Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Blood-Oath

While I'm still at the controls here, I'm thinking I should treat you to an English translation of the traditional Blood-Oath that PePe and I were required to swear to one another on Friday. It's quite touching, and it gives the reader a window into the Piper/Fighter relationship. That the Rule of Secrecy should have kept the EIDF from sharing a tradition as beautiful as the Blood-Oath with the at-large culture (for eight centuries!) — well, it really gets my goat, and it's something I want to fix.

I'll skip through all the invocations of gods, goddesses, and ancestors — the droning doctrinal niceties, the three or more pages given over to buttering up Viracocha, the storm and sun god — and set you down right in the heart of the text:

*Piper and Fighter walk together when Viracocha brings the sun.

*Piper and Fighter walk together in the rain.

*Piper and Fighter take shelter together when Viracocha brings black clouds, and the thunder and lightning.

*Piper and Fighter are inseparable.

*Piper and Fighter keep no secrets from one another.

*Piper and Fighter use their unique abilities to protect one another. Their lives are forever intertwined, in this world and the next.

*Piper and Fighter are of One Blood and One Being.

There is a postscript, a tacked-on bit, the importance of which has become another wedge issue between the Dance-Fighters of the First and Second Secret Mountain Redoubts. My Master Trainer, who provides Piper representation on his Council and Advisory Committee, regards this text as merely optional. Sort of like ". . . for thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory forever and ever," at the end of the Lord's Prayer:

*The Piper cannot live without the Fighter. When the Fighter dies, the Piper dies, too — even if he must take his own life.

PePe and I talked this over when we wrote up the contract. He lobbied to include this language in our blood-oath, but I would have none of it. He insisted; I demurred. It was the one sticking point in our negotiations, and very nearly a deal-breaker. In the end, I proposed that the clause be bilateral, so that I would be required to take my own life, too, if my Piper should die. Tears welled up in PePe's eyes. He stood up from the table, and with voice cracking, he declaimed:

"Only now do I understand how foolish, how unfair I am to press my willing sacrifice upon you! It took this — this unprecedented offer of mutuality from a Fighter! Now I am required to consider how it would feel to enter the next world — whatever it is, wherever it may be — bearing the weight of a blood-brother's untimely suicide on my shoulders. No, Phutatorius. I will not accept your offer; nor should you mine. Let us dispense with this clause in its entirety. May we never speak of it again."

Helluva guy, PePe.

Meet PePe

Sorry for the delay, B/S — 'twas a busy week, by any measure.

I promised you a Sidekick, and damned if I won't deliver today. Do you recall, Brother/Sister, when I talked about my Master Trainer's bold — some would say suicidal — approach to the First Mountain Redoubt, on the day of my trial? I observed that my Master left his Piper at home, as a sign that he came as an emissary of peace.

I'd like to talk a little more about Pipers. This requires a return to the First Principle of the Ancient and Very Very Lethal Art of Incan Dance-Fighting, which is this: that dancing is as important an element of the practice as the fighting. The two are, in fact, inextricable components — and for this reason the Elite Incan Dance-Fighter cannot fight (that is, dance-fight) without music. It is the music that brings the Dance-Fighter's blood to boil, the music that brings him into the Zone, the music that takes control of his limbs and propels them, with uncharacteristically brutal force, into the chops and groins of enemy combatants.

My Master Trainer teaches that the Dance-Fighter is a vessel for the power of music. Without music, his blows have no timing, coordination, or force. This is not a negotiable institutional rule, like the Rule of Secrecy. This is just how dance-fighting works. Without music, there is no dancing. Without dancing, there is no dance-fighting. Without dance-fighting, the Dance-Fighter is just some schmoe looking for an ass-kicking — and more than halfway down the road to getting one.

So it was that in the days before Sony Walkmen and iPods, Dance-Fighters hired and supported their own personal musicians, much as medieval knights had their squires. A particularly wealthy Dance-Fighter might keep as many as three musicians in his retinue — adding a Drummer, and maybe a Tambourine Man to make an ensemble — but at a bare minimum, he had to have a Piper. The same is true today.

There are no fixed rules governing a Fighter's relationship with his Piper. Each Piper enters into his own personally-negotiated contract with his Fighter. Some might take on the duties of a personal valet; others might enter into terms by which the Fighter fends largely for himself and even carries his own pack (or black wheelie-bag, as the "case" may be — ha! pun intended!) on the duo's travels together. There is, however, one sticking point: the Piper must be prepared to throw down and pipe like hell when his Fighter is in danger.

These days the Pipers are trained in parallel with Fighters — at least, that's how my Master Trainer does it in the Second Secret Mountain Redoubt. I don't know what those crazy bastards do at the other place. We're trained in different wings of the Secret Mountain Redoubt, and the two classes don't interact until after the first three or four weeks of training, when the Master Trainer holds a mixer in the Redoubt gymnasium, so that the Fighter students can meet the Piper students, and the two classes can feel each other out in advance of pairing up. If it sounds like a junior high school dance, B/S, that's because it is like a junior high school dance. Pipers on one side, Fighters on the other — and a punch bowl in the middle.

We had our fall mixer Tuesday night, and I met PePe there.

PePe — I should caution you that his name is pronounced PEH-pay — is twenty-five years old, about five-foot-nine, and built like a fireplug. He grew up in nearby Cuzco, but he left the country to study music at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. He speaks fluent English (unlike some of the more provincial mountain-dwellers here), and he's a bit more open-minded than many of his colleagues, most of whom snubbed me at the mixer because I'm American. As open-minded as my Master Trainer is, and as much as he preaches tolerance and diversity to his students, there are still some lingering prejudices toward white men in this territory. I haven't made many friends here in the Redoubt, and at times it feels like I've got an impenetrable twenty-foot force field around me. Don't get me wrong: I get to shower by myself, and that's a treat, but the silent treatment I've been getting after the trial — in two days I went from The Guy Who Nearly Got Us All Killed to the Master Trainer's Pet — has been wearing on my nerves.

But at the mixer, PePe looked right past all that shit. He walked right up to me and said, "You're from Cambridge, right? I hear it's an amazing place. I'd love to see it." For that, I love the man like a brother.

I went and brought PePe some punch and we got to talking, really hit it off. I told him that I had it in mind to take over the world, and that whoever becomes my Piper can expect to do a lot of traveling abroad, and that I would expect to consult with my Piper now and then about matters of strategy and, after I come to power, world administration. The job description really sparked PePe's interest. He said he thought my aspirations to a Benevolent World Dictatorship were noble, and he had always hoped his vocation would enable him to travel and see the world. We talked for most of the night — until well after 4 a.m.! — and came to terms. We drafted a personal services contract and obtained the Master Trainer's approval of the match the next morning. On Friday we swore a mutual blood-oath of loyalty to one another, and the rest is history:

PePe is now my Piper, and I am his Fighter. More on this as it develops.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Bobo Skinny

Some of the Brothers and Sisters who were faithful visitors to the old site have written me to ask what became of Bobo the Chimp.

To this point I've been silent on the subject, on the advice of my attorneys, who think it best that I keep a low profile while the litigation is pending. But when a Brother/Sister takes the time to sit down at his/her computer and type up an email to me — well, I'm gonna answer it.

Here's how I look at it: if I lose my court case, I'll probably have to cover a few medical bills, issue some back pay on the wrongful termination claim, maybe write a check out of the World Domination Fund to cover Bobo's "emotional distress," whatever that is (and however you might presume to assign a dollar value to it). That's the extent of my exposure there. But there is also another, greater court, a more important venue, where the stakes are much much higher —

The Massachusetts Court of Animal Appeals?

No, Brother/Sister —

The Supreme Court of the United States?

No, not that one, either, B/S, but you're on the right track. I'm talking about the Super-Supreme Court of Public Opinion.


Ooh is right, Brother/Sister. I had thought I could leave this issue behind, put it in the past, and move forward. But as I'm still getting questions on the subject, then it seems the Court of Public Opinion has jurisdiction over the matter of Phutatorius v. Bobo, and the jury is still out.

What can I say on this subject that I haven't said already, and to that damned monkey's lawyers? I can tell you this much: Bobo and I were just a poor match. It was a bad fit. He was always a limelight-seeker, about as histrionic and self-absorbed a personality as I've encountered. That might have been fine if his role was to play first-fiddle, but I made it very clear in the classified ad. The opening was for a "Sidekick to Internet Personality," and no social-climbers needed apply.

That monkey walked around the office like he was Keith Moon. He'd put on that cute face, make his little squeak noises to charm all the support staff. Then when I asked him to carry my briefcase to a meeting, he'd freak out and wreck all the cubicles. Overturn desks. And if I tried the smallest gesture toward discipline, I'd get all this How dare you? and You put those electrodes away — you should be ashamed of yourself! nonsense from the secretaries. Show me an Internet personality who can run a business under those conditions.

I may have lost my temper once or twice — I'm a man, I'll admit that — but let's be honest. Bobo was a shit. That's the beginning and the end of it. And when this lawsuit wraps up, we'll go our separate ways. I'll live a rich, fulfilling life without him, and he'll find some other person to torment and extort. But I'm closing the book on Bobo. Turning the page.

To you Brothers and Sisters who fell sway to the Bobo's animal charms, I say this: I've got a new Sidekick now, he's got a lot going for him, and you'll soon forget all about that mangy self-promoter and his crack legal team.

But that's the subject of tomorrow's Thursday's Friday's Sunday's post.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Brief Aside on the Prospect of Dying

The time I spent in the dock, facing the very real possibility of execution (and all the distinct and signature appurtenances that the EIDF hardliners have by custom affixed thereto), gave me some time to pause and reflect on things a little. Specifically, it got me thinking about dying.

Since I had my Moment back at that wedding reception, I've been full-speed ahead. Pell-mell, gangway, geronimo, damn-the-torpedoes, we-don't-need-no-steenkin'-badges full-speed ahead. Sure, I understood that the world domination business was risky — I did, after all, install the word's ". . . or Dies Trying" into this website's frontispiece. But I always pressed ahead without any real thought for the consequences. And when I talked of Death, I did so playfully. Carelessly. He couldn't come for me. I was in my prime of life.

But now that I've spent three days staring eye-to-eyehole with that Son of a Bitch — only to have him finally stalk off defeated, for the time being — well, I'd be a damned fool if I didn't pause for a moment and take advantage of the opportunity for introspection.

What? Another Moment, Phutatorius?

Ah, far from it, B/S. As you know, every time I click Blogger's "Publish Post" button, I put my credibility as a writer and auto-historian on the line. I've built up that credibility over time — post by painstaking post — and I won't risk it by daring to suggest I am so privileged as to have been visited by two Moments within a single month's time. At most, I think it appropriate to call this exactly what I have called it above (though I take the liberty of capitalizing it): it was an Opportunity for Introspection. Or, if you like, an Occasion for Self-Reflection. Or a Time to Slow Down for a Damn Minute and Think About Stuff Like a Rational Person. The choice is yours.

I wish I could say that, as a result of that introspection, I came to some brilliant philosophical conclusion about dying, but I didn't. I certainly didn't come to terms with the prospect of departing this mortal coil. If anything, I learned that the "brilliant philosophical conclusion," the "coming to terms" — these are just other ways to describe dying. This in turn defines by exclusion living, which is all the process that brings you finally to that point of making conclusions. That process is the part that, to me, seems the most important and most enjoyable, which explains in part why I'm still alive.

I could sit here and tell you everything that ran through my mind when the Councilor-Prosecutors went through their ritual Detailing of the Punishment Sought, while they described the Ceremonial Eye Removal Spoons with their serrated tips (a feature that, so I'm told, predated by three hundred years the appearance of grapefruit spoons in Western cultures), the protocol for preparing the Hallucinogenic Elixir that sets off the Ceremonial Falcons in a frenzy of maneating. I could tell you that I wondered what, if anything, would come afterward. I could tell all my regrets — that I would be so soon forgotten, that all memory of me would be so quickly reabsorbed into this great soup of Information. I could tell you that, of the catalog of Things I Wished I Had Done While Alive, the one that cut me the most deeply, and I don't know why, was that I had never written or recorded a song. A song: just a two- or three-minute burst of melody and wit and earnest, the briefest of intrusions into the life of the listener, but with the ability to penetrate into his/her head and nest there indefinitely — for years, even — until that moment in which the listener finally pauses, truly listens, and gives the long-gone composer his due:

Yes, yes. I like that. It speaks to me. How did he know I would understand?

I could tell you about these and other notions that the passing of days (and the lapse of the exigency that brought them on) now imprint with a certain amount of Silliness that I did not feel at the time. But I wonder what would be the use. Let it suffice to say that I believe every second of this Process — this life — changes you irrevocably. And when you live for any amount of time in close quarters with the Grim Reaper, that Process is intense, and the changes much more pronounced.

Brother/Sister, see if you notice a marked difference in me henceforward.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Show's Over, Now Get Back to Work

So now I'm back in training. These two-a-days are brutal. You'd think the Master Trainer would have cut me some slack, after all I went through over the weekend — the brutal interrogation, the trial, the wicked after-party back at the Second Secret Mountain Redoubt (three days later, and I'm still hung over from that homemade Andean hooch!).

But nooooooooo!

I'm right back in the thick of things with the others. All day long I'm dance-fighting, repeating drills over and again through the pain and fatigue and blackouts. The adrenaline shots and blood transfusions help. Now and then the Master Trainer throws me a bone, queues up some old-fashioned Yanqui rock 'n' roll on the sound system — some White Stripes, maybe the Ziggy Stardust album (I know, British) — to give me a lift. Half of this is emotional, I'm convinced.

It's hard work, this dance-fighter training, and sometimes I don't think I'll make it through another day. But I put my trust in the Master Trainer. He wouldn't have labored so hard to save me from execution, just to work me to death the next week.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Eloquence of My Master Trainer

As promised, I deliver today a reviewed and approved excerpt of my Master Trainer's elocution in the case In re disclosures by one Phutatorius, American, heard by a per curiam session of the Council of Elders, on the 16th of October, in this the 474th year of the reign of Inca Atahualpa. (As the EIDF refuse to accept the legitimacy of Pizarro's conquest, it is their practice to count the years in this fashion, for archiving purposes.)

The segment I have selected for you is from the Master Trainer's closing argument, when, to my mind, he really hit his stride. Put on three pairs of socks, Brother/Sister, so that my Master can knock them off, seriatim, with his passion and genius. Are you ready? Here goes:

"Councilor A******** appeals to tradition as his reason for convicting the American, Phutatorius, and sentencing him to three days in the Scalding Room before his execution. 'X is what we've always done,' he says, 'and so X is what we must do today.' But there is — or there ought to be — more to tradition than the thoughtless repetition of prior practices. For what are we, if we are not capable ourselves of evaluating what is right, and good, and appropriate at this moment? If we lack this ability, we are empty shells of men. If we lack the will, we do not deserve to occupy this great Mountain Redoubt of our ancestors. Sure, some deference is due to the practices that have survived the generations. But a tradition should only endure so long as it deserves to — and not a minute longer."

"Councillor B******** says that 'rules are rules,' and the rule is clear: the American, and all who read his publication, must be repeatedly scalded, then bound and left in the Falcon Room with the hungry birds. Ah, well: that is the beginning and the end of it. Never mind that we were born with the capacity to exercise judgment. There are rules to channel us through life, so that we might be spared any use of that judgment muscle. Councilors, I am of the opinion that this strict adherence to rules has caused our judgment to atrophy over time — to the point where, when all good sense would call for us to pull together as a community, we instead find ourselves wracked by political divisions. It is because our judgment fails us, that we are separated and sorted into our two fortified Redoubts, and on the brink of war."


[The Master Trainer's voice rang through the courtroom with such intensity that it set the birds a-squawking in the Falcon Room overhead.]

"RULES! TRADITION! RULES! TRADITION! GOD DAMN THESE RULES, THESE TRADITIONS! Do we really believe that the drafters of these treasured rules, the sources of these traditions, have more to say about our lives, today, than we do? Who were these 'ancestors,' these fountains of reason, to whom we must pay deference at every turn, even if it means leaving poor Phutatorius to be picked to death by our trained birds of prey?"

"I'll tell you who these ancestors were. It is an unpopular fact, and one rarely acknowledged before this august body, but the Empire of the Incas was lost because our ancestors — the fighters best positioned and equipped to defend it against the Spanish — held ourselves above the fray. We certainly could not come to the aid of our countrymen when Pizarro ambushed and slaughtered them on that awful afternoon in November. Why? Because the battle was in a public square, and to embroil ourselves in it, in broad daylight, would have controverted the Rule of Secrecy."

"And though the Archives tell us that our predecessors on the Council fiercely debated the question of whether to conduct a covert campaign of assassinations, we let that opportunity slip as well — for fear that a series of mysterious Spanish deaths in the dead of night might garner unwarranted attention. For fear that some enterprising person might endeavor to find out who was behind this concerted effort to protect our culture from the treachery and corruption of the White Man."

[At this point a number of the jurors shifted their eyes away from my Master Trainer and in my direction, causing me to issue a nervous cough.]

"I know that many of my adversaries on this Council have said, over and again, 'Our ancestors would rather allow the entire Incan Empire to fall than risk disclosing the secrets of the EIDF, of the AVVLAIDF. Who are we, then, to decide these secrets are too 'inconvenient' to keep?' That turns the argument on its head, for this is, I think, the greatest indictment of our secret society: that its Rule of Secrecy restrained us from protecting the larger society to which we belong."

"We've seen the price the Quechuan peoples have paid, and continued to pay, for our inaction so many years ago. But what about us? Should we not ourselves have been punished for failing to come to the Emperor's aid? Well, I say we have been punished. Every day we've spent living in the shadows has been a punishment for us. We are unable to maintain normalized relations with the outside community. At best, many of us are required to lead double lives, with homes in the nearby villages where we keep our wives and children. And those of us who live in this way pass every moment in abject terror, lest our wives, our children might somehow learn something about us that they're not supposed to know."

"What if my children follow me to the Redoubt? What if I talk in my sleep, and I reveal secrets to my wife?"

"Councilor C********, you sit in your chair today, stone-faced, determined that my pupil must die. You were required to surrender your eldest daughter to this august Council, after she followed you up here to the Redoubt. Councilor D********, you lost a brother to this damned Rule of Secrecy. And you others, who choose to reside here, secluded from the rest of the world. Why do you forego the simple, perfect pleasures of family? Because of the RULE. Because you don't trust yourself to leave this building, as we do, and not let something slip."

"And it's for this — to defend and preserve this deplorable state of things — that you are determined to scald Phutatorius, and to strip off his clothes and subject him to our falcons, and to remove his eyes with the Ceremonial Spoons? Today, councilors, you have the opportunity to exercise real independent judgment. You have the opportunity to put an end to a curse that has lasted nearly half a millennium, because to this point no one has had the courage to call for change. You can fix this, and you can spare this young man's skin from the pot's boil, his viscera from our birds. You can save his eyes, his tongue, his toes. The power is in you."

To this, I have absolutely nothing to add.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What About Jimmy?

I've received a number of emails asking how Jimmy Atahualpa could have put me in contact with the EIDF, if their existence was such a well-kept secret before Friday. Shouldn't Jimmy have been interrogated and killed, if he knew about the EIDF? one reader asks. Another suggests that Jimmy himself is undercover EIDF, based out of Harvard Square.

The fact is, when Jimmy made his phone call on my behalf, he did not know he was connecting me with the EIDF. He thought his friend's brother was a senderista in the Shining Path.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

All Clear

Well, that was one intense and hellish weekend, Brother/Sister. But we're through it, you and I, thanks to the timely, forceful, and committed intervention of my Master Trainer.

Here's the short version (well, as short as I can make it) of what happened:

These past two weeks I have been learning the ancient — and very, very lethal — art of Incan dance-fighting. I made oblique mention of this in an earlier post, but I was not, at that time, disposed to elaborate, because it would have skipped me too far ahead in my story. Narrative flow is important.

I was, however, always resolved to publish a more detailed report of what I am up to here at the Secret Mountain Redoubt. I undertook to accomplish that last Friday. Certain people saw that post online and took exception to it, on the ground that I was revealing treasured secrets of the elite Incan dance-fighters — secrets that their and my predecessors in this art had gone to great extremes to keep contained. When I say "great" extremes, I'm talking about homicide — and when I say homicide, I talk about systematic dead-of-night assassinations of persons who had, for some reason or other, acquired information to which they were not to have access.

Brother/Sister, there is a reason why, to this point, you know nothing about the ancient and very very lethal art of Incan dance-fighting. The reason, snarks Burping Squid, is that you're just making this shit up.

I am not making this "shit" up. The reason you know nothing about the ancient and very very lethal art of Incan dance-fighting (which I will hereinafter identify by the acronym "AVVLAIDF") is that if you did, you would have been killed. And if, in the small gap of time between your learning something about AVVLAIDF and your near-immediate disappearance and death, you should have passed any of your information on to a third party, the elite Incan dance-fighters ("EIDF"), the EIDF would have gone out and killed that third party, too. This is because those select few persons that the EIDF elders deem worthy of rigorous and extensive training in AVVLAIDF are simultaneously schooled in certain ancient Incan arts of interrogation. (The EIDF's interrogation methods are without peer, and I defy any of your newfangled "intelligence agencies," with their electric shocks and truth elixirs, to compete with them.) Before the EIDF silenced you for eternity, they would have endeavored to find out from you just who else they needed to kill to keep their existence secret.

The reason I am alive today? Simple. There is a growing movement within the EIDF to "go public," that is, to pierce the veil of secrecy that surrounds the practice of AVVLAIDF and its adherents. As of, well, yesterday, that movement attained a majority on the EIDF Council of Elders, thanks largely to the impassioned argument of my Master Trainer.

As best I can gather, this issue has been percolating since the early 1980s, when some of the EIDF's young pups (my Master included) took note of the publicity that the Japanese ninjas, themselves a secretive group of trained assassins, were enjoying in America — particularly among suburban ninth-grade boys. The ninjas had relaxed their own secrecy controls, so that they might propagate the fallacious notion that they were the bad-assest assassins on the planet. This really rankled my Master and his friends, who well knew that the ninjas were at best runners-up in this department. Several practicing ninjas learned this lesson the hard way, but, as the EIDF's more strictly-observed Rule of Secrecy required, they did not live to admit that they were second-best.

The EIDF, like any organization of men, is susceptible to politics, and with it, faction. As years passed and my Master and his peers worked their way up the EIDF hierarchy, they felt freer to challenge the Rule of Secrecy. And so they did. This led to all manner of infighting and ugliness. Friendships were demolished over this question, and meetings of the Council of Elders deteriorated into weekly brawls. Some time ago — back in '98, I think it was — some of the exasperated hardline conservatives in the Council suggested that it might be appropriate to enforce the Rule of Secrecy preemptively. The Master received this suggestion the only way he could: as a threat to his life. And he responded the only way he could: he walked out. He took his supporters and split in the dead of night, went off to build and occupy a second Secret Mountain Redoubt some thirty miles north of the Council's. (This second SMR to the north is the one I have been describing to you; I didn't even know about the original Redoubt until I was taken there in chains.)

Most EIDF regard the Schism, or Spinoff, or Pant-Pissing (I've heard all these terms used) as the best thing that could have happened to the EIDF at that time. An awkward peace ensued — imagine if the seceded Southerners had not fired on Fort Sumter — whereby the Master reluctantly maintained the Rule of Secrecy but otherwise operated his own separate Secret Mountain Redoubt unmolested by the hardliners. They left him alone, and he pursued other liberalizations that the Council had rejected, such as admitting women into this facility — and recruiting certain foreigners from places as far away as Cambridge, Massachusetts, whom he might teach to practice AVVLAIDF.

The Secrecy issue was still there, bubbling under the surface, seven years later, when the Master encouraged me to write what I pleased about my training in this blog. My guess is that he decided now was as good a time as any for the endgame. Several of the most unyielding Council Elders had passed away recently; he had a notion that their younger replacements — although not themselves the type to defect to the Second Redoubt, as he had — would be hospitable to some limited efforts to promote AVVLAIDF among the uninitiated.

When I published on Friday, the Council hardliners reacted. I was myself unaware of the danger I was in; a group of unfamiliar EIDF captured me on an afternoon hike outside of the Redoubt. Certain Elders talked of declaring war. I was interrogated, forced to redact Friday's blog entry, and scheduled to stand trial on Saturday morning for treason against the AVVLAIDF.

Brother/Sister, I do not lie when I tell you I was this close [indicating with thumb and forefinger poised a millimeter apart] to execution. And certain of my captors were on Orbitz, making plane reservations to the States no doubt to enforce the Rule of Secrecy against my readership. I overheard them comparing air fares to Cleveland and Akron/Canton.

At dawn on Saturday, as the sun was first peaking over the mountain horizon, my Master appeared at the gates of the Council Redoubt. He was alone, unheralded, without his Piper (this is significant, for an EIDF cannot fight without musical accompaniment, leaving my Master as good as unarmed). He asked the Council for the privilege of pleading my case. They granted him that concession, on the condition that my Master agreed to submit to whatever sentence the jury selected for me. The trial lasted over three days. When it was over, my Master, more than securing a verdict of innocence, had prevailed upon the Council to alter the governing law to permit the limited disclosure of EIDF secrets! It was something to see.

Tomorrow I hope to publish certain of the arguments the Master Trainer made on my behalf, so that you, Brother/Sister, might be treated to the intensity of that court proceeding, and to the great heights of rhetoric and emotional appeal my Master reached late Sunday night. The post is written, but the new regulations require that I first submit it to a Council Committee to review. When they are satisfied that my content falls entirely within the scope of one of the newly-devised exceptions to the Rule of Secrecy, I'll have that post up straightaway!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

[TITLE REDACTED]/Run for Your Life, Brother/Sister!

It makes sense, I think, to step back for a minute. There are some things you need to know — about Quechua, for starters. Quechua is the language group of the native South Americans that settled in the Andes. The official language of the Inca Empire was Cuzco Quechua, and that language, along with a dozen or more other related dialects (including Ayacucho and the Ecuadoran and Bolivian argots) survive to this day, notwithstanding the depredations of the Spanish colonials. In fact, some 8 million people in the South American Northwest speak Quechua, making it the most widely spoken Amerindian language.

This isn't the Discovery Channel, Phutatorius.

I realize that. But I was hoping to make a prefatory point, which is this: much of the custom and culture of the Inca Empire lives on in today's Quechuan populations. So much is apparent from the fact that Jimmy's stage-namesake, the Emperor Atahualpa, who was betrayed and — in the estimation of most right-minded people, anyway — murdered by Francisco Pizarro and his entourage of conquistadores in 1533, lamented the perfidy of his Spaniard guests in substantially the same tongue that Jimmy's parents spoke around the house, back when he was taking pipe lessons on Tuesday nights in the Cuzco 'burbs.

And it's not just a common vocabulary that has descended from the Incas of that Golden Age to today's Andean residents. Certain other rich traditions have hung in there through the years. In fact, it's fair to say that certain ancient Incan arts have even flourished over the last half-millennium, as their practitioners' access and exposure to the broader world did not eradicate them, so much as furnish the means and occasion for further refining those arts. To be sure, a lot of the good stuff is lost. But not all of it.

Which brings me, finally, to the subject of *********** ********* — — —


If you did happen to visit this site before I pulled the "objectionable" text, you, uh, should consider lying low in an out-of-the-way Best Western over the weekend while I sort all this out. These persons can (so they tell me anyway) trace IP addresses.

Now, if I might be allowed just a brief moment to editoralize:

Really, W.t.F? It's not like I haven't mentioned the Secret Mountain Redoubt about a billion times already — and the training, too. And I could have sworn I held forth on the ***** *** ********* *** in some earlier post. Nobody said a word, then. And now I'm caught up in this big shitstorm. Well, all will be explained by Monday, at the latest — and I'll be sure to tell you straightaway, Brother/Sister, when it's safe for you to go back home. In the meantime, my focus will be on securing the structural integrity of my own thoracic vertebrae . . . if you get my drift.]

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

How Can I Tell You How Sucky That Climb Was?

Boy am I sore, Brother/Sister. And tired, too — I can barely lift my arms over the keyboard keys today. The Master Trainer really had a hair up his ass today. Dropped a paperweight on his foot this morning — the clogs he wears are open-toed — and he spent the rest of the day taking it out on us in merengue drills.

Still, I owe you some catch-up work today, so I'll fight through it. Where did I last leave off?

Respectfully, Phutatorius, I believe you were in the rental car without the tape-deck, traversing the foothills of the Andes.

Ah, yes. What a harrowing drive that was. Mud-slick roads, hairpin switchbacks on loose gravel, sheer hundred-foot drops. No guardrails. I did about fourteen hours straight — half of them in the pitch-black, with the dome light on while I tried to follow the circuitous route my Sponsor had drawn for me in the road atlas. Sometime after sunrise I came to an unpassable stretch, the road clogged in rubble from what figured to have been a recent avalanche (I don't need to remind you, Brother/Sister, that winter just ended down here in the Southern Hemisphere).

I ditched the car at that point, thanked it kindly for its yeoman work, did the last forty miles on foot, following the map past the end of the road, and from there along winding trails — not all of them terribly well-marked — to where X marked the spot. This was not easily accomplished in the thin air, with my wheelie-bag not particularly suited to the mud and muck in these mountains. In retrospect, I think it might have been wise for me to trade it in for a backpack, but after what I had gone through to retrieve it from the airport authorities, I had grown rather attached to that clumsy little black box, with its misaligned wheels.

I worry that unless I describe this journey in a long and drawn-out fashion, then you won't come away from this read with a true and accurate understanding of the hardship I suffered climbing those mountains. On the flipside, if I did recount every uphill stumble, every misread of the map, every muttered expletive and shouted prayer — well, I worry that you'd soon weary of me, Brother/Sister, and leave off reading here in favor of some other weblog that offers its content in more manageable, bite-sized blurbs.

In fact, I'm put in mind of Tolkien, and how miserable a slog some of those Lord of the Rings passages are, when his point was to show the reader just how miserable a slog it was for those poor Hobbits traversing Middle Earth. All this because Tolkien did not have the much-maligned — but oh! so useful! — montage technique in his arsenal. The film adaptations could, you see, convey a sense of distance, endurance, and achievement by showing Frodo first in a desert, then in grasslands, then in mountains. All in a matter of seconds. Likewise, we could get a sense of Rocky Balboa's training regimen in but a few turns of the film reel — without suffering through long afternoons watching him jump rope.

Hm. A montage would certainly be useful right now. I wonder if I might be able to swing it in the narrative prose format. Worth a try, I suppose. All right, then, Brother/Sister — here goes:

lactic acid — sharp gravel — steep grades — battery dies on iPod — steeper grades — asthma attack — that whirlwind I was talking about — bobcats — diarrhea — chafing — hallucinations involving giant throbbing purple skulls chanting KILL! KILL! KILL! —

You're thinking what I'm thinking, B/S. Montage doesn't work so well in written text (and don't think for one minute that this fact didn't cost Tolkien the worldwide readership he might have had otherwise). So lacking any reliable narrative cheat for impressing upon the reader a true understanding of what I went through on Thursday and Friday — but also recognizing that it would be cruel and unusual punishment to subject my reader through the whole experience, step by excruciating step — I'll say only this:

That climb really fucking sucked. And until I get back to the States and get that attestation sworn before a certified Notary Public, you'll just have to take my word on that.

But what next, Phutatorius? What did you find at the end of the climb, where X marked the spot?

The Secret Mountain Redoubt, of course. But I'll get to that in tomorrow's post. I have another seven hundred penalty push-ups to do tonight before lights-out. At Sunday dinner I made the mistake of asking the Master Trainer if we'd be taking Columbus Day off. These Quechuan Indians are really sensitive about that Colonial stuff. Who knew?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Reader Mail/Catch Up Later

No time at the moment to resume my narrative. We're doing two-a-days up here this week, and I've got to get showered and presentable in time for dinner with the Master Trainer.

But I did take a moment or two to respond to some messages from the Fan Club (see below — by the way, it seems like Burping Squid has fallen off the radar: maybe he/she went out and got a job). Keep the faith, Brother/Sister, and keep those comments and criticisms flowing in.

After all, everything I do — I do for you.

I may steal some time tonight to write. If not, take pity on me. The Master was talking about surprising us with evening strength training sometime this week.

Monday, October 10, 2005

To the Mountains

As the aforementioned Aeropuerto Hiltòn did not, in fact, exist, I had to take a cab into the city early Thursday morning to find accommodations. It was 1:30 a.m. by the time I arrived at the Best Western Embajadores, which — if I know my Spanish — means "Impregnators." An odd name for a hotel, but I've always been a big fan of the Best Western hotel chain, which is at this point a clear front-runner for Official Hotel Chain of the Phutatorian World-Empire (though I won't yet rule out Motel 6 until I've reviewed their bid).

Reception was closing at the Best Western Impregnators, but the good people at the counter not only gave me a room — they offered me a discounted "Tarifa Super-Embajador." It may be that something is lost in the translation, and it's really "Super Manly-Man Rate," or something like that. Or word is out about my affair with President Arroyo (in that last AP photo, she did look a bit rotund in the belly).

Anyway, it took most of Thursday morning — and about thirty phone calls to the airport — to get my wheelie-bag released from Security. After the Other Phutatorius knocked me out, a security guard had approached my bag and called out to nearby patrons to claim it. As I was lying on the floor unconscious — and in plain view — some thirty feet away, I was not in a position to respond to these solicitations, and so the guard confiscated it. They weren't exactly in a hurry to resolve the misunderstanding — I had to go up the chain to a supervisor, then patch in the U.S. Ambassador's assistant before they would release the bag. And then they wanted to stick me with the cost of delivering the bag downtown! That didn't fly, Brother/Sister. There are some things on which a traveler has to take a stand.

The bag arrived in my room at around four o'clock in the afternoon. I dropped a three-peso tip on the bellman who brought it, then dumped its contents out on the floor to take an inventory. This for two reasons: (1) to make sure none of these confiscation-happy Seguridaddies had made off with my electric shaver, and (2) to verify that they hadn't planted illegal drugs in any of the side pockets. It would be just like these bastards to pick a fight with me on the phone, then kick down the door and arrest me on a trumped-up possession charge. And once you get a record down here, that shit gets in the Interpol database, and your hopes and dreams of world domination are pretty much dashed.

I went through the pile of belongings on the floor — everything seemed to be there, which was a plus. As for what Airport Security might have planted — none of the usual bags of incriminating white powder. But in the top front pocket of the bag I did find a manila envelope — ah, Manila! What a night we had together, Gloria! — sealed and addressed to me.

I opened it.

Inside was a rental-car voucher and a marked-up road map of southern Peru. A Stickie on the map read, ¡FOLLOW THIS ROUTE! Within the hour I was standing in front of the Hertz counter at Jorge Chavez (would you believe they have a special Impregnator Line there, too?), wondering aloud why you can't get a rental car with a cassette deck anywhere on Earth. I have this iPod tape-adaptor, you see, and I never get to use it on a road trip. Anyway, by sunset I was on the road into the mountains, rocking out to Jimmy Atahualpa's Quechuan interpretation of "Stairway to Heaven" on rural Peruvian AM radio —

Oh! The master's coming down the hall. I can tell his footsteps by the clogs he wears — from a kick-line he can whip one though the air, knock an enemy senseless with it from fifty yards. Saw him do it to a crash-test dummy in a class demo. Pretty freakin' sweet. I'll learn that in the eighth week. In the meantime, the students go barefoot.

Anyway, gotta go!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Un Otro Phutatorius

The last few days have been a whirlwind, Brother/Sister — what with the flight down, the car rental, the trip up here to the secret mountain redoubt, all these orientation meetings . . . and then there was the actual whirlwind. What a son-of-a-bitch weather condition that was!

I should say, starting off, that I don't think I'll be able to get caught up with just this one post, and so I will have to borrow against your patience over the next few days. But as you have always been a willing lender, Brother/Sister — and over the years I have given you no reason to begrudge me credit — I don't foresee a problem in making steady, periodic payment in installments, until such time as I get you entirely up to speed.

Bear in mind, while you wait, that (1) Internet access is spotty at best up here in the Andes; (2) most of my waking hours will be devoted to (a) learning the secret, ancient art of ceremonial Peruvian dance-fighting and (b) exploring the prospects for romance in the local villages; and (3) I can only use my master-trainer's super-secret satellite Internet connection when he's not in his office.

It sounds to me, Phutatorius, that you're playing fast and loose with all these "secrets" — SECRET mountain redoubt, SECRET art of dance-fighting —

Please, Brother/Sister. Did I not just spell out the terms of our agreement? Show some patience, and I promise you, I will explain to your satisfaction why I think it appropriate to reveal, here in the Great Wide Open of the blogosphere, some of the centuries-old secrets contained on pain of death within the elite membership of this heretofore underground group of Andean warrior-assassins —

but I realize I'm raising more questions than I'm answering. So let's just get on with this chronologically, starting with a rewind to Wednesday night, at around midnight, when I landed at Jorge Chavez. To this point the trip had been, for the most part, uneventful. The in-flight movie on the Houston-Lima leg was Monster-in-Law, a romantic comedy placing Jane Fonda opposite the still-ubiquitous, but somewhat less densely-positioned (these days) Jennifer Lopez. When the fasten-seatbelt sign went off, I traveled up the aisle and informally surveyed the Latin passengers on the plane. By a three-to-one margin, they hate J-Lo, too.

I promise to address this J-Lo Situation, Hermano/Hermana, after I consolidate my power.

We landed on schedule at 11:40 p.m. Lima-time. I collected my black wheelie-bag at the Reclamo de Equipaje, then proceeded through Customs (nada a declarar, Hermano) to the terminal. At this point I had no real plan as to where I would go. I figured that my resourceful sponsors would find a way to contact me — and if they didn't, I would shack up at the Aeropuerto Hiltón, or its equivalent, until they did.

But as I passed out of the terminal's secured area, I was pleased (but not surprised) to find a smartly-dressed limo driver standing at attention, with a sign in his hand bearing my name. I approached the man. He wore a pin that designated him as the property of "Lima Limo."

"That's me," I told him.

"¿Que?" The driver seemed confused.

"PHUTATORIUS. That's me." I pointed at the sign.

The driver shook his head at me.

Oh, Christ, I thought. Am I going to have to rummage in my bag for my Spanish dictionary? Now bear in mind, Brother/Sister, that when I am on the road, I am not normally averse to addressing my service-industry contacts in their native languages. I am not that Americano feo who insists that everyone in the world — including the poor limo driver who makes his living chauffeuring visiting dignitaries — speak English.

The problem was that I was tired, I'd been traveling all day, I was dehydrated from the half-bucket of fried chicken I'd eaten during the Houston layover — and I didn't think the point I had tried to make to this gentleman was quite so complicated as to get lost in translation.

I threw up my hands.

"You," the limo driver said, incredulous. "You come from Sao Paolo?"

"From Boston," I corrected. Duh. As I said, I was in a bit of a mood, so cut me some slack, Brother/Sister.

"Is possible you may be different Phutatorius? I get here Phutatorius from Sao Paolo."

"Trust me, signore. There is only one Phutatorius. So this must be some kind of mistake. Why don't you call back your Central Command Center and check on that?"

The limo driver snapped open his mobile phone. He continued to hold up his sign, while he dialed. He was on the line with his dispatcher when a third gentleman emerged from Customs to join our party.

"¿Auto para Phutatorius?," this Third Gentleman said.

"WHO ARE YOU?" I demanded. I kicked my wheelie-bag, sent it rolling off down the terminal. Again, I was tired, dehydrated, etc., etc.

I could belabor what happened next, which is best described, in terms Phutatorian, as an Incident, but I'd rather not. In brief, it turns out (1) there is more than one Phutatorius; (2) this fellow is, too, a purported Internet personality; (3) this Other Phutatorius was traveling to Peru on the same day I was, and weeks ago he had reserved a car with Lima Limo; and (4) when he can finally land it, he has a wicked left hook.

Needless to say, I was required to eat some crow from that limo driver, once I came to. When I get back to the States, I'll be contacting my trademark lawyer. And my personal injury specialist, too.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Now Boarding . . .

Well, here I am at Logan Airport's Terminal C (which Google mislabeled as "D" — stay your hand, Brother/Sister, I've written them about it), waiting for the boarding call and availing myself of the Logan Wi-Fi service to write up this morning's thoughts —

What's that you say, B/S? You think I'm foolish? Impetuous? Just because I accepted a one-way plane ticket to Lima from a set of mysterious limousine kidnappers?

One way, Phutatorius? ONE WAY?

Oh. Yes, right. I did forget to mention that the ticket was paid for the flight down only. That doesn't mean I'll be murdered or held for ransom once I'm down there. It only means I have an open-ended return date — and that my shady sponsors may not spot me for the flight back to Boston.

But no matter. I've sequestered $500 into savings for just that eventuality, and I can pay my own way home.

Look, Brother/Sister — you can say what you want, but the last time an anonymous benefactor booked me on a one-way international flight, I totally ended up hooking up with Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, and she was fantastic. So I know what I'm doing here, and I can take care of myself.

Oops! They're calling all rows, so I'd better wrap this up. Now where did I put my boarding pass?

(More from Houston, if I get a minute. The layover looks to be kinda tight.)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Mysterious Ways

Well, blow me up and down, Brother/Sister. Life sure can turn on a dime. One minute, you're grimly resigned to your mild-mannered pre-Moment existence. Then — WHAM-O! (click that link, Brother/Sister, and another dime drops into Phutsie's World Domination Fund) — Life pulls up on the curb in a black rented limo and calls your name.

Some setting of the scene would be desirable, Phutatorius.

Right you are, Brother/Sister. Right you are. And so, it was around 11 p.m. last night, the U2 concert (set list here) had just let out, and I had just tumbled down several hundred escalators from my Section 303 balcony seat to the sidewalk outside the BankNorth Garden. I rounded the corner onto Merrimac Street, and a black limousine with livery plates pulled up along the sidewalk. A rear window powered down, and a man called my name.

"Yoo-hoo! Phutatorius!" (For the sake of accuracy, I should say that the person in the limo did not, in fact, cry "Yoo-hoo! Phutatorius!" Nor did I, as you will read below, get into this car voluntarily. As it happened, I was grabbed from behind by a big bruiser of a man who cuffed my hands behind my back, pulled a hood over my head, and tossed me headfirst through the open car door into the back seat. But the facts don't cross-promote quite as well as the Yoo-hoo story does — and helicopter gunships don't come cheap, Brother/Sister.)

I approached the car with the intention of looking through the window crack at who was inside. The window powered up to about 95% closed, leaving only a slit that admitted very little light.

"Who's in there?" I demanded to know.

"Why don't you get in and find out?" asked my Yoo-hooer.

Well, this was a no-brainer. The circumstances here — long black car pulling up after a concert, back-seat passenger playing coy — were identical to those presented to me back in July 2005 when I took the Limo Plunge outside the Middle East with the result that I totally hooked up with the lead singer for Bow Wow Wow. (She had liked what I wrote about her band in my last novel.) Based on that experience, I calculated even odds that Bono or the Edge was in the back seat of the stretch in front of me. Not that I had it in mind to hook up with either of them. But I figured U2 and I could talk over coffee about the geopoliticus, and maybe they could put me in touch with some African freedom fighters I might be able to hire away and mold into some kind of Republican Guard. You know, since this Peru thing had fallen through . . .

Long story short, I got in the car, and it sped off downtown, I think toward Congress Street. With the sack on my head, I couldn't see where we were going. Nor could I see who was in the car with me. We sat in silence together for a long, tedious minute, until I decided to try to break the ice.

"Great show back there," I said. If it were Bono next to me, he'd eat that up. If it weren't, it was harmless conversation. "Finishing with '40' like that. Old school, you know?"

"I didn't have a ticket," said the man next to me, soberly. AHA! I thought. He DIDN'T say he didn't go to the concert. He just said he didn't have a ticket. Oh, Bono — you sure know how to play it cool!

We sat in silence for another minute.

"I should introduce myself," Bono said, in what was obviously not an Irish accent. "My name is —" and the person I was increasingly thinking was not Bono embarked on a string of fourteen or more alien syllables.

"Can you repeat that?" I asked, when he finished.

"That was my Quechuan name," [Unpronounceable] said. "Why don't you just call me Frankie?"

"I used to date a girl named Frankie," I said. "It ended badly, with guilt and recriminations. She bit the hood ornament off my car."

[Pending Frankie] may have cocked an eyebrow. With the sack on my head, I couldn't tell.

"So how about I call you Ed?"

"Ed works."

"You're my connection through Jimmy Atahualpa?"

"I am," Ed confirmed.

"You never called me," I said. "How did you manage to find me?"

"We never intended to contact you over the phone. We were using your cell phone to track your movements."

"You can do that?"

"Haven't you seen 24?"

"Wait — you work for the Counter Terrorist Unit?"

"No," Ed said, in a voice indicating strained patience. "But it's a common tracking method. We had a bead on you for several days. We just didn't have an opportunity to get hold of you. Then Sunday night you fell off our radar."

"My charger plug's broke," I offered, by way of explanation. "I had to turn the phone off to conserve the battery."

"Then you cropped up inside the Fleet Center tonight," Ed said. "But just for a few minutes."

"BankNorth Garden," was my correction. "They just changed the name." Per the instructions of the guy two seats down from me — "What you do is, you turn it on and wave the lit display up in the air, like you used to do with cigarette lighters in the 70s" — I had expended my phone's last five minutes of battery life during U2's encores. "So what do you want with me?" I asked.

"Nothing," Ed said. "We just wanted to give you a ride home." The car pulled to a stop. The passenger's side door opened, and strong arms lifted me out of the back seat and held me steady while somebody's keys unlocked my cuffs. By the time I pulled the hood off my head, the limo was down the road. I was standing outside my apartment.

Well, I said to myself. Now that didn't make any goddam sense at all. All that drama just to get me in a car to drive me home? I hadn't learned anything, no arrangement had been made for a second meeting. I didn't get it. Ah well, I shrugged. At least I saved train fare home.

Then I reached into my jacket pocket to pull out my keys, and I found a plane ticket. Made out in my name, for a Wednesday morning departure. Continental Airlines to Lima, Peru.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

No News

Still no voice messages from Peru, no life-changing phone calls — though I did see Jimmy again today. He kept looking over his shoulder while we talked. Jimmy says that I should keep my phone on and handy — "in your pocket, if you can" — but I'm skeptical.

Ho hum. But there's more than one way to skin a cat. And to be honest, I didn't know what I was getting into anyway, with this blanket guy's brother. What was he going to do for me, really? I never had a good feeling about it.

It's Saturday night, and my rise to power seems so far away. I'm having a hard time kick-starting the program here, and it's sort of discouraging.

Maybe next week will go better.