It has a small platform mounted on top of two floating pontoons. It has pedals connected to a paddle wheel by a chain. It has a rudder. The concept and design is pretty simple. And I want one.
My name is Chet. I play in a pretty good rock-n-roll band. Actually, it's better than pretty good. My twin brother Biff tells me we are the best band he has ever heard. But he is probably just being nice. He is my brother after all. We are fraternal twins, not identical. We don't even look that much alike. He has blonde hair and mine is dark brown. He's quite a bit shorter than me and I think I might have tried to kill him in the womb. I'm glad I wasn't successful though. He gives me a lot of support in life.
I said my rock-n-roll band was pretty good, but that doesn't mean we are pretty rich or pretty famous. My band mates both have day jobs. I don't, but I live at Biff's house. He works at the university in our city, Madison WI, doing top secret government work. It's that work that led to me telling this tale that is about to unfold. But you need to know some of the backstory.
First off, I like psychedelic drugs. I have ever since I was a teenager and some stoner chick in high school sold me a couple of microdots of mescaline. The stuff ripped my mind wide open and it's never fully closed since, which probably explains a lot about my subsequent path in life. This story isn't about the drugs, and I'm not sure why I brought them up, but I think it's useful information for some reason. Maybe that will elucidate itself later, I don't know. I have never let drugs come BEFORE rock-n-roll. The music was always first and always separate. I never took LSD and tried to perform music in front of people. I imagine that would be awful, trying to focus on playing a bass guitar while the strings turned into serpents and winged elves danced around my head. I've been told the Grateful Dead used to take drugs and perform. I think it's probably an urban myth, but by the same token...maybe it is true. After all, they weren't the tightest musicians in the world and a lot of their 20 minute noodle jams could be explained by introducing squirming serpents and dive bombing elves to the mix. Since a lot of the Grateful Dead's fans were also on drugs, I suppose the music probably sounded perfectly fine to them and all the trades worked out. Anyway, I digress. Where was I? You see? I am a bit of a scatterbrain. Maybe it's because of the drugs, who knows?
Based on my life trajectory, conventional society would probably label me a loafer and a ne'er do well. I went to college and I did pretty well for myself there, getting good grades in between prolonged episodes of partying. I majored in music and I formed my band, ALIEN CONQUEST. It's a power trio consisting of electric guitar, bass, and drums. We write and perform hard rock songs with a lot of science fiction themes. The guitarist's name is Brian. He and I both sing in the band in addition to playing our respective instruments. The drummer's name is Mike. He's a good kid and super talented, albeit quite flaky. Most good drummers are flaky, in my experience, and I have experienced a lot of them, due to the aforementioned flakiness. For a while, Mike and I were rotating drummers in and out almost weekly in order to cover all the shows we wanted to perform at local dive bars. Biff has seen the drummers come and go from ALIEN CONQUEST and he even went so far as to posit a mathematical Law of Nature about drummers: "Their flakiness is directly inversely proportional to their talent," he said. If a drummer is super good at drums, then he is bound to be pretty flaky, and Joe is no exception. He definitely puts the sex and the drugs BEFORE the rock-n-roll. But he's a fun loving guy and he brings a lot of good vibes to the band, so we keep him around. We don't tell him that we have a couple mediocre drummers in reserve to fill in on the shows he invariably forgets to put on his calendar. "I'm sorry, man. I totally spaced it," he'll say. "But now I have to work...is that cool?" He'd always have us over a barrel when he ended his sentences with, "Is that cool?" If we didn't submit to his flakiness, the implication was that we were in fact NOT cool. And we wanted to be cool, so we'd call up one of the subs and play the show decently well. But when Joe plays with us, he is on fire and his drumming complements the counterpoint of the bass and guitar perfectly.
ALIEN CONQUEST rehearses in Biff's basement. I may as well just admit it now that I live with my brother. He's got a nice house and he is pretty well off thanks to his high security clearance government job. I'm supposed to pay him rent, and I sometimes do, but seldom is it as much as it is supposed to be. I rationalize it by telling myself he doesn't really need my rent money, and he doesn't. He knows I do music full time and can't afford to live on my own as a result. I wish I could. I will soon, if everything goes to plan here in the next couple hours. That's why I have to get these words down fast, because it's unclear if I will be alive after that. I am trying to get the whole story pounded out here, which is why it probably doesn't make a lot of sense to you right now. I'm scatterbrained, like I said. But keep reading. Maybe it will make sense.
I have chosen to write and perform rock-n-roll music. That's my career and my calling. It's not my fault that the pay is for shit. I didn't come up with the system that exploits musicians and pays them dick-squat for their never ending toil at making the world a much more rocking place. I really appreciate Biff letting me live in his spare bedroom and letting my band practice in the basement of his Madison WI house. I think he truly does know that we have something special in ALIEN CONQUEST, and I hope he is right, given what's about to transpire. I'm taking his word for it.
We are both single guys, Biff and I. Bachelors. Biff went to college for science and got a PhD in physics. He works in a field called Quantum Computing, developing high tech communication devices for the Department of Defense. His university job is a front. He hasn't told me explicitly, but I believe he might be a covert operative for the NSA.
OK, let me just tell you something right now. Biff worked on a top secret government project studying ways to transmit information faster than the speed of light. That's all I really know, because the specifics really are top secret. But it has something to do with what Biff calls "quantum entanglement." Information is stored in quantum computer chips that are entangled and they stay in communication with each other even when they are moved great distances apart, like one in Madison and one in Melbourne Australia, which is why Biff had to go to Australia.
Anyway, Biff has always been driven and smart, like me, in his own field, so of course he figured out how to transmit not just information but actual physical matter through space instantaneously, not limited by the speed of light. This part isn't top secret, because he wasn't working on this for his government overlords, per se, and he didn't tell anyone but me about it. He said he wasn't even sure he believed it was possible, but he was going to test it in his lab soon. He didn't want to tell his superiors about the find because he was afraid of what the DOD might do with such a potent technology if they got ahold of it. Plus, he wanted to be able to test it out without too much oversight, so the less his superiors knew...
I think it is so weird to call your boss a "superior" when you clearly have a far greater intellect than he or she does.
So my brother Biff goes on this trip to Australia for work, about a week before Halloween of 2015. Donald Trump is just starting to get ridiculed in the media, but more on this later. My band was to perform a big show on Halloween with a bunch of other bands at a rock club here in Madison, and Biff was disappointed that he was going to miss it. He'd get back the day after. But then about mid-week, Biff walks into the house. Yes, it was a Wednesday afternoon, because I was getting ready for band practice that night.
"I thought you were down under for the whole week, brosef," I said.
"I came back early," he replied. "I needed to put out some fires at the lab." He did not mean this literally. This was some kind of government speak for solving clusterfuck problems that arose at his university workplace. He was "putting out fires" so often that I started to think he worked with arsonists.
Anyway, he went on to tell me that whilst on his plane to Melbourne, he had sat next to a prominent music producer who had asked to listen to a couple of ALIEN CONQUEST songs on Biff's iPod during the 12 hour trans-Pacific flight. This producer called himself The Hammer. Just The Hammer. I had never heard of him and a quick search of the Giant Internet Brain didn't turn up anything.
"Older guy," Biff said. "Looked to be in his 70s at least."
Anyway, The Hammer told Biff he loved our music and wanted to offer us an all expense paid trip to his recording studio and performance venue in Australia. Sounds too good to be true, right? That's because it was. But more on that later. I was skeptical but unbridled optimism is my Achilles Heel and The Hammer appeared to put his money where his mouth was. The night before our big Halloween performance, we played a smaller show at a different venue in town, called the Brink Lounge. The Hammer sends these threee super hot models to the show to party with us and they come home with us after the show.
The next thing I know, I am waking up next to Mike and Joe in a hotel room on an island off the coast of Queensland Australia. Apparently, the "groupies" drugged us and we were kidnapped by The Hammer. This was, on the face of it, not cool. But on the back of the head of it, you have to understand that our band lived the rock-n-roll lifestyle and there was a certain romantic quality to this adventure. Our lives did not seem to be in any danger and in fact, the place we found ourselves at had a state of the art recording studio and several live music venues - from several small intimate coffee shoppes all the way up to two huge arenas - and we were informed by the staff that we could have free access to any and all of it, at The Hammer's bequest. Tons of famous people were there too, including Def Leppard. They totally suck as a band, but they were there, recording songs that sounded like someone rubbing sandpaper against my cochlea.
So, yes. Our band, ALIEN CONQUEST, was a little bit pissed off at being kidnapped and transported overseas against our will (I know, I know...and I have no idea how they got us through customs and what not, so don't ask!), but this was heavily outweighed by the fact that we now had free access to this musical wonderland on Heron Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Plus, there were tons of bikini-clad hot babes all over the place, ready to go with any of the musicians on the island. Of course, I should have had a "Terra Magica" moment, like Pinochio on Pleasure Island, but let's blame the drugs here, shall we? I don't know what Australia's laws are regarding drugs, but they were freely accessible on the island, as were fruity drinks and delicious seafood.
"What's this gonna cost us?" I asked The Hammer, when he eventually showed up to greet us, about a week after our arrival.
"Not a thing," he replied. "Everything is already paid for."
"Even on the back end?" I pushed. I knew how musicians could get screwed accepting monetary advances from the record label up front but then owing the company compensation FOREVER and never seeing a dime of profit. But we hadn't signed any contracts, as far as I knew.
"Even on the back end," The Hammer replied. "Make music. Fulfill your musical vision."
A couple days later, Biff shows up on the island and tells us that we are not, in fact, guests of the island, but actually prisoners, and on top of that, we are in a parallel universe. Then it all started to make sense to my psychedlic-attuned brain...
I've been regularly and diligently meditating every morning for about 15 minutes. I rarely skip it, although I missed a few during the intensive rock-n-roll road trip to SXSW with Sunspot in mid-March.
In any case, I did a full 30 minutes of meditation this morning because these jams that the Grateful Dead perform live tend to go on for quite some time and I might only hear about a song and a half if I limited my meditation to 15 minutes. The GD are an OK band, even if their songs tend to be a bit languid. They weren't too obsessive about tuning all their instruments perfectly or singing on key, but the song structures and chord progressions are pretty interesting. I'd like to have a band that covers Dead songs with a bit more energy and edge, maybe in a grunge or punk rock style.
*Quick and Dirty Note: Dick was an audio archivist for the band and worked with the band's studio recording engineer to master the live recordings for commercial publication. When Dick died, a dude named Dave took over the role (Dave's Picks).
Sunday is Easter, but I don't worship zombies. So it will mostly just be a regular Sunday for me of enjoying life to the fullest possible extent. The weather is supposed to be nice, so I am wishfully thinking I'd like to get out for a bike ride on what will be my first official full day of wedded bliss to my soulmate Deborah. This may be overly optimistic though. My folks will be in town this weekend (for Deborah's and my small and intimate Saturday wedding) and I want to maximize my time with them during their short stay. They leave Monday. There may be a parsimonious way to make the bike riding correspond to the maximum socialization quotient, but I doubt it. So I will probably just sneak away to the gym for a short workout when it is most convenient for everyone else, and then we'll probably just spend most of the rest of the time enjoying the good weather from sedentary positions on the back porch of our house.
Contact: Joe Leonard (email@example.com)