We were presented with no bill at Le Petit Point d’Arret Parlant. I don’t know if that’s because we’re ostensibly friends of Elvis or they thought we were robbing the place or what. If it’s the first thing, they definitely took a loss on that transaction because I ate and drank the equivalent of roughly seventy to a hundred hours of dishwashing.
I’ll give Elvis this, for a man under a death sentence from a violent mystical crime syndicate, he knows how to have a good time. After he got off work we headed to a bar on the beach – not a shitty beach near the docks but not a crowded beach in touristville either. It was nice and secluded, probably because it was one of those clothing optional deals. I say this, Madripoor may be one of the ugliest places on earth but there are some beautiful people here. I’m starting to get too pale. I should be sure to find some time to lay out in-between being attacked by psychotic assassins and robbing casinos – keep a good base tan going. You never know when you’ll be called upon to disrobe, best to stay in fighting shape.
That wasn’t Elvis’s surprise though. We drank something that tasted like rum punch (but it’s probably something weird made out of tree sap and octopus ink) for maybe an hour at the beach and then we headed back into town. Elvis took us to a place right outside of touristville tucked away in a Vietnamese neighborhood where they had this contraption that was something like an 8-track playback deck that people were singing along with. I had a vocal coach once who had something like that, but this was more intricate. You put a coin in the machine and selected one of the songs and then music would play for you to sing over.
There was also a band there that would play songs live as accompaniment instead if you preferred. All it cost was one of the bills with a crab on it – or maybe a sailboat, abstract art you know. As a professional singer, usually it grates on me when people try to sing that can’t, but everyone was hammered which made it much more tolerable. Without the shame of sober inhibitions, at least people go for it you know, even if they can’t sing a lick – which most of them can’t.
Show Me the Way to Go Home isn’t the kind of song I would normally sing, but they had a limited selection of western songs. Curiously the band knew the entire soundtrack to Superfly, which rocked. For the first time in a long time, since I got here probably, all my cares melted away. I love singing. And I’m very good at it. For a few minutes at a time, I felt totally free. Sure, my voice sounded like crap because I’ve been smoking too much and not taking care of myself like I did back home, but it was still great. There were maybe forty people in there but I felt like I was performing at a stadium show in front of thousands in attendance and millions watching around the world. It was wonderful.
Martialla, Blue, and LBK are all actually decent singers. Maybe that can be our gimmick as a super team.
But that wasn’t the surprise either! After singing our little hearts out (and more drinking), we walked a long way uphill (enough that I started to get crabby about it, I don’t get tired but my calves still get sore) to one of the second story house/apartment things they have around here, where I was greeted by the scent of something wonderful. We walked up to an open kitchen (it was some kind of diner/food stand) where a woman who looked more like a Russian tsarina than a chef was cooking up a storm. I saw she had just taken something out to cool – a pizza!
I mean sure, if you want to be a jerk it was more of a flatbread than a real pizza – the sauce was on top of the cheese for instance – but I didn’t care, it was fucking pizza! The sauce wasn’t quite right, it was more of an olive oil and diced tomato slurry, but again, I didn’t care. It was fantastic. I was drooling like a dog while I was eating it. I managed to keep it together, but honestly the moment it hit my mouth, I was flooded with memories of home. Artista Pizza Kitchen in New Orleans, hanging at The Piccadilly at Manhattan after a show, getting shitty carry-out pizza that tastes like cardboard on the road, it all came roaring into my mind. Home. I didn’t cry though.
Afanasiya Andzhighatova, the cook, said that she wasn’t Russian but she and Martialla were chatting in what sure sounded like Russian to me. Her take on pizza may have been deliciously off the mark, but she was spot-on with her bibollita, polenta, and ossobuco alla milanese. When I asked her about it, she said that “one of” her husbands had been half Italian and he taught her a few things. She had never heard of pizza before though. Is that not really from Italy? Have I been misled again?
The wine she was serving was garbage but you can’t have everything. I tried not to make a pig of myself, not sure I succeeded, but it was clear based on the seemingly endless food coming out that Elvis had given her the heads up about my “condition”. Or he told her that she was catering an event for forty people. That Elvis is a crafty jackrabbit, he wasn’t even expecting to see me that day so how did he get this set-up so quickly? Truly Elvis works in mysterious ways.
“Ela, didn’t you just eat approximately eight pounds of spicy noodles six hours before?”
Shut up. I have the paperwork (well I did but I lost it) from those science nerds saying that I need two hundred thousand calories a day to function properly. So go take a leap. For the first time in months I felt FULL. It was like I could feel my body coming back to life – energy pouring into my limbs. I felt like I could tear the peak off a mountain. I felt like I could take on the whole world all by myself.
I thanked Elvis profusely, it was easily the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. I mean ever. In my whole life. He did his best to deflect everything I was throwing his way – the attention made him slightly embarrassed. I think he’s just a good cat, you know? In Madripoor! Who knew? Martialla made an “under the breath but really I want you to hear” comment about how “princess” gets homesick and everyone drops everything to wait on me hand and foot, but even that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. I’ll get her a bucket of fish-heads to chew on later if she’s still feeling sore about it.
I was feeling so good, I was starting to think that the whole thing about Elvis being killed had been a scam, which is of course when they came for him.