Archive for the ‘Vic Neverman Travelogue’ Category

Neverman of Marrakesh

Neverman of Marrakesh

Howdy Pilgrim!

Welcome to Marrakesh. Just watch your step.

If you were on the southbound from Casa, your locomotive transit has in all likelihood left you disheveled and dehydrated: a frog gradually cooked south until arriving somewhat boiled, somewhere dead and somehow familiar with the ambitious mercury in your thermostat. Alternatively, if arrived by plane from anywhere further north than Africa, as you step off the plane you will find the sweet warm breath greeting your cheek as a backhanded slap less congenial than downright fucking rude. Take a sip of this – it will make you feel better…

Welcome to the Red City. Palm trees, cobras and scimitars with nothing separating you from the expanse of the Sahara but the snow-capped Atlas on the fuzzy eastern horizon. If you smell the smoke of barbeque dog, do not be alarmed, it is only the hair atop your scalp singeing in the Moroccan sun.

Allow me to introduce myself; I am a Victor Ulysses Neverman, your humble guide to this exotic city. The mangy cat beside me is Mister Giggles. Please do not pet him, do not even make eye contact. Mister Giggles is a walking petri dish: his fleas are bubonic, his eyes are pink, his saliva is rabid and he once buggered a monkey with Ebola. Put your Purell hand-sanitizer back in your satchel – your only hope of survival is a resilient immune system (also: don’t approach the camels, don’t drink the water and stay the hell away from the orange juice peddlers).

As we move from your plane/train, mind the bush league villains feigningly sipping their empty cappuccinos within the terminal/station café or sniffing the catsup on their fingers in the Moroccan McDonald’s; these are the talent scouts… the Red City wants your blood, your kidney or liver, your dollars or Euros, your innocence or your guilt. These motionless vultures will not pounce, but they will study. The jackals in the taxi queues, however, will pounce. Never accept the first offer; you should counteroffer a third of their asking price and walk away when they fake a stroke. This is good practice with any Marrakeshi vendor: if they spit at your feet and curse your family, the next vendor in line will gladly accept your offer.

And now you’ve dragged your luggage through mule shit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I did. I said ‘watch your step’ which implies you should watch where you drag your fucking luggage too. As your guide, I will point the way, but I will not clean the shit off of your shoes – what have you done now!? You should realize there is more than one mule in Marrakesh! Just walk behind me. I will get you where you need to go, Inshallah. Just wipe off your shoes before we enter. Yallah! Yallah!

Marrakech is just what the guide books say… The whole town was buzzing with flies and conversation; cafes, restaurants and brothels had standing room only; the pickpockets were working to rota.

-Chapter 1 of ‘Horse Under Water’ by spymaster Len Deighton

Djemaa el-Fna by day

Djemaa el-Fna by day

They say Marrakesh is named ‘the Red City’ because of the ochre colored clay used to build the walls of the medina, a color that certainly surrounds us presently as the official chamber of commerce sanctioned hue, strategically chosen to better deflect the brutality of the tyrannical sun. Marrakesh should be called ‘Red’ because it is owned by the Chinese who have financed the African infrastructure in order to get the rights to the mineral deposits underneath Moroccan feet. The Qataris are everywhere too, of course. The Qataris are sponsoring youth soccer leagues and hiring manual labor to import home to build another new city before 2022. Turn on any television and you will be fronted with al Jazeera, the Qatari subliminal messaging system urging parents to sell their children into Doha summer-camps.

My friend Rafiq says I have spent too much time in the heat; my brain has too many flies. He is Marrakeshi, himself, and grew up trekking and skiing the Atlas Mountains to our right. Rafiq claims Rabat is the political capital of Morocco, Casa is the financial capital, Fes is the intellectual and spiritual capital and Marrakesh… his beloved City of the Sunset… is the capital of adventure and intrigue. Marrakesh is a tourism mecca and in tradition with tourism meccas, the food service sucks. Tip sparingly.

Per my advice, you should check-in to some gringo-friendly Nouvelle Ville hotel. I have spent the summer living in the “New City” outside the medieval medina at Hotel Incognito drinking 11oz bottles of Speciale Flag in the garden with the tortoises and whichever ex-pats stumble their way into paradise. Across the alley from Incognito is the five-star Hotel Caspian for the high-end feringhees: European aristocrats, American espiocrats, Qatari saboteurs, Russian oligarchs and Chinese speculators. I know the lounge singer at the Caspian, a NYC girl, and occasionally I will put on my best linen suit, strap on my desert goggles and sneak in the back door with her assistance to take in the grandeur of the mini-pool, the foie gras (which I spiritually despise) and draft beer (Speciale Flag, a gulp of which I once accidentally spat – at a table here in the Hotel Caspian restaurant – into the face of the English spy, Victoria, who wiped her startled brow clean and subtly antagonized, “Every so often, I forget you are American. And then you are so kind as to remind me.”).

At home in the gardens of Hotel Incognito

At home in the gardens of Hotel Incognito

The Medina, of course, is the heart of Marrakesh. You can stay in one of the umpteen thousand Riad guesthouses that litter this dark-aged part of the city, just know this: it is damn tricky finding a drink in the Old City… unless you have the right friends, which is why I recommend to friendless bastards such as yourselves to stay in the New City where you can find booze readily enough.

For those of you looking for friends, I can recommend some. Seek out my dear auld mate, Digger McKenzie, the Undersecretary of Cultural Affairs at the Australian Consulate in Rabat. He and his wife, Dame McKenzie, have themselves a Riad where they hold booze-induced brunches at their rooftop swimming pool. We ate pigeon-pastry bastellas and lamb tajines while overlooking the world, sipping at bottles of Casablanca (gorgeous lager), previously mentioned Speciale Flag and Stork. Keeping such a liquid inventory requires legwork, of course, which you cannot expect ‘the Faithful’ willing to perform. On one occasion, I assisted Digger and Dame stock-up on cases of beer by travelling with them by taxi cab to the New City shopping mall where the lower floor was a contemporary grocer establishment. We foreigners were actually detained by the Moroccan police for wheeling our luggage into a mall. Why? Because we three pale skins were terror suspects for carrying the oversized baggage into a public place. After convincing the police (with Dame’s broken French) the suitcases were there to help us carry beer back to our infidel den of heathenism and that we were not kamikaze martyrs for first world opulence, they allowed Digger and I to shop while Dame McKenzie waited outside the mall with the luggage.

Now, for you more intrepid travelers, there are more vices than just beer. Morocco is one of the world’s largest producers of hashish, known locally as ‘Kif’. When you enter the medina’s Djemaa el-Fna, dodgy characters will walk past you mumbling, whispering, inquiring, “hashish?” These are either zombified kif-junkies looking to stumble into a score or they are purveyors of hash looking to take you for a ride or they’re just hallucinatory assassins (FUN FACT: the word ‘assassin’ comes from ‘Hashashin’ which was a cult of hash-stoned jihadist killers organized by the Old Man of the Mountain to murder Crusaders and political enemies in the Arab world of some thousand years ago (#hash-tagged)). Follow them and see what happens. In the darker alleys you’ll find darker drink: Mahia is a liquor of distilled figs and aniseed drank by the Jewish populace before they left en masse for Israel (though a few have stayed behind to discreetly churn out the crescent moonshine for the unfaithful ‘Faithful’ who secretly imbibe), Chiba/Sheba is a Moroccan absinthe drank with mint tea and Majoun is a date jam preserved with cannabis, a treat spread on the toast of many artists who have come to Morocco like novelist Paul Bowles, poet Allen Ginsburg and guitar-deity Jimi Hendrix (who wintered in Essaouira, a few hours west of here).

a brief interlude into the absurdity of a self-consciousness when such awareness only brings proximity to the end, awareness of the end, fixation on this end and, inevitably, the end.

– Vic Neverman, writing about Marrakesh after smoking Shesha out of a Hookah.

Let’s see, where was I?

Ahh, yes, VICES. I have learned the hard way that a massage in the Muslim world and a massage in the Buddhist world are two entirely different things. The torture I experienced at the hands of ‘Hussein’ in the underground Turkish Bath in Istanbul’s old city was one of the most hellish experiences of my life; contrasted to the gentle, but firm, hands of ‘Dan’ (her name was pronounced ‘yung’) in Saigon’s ‘House of a Thousand Smiles’… yeah, no more massages from mustachioed Arabs or Persians for me. That being said, there are in Marrakesh ‘Hammams’ where massages are offered and I have heard some rave reviews from the lady-folk who have returned to the garden at Hotel Incognito amidst an absolute glow. I fed them bottles of Speciale Flag to learn more about their experience at the Hammam, but they were already quite loose-lipped. Wink, wink. Apparently, the lady masseurs of Marrakesh were all-in on the pleasuring. Nudge, nudge. Each of the women (except one dejected Kiwi) had a similar experience of initial shock simmering into nice surprise, before eventual guilt at providing further oral (or pelvic shifting) instruction on direction and intensity. Even the British spy, Victoria, looked as if she had an enormous weight taken off her shoulders. Me auld mate, Digger McKenzie of the Aussie Consulate, asked her, “Is this the first time you had sex with a woman? Or just first in Morocco?”

The Medina of Marrakesh is nowhere near as frightening as that of Fes, where there are 10,000 roads, each of which have multiple dead-ends. Still, one must be en garde here in the center of the Red City. Especially with the dastardly street urchins with their sweet brown-eyes: little, grimy, Arabic princesses cozying-up, singing Bonjour Mademoiselle! Bonjour M’sseur! All the while their grubby little fingers are in your fanny sack extracting passports and Dirham notes. Keep the local kids at arm’s length. Throw them lollies, if you must, just beware their affection. To quote the French Foreign Legion deserter who was out to steal my identity before I sold him out as an Algerian spy, “Marche ou Creve!” (“march or die”, unofficial motto of the Legion).

If the Medina is the heart of Marrakesh, Djemaa el-Fna is the heart of the ancient Medina. The name means ‘assembly of the dead’ as it was the arena of public executions some thousand years ago through last week when I watched a bicyclist mowed down by a scooter in the middle of a pedestrian walkway. I nearly saw another execution the next day when some douchebag from Casa drove his imported Corvette across a row of merchant’s wares. The damned Corvetteer really pissed on the hornet’s nest and was soon surrounded by a mob (fearless of being likewise run-over) until he paid his ransom in Euros to escape the wrath of the souqs.

Djemaa el-Fna, you see, exists as a cluster fuckage of activity. By day, we will encounter monkey-jugglers and snake charmers. Do not pay these charlatans any mind. They are animal pimps looking to whore out their creatures to tourists for photo opportunities. The monkeys are malnourished and the swaying cobras are stoned on the Kif. Whatever you agree to pay the pimps, they will insist on a greater sum. They assume you will be frightened by the venomous snakes they wield – just know you this: they milk the poison out of the slitherers to the point they are little more than a scaly sock of bones. I advise avoiding these sister-fucking bastard snake charmers and monkey jugglers.

Don't trust the bloody orange juice lotharios

Don’t trust the bloody orange juice lotharios

And avoid the damned orange juice mongers while you are at it. Cart after cart of orange juice trolley lines the city square, offering nothing different than the next cart over. The vendors are young Moroccan Lotharios, crying out their impassioned desires to squeeze oranges into your mouth. Resist the urge. They sell bright colors and a healthy aura, confusing the ensemble of heat-stroke tourists with their cacophony of romantic ballads, but their shitty orange juice is tainted, diseased and best avoided unless you are dying of scurvy. Even then scurvy is a kinder fate than what these assholes peddle.

Dinner and a movie for Mister Giggles as Charlie Chaplin plays in the Djemaa el-Fna below.

Dinner and a movie for Mister Giggles as Charlie Chaplin plays in the Djemaa el-Fna below.

At night, the daytime vendors are brushed away to be replaced by the food tents. At one end of the Djemaa el-Fna exists a movie screen where night time movies are projected. During the month long comedy fest, hundreds of Marrakeshi flock before the movie screen to watch the silver screen movies of Charlie Chaplin with French subtitles. By now, you’ve noticed quite the infatuation with Charlie Chaplin throughout Marrakesh, from the restaurant Le Tramp to the street murals, the locals love them some old school slapstick. At intermission, I would recommend visiting the food camp, have a bowl of hareera (a quite tasty Ramadan recipe for tomato soup with chickpeas, coriander, ginger, turmeric and black pepper) and then wander back into the mix of tourists and Marraekeshi as they watch, transfixed by Chaplin.

Tomorrow we return to the markets.

Navigating the souqs takes some practice. Within the fortress walls of the Medina, you will find beyond the Djemaa el-Fna there are acres of market: spice, leather, Damascene plates, metal sculptures, oddities, exotic animals, black market antiquities thieved from the ruins of Damascus and Baghdad, entire streets of olive picklers, avenues of honeyed pastries (swarming with bees, as my was my beard after eating a few of the sweets), lanes of carpet mongers, slipper salesmen, etc, etc, et al. The markets are all crafted out of the medieval mud brick with interwoven thatch ceilings blocking out most of the sun and some of the residual heat.

I have never seen a man lost on a straight path.

– Saadi of Shiraz

There are agents. Just as within Fes, there are agents to guide the way and there are agents to find the way. Guides will keep you on the straight and narrow; finders will take you down the catawampus paths towards the inexplicable. The further back into the spice market you go, the deeper into superstition you wade. For centuries, Moroccan caravanserais have brought in ginger from China, turmeric from India, black pepper from Bangladesh, locally cultivated coriander and cumin as the traditional spices; yet the deeper you wade into the spice souq the more tickled your nostrils become. Your finder will remind you the origins of Voodoo are Africa and the true spice-men of Morocco are more witch-doctor pharmacists practicing black & white magic than they are culinary exhibitionists. In these deeper alleys, you will find preserved bats, dried chameleon skins, leopard furs, live tortoises, clucking roosters, whole hedgehog corpses… all for various different alchemical recipes. Even the smell of sandlewood is thought to entice a male erection (which makes shopping in the wood carving souq a risky proposition). Above all stands Saffron, king of all spices. Don’t fuck with saffron.

Dusk is upon us in the Sunset City. Certainly there is no better time to be on the rooftops of Marrakesh than during twilight as the sparrows emerge from their hiding place to dance through the sky like the nutjob fucking birds they are. Hopefully, Pilgrim, you’ve found yourself a nice elixir to help you fade into sleep. In the very least, I hope you’ve found a bath. After a day in Marrakesh, the least you deserve is to scrape yourself clean of it.

Sunset over the Red City

Sunset over the Red City

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Greetings Wanderer,

This Brisbane bloke to my left and I have been sitting here admiring your disembarking of the train into this wilderness of Marrakesh. These nos-nos coffees may twerk our alertness, but nothing could perk our spirits as much as your grand entrance: baggage in the throes of mutiny, father already pickpocketed, step-sister having bled all over the seats now in search of toilette and nephews stolen away and sold into slavery at an Algerian anchovy cannery. Magnifique! Bienvenue a Maroc!

Following Digger McKenzie into Marrakesh train station

Following Digger McKenzie into Marrakesh train station

While here, I recommend endearing yourself to the heat. There is no sense in fighting the inevitable – your hotel room ceiling fans can only account for so much conditioning of the air. Take this Aussie bloke to my left – he is used to sweating for twenty hours a day and for the other four he drinks. He often drinks with me as I adopted the same lifestyle years ago living in the former Spanish colony of La Florida. As for finding booze in a mostly dry country, this is a topic for another time…

In Morocco, you are lucky enough to encounter a local who speaks Napoleonic French, let alone the Queen’s English. Even Arabic speakers may be hard to find the further into the Atlas Mountains you wander. To prepare the wayward traveler, I have compiled a short compendium of relevant words and phrases:

Arabic Common Words Heard in the Streets of Morocco

Nos-Nos – “Half-half” relating to the proportion of coffee to cream

The Baroness, having survived her interrogation by the Moroccan secret police, walked up to me in the hotel restaurant, grabbed my cup of nos-nos and dumped its contents into my already humid lap.

Bisaha – Cheers

“Prost!” Conrad lifted his glass of smuggled schnapps and swallowed it down, unaware of the laxative bubbling away within. “Bisaha!” I toasted back with my Casablanca Lager.

Inshallah – God Willing

I’ve got to see a man about a mule, Inshallah. Tonight I will sleep, Inshallah.

Y’allah, Y’allah – Hurry up, let’s go

To the roof! Y’allah! Y’allah! The secret police are downstairs.

Balek – Get out of the way, spoken by muleteers as they prod their beasts of burden through the Medina.

Balek! Balek! Unless you want to meet the business end of a mule, Balek!

Bahr Adulumat – “Sea of Darkness”, the Atlantic Ocean

Do you know what they do with Kaffirine like you? They tie you into sacks and drown you in Bahr Adulumat like dogs.

Caravanserai – lodging place on the outskirts of town where travelling merchants hold business.

There isn’t a decent drop of whiskey to be found in the city. Try going out to the Caravanserai where, for a price, you can find anything; except, maybe, incest as your kin are notoriously slippery.

Kaffirine – heathen or savage, often pale skinned and drowned in a sack in the Bahr Adulumat.

Not all Kaffirine are Nazarene, but all Nazarene are Kaffirine.

Nazarene – Follower of Jesus of Nazareth; Christians in specific, white folk in general.

You can claim atheism, but until you adopt the Five Pillars of Islam and discover your parents are Moroccan, you will always be Nazarene.

 

Now for some Francais… (courtesy of Ghislain, a notorious rake living in Portland, Oregon)

– Hello = Bonjour
– Thank you = Merci
– Sorry = Pardon
– Restrooms = Toilettes
– That’s a nice camel you have here = Votre chameau est magnifique !
– Where is the …? = Où est le/la … ?
– How are you doing? = Comment ça va ?
– What time is it? = Quelle heure est-il ?
– How much does this cost? = Combien ça coûte ?
– I would like to marry your daughter = J’aimerais épouser votre fille

Neverman of Marrakesh

Neverman of Marrakesh


Some further Francais courtesy of the InterWeb translation machines

Let them eat cake

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche

Bring me more beer and whiskey, please

Apportez-moi plus de biere et de whisky s’il vous plait

How to make the camel stop?

Comment faire cesser un chameau?

Where can I urinate if there are no bushes in the desert?

Ou puis-je uriner si il n’u a pas de buissons dan le desert?

Show me to your dancing girls

Montrez-moi a vos filles de danse

I come in peace. Take me to your leader.

Je viens en paix prendre moi a votre chef

The American Embassy will pay you much for my release.

L’ambassade americaine va vous payer beaucoup pour ma liberation

I didn’t know she was your (sister, wife, mother, daughter)

Je ne savais pas qu’elle etait votre (soeur, femme, mere, fille)

Is there (a cell phone, an ATM, electricity) in your village?

Y at-il (un telephone portable, distributeur de billets, del’electricite) dans votre village.

Can you look at this rash? Is it normal?

Pouvez-vous regarder cette eruption? Est-ce normal?

Yes. Now that I think of it, your religion is superior. Where may I apply?

Oui. Je comprends maintenant votre religion est superieure. Ou puis-je postuler?

No really, I am Canadian.

Non, vraiment, je suis Canadien

No really, I am a Turk.

Non, vraiment, je suis un Turc

Is there anything on the menu without sand in it?

Y at-il quoi que ce soit sur le menu sans sable en elle?

Please, no mayonnaise.

S’il vous plait pas de mayonnaise

How far to the nearest shade?

A quelle distance a l’ombre le plus proche

No thank you. The price is too high.

Non merci le prix est trop eleve

Of course, all of us Canadians hate the French too.

Biens sur, nous tous, les Canadiens detestent les Francais trop

 

Come-to-Jesus moment (according to the internet) – An epiphany in which one realizes the truth of a matter; realizing the true weight or impact of a negative situation or fact; acknowledgment that one must get back to core values; moment of realization; turning point; sudden regret at driving all the way to Nashville.

BAYOU SAINT BASIL, Fla

Habits turn into patterns and patterns create predictability. In my line of work (freelance skullduggery), predictability is best avoided*. It is rare for me, Vic Neverman, to habitually patron any given establishment, yet within crawling distance of St Bas Trailer Park resides a watering hole familiar to this horse. It doesn’t take the casual observer long to see why I might frequent said establishment: most notably the blonde behind the bar. Upon my entry on this night in question, her smile beamed at me like a Fukushima firefly** before her brow furrowed in faux suspicion, “I thought I wasn’t supposed to see you again until November.” To this, my mumbled response was more coy than sly, I got thirsty…

*Predictability is #17 in Vic’s Paranoid Guide of Avoidance, right behind #16 GPS Devices and ahead of #18 fondue restaurants.

**Ironically, the prison-style tattoo on her neck under her right ear might just be a radiated bug of some sort

The name of the blonde beer-monger is not Jade Thunderbrook, but Jade Thunderbrook is what we are calling her. Jade was curious as to what business had me away (almost until November) in the first place. As she poured me a pint of a dark menacing draught, I told her as much as I dared about my new line of work up in Tennessee. Her reaction was quizzical, incredulous even, “The ‘Jesus Business’? …You?” Yup. Me. Vic Neverman, soon-to-be apocalyptic evangelist.

Vic and Layla during presentation of True 1st Thanksgiving (between Vikings and Sasquatch)

Vic and Layla during presentation of True 1st Thanksgiving (between Vikings and Sasquatch)

It was a new racket, this Jesus Business, and certainly not one I had in mind when driving up to Nashville last weekend in search of profitable endeavors. Even the drive to Tennessee was an unexpected digression from our regular programming. This story has no clear beginning, but this particular chapter began to be fleshed-out a week ago when I was summoned to The Cheese Pit, a fondue restaurant under a freeway bridge somewhere on the east side of Orlando. The summoning was by a former employer, a woman as wicked as she could be saintly, Layla Santana Crow. She had a new job for me, “Drive Mom to Nashville.” That beast? I laughed over Layla’s cauldron of boiling cheese. Not a chance. Layla, a former South Florida weather-girl, has always had a knack for persuasion and this night was no exception. By the time my gut reverse-engineered the digestion of my under-seared chicken, I had agreed to join her plot.

There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.

-President George W. Bush

“Mom” was the 3 ton (curb weight) Ford Über-Truck that belonged to Layla’s husband, Cyrus Lee Hancock. The nickname was inspired by the curse I shouted at first glimpse of the four-wheeled locomotive, “Mother of Grendel!” The name stuck. The machine was designed to plow through whichever antagonists that came across her bow – hurricane, United Nation globalists, zombie outbreak, etcetera, etc., et al. You see, dear reader, Cyrus Lee Hancock and Layla Santana Crow were, in fact, “apocalyptalists” – essentially, apocalypse capitalists. They formed the OASIS survivalist sect (where I was briefly employed as a rescue diver (PADI certified)) in preparation for the 2012 Maya Apocalypse. The End Date of 12/21/2012 did not come with Armageddon, but it did leave OASIS with an empty bank account before the members could come looking for an End of the World refund. Where were the funds or the founders of OASIS in these post-apocalypse days? Layla had disappeared to Costa Rica while Cyrus Lee jetted off to Central Asia with the IRS chomping at his heels. 10 months later… Layla Santana Crow had returned to her favorite Floridian fondue haunt and Cyrus Lee Hancock had found asylum in the hills of Tennessee. Cyrus Lee wanted his toys back without having to risk a trip to Florida – which is where I, Vic Neverman, came in. I was to deliver to him his favorite toy of all, the monstrous truck, “Mother of Grendel”***.

Vic pulls Mother of Grendel into the parking lot of the future Church of the Revelator

Vic pulls Mother of Grendel into the parking lot of the future Church of the Revelator

***Each tire, which Cyrus Lee plans to upgrade, cost $315 with an extra $275 spent in bullet-proof rims. The exterior is painted in a metallic blue, giving Mom a shiny “bling” to assist in her extravagance. Mom also bears a tramp-stamp of a machine gun decal on her back window, which is of great assistance when attempting to merge into freeway traffic.

Leaving Bayou Saint Basil at the Hour of the Wolf...

Leaving Bayou Saint Basil at the Hour of the Wolf…

Other than a few moped casualties, blown away in Mom’s jet-wash as I skirted my way across Atlanta, the journey from Florida to Tennessee was relatively benign. Before setting out, Layla assured me the truck was street legal and was not transporting any contraband (guns, gold, girls, pills). I left my home at Bayou Saint Basil during the Hour of the Wolf, making the most out of the pre-dawn darkness while avoiding toll roads and other highways highly visible to DOT**** cameras. Cyrus Lee equipped the truck with a scanner that could pick-up Highway Patrol radar, Homeland Security drones and garage door openers. The resulting steady beep of the scanner detecting spook devices acted as paranoid musical accompaniment to the trip. Mother of Grendel moved north by northwest like a bowling ball: brute force and determined momentum crushing all asphalt in her path (along with the occasional moped).

****DOT is the Department of Transportation, which is in itself a puppet bureaucracy of Big Brother.

Hour of the Wolf +12, I arrived in Nashville.

Cyrus Lee Hancock helicoptering in the Himalaya

Cyrus Lee Hancock helicoptering in the Himalaya

“Welcome to NashVegas, the rhinestone buckle of the Bible Belt!” Cyrus Lee Hancock ushered me into the Nashville suburb-scape. He paused a moment as his eyes wandered lovingly across the frame of Grendel’s Mom, “God, I missed her.”

Compensation for my transportation of Mom to Cyrus Lee Hancock came with as many caveats as a traveler insurance policy. Cyrus Lee was broke, too broke to pay me for my cannonball run, but he did have the “Opportunity of a lifetime, no! The opportunity of an afterlife, an eternity!” I groaned, Oh, Jesus to which he confirmed, “Exactly. The End is Nigh, my friend. It is time we prepare for the Rapture.”

Within moments of arriving in Nashville, I met Cyrus Lee’s neighbor and apparent legal counsel, Dwayne. Dwayne, wine drunk as he was, happened to be a talent agent for aspiring “evangelical entrepreneurs.” Through Dwayne, we would establish our religious alter-egos, setup a commercial loan through local banks and begin shepherding our flock.

We? I asked.

“That’s right, Vic.” Cyrus Lee winked along with his salesman smile. “Or shall I start calling you ‘Reverend Bucky Swoon’? I don’t have a Tennessee State Driver’s License for you yet or a Passport in Bucky’s name, but I did manage to get your Clergy ID card as well as a Concealed Gun Permit.” He could sense I had my doubts. “Look, bro, Tennessee may have her share of Evangelical preachers, but they haven’t seen the likes of us, yet. Between your paranoia and my survivalist skills, we can take this Rapture idea to the next level! And let’s face it, ‘Vic Neverman’ is a little too… ‘Zionist’ for the likes of Tennessee. Your ‘Bucky Swoon’ persona is much more fitting. I even have an idea for what we are going to call our church. Instead of ‘the Church of Latter Day Saints’, we’ll be ‘Church of Modern Day Saints’. Just that, you know, we’re not Mormons. Unless you can convince Layla the practicality of polygamy, she listens to you more than me, so that’s all you, man.”

It took me a beer & a half to convince Cyrus Lee “Church of John the Revelator” was a better apocalyptic fit.

better to keep a good conscience with an empty purse, than to get a bad opinion of myself, with a full one.

– Davey F’ing Crockett, Tennessean extraordinaire

Dwayne, Cyrus Lee’s wino talent agent, went on to recommend certain business components necessary to take advantage of our constitutional right to Freedom of Religion. Cyrus Lee Hancock was already thinking about possible ‘End Dates’ when Jesus would return and begin the Rapture. “We need enough time to get the church established, but not so much time that we lose the scare factor.” Dwayne recommended getting started with complete assimilation into Tennessean culture. “Sweet tea and stock car!” Cyrus Lee raised his dismal can of domestic piss in a salud. “We need to learn how to become real southern gentlemen. You know: the kind of gent who is chivalric enough to remove his lawnmower-branded baseball cap before he is going to hit a woman.” Cyrus Lee followed his laugh with a frown when he saw my reaction. “C’mon man, I’m not advocating the hitting of woman, we just need to appeal to the fucking savages who would. We’ll be better than Robin Hood; we steal from those douchebags and feed the poor.”

“You’re qualifying us as the poor, I take it?”

“Dude.” Cyrus Lee grimaced. “I’m so fucking poor, my debt is larger than the GDP of Paraguay – if that is even a country, I am not convinced. Yeah, if anyone is poor, it’s this dude. On that note – do you have cash for a cab? We need to go downtown and start this assimilation.”

Gustave Dore's vision for Babel

Gustave Dore’s vision for Babel

After paying off our crook of a cab driver, we made our way along the downtown strip of “NashVegas”. The scene looked familiar enough, harking back to blurred memories of my past escapades in West Tennessee’s Memphis. Yet something was lacking here… where was the low-thrum of a bass guitar rattling my bones? It seemed the Blues of Beale Street was not present here; rather, it had been replaced by twangy popcorn country. The illuminated neon signs and the confusion of tongues made NashVegas a candidate for Cyrus Lee Hancock’s very own Babel, yet this prophet of doom was not looking for sinners to repent. As we approached a street corner where a handful of orthodox evangelists were insinuating my guilt through their bullhorn preaching and flier delivering, Cyrus Lee Hancock did not begin to march to their drumbeat. Nay. This dude grabbed their own game and beat them over the head with it.

Neverman in NashVegas

Neverman in NashVegas

“The End is Nearer than you think, friend!” Cyrus Lee Hancock sang as he climbed a bus stop sign like Gene Kelly dancing his way through a storm of frogs. With his Irish/Italian hybrid charisma and faunal carnality, Cyrus Lee quickly stole the attention away from the more Gothic & Orthodox Evangelists. Using his verbose doublespeak, the newly christened preacher, Cyrus Lee, singled-out the bullhorn-wielding ringleader of the street missionaries. “You! blower of false trumpets and sucker of the seeds of evil, You! are not doing the Lord’s work, rather you are working against Him!” Pedestrians in the carnival of transgression became charmed by this novel distraction as the missionaries were stunned into silence.

“Your hate and your spite and your contempt is not bringing people closer to God, it is pushing them away! You sew derision and you pave a path not to salvation, but to vulnerability. You trample the people under the weight of your elephantine guilt, leaving them susceptible to a master who will welcome them under his roof and will not admonish them for their nature. You are ushering this flock right into the hands of the Devil, himself!”

The missionary evangelist with the bullhorn looked around at his team, unsure of how to handle this unscripted development. Cyrus Lee Hancock, facing the growing flock of the curious, drew the attention to his opponent, “My friend here in the dark flannel says he is here to serve the Lord, but the only lord he serves from his knees is a dark one. Who is he, this stranger in generic branded jeans, who feels justified in casting sin down upon you, the children of the Lord? Who does he really serve? Not you! Who might I serve? Let me tell you: I am here to serve you!” Cyrus Lee Hancock shook his double entendre in the face of the public and they willingly reached for it and gulped it down. “I am here to serve the harlots, the misfits, the tramps. I will turn none away. Give me your undesirables and I will mount my army, I will mount them all against the coming of the Anti-Christ!”

Cyrus Lee’s opponent (or prey) reached for his bullhorn, “You are the Anti-Christ! You are the devil!” He was greeted by a chorus of boos from the pedestrian hordes who had gathered to watch Cyrus Lee Hancock perform. Even the bullhorned missionary’s celibate minions began to beg him off the soapbox.

“Man is inherently flawed, I am sorry to say.” Cyrus Lee Hancock shrugged to his newfound fellowship. “My friend with the false trumpet would have you resent your very nature. He would rather your life be one of darkness and flagellation. I beg to differ. The End is Near! But now is no time to turn against ourselves. Instead, let us prepare and become the leaders in the Second Coming we are expected to be.”

fireballThe converts lined up. John the Revelator never saw this coming in his sulfuric steam-bath hallucinations. Cyrus Lee Hancock had found his rock upon which he would build his church: cinnamon-flavored whiskey. It was baptism by Fireball. I did not partake.

“If I am going to drink whiskey, I am going to drink whiskey. I’m not going to dilute it with a breath mint.” I explained to Jade Thunderbrook, 44 hours after the baptism.

Jade Thunderbrook nodded as she digested all of the detail. “So, do you want to see a menu or are you just drinking tonight?”

Truth! Truth! Truth! crieth the Lord of the Abyss of Hallucinations

– Aleister Crowley

Sunburnt freckles and wispy-flamed hair accompanied a Dutch accent as she inquired if I was on the Ayahuasca diet. Her eyes were black dilated moons and her rusty-blooded smirk was an enchanting entangled viper: lips suggestively askew, dangerous, vexing, pleadingly desirous or perhaps just evidence of foot & mouth disease or something. I mean, that shit happens. “No.” I told the waitress with a stern delivery. “No, I am not on Ayahuasca. I am a scientist. Damn it.”

But wait!, I am getting ahead of myself. I first learned of “Grandfather” and “Grandmother” from an Acupuncturist in Centralist Florida. But no, before that, yes before that I went to see an acupuncturist. She asked what ailed me. Nothing. What was I there for? For her, of course, but I couldn’t tell her that. Not yet. Her business card had been residing in some tossed aside book of mine for some time, marking that book, holding the page to a story I dared not finish, but a page I always came to to thumb that card and ponder the number held within. Anyway, I told her I was there, or I was here, for enlightenment. So she stuck a damned needle between my eyes and it gave me a headache. So fast-forward and there is this quasi-second date and my acupuncturist is drinking the tea she bought for herself (it was caffeinated) and I am drinking tea I bought for myself (not caffeinated, else I’d never sleep). In this teahouse, she explains how a Peruvian Shaman inducted her towards the “Truth” courtesy of Ayahuasca and San Pedro – also known as “Grandfather” and “Grandmother”, disrepectively (narco-adventurers and their bloody code-words, I am not sure which means which). My acupuncturist spoke to me dreamy-eyed, as if a cat’s paw had overturned a saucer of milk onto a marble floor to create the color that resided in my acupuncturist’s eyes as my acupuncturist told me the Truth she found deep in the bush of ever-centraler Florida. After an evening of purging “Grandfather” and “Grandmother” (vomit induced from the Ayahuasca and San Pedro), she woke under a ceiling of palmettos with ticks and chiggers tearing away at her flesh, but this much wasn’t a hallucination. Next time, she admitted between caffeinated-tea sips, she wouldn’t wander into the wilderness after ingesting hallucinogens without bug spray. Lesson learned, Truth obtained. She told me about her wish to visit Peru where Peruvian shamans literally grow on trees. It was uncanny. There were jugs of Ayahuasca ripe for the taking. Just sitting there, waiting to be gulped and eventually vomited back out – perchance into other jugs. Peru: Mecca of Ayahuasca purging (a t-shirt begging to be printed).

Alas, she never made it to Peru. I did.

Iquitos: gateway to los Amazonas

Iquitos: gateway to los Amazonas

Iquitos: Gateway to the Western Amazon. There is a distinct Narco-Tourism trade here, where northern hemispherians flood in by the dozens to find some Truth in the jungle. I was no different, albeit, I was a scientist for fuck’s sake, not some long-haired hippy-douche bored of the suburban basement he lived in with his parents. My furrowed brow must have demonstrated some deep-seeded philosophical disposition many recognized in the drug-adventurer as I was asked repeatedly if I was in town for the “show” and handed menus that catered to pre-ceremony dietary restrictions. A week prior to the Shamanistic ritual of Ayahausca ingestion, the initiate is not to consume fatty food, spicy food, sugars or salts. Oh yeah – and (s)he must abstain from sex. I think I’d rather be a scientist for fuck’s sake. Pun not intended, but yeah, maybe, kind of, it is.

Ayahuasca menu for initiatives pre-soul purging

Ayahuasca menu for initiatives pre-soul purging

Ayahuasca is Quecha for “vine of the soul” and is the result of shamanic efforts to cook down various plants into a foul-tasting hallucinogenic cocktail. Ayahuasca users call the elixir more medicine than drug (it is illegal in the United States because of the dimethyltryptamine (DMT) contained within, which is the hallucinogenic agent), however, historically it was only taken by the shaman in order to have visions to predict the future, etc. The rest of the village would abstain. There are those who claim Ayahuasca can cure cancer, depression, drug-addiction and a host of other ailments. Should I ever be so afflicted, perhaps I will be less cynical.

Between pisco sours, Ayahuasca-inspired art with shape-shifting python mermaids

Between pisco sours, Ayahuasca-inspired art with shape-shifting python mermaids

So who are these narco-tourists? Are they all depressed cancer patients who’ve run out of blow? After a few days in Iquitos, you can certainly identify these A-Heads from afar. Apparently, even I look the type. As I have mentioned in my guide to the jungle city: Drunken Shrunken Heads and the Mosquitoes of Iquitos, I hired a deviant of a driver. I met this driver through a drug-trade pimp named Armando. Armando is a slick-haired scoundrel preying upon the wayward lost-soul tourist. He picks his way through the disembarking passengers at the airport, sending the scientists for fuck’s sake in one direction and the narco-tourists in another. Armando wasn’t too sure of what to make of me. He and I smoked Mapacho cigars together before I convinced him I was indeed a scientist for fuck’s sake. It was Armando, however, who informed me of the healing qualities of the jungle, “If the Earth was a woman…” Armando began. “The Amazon would be her bush. It is the hottest, moistest and it holds the cure to everything.” Indeed.

Amazingly enough, dear reader, everything this far is not even an exaggeration. The quotes that follow, as those that came before, are as my ear heard them.

Soon after my arrival in Iquitos, I learned that the days were best spent keeping cool in the hotel pool, submerged as deep and as long as you could stand amongst the primordial dragon flies and beetles drowned alongside you. Next best bet was to put on a pair of pants and a shirt and drink beer along the Boulevard until you are tired enough to sleep. My first full evening in Iquitos, I met a pair of middle-aged Narco-Tourists, British ex-pats whose diabolical demeanor was evidence enough to explain why they left the comforts of the first world. Both had just arrived and were eagerly awaiting their first meeting with their shaman. One was pony-tailed and goateed with a glib English accent and a Thailand address. This dude’s eyes were like Lake Nicaraguan bullsharks, hungrily devouring anything in their path. Dude was seriously perverse, thus his need to relocate to Thailand. He asked if I was a fellow “searcher” in town in pursuit of “a Greater Truth”. His companion, another former prisoner of Mother England who had his head bent over the café table all evening out of exhaustion, resided in Qatar. A pervert who has to flee as far as Qatar to practice their own brand of perversion is a pervert well worth the designation. Pray ye gods his “greater truth” leads him away from whichever perversities that forced him to Qatar.

SCIENCE f.f.s.... Vic of the Vines

SCIENCE f.f.s…. Vic of the Vines

After a week of performing science for fuck’s sake in the bloody jungle, I returned to Iquitos. On one jaunt through town, I found Armando guiding the Thailand and Qatar pervs through the streets (aye, supply has met demand). I returned to the famed waterside restaurant, Dawn on the Amazon, where a local Peruana waitress saw me for the second time in as many weeks. In her cute hesitation, she asks, “You are Victor?” This charming muchacha remembered me from one visit 8 days prior. Fortunately, I jotted her name in my book at that time and had recently come across it. “Yes.” I confirmed. “I still am, Gabriella. Como estas?” Smiling & blushing from ear to ear, she found me a great table overlooking the water and conveniently located beside a beehive of Ayahuasca initiates. The following is the dialogue I overheard as I consumed: coffee, cervasa, patarascha river-fish steamed in bijao leaves with a side of heart of palm, then muy cervasa por favor y una mas y una mas y una mas cervasa por favor.

The threesome of narco-tourists looked like a traditional slacker crowd in a mall food court, taking a break from their job sign-dancing in a banana suit to advertise the new Fro-Yo joint. They were early 20s and would not strike you as people that come from money, yet to live the Narco-Tourism lifestyle that will keep them in the jungle for more than a month, money they must have.  Dude 1 mentions the “terror” of seeing “demons” as they discuss their inability to sleep over their recent ordeals – fasting, drugging, hallucinating and purging in the jungle. Dude 1 describes, “other worlds… gigantic beautiful spirits.” I decide to take out my journal and begin documenting their experiences. Dude 2 carries around his intellect in a box formerly holding raisins, “traumatizing, fucking traumatizing.”

Let the fun begin:

Dude 1 describing one of his dreams: “… there was a snake in her body and it shot up into her head, or something like that, and then she shape-shifted into an aborted fetus in a ruined womb and she was in there with stomach juices and stuff.”

Dude 2, “fucking traumatizing.” He seems certain. “It is shocking after such a hardcore intense trip that I would want to go back.”

Dude 1, “When you drink there is something that needs to come out.”

Girl 1, a strange Midwestern dame who seems lost in her summer dress and idiotic eyes, “I was vomiting for two hours and I know that wasn’t it and once I finally got it all out it was like… pure clarity.”

And here is a gem that forced me to put down my fork of river-fish and start scribbling like a maniac:

Dude 1, “… like, I puked, and I puked up a dagger, like, I had a dagger inside of me and then I puked up the dagger and I watched it come out. It was really painful and I was like, ‘whoa’, why did that happen and I looked into the bucket and there was this festering evil.”

From my understanding of the Ayahuasca, “Grandmother”, ritual, the purge is an important part of finding clarity. It is supposed to rid you of your guilt and insecurities so that you might confront the self without the burdens of such emotional loads. The purge is a necessary part of the ceremony and there is even retch bucket placed before initiates.

Dude 1 continued, “I was puking up rotten eggs, what does that symbolize?”

Girl 1, isn’t certain, though she hypothesizes, “I think there is a lot of symbolic stuff.”

Dude 2, “Straight-up messages, you know what I mean?”

It is easy to pick out other A-Holes (Ayahuasca devotees) as they are the ones in bars smoking cigarettes like an aquanaut breathes off his hose and they are drinking cokes instead of booze. Their meals arrive with slim protein and heavily unflavored rice and when your dish of river-fish that tastes and smells like the fats and acids and spices and oil and sex they cannot have, they hover with their salivating glands on overdrive because they are seeking the “Greater Truth” while you are just a scientist for fuck’s sake.

Dude 1, still eye-balling my lunch, “the Ayahuasca just old me, like, straight-up, like ‘find a new shaman’. So I decided, maybe, Oscar wasn’t supposed to be my shaman. Y’know?”

Girl 1, still looking like the wide-eyed door-knobbed wit of a twit she was three minutes prior, “You’re getting messages for a reason. Follow them.”

Follow them…

Illustration of Chullachaqui

Illustration of Chullachaqui

Ayahuasca is not a recreational drug. Even the locals stay away from it, preferring a South American variant of crack cocaine and gasoline huffing to get their fix. Still, I have to wonder if my antagonist, Chullachaquithe dark sorcerer who hexed me soon upon my arrival, corresponds with the demons with a little help of the DMT within Ayahuasca. My uncle, Captain Dick Neverman – who amassed a small fortune smuggling seashells out of Latin America, says there exists a sub-species of Homo sapiens, some lingering Cro-Magnon man in South America, and that every jungle and beach village he has been in, from Colombia to Brazil, has had its bestial madman howling at the moon. Were these social outcasts, unable to cope with frenetic pace of contemporary jungle urban centers? Or… are these the narco-tourists of yesteryear, wayward Beat poets and musicians, who took too strong a pull off of the vine of their soul and are still living out their purge? Perhaps, one day I will return to Peru to find a naked witch barking at me from the gutter and upon closer inspection I might find the idiotic eyes that once belonged to a Midwestern girl in a summer dress.

if the worst came to worst, a heaven for mosquitoes and a hell for men could very conveniently be combined.

-C.S. Lewis

he who makes kittens, put snakes in the grass

-Jethro Tull, Bungle in the Jungle

“Ahh, good day Vic.” The German-accented silhouette greeted me from his place before the window. Behind him, the trespassing daylight was neither good nor welcome. I buried my face further into the tumultuous bed-scape, unwilling to accept morning. Beneath my sweat-soaked pillow I could still hear Wolfgang doing his morning calisthenics.

Wolfgang poses before the shrunken gringo heads of yesteryear

Wolfgang poses before the shrunken gringo heads of yesteryear

The equatorial jungle sun shines from 6 until 6. I won’t shine until the sun returns from whence it came – somewhere on the other goddamn side of the world. If I were on the river, I would be up by now, breaking my fast on some Peruvian grain oatmeal, coffee and papaya juice. Here in town, in Iquitos… there is fuck-all to wake to. There are the Belen markets, should you have a hankering for bush-meat – monkey tenderloin, manatee veal steaks or a shrunken head souvenir to bring back to Mumsy (sorry for ruining the surprise Mom, happy birthday!). There are also casinos in Iquitos – it is a bloody river town, after all. Mostly, there is just the Boulevard where I will likely spend most of my daylight hours at some café, drinking, reading, and guarding my beer from the thieving mitts of Chullachaqui, the dark shape-shifting warlock bastard.

Looming over my bed, my tall bunk-mate dressed himself in a matching khaki suit and announced his intention, “So, Vic, I will be leaving now.” My pillow-muffled voice asked if he required milk money. Wolfgang ignored my unintelligible gibberish, “I will be seeing you then.”

“Ja.” I respond. I figure he is kind enough to speak English to me, I can at least respond in Deutsche.

I poked a single eyeball out of hiding to look at the clock. 7:34. Beside the clock I see a pile of mapacho cigars. They are a subtle reminder of the previous evening’s transactions. Shit… recollections remind me I hired a driver for the day. For the same price as a McDonald’s Uber-Sized Value Meal back home (with half the potential for fatality), I hired Jorge the Pimp to cart me around in his gladiator-cycle for the day. Before long, he would be downstairs, scaring the tourists and bellboys while calling out my name with his nasty jungle snarl. It had become time for me to prep for the day and meet Jorge the Pimp before my genteel gringo reputation became tainted by association with that duplicitous scoundrel.

Iquitos by Night

Iquitos by Night

When I come to these parts of the world, the first thing I do is find a driver. The less trust-worthy, the better. In Ho Chi Minh City, I found a real bastard, a blind mute who navigated his scooter by the sound of other honking horns alone. In Siem Reap, I found a tuk-tuk driver who would sell his sister if the price was right. In Managua, I had a guide who was absolutely heartless, he had enslaved Nica orphans to crawl inside his chest and pump blood. Habana, Quito, Nassau – all my hired drivers were atheists because to believe in anything else would be to believe in their own assured eternal damnation. Scoundrels are good to purchase because you know their ill intent upfront. It’s best to keep the worst characters on your payroll – the promise of future reward keeps them from cutting your purse strings. Just don’t pay them up front.

Vic smoking mapacho from the comforts of Burro del Fuego

Vic smoking mapacho from the comforts of Burro del Fuego

Here in Iquitos, I found Jorge, the seventh bastard son of a seventh bastard son. His eyes were full of hunger for my shoes; he would have taken a machete to my ankles if I hadn’t included the shoes as a part of negotiations. The first three things I learned about Jorge the Pimp: 1) he has an amigo in Orlando who sells “blow”, 2) he wanted my shoes, 3) he possessed a machete. At one point Jorge the Pimp mentioned a father who lived in a far off village where they still shrink the heads of their enemies for shits and giggles. At another point, Jorge mentioned his father was long dead and he was the provider for all the other bastard sons of his seventh bastard of a father. If I gave the liar enough time, I am sure Jorge the Pimp would have claimed he had no father at all, that he was raised by jaguars in the jungle. I couldn’t trust Jorge any more than I could my malaria pills, but that was exactly where I wanted him. A gringo’s best traits are paranoia and mucho dinero. A few handy Spanish quotes don’t hurt, either.

Hay una pirana en mi inodor.” I practiced my Spanish before the mirror. “Enseneme a sus ballerinas.” Should I be captured by cannibals, I can assure them of a nice ransom, “La embajada Americana le pagara mucho dinero por mi liberacion.” I even had a phrase for describing the infamous candiru catfish swimming up my uretha, “el pez nado dentro de mi palo de hombre.” When all else fails, claim ignorance; I swear I didn’t know she was… “No sabia que era tu hermana… esposa… madre… hija…

**Spanish phrases were courtesy of my Puerto Rican Psychic Sidekick from Milwaukee who also gave me the Portuguese equivalents should I drift too far downriver**

I made myself ready for the day. There would be no insect repellent, in the Amazon DEET was little more than a cocktail mix. In the rest of the world, mosquitoes would be most drawn to Type-O blooded pregnant women wearing black, exercising at dusk under a full moon after eating a lot of bananas and drinking beer. In this part of the world, however, the mosquitoes are so thick they will suck-off anything with a pulse. Most of my flesh was either covered with synthetic whatever or bearded; the leftover bare flesh was already turned to leather by the sun and a zillion generations of the mosquitoes and flies that found their way there. I did try a little deodorant, figuring I could at least smell pleasant for half an hour.

Belen Market - snake skins and pirahnas

Belen Market – snake skins and pirahnas

Jorge’s motokar, “Burro del Fuego” roared to a stop beside my hotel. “Victor!” was the calling card I could recognize Jorge from the umpteen dozens other motokars zipping along, asking, “Taxi?” I bid Jorge a buenos dias and sat in the carriage that was attached to his scooter. He helped me light up a mapacho cigar of sacred jungle tobacco and then sped off, asking questions over his shoulder as far as what might appease my appetite: girls, blow, weed? He already knew I sought none of the above, but these were his cash crops. Always the gentleman and pimp, sweet Jorge. He held out that I would eventually cave in to some primal perversity and opt for one of his available vices. If I wanted boys, he could find them. If I wanted the Ayahuasca, he could make do there too. The A-drug trade was a booming business here in Iquitos. All I wanted, I told Jorge, more than anything, was to be far the fuck out of Iquitos.

Jorge took me to the zoo. The animals looked desperate, but south of the cages was a lovely lake beach where I could let the piranhas nibble on my toes (I abstained) and where a waterfront café offered plastic patio furniture. I bought breakfast for myself and Jaime. He had some fried plantain mash with boiled egg and other obnoxiously scented obscure edibles. I had a liter of beer.

We would return to Iquitos as Jorge reminded me how excellent the “blow” was. “Most gringo – they buy one gram, snort, buy five more gram. Haha!”

Iquitos is something of a third world Venice. The lagoons stink just as bad as they do in Italy’s armpit, the café coffee is just as strong (thanks to the river water adding that extra umpf!) and half anything worth getting to is worth getting to by boat. The floating markets are just slums on stilts where you can buy a tapir kabob, boa skin, giant otter pelt or a captive monkey. Similar exists in the street markets. Jorge piloted Burro del Fuego through Belen again, past the mapacho tobacco merchants, through the fish aisles and the fowl aisles (the local chicken farms are actually saving the rain forest by taking demand away from bush-meat). Once the afternoon markets closed shop, the mongrel dogs and the black vultures swooped in to grab the excess scrap meats, chomping at each other’s throats to claim some abandoned turtle carcass. The markets are more foul-smelling than they are foul-looking and they appear as pretty as the diarrheic shit of a flux corpse. The olfactorially-gifted should absolutely avoid Iquitos.

We paused briefly at the jungle pharmacy where potions for impotency, lost loves, pox, hemorrhoids and various brothel infections were available for purchase. The same cure for paranoia – a strange and cloudy brew – was ironically the same cure for the hopeless romantic. God knows what sort of fermented casava and saliva elixir lied within.

Breakfast with Jorge the Pimp

Breakfast with Jorge the Pimp

Without doubt, the jungle is preferable to the jungle city. Iquitos, however, is not without merit. The Boulevard produces a fine combination of intriguing characters – travelers who have come here for refuge, drugs (Ayahuasca tourists) or science. Wolfgang and I were those of us gringos who were here for science – both of us competitors for rival pharmaceutical corporations in pursuit to the ultimate cure for chigger bites. Wolfgang had met Jorge the Pimp and quickly decided to not join in such company. His mistake. Wolfgang is something of an idealist, he will never last in Big Pharma.

Iquitos has its merit. There is a rich history, from the Gondwana days through the Rubber Boon and eventually to the free love Ayahuasca revolution. Out on the river, I stay aboard an early 20th-century steam ship and while in Iquitos live within a hotel that was a rubber baron mansion from the early 1900s. And there are escapes from the bungle in the jungle urban scape. If you tire of Iquitos as much as I, just grab a friendly chica and take a peque-peque water taxi to the outlying areas or to the floating restaurants beyond reach of the Iquitos filth. There is splendor to be found, as long as you are a gringo with enough dinero.

The dry heat ate at his skin like hot coals searing yesterday’s dinner drippings – the smoke polluting his consciousness and lulling his wherewithal. Like a Western traveler lost amongst Saharan mirages, all he could find in his memory bank to gasp was,
‘Water!’ …but the barkeep’s reply was, ‘No tenemos agua. Cerveza, hombre, cerveza.’
‘Si,’ Neverman replied, ‘That’s what I meant.’ And it was, too.

– Think Tankstress, Freida Johnson, recounting her time with Vic in North Little Rock, Arkansas

Iquitos, Laredo District of Peru

My eyeballs are sweating. From within this concrete cavern of an internet café I press my face against an ancient computer whose warm hum shakes the beads of moisture off my brow as its frenzied machinations offers coolness in comparison to the surrounding air temperature. There are Soviet-era lawn mowers latched to the walls to send warm currents of death to the patrons whose ill-fate brought them here to this lone den of the Grid, where internet transactions may speed across the globe as quickly as the hamster wheels can power them. Welcome to the jungle. Welcome to Iquitos.

I move to the street, my hands plunged deep within my cargo-panted pockets, tightly grasping the few soles I have left. My boots are muddied with the fecal trophies of rabid primates and stray mongrel. Under my shirt resides a synthetic chest hair vest under which is hidden my passport duct-taped to my actual chest hair. Above me the sun dodges the billowing cumulus congestus vapor in order to radiate my skull with its menacing beam. From out of a cargo-panted pocket, my hand withdrawals a plastic water bottle as weathered and beaten as a Moscow mule. The last few drops of agua minerales sin gas fall from the plastic orifice in the direction of my gaping maw, yet are stolen by the humidity like a horned owl on your pet Chihuahua. Across the Plaza de Armas, the Boulevard is in sight and beyond it the wet dreamy mirage of los Amazonas. Along the Boulevard resides Gringolandia, where my fellow ex-pats dine on Jurassic catfish and sweet plantain.

Balcony view over the Boulevard and into the Jungle beyond

Balcony view over the Boulevard and into the Jungle beyond

Breakfast is served. A Pisco Sour is mostly pisco, a grape brandy made in the deserts of Peru, but it has enough lime juice to thwart off scurvy and is topped with egg whites beaten to the edge of their wits. It’ll do.

The Boulevard spreads out before my feet – a pedestrian pathway separating urban decay from the outright jungle posing menacingly beyond my toes. This morning I am hungry. Malaria always gives me appetite. I order another Pisco Sour. The egg white protein will do me good. To my left there sits a Canadian A-tourist (Ayahuasca drug tour). His mind is bent, throttled, distorted on the hallucinogenic vine which brought him and his un-enlightened amigos here seeking enlightenment. His mind is bent, as is his knee. Below the knee, which rises above the café table like a pale dorsal fin, along his shin, sits a black mole. This mole is more pronounced than tits on a snake, its ominous presence the result of a festering wound and the fires meant to drive free the parasites that cohabitate there. The Canadian’s sunburnt A-tourist friends are sucking on their Mapacho cigars of sacred jungle tobacco and blowing the black breath upon the dark egg sack. I wait, between sips of Pisco Sour, for the orb upon his shin to explode in a cloud of glorious pus and bot-fly. I eventually bore of waiting.

Chullachaqui conducts his black magic fuckery upon the edge of civilization

Chullachaqui conducts his black magic fuckery upon the edge of civilization

And then I see him, the local madman. El hombre del mal. El hermano del diablo. He is mestizo, some half-blood jungle child grown dark on machato, coca and venom. His eyes are as dark as viper’s sin; they are both alive with menace and dead to the world. His lips curl with an ever-ready curse. This is the first I have seen him clothed, though he is barefoot as usual. I leave my spare soles on the table and rise from my seat. Fighting my way through the fear, I follow the warlock as his makes his way down the boulevard.

I’ve heard he can shape-shift into a jaguar or a black vulture. The locals call him Chullachaqui, after a Quecha legend of a bog devil with monstrous feet. The Chullachaqui is translated from the Quecha language as “uneven-feet” and the evil being was a demon who could change his appearance to fool mankind, steal children, molest kittens and fornicate with your great-aunt. As Chulla made his way along the Boulevard, those aware of his presence gladly stepped out of his way.

My first experience with Chulla was a over a week ago. I had recently arrived in this frontier town, preparing myself mentally and emotionally for a journey into the Pacaya-Samira Reserve in search of the mystical pink river dolphin. The mental and emotional prep involved a few tall cervezas along the Boulevard. I was contented with my solace along this river café when suddenly I see the dark angelic face of Chulla drawing a long index finger across his throat as he made a hissing sound. His cut-throat gesture and his diabolical glare were pointed quite decisively in my direction as he approached my table. My attention was caught.

Bwaauuucck!” Chulla barked at me before spitting a spittoon of evil bile upon my café table. He took from his wrist some red band of elastic evil and as he chanted his incantation he dropped the band around my bottle of beer. Once the beer was properly surrounded by his band and freed of the gringo cooties left by yours-truly, Chulla picked up the beer and snarled at me. He walked across the street to the edge of the Boulevard where he danced like a thieving monkey with his prized bottle held over head. He then drank the remnants of my backwash from the bottle before dropping the glass to shatter upon the ground.

“Uhhh…” I turned to the waitress who hid in the doorway and the bartender who shouted safely from behind his bar at the Evil One. I asked them, “Que el Fuck?! Una mas cerveza, por favor.” I watched the wake of the warlock’s departure – he had torn flowered leaves from a bush and blessed two American Protestant missionaries by swatting at their shoulders. I opened my journal and began to record the recent events.

Chulla faced with Policia

Chulla faced with Policia

The new beer placed before me had barely a chance to perspire before Chullachaqui returned. I was distracted with my journal, scribbling in haste my encounter with the sunburnt bastard and his viper tattoos when that very bastard reappeared. I was not expecting such a quick return, but as soon as my pupils laid sights on his snarled lip, I postured my body in a position to grab the dirty scoundrel by the armpits and hurl him into passing traffic. He was tall and sinewy, but he had the weight of a bulimic drug addict. From my crouched position, I could easily squat-lunge him into the path of a tuktuk scooter taxi. As expected, Chulla again confronted me, cursing me in his mix of Spanish and jungle tongue. I moved my hand to firmly grasp the new beer bottle, curious as to what Chullachaqui would do. He finished his diatribe with a growl and walked away. I took my first breath in 90 seconds and laughed at the waitress who came out of hiding from behind a bush. Chulla was gone, only the mongrels and vultures of the Belen Market remained in his path.

I too would disappear into the ether for some time, coasting along the Rio Maranon in search of dolphin and caiman. A week later, though, I would be back upon the Boulevard. This time, I was on a balcony overlooking the street and the jungle waters beyond. As the storm clouds past, Chullachaqui shifted back into human form, put on just a pair of soiled skivvies and began to walk the Boulevard. From my safe vantage point, I observed Chulla take leaf and flower and perform further incantations at the edge of the Amazon to appease the malevolent River God, Yacurana. I was tempted to descend into the street, but waited from the balcony as Chulla began digging into the garbage bins for beer bottles he could begin breaking upon the ground. It would not be long before the Peruvian police came to march him off.

Chulla - the eyes of a madman

Chulla – off to give your great-aunt a proper buggering


I had feared that would be the last I would see of this dark warlock who had cursed me. Lucky day, here he was before me again, screaming in his feral tongue at the local snake-oil salesmen peddling their jungle-wares. I gathered my trusty camera and followed Chulla. It wouldn’t be long before he removed the shirt. Soon, he was sitting upon a park bench with a skullcap on and preaching to the Rastafarian bead necklace sellers about the evils of their trade. If only the jungle bastard spoke a lick of English, I might have engaged him further. I did pass by him several times and each time I fixed his gaze, my fear and paranoia from our original encounter replaced with disdain. His nostrils flared as he squinted back at me. Chulla pointed at a passerby and counted him, “Uno!” he then pointed to himself and counted himself “Dos!” he then pointed to me and counted, “Tres! Tres! Tres!”

I followed a few paces behind him until he was safely gone from the Boulevard.

Tres, tres, tres. Yeah, Vaya con dios, dickhead.

Vic and the dark warlock locals call Chullachaqui, the streets of Iquitos

Vic and the dark warlock locals call Chullachaqui, the streets of Iquitos

We all see only that which we are trained to see.

― Robert Anton Wilson

Some people think there’s a conspiracy making our airport the center of a New World Order. Rest assured the story is definitely a myth.

– the official website of DIA, http://flydenver.com/doyouknowdia

Demonic Bronco

Paranoia is in the eye of the beholder. Behold: Denver International Airport, a seemingly innocent gateway to the Rocky Mountains, until, that is, you peel back layers of an ominous onion of such pungency your resulting tears could melt barnacles off a fishwife. A most sinister layover, if you know where to look. That is where I, Vic Neverman come in. I not only know where to look, I have looked, scratched and sniffed. Look, for example, at the mascot of DIA: the bloodthirsty blue bronco with the diabolical glowing orange eyes. This beast is pure apocalypse without the need of three other horses, let alone their horsemen. This beast is what greets visitors arriving at DIA. Should you leave… if you leave… you will be treated with a glimpse at the bucking bronco’s strained bollocs & arse regions. “Come back and see us some time” isn’t quite the message provided by the horse ass.

Backside of the Demonic Bronco

The thin mountain air reeks of more than constipated horse – the 52 square mile area occupies a stretch of land which may be cursed dirt given the high amount of plane-struck wildlife. The groundhog carnage alone must be appalling with the poor, little, curious buggers getting their fur jammed up in the landing gear. Then you have the buildings, themselves: the structures of Denver International Airport are littered with so much occult symbolism it has fueled a modern urban mythology so dark, so vexxing, so goddamn disturbing, I could not resist a vist.

Driving to the airport from Denver, there are a few things you will notice… First, are we in Kansas? The airport is 25 miles from the city, 19 miles further from the previous airport Stapleton (which had more gates and terminals than DIA when the latter was built in the mid-1990s). Second, what’s with all the dirt? The airport has been around for twenty-five years, but there are still massive dig sites underway. During the construction of DIA, 110 million cubic yards of earth was moved – approximately 1/3rd of the amount dug to create the Panama Canal – leading many to conjecture about the subteranean city that may be waiting under mountain. Third, rumors abound that different construction companies were hired for each part of the project and subsequently fired upon completion. In the 13th Century, the slaves that built the tomb of Genghis Khan were killed and then the soldiers that killed them were killed along with the caterers, the latrine hand washer valets, everyone involved in order to keep the location of the tomb secret. What secrets hide underneath the circus tent of Denver International Airport?

Denver International Airport

Jesse Ventura, the ex-Governor/Navy Seal/wrestler, is so paranoid he now lives in Mexico (a natural choice for the Vitamin D deficient sociophobic conspiracy crowd) waiting to be invited onto the cast of The Expendables 3. Ventura’s Conspiracy Theory program suggests Denver International Airport is full of clues pointing to its role-to-be as a bunker for the world’s elite during the 2012 Maya Calendar end date. This suggestion seems to me to be fear-monger trailer-hitching to Maya Fever (the ever-popular 2012 end of world hysteria) in order to sell books/programming. Still… a bunker built into the mile high plains east of Denver would prove substantial for riding out the end of days.

The Children of the World Dream of Peace

Enter Cyrus Lee Hancock, a doomsday theory connoisseur, a bunker lifestyle aficionado and the world’s foremost hurricane survival expert. At my insistence, Cyrus Lee arrived in Denver to scope out the bunkerscape. I met him at the DIA arrivals gate with my research assistant, Bo Lynn Bell. After brief debate with CLH over whether Denver fornications qualified one for the esteemed “Mile High Club” and then after the Bo Lynn scolded us for discussing such matters in the presence of children (ignorant though they may be), we three found ourselves before the spookily colorful murals painted by artist Leo Tanguma when the airport was built 25 years ago.

“Artwork featuring dead children, nice.” Cyrus Lee admired the art with his cynicism. “Welcome to Denver.”

“The children are not dead. They are sleeping.” Bo Lynn Bell countered.

“Sure, I guess you can see them breathing. I can’t.” Cyrus Lee held firm.

“Call it a hunch.” Bo Lynn retorted. “The title of the art is ‘the Children of the World Dream of Peace’. Dreaming typically entails sleep.”

“Yea, well the title should be ‘the Children of the World Dream of Dead Children which is really Fucking Creepy’.” Cyrus Lee critiqued.

Elsewhere in Denver International Airport exists the Great Hall, where throngs of tourists and professional travelers are scoped, radiated, man-handled, pan-handled and searched by agents of the Transportation Security Administration. It is within this migratory passageway there exists the DIA capstone which seems to feature the square and compass of the Freemasons along with a reference to a “New World Airport Commission.” Could this be the hint of some Masonic conspiracy? To answer the enigma, I turned to the smart-assed lass, Bo Lynn Bell. She was not only my research assistant (on an unaccredited internship) , she also happened to be a descendant of a Texas Masonic legacy. It is also a matter-of-fact that the Bell Family, ever wise they may be, have forbidden their heir, Bo Lynn, from any further association with with yours truly, Vic Neverman: conspiracy theorist extraordinaire. Indeed. It bears repetition: Bo Lynn is forbidden to see me. In order to join me in Colorado, Bo Lynn’s twin sister agreed (via system of bribery) to pose as Bo Lynn’s doppelgänger back in Dallas in order to ensure no one suspected her absence. Even conspiracy theorists must conspire sometimes.

Masonic Capstone of the New World Airport Commission

Bringing my Masonic expert into the Great Hall, I asked Bo Lynn, “Can you identify this as a Masonic capstone?”

“Well, that is what it says it is.” She pointed out. “I bought my dad matching cufflinks.”

There you have it – Masonic ties to the construction of Denver International Airport. Could there exist some grandiose scheme to what lies hidden beneath our feet? Cyrus Lee Hancock belived so…

“New World Airport Commission.” Cyrus Lee read off the capstone. “Sounds a lot like ‘New World Order’, à la the commie assholes who are trying to take my guns, take my country and make me pay for someone else’s condoms.”

“New World monkeys can hang by their tail while Old World monkeys cannot.” I mentioned. “What conspiracy can you drawl from that?”

“That communist monkeys are bastards too.” Cyrus Lee diseffectedly surmised, his eyes scanning the horizon for a purveyor of some cognac or pinot grigio to dull out the pain from the mangling his legs took during whichever godforsaken mountain scaling he endured the week prior.

To complete Cyrus Lee Hancock’s introduction to Denver, we departed the airport via freeway and amidst a sandstorm. It was a fitting tempest, given the devilish nature of the place and the ungodly amount of loose dirt lying around. The following morning I somberly returned to DIA to drop-off  Bo Lynn Bell so she might return to Texas before anyone there became the wiser. A whiskey blur of two days and several mountains underfoot later, Cyrus Lee and myself returned to Denver International Airport in order to make our own departure. We made one last turn around the murals and then it was on to security screening where, to no surprise, I received some extra treatment.

Cyrus Lee Hancock, waiting near the security gates

“Is this your bag?” a garden variety TSA agent inquired. I agreed to allow her to check through my carry-on as Cyrus Lee watched from the perimeter. I, Vic Neverman, am a well-seasoned traveler: before I turned twenty-four years of age I had downed a pint of Guinness on four different continents. I knew how to pack a carry-on. Unless… Ye Gods! Could I have been setup? It was my foul-minded government-contracted spook of a brother-in-law who had dropped me off at the airport – might he have sabotaged my baggage, planting some contraband upon my belongings to undermine my passage homeward? Or could this be an agent of the airport itself, scorned by my scrutiny and determined to have my cavities fully searched? I desperately awaited to find what false flag the TSA agent might find.

Lo! Behold: the found contraband was indeed my own. Definitely mine. I, uh, failed to pack a certain tube into my checked luggage. Said tube was of a variety, err… affiliated with enhancement of certain carnal pursuits. In my carry-on, there was, if you will, what you might call a “pleasure pocket” full of latex apparati and this tube of petroleum jelly. A tube much grander in scale than the maximum liquid volumes allowed, courtesy of Homeland Security.

Garden variety TSA agent eyed the tube and having not seen the accompanying apparati which would provide some context, she was, perhaps, unsure what exactly it was that she held. Until she read the directions on the back of said tube. Her TSA comrades, standing aside, snickered as they immediately recognized what she had found. I remained silent, awaiting my punishment. Just beyond the security lines I catch sight of Cyrus Lee appearing perturbed at my hold-up. Ay dios mio! I jerk my head at him, “leave!” I jerk my thumb, “go on!” This was the least opportune time for he to associate with me. But no, pretty-boy stands there hands-on-hips, glaring at the Transportation Security Administrators. Garden variety TSA agent’s comrades note the contraband and my handsome companion and, drawing conclusions entirely outlandishly im-fucking-possible, they resort to a level of snickering beyond what is generally accepted as casual. I was doomed.

Vic puts the contraband back into place after finally passing through security

Garden variety TSA agent appeared forlorn. She had a moment of hesitation before she announced the inevitable, “I have to test it.” Her co-workers, at least those “supervising”, danced with glee as they watched her uncomfortably take the tube of petroleum-based jelly wonderfulness and squirt a dollop of lubricant onto litmus paper, or so I assume the stick represented, to test what sort of chemicals might be contained within the gelatinous goo and whether they might have some drug or explosive compounds. Cyrus Lee stamped impatiently from the sideline.

“You’re okay.” Garden variety TSA agent announces without a sign of relief as the litmus test confirmed she was dealing with exactly what she did not want to be dealing with. She repacked my bag, told me I may go on and immediately disposed of her gloves. I calmly took the backpack and advanced out of the security check-point to where I could hiss at Cyrus Lee, “Just keep moving, but don’t walk next to me until we are out of sight of security?”

“What was that all about?” Cyrus Lee asked.

My face was contorting into a smile, my chest shook with laugter, “Why didn’t you just move along! They found my bottle of lube and had to test to see if it was an illegal substance.”

Cyrus Lee cackled with laughter.

Denver International Airport. This place is definitely cursed.

Any pessimist could be considered paranoid. What makes a great paranoid, a true mold-breaking, paradigm-shifting, fan shit-hitting paranoid is an impulse to imagine depravities beyond any reasonable probability. This is where I come in. I fear so that you, dear reader, do not have to.

Clinging to the edge of the world, gazing off into the oblivion of the void – nothingness, I was inspired towards ‘the end’. This is no rare occurrence. Well, it was the first time I may have been grasping this piece of weathered Irish rock while staring into the expanse of the Atlantic, but, but!, to folly with the muse that is la fin du monde is no new tango for this end of days dancer. At the farmers market I would see the avocado asteroid that would dent one corner of the earth and swamp the rest of the sphere with its wake. At the airport, I would pass the bar where the whore of Babylon may have passed the Bubonic uber-plague to me through her Budweisered regurge. At my ex-girlfriend’s acupuncturist, I felt the insectual crawl of nano-bots under my skin and in my veins before I ran out into the city streets, a panicked pin-cushion. At the beach, I watched the sunset with beer in hand as if it were the rising mushroom cloud of my coming-to-Jesus reckoning. Everywhere I turned, she was there: the muse of the end.

Cuda and Vic on the Edge of the World

While in Ireland, I visited the wind- blown fields of the Aran Islands, perhaps one of the most remote locations of Ireland (if, that is, the tourist ferries weren’t so regular here). I was the official wandering journalist for the “University of Catawampus” Men’s “Competitive Dance Team” (note: italics denote digressions from truth). Go “Feralcats”! Coach Cuda led his staff and umpteen young men onto the morning ferry and through Galway Bay to our desired destination in these isolated isles. As the ferries arrived and the tourists dispersed into a diaspora of rented bikes, hired cabs and us… pedestrian walkers, my mind began its Willy Wonkish dream down destiny’s tunnel of misfortune.

Imagine…

An unexpected solar flare engulfs the northern hemisphere in an electromagnetic pulse that slurps all circuitry of its power. In the flash of its celestial burst, all computers, cell phones, planes, vibrators, ovens, radios, cars, some sophisticated Scandinavian vacuum cleaners and home security systems are suddenly rendered, irreversibly, defunct. Das ist kaput, ja! Stranded on the outer isles of western Ireland, this band of competitive dancers are the last to realize their ride home has been cancelled. The first to realize the dire straits are the locals who have lost power to their satellite televised Premier League pre-game fluffings. The locals, prepared for months of isolation, quickly secure their doors against the oncoming panic of stranded tourists. Once the visitors realize they are castaways, they abandon all reason along with their rented bicycles and hurry to the nearest pub, only to realize the doors are barring their entry.

The Catawampus Feralcats on Patrol Along the Aran Path

It takes hours, but eventually, the gravity of the situation weighs in on those left without shelter. Night arrives and many cower in the tourist stands and idle boats of the marina. Fortunately, the Catawampus Feralcats have an experienced doomsdayer in their traveling journalist who suggests, “mutton, anyone?” The club of nomadic Yanks descends upon the wool makers of the island and butchers an unsuspected sweater. Coach Cuda guts the beast as Assistant Coach Drambull builds the fire. The team, those of whom have the appetite, eat well tonight. By the next night, they have herded the entire population of sheep into their own enclave while making stone tools to defend their claim.

Dissention!

Ruins of Innismore


Coach Cuda wants to work with the locals, who have some archaic forms of firepower as well as their own cutlery, while also trying to feed and defend the lot of tourist (mostly ladies) who are also stranded on this unforgiving, tree-less, island. Assistant Coach Drambull disagrees, insisting on spending time arming the lads against the local shepherds and the starving visitors. Unknowing of how long the end-of-world predicament may last, both Assistant Coach Pax and Journalist Vic remain by Cuda’s side. Drambull disappears into the night with half of the competitive dance squad, the entire stone age arsenal and a few thwacked sheep.

30 days later…

Coach Cuda is King of Cuda Town, the port area of the island. Coach Pax had led an expeditionary force to sail to the mainland and was overcome by the high seas (sadly, without motor, few have the ability to sail in such turbulent waters). Because King Cuda was forced to restrict rationing based on limited resources, many of his own competitive dancers have stolen off in the night with an emaciated Canadian or Swiss backpacker chick over their shoulder in order to join the rebel forces of Drambull, whose merry lads enjoy their pillaging on a social-Darwinian philosophy of only the strong will survive (note: social-darwinianism is obviously very different than Darwin’s theory of natural selection in that it is a social rationalism for inhumane acts versus theory based on superior breeding). While Cuda has secured the valuable “Sweater Shoppe”, Drambull has rebuilt the Dun Aengus fortress to secure his own power.

Bovinal Existence Along the Edge


No word comes from the mainland. The radio remains silent. Humanity lies in question despite the rise in overnight pregnancies.

Despite his best efforts at creating a fishing community, Cuda’s kingdom was starving. They must have what is left of the sheep Drambull has stolen off with. A militia is created. Only a few of the original Feralcat team remains behind, the rest have stolen away uphill with Drambull and their unwilling Swedish backpacking girlfriends. Fortunately, Cuda’s childhood chum, Vic, happened to have studied siege warfare while attempting to write his four-thousand page manifest on the Fourth Crusade. Unfortunately, Dun Aengus was hardly medieval Constantinople and Vic’s idea to dig underneath the walls proved idiotic after the first several seconds.

The winds, almost as if anticipating war, finally lapse. The Atlantic calms in order to spectate. King Cuda arrives at the gates of Dun Aengus, his militia having trudged over the width of the island. Before him is a spike with the severed head of Drambull ka-bobbed. The snake without its head, however, remains vigorous and as ever venomous. Within the suddenly stale air arises a Queen, the girl from Ottawa who claimed to vomit five times on the ferry ride over, she stands amidst the rise of the gnats of the night – the midges. She is… the Lord of the Midges. Behind her oiled and flamed reflective body stands her army of Feralcat competitive men dancers, waiting with their stone hand axes and hammers.

This battle is one for resources. If the world around the Aran Islands ceases to exist, then the only world for these tribes is what is here and now. With the coming of summer, there is the possibility of escape to the mainland, but what dangers wait there? For now, the truth, the future lies within a stone’s throw of Armageddon.

Catawampus Feralcats Defend Dun Aengus

Good God, man. What happened to yesterday? In the hours before today, I was stomping my bruised foot along to the fiddles, sitting beside a beautiful Parisian student who was either making eyes at me or had developed a twitch from drinking too much cider. In those last hours of yesterday, Drambull was discussing competitive dance with the Swiss backpacker while Pax ran interference with the Swiss girl’s Italian lesbian bunk mate by pretending he was from Barcelona. There were laughs, Cuda brought over a round of whiskeys which begat more laughter. Then today happened. Shit.

When the pubs of yesterday close, the only business in Galway to be done at this hour was to be done at the Russian Dove – a labyrinth four stories tall with various halflevels, doorways to nowhere, open thresholds to oblivion, a maze of multidimensional mindfuckery, booze, silent disco (silent disco?) and mayhem both general & particular. After midnight, this was where to be and it was the last place I wanted to be. Sure – these were the witching hours of the conspiracist, but I was a sports journalist now, damn it. Ireland was sinking into a dark bog of paranoid isolationism and it was within the dungeons of the Russian Dove where the diseased rats of conspiracy were able to breed with their incestuous kin, spawning new depths of psychosis and malaise. In one corridor, the descendants of Adam Weishaupt represented the Bavarian Illuminati at the billiards table. Behind the bar, the Irish Republicans watched with a melancholic anger. At the turntables, the French Resistance was lost. The ex-KGB bouncer wasn’t taking his eyes off of Pax who he assumed was an anti-Castro un-revolutionary. After midnight, the sun had finally set on Galway and only madness filled the void.

I could feel the stout in my veins clouding my judgment, so I switched from Guinness to the lighter Smithwicks. Bollocks. Ten years gone and it is only 00:02. I leaned against the wall in order to steady the floor.

There has to be rules. Even a “free” society must put restrictions on our impulses, our greed, our desire to scratch our privates in public and fling poo at those we disagree with. The Unabomber was free – he lived in the woods, scratched his balls without hesitation, wrote manifestos and blew up whoever we wanted. Do we really want a world of freemen like him? Of course not. Which is why we put people in power, people to govern, people to make rules. It all seems so feudal, but who is going to protect the people from the Barbarism – both within the gates and without?

Coach Cuda, the man in charge of the “Catawampus” “Feralcats” Men’s “Competitive Dance” Team, had to set some rules. Each member of his collegiate squad, individually, was a nice young lad. Together, they were a plague of locusts. As ambassadors of America during this journey to Ireland, the guys had to be kept in line in order to avoid an international incident as well as avoid an entire generation of Yank bastard seeds in the bellies of the Galway girls. Cuda set a curfew of 22:00 and there was to be no drinking or shirtlessness in the hallways of the hotel.

After the 10 pm curfew, Cuda, his assistant coaches, and I, the team journalist and your narrator, Vic Neverman, would set out into the city. We too had to have rules. We were just as likely as the lads to start an international incident, though we did possesss enough good sense and restraint to not leave too many bastards in our wake. Our rules were simple. First – there was to be no discussion of dragons existing in the present (past or future was fair game). Second – if we closed a pub down, it was time to go home. These rules proved to be loose guidelines that would be ignored.

The pubs closed and after midnight the only place to be was the Russian Dove. After midnight, dissent kept quiet during the day was suddenly audible. Dissent to the rules. Dissent against the Euro, against the Union, against the Germans, against “Austerity”. Ireland was bankrupt and in order for Germany, the European Union, to bail out the Irish they would have to accept the austerity rules set forth by Germany. There would be a vote by the Irish people – accept defeat and take commands from the Union, or – spit in their faces, ensure independence and fight through these new troubles, these economic troubles, as Ireland and only Ireland. To vote against “Austerity” was to gamble with the future. No “Austerity”, no bail out.

As soon as yesterday was no more and those that would qualify today as today were still abed, voices of dissent arose. I heard these voices, have always heard these voices. The conspiracists for years have said the Fourth Reich was the banking establishment. Why did J. Edgar Hoover keep a file on Hitler sightings post-WW2? And now… and now, they point out, and now Germany is the economic might behind the European Union! The conspiracists ask, is this a coincidence?

Conspiracy Theory is looking at the stars in the sky and drawing your own constellations, whichever patterns best rationalize your cause. The Nazis are dead, I say, but old animosity is hard to minimize in these troubled times. The Irish don’t want to take their marching orders from the Germans and so the old nightmares are refreshed.

The “Troubles” of Northern Ireland is a reference to the centuries old effort at creating an independent Ireland – all of it – from the Brits. The Irish Republican Army rose in defiance of Her Majesty’s Occupation. Too much Catholic and Protestant blood was shed in these “Troubles”, but eventually a more peaceful coexistence was found. While Northern Ireland is more calm now than the entirety of the previous century, the Irish Republican Army still exists. The IRA’s political arm, Sinn Fein, still exists. In fact, the Sinn Fein Party is only gaining in popularity as it vehemently opposes the “Austerity” vote. Sinn Fein was once a movement of secular independence against the Queen, now it is a movement of economic independence against the Euro Empire.

And here we were in the Russian Dove. My jacket is strewn about somewhere as I skip around the dance floor, an imported American jester. At least the Smithwicks rehydrates me. There is too much club fog and we four horsemen of the Catawampus Apocalypse escape to the rooftop where hundreds more bodies are gathered in these witching hours, moving, dancing, drinking, plotting, scheming, endeavoring to conspire.

I find an English antagonist, a bloody prisoner of Mother England who is aggressively sucking his hand-rolled cigarette. He’s a bright chap and perhaps a decent bloke, if he weren’t such a fucking wanker. He criticizes America for our lack of social welfare. He criticizes Cuda and me for wearing our billed caps, “No one in Ireland wears them anymore.” I shrug, they are worn plenty back home. I enjoy his lack of couth, his unfriendliness in what one would assume were friendly confines. I delight in it, actually. The American social construct has so many conversational rules for small talk that no true discussion is really ever had. Perhaps a glutton for punishment, I stay in this POME’s company as he spits out his drivel of how everything I am is wrong. I smile and accept what is fair and debate what is not. It is refreshing to me, really. Perhaps if he insulted the NeverMum or Bo Lynn or my Puerto Rican psychic sidekick from Milwaukee, he’d have my forehead in his nasal cavity, but this mild flavor of his spittled spite was a warmer mist than the constant rain hitting the tarp that covered our rooftop perch.

While I appreciated the broken rules of social politeness exhibited before me, Pax and Cuda were poised to pounce. Pax, the Cuban exile, is a passionate American who doesn’t give a shit about England. Cuda, whose family is from Northern Ireland’s “Bandit Country” and who is an IRA sympathizer, hates all things imperial. The two of them would have loved to pummel my new and now former friend, the 5’7″ chain-smoking lonely lymie who was only voicing his dissent because it was after midnight and it was all he knew to do. Drambull and I corralled our angered friends and we left the roof.

We followed the broken fragments of intrigue, retracing our steps down the stairs to the various levels of clandestine encounters and cryptic messages written on the walls of the loo. When we finally found our way out of Minos’ prison, we emerged onto the street to find one of the Soviet bouncers with his knee in someone’s back, holding the rule breaker to the wet street of Galway.

In a few hours, a traditional Irish breakfast would be well received. Order would be restored.

Cuda, Drambull, Neverman and Pax at their favored pub in Galway, Monroe’s

The Man Before Nugent

“I don’t want to alarm you.” Begins Reverend Chette, which is nonsense coming from a man of the soiled cloth who delights at fear mongering. To hint at alarm while suggesting it is not his intent, in itself, is his method of instilling indigestion in his weary listener. He continues his speech discussing his sources, always talking of his sources, “My sources who have seen the President’s ‘Kill List’ for domestic threats claim they might have seen your name just above Nugent.”

“Kill List?” I question my choice of ordering oysters. The last slid down easily enough, but its ascent began as soon as my mind envisioned Obama using his Wii to control predator drones over Yemen. “But I am not a terrorist!”

Reverend Chette, “Right, right, might be some clerical error.” He waves off the notion with a cavalier indifference designed to be unnerving. Schadenfreude is the word the Germans manufactured to describe the joy that can be found in the misery of others. The good reverend is a friend of schadenfreude.

“Clerical error?” I think of the woman at the DMV who was unseasonably kind. Might she have been some sort of fraud or some inept county clerk who deposited my application for a drivers license into the wrong bin? “Did you say Nugent? I thought we traded him to the Chinese for the rights to the blind guy… Chen.”

“Chen Guangcheng” Chette confirmed. “No we just stole Chen so he could start blogging for the Huff Post. Ted Nugent is still on the loose.”

“And your sources say ‘Neverman’ is ahead of Ted Nugent on the ‘Kill List’? Nugent, the ‘Motorcity Madman’? Please tell me it is organized alphabetically and not by degree of threat. I don’t even own a gun.”

“Crossbow?” Rev suggests with a shrug.

“What? No! I don’t own a crossbow either. My defense strategy is think and hide, not necessarily in that order. My only weapons are a tennis racket and a samurai blade my sister gave me I mostly use for stir-fry.”

NOTE for the unawares: the NYTimes has recently shed light on “Terror Tuesday”, the weekly meeting at the Oval Office where Obama and Axelrod meet with various “intelligence” officers to devise “the Kill List” compiled of names of both foreigners and American citizens who are “up to no good”. This isn’t a list for arrest warrants, this is an order of death by remote control. The 5th Amendment’s guarantee of due process can now “be satisfied by internal deliberations of the executive branch”. What does this mean? If Obama and Co. think you look suspicious, they send in the killer drones. Yup. Straight out of the George Zimmerman School of Neighborhood Watching.

For a $50 gift card to Chilis and a case of Wild Turkey, my instigating ally Chette is going to look into this list and do what he can to get his “sources” to reverse my fate. In the meantime, I need to get the hell out of Dodge.

Bug Out To Ireland

From stage left enters Cuda, a fellow adventurer of Vic Neverman’s since our serendipitously simultaneous boyhood. He’s an idea of where I, Vic, can hide: within the ranks of a collegiate team he coaches as they travel for an overseas competition.

NOTE: For the sake of the innocent and to keep from my getting sued by involved parties, I have altered the names of the school, coaches and even the sport.

I was already in Dublin, easy enough. I bussed my wanderlusty arse to the airport with a sign made of fish & chip newspaper with “Cuda” written in tartar & grease. At the arrivals gate, I met my old friend, coach of the University of “Catawampus” “Feralcats” “Competitive Dance” Team. After a brotherly hug, each of us excusing our foul breath, I nodded towards his team, “Not as coed as I expected a collegiate dance team to be.” Indeed, Cuda’s team seemed to be decidedly, almost exclusively, 99% male. He, being Cuda, nodded his confirmation, “We’re the Men’s squad.”

My cover story suddenly became drastically less interesting.

And so we loaded onto the westbound bus. I had a fairly safe cover. No one was looking for me in Ireland. Cuda could be trusted, so too his assistant coaches. They knew my story and didn’t flinch about having a conspiracy-theorist-on-the-run as a stowaway. Assistant Coach Drambull was the disciplinarian and looked like he should be coaching the Catawampus Feralcat football team’s offensive line. Drambull brought an intensity to the squad and had a fondness for cider. Assistant Coach Pax was the sharp-dressed Spaniard (really a Cuban exile from Miami, his story changed frequently) in the sweater vest romancing a pint of true Irish stout. He was chief choreographer, you could say, and his calming presence was well balanced with Drambull’s passion. And, of course, there was Cuda who could gut a catfish and use its barb to pic his teeth before you could bait a hook, all of which made him a hell of a competitive men’s dance coach.

You, dear reader, might have noticed my wording “almost exclusively” and “99%” in terms of the male/female ratio. Along our journey west, treading water within the tides of testosterone, there was, in all factuality, one dame. She was a free-spirited, ukulele-playing, tagalong and she was suspect number 1. I asked Cuda if she was a competitive dance groupie of some sort. He denied this and mumbled something about meeting her on the flight from Chicago. She needed a ride to Galway and the Feralcats happened to have a bus. Convenient. A little too convenient.

“And who are you?” the spritely lady inquired me, sensing I stood apart from the rest of the “dancers”. It was one question too many. Wouldn’t she like to know who I was? I didn’t break my cover and gave her the carefully detailed story about being the team journalist. She provided her story, some generic background her NSA handler must have picked from out of the “how to be a spook” manual, something about college friends and backpacks and sick greataunts. Standard faire, really. “I thought you looked familiar.” I sneered, letting her know I knew who she was (or was not). She played it off pretty well, feigning bafflement, but really overdid the confused doe eye look. Please. If my homeland’s national security complex was going to send a spy to keep tabs on me, this is exactly who they would send: a musically inclined young woman in a summer dress and cowboy boots. Her tailored description is probably the first thing mentioned in their bio of Vic Neverman. Fortunately, this lady-bait received my message loud and clear and didn’t bother speaking to me for the rest of the trip. She was likely biding her time – time she would not get. I told Cuda we needed to ditch the broad and we did so, leaving her at the Galway bus station, much to the dismay of half the team and at least one of the assistant coaches.

“Ahhh!” Cuda relished the salty air of Galway upon our arrival as if he were auditioning for an advertisement on Irish soap. “Welcome to Ireland!”

And so began my new life as a competitive men’s dance journalist.