Ishmael: King of Black France

Noirleans Nightscape

Noirleans Nightscape

The soaked streets sparkled like freshly polished leather. Twinkling residue of street lantern incandescence and billboard glitz dripped from the buildings into noisy rivulets of watercolor neon streaming the anorexic gutters. Above the drowned lanes, torrents of vague human shapes flooded the sidewalk. The bodies flowed in a single direction except for one, like a stone in the creek; the others crashed into and rippled around him.

A passerby checked the agitator in the chest. His budged slightly but did not break stride.

“Hey man, what the fuck?”

“Mmm,” mumbled the agitator, more concerned with lighting up.

He fumbled with a carton of Lucky Strikes from his inside coat pocket. Shakily he set a single butt to his lip and went back to his coat for matches. The book was cerulean with pink little starbursts that looked like toy jacks. In the center in coral outline was a mermaid, tail and all. Her generous perky tits were hinted at behind two smiling starfish. In the same color, printed in Vegas lounge script were two words seperated by symbol: Surf & Turf. He flipped the lid and found only three soggy matches.

“So this is how it’s gonna be, huh?” Eyes peeked up into the falling downpour. His lips creased at the corner of his mouth; a slight, sarcastic smirk.

He struggled to light the first match and tossed it. The second gave a slight spark but died short of his mouth. It too was tossed. He ripped the third and final match from the matchbook and imagined an angry, unfaithful prayer to any God that might pity an old soul, allowing him to die by his own fatal vices; on his own terms.

After a few rubs the match caught on the rough flint strip on the book and lit. It lasted long enough to light his cigarette. He sucked in a heavy lungful of the nicotine. The gentle, warm sizzle of burning paper calmed him.

“Thanks,” he thought. “Whoever gave me this one.”

He lifted the cigarette from his lips and blewly calmly out. That’s when he noticed it. A sticky black stain like oil dribbling from his fingers that reeked of rust. It was blood. A lot of blood.

“On second thought–”

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He whipped his tongue vigorously against the abrasive undersides of his teeth; like a sex-starved cougar looking for just the right little prick.

A Bagger Vance

If you’ve gotten here, then no doubt you’ve read Ishmael Black, Track 02: “Deep Sea Blues.”

Within it, the weary, morally ambiguous protagonist orders his standby drink of choice, a Bagger Vance. This — as far as I know from my decently formidable mixology knowledge — is my own creation (with an assist from Sir Kinkaid), or at least, doesn’t exist under this name. So, what the hell is it? Good question.

Bagger Vance, as you may know, is a fictional, mystical golf caddie. A Great Depression era retelling of a Hindu epic. We’ll disregard the Will Smith movie. However, it is from these golf origins that the drink earns its name. Another golf legend, Arnold Palmer is credited with creating his own soft drink — named after him — which is three parts iced tea (usually sweet tea) and one part lemonade. This is the basis for our drink (I don’t see Ishmael ever ordering a “cocktail” even if it is one).

An Arnold Palmer is then married another infamous tea drink, the Long Island Iced Tea. For those unaware, a Long Island is a smorgasbord of liquor: single shots of vodka, rum, gin, tequila and triple sec, with hopefully, just a splash of cola and a slice of lemon. It’s often harsh, unpleasant and certain to cause hangovers. Which is absolutely perfect for a man like Ishmael.

The combination of the two is a stiff sipper perfect for our southern rogue.

Without further ado, A Bagger Vance:

1 Part Lemonade
3 Parts Sweet Tea

2 oz. Sweet Tea Vodka
1 oz. Vanilla Rum/Lemon Rum (see notes)
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Blanco Tequila
.5 oz of Triple Sec

A Lemon wedge
Served in a Highball glass

Of course, having created these in fiction, it seemed only appropriate to mix them up in real life. In a typical highball glass, we’re looking at 12 oz, of which 5.5 oz is liquor which leaves us 6.5 oz for the sweet tea and lemonade. If you’re actually looking to measure this out properly, you’d be at 1.625 oz of lemonade and 4.875 oz of sweet tea. I eyeballed mine, but if I were to measure it out, I’d go with 1.75 oz of lemonade and 4.75 oz of sweet tea, letting the  sweet teavodka carry the rest of the tea flavor. Even numbers being easier and all.

I’ll admit that despite just how vulgar the Long Island Iced Tea really is, I quite enjoy the taste of them. It’s preposterous, I know. So how do the fictional Bagger Vances stack up? Well, they certainly earn the “tea” in the name, more. With the sweet tea and the strength of flavor in the sweet tea vodka (I used Jeremiah Weed) you do definitely realize this is a tea cocktail just above the onslaught of alcohol. The lemonade portion of the Arnold Palmer’s a bit more lost, sadly. The Triple Sec helps, but if you’re looking for a Palmer-like balance you won’t find it here. The lemonade is just another bit player, equal to presence as the individual shots of liquor, but without the strength of flavor note. When designing this drink, I had decided on Vanilla Rum to mirror the hard lemonade recipe I know (which used vanilla vodka). I didn’t want an extra shot of vodka, so I decided on vanilla rum instead. It’s a nice subtle touch (I used Cruzan Vanilla Rum), but I think this recipe would have been better served with some Lemon Rum. Maybe I’ll rewrite the fiction!

All that said, this thing is still a bruiser! Perhaps not as weighty as a well done Long Island (anything more than a splash of cola isn’t a Long Island), but at nearly a 50/50 split alcohol to non, it can certainly do some damage. As someone who loves sweet tea, I really enjoyed it overall. It’s better balanced, and easier to drink than a Long Island, but still lets you know you’re drinking a stiff cocktail. Absolutely great for a relaxed summer day, southern gentlemen style. The only caveat being that its immeasurably improved with Lemon Rum (like Flor de Cana Limon), so consider that the new recipe!

This is what happens when you step away from prose…

“Into Each Heart Some Rain Must Fall” by Ella Fitzgerald and The Ink Spots came hoarsely sputtering from the jukebox speakers. I don’t remember ever hearing “Into Each Heart Some Rain Must Fall” or how I knew it was “Into Each Heart Some Rain Must Fall”, but I knew it was. Figured it was as good a signal as any to bring my evening to an end.

It was claustrophobically near to last call and the joint was suffocated of life. You had a couple of guys in boring tweed suits, horribly wrinkled and ties knotted loosely at their necks; mostly inebriated and gone, and two decently attractive tarts giggling mad between cupped hands to each other about fuck-knows-what. If I’d been successfully more drunk I’d probably had given it a-go at taking them back to my place. However, tonight had been anything but successful in any definition, malapropism or interpretation of the word, in any language you might care to speak. I tossed back a final shot of low-grade, cucaracha-piss tequila and packed up my smokes before snaking through the ghost-town arrangement of empty tables and upturned chairs.

I quickly hit the alleyway behind the speakeasy into the back alley, letting the heavy iron door bang helplessly against itself a few times.

I was more intent on lighting up. Damn those legislative bullshit measures saying it’s “too damn impolite to smoke indoors,” including -for fuck’s sake- a gin mill of all the lowly, undeserving places. I loosened the crumpled, abused pack of fags from the marsupium pocket of my hoodie and fit a square between clenched teeth. From the same pouch came the lighter, all too excited to oblige my willingness to suck down all kinds of rot. With a quick spark we were off and goddamn smoking, finally, and it felt, well, I definitely wasn’t going to feel James-fucking-Dean here tonight, but I’d settle for calmed; to terms with the back-alley abortion of an evening I’d had and relaxed enough.

In my haste to light up, I’d failed to notice that between the time I came and left the nightery, it had begun to rain.

I’d always dug the rain. It was pure, unadulterated clean. No matter how godawful the smog of the city might get, or the stench of, whatever might reek, a good rain would take it all away; replaced by a tinny water fragrance, like the inside of a gardening hose. No matter how many people might actually be on this planet, when it rained, it felt like you were the only person within a good shout and all the cacophony of life just simply washed away along the little rivulets between the cracks in the asphalt, disappearing underneath storm drains.

I put my hood up, either way. Not so much to protect from the rain, but to further distance myself from everyone and everything else. It seemed to work; as I trudged down the narrow alley, everything was unusually distant, even in the rain.

Looking at both exits of the alley, I found no pubcrawlers ambling haplessly toward parking garages, or orange-and-black leopard spotted taxis picking off the stragglers. The usual flicker of a dying streetlamp, or the utilitarian brake light game of tag in the streets, all of it was gone. The setting, as it mused playfully through my imagination was like an old silent film. The diluted colours of the world seemed dutifully black and white, even. However the white wasn’t quite right. A bit too green.

This all seemed quite unlikely and suggested that contrary to my belief, I had gotten quite successfully drunk. But bullshit to that. The day I get drunk off two shots in three hours is the day I hand in my youth. Put me out to pasture, take me out back and unload buckshot into my skull. Ser-ious-ly. It’s horeshit.

I let loose a wisp of smoke and lifted my eyes slowly to the sky. I don’t know why, I guess that seemed like the best way to check my drunkedness against my sanity, or to see, if, in fact, I’d be turned to glue any time soon.

Horror: Science vs. Mysticism

I am a huge fan of all things horror (except that Saw tripe and other such dubious nonsense). I’ve got a copy of every Jason and Freddy film. The “archetypes” of Universal monster movies (mummies, phantoms, sea creatures, vampires, werewolves, etc) hold a special and rather large part of my heart. I love these things.

That said, I still feel there is a “right” way to do horror, and a “wrong” way to do horror.

Exploration of my own feelings on the subject come from the fact that I’m currently reading The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks and that last night I watched Werewolves: The Dark Survivors on Animal Planet. Both of these have a common bond. Their explanations of zombies and werewolves are entirely scientific.

Brooks explains that zombies are ONLY created through a virus he dubs Solanum. If ever there were a convenient plot device, Solanum would be one. It is a virus that kills humans (and only humans), reanimates them and then MacGuyver’s their physiology and biology so that they’re as able as a walking corpse and can only be terminated (again) with destruction of the brain, the typical zombie tropes. Whatever, it works.

He then discounts mystical roots for zombies such as voodoo, as not real zombies, but braindead human slaves. I can get behind that, it’s presented in such a way in that it’s believable. He spends the rest of the book provoding common sense, real world explanations on how to survive zombies.

Likewise, Werewolves: The Dark Survivors eradicates any and all mystic creations for werewolves. Gone are silver bullets, and sleeping under a full moon. Instead, lycanthropy (which is terminology they use only once) is explained as a mutated strain of rabies/porphyria that would have been passed from wolves to man. It neatly explains everything. Rabies explains the outbreaks/transformations/heightened strength while porphyria explains the wolf-like appearances. It also builds in inherent physical weaknesses and a reliance on a pack. All things that are important and good in any and all monster.

And you know what? I like it.

Even though I think The Zombie Survival Guide is sometimes too matter-a-fact for it’s own good, it sets such a believable explanation for the world post-zombie that I can’t help but feel as though it is a definitive addition to zombie canon. The same goes for a film like Zombieland.

Likewise, even though the production quality of Werewolves isn’t very good, and the mockumentary feel is sometimes broken by it’s own narration, it is unbelievably engaging in that it feels real.

Neither are sparkling examples of entertainment, and are all that good a presentation. However, they set forth such a manageable leap of faith to explain how we could, in fact face down some of these monsters. It’s more chilling an alternative to mysticism because IT COULD happen, or at least, feels like it could. Monsters, I think, are more frightening when they feel real.

For that reason, I think both of these pieces are important, if not the most important additions to both werewolf and zombie canon. Where other pieces of entertainment like, say, Underworld strive toward this eerie realism, in the end, they sell out for that Hollywood entertainment. Brooks’ and the werewolf mockumentary do not. They simply offer up a creepy, realistic explanation.

They are, if not for everyone else, my boilerplate for zombie and werewolf stories in the future. They are my canon.

Which isn’t to discount mysticism. It has it’s place. It has it’s place in fantasy. Mysticism is good when you need a juggernaut villain to make your Mary Sue Van Helsing seem like he might struggle to defeat it. Mysticism is good for adventure. Mysticism is good for horror when the goal is simply to give gruesome gross-outs.

It’s just not chilling. Sorry.

mugshots: Prim and Proper

Tops amoungst some of London’s financial districts is Canary Wharf. The constant flow of currency an alluring fragrance to banks, economists and businessmen. To crooks as well. It’s nearness to the dire, industrial neighborhood Isle of Dogs offering the latter perfect refuge. A perfect illustration of such an element would be the two-man outfit Prim & Proper.

Prim’s a sycophantic dandy; side-parted mane, monocle, and a window-pane three piece all in crisp, pressed order. He’s not one to get messy, both literally and figuratively. Everything must be in good order. Gifted with great criminal acumen, charm, wit and a lack of conscience.

Proper is nothing like his partner. He’s a hard man, and a none-too-educated factory grunt. A massive, beast-like thing without an ounce of refinement. He lives for getting dirty. He leaves the thinking to Prim, keeps the bruising for himself. It’d be easier break someone than try to convince them.

They’re the complimentary odd couple, but, in more ways than personality.

You see, Prim isn’t just a devious bastard and Proper isn’t just a dimwitted brute. Both have other abilities useful to the other. Despite his massive size and complete lack of etiquette, it might be entirely possible to overlook or miss completely Proper. Provided it were in the middle of a riot. Not because he’d fit right at home in the mayhem, but because he’d literally disappear. A physical reaction to heightened emotions of stress, fear and anger render him increasingly invisible.

Meanwhile, Prim is Proper’s personal feeding tube. In control of what he calls “Waves of Discord” he can actually tamper or manipulate the emotions of others, generating, over time, greater amounts of chaos. Proper then becoming his leashed mutt, an invisible devil of a man, willing and excited.

Content coming.

Soon.

There’s no valuable excuse for a lack of content. I’ve found far more physical activities (namely volleyball) to soak up the spare moments I have, but even so… content will be coming soon-ish.

Mugshots: Empire State Human

Everybody knows the organizations behind the infamous Space Race, but what about American, Alan Gingham?

No?

There’s a reason: he was never part of it. Not good enough, they said.

Rejected.

Denied.

Sent home.

Embittered, Gingham went to the Russians. Volunteered himself for their space program. That’ll show NASA, the bastards. Maybe it would have, if the Soviets wanted him. They too rejected him.

So while NASA v. Soviets had satellites and men jumping all over the stars, advancing science ahead four-fold, Gingham was toiling away in a worthless residency at Monmouth University.

One of his duties was to oversee a clincal study on the effects of livestock growth hormones and pesticides on the human body. What he found was minimal; human physiology can be affected by livestock growth hormones, but only if massively consumed. Something like thirteen hamburgers a week might yield a truly alarming result.

What interested Gingham, however, is that these growth hormones affected the whole human physiology; muscles, fat, bone structure, all were being altered. He’d concluded that should trends continue, within five generations homo sapien might give way to a giant offshoot. Or, musing further, in one pill.

Gingham combined all the data collected by colleagues, student interns and himself and set about his own pet project. He took the animal hormones, combined them with human steroidals and refined them until he had created a product, he thought would jump that five generation gap instantly. Unfortunately for him, this product had required human testing along the way. He didn’t have access to human subjects, so he mostly used himself. All his successes, failures and otherwise were all tested and discovered inside him.

Regardless, he had designed a success, something that not only advanced technology five generations, but humanity as well. He was the cat that had swallowed the canary. Until the FDA refused to approve his work, the “Cormoran” pill. The FDA cited numerous dangerous, hazardous and even controlled substances in the formulas.

At this stage, there wasn’t much the dejected Gingham could do. Because he made himself a cruciible he contracted a debilitating nervous system deficiency and had to retire. The doctors claimed he only had two years to live. There was nothing anyone could do to clear him of all the pathogens in his system, or the damage they had done. He’d allowed his pride to kill himself. Prideful until the end, he promised he’d create another pill that could fix the effects of his self-studies.

Six months from his death, he managed to create a pill that flushed his system; almost completely returning him to a state like before his tests. He called it “Jack.”

So now he was seemingly healthy again and had created two great medical enhancers; Cormoran, his giant creator and Jack, his giant-killer. The dichotomy of this intrigued him. He began testing a diet of both. He found that Cormoran could compound upon itself, each time enhancing the subject greater and greater in size and density as well as in fat and muscle content. Jack on the other hand, was created to neutralise the compounds in Cormoran, no matter the levels or concentration. The subject would be returned to their expected, normal state.

Armed with Cormoran and Jack as well as a heavy exercise and muscle building regimen, Gingham became “The Expanding Man.” During his escapades throughout New Jersey and the outskirts of New York, The Expanding Man began to build up a reputation. When he clashed and then defeated the Jersey Devil, it drew the admiration of The ___________. The Expanding Man was shortlisted as a possible recruit into the team. However, there was one concern. Because his size was constantly growing and contracting, it had impossible for Gingham to wear a costume, or armor or anything, often battling in the nude.

This was unacceptable, and until he could remedy the problem, he would not be allowed to join. Once again, on the cusp of greatness, Gingham had been rejected.

Creating a solution was beyond his prowess and all seemed hopeless. he tried hundreds of fabric-like compounds, none of which could hold out under his desired expansion.

Eventually, after aping the work of a scientist who had worked with Oppenheimer on the bomb, did Gingham think of using folds. Not unlike blinds on a window, or an accordion he developed a suit that folded in on itself the smaller he got. After he finished work on this suit, he was let into The ____________.

There he met Man from Mars, who rechristened him Empire State Human after the Human League song and having to do with where Gingham was from, and his louvered, metal appearance looking like a skyscraper.

When in his “Cormoran State” Gingham is at peak human health. Like an Olympic athlete only 60 times the size. In his Jack state, he is returned to default age and incapabilities. Because of this, Gingham could potentially extend his lifespan indefinitely.

Mugshots: Suicide Blonde and Black Tar Heroine

Following the collapse of his film career (“The King of Handcuffs Versus the Nazi Terror!” was a terrible film despite commercial success), his dissolved engagement to superstar Julie Lovegood and an overall dip in his popularity, The Ouroboros realised he’d need a new strategy to preserve his status.

Trolling the Atlantic City scene, he stumbled across the mesmerising lounge act, The Damsels. Comprised of two Gram-A-Phone Records execs’ daughters, Sunrise Arkwright, and Melody Risk were forced into music careers at the tender ages of seventeen and eighteen, respectively.

The jailbait gals were as enraptured with the mysterious rogue as he was with them. The Ouroboros was often found gambling only in casinos or drinking in clubs they performed. He began showering them with gifts which evolved into taking them with him on long, extended vacations in some of the most beautiful spots in the world. During these retreats, the three engaged in a torrid love triangle, full of romance, lust and contention.

Against his natural inclinations, The Ouroboros was wise enough to keep these trysts away from his paparazzi, fearing further damage to his waning popularity. A confirmed love affair with two young (one underage) impressionable girls would have surely spelled doom.

The Damsels as an act never really took off nationally. They became popular along the Eastern Seaboard, but amounted to little more than a minor draw. This was in part because of The Ouroboros’ guidance. No one could deny these girls were budding bombshells of a long-lost tradition, and while singing seemed not to be in their future, he saw something else.

He took the two girls on as wards, training them in both his professions: stage performance and heroing.

The girls were polar opposites. Sunrise was a cool-eyed, raven haired intellectual while Melody was a fiery, brutish blonde. The Ouroboros would capitalise on this greatly. During their Damsels career, the girls were made to mirror each other but The Ouroboros chose to do the opposite. He christened Sunrise Black Tar Heroine and gave her his skills as a trap-maker and inventor. Alternately, Melody became Suicide Blonde and was given skills as an escape artist.

Furthermore, there were given domino masks that matched The Ouroboros; one in white, the other in black. The Ouroboros rebuffed the ideas of costumes, instead understanding the appeal of sultry and revealing lounge gowns and fishnets would have. The girls had plenty of these, which were used as costume; again keeping the two-tone theme.

When he felt they were ready, The Ouroboros unveiled his trio. Naturally, the exciting beauties that were equal parts performance and vigilantism were wildly successful, reinvigorating his career as well as launching them into stardom.

Eventually, after decades of working, The Ouroboros retired his costumed lifestyle and left the girls do as they wished. Without their nucleus, however, the girls become highly competitive in their graps at their aging beau’s attention. This would eventually rip the contentious and secret love affair to pieces. Both went separate ways, leaving behind their master.

Both continued to hero, stationing in different cities while resurrecting their singing careers. Fans of the Damsels wait eagerly for a reunion as do fans of Black Tar Heroine and Suicide Blonde. No one the wiser that both are one in the same.