Where to begin?
You’re probably wondering what in the name of Mu this website is all about…
…and if you are, then welcome to The Utica Flower Company!
We started as a poem by Alexander Tokeleaf aka Paul Burnout of The Real Burnouts, way back at the beginning of the 21st century.
We turned into a song by a couple of dudes in skull masks called The Painted Shuts.
We became a collaboration project between The Wheelies, Alexander (aka Tichawaa, Gypher), Bobby Rogan (Robbie Bogan, chef), and Luke Humann (Artie Lester, sasquatch).
We evolved into a collective, various artists from Quixodelic Records and the Daydream Generation compilations.
We started a blog. This blog.
And then we imagined a ship. She was called the Mardi. You can explore her by clicking on the various page links on this websites. There are cabins with members of the collective inside them, frozen in time, offering you biscuits. Some rooms have Nowhere in them. Nowhere is green, by the way. There’s a Galley and a Bridge. There are records we made, films we scripted, all of it documenting two years in our lives between 2009 and 2010.
For some of us, there was a fine line between the dream and reality. Sometimes we stumbled over it and lost track of what was real and what wasn’t. The dreams were dreaming. The Mardi was a Unimerse Machine. She could fly. And she did – all the way into space, to the very edge of the Unimerse where you’ll find the Rusty Rhubarb Fuel and Eatery (I hear they do a lovely black sauce). We played disorganised sports. Some of us died. And were reborn. And then died again.
We learned to manipulate the world around us through the power of our imaginations.
I’m not going to lie: it got weird.
It is acceptable for a reader to not always know what the fuck is going on. When the writer doesn’t know what the fuck is going on, there’s a problem.
So we illustrated things to make them simpler. I’m not sure it helped, but the pictures were always my favourite part of this.
And then it ended.
One-by-one we fell away. Those of us who survived with our brains (relatively) intact went back to mormality. Even though someone had clearly switched the “n” for an “m” in normal. When I looked back, we’d written over a million words in our collective inflatable journal. Those are a lot of words to leave behind. So I decided to edit them, and publish them.
And time ticked by.
Six years of time to be exact.
We published “The Utica Flower Company: Book 1” (the first 250,000 of a million words) in 2016. It received no glowing reviews. I’m not sure anyone read it. Nor am I sure whether that was ever the point.
During those lost six years, I tried to be a writer. I wrote actual books with characters who weren’t people I loved. I ignored my gut feeling and joined a writing group. When my fellow writers were sleeping, I painted Aztec magical green moustaches onto their faces and called us all “Gremus”.
I think it’s all Jack Kerouac’s fault. Not the Ghost of Jack Kerouac who crawled from a portrait painting and haunted the Mardi, but the actual Jack Kerouac. Once upon a time his words saved me. Like my other favourite writer, Doctor Gonzo himself, Kerouac took real people and turned them into heroic characters in his books. I’d been doing this since I wrote my first proper book age 19, a crock of shit called “Square Orange Moon”, but it wasn’t until very recently that I realised I was still doing it. I wrote several painting by numbers books during those six years (The Incredible Adventures of Captain Cleveland Custard and His Band of Diabolical Beans, Crumberkite, The Knives, Moodenwoog, Moose), but my favourite was “Book of Advice for Little Gremus”, a Flower Company-esque adventure featuring caricatures of all my favourite Gremus. Perhaps if Jack Kerouac had loved Roald Dahl as much as me, his own caricatures might have battled ice-cream nebulas and played timeless ping-pong amongst the stars instead of soul-searching on the Road.
For a long time I thought the Flower Company was finished. I was going to spend the next 10 years on and off redrafting the original inflatable journal, publishing all four books to the orchestral sound of tumbleweeds, but then, from out of Nowhere (did I mention Nowhere was green?) I wrote “An Unofficial Biography of The Real Burnouts”, the best band the world has never known. The main character was a boy called Cub, the son of Alfie Kolinsky (one of my alter-egos during Utica). Some familiar characters from the old Flower Company adventures crawled out of the cosmic gloop to put in an appearance, as did many of the new Gremu caricatures from “Book of Advice…” and the two factions met in a head-on collision in Hell where they sang against one another to save a soul (and, of course, the Unimerse).
And then there was the Mardi.
I thought she was gone, but she was always there, through a tiny door at the back of my brain, waiting to be sailed again.
She’s somewhere up there now, amongst the upside-down stars. Her new crew have Aztec green moustaches, hiding from the shadowy Nagaziim who threaten to destroy everything we’ve ever known.
Sometimes I think I have one more Flower Company story to tell… one more Gremu adventure.
Other times I think this is going to go on forever.
So have a look around. Make yourself at home. Grab a bowl of mash or Ship Shapes or nicotine salad from the Galley. Watch some “Doom Cruise” in the Film Studio. Read Harold Archaleus’ Pocket Guide and learn about our intergalactic neighbours. Stumble over some songs or pictures drawn with short-pencils. Knock on the cabin doors. Crack open the safe. There’s something for everyone, and everything for no-one at all.
Oh, and welcome to the Mardi.
(The Not Captain)
Welcome Pack 2.0
Everything has two sides – one side you see, and the other side you don’t.
Welcome to the Unimerse, the other side of our Universe, an alternate reality located through a little door that quietly exists at the back of your brain. Most people will tell you that the Unimerse is imaginary and I’m not crazy enough to disagree with them. But there are times when it feels very real, and on the side you don’t see they say that it is us who are really the imaginary ones.
If you’re reading this Welcome Pack then you’re reading it for one of three reasons:
1. You are a member of The Utica Flower Company.
2. You have been infected by the GORILLA GORILLA virus via the ancient art of Fung-Ku.
3. You accidentally caught the Daydream Underground to Bunkroom 4.
Whichever it is, on behalf of everyone here and everyone not-here I’d like to say ‘Hi and how are you? Feel free to wonder around the Mardi and leave us a note if there’s nobody about.’
If you are wondering what the fuck is going on, then you’re in good company. Of course, you can always dig around on our ship’s supercomputer ++MIKO++ where a digital record of an old inflatable journal is stored, chronicling the projects and calamity waves we’ve sailed over since we left Jacksonville Harbour on the 1st May 2009*. To anybody mad enough to want read through it all, please be warned: if you’re wondering what the fuck is going on now, then it will be six hundred and seventy-nine times worse when you’re done.
An Abbreviated History of The Mardi Sprung From a Kernel of Bopcron
An old wooden ship whose origins are shrouded in mystery, the Mardi’s first recorded Captain was a changeling named Midas. From Midas, she passed into the hands of a mysterious and now disbanded cult of pseudo-scientists called ‘The First Court of The Solar Corona’. These students of alternate realities recognised that the Mardi was a ‘Unimerse Machine’ – an old Ebaxxonite device built to collect and harness Nova energy. The Ebaxxonites theorised that prolonged exposure to Nova particles would grant test subjects the ability to manipulate reality through the power of imagination. The First Court chose The Utica Flower Company, a musical collective dotted around the globe who give their little psychedelic-folk-pop records away for free at quixodelicrecords.com as their guinea pigs.
And so we sailed. A psychosis-inducing ice-cream nebula nearly wiped us out. We got scurvy and learned to time travel, somehow survived Sam’s evil twin brother ++NIKO++, flew to the moon and back in a home-made rocket, discovered the Plum Necklace and stopped time, joined ‘The Organisation’ and changed our names to something beginning with W, before saving the Unimerse (and the Universe) on a battlefield in Rongovia. Then, finally, in the storm of all storms, some guy called Willoughby Toad sailed the Mardi off the edge of the world while the rest of us escaped on an inflatable dinghy called The Ark. It took us one-hundred and twenty years to get back to our own brains, barely aging a day in the process. And we all thought that was The End.
But of course we were wrong. Willoughby returned, and the Mardi was resurrected as a spaceship. It transpired that the Unimerse Machine was not an object as such, but in fact us all along. When we left, it meant that Willoughby was all that was left of the machine. He was supposed to just vanish, out of the reach of anyone who would manipulate the machine’s power for reasons of ill. But he didn’t. Instead he managed to “lose” it and now the Mardi, once a seemingly simple schooner, has somehow been reconstructed as a spaceship. As the summer of 2010 turned into autumn, Willoughby returned to our Universe on an invisible Fishbus to awaken The Utica Flower Company one last time and get back the Unimerse Machine before it is too late.
Boats and Ropes and All Those Type of Sailer Questions You Wanted To Know, But Didn’t Want To Ask, Owing To The Fact That It’d Probably Be A Dull Question To Answer, And / Or Listen To
HOW DO I KEEP TRACK OF WHAT’S HAPPENING AROUND THE SHIP?
With great difficulty.
Shit, there’s an Ylfnogard in here! Siiiiimoooooon!
IS THE SHIP REAL?
“Nothing is real” – John Lennon
WHAT IS THE SHIP CALLED AND WHY?
She’s called the Mardi. If anyone can tell me why then I’ll be very impressed.
WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING AS A MEMBER OF THE FLOWER COMPANY?
Well hopefully you’ve been assigned a position, but if you haven’t, here are 10 simple guidelines to follow that should keep you safe:
1 Do NOT switch off the freezer
2 Do NOT fuck around with time travel
3 Be wary of jam, particularly if it smells like mushroom
4 Think carefully before agreeing to join some sort of cult or clandestine secret organisation
5 Do NOT feed the robots
6 Keep a notebook on imaginative jailbreaks and how to deal with head injuries to hand
7 Don’t panic
8 Please report immediately any household appliances that might appear randomly on the ship
9 Check that toastie. If in doubt… throw it out
10 DO do your own thing
I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SAILING
Neither do we.
WHERE ARE WE GOING?
We are going to retrieve the Unimerse Machine.
NO, BUT REALLY, WHERE ARE WE GOING?
How about a game of gravity-free game of ping-pong? Here, check out this Elephant Holopot.