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Too high. Period.

Curt Kirkwood, now living in Austin, is still a Meat Puppet. His brother Cris is a missing-in-action junkie.

"The ironic thing about Cris being all wiped out is, I was always the crazy one. I was the one who got all fucked up on drugs in high school. My mom used to have to send him to come get me because I'd get too dusted and not know where I was. That was 20 years ago. Same locales, though. Same fuckin' places. He had to come scrape me off the floor one time from a place in Tempe just around the corner from the house where he lived with Michelle, and that was back when Tempe was a long way from Sunnyslope. He was pissed that time. He was like, 'Mom made me drive all the way down here, you stupid motherfucker. I hope she kills you.' "

Curt puts a flame to an American Spirit cigarette and bends forward to rub his temples. He exhales blue smoke through his knees, then looks up and leans back.

"The other anomaly here is, I always thought the Meat Puppets were a relatively stable band. Cris and I would sit back and watch our friends in the Butthole Surfers or the Chili Peppers or Nirvana or whoever dealing with serious drug problems in the band, and we'd go, 'Wow, through the grace of God, we're doin' all right. We're 12, 13, 14 years old as a band, and we're doing better and better, and none of us are junkies.' We were congratulating ourselves on negotiating the minefield when Cris went boom."

Michelle and Cris were married in February 1995; Curt wasn't invited. Michelle began introducing herself as "Mrs. Meat Puppet." The couple became known for throwing intense, all-night parties, where Michelle would make the rounds in her lamb's-wool jacket, literally pushing pills on people.

After Cris returned from the Stone Temple Pilots tour with a significant cocaine and heroin habit, the couple became increasingly reclusive. "They fed on one another," says Curt.

During early 1995 recording sessions for No Joke, Cris was a mess. Butthole Surfers guitarist and band friend Paul Leary, who produced Too High to Die, was back at the console for the follow-up. Curt says he and Cris were fighting like pit bulls over Cris's drugging, his marriage, "basically his whole fuckin' deal."

"At first, Paul was like, 'This is some brother bullshit you need to put in a drawer until we finish this record.' Then, after a few days, he came up to me like, 'You know, I think Cris might have a drug problem.' Meanwhile, Cris is nodding out with his bass in his hands, and I'm like, 'You think so?' "

Where do bad folks go when they die?
They don't go to heaven where the angels fly
They go to the lake of fire and fry
Don't see 'em again, till the Fourth of July.
-- From "Lake of Fire," Meat Puppets II

Early in the afternoon of Wednesday, August 12, Curt Kirkwood's phone rang in Austin. It was his manager, Tammy Blevins, of Austin-based Blevins Entertainment. She told him Cris had just called, hysterical, saying he thought Michelle was dead. Blevins had told Cris to check for a pulse. Cris put down the phone, and Blevins could hear him yelling Michelle's name. He came back on, crying, and said his wife was clearly dead.

"I can't handle this," he told her. "I can't take this."
Blevins told Cris to hang up and call the police, but he refused. He told her he couldn't live without Michelle. Afraid he was about to kill himself, Blevins broke the connection and dialed the Tempe Police Department, then called Curt.

A police dispatcher immediately called Michelle and Cris's house. Cris answered.

"Yeah," he said.
"Hi, is this Cris?"
"Yeah."
"This is Tricia with Tempe police. Is something going on there?"
"Oh, hang on just a second. I'll be right back with you."

Cris never came back on the line. The dispatcher sent two patrol officers to the scene. They arrived, and, when no one responded to repeated knocks, they entered the home through the back door, which was open.

Not five minutes had passed since the dispatcher had talked to Cris, but he was gone. A burst from the officers' police radios alerted them that Cris had two warrants out for his arrest. Otherwise, the house was quiet.

The officers began a room-by-room search.
"The entire house was quite dirty/cluttered and there were large piles of clothing, miscellaneous personal belongings, and housewares stacked in each room," one of them wrote in his report. "When we came to the first of two bathrooms, the light was on and I noticed what appeared to be dark colored excrement smeared on the side of both the bathtub and toilet, and on the bathroom floor.

"Throughout the house, I noticed what appeared to be circular blood spatter patterns on the walls and ceiling. The circular patterns resembled what appeared to be the contents of a syringe being squirted against the walls and ceiling."

The house was littered with used syringes -- 113 total -- and other drug debris: bent, burnt spoons; glass pipes; and "cupcake-type ... wrappers," lightly dusted with cocaine residue.

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