12 October 1951 / New York City

When Susan told me she had someone she wanted me to meet, I naturally assumed she was talking about Karl Malden. Long has she known my great desire to befriend him. And she also knows every attempt I’ve made to be in the same room as the great actor has been thwarted by either miscalculations, misunderstandings, or those miscarriages Judy Garland lied to me about so I’d feel bad and buy her a gin gimlet factory.

It was nearly 6 PM when Susan phoned my hotel room, all hushed and secret sounding, and I half suspected she’d kidnapped Karl, like she’d kidnapped so many others before. I was more than a little annoyed.

As always, it’s just in good fun for her, the kidnappings, like a joke. But she conducts them with such deft professionalism and precision, her “victims” have little question that this is the real deal, a hostage situation, or some sort of revenge fantasy by a jilted lover. It’s unspeakable to put a person through that just for fun. (Unless, of course that person is Cary Grant, who, I remember hearing when he was kidnapped by Susan, was really into it and kept asking to be put in the “sex tank”)

But Karl Malden does not want to be put into any sex tank!

What have you done to Karl Malden!?! I burped at her (I was eating my pre-dinner submarine sandwich) and threw the phone through the wall. Before my neighbors could raise a fuss, I was out the door, bounding down the stairs then onto the street, sprinting toward her apartment.

I got to her Gramercy flat in no time and smashed open the door with a donkey kick…. to see not Karl Malden, but an older Midwestern woman and man. They were completely shocked and confused by my sudden appearance. (I should note here that I was still wearing only my sandwich-eating catch-all towel, so worried was I for Karl’s safety I neglected to change into a proper kimono.)

"Is that Bent I hear?" Susan’s voice sang out from the kitchen.

She appeared, wearing a conservative dress that would more likely be seen on an off-duty nun than my friend Susan. So accustomed was I to her form-fitting dresses, the ones through which the phrase amongst her peers was born: “When Susan Joy enters a room, so does her genitalia,” that now I was the one who was confused.

“I’m soo glad you’re home, Bent, my dear husband!” She peppered me with kisses as I stood there. “My husband, my husband! You are my husband and I am your wife!” I was beginning to think she didn’t actually have Karl Malden in the other room.

She continued, “These are my parents, Bent, and they are all the way here from Nebraska to finally meet my husband. You. Bent Magnus, my husband. Nod if you understand me.”

There was silence and all eyes were on me. I slowly nodded, buying time until I fully understood the scene. The seconds grew to minutes, my rhythmic nodding putting everyone in a trance. But I still could not grasp what was happening here. Until suddenly… I did.

As everyone, including myself, was half asleep from my nodding, I was only able to muster the speed and strength of a sea barnacle to clunk the two hicks’ heads together. But it was enough. They were out cold, collapsed into two plaid heaps on Susan’s carpet.

Of course I deduced it was Susan who was being held hostage by these two, her strange code-like language making that clear. The kidnapper became the kidnappee, and maybe a lesson will be learned. Serves her right.

Except, it turned out that the two actually were Susan’s parents. Apparently, she wanted me to pretend to be her husband so she could be sure to inherit their luggage set.

So relieved was I that she hadn’t kidnapped Karl Malden, I was game to participate. When her parents came to, we pretended a major earthquake had caused their concussions, then proceeded on with the evening, Susan and I acting as wife and husband.

This whole situation, by the way, created some truly hilarious and unexpected hi-jinx. Mainly, I’m thinking about all the sex Susan and I had to simulate in front of her parents. That actually reads sort of creepier than I remember it, but I’m fairly sure we were all laughing.

Well, I know there were a bunch of other really funny bits in there too, and actually, come to think of it, a couple of touching tender moments involving my son, who met up with us at the restaurant (he was really a busboy). I’m going to give Danny Thomas a ring to see if he could use the whole scenario in television.

15 July 1966 / London

I honestly don't know what brought me to England. In the cab leaving Heathrow, I was struck with the sensation I sometimes have when I walk into a room and I forget what I had gotten up to get. The feeling had not abated by the time I reached my London pied-à-terre, so I thought to search the previous days' journal entries for clues to the purpose of my visit.

Unfortunately, the preceding pages had little to offer in the way of motive. They were just pictures of a horse wearing a hat and a beehive. Those images would be precisely the kind of coded message I would leave myself if I were sent on a secret mission for the government, but they are also the kind of thing I like to draw when otherwise unoccupied. So, I called it a loss, and decided to enjoy my time in England without the burden of a "mission."

As it turns out, the World Cup is on, so I am enjoying that.

Though I never played organized soccer, and have little knowledge of the rules that govern its play, it is a game that I understand and enjoy. The way that the players run around with the ball at their feet reminds me of watching a little dog push a melon that is too big for its mouth (which itself is an esteemed spectator sport in Wales). I also like to imagine that the players have all lost the use of their arms, which makes the games more engaging because I respect their bravery and resilience.

Even without my sophisticated appreciation for the sport, I think I would still be glad to take part in the festivities that surround the World Cup. There's something disturbing about seeing each nation's supporters manifesting their country's most grotesque national stereotypes, but in the context of a global celebration, it seems okay.

Because the tournament is being hosted by England, her notoriously "enthusiastic" supporters are out in full force. If they are lucky, the nation's alcohol supplies will last until at least the semi-final matches, but I have already seen stores selling cologne as "aperitifs." Should England win the cup, I suspect the country will erupt in jubilation and mayhem. If they lose, however, I think we can expect another one of those world war deals.

16 June 1968 / Magnus Estate

I realized this morning that, at some point, I’m going to have to invent my own children’s museum. So today I thought of some materials I’m going to need and did some potential exhibit brainstorming.

This list is in no particular order, nor is it anywhere near complete.

Materials I know I already have on hand:
--2 tons of frozen hot dogs
--Rock tumbler (unused)

Materials I probably already have on hand but need to check.
--Chock Full of Nuts coffee cans
--Caterpillars
--Butterflies
--Wolverines
--A few miles of rope
--Concrete mix
--Bulk Scarves
--2 geysers
--A city bus
--Miniature village inhabited by enlightened mice (In this case, I know I have this, I just can’t for the life of me remember where I put it.)
--Bean bags
--The Enola Gay
--Tubes

Materials I know I don’t have:
--Ants
--Ramps
--Wayne Newton voice samples

Exhibit ideas:
--Defending the Donkeys. Here, children will learn the art of self-defense as I did—in a pen full of angry donkeys. Note--add to the materials list: donkeys and release forms.
--Wolverine Theater … self-explanatory
--Kimonos of the World ride. (Theme by Herb Alpert)
--Mirror Smash! (note: I’m not sure what this would be, but the title sure grabs me)
--Brenda Can Shoot Anything!

Potential Staff:
--Myself, on Tuesdays and Fridays
--Brenda and that gun of hers. I can’t believe my luck in meeting her last week.
--Teens
--Willie Mays?

10 September 1952 / Wisconsin

Because of what I did to their church, the Unitarians are still very angry at me. I find their swift and violent reaction to the "attack" on their "meeting house" to be completely at odds with their reputation as wishy-washy peace lovers whose ire never exceeds the piquancy of their omnipresent casseroles. Their anger is particularly upsetting to me because I bear them no ill will.

In retrospect, I can see how they could mistake the slurs I painted to describe the building's architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, as an affront to the Unitarian Church's ideology. I regret that.

And I regret that the longstanding feud between Wright and I is now causing collateral damage. But that does not change the fact that I hate him and always will. Yes, I was always big for my age, and I was often "sassy," but there is no justification for a grown man punching a seven-year-old in the face, especially at his own birthday party. He is, and always will be, a bad man. I need only look out on the southeast corner of the Magnus estate, at the half-finished "Prairie School" dog house that remains unfinished to remind me of that fact.

Wright aside, the Unitarians are quite upset. Enough so that several people close to me have suggested that I carry a gun.

While I'm confident I can handle any danger using my fists and forehead, the thought of walking around armed appealed to me in as a social experiment. I've heard that carrying a weapon causes one to feel an inflation of one's self worth. I am curious to see if this is the case. I also wonder how others will react towards me if it is obvious that I am armed. I do think that the visibility of the weapon is an important aspect of this experiment, a "concealed" weapon is boring. I haven't yet decided on what to carry. I am leaning towards a crossbow.

23 May 1931 / Sumatra, Indonesia

I still do not regret parting ways with the rest of the group. There are certain failures in a guide's character that I simply cannot abide, and constant, amelodic humming is one of them.

I will admit that being alone in the jungle poses more challenges than I had estimated. While I was able to fashion an extremely useful and fetching hat from the broad leaves that abound in the forest almost immediately, finding adequate water has proven much more difficult. I can survive by licking vines, but it is not ideal.

I have located a ficus tree, and have found that, by mashing pulp of the fruit and then rolling it in dirt, I can create a reasonable approximation of a fig newton. Again, it enough to keep me going, but I would prefer a more varied diet.

In an attempt to branch out, I broke a cardinal rule in wilderness survival: I ate some strange fruits that I could not identify. I reasoned that they must have been edible because I saw evidence that orangutans had passed through the area and eaten them only a few hours prior.

My stomach hurt very much. The experience led me to conclude that one of two things is true: either there are some things that orangutans can digest and humans cannot, or the orangutans did not actually eat the fruit but had staged the scene to make it look like they had, in an act of deliberate deception. I would prefer to think that the former is true, not only because it allows me to maintain my positive worldview, but also because, eventually, I may need the orangutan's help to find my way back to Lhokseumawe.

11 February 1973 / Sydney, Australia

It’s long been known that Mick and I don’t often agree. Among other issues, our differing opinions on strut-theory have been well documented. Even after those legendary long nights of private debate and public strut-offs, we have never been able to reconcile our thoughts into one unified strut-construct.

Despite this, though, there’s always been a mutual respect for each other’s mind (and even more admiration for each other’s body). But this high regard is again being tested and it’s distracting me from my purpose here.

Earlier today, I was fully devoted to my mission and having more success than I had anticipated. I remember when I first heard rumors of a koala bear slave trade I scoffed at the absurdity of the idea. But like a koala clings to a tree, the idea clung to my brain--I couldn’t shake the terrible notion that the idea was so dumb, it had to be true.

And now, there is indeed no doubt. It took me little over a day to find a potential whistle blower, who I plan to meet tomorrow at one of the abandoned generic vegemite factories where many of the koala slaves are put to work. Apparently these factories are fly-by-night operations, always one step ahead of the vigilante-style law in this country.

So I should be concentrating on tomorrow, but instead my mind is on Mick.

After dinner, I heard Mick being interviewed on some New Zealand radio talk show. Most of the questions had to do with his celebrated “fuck you” face (their term, not mine). After making some incomprehensible English tongue affectations, I heard him claim that he was simply born with his face saying fuck you.

Blasted, Mick! You know that’s not true! When we met back in 1959 or whenever it was, you were nothing more than a mealy-mouthed urchanic ectomorph who liked nothing more than to please his elders. When you were at that pub and started dancing the knee-knock moves from the Charleston while asking patrons for a pint I was the one who punched you in the back and snapped you out of that nonsense.

But I bought you that pint… because I appreciated your hustle, if not your direction. And over the course of the night, and many more pints, we honed that face of yours together. And not long after, things started to click for you.

I won’t go so far as to say I’m totally responsible for Mick’s success, but I have no problem writing it in my journal tonight. Anyway, why should I care? I’m not looking for credit and I’ve got so many other important things to think about.

Maybe I’m just looking for a diversion, away from the horrors I’m investigating. Or maybe there was some unfinished business after our last strut-off and this is just adding fuel to my fire. In fact, I might just practice tonight. Might it be fate that brought me to a hotel room that’s completely mirrored on all sides, even the floor? Ideal for strut practice?

On a side note, I’ve gotten so used to mirrors everywhere that it took me until now to realize the oddity of this room. This is a pretty weird decade.

17 October 1953 / Paris

I just saw all the dresses at his atelier, and I am confident that Pierre's new spring line will change the world. Of course, my opinion is far from objective. I have, after all, known him since he was "Little Pierre Balmain, the Boy with the Iron Fists."

Back then, he was just a scrappy 8 year-old boy in the Metro, punching holes in plywood for the amusement of passengers. He survived on the change and baguette ends they'd throw, but he'd always maintained his dignity, and never once did I see his homemade bow-tie soiled or askew.

In my mind's eye, I can still see the "Boy with the Iron Fists" sign that he used to prop up next to his donation bucket. What a sad little scrap of cardboard. At first I was sure he made all the "R's" backwards to elicit sympathy, but after talking to him that first day, it became clear that he was lucky to have any of the letters correctly oriented. He had only heard rumors about something called "school" and I believe he thought it was some kind of food.

I wasn't much older than him, but I already had a well developed sense of philanthropy, and wanted to help him. We became friends, and during the year I lived in Paris, we spent a great deal of time together. Though my father would complain about all the cats that would follow him into our house, I think he was proud that had I taken on a charity case. After all, it was father who helped me set up a trust fund for Pierre with the money I got from selling some of my hats.

We saw each other less when I moved back to the states, but we kept in touch. Over time, his letters became more and more legible, and talked more and more about making clothes. I encouraged him to follow his passion and financed his initial forays into the fashion business. Obviously, it turned out well. It's been a long time since he's had to punch anything for bread, and I'm sure he never will again.

28 July 1952 / Pakistan (K2)

Currently we’re just above 25,000 feet and yet another deathblow snowstorm has shut us down for the day--if not the rest of our lives.

Blasted! I hate to be so negative, but it’s looking fairly grim. As I write this, it’s not hard to imagine my words as being the last record of our doomed expedition. As such, future reader, please excuse the list format I have used to heavily detail our situation. My normal, florid prose requires more oxygen than is available to me.

The Team:

-- Most of the team survives, though we are all suffering varying degrees of hypothermia, leg-break and, most dangerous, ennui. At sea level, ennui can be a helpful catalyst to playwriting or avant garde composition, but at 5 miles above sea level, it is a welcome mat for the angel of death.

--One of our team has died, though it’s become apparent by piecing together interviews of the other climbers that he was already dead when the climb began. In fact he may have accidentally been tied to Jeff (or “Climber #3”) as far back as the train station, and was just designated as “The Lazy Jerk.” Every expedition has one.

--On the first night of our climb we all sat in a circle on the ground, naked, holding hands, each taking turns leading everyone in his own favorite chant. Though this first happened organically, it became a nightly tradition. This tradition has been canceled.

Our remaining supplies:

--23 doves, alive. There seems to have been a backpack mix-up at Base Camp 1 with a magician.

--320 doves, dead. Again, most of these were probably dead before our ascent. That magician was very weird and actually made most of us feel uncomfortable.

--One ear of corn on the cob. We ate nearly half of the bushel the first night, and lost the remainder "hucking corn" at goats.

And as for my own current personal state of being:

--I have not needed to go to the bathroom in eleven days. In order to keep team morale high, I have continued pretending to do so. I think no one is suspicious.

--As for my own frostbite, I am faring comparatively well and trying to make the best of it, wearing it like a black badge of courage.

--One of those dead doves somehow got frozen into my beard.

--Worse yet, I haven’t been able to focus any attention on my novel, which was my primary reason for taking this vacation. Should my unfinished manuscript be found on my corpse and become a cause of speculation, I would like to disclose that in the last chapter, I planned on revealing that it was the Mummy's parrot who stole the senator's watch.

--On the plus side, through all of this, I've invented something I'm calling "Sport Deodorant."

That's about it. I've read it over a few times and there seems to be some information I'm missing. But I'm tired and it can't be that important, anyway.

30 April 1974 / Magnus Estate

I was recently given a copy of Oliver Sack's book, Awakenings by a former employee who now works with Dr. Sacks in New York. To say I enjoyed it would be an understatement. Its appeal to the lay audience is unprecedented, and I hear that it is going to be made into a movie that will feature the voice of Johnathan Winters as the animated protagonist of the story, the chemical L-dopa.*

It is, simply put, the most engaging work about catatonic people that I have ever read. As impressed as I was by Dr. Sacks intellectual bravery, I was more taken by the way his story humanizes both the patient and the caregiver, which was one of my primary goals when I began to practice medicine, and continued to be one after I eventually went to medical school. Yes, experimentation and technology drive medicine forward, but the basic relationship between healer and patient is paramount.

For years, I made sure that any patient in my hospital was hugged for a full 15 minutes before any questioning or examination began. While concerns about effective use of time and a few mean-spirited lawsuits lead me to terminate this policy, I still believe it was sound. It was certainly better than the austere culture of medicine that existed in my youth. Back then it was not uncommon for patients to be examined through a hole in a sheet or be forced to confide in doctors who insisted in speaking with the affected "robot voice" that was favored by technology obsessed MDs (some of the most extreme "futurist doctors" refused to speak at all, and communicated only with "beep" noises).

I am not advocating that doctors coddle their patients. It can do more harm than good. Do we fuss over babies because they are weak, or do we make them weak by fussing over them? It is a question only a clinical trial can answer. In addition to sounding creepy, overly "touchy-feely" doctors are worthless. They form relationships with their patients that interfere with objective treatment. Cold, hard science will always be needed in medicine. I only suggest that a balance must be struck for maximal healing.

I applaud Dr. Sacks for showing that rigorous human experimentation and compassion can exist side by side.

*Robin Williams, who starred in the eventual adaptation of the book, said that he actually based his portrayal of Oliver Sacks, and later, Patch Adams on Bent Magnus, having seen two very different sides of his personality: before and after a large lunch - Ed.

18 September 1968 / Magnus Estate

Granted, I rarely have a day that resembles the preceding day in any way, but it sometimes happens. Today was shaping up to be one of those days, and honestly, I didn’t know if I could take Mailer, or rather, that face he painted on his chest and stomach and that oversized top hat he wore over his own head, shoulders, and arms, any longer. Though his dancing was mesmerizing, I was already growing tired of it last night.

So I was thankful when my assistant interrupted Mailer’s hopping around and knocking lamps over to bring me a magazine I’d interviewed for recently. I’d at least have a valid excuse to look away so Mailer wouldn’t throw a hissy. I hate it when he goes through these bouts of low self-esteem.

Anyway, immediately I noticed the theme of this issue was modern “magic” with the cover featuring a young man pretending to be intense while performing a levitation illusion. The woman could care less from the looks of it.

I remember the premise of this interview was that I was a Leader of Science. According to the cover, though, now I’m a sorcerer. Hopefully, I’m one of the good ones, and not evil.

Oh, I’m not surprised. I’ve been misunderstood, and sensationalized--the list goes on and on, and much of what gets into print is just weird. Now I’ve been adjusted to fit a theme of the month.

A brief scanning of the article and I could see that they merely substituted words to make the idea work. Mitosis with Misdirection. Photosynthesis with Saw-Blade Death Boxes. Wolverines with Bikini Clad Assistants. It’s surprising how much the article still makes perfect sense.

Usually, this sort of misrepresentation would make me angry, but it reminded me of the close intertwined relationship science and magic has always had. I’ve always rejected the notion that true “magic” exists but I won’t be so arrogant to deny that there is some magic in science. I’d venture to say that most of our earliest scientists were merely failed, bitter magicians. Now, it’s the other way around. I remember reading how Harry Blackstone got a C- in Biology.

I also couldn’t be too upset at the article because my father, who despite his great scientific mind, listed “slight-of-hand expert” on the top of his CV. The skill was so highly esteemed by him, except he was truly terrible at it. If he knew it, it didn’t show, because he continued to try to make the Statue of Liberty disappear and levitate over the Grand Canyon until his death (the latter, of course, causing his death).

So there is a soft spot in my heart for this nonsense. And maybe just for kicks I should explore the subject to honor him. I recently met some kid in New York named Jay or Ricky or something who seemed to have a knack for that sort of stuff. Maybe I’ll give him a call.

Of course, I’ll have to keep my new friend a secret from Mailer lest he slip deeper into his funk out of jealousy. I’m afraid of what I’ll have to sit through next.

15 April 1976 / Lagos, Nigeria

Though he had to leave for London last night (there was a fire at his ice cream parlour), I am greatly indebted to Fela for inviting me to see his homeland. I didn't get to spend as much time with him as I would have liked, but I understand how busy he is. Between his activism and his music, I am stunned to see that he is able to smoke that much marijuana or bed even half the number of women he does in a day.

Even in his absence, I feel that he is my guide in Lagos. I have found that once the locals hear me mention "my good friend, Fela Kuti" they treat me with reverence that my physical presence alone can not explain. I think they also appreciate that I have adopted Fela's habit of wearing bikini underpants as my only item of clothing. I find it suits both the weather and my personality.

Being faced with another week to explore Nigeria more or less on my own, I decided to concentrate on the conurbation that had sprung up in the wake of the oil boom. I had initially wished to see some of the country's mega fauna, and was disappointed to find out that the recent influx of money had removed most of the "flashier" species to new homes in the city.

Newly minted oil magnates decorated their Western style apartments with live leopards, and it is not uncommon to see a sad, sedated hippo working as a casino greeter. Of course my instincts told me to free these beautiful animals, but my role as a Western foreigner, and the troubling paternalistic connotation that would taint any intervention on my part, gave me pause. If Africa is ever going to shake its reputation as "the lost continent" it will have to do so on its own. Europeans with good ideas are more dangerous to Africans than a lion with a gun that shoots tsetse flies.

Even in the rare occasion that intentions are good, everyone gets hurt. I know this all too well. My father was a brilliant man, whose desire to help the world rivals my own, and it lead to his greatest folly: "AfricaLand." A lot has been written about the foolishness of building a 1.2 million square mile theme park in central Africa, and I can't add anything that will vindicate the project except that he really meant well, and until his death he regretted causing those droughts.

Anyway, I am finding Lagos to be an exciting metropolis full of interesting meats and vibrant nightspots. The warmth of the people astounds me. It is possible that I have misunderstood the currency exchange rate and am massively overpaying for everything, but I choose not to be cynical. I have purchased an incredible array of patterned and batik-ed fabrics and I think I will use them to create uniforms for the youth baseball league that I am sponsoring.

8 April 1933 / Germany

I need to backtrack because it’s been a busy week.

When I began volunteering at the local animal rescue league, I was told most cases involved coaxing a raccoon out of Mrs. Luce’s bedroom or perhaps retrieving a dog from out of Mrs. Luce’s defective septic tank. It was immediate to me that these “rescues” were more for Mrs. Luce’s sake than for the animals—they obviously chose those locations to either nest or unwind after a long day. Why would they need rescue? No matter, though, I was only there to help.

But on my first day, after my third visit to Mrs. Luce’s house, to retrieve a pigeon that was merely napping in her hair, no less, I convinced her that she shouldn’t be so quick to rid the wild kingdom from her dwelling, that they may end up saving her life someday. (I retold the story of the Hawaiian goat that dragged me from some lava flows while I slept.)

I also left her with an ominous observation that it’s very possible the animals she’s chasing away will team and rise up against her in violent retaliation. Upon hearing this, she noted the revenge-y looks an opossum had given her last month as it was being led away.

Now, without Mrs. Luce to keep the rescue league busy, management hastily decided there was less of a need for volunteers. But there are animals out there that needed REAL rescuing! I spat at them in my mind. I quickly fired all of my superiors, bum-rushing them out the door, sweeping up a few volunteers in the process, and took over the whole operation.

What was left of the outfit was myself and an 11-year-old boy named Skip or something. While Skip had a real handle on some wonderful knock-knock jokes, some of them involving animals, we were going to need more help with the rescuing.

So within the day, I had sent clear word out through various channels to the legions of international drifters I know: Be on the look out for animals whose lives are in danger. I don’t want to hear anything like the shit Mrs. Luce called us in for.

It wasn’t long before I received word of some exotic animals being held captive by some of those awful weirdo Germans in Berlin. And so that’s where I found myself this morning.

From just stepping off the train, one could feel how much this place is becoming filled with pricks. It’s a real shame. Germany used to be a place where one could enjoy some good draughts and a lively weeklong match of Bavarian finger wrestling. Or you could just set off into any given forest to spy on some woodland fairy creatures. Now, I fear all that’s in danger.

But I had no time to think about that this morning. I had some animals to rescue.

I was supposed to meet my contact near a pretzel maker’s cart, yet when I arrived at the coordinates, in its place was now a bullet lather’s cart. Just another example of the bizarre changes around here, I guess.

My contact was nowhere to be found. So I waited. Eventually, to avoid looking suspicious, I ordered up a bag of bullets. It was while paying that my eyes drifted past the cart to the garish poster glued to the bullet lather’s apron and neck.

It was for a circus. A Nazi circus. And on this poster featured a line up of exotic animals striking militantly heroic poses. Needless to say, I was disgusted. These surely were my animals and there was no time to lose.

In the blink of an eye, I was at this so-called “circus,” which was nothing more than a political party’s ego publically stroking itself. And the animal display was part of this peculiar attempt at glorification. Look, I know everyone goes through a phase where they feel the need to pound their chests and declare Look at me! I’m important! Look at all the things I have! I remember when I behaved like that. I was three. But again, I’m being sidetracked here…

There was a bunch of animals on display in cages, from toucans to panthers to gorillas. All of them were obviously there under duress, all of them needing rescue.

I looked at them, my rage boiling angrily inside my brain, the steam blurring my vision. I imagined myself in the jungle, releasing these animals back into their habitat, the toucan not wanting to leave me, but me saying, No. You must go.

When I flashed out of this daydream, I was in the middle of loading up a lion into a modified sidecar of some sort while wearing a zoo-keeper’s uniform. Not sure how all that happened. But I couldn’t stop. I hopped into the driver’s seat and sped off while pricks everywhere were shouting German obscenities at us.

I looked behind me and saw the rest of the animals fleeing to safety and/or pooping on patrons. There was a chase--there always is, of course--and at one point, I found myself rounding a short-angled track being pursued by another zoo-keeper on a motorcycle. After a few hours, I finally remembered that bag of bullets I bought and threw them at my hunter. He promptly crashed and exploded.

The lion and I are now safely on our way to Austria, where I believe I’ll find passage for both of us back to America. I’ve been thinking he’ll find nice refuge in Mrs. Luce’s backyard. Oh, and I’ve just realized I have no idea where Skip is. The last I saw him we were in Switzerland.

4 April 1972 / Molos, Greece

As I write these words, I am in earshot of a low intensity fistfight that has been happening, off and on, for the better part of 10 hours. Most of the violence has consisted of pinches and slaps, and there is little danger that it will escalate beyond frog punching, so my intervention not needed. My only concern is that it's participants, Mailer and McQueen, are both proud men, and that it might realistically continue well into the night.

After last night's engine fire effectively ended our chances at victory, I suspected that our team morale might be running low today. That, coupled with the mysterious disappearance of one of our meatball sandwiches, was enough to set those two off against each other.

I don't pretend that they have ever been friends, and I know they tolerate each other only because of their mutual fondness for me, but I still hold out hope that they might someday appreciate each other's company. The reason I thought entering the three of us in an off-road Motorcar rally would hasten the arrival of that day escapes me now, but I had the best intentions. If nothing else, this trip has been worth it just to experience the rich culture that surrounds Greek motorsport.

Just a few moments ago, the race organizers finished digging the trench that will soon be filled with wine. The camaraderie that forms around the wine ditch is only matched by the brotherhood of war. As I have learned to do, I will jostle and shove my way to a prime spot. Until now, I had assumed the phrase I'd heard over and over in western Greece, "Drink fast or drink mud" was some idiomatic toast. Now I see that it is simply good advice.

And now, just as I had given up hope, I hear that Norman and Steve have finally come to a truce. It sounds like they were finally able to bond over their mutual distaste for Gore Vidal.

15 October 1975 / Sydney, Australia

I’ve long been an advocate for healthcare for everyone. Yes, I took baby steps in my ideology to get there, starting with when I first got into medicine, and my advocacy for healthcare for everyone I know.

At that point, I knew a lot of people, and I gave it to them, whether they wanted it or not. Mailer, for instance, only wanted certain things done to him, many of which weren’t necessarily medical in any way. So there were a lot of details of my free coverage to work through.

As Magnus General expanded, many people I didn’t know started showing up for treatment. So, for them to qualify, we would have dinner together, exchanging many intimate and tedious details of our lives. Soon, I was having dozens of dinners every night, which may have been fine, but much of the company was… well, just because I know you, doesn’t mean I like you.

There had to be a better way, and eventually my theories spread simply to include just everyone. Since then, I’ve written numerous op/ed pieces and articles in papers all across the country expressing my thoughts. One of my latest was entitled, “The Match Game,” where I used an analogy of gambling politicians throwing lit matches at sick patients.

It’s this article that had apparently inspired a health care summit bearing the same name in Los Angeles. The whole thing was to be televised, and naturally, I was asked to participate. As luck would have it, I was already traveling to Australia with a scheduled layover in Los Angeles during the time of the summit, so I jumped at the chance to spread the word to a larger audience.

When I arrived, I immediately saw that the set up for debate and information dissemination was totally unique and innovative. There was a moderator and a panel of experts, of which I was one, and then two “laypeople.” The moderator would read statements regarding healthcare, leaving one key phrase out. Then everyone would write down what they thought that phrase was.

The laypeople, serving as stand-ins for regular Joes and Josephines, would reveal their answers first. Then us experts would reveal our scholarly thoughts.

The statements were mostly variations on common everyday things. One example was “That woman’s BLANKS were so large, she needed help getting on the bus.” For that, the layperson responded, “shopping bags,” which of course led to derisive snickers among the audience. When I answered “dozens of untreated goiters,” the audience was rightly repulsed and booed at the thought of a healthcare system that would allow this to happen.

Another one: “Dora wasn’t too pleased with Don when he ate her BLANKS minutes before the barbecue.” After the layperson responded “Potato Chips” to more derisive snickers, I responded, “black market penicillin for the treatment of her STDs.” Again more boos that Dora had to resort to shady underground dealings to treat her medical conditions.

Strangely many of the other experts often answered similarly to the laypersons, which just tells me we’ve got a long way to go if the experts are on the same level as the populace.

There was one expert who consistently garnered my respect: a Mr. Reilly, who’s unwavering responses of either “boobs” or “buns” to every question, while having a lighter tone than my answers, underscored the desperate need in our country for better women’s services. He was courageous given this is a regrettably male-dominated profession.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the summit early, to catch my flight to Sydney, on which I had time to prepare for my speech tomorrow on another issue close to my heart: abolishing the koala bear slave trade.

When I think again on the healthcare summit, part of me thinks it was a little odd, a little too “Californian.” But I must remain optimistic, and when I think of the actual content that was discussed, I think we’ll see free health care for everyone within the next few months.

16 March 1964 / Karnataka, India

I can, at times, be an impatient man. When traveling, especially, I often find myself anxious at the slightest delay. Perhaps it's the result of too eagerly anticipating the experiences that await at my final destination. This is understandable, considering all the "action" I tend to find at journey's end, but it is negligent of me. I need to remember all of the beauty to be found in the out-of-the-way places one stumbles upon when "lost" or "detained by authorities." Today's train derailment brought me to one of those magical places, and I am grateful for it.

I feel that I should clarify that by "action," I meant adventure, be it spiritual, physical, or emotional, and not just the romantic kind. Although there is a lot of that, too.

Once it was established that all aboard my train were safe, I ascertained the reason for the derailment had simply been that there were no more tracks for it to follow. I guess the operators of this train line had assumed that the track would be finished by the time we reached it when they sold the tickets. But they were wrong.

We skidded to a stop a few miles outside of a town whose name I will probably never know, and I took to foot. I had been traveling to Pattabhi Jois' yogashala in Mysore, but in my haste to reach the enlightenment I thought resided there, I had insulated myself in my small but comfortable train berth. Once freed from the train, I felt the spiritual wealth of India swirl all around me. My luxury deadened senses came alive!

I decided to complete the rest of my journey as a Sadhu, a holy man. I flung my shoes into a nearby stream and smeared red clay over any skin I could expose. Then a temple appeared. Had it become visible to me only once I had opened myself to the spiritual possibilities of this land, or had the forward progress I achieved by walking simply decreased the distance between it and me to a point that my eyes could now discern its outline? That is for the cynics to debate.

I ran towards the temple, winking heartily at any person I met along the way. I also distributed the contents of my suitcase to any that would accept my gifts. And many did, because, though the people of this village were wealthy in the spiritual sense, they were miserably poor in the actual sense. By the time I reached the temple, a crowd had gathered around me. In this region, there is tremendous respect for both Sadhus and people who give things out to strangers, so I had caused quite a stir.

As it turns out, the architecture used in ancient temples is oddly interchangeable with that of modern train stations, and I had confused the two. Still! I had abandoned the idea of train travel and become a holy man, only to accidentally walk to the nearest train station.

It had to be a sign. I was ready to return to the life I left behind. The engineer told me that a new berth had been prepared for me, and assured me that there would be enough track to get me to Mysore. I am not sure I believe him, but I have grown enough spiritually to not care if he is wrong.

2 October 1956 / Turkey

Yet again the media has completely and disgustingly distorted one of my scientific accounts for the sake of sensationalism and sexual appeal. I guess I’m partly to blame for trying to appeal to an audience larger than the fussy club of weirdos that reads scientific journals..

This morning I received a package from Mailer. He’s been forwarding me items of interest while I’m on my foreign sabbatical. Fortunately or unfortunately, they are subject to his judgment, so they’re usually full of things like sandwiches he didn't finish or photographs of what he deems "funny dogs". Included in this shipment was an arrowhead, some baffling pornography, a key, and for reasons unknown to me at the time, a copy of this “Man’s Life.”

The cover immediately piqued my curiosity, naturally, due to my fondness for turtles. Though I was slightly dismayed by the action depicted, it was in keeping with what I’d experienced with the noble little beasts. That they would come to the rescue of a damsel who is about to stabbed by a bare-chested brute didn’t surprise me.

So I flipped through to the account, and was swiftly transported to Louisiana, where a manly drifter gets a job taking care of a boat. On his first day, he has to take his boss’s man-trap-girlfriend out on the bayou on said boat. Alone. And her clothes seem to be both bodice-tight and loose and falling off at the same time. He had a problem with his shirt buttons too, I assume as they were of “drifter” quality. Primal anticipation shot off the pages onto my face.

This is sensational! I thought. This is sexy! But in the back of my mind, I was also thinking of the cover art, thinking, when is this man going to start stabbing her?

Oddly, that’s not what happened. For suddenly, out of nowhere, it was the turtles that attacked HER! The drifter fended them off using a knife (totally ineffectual, as it’s slingshots turtles hate) as they ate the entire woman and left him with a couple of stumps and unsatisfied urges.

Disgusting lies! A turtle would not behave this way! And no doubt this will cause the angry retaliation against thousands of innocent turtles, even though in the story, the woman was fairly bitchy and deserved what she got.

It wasn’t until I turned my attention to the photos that accompanied the story—snapshots of some snappers—that I realized they were MY photos! That was MY story, completely perverted!

I had forgotten that last year, I sent in my scientific account with a Louisiana turtle colony from my visit there twenty years ago. I was researching the possibility of using the turtles for bayou farming. Not as a master/indentured servant sort of relationship, but one of equality, one in which we worked side by side for the good of all. I was making measured progress, when the local sheriff, who thought I was converting the turtles to communism, shut me down.

When I found my notes last year, I thought the work too important to be forgotten forever. So I took out all the references to the bourgeoisie and sent it in for publication.

And of course, what should return but a complete distortion of my science. Blasted! There was no science in the article whatsoever! Save for the pages-long and intricately described fashion of the tight bloused boss’s girlfriend, there was no educational value in the story at all.

I should learn not to be disappointed about things like this, try to take a different tack. Yes, there were points of the story that I found exciting, and, yes, a fair amount of my scientific research does involve sexy boat trips, but why must they distort the truth?

18 April 1929 / Detroit

My first place finish in yesterday's wrestling tournament was a pleasant validation of my physical prowess. I see now that formal recognition is important for anyone, no matter how confident one may be. I had grown so accustomed to being deluged by awards and accolades in my academic career that I hadn't really noticed their relative absence in my new "adult" life.

In retrospect, I wonder if much of what I had done in the years since my graduation wasn't an attempt to prove myself... to myself. Certainly the government had never asked me to translate all of the census forms into ancient greek for them. And a month ago, I lifted Evelyn Waugh over my head because I was curious if I could do it, not because I wanted him to see that sparrows nest, which is what I said at the time. Those things, like so much of what I have done were embarrassing "show off" moments that I shall try to avoid in the future. If I need validation, it shall be in officially sanctioned events, like organized sport, or international science fairs.

My recent athletic achievement did not come without cost, however, and my training methods have left me in need of a new automobile. (I removed the engine from my Cadillac Victoria, and practiced flipping it on its roof as a means of increasing my grappling power, and was unable to restore it to working condition when I was done.) Rather than buy a new car "off the rack," I decided to have one custom made for me. If the bespoke kimono is a superior product, why wouldn't the same be true for an auto?

I hired a plane to Detroit this morning, and had a private audience with Alfred P. Sloan at GM by early afternoon. As it turns out, a lot of my ideas cannot yet be implemented in automobile design in a practical way, so I will have to make do with a car with wheels instead of metal paws, at least for the time being.

He did seem genuinely appreciative when I showed him my plans for a device that would allow the hubcaps to keep spinning, even when the car is stopped, and I expect to see those on even their mass market models by next year. I was also able to choose my own color scheme, and the red, black, yellow, and white exterior is truly hypnotic. As a safety measure, I also requested that the horn sound like an angry bobcat, to shock deer out of the slack-jawed reverie that may overcome them when they look upon my car. For what good is technological advance, if it is not tempered with humanity? And what is humanity without charity towards deer, nature's dumbest creation?

20 September 1947 / Jalapa, Mexico

Late last night, I won a pepper-eating contest, though to be honest, I hadn’t realized I was taking part in a competition until I was awarded a chicken and everyone around me cheered.

The people here actually do a lot of cheering and whooping and yelling. There’s seemingly no occasion to which hooting and howling isn’t appropriate. Case in point, at the funeral procession this afternoon for one of the deceased pepper-eating competitors, the entire town showed up to cheer and throw garbage at the casket.

I watched them from the second story window of my rented room as they hurled trash and junk and spit at the casket with so much enthusiasm it was all I could do not to join in. We spend our entire lives pent in by the rules of civilization, it’s rare when an opportunity arises that allows us to satiate one of man’s most primal desires: to litter.

Within seconds of witnessing the event, I saw my chance and was launching any garbage I could put my hands on out the window and onto the procession below. And to my litter wild eyes, everything in this ramshackle apartment was fair game.

The lamps went first, then the chairs, the table next as I laughed and hollered and worked up a sweat not seen since the pepper eating contest the night before. The people below cheered with the voracity of those running for their lives. But I had no time to see my creation as I was a one man assembly line of littering. Heave, lift, launch, return, heave, lift, launch, return. Finally, there was nothing left but my mattress, which for some reason, I lit on fire before sling-shotting it out my window.

When I finally took my bow, it appeared the procession had moved on, though strangely, without the casket.

The wonders of this world’s cultural differences never cease to fascinate me, yet I’m often baffled by the similarities I see. I thought only Baltimorians threw garbage on their deceased loved ones.

On a separate note, in a few days I’ll be heading back to South America to continue my search for the Golden Brain. I’m going to budget some time tomorrow to make a list of the items I think I’ll need so I avoid that “last-minute packing” scenario that leads to some bad decisions. Bringing that iron bust of Andrew Jackson down here was absolutely not worth the effort, I’ll finally admit privately. In fact, I’m going to throw it at that casket.

22 December 1937 / Hotel Florida, Madrid

(note: this is a continuation of an account which started here and was last seen here.)
4 days have passed since my last writing, since the day those monsters, led by that man with the mustache, apparently shot and stole Pepita. I’ve been paralyzed, frozen with guilt and depression in a way I haven’t felt since I mistakenly ate all those sacks of rice meant to feed some kids in India. In many ways though, this is much worse, because I was able to quickly provide 50 pizzas and garlic knots to that village. There, there was closure. Here, so far, I see none.

As I wrote before, I hold little hope that Pepita is still alive. But that little hope keeps me from throwing myself out of this 3rd story window, to deservedly compound my mental aguish with the pain of a broken ankle or perhaps, if I dive, some severely scraped knuckles and a shoulder blow.

Today is the first day since the day of the incident that I feel mentally capable to write, though it appears I've spent some of the intervening time expressing my feelings though art--there's painting after painting expressing grief and anger tossed about the room. But I don't really remember creating any of it.

I think that maybe I should reappropriate this art, start putting up flyers, “Lost: My life, my soul, my Pepita. Cat. Gray. May be suffering from gunshot wounds…” only to realize no one in their right mind would ever come forward, lest they be gunned down by the same faction that so savagely took her. Add to that the fact it must have been one of those artisans I paraded Pepita’s photographs to who led to her capture. If you can’t trust local drunken artisans, who is there to trust? There is no one.

Except… except there is one. That blow-bag phony Hemingway. Though I haven’t seen or heard from him since the day he shouted his warning that they were coming. Again, the guilt. Had I heeded him, instead of reasonably believing it to be a ploy to sucker-punch me with his fist holding a coconut, Pepita’s assassination (attempted, I hope) and abduction could have been avoided.

So despite my complete disgust with him, I fear he’s the only one I can depend on to help find her. The past few days I’ve been building to this, and even now I have trouble writing: Tomorrow, I will seek out Hemingway and forge an alliance to find Pepita. God, it’s all I can do to not... nope, I just threw up on the couch.

On another front, Belisma, who I forget is the rightful owner of Pepita, has no knowledge of any of this. I can’t shake the feeling she knew all of this was impending. And if so, what is it that ties her and Pepita to this revolution, or counter-revolution, opposition insurgency, or whatever the hell it is going on around here? I thought I was just taking care of a cat.

10 February 1977 / Magnus Estate

8 AM
I headed to the A&P to pick up the day's supply of buttermilk (3 quarts) and was dismayed to find a braying mass of humanity crushing through its aisles. From the snippets of conversation being yelled above the panicked din, I was able to ascertain that the hysteria was prompted by the prediction of 6 inches of snow.

I saw a woman carrying at least three dozen rolls of toilet paper. I pitied her and her warped view of reality. I also pitied her if she really did need that much toilet paper to last the 10-12 hours during which the snow would make leaving her home slightly inconvenient.

11 AM
The snow has begun to fall. As always, I will keep the compound snow-free by coating the grounds with kerosene-soaked timber, and then lighting them while I enjoy a brandy and the meditative flicker of the controlled yard-fire. Even if the fire quickly burns out, as it does when I've over soaked the timber, the residual warmth will keep the snow from sticking to the ground in solid form.

1 PM
There are no kerosene soaked logs on the premises. It is possible that there never were. I concede that the memories of the world outside my study window engulfed in roaring orange flame may be from a dream I had, rather than reality.
About 2 inches of snow has accumulated so far. Baldur played in the snow until he got ice in his paw, later, he ate a snowball.

3 PM
It continues to fall! Well over the anticipated 6 inches has accumulated already. The power has gone out. I curse my "modern" electric stove, but have plenty of buttermilk to provide sustenance. No problem.

6 PM
I spent the last hour manually operating the giant squid tank's aeration pumps. My arms are tired and veiny. I worry about cabin fever.

9 PM
The walls close in. The ghosts of my past mingle with the spirits of this haunted wood, howling through the hallways chipping away at my sanity with their insane laughter of the damned. Other than that, all is well. Buttermilk supplies still healthy.

10 PM
I have become a spider. I made a deal with the ghosts. I will weave their battle tunics out of my steely silk. I will be safe.

11 PM
The power is back on, but I think I will call it an early night.

6 September 1950 / Washington D.C.

I have never been comfortable with the idea of the United States as a single entity. To me, America is like one large cat made out of several smaller cats. Some of the cats are spotted, some are striped, and sadly, some are extremely racist, but they each give something unique to the larger super cat. Whenever I forget this, something always comes along to remind me that our nation is really an assemblage of regions, each with their own culture and identity.

Such was the case today. I happened upon a man who had traveled to Washington from Kentucky on what he hoped would be an enjoyable and educational vacation for his family. He asked me for directions to the Lincoln Memorial, (wherever I go, people always assume I am a native) which I gladly provided. We spoke for a while, and I demonstrated a few handstand push-ups to amuse his children. As thanks, he offered me a flavored soda from a cooler that he dragged along with him.

Therein lay the epiphany. It is called "Mountain Dew." I know from my previous interactions with hillbillies that "Mountain Dew" is a slang term they use for their homemade whiskey. The bottle he gave me read "zero proof moonshine," so it was probably developed as a booze-substitute for alcoholic mountain people to drink in mainstream society. If anything can deliver these hillbillies from the ravages of alcohol, it is this soda.

It glows with a greenish color that holds the promise of the atomic age, and tastes of violently sweet citrus. After drinking it, I felt as if time had slowed. I do not think it contained cocaine, but it might have. How many other wonderful beverages are unknown beyond their respective regions? Does this not prove my multiple-cat super-cat America theory?

Also, I was banned from Congress after throwing an apple at Joe McCarthy while being forced to appear before his stupid committee today.

20 February 1923 / London

Tutmania has gotten totally out of hand. It’s gotten to a point where I can’t even have a simple conversation at the coffee house without it turning Egyptian.

“One coffee please,” I say.

“Ay! Would you be having one golden scarab or two?” or “Ay! Would ye be wanting whole or half-n-half Nile in that thar cup.” Neither of which make any sense, and sound more like something a crazed pirate lost in the desert might say.

Sure, like everyone else, I was fascinated by the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, and its subsequent scientific destructive ransacking. But were I to engage someone regarding the ethical concerns of the smashing of mummies at fairs, all I’d get would be blank stares followed by a shouting of, “TUT TUT TUT TUT! WE’RE NUMBER ONE!” Which, again, I can’t decipher.

One thing that intrigues me is the re-emergence of the Egyptian Saluki. It’s a glorious animal. I had forgotten that my father had one imported years ago, as he thought a pack of jackals was let loose on the estate by some foe, possibly Jack London, and he thought it would aid us in rounding them up. In the end, we never found any jackals and, if memory serves me, the saluki ended up hitching out west with hopes of finding some coyotes to befriend or kill.

Anyway, the saluki's burgeoning fame here is quite striking. It’s considered high fashion for all the ladies to carry one in their handbags. According to Vogue, a lady without a saluki in tow may as well be “a filthy gutter tramp who should just die.” So naturally, women (and even some men) of even the lowest societal rung are desperate to get their hands on one, and strap it to themselves as it barks and thrashes.

My worry is that once this craze has run its course, these salukis will be discarded just like crazes before it. I’ll never forgive myself for ignoring the plight of the snapping turtles after their brief run as high-society’s favorite living animal hat. Which is to say, I’ve learned my lesson. The salukis will always find a companion in Bent Magnus.

22 October 1957 / San Francisco

I will try to make this account of my night as accurate as possible, but I suspect that some of the details might have faded in the intervening hours that I have been repeatedly showering in my hotel room's bathroom.

It began when I went to a reading at the City Lights bookstore. I had shown up because a friend of mine had recommended their sourdough ham sandwiches. Either I had confused City Lights bookstore with City Bites bakery, or they had simply run out of their signature hoagies, because by the time I got there, the only food available was a tray of amphetamine laced shortbread. I know "speedcakes" when I see them, so I left them alone (I do not like the bitterness the drug lends to most baked goods).

The store seemed oddly packed with people for a Wednesday night, especially for a place that was out of sandwiches. Only when I had pushed my way to the front of the crowd did I realize that it was playing host to a poetry reading, and a few more moments passed before I recognized that I was on stage.

With all eyes on me, I felt obligated to entertain, and I launched into a free-form invocation to the spirit of an "American Bacchus." It was more or less a rehashing of the commencement speech I had given earlier this week at an elementary school, with a few curse words added to "punch it up" a bit. The audience bobbed their heads and jived their bodies to the rhythm of my words.

As I stepped off the stage, I recognized Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who I had met briefly at Columbia, after giving a talk about animism. He introduced me to Allen Ginsberg. I had heard good things about Ginsberg's work, (Marianne Moore said that "Howl" was "one of the finest poems about dongs" she had ever read) so I was happy to meet him. I stayed for the rest of the reading, and then went with Larry and Allen to a party at Pauline Kael's house. It was there that the night took a turn for the worse.

Among the other guests was a slender, unpleasant looking man named William Burroughs. When I walked in, he was hopping around and fluttering his long bony fingers. I was never introduced to him, and only found out his name when I demanded to know the name of the man that kept putting his fingers in my ears. The others apologized for their "friend" and assured me that his weird, inappropriate touching was his way of saying, "he likes you."

The only respite from his unwanted attention came when he took a break to lie down in the bathtub and listen to party guests use the lavatory. Everyone else was seemingly used to this kind of behavior, so I tried to ignore it, but he made it difficult. While talking on the sofa, he kept crawling into my lap and pretendeding to be a cat. The last straw came when he took off his socks and stuffed them into my jacket pockets. I could take no more. I thanked Allen, Larry, and Pauline for their hospitality, and left.

To my horror, I found that Burroughs had broken into my car and was writhing in the backseat. He claimed to be a lost harbor seal and demanded that I feed him smelts. I did not want to hurt such a clearly ill person, so I tried to remove him from my auto with as little violence as possible. During the struggle, however, he slammed his own hand in the car's door and removed one of his semi-detached fingernails and slid it down the back of my shirt.

I have seen and done many things that would shock the average person, but I have never been party to anything as gross as that.

2 June 1927 / Houat

I finally washed ashore this morning after days of drifting in the sea upon my steamer trunk.

Some locals here swiftly plucked me off the rocky shore, and set me up with what seems to be a sort of welcome kit for boatless men brought in by the tide… apparently, it’s pretty common. Though most of the residents here, as far as I can tell, appear to be retired sea-hoboes, I’d venture to say a sizable chunk of the populace are those who washed up by chance, like myself, and decided to stay.

And I can see why, judging from the contents of the welcome basket: it's filled with crêpes. When I was bobbing up and down in the ocean like an idiotic cork, all I wanted for some reason was to eat as many crêpes as I could. And so it seems I’ve landed in paradise.

Actually, it seems as if this island is fully sustained by a crêpe based industry. Every sort of crêpe imaginable has been gifted to me, and many crêpes, previously unimaginable, are somehow commonplace here. Even now, I’m wearing a pair of crêpe socks as if I’d always worn them, so cozy on my feet are they after my journey on the sea.

Thinking about my time out there, in between shooing sharks and jellyfish, I had some time to think about my hasty decision to cast myself and my belongings overboard.

Did I regret it? Of course not. My travelling companions were insufferably dull and I could not bear them any longer. Nor did I regret my flamboyant shaming of their dullness prior to my departure. It was surely something they needed, though I doubt they have any capacity for change.

No, it’s that in my rush, I left behind my schematics for a slicing machine that could be used for anything resembling the size, shape, and texture of a loaf of bread. In particular, I’m thinking of its use for the study of a post-mortem dachshund.

The details of this machine I’m afraid I’ll not be able to duplicate, as they came to me in a hallucinogenic fever dream brought on by rancid Channel shrimp. Try as I did to recreate this vision by drinking sea water, it was of no use. It’s gone forever.

There are many lessons here, I suppose, but in deliberating on whatever they might be, I would become one of those dullards that brought me here to begin with. My new companions would be better served by me if I hunker down and start churning out as fanciful crêpes as I can.

28 May 1986 / Magnus Estate

This morning, I made good on a promise to visit some friends of mine that had moved to the suburbs. I should have called, but I figured that my unannounced appearance would be a pleasant surprise. Since I spoke to them last, in 1959, it seems they have two children and three grandchildren, and that my visit coincided with their plans to attend their grandson's little league game.

I was happy to join them, and was amused by the youngsters' sporting ineptitude and intrigued by their insatiable desire for orange slices. Unfortunately, my interest soon waned. The game dragged on and, unfortunately, my friends, Garrett and Ardith have become quite square in the intervening decades. Luckily, I had insisted on loading my folding bicycle into their Saab, so I was able slip away during a scene caused by a vomiting outfielder.

Within a few minutes, I came upon a mega cineplex. The scope of the thing was grotesque and magnetic. Almost in a trance, I wandered into a screening of a film called "Rocky IV." I was not able to glean much of the movie's plot because I left after being informed I would have to pay money in order to remain in the theater, but I believe it is the story of a troll-like creature called "Paulie" and his robotic companion who brings him soda.

Having had my fill of the suburbs I returned to my estate, but the film's robotic protagonist stuck with me. The more I thought about it, the more the idea of a robot friend appealed to me.

I got to work immediately, quickly cobbling together the servos and motors that would make up my robot's body. The difficult part was the brain. I knew that I needed to take a leap forward in robotics and that I would have to do it quickly, before I lost interest in the project. By early evening, I had reworked a chess playing program (whose intelligence I have long admired) into an electronic nerve center. However, in my goal not to create a machine that would bring me a soda because I told it to, but a friend who would want to bring me a soda, I may have overstepped my role as a scientist, or human being.

Was my new robot self aware? Could it "feel"? Was it new "life"? Sadly, it could not answer my questions, because it mainly beeps and fetches root beer. If I had indeed created a new, sentient life form it was wholly possible that I, as a carbon based life form, would not even be able to recognize the signs of an emergent silicon-based intelligence.

Worst of all, what if I had created a being whose self-awareness was a curse? The nightmarish thought of waking up to one's existence, only to realize that you are the only one of your kind, neither man nor machine, sent a chill down my spine. I stared into my robot's sphinx-like eyes, and saw nothing that could conclusively confirm or dispel my fears.

In the end, I decided to affix some animal skins to the robot and send it into the woods. If it was indeed a new life form, but not quite human, it might find kinship with the animals of the forest. I suspect that it (or he/she) may well become the leader of a pack of animals and one day return to kill its maker, dealing me the same fate as our other modern Prometheus, Frankenstein.

24 December 1963 / Magnus Estate

I knew this danger was lurking, but I needed more data before submitting my findings to peer review. This summer, I remember, I was working as fast as I could, and surely, evidence was mounting. If only I wasn’t distracted by George this fall, I would’ve maintained that pace, or at the very least, wouldn’t have forgotten about it completely which was the case.

I would’ve been able to warn everyone: That twinkle in a department store Santa’s eye isn’t caused by some mystical Christmas spirit. It’s caused by disease! Indeed, it’s the first signs of a particularly virulent combination of conjunctivitis and meningitis, that if not quickly treated can be extremely dangerous and crippling, if not deadly.

Today, while I looked for what was advertised as “power slacks” in a JC Penney, a store Santa accosted me, ho ho ho-ing and asking what I wanted for Christmas. Immediately diagnosing his eye as diseased, I replied, “To live. Damnit, I want to live!”

I promptly ordered the entire store quarantined, and had every shopper, worker and that Santa, whom I assumed was patient zero, bussed to Magnus General for treatment and observation. I just hope we caught it in time.

I understand the inconvenience this places on the patients, as this night is meant to be spent with families and is filled with traditions that if missed can ruin the year for some. Though my explanation that dying also ruins Christmas should have sufficed, I tried to ease their disappointment with some fun.

Luckily, I had just that morning chopped down a dozen 15 foot pines for the hospital ballroom that had yet to be decorated for my party tomorrow night. So while I directed them and sang improvised carols, the patients strung lights and hung ornaments for a good 9 hours.

Even the patient zero Santa made an appearance, and cheered them on from his wheelchair, having already lost the use of his legs – not from the eye thing, but from the bus that was left in neutral causing it to roll over his lower body. I suspect he’s just happy to be under a solid roof for the night.

Anyway, after the trees were splendidly finished, the patients were exhausted with joy and fell asleep. Having been treated for The Twinkle (that’s as good a name as any, I think), with none of them exhibiting any symptoms through the strenuous trimming, I believe they no longer pose a threat to the community.

I just thought of this, but I think I can make a little magic happen. What if I return everyone to their home while they slumber? Yes! Imagine the look on their faces when they wake up on Christmas morning suddenly, inexplicably… miraculously!… back in JC Penney’s? I'm getting giddy just thinking about it.

3 March 1963 / Magnus Estate

I had to fire Jake today.

I will miss him, though I think I will be the only one. I can't blame the other doctors. To them, he was just the auto mechanic who I hired on a whim, but to me he was something more; a feral prodigy who I thought would turn the medical world on its ear.

I met Jake after I punched a hole in the engine block of my Jaguar during an experiment in transcendental driving. I was first stricken by his open mindedness--he did not bat an eye at my driving costume (a loin cloth and body paint). All he cared about was the machine. His command of the automobile was masterful. I was put in mind of Ferenc Fricsay at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic, so adeptly did he manipulate each valve and gasket of my wounded vehicle.

To me, it did not seem unreasonable that a man who was so comfortable re-working the innards of a car might be able to do the same with the innards of a human being. Not all of the Jaguar's parts have a human analog, but there are more similarities than differences. I knew he might never be a great diagnostician or research physician, but he seemed at least as capable of most of the surgeons I have known. I made him an offer on the spot, and he happily accepted. He ascribed his anxiousness to leave his post at the garage to a feud with his boss, Donnie. I believe its root lay in a purloined "six pack" of beer. In retrospect, this should have been a red flag.

I created the position of Junior Surgeon for Jake, and assured him that as he became more comfortable with working on the human body, he would be granted operating privileges, and eventually status as an "Actual Surgeon." Initially, he did show great aptitude; his grasp of anatomy rivaled our most senior doctors, (even if he did endearingly insist on calling veins and arteries "hoses") but it was not to last.

All too often we found him abusing the nap room. And bottles of ether and medical gin began to go missing. I still appreciated the folksy wisdom he brought to our team, but within a few weeks, I knew I had made a mistake. His reluctance to ever wash his hands was an issue almost immediately.

When I told Jake that I would have to let him go, he seemed to have been expecting it. He just solemnly nodded, filled his pockets with pens and mints and left. I may have been naive to think that I could make him a doctor, but if I am a fool, let it be the kind of fool who sees only the best in others, rather than the kind who is blind to the potential greatness within us all.

Tomorrow, my heart will sink at the sight of Jake's sleeveless lab coat in his abandoned locker.

2 December 1956 / Finnish Lapland

A couple of hours after midnight this morning, I awoke with a sudden, extreme and ravenous desire for a Clark Bar. Where this came from, I have no idea because I’ve never had one before. Perhaps, as an adult boy-wonder child-man, I had fallen prey to those advertisements aimed at actual children.

Whatever the cause, the craving came from the deepest nether regions of my stomach; a place not unlike the ancient Indian caves I found myself in while accidentally in Kentucky—caves that contained evil spirits and stale puddles. The lesson I took from those caves is that when those spirits beckon you, it’s best not to risk ignoring them. Though here, I was just being asked to eat a candy bar, not murder my companion.

I calculated that if I revved up the Polaris right away, and traveled through the forest without stopping, I’d arrive in the village by dawn. There, one of the elfin hotels was sure to have some sort of Finnish knock-off Clark Bar, if not the actual thing.

But as soon as I made my start out of bed, Ingrid immediately lashed awake, bearing her teeth at me like a rabid wolf.

“Where are you GOING?!?” she screeched, her switch from sleeping beauty to raging tiger incredible. I looked dumb at her, caught off guard. She heaved and foamed, glaring at me with the wild-eyes of a desperate wolverine, “No one leaves my bed in the middle of the night!!!”

I didn’t have time to explain what a Clark Bar was, nor for that matter Madison Avenue advertising, my stomach, and its ties with ancient Paleoindian caves and pure evil. Instead, I told her not to worry, that I would be home in time for lunch, and I grabbed my parka, thinking the matter settled.

But while my back was turned, she tackled me, throwing herself on my back like an octopus. This woman was like more animals than the Bronx Zoo contained. “You’re cheating on me!!!” she mooed.

I spun wildly to shake her off. “I’m… just… hungry!” I shouted as she clung, but by then her hands had already clawed inside my mouth for a better grip, and my words were rendered mad howling.

She mockingly mimicked my howling as I swung her around until I smashed her into the taxidermied reindeer head that hung on the wall. She and the head tumbled to the ground. I don’t know which scared me more: the lifeless gaze the reindeer gave me then, or Ingrid’s.

I made for escape, but somehow she leaped over the bed, barrel rolled in front of the door, and grabbed the skis leaning on the jam in one swift move. I only had time to think Boy, she is really angry! before she javelined one of the skis at my face.

I dodged too late, and the recently sharpened edge sliced my nose. I recovered, my nose gushing. She waited for me to approach, tossing the other ski from hand to hand like a switchblade.

I calculated my chances, do I go low or do I go high, then chose. I turned and smashed face and elbows first through the window, landing in the snow, desecrating it with my blood.

I got up and slogged through the snow toward the snowmobile as fast I as I could manage, knowing she was right behind me, the snow as equal foe for her as for me. Or so I thought. Her low, staccato grunts gained on me, though I refused the urge to look back lest I be slowed and captured.

It seemed like an eternity before I mounted my escape, turned the engine over on the fourth try, and started swiftly off into the woods. It was only then that I allowed a peek over my shoulder, expecting to see Ingrid screaming at the northern lights.

She was gone! I scanned the darkness quickly, and indeed she was no longer a threat, probably having gone back inside. I sighed relief, then turned to hunker down for the long trip.

But there was Ingrid! Facing me, clutching the windshield like an angry koala (which I think the Bronx Zoo actually has). I swerved from the shock and crashed into a pine tree and we were both thrown.

As a last resort, I just pretended to be dead, hoping that she would finally leave me alone. Though she shouted concern for my well-being, I continued to hold my breath. She pounced on me, beat on my chest and administered mouth to mouth, eventually forcing me to make passionate love with her.

Unfortunately, the Hollywood photogs we hoped to avoid by coming all the way out here soon surrounded us. We retreated back into the cabin without comment.

Ironically, I found a whole box of Clark Bars in the kitchen cabinet, as they are Ingrid’s favorite. So I satisfied that hunger. Unfortunately, now I’ll have to deal with my artistic hunger. Because my skis were destroyed, I was forced to withdraw from the Nordic ski dance competition today.

27 November 1957 / Magnus Estate


(Please click on the letter above to read Bent's Thanksgiving memo to the staff of Magnus General.)

4 October 1965 / Vlorë Greece

It’s rare that I lose my sense of direction, and if it happens, it’s usually after a heavy meal. Case in point, yesterday, I found a small cucina in the Southern Italian city of Lecce that was open for early lunch. After a late night of philosophizing and drinking wine with locals the night before, I had awakened atypically late and was famished.

The food was remarkable and copious. I sampled everything on their menu, from the baked beef eggplant and sausage orecchiette to the olive buckets and the numerous sacks of lard bread. I was the only patron there, but I was eating enough for the room. (I had forgotten my afternoon cheese the day before).

The owners were ecstatic for my business, and even offered specialties that were reserved for family only. I was happy and honored to oblige, especially with the guancialeere. But after finishing the 2 shanks of lamb they served me for terzo dessert, I was told that the kitchen was empty.

“What is this?!? Pudgies Pizza?!?” I angrily accused. They stood motionless, the insult going right over their heads. “Pudgies Pizza also ran out of food on me,” I explained, then paid my bill and lurched outside. If they didn’t want my business, I would find those who did.

I stomped away, in search of coffee to wash everything down. How dare they not even serve me coffee?!? I fumed, winding through the narrow streets. It was unseasonably hot, and with my anger raising my core temperature an estimated 15 degrees, I stopped, sweating and panting. I reached in my jacket for my handkerchief to dab my brow, but instead I pulled out a cup, filled with hot coffee corrected with cognac.

Perhaps I acted a little rash I thought as I sipped. I decided I should return to that small cucina, apologize for my verbal thrashing and perhaps marry the chef’s daughter.

But when I turned around, I immediately felt something off. My surroundings were suddenly strange and unfamiliar. In my rage, had I wandered blindly? I tried to retrace my steps, but with each stride, I became more and more confused. I’d round a corner I'd seen before, only to enter some lane that was completely foreign to me. Odd, because I was sure I'd explored every inch of this Italian city during my stay.

I had no shame in asking locals for directions, but my inquiries only met with shrugged shoulders or, worse, bizarrely aggressive kissy kissy faces. I was starting to feel like a mouse in a maze with no entrance or exit, and started behaving as such, clawing at the ground and attempting to chew through the stucco walls. I can’t say I panicked, but I was a little nervous.

It was later that I discovered I was actually in Greece, and that I must’ve hopped on a tanker or something the night before. Luckily, once I realized that, landmarks immediately snapped into focus, and I was able to find my cottage quite easily. I’m going to turn in early tonight.