October 11, 1973 – That’s a long wait for a horse that ain’t coming as my grandma used to say

I mentioned that my parents and I were never really on the same page.  It wasn’t that they disapproved of me or I hated them or any of the normal young person-parent stuff, we just didn’t belong together.  I think somewhere along the line, someone passing out babies mixed me up with someone else.  I think my parents were supposed to have a son who was a solid B student, played sports but wasn’t great at them, became an aluminum siding salesman, married his HS sweetheart – pretty (but not too pretty), nice but kind of stupid – had some kids and ran out the clock like everyone else.  

I don’t blame my parents for anything, they just didn’t know what to do with the loud rambunctious little girl that burst into their mild life wanting to be a singer and a dancer and an actress and travel the world.  I told my mother once I wanted to experience everything that life has to offer, that I wanted to “wine and dine with kings and queens, and sleep in the alley eating pork and beans”.  I think she needed a glass to sherry to get to sleep that night.   What would the neighbors think if they knew!

My parents didn’t beat me or lock me in my room or say that I was possessed by the devil, and I think that was the best they could do.  They could have made my childhood Hell, but they didn’t.  It’s weird to say about a child-parent relationship, but we just stayed out of each other’s way.  If you want to be uncharitable, you can say there was some neglect there.  Such as, when I was sixteen I went with some friends to a concert.  There was another concert in another city the next night and on a whim I went to that one too.  At that concert I met some other folks and went to a festival with them in the US.  Six months later when I got home, my parents had moved all my stuff out of my room.  They said they didn’t think I was coming back.   

While my mother and I are not close, my grandma (dad’s mom) and I were very much the otherway.  No offense to my dad, but it’s hard to see how a woman like her raised a square like him.  She was born in New Orleans and always kept a place there.  She said she liked living somewhere the entire world came to visit.  She used to tell stories and say things like “This was after the Irish mob came for my father and we went into the swamp with my mother’s kin for a few years of course” as if it was no big deal.  She told me a thousand tales about her life and I guarantee you that was just the tip of the iceberg.  If anyone should have written a memoir, it was my grandma, but she had no time for that, she had a life to live. 

She was a dance hall girl, she attended Straight University where some people hassled her because she was mostly white, she studied law where some people hassled her because she was a woman, she shacked up with a painter in Panama, she lived in a commune in Australia, she drove in a cross-country race in Russia, she had an affair with the mayor of New Orleans (she broke his heart of course) she dabbled with communism, she visited every continent, she didn’t take shit from anyone, and when the doctors told her she had to stop smoking, drinking, and eating rich food she said “I live the way I live and I’ll die the way I’ll die.”  When the end did come she planned the whole thing, it was like a pharaoh preparing a tomb, only instead of a pyramid she was putting together a party that people still talk about today.  Clark Gable was there and no one knows why. 

Again, not to be a jerk, but I never really give my parents a thought – I miss my grandma every day.  She had a million sayings, not all of them were gems, but she had one for every occasion.  She felt that it was part of her duty to make sure I knew what the world was and how to deal with it.  The thing my grandma used to say that is relevant right now is “If you’re going to do something stupid, make sure it’s really stupid.”   

Blue and I have been hanging around the Russian (actually I now think he’s Polish) guy’s bar in touristville, which never has any customers and is clearly not a front for money laundering.  Just two unemployed, down on their luck superpeople drinking gallons of booze and talking hoops.  Somehow Blue managed to attach wires and foil to the bunny ears on the crappy TV in the back and get a signal from the CS.  It was a game between the Spirits and Pacers but hey, I hadn’t seen any hoops in months.  Any port in a storm right? 

Blue didn’t like my idea of approaching the yakuza.  I figured that since the Shadow Lords are their enemies, that would make us friends, but Blue said that was an even worse plan than trying to befriend pirates.   So I asked Blue if it was true that the Shadow Lords have some supermen on the payroll.  He said that he knew of at least two.  I told him my plan was to find one of them and confront them in some kind of high noon type scenario to show the Shadow Lords that messing with me was more trouble than it’s worth.  He said that was the worst idea he ever heard.  He said that a show of power wasn’t going to back off the Shadow Lords.   

I said that maybe if I beat one of their champions, that would allow me to bargain with them from a position of power.  He asked me what I would be bargaining for.  My goal is to leave and never come back, their goal is to have me make money for them – he said that didn’t allow for much of a meeting of the minds.  Plus he said that I probably wouldn’t win anyway.  When I pointed out that I kicked his ass, he had an answer for that. 

“You caught me by surprise, I underestimated you I admit.  But that wasn’t a fight, that was you breaking my neck in a couple seconds.  If you want to ambush one of these guys and throw a car at him that might work, but these guys are killers, you don’t want to get involved in any kind of straight up hand to hand combat with them.” 

“If I’m such a worthless fighter like everyone keeps saying, why did they kidnap me in the first place?  What did they want me for if not breaking heads?” 

He shrugged, which made his blue lizard skin ripple in an unpleasant way “Maybe they had some heavy boxes they wanted moved.” 

That’s when I had my brilliant idea “Okay forget about the high noon plan, what about the ship?  Maybe the ship that brought me had other people on it like me, brought here against their will.  Maybe I can find them and gather more allies.” 

He sighed “Are you still on this idea of creating a super team of crime fighting heroes?  That’s comic book shit.  And if there was anyone else on that ship, the Shadow Lords already have them.” 

I grinned and clapped him on the back “All the more reason to save them!” 

He made a weird puffing sound that I think is the lizard equivalent of a sour grunt “This is even worse than your first idea.” 

I laughed “You got anywhere else to be, big man?  I’ll give you a moment to check your day planner.” 

September 27, 1973 – You deserve a break today

I’ve had some hard times in my life.  The music business isn’t a cakewalk.  Even when you have a top 40 hit.  Which I do.  There’ve been times in my life when I was just crashing on couches and not sure where my next meal would come from.  Hitching across the CS and the US and the Republics playing in whatever clubs you can find isn’t a life people would call secure, and I’ve done that too.   

But I’ve never felt like this before.  No money, no place to stay, no friends.  People bitch about the CS because that’s what people do, but it’s a place with a lot of safety nets.  You can fall pretty hard in the CS but they’re there.  Madripoor is different.  I could very easily starve to death here.  The other day I saw a woman walk into the ocean.  She had just had enough.  No one even spared her a second glance. 

If there’s any silver lining to my current predicament, it’s that working down at the docks was getting me nowhere anyway.  Hopefully I would have realized that on my own sooner rather than later, but regardless I don’t have to worry about that now.   

What’s my main problem?  The Shadow Lords.  So what can I do about it?  Back in the States I’d go to the police right?  I feel like they have to have police here but I’ve never seen one of them.  Given the general vibe of the place, I have a feeling that wouldn’t do me any good.  So what next?  If I’m going to do something about the Shadow Lords I need to know more about them.   

The only person I met who didn’t seem afraid of them, or maybe he was just willing to face them anyway, is Elvis.  I wandered a long time trying to find the street he said his grandma lives on.  A guy grabbed me at one point.  I don’t know if it was to rob me or what.  I pulled his arm off of me and I felt it snap like a candy cane in my fingers.  He made a weird sound and spun to the ground cradling his arm.   

Part of me thought I should pick him up and throw him into a brick wall.  That caught me off guard.  I’ve never been a violent person.  I don’t think I’ve ever hurt anyone before.  Well, that one time back home, but that was special circumstances.  The voice telling me to wreck this guy scared me more than him attacking me.   

I guess this is what they mean when they say that power corrupts.  It’s easy to say give peace a chance when you’re the one who’s likely to get victimized.  Once you have the power things look a little different.  I’ll have to keep an eye on that.  I’m not sure what I think of having this strength yet.  It doesn’t feel real.  How strong you are isn’t something that comes up in everyday life.  So it’s easy to forget.   

I didn’t have much of a plan, okay I didn’t have any plan, of what to do when I got to the street I was looking for.  I don’t know if Elvis even stays here, I just know that his grandma’s street is the only piece of information I have about him.  I guess I was just going to walk around and see if I saw him, but I didn’t even make it down the street once before an old woman was in a doorway waving me over.   

Her French was atrocious. She told me that Elvis wasn’t there and I should come in and help her while I waited for him.  Cooking has never been my thing but she set me to helping her anyway.  Did you know that you can make pasta out of rice?  I didn’t.  Until I came here I never saw pasta in soup either.  If nothing else, getting left for dead in Madripoor has enriched my culinary experience.   

Cooking may not seem like hard work, but it is.  Although part of that was that we seemed to be making enough food for an army.  A small army, but still an army.  Every so often a kid would show up on a bike and take away several pots of food.  I don’t get tired anymore because I’m enhanced, but how can you explain the same thing for a tiny million year old Asian woman?  Maybe all those right wingers in the US are right, maybe we are getting soft in the west.   

I asked her if this was her business and she gave me a funny look and didn’t say anything.  I don’t know if it was because she didn’t understand me or what.  When I tried again, I asked her who the food was for and she gave me another weird look and said “Tout le monde” – everybody.   

I missed at least three quarters of what she said because as I mentioned her French was awful, but in addition she often slipped (intentionally maybe) into a language I didn’t know.  But what I did pick up was mostly her grousing about how Elvis needed to find a nice girl and settle down, stop all this nonsense with getting in fights.  It took me a while to pick up on the subtext because of the language barrier, but eventually I figured out that her looks and comments were trying to communicate to me that Elvis needed a nice girl like him, not some crazy white foreigner who shamelessly flaunts herself with improper clothing.  I have long pants on, what more does she want from me?  Not that I’m interested anyway.  Point is grandmothers are grandmothers the world over.   

When we took a break for lunch, she told me about how she had an affair with a Frenchman back on the mainland.  This I gather resulted in Elvis’s mother, who granny had nothing good to say about.  She blamed herself for not keeping her away from the communists.  She cast a cold eye on me and asked me if I was a communist.  I assured her that I wasn’t.  So far she’s the only person I’ve eaten in front of who didn’t freak out over the amount of food I was packing away.  She just kept bringing me more.   

Elvis did show up in the afternoon and upon seeing me, his first comment was that I looked like a “soggy peacock” which I guess is the same as a drowned rat.   

“Give me a break, it’s like a steam room back in that kitchen.  You try spending twelve hours in there and see how you look.”