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Squid #439
(published June 18, 2009)
Ask the Giant Squid: Emperor Norton's Hat! (Squidapalooza; part two of three)
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
Dear Giant Squid,

It's still me.

I don't get what your crooked cousin's San Francisco speakeasy has to do with the word "squidaploozas," at least in the sense that Bunny, Daph and I use it.

And, for squidsakes, you didn't even answer my question! Should "squidapalooza" be included in the Oxford dictionary or not?


Dear, Dear Jose,

I am all apologies; upon review, I can see how my answer might have seemed a bit obtuse. To decrease the opacity of my earlier column: Of course I am delighted to toss my full and magisterial weight of character behind such a noble addition . . .

Provided the definition, as listed in Admiral Geoffory Oxford's Most Catholic Dictionary and Vulgate Lexicon concisely reflects the full breadth of meaning the word is intended to encompass, to whit:

As faithful readers will recall, whilst enjoying a tankard or seven of fine cut-rate gin and lubricating our manly bon homme, the private dick John Tichy had revealed to me that he had gained possession of the bewitchéd "lucky" top hat of San Francisco's blessed and honorable Emperor Norton, when we were rudely assaulted by a mixed-gender pair of berobéd fellow guests at Cousin Albert's speakeasy (then called "Squidapalooza," and housed in the labyrinthine tunnels beneath the teeming rough-cobbled streets of Chinatown). Whilst the male of the pair voiced interest in acquiring Emperor Norton's abandoned hat with a quickness, his gal pal elected to badly pierce a load-bearing gasket on my suit, so as to assure that we might fully comprehend the business which they meant.

"What the Hell, sister?" Tichy exclaimed. "These are my good shoes you're brine-ing!"

"I BELIEVE," I said, trying to remain calm, but feeling the triple-woozies of inebriation, asphyxiation, and panic, "THAT THIS INJURY MAY BE QUITE GRAVE; COULD WE ALL PERHAPS TAKE A MOMENT TO—"

"We want Norton's hat!" the man hissed, taking hold of Tichy's lapel with his free hand. "Now." He punctuated this with another slash to a vital leg gasket, and his female cohort did likewise. Jets of my vital waters spurted forth.

"PARDON!" I barked, shrinking back against the bar "THESE ARE ALL VERY IMPORTANT SEALS! NOT A ONE IS SUPERNUMERARY!"

"You want a hat?" Tichy snarled. "Well, you know what they say in Chinatown: Be careful what you wish for, 'cause you Just Might Get It," and with that, Tichy flung his own bevomited hat into our assailants' faces. The two gagged and staggered aback, Cousin Albert cut the lights, and Tichy and I stumblingly squirted up the stairs and out unto the midnight streets, where a pair of drunk indigent chinamen stood, blearily agog at our materialization. Tichy caught Cousin Albert's unassuming surface-level door before it slammed shut, and beckoned the two enter, explaining: "Jane Russell and Howard Hughes are downstairs looking for extras for something a lil blue; I heard they wanna fry up a little Triple Hunan Delight, if you read me."

The men appeared more perplexed, so I translated the heart of Tichy's sentiments into Cantonese: "THE VENERABLE INVESTIGATOR ADVISES THAT THE ACTRESS JANE RUSSELL REQUIRES TO HAVE INTERCOURSE WITH YOU AND FILM THE PROCEEDINGS." The two brothers-in-arms frowned, and one noted to the other that he was disappointed to hear that Ms. Russell's career had faltered so significantly. As the two stood before the door, puzzling out their best course of action, Tichy and I sought to nonchalantly stroll downhill, toward the piers, although my gait was already beginning to falter badly.


Tichy was visibly annoyed with me. "That wasn't Norton's top hat, you horse's ass! That was my own fedora I puked in after our fifth round."


At that moment the duo found their way clear up the stairs, colliding bodily with the drunken chinamen as of yet still debating their duty, as Confucian Samaritans, as pertained to interrupting the steady slide of Ms. Jane Russell's career into ignominy at the hand of Hughes' mad, perfidious genius."

"Run, Squidgette!" Tichy huffed as he took to heel. I kept a pace, despite the steadily dropping water pressure within my suit, and the sudden simultaneous failure of three legs.


"I don't think this is the time—"

I craned about in my suit, then reported that the knife-wielding man and woman were swiftly closing the gap betwixt.

"OK," Tichy groaned, pressing his hand to what I suspect was a quickly mounting runner's stitch (Tichy was hardly known for his delight in the physical arts). "Listen: you know who Norton was, yeah, Squiddo? He was crowned the first Emperor of the United States here in Frisco back about sixty years or so. The poor sap was some kind of business honcho who lost it all investing in rice."

As we raced down the streets I plucked baskets and chickens and plates of glass to hurl behind us, obscuring the way of our pursuers only marginally.

"And so ole Josh Norton goes a bit crazy, right? He dresses up like an Emperor and walks about San Fran handing out hand drawn currency and living in free hotel rooms, eating free at restaurants. He was like the hobo king or sumthin'. But see, no one has ever figured out how he pulled it all off. How he got everyone to bend over for him. Some people—charitable types—think it was just the spirit of the age, an old-timey kindness. Now me, I seen stuff you wouldn't believe. I'm the guy who solved the case of The Man Who Sold His Bones To Russians after all. I don't believe in no kindness, Squiddy."

We rounded a corner and raced uphill, Westward across the slickened streets. Chinatown gave way to the simple townhouses of Pacific Heights.

"But there is this rumor that gets passed around. This rumor says that the top hat old Norton wore wasn't no ordinary head coverin'. They say that maybe the hat was bewitched. Maybe it had spirits livin' in it. Maybe it was from outer space." Tichy spat and puffed on. "They say that whoever wears that hat, the whole damn world just bends to their will."

Behind us the Emperor Norton bridge loomed its span towards Treasure Island. Afore us the single, enraged eye of an uphill-bound cable car loomed up over a rise.

"Do me a favor," Tichy groaned, "Take this," he rooted in his jacket pocket, and finally produced a brass key attached to a cut-glass doorknob, which he tossed into the air and I snatched up with my starboard manipulator, "and follow my lead." Tichy then abruptly stopped, throwing his weight back so as to propel his significant posterior girth into the gut of the female member of the team hotly pursuing us. She coughed a percussive oooof!, drove her bodkin into Tichy's shoulder, and then fell as he executed an admirable pick-and-roll, whirling past her to now sprint the opposite direction, coming to speed with the passing cable car. Tichy grabbed hold of a brass bar, and swung himself aboard. "Zai Jain, m'lady!" he shouted, lifting a hand to tip the hat he neglected to recall he'd already vomited into and discarded, whilst the cable car, heedless, rumbled him away.

I, myself, could not conceivably redirect my considerable momentum in such manner, and continued to hurtle over the crest and now downhill, my suit's water level sunk to lie alarmingly tangent against the upper curves of my optically perfect eyes. I pinwheeled desperately downhill, and concocted my escape, seeing the loving embrace of the Bay's waters yawning just a few blocks ahead.

I was little surprised to here a clang and scrape as my male pursuer slashed ineffectually at one of the steel plates of my carapace.

A dozen feet from the Bay's edge I leapt, hoping to execute a graceful pirouette, and dive into the waters, where I might shed my failing suit, and ultimately contrive a way to contact Tichy. As the pier loomed, I coiled back, and my remaining legs crumbled, dropping my velocitating suit to the hard concrete, where it sparkingly slid to a halt two and one-half feet from the fathom's drop into the liberating, swift waters of the Bay.

I was little surprised when a few friendly longshoreman righted me, and I looked up into the grimly grinning faces of the man and woman Tichy and I had met in the bar. The woman held Tichy's doorknob aloft, permitting the key to dangle attractively.

"Don't suppose you know where the lock to this key is?" She puffed, still out of breath.

"OF COURSE I DO!" I lied, embarrassed at my predicament. When genuine smiles blossomed upon my captors' faces, I immediately realized the scale of my tactical error.

"SQUIDIPALOOZA!" I cursed under my breath.

"I'll say," the man grinned. "Let's get this thing on a hand cart, boys; a double-sawbuck and a round of Irish coffees for the lot of you if you can get it done before the heat or any of those vigilance society boys wander up."

I then lost conscious perception of the world for an indeterminate time.

In the case that it fails to go without saying, Jose, that was just the tip of the Squidapalooza for me.

Yet I Gladly 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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The Next Squid piece (from Issue #440):

Ask the Giant Squid: The Squid-Man of Alcatraz (Squidapalooza; part three of three)

The Last few Squid pieces (from Issues #438 thru #434):

Ask the Giant Squid: A Rum Night on the Barbary Coast (Squidapalooza; part one of three)

Ask the Giant Squid: The Good and Honest General Motor

Ask The Giant Squid: The Ziggurat of the Devourer of the Dead (In the Shadow of the Canyon of Death; part four of four)

Ask The Giant Squid: In the Heart of the Heart of the Heart of Evil (In the Shadow of the Canyon of Death; part three of four)

Ask The Giant Squid: In Mexico, No One Can Hear You Scream (In the Shadow of the Canyon of Death; part two of four)

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