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.”