The Song Goes Back To The Skeleton: Questions About Heaven Raised By “What Dreams May Come”

The Song Goes Back To The Skeleton: Questions About Heaven Raised By “What Dreams May Come”

In which Jason and Bobbin Wages discuss the trailer for What Dreams May Come.

JASON

Hi, Bobbin.

You know what a good superpower would be? The ability to take a song that’s stuck in your head, and put it back in the head of the person that wrote it. Send it back to the source, as it were. “Return to sender!” as Elvis would say. Or as he would hear over and over again in his own head, if I had my way. I wonder how my new superpower would work if the songwriter was dead. The song goes back to their skeleton, I suppose, to play out of their skull.

And then whoever is visiting their grave would hear music coming faintly out of the ground. You’re welcome, mourners. Now you’ve got a little background music to grieve to. How loud do you have to play a song to hear it through a coffin and six feet of dirt, anyway?

I bet I can just send the song to heaven or hell or wherever the person’s soul is. If somebody writes an annoying song, but still did enough good deeds to get into heaven, is heaven the kind of place that would prevent them from being annoyed by their own song in the afterlife?

Maybe as soon as the song starts playing out of their skull up in heaven, they get banished down to hell after all the angels get sick of hearing “American Pie.” Which is pretty quick, probably (Unless it’s a version played on the harp. Angels never get sick of the harp, it seems).

This hypothetical superpower of mine comes with a lot of responsibility! Also, side note: do people even have skulls in heaven? I mean, the skull is just there to protect your brain, and since nothing is threatening your brain up in heaven (I hope?), it stands to reason like you wouldn’t need any bones at all, except for the purely decorative ones.

That’s my kind of heaven, Bobbin—the kind where you can rearrange your bones into cool patterns. Meanwhile, Robin Williams can’t even seem to take off his coat.

BOBBIN

Jason, your concept of Heaven mostly makes sense to me. But what if a musician is guilty of lodging multiple songs into people’s heads? I’ve been known to whistle “In the Ghetto” while I work and to blast “Hound Dog” while I jog. So in Elvis’ case, would a playlist of hits that have plagued society’s brains emanate from his bones that are carefully arranged into the shape of a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich?

What about renditions of songs that are made popular by cover artists? My guess is that Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” has infiltrated more brains than Leonard Cohen’s original. But Leonard Cohen actually wrote “Hallelujah,” so would the deejay of the heavens know how to handle this marketing and communications conundrum? Since God is supposed to be omniscient and all, I guess I’ll trust him to call a meeting with DJ Van Halos and figure it out. Just thinking about having to solve this PR crisis is provoking a panic attack, so I think I’m going to take a Xanax and drink a bottle of wine, a combination that brings Whitney Houston to mind.

Speaking of Whitney Houston, I without a doubt unconsciously hum her variation of “I Will Always Love You” more often than the Dolly Parton classic. So from whose sternum will it play? Honestly, if I had to choose one song to encapsulate Whitney’s career, it wouldn’t be a song at all. It would be her infamous line from that Diane Sawyer interview: “Crack is whack.” Up in heaven on a cloud rests Whitney’s ribcage serving as an iPod dock of sorts projecting, “Crack is whack. Crack is whack. Crack is whack.”

crackwhack

Heaven sounds like a real clusterfuck with all these songs playing at once. I’m going to write up my living will tonight and request that I be buried with a pair of earplugs. That way when I get to Heaven I can ignore Natalie Merchant’s pelvis playing “These Are Days,” Jim Dandy’s sacrum screeching “Hot and Nasty,” and Kanye West’s clavicle cranking out “Jesus Walks” – just to name a few.

JASON

Bobbin, I imagine that much like Superman must make a daily choice as to whether to burn you with his heat rays, or peek at your underwear with his X-Ray vision (if he gets to choose, he’d rather burn his own underwear with his heat rays, because it is itchy and uncomfortable), or much like Robin Williams must choose which Cuba Gooding, Jr. he’d like to be best friends with in What Dreams May Come (Snow Dogs Cuba? Jerry Maguire Cuba? Would he rather Cuba Gooding, Jr. show him the money, or show him a snow dog? Considering how Jesus reacted to the money changers in the temple, it’s probably not a good idea to show anybody money up in heaven), the choice of whose skull plays what song is up to the possessor of the hypothetical superpower.

When I saw What Dreams May Come with my best friend in 1998, we drove all the way back from Macon, Georgia completely blown away by what we felt had been a profound spiritual experience. We chattered excitedly about the soul and the afterlife on the drive home, watching his headlights sweep the trees on the side of the country highway. He and I used to have a lot of spiritual conversations. He once told me that he’d been standing in his kitchen with his ex-wife, and he’d been thinking about numerical representations of God, when the number for God had come to him all at once. He’d blurted it out, and then his oven exploded.

I have two theories about what may have caused this. Number one, speaking the numerical representation for our Lord Holy God out loud had caused a momentary ripple in reality, causing nearby technology to go haywire. Or number two, God was punishing my friend for his forbidden knowledge by destroying his biscuits, in the same way God punished Adam and Eve for their ill-gotten knowledge, and if they’d been making biscuits at the time they disobeyed God, God would have seen to it that their biscuits had come out burnt as well.

What do you think, Bobbin? Were there biscuits in the Garden of Eden? The Bible is (intentionally?) vague about it. All I know is “Biscuits in the Garden of Eden” sounds like a Lewis Grizzard book. Also, do you think the number for God was sent to my friend’s skull in the same way that you or I might send “Who Let The Dogs Out?” to the skulls of each of the Baha Men if we had the power to do so? Or should I say, “Who Let the Gods Out?”

BOBBIN

Jason, I have a sneaking suspicion that your “spiritual” best friend was baking biscuits in a BlueStar Residential Gas Wall Oven, which recently was recalled because of a potential fire hazard. I imagine him sitting like a cowboy on a barstool while betting his wife he could eat eight biscuits without throwing up.

“Eight beeskeets! Eight, darlin’! EIGHT!” he screamed. The oven coincidentally exploded, convincing your friend that the number eight trumped all other digits despite what the Schoolhouse Rock series led him to believe.

By the way, what the hell were y’all doing in Macon?

I do think biscuits got made in the Garden of Eden. By the time God whipped Adam and Eve up with the snap of an ethereal finger (I wonder why I envision God snapping a finger made of stars. Or did he wiggle his cratered nose, a.k.a. the moon? Or fart supernatural gasses that formed hands, spinal cords, and large intestines?), cats had been created, too. I totally can see a giant tabby cat making biscuits on Eve’s breasts with her paws, taunting Adam with every rise and fall of Eve’s flesh.

Back in those days, animals could talk (the serpent convinced Eve to eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil), so I assume the tabby cat sang the original “Shortnin’ Bread”:

Gear up ye boobie
Gear up ye nip
Kitty’s gonna knead upon Evie’s breast
That’s not all she’s going to do
Kitty’s gonna make us some biscuits, too!

Possessors of your hypothetical superpower might mentally belt “Shortnin’ Bread” and send it back to the brain of James Whitcomb Riley, the man credited with writing this plantation tune. Few fans of “Shortnin’ Bread” know a giant tabby cat in the Garden of Eden crafted its earliest version.

Would DJ Van Halos do the right thing and intervene to ensure that the giant tabby’s skull blares “Shortnin’ Bread” throughout Kitty Heaven?

Do kitties go to Heaven?!

I want to go wherever my childhood cat Callie is. Callie only made it a little past one year old. My mother ran over her prior to serving as a chaperone for my elementary school choir’s holiday tour around local grocery stores and therefore uncharacteristically didn’t show up. I made the mistake of asking my father to show me Callie’s body before he buried her in a Reebok shoebox. To this day the image of Callie’s wrinkled pink nose is branded into my brain. I wouldn’t wish the memory of her mouth, stuck into a half scream, onto anyone’s atrophying skull, not even the Baha Men.

JASON

Bobbin, I can’t say for sure where cats’ souls go when they die—that’s a good question for Heaven’s Comptroller, if they have one. Isn’t that the whole idea of What Dreams May Come—that Robin Williams has to fix a paperwork error in Hell for his wife’s improperly-routed soul?

Although I can say with absolute certainty that all short’nin’ bread in Heaven and on Earth gets routed directly to Mama’s Little Baby, who, according to the song, can’t get enough of the stuff.

I have this thing that I do, usually at brunch, because brunch is where short’nin’ bread typically appears, or should I say “is summoned,” because I never see short’nin’ bread in any context other than brunch, so maybe the act of preparing brunch causes short’nin’ bread to be summoned, like a demon (or an angel, if you consider yourself a Mama’s Little Baby). Which raises the age-old question, “Where does short’nin’ bread originate—heaven or hell?”

Maybe while Robin Williams was down in Hell trying to retrieve the soul of his wife, he should have asked a nearby demon, “Hey, do you guys make short’nin’ bread down here? Also, have you seen my wife’s soul?! I’ve been wearing the same coat the whole movie.”

Have you ever noticed how easy it seems to summon a demon? Usually it’s an accident! One minute, you’re reading the Necronomicon out loud in a Barnes & Noble as a joke, and the next thing you know, POOF! there’s a demon chewing on the Lewis Grizzard books, which, loss prevention probably isn’t even going to notice—I mean, Don’t Bend Over In the Garden, Granny – You Know Them Taters Got Eyes isn’t exactly flying off the shelves.

Meanwhile, angels are almost impossible to summon! You can play the harp all you want (which for me, is very little harp at all, there’s really only so many notes you can play on the harp, and I’m not sure why they made it the official instrument of Heaven), or put on a white robe, or glue cotton balls to the floor to make it nice and soft for their bare angel feet (are they clean, do you think? Is there such a thing as “Wal-Mart Feet” in Heaven?), but these snooty angels still refuse to come down from their clouds, not even to try a bite of short’nin’ bread.

Anyway, I have this thing that I do at brunch when I see someone making short’nin’ bread where I’ll say, “You know who loves short’nin’ bread?” and the person making brunch will say, “Who?” and I’ll say “Mama’s Little Baby.” And they’ll typically respond with, “Oh, haha. Like the song?” or “What?” Then I’ll walk out of the kitchen, because I can’t cook, and I don’t want to remind this person that I am contributing nothing to brunch.

Also, does it seem weird to you that Mama’s Little Baby liked short’nin’ bread so much that somebody felt the need to write a whole song about it? Like somebody standing in the kitchen was just watching this baby chow down on short’nin’ bread, shaking their head and thinking, “This goddamn baby LOVES short’nin’ bread. I gotta write a song about this baby’s bread appetite!”

It definitely seems like Mama’s Little Baby peaked as a short’nin’-bread-eating-infant, though. Nobody wrote any songs about him or her after that, or how they felt about different foods. “It’s just you and me, short’nin’ bread.” That’s probably what Mama’s Little baby would say out loud as an adult all the time, just standing around holding a bag (basket?) of short’nin’ bread, hoping a nearby songwriter would notice how much they seemed to be enjoying it.

BOBBIN

I do a little something when I eat brunch, too, except while dining at a restaurant, not at someone’s house. I’ll inhale every crumb, wiping up any sauce with the remaining remnants of my shortnin’ bread, and when the waiter picks up my empty plate I’ll say, “Can’t you tell I hated that? It was awful.” The waiter will either laugh at my erudite sense of humor; walk away even though he understood my joke because it isn’t all that funny; or stand there and gape at my brutal honesty, offering me a to-go basket of shortnin’ bread on the house in an attempt to win my repeat business. And I’ll say, “No I loved it. Get it? Because I ate everything. Harrrr!”

And let me tell you, if anyone knows about the difficulty of summoning angels it would be me. Right after my grandmother died in the early ‘90s I would sit on my bed playing Pass the Pigs with her spirit. I would lay there comatose against the headboard waiting for my grandmother to roll. After about 10 minutes I’d say, “Oh, you want me to roll for you? Okay.” Then and only then would I pick up the pigs, shake them in my palm, and toss them onto my comforter. The slow-paced game would consume my entire afternoon.

Just the other night my mother, sister, and I sat alone on the top level of a bar in Augusta, Georgia, flipping through a photography book about ballparks. Somehow, my grandfather came up.

“I miss Granddaddy,” I said. “Let’s pull up a seat for him so he can hang out.”

Naturally, I moved a heavy wooden chair from another high-top to our area.

“Stop it, Bobbin,” my sister shuddered. “That’s creepy.”

My mother, engrossed in the ballpark book, moaned at a photograph of Wrigley Field.

I suspect my grandfather’s spirit didn’t show up anyway. Wouldn’t the seat cushion sink a little with his weight? Angels probably would pack on some pounds from gorging on all that shortnin’ bread.

As an experiment I’m going to leave a plate of shortnin’ bread by my fireplace in an attempt to bribe an angel, much like children beckon Santa Claus with cookies on Christmas Eve night. But watch some fucking demon beat my grandfather there and leave me a dead whore’s pair of pantyhose stuffed with a Lewis Grizzard book like Chili Dawgs Always Bark at Night instead.

I wonder what Heaven really is like. Perhaps its pathways comprise fluffy shortnin’ bread scattered with dead musicians’ bones: Hendrix’s shoulder blade lightly hums “Purple Haze,” while Lou Reed’s kneecap projects “Perfect Day” (may he rest in peace!).

I have no idea what Heaven is like. But I hope when Robin Williams gets there, a field of shortnin’ bread will lead him to an armoire filled with coats of every style and color.

There Goes The Neighborhood: Excerpts From The Diary Of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover During The Government Shutdown

Next Article

There Goes The Neighborhood: Excerpts From The Diary Of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover During The Government Shutdown

Hey, Curiosity. How's it going? Thanks for discovering WATER ON MARS.