Monday, March 19, 2012


The Jimbot crashed at night on my roof, having wandered the forest for no one knows how long. Languidly it must have slunk the trails in skin-tight leather pants and with hair like Alexander the Great, for unlike any other android to ever exist, the Jimbot uniquely was programmed with all things Jim Morrison, every fact, every image, every memory of every concert, every song, every book he ever read and every friend he ever met. That was how far they’d gotten androids. And the idea for a Jim Morrison android had not only the blessing of surviving Doors, but considerable input from them as well. Video of the finished Jimbot shaking hands with Ray Manzarek, thanking him for “holding down the fort” even set new records for going viral.
The thing was, the Jimbot looked and moved exactly like Jim Morrison. It was as though Jim’s soul really had merged with the circuitry. When Ray started crying, Jimbot comforted with a hand to the shoulder, ageless, seeming to have stepped like a time traveler fresh from the 60s. But in typical Jimbo fashion, the Jimbot could not be controlled. He laughed about that after he’d slipped away, amazed how easy it had been. More than the fact that he got away and hitchhiked up north from L.A. he wouldn’t say. I can only imagine what that must have been like. All I know is he showed up on our roof. I never heard of Jim Morrison or the Doors until the Jimbot made the news about a year prior, shaking hands with Ray. When I heard scrambling noises outside my window that night, and opened it to find a Door, I was definitely surprised.
Jimbot had been writing poetry. Whether it was poor programming or exceptional unconventionality, for some reason there he was. I climbed out the window for a closer look and heard him reading some of his stuff. He had the ability to make a thing like reciting rooftop poetry by moonlight seem normal and alive. In a way he was almost too real. It seemed weird that the people in town should be unconscious in their boxes while the android partied on. The more I thought about the strange parts holding together and comprising my body, and the weird impossibility of my own existence, the more I saw how it really didn’t matter what was inside the Jimbot, either.

It was late in June, and late enough at night that I knew my grandmother downstairs in her room was asleep, even though her TV was still on. Jimbot called the poem he was working on In Car Nation and kept slowly repeating the words of the title, letting his husky hint of drawl slide over every syllable. “Innn…caarrr…nayyy…shunnn….” When he started to get loud I had to tell him to cool it. It never occurred to me to be scared of this escaped android on my roof. He just shrugged his shoulders and smiled as if at some inside joke. I got the feeling he thought he could trust me. I told him not to worry, that I wouldn’t turn him in. In so saying, in a way, it was like I took him to the river, built a raft, and together traveled on down the mighty Mist, me in my hog’s head hat, corncob pipe at the ready, the Jimbot’s soft and creepy crooning resounding down steep canyon walls.

*     *     *

Naturally there were other androids in existence. The evolution of synthetic intelligence did not begin and end with Jimbot. But there weren’t any others like him. None of the rest were free.

The story of the Jimbot replaced the one of the young black man being chased by the cops. Images of him surrendering face-down on the ground with his hands on the back of his head while six white cops kicked and punched changed. Now every day as the homeless people were getting rounded up by squads sent looking for them on a bounty basis to take them to prison, there were images of Jimbot distracting everyone. File footage of Jimbot shown in slo-mo. As foreclosures skyrocketed, banks contracted Homeless Hunters, thereby profiting from an additional piece of the prison corporation pie, and Jimbot press soared. It was the banks and the prison corporation CEOs who wrote the laws that took the people’s property and locked the people up. But it was the terror of the runaway Jimbot that dominated all the news.

Jimbot came walking up the road from the river down below the house right in broad daylight one afternoon. I was there in the yard. I told him he better get inside and hide. They were looking for him. Jimbot said he knew, but there was nothing they could do. “I’ll just be reborn,” he said.

It had to be the strangest life he’d ever known. His flesh-self took twenty-three years to develop followers. For Jimbot it didn’t even take twenty-three months. He was picking up where he’d left off. Wherever he went, women followed. Together they cavorted in the groves, Jimbot and his wild women. One of them was a neighbor of ours. Some cops came around looking for her, the official reason for Jimbot’s return to the corporate-owned lab being concern for public safety. Jimbot said it was a power issue, and not only over androids. The ton of cash it took to make him in the first place might have been doubled or tripled or more in the cost of pursuit, not simply, as Jimbot pointed out, to keep the wheels turning and make somebody somewhere more money, but also to feed the media, thereby distracting attention from ongoing wrongdoing at the highest levels, as per usual, opening too the door to increased incursions on civil rights, all the while sending a clear message to other androids not to try the same. What they didn’t take into account was how strongly people felt.

Next door to her was the house that the firefighters watched burn to the ground. HQ said they hadn’t paid the new jacked-up fire-dues quick enough. They said that they did and tried to pay again on the spot for the firefighters to put out the fire, but HQ said on the phone to refuse. They wanted to make an example. The woman wasn’t at the house. The cops hung around and played her video games for a couple of hours before they left.

There was a rumor going around that the Jimbot would sing at the Midsummer Festival. At that point it was weeks since he had been crashing on the roof outside my window, and in those weeks of heightened alert for androids on the loose, the noose was tightened on the collective neck of the people. The last of the unions finally crippled, thirty percent of the country in prison, overtly covert imperialism the norm. My one hundred and one year-old grandmother spent every day in bed hooked up to various cords and tubes. She kept the TV on all the time, and seemed to have no idea what was going on, until one day about a month after I first saw Jimbot, she raised herself up a little bit and said she hoped Jim Morrison would sing with the Doors at the festival.

“You remember the Doors, Grandma?” I said.

“Oh yes,” she said. “My memory is fine.”

“What do you remember about the Doors, Grandma?”

“I remember them. My memory’s fine. He’s going to sing here, you know.”

“At the Midsummer Festival?”

“Yes, and when you see Jim Morrison, bring him to me.”

“You want to meet Jim Morrison?”

“Yes, all right. I’d like that.”

Now not a day went by I didn’t listen to the music, so it was easy to see Jimbot somewhere dancing in the old growth, whipping a frenzied crowd into orgiastic ecstasy while singing about the human race dying out and promising to expose himself. Sooner or later somebody would have to show up with a secretly taped video. It was only a matter of time before we saw bonfires in shaky cameras and weird rites involving snakes. There were countries left to invade, wrongdoing needing ongoing.

Yet during those last few days in the run up to the Midsummer Festival, a story broke which may have actually been true. Ray Manzarek spent fifty-four months as a Door with Jim Morrison. The four or five years of his life with Robby Krieger and John Densmore that exploded everything, it always had to be looked back on. The more time went on, the longer Ray became familiar with the subject matter of having been a Door. The Jimbot brought back the promise of all that. When the Jimbot ran off, Ray lost it. Evidently he liquidated every asset that he had, and had himself an android made. One that looked exactly like him, circa the Doors years, and carried all his memories, all his knowledge, all his feelings. Manzarek himself called it the Raybot, supposedly, and sent the Raybot to the redwoods on a mission to terminate the Jimbot’s command, with extreme prejudice. Somehow the cops found the Raybot outside a mini-mart and took him down screaming in the rain. Possibly Manzarek himself had second thoughts and tipped them off. The image of the Raybot bellowing in the grip of the cops, “I’ll kill him! I’ll kill him!” got plastered everywhere. You couldn’t get away from it. Jimbot couldn’t. He told me so the night before the festival.

Like Peter Pan he showed up at my window, and we went for a ride in a car, traveling down the Avenue listening to tunes. It was an ancient blue Gran Torino that he’d boosted, or perhaps been given, and he let me drive while he hung his head out the window and let the redwood wind blow back his hair. He’d grown a beard, but hadn’t put on any weight, and his hair still made him look like Alexander the Great. He looked different that way. I couldn’t recall any pictures of a trim Jim Morrison in lizard skin pants and conch shell belt, yet also with a beard. This was personality. Jimbot had his own experiences, now. Something new was developing.

“I reckon Ray wanted to play,” at some point I said. Jimbot gave it a moment. “He’s mad. I’ll have to give him a call.” And after what seemed another reflective pause, “I wonder what it would have been like to know him.” I knew he was talking about Jim.

Down below, winding along the Avenue, the river glinted in the moonlight. I had to remember, late at night, at any moment, deer appear. It would have taken a convertible to see the darkness of the trees silhouetted against the star-heavy sky, and I craned my neck as best I could to see out my window with one ear hearing the music in the car, and the other aware of the air whipping by and the silence of the night. Jimbot said he kept having visions, visions of himself being torn apart, torn apart and put back together with human limbs grafted on and a human heart to pump the blood. I asked if he would see Grandma when we got back and he did.

“Hello, Lizard King,” was the first thing she said. Jimbot stood at the foot of her bed, between her and the TV. She turned it off, and he sang her a song, “You Make Me Real,” a-cappella, sounding, I thought, even purer and sweeter than the version he did at the Midsummer Festival, which went off without a hitch. The scene was serene and surreal. Full of grace, everyone rose past ancient lunatics in the trees and went swimming to the moon.

But the healing presence of his visit was perhaps marked most heavily on Grandma. She sold off everything she had. She contacted the android people, and promptly they showed up for her, and took away her money, and everything she knew, and everything she felt. All the arrangements were made.

Jimbot developed followers. Not only women and not just the homeless. Perhaps some or even all of the androids that came actually did escape, by their own choice, inspired by Jimbot’s example. Or maybe they were let loose to add to the distraction, maybe even serve as spies, knowingly or otherwise. Anything being possible, it was impossible to say.

Naturally, Grandma didn’t have as much as money as Ray Manzarek. But the android people had their bargain versions, pre-made celebrity models originally used for demo purposes. Grandma always did like Marilyn Monroe.

I watched the Monrobot, bright blonde, all lashes and lips, run down to the woods with white dress fluttering, her android Messiah waiting in the trees.

Now all I have is the rest of my life to save up. I hope they’ll still have a good one I can get before it’s too late. It would be nice to know, if I can’t get out alive, at least there’s a next-best thing.


Six edgy stories concerning the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and the dehumanizing forces of the corporate machine.

In the Table of Discontents we find:
“Resurrection of the Lizard” – A Jim Morrison android living in the redwoods develops a cult following.
“I Am Become Celebrity” – In a world where genetically-engineered pop stars reach their peak before they’re even born, unemployed Serling Young finds himself ready and willing to do anything for fame.
“Age of Indigents” – Homeless conservative Everett Fagle experiences inner growth living in a hollow redwood.
“Rhapsody Grove” – Growing success with Victory Eviction Services rewards Rich Christianson with the coveted chance to attend a prestigious private gathering, but at what cost to his beautiful, dutiful wife?
“Trip Van” – A Hippie wakes up one day to find the world is not at all what it seemed.
“Redwoodstock” – For desperately unemployed George Hicks, a Woodstock-like concert held in Humbaba offers an out-of-this-world opportunity to get ahead in business.

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