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Squid #428
(published April 2, 2009)
Ask the Giant Squid: On the Mean Streets of San Francisco (part one of three)
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
Dear Giant Squid,

Why are Chuck Norris jokes so funny?

Mike Tyson (but not the famous one)

Dear Non-Famous Mike Tyson,

The "Chuck Norris" jokes you refer to began life as an internet meme about—of all peoples—Vin Diesel, noted actor and great grandson to the Franco-Prussian inventor Rudolf Diesel. These shifted and mutated and became airborne, fluttering about like so many virii, ultimately alit on the nose of Chuck Norris, and claimed him as a host. And the meme has thrived ever since.

This reminds me of a man I knew back in old San Francisco—the Baghdad Near the Bay—when I lived there in that fog-soaked world, some years after the Greatest Generational War. I shared an apartment overlooking the Chinese Town district with a distant cousin who affected the name Albert. When hard times fell upon me like, unto so many bricks and agéd nougats, he was the one to offer me succor and shelter and the occasional dog to feast upon. The Chinese in the apartment below complained ceaselessly of the scrape and clatter of our velocitators' feet and claws upon the cheap, soft wooden floors.

Albert was a black sheep in a family full of black sheeps, an ovine so dark as to absorb energy from those surrounding him. He was slovenly. Kept irregular hours. He was as likely to work a day as he was to fritter it away at the mahjong tables. He wore a crude clockwork velocitational suit, in need of constant winding by a trained monkey, with a jaunty hat atop (that is, both his suit and the monkey affected separate, but similar, jaunty hats). Most nights he caroused or stood afront the mirror practicing his sleights of hand, his card forces, and sundry manipulations. Rarely, the monkey applauded. On one memorable occasion he had me walk about the wharf for an hour while he tried to approach me in secret and pick an ersatz leather billfold from out a cotton apron he had jerry-rigged and obliged me to wear. Suffice it to say that the wallet remained unpickéd.

One fog shrouded evening in August my cousin went missing. The monkey could offer no useful counsel.

Neither Albert's journal nor his calendar gave any indication of where he had gone. After days I grew desperate; the landlord visited twice daily and badgered me in Mandarin. I sought help.

My velocitator sighed as I ducked to enter the office of the former Pinkerton detective. The office was dark, and gas-chromotagrphic analysis indicated it smelled pleasant, like the interior of a cigar box lined with the aged, dried strips of other, even older, cigar boxes. The furniture was finished in a crushed red velvet, which added to the effect. The room was dimly lit and dominated by a desk as big as I. Cousin Albert's monkey removed his hat in deference to the mood. Had the former Pinkerton man hung a framed picture of red indians upon the wall, it would have been complete. I said as much, but the man behind the desk, John Tichy, said nothing.

Tichy's face was entirely made of circles. He had bulging fish eyes, a nose like a door knob, and cheeks that Irish mothers would have killed for (owing to their delight in such delicacies fried). He had a round head and a round body with swollen hands and feet. Very naughty tailors, condemned to dwell in Satan's mouth after a lifetime of mortal inequity, are consigned to making flattering suits for a man with a physique such as Tichy's. Still, the monkey insisted that the Chinese indicated that it was written in their newspapers that Tichy was the very best private dick money could buy if you didn't have much money. The monkey and I possessed somewhat less money than that.

Tichy drummed his sausage fingers on his desk and asked in a deep and tremulous voice, "What's a thing like you want with a flatfoot like me?"

I bowed stiffly, the joints of my mechanized transport squeaking sharply. "THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SEE ME, MR. TICHY. I AM AFRAID THAT NO ONE BUT YOU COULD POSSIBLY HELP." I spun out the tale of my cousin for the detective, alighting on details I thought salient: His species, his size, his predilection for mischief, his appetite for human flesh, the semi-ridge cartilaginous spine running up the dorsal median of his mantle.

John waved a hand at me dismissively. "Every two-bit nosehound knows your kin. He's made a name for himself from San Simeon to Sacramento. You might know him as Albert, but to everyone else he's Monster Abby, and he's as crooked as the legs on your mechanical mount."

I was about to protest—the legs aren't so much crooked as they are angled, a vital difference—when the detective removed a bottle of whiskey from his desk and a chihuahua from a traveling crate. "I think we should each of us have something to eat, and then talk through this case." He poured five fingers of Bushmill's Patent Infant Cough Suppressant and Irish Courage into a coffee cup, "I'm sorry I don't got a banana," he said, nodding in the monkey's direction as he slid the trembling mutt across the desk to me.

The monkey scowled, and I indicated that it was no matter. We each lit into our respective repasts as if there were no more dogs (or whiskey) upon this earth. Albert's monkey adjusted his fedora, crossed his thin arms across his pigeon chest, and turned from us with disdain.

The fog outside gave way to shadows and the shadows brought with them rain. We sat in silence, contemplating each other. The rain pounded fierce, shaking the windows in their frames. John Tichy went through my cousin's journal, his calendar, his mashbook. He asked pointed questions, most of which I could only answer with a shrug. Cousin Albert's business had been Cousin Albert's: It was not a thing others knew of, unless you were his mark.

Sleep tugged at me. I nodded off whilst considering purchasing a painting of an indian to place over the detective's desk; perhaps the monkey could be persuaded to produce such a study? I may have been asleep for minutes. I may have been asleep for hours. I startled awake when Tichy dropped his coffee mug. The smash tore through the sound of the rain like very local thunder.

The private dick stood up abruptly. "I think I know what happened to your cousin." He pulled the whiskey cork out with his teeth and spit it onto the floor. In the calendar was a cryptic message, Tichy pointed to it with a fingertip like a meatball. "Monster Abby tried to rob the Writer."

This was curious enough, until Cousin Albert's monkey hopped from his perch near the window to Tichy's desk, and held out a small blank calling card. Tichy took this, and flipped it, to reveal this text, writ in an impeccable, flowing script:

One time, Chuck Norris kicked an old women in the guts so hard that her uterus went backward in time and killed her own mother when she was still a baby. That was Vin Diesel's mom, but he didn't cease to exist.


Tichy looked at me, and blinked his large, watery eyes. "I dunno; he's been here the whole time you were catching Zs." Mr. Tichy looked back at the card, "Who the hell is Chuck Norris and Vin Diesel?"


And, despite all that has shifted in the last half-century, this is counsel that I observe faithfully to this very day.

As of Yet I Remain,
Your Giant Squid

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see other pieces by this author | Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid? Read his blog posts and enjoy his anthem (and the post-ironic mid-1990s Japanese cover of same)

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Ask the Giant Squid: The Final Disposition of a Prosthetic Curiosity (A Tahitian Tale; part four of not more than four)

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