin' kill yourself when so many are getting taken so early for no reason, by cancer, fuckin' liver damage, overdoses, car crashes, heart attacks.  You couldn't go on? What the fuck, man."

Lemmy ashed his smoke into the little aluminum ashtray on the cocktail table, and looked at Keith sadly.  The ashtray was just like the ones they used to have at McDonalds, he thought, back when you could still bloody smoke in one.

The third man spoke up.  He had on a black cowboy hat and a black Nudie suit, and he had a black owl on his right shoulder.

"Leave him alone."

"Aw, who fuckin' asked you, Merle?" snapped Lemmy, immediately regretting it.
"This ain't about you, partner," he continued, more gently.  Lemmy was upset, but he didn't mean any disrespect to Mr. Haggard.

Keith put his head down on the table.

Down below, the band had fallen silent.  The crowd was roaring and chanting.

"Can't you see it's not helping?" asked Merle.  He pulled out a flask and took a swig and handed it to Keith.  Keith took it and looked at it absently, then handed it back.

The cloud poured grey sheets.

Lemmy wept.