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Former Utopia is Carnage

an acid trip for your ears in three tenses


Wet Shoelaces

Libretto:  Steve Gregory


Scene 1:  A Roof is a Huge Expense


The Future:  We will see a man in a superhero-type outfit, with a big “J” emblazoned on his chest, standing in a genteel suburban living room and holding a giant tome, which will read “The Magic Spell Manual for the Severely Hallucinating” on the dusty cover.  He will open the book and begin reading aloud a bizarre incantation.  Soon the room will be shaking, as if from an earthquake.  Without warning, he suddenly and very quickly will take flight, smashing right out of the top of his roof, leaving a huge hole.


Scene 2:  Civilization


The present:  Johnny and Fernie, a young, relatively affluent couple, are out bicycling on a picturesque stretch of road on a beautiful summer’s day.  Johnny is a professor of astronomy, and Fernie is an archaelogist.  They are pedaling liesurely and discussing their work with each other.  The talk has recently turned to Fernie's current research into early pagan magickal rites, when suddenly Fernie grabs her head and falls off of her bike, screaming.  Johnny screeches to a halt, jumps off of his bike, and runs to Fernie, trying to find out what is wrong.  Fernie begins chanting:  “I like civilization, yeah, do you like civilization, no, I like civilization, yeah, I like bein’ civilized!”  Between bouts of this, she screams and clutches at her eyes.


Scene 3:  Buy This!


The Past:  Johnny was at his buddy Stan’s house and they were watching TV and tripping.  For Johnny the experience was one of insight, as he realized all of the lies he was being told by his television.  Stanley’s experience seemed much stranger; he kept babbling on about someone name Michael being a shit-monkey.  As they both peaked out, the television exploded.


Scene 4:  Never Again, She Cried


The Present:  Fernie is sitting on the side of the road, still half-astride of her overturned bicycle, and still clutching at her head, but the screaming and the pain seem to have subsided.  Johnny is crouched next to her, with his hand on her shoulder, looking at her with fear and concern.  Slowly, she pulls her hands away from her face and meets Johnny’s eyes with a horrible, maniacal glare, and speaks to him in a voice that is not her own:


Never again.


(never again, she cried,

we're gonna waltz up to magnetic boulevard

and then we'll take it lower)


Municipal quilt-addiction continues in enemy exile

Solutions badly mildew-frayed


Sex was rural woman-topic

Now, molehills afford to come across in different magnitude!


The risk of crazy optimism can program the nuclear scandals.

The risk of crazy optimism can program the nuclear scandals.


Former Utopia is carnage!!!


            Scene 5:  Sun-concious spirals


The Distant Past, via a Dream from the Present:  Fernie passes out, and has a dream-vision of walking slowly up and down a winding mountain path.  She can hear war-drums in the distance.


            Scene 6:  Last Train To Nowhere


The Future:  Fernie will hear her husband's explosive escape through their roof from her friend's house next door, where she will be visiting to discuss her growing fear that Johnny is losing his mind.  She will rush out of the neighbor's house to find her husband in a ridiculous superhero suit, lying on the front lawn amid the remnants of the roof.  She will go to her husband and, in soothing tones, speak of the nice, friendly folks in their clean white coats who will be there any minute.  Johnny will be so dazed that all he will be able to hear when she moves her mouth will be her voice singing about a train:


Let's take the last train to nowhere

Let's get out of here if we dare

Let's take the last train to anywhere

Let's take the last train to nowhere


            Scene 7:  Fernie Does Nine Hard Ones


The Present:  Johnny finally gets enough presence of mind to get the cellphone out of his bag and call 911.  An ambulance arrives presently, and Fernie is rushed to a hospital, where she spends the next nine months in a coma.


            Scene 8:  Pubic Service Announcement


The Present:  Two tiny umbref hatchlings, no bigger than the end of a pencil, have attached themselves to Fernie's uterus.  They start chattering to each other about the color of Paul's pubic hair.  Fernie, in her coma, can hear the umbrefs chattering.  None of this seems particularly strange to her, but she does wonder who Paul is.


            Scene 9:  Norm's Old Office


The Future:  In a sleek, slick, fantastically postmodern office will hang a gigantic picture of one ugly old bastard in a bad, very nearly orange hairpiece named Norman Paul.  Norman Paul will be dead by this time, and his old office will be a shrine.  Two junior executives will walk through one day, and have the following conversation about making a few improvements:


We're wondering just how much it's going to cost us

To redecorate Norm's Old Office

We got the tools, we got the dimensions

Plus a few promos from the last convention


We can erect a big statue of him over there

Right near the pile of his old dirty underwear

I've talked to the new guy and I'm sure that he won't care

And if he does will tell him that he must have orange pubic hair


But we're worrying just how much it's going to cost us
To redecorate Norm's Old Office

We got the specs, we got the parameters

Plus the old labels from his nitrous cannisters


We put his handprint in the walkway here, though

You can't quite see it from the window

So replace the window with some frosted glass

With a big fat impression of his big hairy ass


But we’re worrying just how much it’s going to cost us

To redecorate Norm’s old office

Don’t worry sir we’ll keep it under 23

Then you should hear what the old man said to me


“Norm’s old office is a sacred and holy place

Open it up to the whole of the human race

Put a roller coaster and a big waterslide in

A tiny cubicle for his replacement to reside in"


Because it's all for the glory of Norm

Because it's all for the greater glory of Norm


            Scene 10:  Chase That Useless Shadow


The Past:  Lt. Klein was asleep, but he wasn't what you'd call peaceful.  He thrashed in his bed, drenched in sweat and moaning.  He had just put Crummins away for the second time about a week before.  He was scared, because he knew the power that Stanley Crummins had.  In the second Crummins case, Stanley's multiple personality disorder had shown a new, supernatural twist. At night, Stanley's voice came to the Lieutenant, mocking him.


            Scene 11:  The La-La Song


The Present:  All Fernie had known for the past nine months was the singing and chattering of Umbrefs, sounds that floated through her mind like vague, half-remembered dreams.  Now the singing has grown loud and distinct:


Scheming freezing breathing beating

Eating human beans

Breaking on a waking ape that

Drowns in dirty dreams

Coming to an open door that's

Fifty miles wide

A flight of righteous wives

Connives to wisen up the tide

Angry Maizie came awake and

Baked a loaf of bread

Her head pretended ever splendid

This is what she said,

"A foreign order broken border

Sort of suits the dead"


And now when I'm asleep at night

I write the strangest songs

Thirteen minutes every verse

The solos just as long

Choruses of hoarse angora

Chords of chocolate tongues

Come with me my sweet Begonia

We can sing along


After this, the umbrefs begin an insane chorus of la-las, at which Fernie finally awakens, disoriented and in labor.


            Scene 12:  Involuntary


The Past:  Norman Paul, CEO of Umbref Incorporated, glared at his cadre of VP's with disdain.  Someone had dared to suggest they find a volunteer.  A volunteer?  For this, the greatest, boldest step science had ever known?  "Involuntary," he said, quietly at first.  Picking up a Webster's dictionary, he read the definition at them.  He ended by thundering at them:  "INVOLUNTARY!!!   INVOLUNTARY!!!"  He stormed out, and one of his VP's began to laugh insanely.  The laughter proved infectious, and soon the entire board room sounded like comedy hour at the insane asylum.


            Scene 13:  They're Here?


The Present:  Norman Paul is asleep in his bed when he hears his babies call to him in dream time, declaring their love for their creator over and over.  "So a subject has given birth,"  he thinks.  Norm feels like a god.


            Scene 14:  Noisy Knight


The Distant Future, via a Dream from the Past:  Lt. Klein's nightmare soon gave way to a dream-vision, the kind that had helped him solve so many cases, including the two Crummins cases.  He saw himself in a bleak future world, with mounds of broken high-tech gadgets piled around him in rusting heaps.  The wind was cold and howling, and Klein shivered.  As he reached up to pull his coat around him, he felt nothing but hard metal armor.  He clunked along in this suit of armor for a while, and soon came upon a bent flute sticking out from one of the junk heaps.  Pulling it free, he blew a few dischordant tones on it, and began to Remember.


            Scene 15:  Let Them Eat Pi


The Present:  Norm and two of his assistants are walking hurriedly down a hospital corridor towards the maternity ward.  Norm is talking, one could say bragging, to his assistants about how he figured out how to breath life into his little imps.  "The secret is actually in that pesky little number you might remember from geometry class.  You know, the one that doesn't have a finite decimal place, it just keeps going on..." Norm is so distracted by himself that he accidentally walks through the wrong set of doors, the double doors to an operating room, but it is not an operating room at all.  It seems to be some sort of a home studio.  There are two men in the studio.  One is completely bald.  He is typing on a computer and swearing.  Another man with a long ponytail, sideburns, and glasses is sucking down a hit from a large glass bong.  Outside the window a raven caws. Norm shakes his head and walks out.  "Ah, yes" he says, "right down the hall here."


            Scene 16:  The Talking Asshole Makes a Phone Call to the Brain


The Present:  Inside the delivery room, it is pandemonium.  The doctors and nurses all work for Norm here, and it is not the birth of a pair of umbrefs that has given them a start.  That they were expecting.  What they did not expect was this horrid mutant before them.  The two umbref hatchlings had somehow fused together during the growing process, so that one body was born with two heads, four arms and four legs.  But the most horrible thing of all is that the one umbref head is actually growing out of the grotesque monster's anus.  Seeing the horror on the faces of the hospital staff, the umbrefs are delighted.  The ass-end umbref begins taunting them by pretending to call his conjoined brother and apologize for being an asshole.


            Scene 17:  It Wasn't Supposed to Happen This Way


The Present:  Norm comes through the door of the delivery room with his assistants and cannot believe his eyes.  Something has gone horribly awry.  The macabre siamese twins have now started to compare their defects.  "That one's broken," says one.  "I've got a floppy one."


            Scene 18:  The Pale Blue Beyond


The Future:  Fernie will have no memory of her ordeal at the hospital, either of her coma or of her bizarre pregnancy.  The only thing Johnny will tell her is that she gave birth to a still-born baby, and she will have no reason to doubt him, considering that she was in a coma for the entire pregnancy.  Johnny, of course, will be drugged on leaving the hospital to make him forget, but one night he will have a dream.  His old buddy Stanley will be in it, and he will show Johnny what happened in the hospital via the television set that had inexplicably exploded that one long ago night.  As he and Johnny sit in front of the TV just the same way they had when they were tripping, Stanley speaks to Johnny thusly:


Outlook: bleak


Take the help!

Avalanche with outstanding focus visits home.


Look:  seven oddities!

Human wrecks, circus youth censure ire to get hit


Caseworker-saints discover mental hurdle

Fight to boost center of attention... focus remains key...

Consulting partnership warrants comment...

Hoping orderdisorder unveils today's hot evaluation:


Stumped on torture arsenal, warming limits plunge,

Porn attacks diversion, making vaseline poisons,

Uranium seepage gives landfill its color


You, a fork, dig for quality glass plants

And script previous achievements

Like a disputed oxide powder devil

Coming to offer himself the pale blue beyond.


            Scene 19:  Johnny Gets His Moniker


The Future:  Johnny will awaken from this dream with a clear sense of purpose.  If he is going to fight a super-villian, he will need to do it as a super-hero.  He will remember an ancient tome that Fernie will be studying in her archaeology work:  "The Magic Spell Manual for the Severely Hallucinating."  He will run to her study to find it on her desk.  Opening it at random, the first thing he will learn is that he will have to ask the gods for a ritual name.  Being an astronomer, the only gods he will really be familiar with are the ones that have given their names to heavenly bodies.  He will begin to chant the names of the planets, and finally will decide on "Jupiter," mainly because it alliterates so well with "Johnny."


            Scene 20:  The Tao Jones


The Past:  Lt. Klein woke up from his dream with a clear sense of purpose.  He wasn't a bit surprised to find the flute from the dream on the pillow next to him.  He knew, somehow, that his adventures with Stanley/Michael were not done.  He decided to meditate on this, where he always meditated best.  Grabbing the flute, he hopped in his car and went downtown to his office, where the clacking of the typewriters served as a kind of percussion track that could lull him into a contemplative state.


            Scene 21:  I'm Pretty Sure He Actually Eats Them


The Past:  Klein soon slipped into a trance and had a vision.  Suddenly, he found himself back in the chocolate forest with the yuppie-savages and the elephants.  Once again he witnessed the opening of the King Kong shit-monkey to reveal a courtroom with a sacrificial altar.  This time, however, the only thing strapped to the table was a bizarre little imp, screaming in terror.  It no longer looked frightening, like these creatures often did in Klein's visions.  Instead, it looked basically like the scared little child it was.  The elephant monster and the jackass monster merged into one being, a businessman with hair so red it was almost orange. Stanley/Michael/whoever-it-was-this-time waited on him like a sniveling sycophant, muttering all the time about it being All For the Greater Glory, which made Klein think of "God's gift to glory," a phrase from the Crummins files. Klein suddenly realized that Michael Crummins was a stooge, a person created by somebody else, someone with power, technology, and maybe a little bit of knowledge about the occult.  That was something to go on, anyway.  Suddenly, another person walked out of the forest and arrived on the scene.


            Scene 22:  Check on the Beef, Now


The Present:  Norm is only taken aback by the monstrosity in the delivery room for an instant.  Other subjects await in other rooms, and Norm is getting hungry.  As he goes from ward to ward, he maniacally repeats "I must go check on the beef, now."  With revulsion, the staff suddenly realize just why it is that Norm has called these beings into creation.


            Scene 23:  Walk Softly, and Carry a Big Pepperoni


The Future:  In the next few months, Johnny will study extremely hard, and at last will come to a very, very fateful moment, the moment when he will explode through the roof of his house and Fernie will have him committed.  In the asylum, he will meet a very old friend, his college buddy Stanley Crummins.  Crummins will tell him many odd things, and not very many of them will make sense.  One thing Stanley will say that will seem particularly inane is that when confronting Norman Paul, Johnny had better "walk softly and carry a big pepperoni."  But as is so often the case, the seemingly inane will take on incredible levels of importance.  72 hours later, Johnny will be determined not to be a danger to himself or others, and released.


            Scene 24:  The Ballad of Johnny Jupiter


The Future:  Johnny will walk out of the asylum and, taking Stanley's advice literally, will walk into a grocery store and buy the largest pepperoni he can find.  He will then set out for Umbref, Inc., but along the way will be attacked by a stray dog, hungry for the giant treat Johnny will have under his arm.  The dog will pounce on Johnny, knocking him out cold, and Johnny will begin to dream of a forest made seemingly of chocolate.  Walking through the forest, he will come to a giant stone monkey-idol, opened to reveal a courtroom.  Norman Paul will be presiding over a large altar, about to devour a terrified umbref.  Watching this from a distance will be a man right out of a hard-boiled detective novel.  Extending his hand, the man will introduce himself as Lt. Klein.  For reasons inexplicable to him, Klein will inquire "Where's Johnny Jupiter?"  Not wanting Norman Paul to recognize him, Johnny will play dumb.  But it will be too late.  Norm will fix his gaze on Johnny, and bare his grin to reveal two neat rows of needle-sharp teeth.


Scene 25:  Perpetual Procession


The Future:  Lt. Klein will pull his weapon and fire on Norman Paul, to no avail.  He obviously won't be able to stop him the way he stopped Michael.  Not that that turned out to be a permanent fix, anyway.  Johnny, on the other hand, having immersed himself in the Magic Spell Manual for the preceding months, will recognize that the only way to fight this supernatural being  is with supernatural gifts.  He will begin calling on the gods, the creators of this universe, to aid him in his fight.  And the creators of the universe, in this case, will actually show up.  Suddenly, as Johnny chants and Klein continues firing his weapon pointlessly at the Norm-thing, two men will materialize out of the air.  One will have a ponytail, sideburns, and glasses.  The other will have a shaven head and a trumpet case.  Klein and Paul will both recognize these men at once, although neither will know who they are exactly.  The shaven-headed man will open his trumpet case and blow a few notes.  The ponytailed man, meanwhile, will hold his hand out to Klein.  Klein will know it is Time.  He will hand over the flute, and the ponytailed man will add his notes to his trumpet playing partner.  At this signal, umbrefs will begin to pour out of the forest in a perpetual procession, overwhelming Norman Paul, and finally pulling his body apart and devouring it the way he had done to so many of them.


Scene 26:  A Very Wet Shoelaces Christmas


The Present:  Not really part of our opera, just a suggestion that with the holidays always approaching, Wet Shoelaces CD's make fantastic Christmas gifts.  And now for the epilogue to this exciting Acid Trip For Your Ears...


Scene 27:  More Thoughts on the Cost of Roofing


The Future:  Johnny will be found on the street a few blocks from the asylum, out cold.  When he awakens in a hospital room, he will find Fernie there.  He will not be resentful toward her for having him committed, and will go home with her gladly.  Johnny will say no more about his attempts to be a super-hero, and Fernie will eventually come to accept that her husband's sanity has been restored.  One thing will continue to bother her, however, and that is how her husband managed to launch himself through the roof of their house.  She will then remember the Magic Spell Manual she had been studying, and go to her study and open it.  Ten minutes later, her husband will rush into the street, where Fernie will be lying on the pavement, surrounded by the debris that used to be their recently rebuilt roof.  When Johnny finds her, they will both laugh like it's the last scene of some cheesy sitcom, and that will be