Poor Mojo's Almanac(k) Classics (2000-2011)
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Squid #44
(published June 14, 2001)
Ask The {Sally McBootykins}: Memphis, Abode of the Gods?
Big American Chapter Three
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
I am in receipt of another batch of video images from Thomas. As before, these are fairly choppy, often broken, streams. I am not sure if Thomas ever tested his rig, and have no way of communicating to him the poor quality of the footage being received. This is emblematic of our friendship, I am afraid.

Last week, I took to referring to Thomas' x10 camera as a "lapel camera." Upon reflection, I have come to be suspicious of the idea of Thomas owning any garments which, properly speaking, have lapels. Additionally, as I reviewed this week's footage, I noted quite a bit of quick panning that I do not believe would be in keeping with my hypothesis of a shirt-mounted camera. Perhaps he has the camera hidden among the greasy rat-nest of his hair? Or in a hat? A miner's helmet, perhaps?

Honorable Readers, if you see Thomas, please tell me if he is wearing a suspicious hat. Like a New Year's demon desperate to count every grain of rice on the floor, wondering on this topic has caused me anxiety and grave sleeplessness.

But the business of the day is Thomas' footage, which is as follows:

Clip #1, 4 minutes and 18 seconds, features their entrance to the city. Although the footage, as it is quite choppy and owing to their circumlocutious route about the city, becomes quickly confused, I am relatively convinced that they enter the city via I-40. There is a brief glance of the Pyramid of Memphis (an impressive, steel and glass pyramid situated in downtown Memphis, in which men play basketball and musical instruments for large crowds)— perhaps Thomas feared attracting the Venerable Squid's attention toward the sight? The great Architeuthis has long wanted to devour a professional athletic team; he believes that by consuming them he will gain their speed, strength and charm. I know that as a scribe it is poor form to analyze and attribute motivations, nonetheless, it is hard to resist.

At any rate, they swiftly take a sharp left, descending down Riverside Drive, heading south along the Mississippi's eastern shore. The river is broad, brown and lethargic in the few glimpses presented. Thick, it appears. Here this clip breaks into stuttering snow and bands of color.

I'm wondering about the car though. Devo, our mechanic and physical plant manager here at the lab, as well as a most honored friend, last night over salted margaritas at the ChiChi's regaled me with tales of the modifications he had made. I don't think Thomas knows yet what he is driving. It must be known that the Great Squid, in all his awfulness, weighs many tonnes. We are never sure how much, it fluctuates wildly depending on mood and dog consumption. (Which brings forth a second sliver of thought from the darkness: how is Thomas feeding the Most Venerable Architeuthis?) Once, when commenting on a dramatic increase in the Squid's mass, he replied, "My dearest Sang, it is only water weight." And then roared his terrible roar and gnashed his terrible beak.

Which is all to say that Thomas is driving an Escalade loaded with twenty-five to forty tonnes of Wise Cuttlefish. Roads and bridges cannot typically handle this kind of load. And there is no way for me to get a message to him.

Again, apologies: these are matters which concern me, and are by no means the topic of the day.

The next clip is only 13 seconds, during which it appears Thomas and his Escalade now head south along the western shore of the Mississippi. Thomas is pointing at the road, and at small fissures that appear to be preceding the Escalade down the avenue. Do I see this, or merely believe I see it? The footage is of very low quality, indeed.

Clips #3 and #4, each 7 seconds, feature Thomas' fist being driven against the dark glass directly behind him. It is not possible to locate the vehicle, vis a vis Memphis. In the upper left corner of the frame, we get a brief glimpse of the back of Ms. Montgomery's tawny-haired head. I imagine that she is looking away out of pity, much as we pretend not to see the couple having the violent argument over penis size in the grocer's produce section.

I wonder, is this how Thomas is seeking to impress her into having conjugal relations with him? By fighting with a fictitious Marlon Brando?

Clip #5 is almost 15 minutes long. It begins with a custom painted, sparkling-purple Ford S-10 fleeing before the Escalade's windshield, screeching to a halt, then zooming closer, then again jolting to a halt, fleeing again, then the scene freezing. You, Honorable Readers— had you ever ridden cross-town in a Honda Civic being piloted by Thomas— might recognize this as his signature parallel parking method. Ah Little Lead Foot, how I miss our lunchtime sprints to the Burger King.

Thomas then exits the Escalade, crosses in front, locking the doors with the remote unit on the keychain, and joins Lisa Montgomery, who is already standing upon the sidewalk. She smiles, somewhat awkwardly, and as Thomas turns away from her, we see that we are upon Beale street, packed with evening folk, enjoying the impromptu blues of street musicians, drinking from long plastic flutes of fruity-alcohol beverages. They walk for nearly a block before our point-of-view suddenly spins around. In its parking slot, the black Escalade is violently shaking, hiking up upon the driver's side wheels, and then the passenger side. The pavement is dented and cratered below the wheels. Memphisians, both sober and inebriated, scatter from the car, like polarized iron fillings fleeing a magnet. Thomas pounds back to the truck, slides across the hood like a Duke of Hazard— we are treated to a brief glimpse of Memphis' garish dusk sky— and then slams into the vehicle, hammering his fist against the tinted glass. There is an apparently very brief break in the footage, and then we are again upon the road, heading directly up Riverside, with a fiery view of the silhouette of the Memphis Pyramid.

In the next clip it is not significantly darker, but Thomas is somehow farther from the Pyramid, while still heading towards it. He slows the Escalade significantly, and faces the river for quite sometime. On the river is the steamship American Queen. The ship is a veritable floating castle, four tiered, like an American Wedding cake surmounted by a pair of frilled smoke stacks. The image quivers, and I wonder if Thomas is enraged, or perhaps weeping.

Clips #7 through #14 are quite short, only a few seconds each. It appears that Thomas was lost among the dark streets of Memphis, apparently attempting to close in on the Memphis Pyramid, although by all appearances he never gets closer than a half dozen blocks. There is also a single image of the Byzantine gates of the Memphis Zoo, which appears to be nowhere in the vicinity of the Pyramid and is thus a mystery of sorts.

Clip #15 is the longest of the Memphis series, and by far the most impressive. It begins with Thomas taking a left onto Elvis Presley Boulevard and passing before the long, graffitoed wall that runs between the sidewalk and the 14-acre Graceland property. He circles the block several times, appearing to grow more agitated, and on his fifth pass of the driveway, takes a sharp right, bursting through the simple split-rail fence demarcating the property to that adjacent of the erstwhile King of Rock & Roll. The Escalade bursts through a second section of fence, onto Elvis' front lawn, slaloms several large oaks and then dives into the backyard, bursting through the corrals. The modified tires and extreme weight of the vehicle cause great torrents of earth to spume from all around Thomas' cabin. Elvis' horses, outfitted with some type of eye bandages which make them look somewhat like very surprised equine Orphan Annies, stampede from the trucks roaring progress. Several erratic s-turns threaten to upend the vehicle as Thomas attempts to avoid striking trees, potted plants, a patio and several terrified steeds. Finally he screeches to a halt after slamming through several large, concrete flowerpots, arriving at the side of the property's grand, light bathed swimming pool. We catch a brief glimpse of a chestnut mare treading in the pool with ethereal calm before Thomas has left the vehicle. He heaves himself up upon the hood of the Escalade, turns to look back through the windshield, and jumps up and down several times, his hands flying wildly before him.

The expression upon Lisa's face is . . . an ornate tapestry of fear, excitement, admiration, frustration and chagrin. It is simply indescribable.

And here the footage available to me ends. The microphone promised by Thomas does not appear to be working entirely either. Its product is far worse and I hesitate to even catalogue it. Certainly the sound files, sent in a separate e-mail containing, are not attached by sequence or sense directly to the video clips which were salvageable. I have yet to receive any further word from Thomas.

Audio Clip #1

This clip is composed almost entirely of a keening screech which moves up and down the scale parabolically. At each low point words can be made out, imprecisely, though they cannot be ascribed to anyone. The words may come from the trio, or from the street.

List of words, in order:

—eet dammit— (This is my closest phonetic rendering of the word or phrase. It might also be Edami, but I am not sure what that could mean.)
Gumbo? (This one had a slight upturn of the voice at the end, which leads me to believe that it was a query. It is, by far the clearest of the snippets.)
ever leave (Emphatic)
look the
mighty/might he (Distant)
widow (Emphatic)
son/sun (High volume)

Audio Clip #2

A quiet, airy blues is moaning in the background of this audio clip. Street sounds, murmuring, the occasional click of cameras and laughter.

LISA: What about Mr. Brando?
THOMAS: He's asleep.
LISA: Asleep?
A brash trumpet blares close by, driving the audio to distortion. Just as the audio levels are reaching the red one can almost make out the sound of a heavy thumping.

Audio Clip #3

A low, deep voice singing "Suspicious Minds." This is the only sound— there is no Thomas-noise nor street noise. This leads me to believe that the mic may not be attached to Thomas but rather mounted within or upon the Escalade.

Audio Clip #4

A sound of an engine roaring, splashing water, animal sounds. There is some screaming. Music is almost perceptible in the background.

And now, Architeuthis:

Dear Simian-Office-Dwellers:

Indeed, we have fallen upon the city of Memphis like a scourge.

At the beginning, our journey was slow. The going was, indeed, laboriously slow. It awakened in me a new sense. I had not in a long time held any event with anything close to anticipation. And yet, here, with this journey before us I must admit that a certain amount of . . . enterprise . . . had overtaken my form.

One can easily forget the oppressive nature of office work. How the tyranny of enclosed spaces can prey upon the mind. And my mind is huge, and therefore so very susceptible to the vagaries of this slow dissection of intent.

Because of this, I am reminded of a the tale of the springing amphibian who was made into a broth . . . I believe that it has some connection to the peoples of this Region American, especially as it relates to the expansive body of water which flows nearby.

You see, dear monkeys, the amphibian which has porous flesh and quickly becomes a sink in which the poisons of your land collect as they flow into the water table, this creature is much prized a comestible in "these here parts."

The creature is used in the reduction of certain spices into sauces and soups. The flesh of the creature's gesticulating vaulting limbs are fried and consumed as a delicacy. And in general, there is a desire to in some way digest the flavor of this said beast. And so, it is advised, that when one attempts to prepare the beast, one should not drop it directly into a pan of water which has reached a temperature of 100 degrees Celsius. This will result in the green one leaping immediately forth from the pan and away. For you see, the porous flesh of the creature immediately understands the imminence of the danger which the water presents. And thus it extracts itself. Given this fact of nature, the advice continues, one should prepare a pan of cool water. Water that is to the liking of the amphibian in question. In said water the creature will rest, assuming that it is not unlike the safe estuaries and flood plains from which it had been taken. And so, by this ruse, the water might be more carefully heated, raising the temperature by minute amounts, until such time as the creature is dead.

And that is how one cooks a frog fresh.

And that is how one's mind, slowly, over the course of many years, is wedged into smaller and smaller spaces until such time as a great explosion is imminent, and the slightest provocation once the situation is primed can set it off.

And so I say, we have come to Memphis, the abode of the god Ptah, the birthplace of the Widow's Son Hiram Abiff who built Solomon's Temple and who traps in his dead heart a million secrets, the land of windswept deserts and ominous monoliths ten thousand years old. And it was my full intention to commune with this great city. A city built by unknowable appendages. A city which, by its own dignity, has over time transcended the sullying of its streets by the infestation of monkey men who swept in from the southern savannahs during a time when the creator was not watching.

I came to this city to free myself. It was ordained on my itinerary. Tom and I agreed.

He said, explicitly, "Let's go to Memphis!"

And I considered in my enormous brain the completeness and beauty of that statement. I was impressed by how Tom managed to encapsulate so much truth into so simple a declaration. I saw the towers and the temples in my mind, so much a terrestrial reflection of the aquatic city-scapes I knew in my youth, deep in the trenches of the far Pacific where the Sleeping One writhes.

And I said to him, "Yes, let us go."

And then we came and we ambled and we wandered and we drove and there was nothing. Tom refused to stop anywhere. It was as though he were trying to hide something or avoid something or to misdirect. And my entombment, self-imposed though it is as I work toward global domination, had become a frustration and I desired nothing more than to be still and to gaze upon the Glory of Memphis.

And the monkey and his female attempted to slip away upon a street crawling with negroes and their music.

And I felt then, a thousand years of dread descending upon me. I loath to admit it, but to be left there, in the auto-motivator was very like what I imagine a man might feel alone in a steel sphere at the bottom of the glorious sea.

And now we have seen this strange city. I have arrived at the tomb of the Widow's Son. I saw, briefly, a warped pyramid and I have heard atonal music like no other.

There are horses that swim, dear readers!

It is a strange time in which we live.

Dear readers:

I, Sang, return briefly.

I could make up some lie about how I just recently found this last audio clip and decided to attache now, but that would be thin at best. Instead I will be honest and say that I withheld this clip intentionally. It is, I believe, appropriately dramatic. For but a moment the microphone worked optimally.

There is a horse whinnying in the distance, and water splashing about. The characteristic sound of an engine cooling, ticking, fades in the background.

SQUID: (in the voice of his staticky speaker): So this is America, Tom? Memphis, America? Transplanted...

LISA: Tom...?

THOMAS: Are you fucking HAPPY!? Are you satisfied? Have you seen it all? Are you through with your fucking tantrums?

SQUID: What does "TCB" stand for? I am not familiar with the glyph in which those letters are contained? A lightning bolt?

LISA: Is that a horse?

THOMAS: I can't believe this. (quieter) I thought if he didn't see it . . . if we just avoided it . . . he would die down . . . we could keep things low key . . . I just . . . I just . . .

SQUID: Why is there so much pink? Where is the library? LIBRARIAN (calling out). LIBRARIAN!


LISA: I'm sure Tom doesn't mean it, Mr. Brando. It's just that we are so hungry. It's been a long day. Why don't we all go back to Beale Street and get some gumbo.


THOMAS: It means TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS you fuck-wit! "TCB" equals "Taking Care of Business." And the fucking lightning bolt means "in a flash"— "taking care of business in a flash." There is no librarian. I don't think Elvis could even read.

LISA: Come on. Gumbo. And crayfish. And sweet breads. And salsa. And fried squid.


THOMAS: Nothing. She didn't say a goddman thing. (sirens in the distance, and the sound of an old woman yelling). Shit. C'mon, Lisa, we'd better go.

LISA: I can handle this. Oh, man, Tom, did you have to dig up the lawn like that?

SQUID: Fried What?

(Car doors shutting, engine starting, radio clicking on, several tinny strains of "Heartbreak Hotel", radio clicking off.)

And so, dear readers, this week comes to a close.

Hsien Sang

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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 #45):

Ask The {Sally McBootykins}: On the Road Again
Big American Chapter Four

The Last few Squid pieces (from Issues #43 thru #39):

Ask The {Sally McBootykins}: Memphis, Abode of the Gods:
Big American: Chapter Two

Ask The {Sally McBootykins}: THE BIG AMERICAN

Ask The {Sally McBootykins}: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Splendiferous and Cruel

Ask The Giant Squid: I Am Not a Man!

Ask The Giant Squid: Three Questions from Lil Jenny, Age 9

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