1434 Fridays, Part the Fifth

So I think I’m about done with Gavin Menzies’ introduction to 1434.  That’s not to say I’m to the end.  That’s to say that this will be the last post I write about it because there’s just so goddamn much fail packed into this thing I might never get done.

Also, the latter half of the Introduction is all about Gavin Menzies making sure we know he goes on awesome vacations.  No, really.  He seems to think that the fact that his vacations are awesome but he doesn’t take vacations from his stupid ideas matter to us.  Also, I’m pretty sure he brings up the fact that he knows things because he was the captain of a Royal Navy submarine, which makes him an expert.  Captains, after all, are the unimpeachably brilliant successes of the sea.

Just don’t tell the people on the Costa Concordia.  Or the penguins covered in oil by the Exxon Valdez.  Or the folks from the Titanic.  Although it must be said that a Royal Navy-trained captain would probably know better.  The Royal Navy, after all, never used one of their pre-dreadnoughts to ram and sink another one of their pre-dreadnoughts because the admiral in charge couldn’t be arsed to figure out that running a 180-degree inward reversal of course is best accomplished when the ships are not within each others’ turning range.

You might be saying that I’m not making a fair comparison.  Gavin Menzies, after all, never once rammed the HMS Camperdown into the HMS Victoria.  Fair point, that.  My point is, though, that there’s nothing magical about “going to sea,” even though Menzies seems to think that matters.  The truth is that I’ve never been to sea, either, but I could still draw a pretty decent map of the world.

Well, I couldn’t, really.  I’m a terrible artist.

Anyway, fuck that noise.  We’ve got unsupported assertions to deal with here.

Menzies makes an interesting statement after dragging Schoner and Waldseemuller’s good names through the mud.

Similarly, Brazil appeared on Portuguese maps before the first Portuguese, Cabral and Dias, set sail for Brazil.

This literally comes out of nowhere.  He tosses it in as an aside after his claims that the di Virga map depicted Australia, which I covered last time out.  The problem here is that there’s no evidence Cabral had a map of Brazil.  We know next to nothing about what sort of kit Cabral had and all of the indications are that Cabral’s discovery of Brazil was a happy accident or, possibly, a secret instruction to find out if there was anything on Portugal’s side of the line from the Treaty of Tordesillas.

We simply don’t know what, if anything, Cabral knew.  Well, that’s not true.  We do know that they had to engage in a bit of surveying to prove that the land was, indeed, on Portugal’s side of the Tordesillas line.  Oh, and we know that Brazil’s original name was Island of the True Cross.  Because they thought it was a fucking island.  Which is problematic for Menzies’ Chinese map theory.

I suppose you could make up a theory that the Portuguese were doing it to bullshit the Spanish.  The fact is, though, that nobody knew what was what in the New World at the time and the Portuguese were in the right – at least where the Spanish and the Pope were concerned, which was the only issue that mattered to them at the time – to claim the land.  There was no real need to call the land a big island for the purposes of subterfuge.

It doesn’t matter, though.  You see, Gavin Menzies is engaging in a Gish Gallop here, just throwing out information without backing it up.  If I’m charitable I’ll admit that’s because I’m still in the Introduction.  Still, though, it’s a lot of bullshit.  Perhaps I’d have a better grasp on what he thinks is going on if I’d read all of 1421.  Perhaps I wouldn’t be writing these posts, though.  I don’t think they’d allow me to access my blog from the loony bin.

So what’s his next bit of information?  I’m glad you asked:

The South Shetland Islands were shown on the Piri Reis map four hundred years before Europeans reached the Antarctic.

I’ve seen the Piri Reis Map.  I have no clue what Menzies is talking about.  This should shock no one.

Piri Reis, or Piri the Captain, was one of the captains who served the first generation of what would be known as the Barbary Pirates.  He was a navigator and a mapmaker and the producer of the most detailed maps of the Mediterranean available to the armadas of the Sultan during the 16th Century.  He produced a world map in 1513 that looked quite a bit like the earlier Caverio and Cantino maps. Take a look at the Atlantic in the Piri Reis:

449px-Piri_reis_world_map_01

Now the Cantino:

Cantino_planisphere_(1502)

Now the Caverio:

800px-Caverio_map_medium_res

It’s also likely that Piri Reis would have had access to either the Ruysch map or the Waldseemuller map or both.  It’s pretty easy to look at the Piri Reis Map and see the influence of the earlier maps.  That’s pretty much always been the historical consensus about the Piri Reis map as far as I know.  This consensus is aided and abetted by the fact that early 16th Century mapmakers liberally stole from their source material all the freaking time.  And, hell, Piri Reis was a fucking pirate, so there’s that.

One thing Reis did that was different from his source material, though, was to draw other land in around South America.  This land, it should be noted, conforms to absolutely no land that exists anywhere near South America, as it makes it look like South America stretches almost to Africa just south of Brazil. There was absolutely nothing analogous to that landform on any maps before or after 1513.  Magellan hadn’t done his thing yet, but Vasco de Gama, Cabral, and Amerigo Vespucci would have known better by then.

The most likely explanation is pretty simple: Piri Reis decided to duplicate the shape of South America from the Ruysch map or the Waldseemuller map but ran out of paper, so he drew it around the corner.  This is a much easier explanation to swallow than the idea that he was drawing an accurate depiction of the South Shetland Islands.  That theory would require us to believe that Piri Reis had a super accurate Chinese map of the world that somehow put Antarctica on a line directly between Uruguay and South Africa.

Menzies then follows up his unsupported assertions with this paragraph:

The great European explorers were brave and determined men. But they discovered nothing. Magellan was not the first to circumnavigate the globe, nor was Columbus the first to discover the Americas. So why, we may ask, do historians persist in propagating this fantasy? Why is The Times Atlas of World Exploration, which details the discoveries of European explorers, still taught in schools? Why are the young so insistently misled?

Good god, but the man is a fucking idiot.  And a self-important fucking idiot, too.

Either way, I give up on the Introduction.  Join me next week when I wade into the giant pile-o-fail that is, well, the rest of the goddamn book.

Second Chances Chapter 5

[Explanatory Post Here.]

Chapter 5: Sundays in Chauncey

The sound of a vehicle pulling up the driveway startled Nate from his sleep. The TV was still on, showing the morning sports report. Outside, the Sunday morning sunlight lit the yard with a soft golden hue. Nate looked out the front window just as the big, black truck pulled to a stop, perfectly situated to reflect the sunlight directly into his eyes. It nearly blinded him.

He turned the TV off and gently nudged Molly awake before walking to the front door. Emma was just mounting the steps as he opened the door.

“Time to go,” she told him cheerfully.

“Time to go…? Where?” he asked, drawing a blank on what he had missed.

“Church.”

“Wha?” the simple answer somehow failed to help him figure out what was going on.

“Don’t you go to church?” she asked.

“I used to, back when I was a kid. Haven’t been in a long time,” he finally figured out where he was and what was going on.

“Well,” she shrugged, “No time like the present to start again.”

“Do I have time to take a shower?”

“If you hurry.”

Nate resigned himself to the idea of being confused whenever he was around Emma. It seemed like that was the way of thing and nothing was going to change that.

He headed upstairs and into his new bedroom. He shifted through his clothing as quickly as he could, assembling something that matched and appeared as wrinkle-free as possible. As he turned on the shower, Nate decided he should wash all his clothes so he could stop looking like he lived out of a suitcase.

He showered quickly, aware of the unexpected time constraint placed on his morning. He hadn’t cared about or attended church in years and didn’t care, but Emma did and that seemed like it mattered. As he began to towel off he checked his face in the mirror and contemplated the neck beard that he’d been growing for the past few days before deciding he didn’t have time to shave, even if he needed it. “Never did like making good first impressions, anyway,” he told his reflection.

“Hurry up, we’re going to be late!” Emma called from the bottom of the stairs.

“Hey,” he yelled back, “I’m not the one forcing you to take me. You can go any time you want.”

“Shut up and get dressed.”

“Alright, mom,” he shook his head. “I’ll be right down.”

“Better be.”

Pulling his clothes on, Nate decided it would be in everyone’s best interest if he brushed his teeth. After a quick run over with the brush, Nate left the bathroom and sat on the top step to put his shoes on. Emma sat on the bottom stair, talking nonsensically to a seemingly excited Molly while scratching her ears and chin.

“Looks like she likes you,” he commented.

Emma turned around. “Who are you talking to, me or the dog?” she asked, smiling up the stairs at him.

“Whoever will listen, I guess.”

“Ready to go?” She let go of the dog and stood up.

“Just as soon as I grab my car keys.”

“Don’t need ’em,” she said, reaching into her pocket. “I’m driving.”

He shrugged and walked down the stairs as she turned toward the door. As he reached the bottom step he rubbed the dog’s head. “I’ll be back in a while, girl,” he told Molly. “Don’t do anything while I’m gone.”

“And what would a sweet dog like that do while you’re away at church?” Emma asked as he joined her on the front porch.

“I don’t know. Eat my food, burn the house down.”

Emma shot him a quizzical look. “Burn the house down?”

“Stranger things have happened,” he smiled. “I never know what she’s going to do next.”

“Alright,” she rolled her eyes, “I’ll have to take your word for it.”

They walked out to the truck and Nate hopped into the passenger seat, narrowly avoiding a large salad bowl. “What’s this for?” he asked.

“After church potluck,” she told him as she put on her seat belt.

“Whoa,” he put his hands up. “I never signed up for a potluck.”

She started the truck. “If you’re going to stick around you should get to know people.” Turning to face him, she gave an exaggerated wink. “Besides, you don’t have a choice.” She put the truck in gear. “Buckle up.”

“An after church potluck, eh?” he said. “Yet another one of those small town traditions I always assumed I would never experience.”

“You sure don’t have much curiosity for a city boy,” she said.

“City boy? Aren’t you from a city originally?”

“Yeah,” she sighed. “I just thought it would be fun to call someone a city boy.”

“Sorry,” he told her. “You just don’t seem to be the provincial small town type to me.”

“So what do I look like to you,” she asked, running her hand through her hair and turning to face him.

“Well, for one thing,” he said, “you look an awful lot like someone who needs to keep her eyes on the road.”

She snapped her head forward, her eyes expanding to become saucers. The truck had veered off the dirt track and was headed directly for the remains of an old fence bordering the road. She jerked the wheel and reentered the road in a cloud of dust.

“I, uh, don’t usually do that,” she said, smiling sheepishly.

“What?” he asked, “Drive off the road or miss the fence?”

“Hey!” she feigned anger. “Do you see any dents in this truck?”

“Maybe you know a good auto body guy,” he laughed.

She reached across the cab and back-handed him on the shoulder, “Shut up.”

Nate decided to change the subject. He gestured at the bowl in the middle of the seat, “So, does this church of yours do potlucks very often?”

“We have them every week.” She turned the truck off Leonard Road onto Shackner Road, heading into town.

“Lots of people there?”

“Yeah,” she said, “There are about a hundred people in the church, most of them go to the potluck,” she shrugged. “Turns out there isn’t all that much to do here in Nowhere, Kansas on a Sunday afternoon.”

“So should I dare ask about the night life?”

Emma furrowed her brow, “Well, we, uh, have…” she shrugged, “We have crickets.”

“Crickets, eh?” Nate asked. “That’s pretty exciting.”

Emma shrugged, but did not comment. She turned the truck onto Main Street and followed it through town. A few blocks past the edge of the optimistically named business district, she pulled the big truck into an unpaved lot next to a red brick building. The sign out front proclaimed the building to be the home of the Chauncey Bible Church.

“So this is the church?”

“This is it.”

“Huh.”

Emma looked over at Nate. “You seem nonplussed.”

“Maybe,” he responded, “I guess I was kind of expecting a little white-washed wood building.”

“Sorry,” she told him, shaking her head. “That one burned down last week, if you’d come earlier we could have been more of a stereotypical small town for you.”

He put his hands up. “Sorry. Guess I got carried away.”

“Well, tell you what, then,” Emma said, patting him on the arm. “Tomorrow we can go to Chicago. And while we’re there we can get mugged and then we can get caught in the middle of a gang war.”

“Alright, alright, I get the point.” Nate opened the door and slid out of the truck, taking the salad with him.

The sound of music wafted out of the open windows of the church. “We’re late,” Emma said, “They’ve started already. Let’s go in through the back.”

“Lead on.”

The pair walked past a row of well-used trucks and sport utility vehicles. As they rounded the building, Nate laid eyes on a brand-new Lincoln sedan parked by the back door. He pointed to the big luxury sedan. “Sorry if it sounds like I’m stereotyping, but that car doesn’t look like it fits in around here.”

“Yeah,” she told him, “It’s a bit out of place. It’s Richard Rockafeller’s car. He owns the Chauncey National Bank.”

“Rockafeller?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“He’ll have you believe he’s one of the Rockefellers, but nobody listens. Besides, he spells his name differently,” she gestured off to the east. “Doesn’t help that he doesn’t fit in around here. He’s from New York, and doesn’t let anyone forget it.”

“Well at least I won’t be the only city boy around here,” Nate said, following her up the steps to the back door of the church. “That’s good.”

“We can discuss that later,” she told him over her shoulder as she opened the door. They walked into the building and Nate found himself in a small kitchen, already filled with an odd assortment of dishes, each of which seemed to hold a different menu item for the after service festivities. Emma passed the room’s refrigerator, opened it and placed the bowl on the top shelf. “That should be good enough,” she said, closing the door. Turning, she led him out of the kitchen and into a short hallway.

The sound coming from the door at the end of the hallway was not the organ music he recalled from his traditional conservative upbringing, accompanied by the sound of solemn voices raised in hymn. Instead, the sounds of guitars, drums and upbeat singing met his ears. Emma pushed the door open and the pair entered the sanctuary.

Nate found himself in the back of a small space. A few pews sat to his right and a blank wall was on his left. He quickly grasped the layout of the room. He was in a small alcove which held five rows of empty pews. Directly across the sanctuary was an identical alcove where a single parishioner sat, looking at him with a confused expression. There was a stage between them occupied by a half dozen musicians singing a praise song projected onto a screen set up behind them by an overhead. The rest of the sanctuary opened off to his left. Nate took a quick inventory of the room guessed that Emma’s estimate of a hundred parishioners was accurate, although the room could easily hold three times that number.

As they took a seat in the front row of the alcove, Nate noticed several heads turning to regard the pair. Quizzical glances in his direction, followed by elbows poked into neighbors, then still more furtive glances followed by muttered conversation informed Nate he would have a hard time passing himself off as a local.

“Looks like they’ve noticed something is amiss,” Emma whispered.

“I’d say so,” he responded.

For several minutes he stood and absorbed the activity around him as Emma joined in the singing of the unfamiliar songs of praise to a god he hadn’t thought anything about since college. The first eighteen years of Nate’s life had included weekly church attendance. It had not been so much forced or expected as it had been routine. Every Sunday he had gotten up and gone to church. For the most part he also remembered not hating most of it, and enjoying some of the times, especially his high school youth group.

Then he had gone off to college. Religion had never really been more than a weekly activity to him, so when confronted with a new town and stripped of the rules that had guided life in the Lassiter household Nate had simply stopped going to church. At his mother’s urging, he had spent the first few weeks attempting to find a church to attend while at college, but the draw of sleep on lazy Sunday mornings, especially those following big Saturday parties, eventually won out. But now here he was. Nate quietly chuckled to himself at the sheer absurdity of being in a small town church that bright May morning. Here he was, leaving everything behind, his job, his home, his engagement, and where did he end up? In a church, surrounded by people singing to the god he had left behind far earlier.

His time of reflection came to a halt as the singing ended. The musicians left the stage and the pastor took their place. He called all of the children in the church to the front of the sanctuary. As the little flock ran down the aisle he sat down on the steps. He appeared to be about fifty, and each of those years had left their mark. His face was lined and deeply tanned. Nate guessed it was from a life spent outdoors and working rather than a tendency to sunbathe. His salt and pepper hair, was thick and nearly perfectly placed. He was distinguished, Nate decided. It was a good look for a pastor.

As the pastor sat on the steps of the stage and told the eager children the story of the Prodigal Son, he took a grandfatherly air, gentle and kind. The little, upturned faces stared at him, wide eyed, as if this was the only entertainment they would receive for the week. His story was short, and when he finished he sent the excited group off to their Sunday School classes.

When the children had left the sanctuary, the pastor stood up. As he called the congregation to prayer, his voice seemed to change, booming out across the sanctuary, calling his flock to god, increasing in power, but never losing that gentle, grandfatherly quality. Nate bowed his head and folded his hands, remembering the position of prayer from long ago.

The sermon that morning was the on the story he had already told the little children, the tale of the Prodigal Son. Emma placed her Bible between them so he could follow along, but Nate barely looked at the text. He found himself studying the room, measuring the people of the small town that had suddenly, unexpectedly become his home. The congregation seemed to be a mixed lot. Several old ladies in flower print dresses sat in the front, some accompanied by men with white hair and well-pressed suits. Toward the middle of the room a group of people roughly his age studied their Bibles, seemingly intent on the sermon. At the very back of the room a half dozen teenagers were anything but focused, instead whispering to each other and passing notes. Most of the congregation seemed to be middle-aged, some dressed formally, others appearing as they must the rest of the week while at work. Some even looked like they were simply there on a break from fixing the car.

Compared to the stiff formality and Sunday best Nate had experienced growing up, the congregation of the small church seemed a motley crew. It seemed strangely comforting. As the pastor spoke of the Prodigal Son’s father accepting him back without question or judgment, simply loving him as he was, Nate began to wonder if possibly his parents’ insistence on Sunday best was off the mark. He remembered sitting in church, feeling uncomfortable and hearing about punishment and damnation and began to think that maybe if he had grown up in this church he would not have been in such a hurry to leave.

The benediction startled him out of his reverie, and Nate stood up and followed Emma back into the kitchen. Along the way she stopped and introduced him to several people whose names he promptly forgot. She retrieved the salad from the refrigerator and they headed for the church’s back lot.

Nate stepped out the door just in time to see the door of the big Lincoln he had noticed earlier slam shut. The engine started and the car powered away in a cloud of dust and gravel.

“That Rockafeller guy didn’t seem to waste any time getting out of here,” he commented to Emma.

She rolled her eyes, “He never does. Thinks he’s too good to spend time with us bumpkins.”

“He has to do it all week at the bank,” a new voice chipped in from behind, “Why would he want to on Sunday?”

Nate turned and locked eyes with a tall, well-dressed man who appeared to be a few years older. “That’s a cynical view to take of a man you go to church with,” Nate told him.

Emma did not stop to join the conversation. Instead, she went to set her food offering on the table.

“Not just that, he’s my boss,” the man told him, offering his hand. “Bill Pearson, I’m the assistant manager at the bank.”

“Nate Lassiter,” he took the offered hand. “I was a banker, back in Chicago.”

“How long ago was that?”

Nate mentally calculated the days since his abrupt departure. “About a week ago,” he finally said.

“A week?” came the startled response. “And how did you end up here?”

“It’s…kind of a long story.”

A woman came up and placed her hand on Bill’s arm before he had a chance to respond. He introduced her as his wife. She apologized for the interruption, then informed Bill that he was needed to help set up.

“Well, it was nice to meet you,” he told Nate. “You’ll have to tell me how you got here some other time.”

“Alright, I will.”

Emma returned from adding her salad to the dishes already piling up on the serving table. “C’mon,” she said, “I’ll introduce you to everyone.”

The pair travelled through the crowd, exchanging greetings and pleasantries with the various parishioners. Most seemed friendly and politely curious to Nate, but he detected an undercurrent to the conversations, almost as if he were an unwelcome intruder. Deciding to ask Emma if she had noticed, he tried to steer her into an unoccupied section of the churchyard. His question went unasked, however, when the pastor stood to say grace before the meal.

Nate suddenly remembered that his abrupt wakeup call had caused him to miss breakfast. He forgot all about the question.

*  *  *

After he had eaten, Nate made it a point to seek out and speak to the pastor. He was talking to one of the high school age girls when Nate found him. As he approached the conversation apparently finished and the girl walked away, leaving Nate to face the older man alone.

The pastor turned and gave him a once-over. As he did, Nate realized that the older man was far more imposing up close than he had expected. He was several inches taller and seemed to significantly outmass him. If it weren’t for the friendly grin and outstretched hand Nate would have seriously considered running away. It was absurd, but he’d felt like an interloper the entire morning and he couldn’t really figure out why he was at the church, anyway.

Nate accepted the handshake, but instantly regretted it as the larger man nearly crushed his hand, “Pastor Jon McPherson,” he introduced himself in his pleasant, deep voice, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”

“I just got into town Thursday,” Nate pulled his hand out of the iron grip and flexed it a few times, attempting to return circulation.

“Where are you from?”

“Chicago.”

“I’ll bet Chauncey is a bit of a change of pace for you, then,” he raised an eyebrow. “What brings you here, son?”

Nate shrugged. “It’s kind of a long story.”

The pastor gestured to a pair of folding chairs. “Have a seat, then.”

“Alright, Pastor McPherson.”

“Call me Jon.”

Nate settled into the chair and let out a few halting, forced sentences about needing “a change of pace” and “a fresh start,” but he did not believe a word of what he was saying, not after his conversations with Emma over the last two days.

If Pastor McPherson saw through his smoke screen as easily as she had he did not force the issue. As Nate finished, the older man rubbed his right eye with two fingers then brought his hands together. “Let me ask you one question, son,” he said after a short pause. “Did you have a good life back in Chicago?”

“I had a good job and good friends, so I suppose I did, yes.”

“So then why did you really leave?”

“Well, I…” he trailed off, hesitant to tell the pastor his real reason for being there. “I really don’t know. And I don’t think that I should be taking up your time right now.”

“Think nothing of it. That’s what I’m here for.”

Nate decided to try the truth. “Actually,” he said, “I’m just not comfortable talking about this right now.”

“Tell you what,” the pastor said, standing up, “I’m available anytime. If you feel like talking about it, just stop by.”

Nate rose to his feet, “Alright,” he said, offering his hand, “I might just do that.”

“Don’t be a stranger,” Pastor McPherson said, cutting off the circulation in Nate’s hand once more. “It’s not going to help you any.” And with that he turned toward the crowd

Nate sunk back into the chair, a new question forming in his head. Two days before he had told the story to Emma without so much as a second thought. Today, however, he had not even scratched the surface, not even approached the issue. Instead he had thrown out evasive answers that made practically no sense. An explanation began to form in the back of his mind. Maybe he had told Emma because–

Emma interrupted his thought. “So are you going to sit here all day, or do you want to leave?

Startled, Nate looked up to see Emma standing in front of him. “Well,” he said slowly, “This is a pretty nice folding chair.”

“C’mon,” she said, offering her hand, “Bus is leaving.”

He grabbed her hand and stood up. She led him back across the lot to the big truck. As she pulled on to the road he was struck by a sudden realization. “Your aunt wasn’t there today,” he said, turning to her.

“No,” she sighed, “Aunt Ruth has a few…issues with the church. Has for many, many years. I try to get her to go, but…” she trailed off.

“Huh,” was all he could manage.

“So, how did you like the service?” she asked, quickly changing the subject.

Nate waited a long moment to respond. “It was fine,” he allowed. “A lot different from the church I grew up in, though.”

“Really? How?”

He shrugged. “None of the men would have dared show up without a tie, for one thing. Your church seems looser. I kind of liked that.”

“That’s good.”

“However…” he started to voice a thought, but trailed off, unsure.

“What?”

“I don’t know…it just kind of seemed like they didn’t like me very much.”

“It wasn’t you,” she said quietly. “A lot of people around here don’t think too highly of me.”

Silence reigned over the truck for what seemed like an eternity as Nate attempted to figure out why the townspeople did not like her. Not to mention why she would stay in such a place.

“Why don’t they like you?” he finally asked as she pulled the truck up in front of his rented house.

“They don’t like the fact that I left and came back,” she said, putting the truck into park. “That’s not the way things work here. And the fact that I came back married just made it that much worse. And don’t even get started on the validity of following that with a divorce.”

“That’s stupid,” Nate responded, unable to find a more eloquent response. “Why do you even bother to stay here if the people think like that? You could probably have success anywhere you want to try.”

“Because,” she sighed, “This is my home. It’s where I belong.”

“I don’t buy that,” he shook his head. “You already left once, you can leave again.”

“Maybe,” she allowed, smiling, “But maybe I was supposed to stay here so I could meet a lonely guy running away from his home.”

He gave her wrist a squeeze. “I don’t think that the world works quite that way.”

“Why not?” she asked. “Maybe it’s fate.”

He stared into her dark brown eyes, willing the right words to come. For just a moment the infinite, universal possibilities of their chance meeting in a small cafe opened themselves to him. After a moment he realized that he couldn’t believe there was anything other than chance.

“I don’t believe in fate,” he said, pulling his eyes away from hers. “We just happened to be in the same place at the same time. All we can do now is try to avoid screwing it all up.”

“Spoken like a true cynic,” she shook her head. “I’ll bet you don’t believe in magic, either.”

“Magic? What’s that got to do with it?”

“Everything,” she smiled wistfully, “Magic creates those moments that make life worth living. The sort of things that can’t be explained away and you know you’ll be able to treasure for the rest of your life. Like the feeling you get with your first kiss. Or when you meet someone and know you will be spending the rest of your life with that person. There’s plenty of magic out in the world, you just have to know where to look.”

“Well,” he raised an eyebrow, “I don’t know about you, but I don’t think either one of us can talk about the person we’re going to spend the rest of our life with.”

“True.”

“And on my first kiss, I missed.”

She smiled. “What do you mean, ‘missed?'”

“I went in with my eyes closed and ended up with a mouthful of nose,” he chuckled, remembering the moment through the lens of time. It had not been funny at the time, but looking back it did seem absurd. “It felt a lot more embarrassing than magical. Trust me.”

“I don’t doubt it.”

He opened the door. “Want to come in?” he asked.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” she said.

“Okay.”

He slid out of the truck and headed over to the house. Emma sped out of the driveway with a honk and a wave as he opened the door.

Alone again, Nate decided to follow through on his plans to stop looking like he lived out of a suitcase. He carried all his clothing down to the basement and began running loads of wash through the rickety old washer/dryer combo.

Following that, he decided to take a nap. As soon as he closed his eyes, his cell phone rang. Vince’s number was on the caller ID. He picked the phone up and hit answer.

“Yeah?”

“Nate, it’s Vince.”

“I know. What’s up?”

“Just calling to see where you are. Haven’t talked to you in a couple days, and I was beginning to get worried.”

“I’m in Chauncey, Kansas.”

“Where?”

“It’s a tiny little town in the middle of the state.”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“I wouldn’t doubt it.”

“What are you doing there?”

“It’s kind of hard to explain, actually. I don’t think I really understand why I’m here either.”

“How long are you going to stay?”

“A while. I rented a place on the edge of town.”

“Huh.”

“Yeah.”

The line fell silent for long moments. Vince finally spoke again right before Nate decided to check if the connection had gone bad. “I talked to Julia yesterday.”

“How is she?”

“Not happy, I can tell you that. She wanted to know where you are, and didn’t believe me when I told her I didn’t know.”

“Did you tell her I was in Kansas?”

“I told her you were in Kansas on Wednesday, but I hadn’t heard from you since.”

“That’s true enough, I suppose.”

“Yeah.”

“Hey, Vince, do me a favor.”

“What’s up?”

“Don’t tell Julia anything else. I need to figure out what I’m going to do, then I’ll deal with it myself.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“You don’t have to be in the middle of this,” he said, “But thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.”

Liveblogging seaQuest Season 2: Playtime

Season 2, Episode 6, “Playtime”

Plot synopsis (blatantly stolen from Wikipedia): A distant call for help pulls the seaQuest through an underwater anomaly, propelling the boat 225 years into the future where they find that mankind has destroyed itself, leaving only two teenaged kids as the only Human life left on Earth.

I am unabashedly excited for this one. It was my favorite episode back in the day for reasons which will shortly become clear. It’s also the episode people point at when they talk about the show going downhill.

00:00:10: We start with Piccolo, Dagwood, and Lucas watching 1960s dance videos. It’s…great? Apparently Lucas doesn’t understand the appeal of mini skirts. It’s bizarre. Last week he was perving on Piccolo’s mother. Last season he had a girlfriend. Now he’s all, “Dancing girls in skirts? Whaaaa?” It’s almost like the show has forgotten about that whole character development thing and everything is just a random collection of words and moving pictures.

Then Piccolo hits a button that transmits the song all over the ship. That seems like a really dumb button to put in the cafeteria.

Then a big anomaly jumps up out of the ocean at seaQuest. A big anomaly transmitting the SOS in Morse code. It’s an episode of Star Trek, but underwater! Also, the special effects are terrible.

The anomaly is, apparently, nothing. This freaks everyone out because they’re unaware of the fact that they’re on a 1990s sci-fi serial and the solution will be found during Act II and they’ll get back through the anomaly with three minutes to spare.

00:07:00: Dr Smith has joined the crew on the bridge. You know, in case they need a telepath to scan the nothing. But at least they have the disembodied voice of a child calling for help to keep them company. So that’s neat.

00:08:30: Brody, Ortiz, Piccolo, and Henderson head out in a zodiac to figure out where the signal came from. Because that’s the group you want doing that.

00:09:30: The away team finds out that there’s no one around.

Oh! My! God! Giant fire shooting hover-thing!

00:10:55: Now they can hear the disembodied voice out in the open. That’s a good sign, right? But then they hear old-timey music coming from a nearby house.

There’s a Victrola in a box. Piccolo touches the box and it disappears, instead becoming a talking newspaper. It claims the year is 2215.

Then Brody calls the ship and finds out it’s 2245. The plot thickens.

00:14:30: They end up at some sort of college campus, wherein they’ve tracked down the distress signal. They discover that it’s a computer. That means it’s Lucas time!

00:15:30: Cut to video of some sort of infected guy and dudes in hazmat suits. Some sort of virus killed everyone starting in 2225. Also Lucas discovered that a computer basically ran the planet. So that’s neat.

This starts a terrible technology v. nature argument between Lucas and Smith/Bridger. Oh, god, the ‘90s.

00:18:25: Back to seaQuest. Ford’s plan is to blow up the anomaly. That’s brilliant! Ted Raimi agrees with me.

The torpedoes, they do nothing! Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

00:19:55: Cut to a commercial for a video game console that has graphics straight out of those ‘80s arcade boxes where they used live footage and terrible graphics to save money and processing speed. Good to see technology hasn’t increased in 200 years.

00:21:50: The building starts to shake. Oh. Hell. Yeah.

00:22:15: BattleMechs!

00:22:50: They discover the BattleMechs are being remotely controlled from nearby. That, of course, means that our heroes have to go run around between the feet of said BattleMechs, complete with terrible graphics. Of course that also means that now the ‘Mechs are wherever our heroes are, in spite of the fact that they were nowhere around for the first twenty minutes of the episode.

00:25:00: Brody figures out that the ‘Mechs aren’t trying to kill the seaQuesters, but fighting each other.

00:26:00: Back to Lucas and Smith arguing over the beauty of technology.

Then the computer starts talking. It informs Smith, Bridger, and Lucas that it opened a “Mobius Hole” in the ocean and summoned the seaQuest. Because that’s a thing. I swear that the writers just took a shitload of cocaine and then used one of those refrigerator magnet sentence thingies.

00:28:05: Brody and Henderson get to a house. There’s a kid using a VR console who electro-traps them. Turns out that Ortiz and Piccolo have ended up in a similar place.

00:29:45: Lucas joins the ‘Mech fight!

We’re then treated to about seventeen minutes of special effects of ‘Mech guns. Then Lucas takes both of them out. He’s super excited. Bridger and Smith look all worried.

00:31:00: The game playing boy is pissed. He also looks kind of like Matt LeBlanc.

00:32:05: Ortiz, Smith, Bridger, and Lucas now have the girl at the computer console room. She’s all worried and whatnot.

00:33:05: Lucas explains that there was a virus and people stayed indoors and played games all the time, rather than going to, like, bone and whatnot.

00:34:25: We discover that the two kids are the last humans on Earth. And they don’t like each other. Or the seaQuesters.

00:35:50: The kids bond with Darwin. Because that’s Darwin’s job. Also they don’t like touching.

00:37:50: We get the science-y explanation of how the time travel thing happened. We find out that the past no longer exists, because the past can’t exist without the future and the future can’t exist without the past. So they need to ensure that there’s a future. Because, y’know, if humanity dies out then time will stop forever.

00:39:20: The plan: get the last two teenagers on Earth to bone. But there’s a catch. They’d rather go play video games instead.

00:41:00: The computer tells Lucas he has to kill it so the children can grow up. And bone. And repopulate the Earth. You know, two teenagers who literally don’t know how to live without their computers. And don’t even get me started on the complete genetics fail inherent in this plot point. If the computer is so damn smart it has to know that’s going to last all of, oh, one generation.

Also, the computer is now lecturing Lucas about how much technology sucks. Because HOLY SHIT, LAY IT ON THICK, seaQuest!

All Lucas needs to do is pull three glass rods out of the computer. That’s convenient.

00:43:45: The whirly thing that cut them off from the past disappears.

Now everyone can go home and two hopelessly incompetent teenagers can bone in peace.

I’ve seen the future, and it’s covered in jism.

Also, ignore the plot hole about how the now-deactivated computer opened the time portal.  So either it will stay open forever or…um, I guess that since no one else thought about the implications I don’t have to, either.  Hooray!

So, yes, that was “Playtime.” I thought it was awesome back in the day because BattleMechs. I still think it was one of the best season 2 episodes so far because it just kind of breezed along without getting in its own way. I mean, it’s dumb as hell and doesn’t have Dom DeLuise, but I was entertained, which is more than I can say about the rest of season 2. Although whenever time travel shows up on a sci-fi show that’s not explicitly about time travel bad things happen. So I suppose this could be the jump the shark moment. You know, assuming that the show didn’t already jump the shark with the stupid GELFs and their stupid evolution into regular humans because evolution “decided” to do so.

Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure the title is a double entendre. That’s neat, too.

1434 Fridays, Part the Fourth

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it on this blog before, but I have a real problem with the way history is generally taught.  We usually learn history as either a series of dates and names that have no connection or as a master narrative that makes it seems like Event A inexorably lead to Event B and then Event C was the only logical response.  Or, worse, we make it seem like Person A saw Event A and Event B and then went and intentionally caused Event C in order to get Outcome Z.  This is, for the most part, flat wrong.

We think about history in this manner because we see the historical narrative.  Certain people, places, and things are connected so we invoke a narrative to explain why they’re connected that often starts with the outcome or at least its place in history.  That narrative is wrong as often as not, but we keep telling it to ourselves because humans are addicted not to the facts but to the narrative that puts them all together.  That narrative is where conspiracy theories are born.  That narrative is why conspiracy theories often fall apart when you pick at the details.

If you go back to part 3 of the 1434 posts you’ll see that Menzies went after Martin Waldseemuller and Johannes Schoner and attempted to use their maps as proof that they’d learned about the world from Chinese maps.  Debunking that notion required a quick primer on pretty much every European map of the new world that existed at the time.  Feel free to refresh your memory, because things are about to get even more complicated.

These two rustic mapmakers were not the only Europeans with an uncanny prescience about unseen lands. In 1419, before European voyages of exploration even began, Albertin di Virga published a map of the Eastern Hemisphere that shows northern Australia. It was another 350 years before Captain Cook “discovered” that continent.

So…this is super awkward.  See, a bit of Google-fu brought me to Gavin Menzies’ own site that included a description of the 1419 di Virga map and a comparison to the “1418” Liu Gang map which I shall get into shortly.  Notice anything about the di Virga map on Menzies’ own website?  If you said, “There’s nothing that looks even remotely like Australia on that map,” you’d be correct. You could make a case that the land out there is Australia, I suppose, but all the descriptions I’ve seen indicate that the inscription says “Caparu sive Java magna.”  It’s far more likely that di Virga simply penciled in a landmass to cover Java, which Marco Polo did visit, and possibly that other Pacific island that so beguiled the medieval European imagination: Cipangu, or Japan.

I should pause here and point something out.  The possibility that Chinese cartography influenced European cartography cannot and, for that matter, should not be dismissed.  The di Virga map is, in fact, a key place where it’s important to take a moment’s pause, as is the Martellus map I mentioned in part 2.  The reason it’s important to consider the possibility of Chinese influence is the Kangnido map I mentioned in part 3 as compared to the old Ptolemy map and the legacy of the Dragon’s Tail.  Europeans in the early part of the Renaissance thought that the Indian Ocean was landlocked.  Not all maps made in the early 1400s showed this, however, which was interesting considering that no European rounded the Cape of Good Hope before the very late 1400s and Vasco de Gama was the first European to sail from western Europe to India in a voyage that ran more-or-less concurrently with Columbus’s expeditions to the New World.

Toby Lester offers as good an explanation as we’ll probably get in The Fourth Part of the World:

During the early 1400s a few maps appeared in Europe that also suggested an awareness of Africa’s true shape.  A case in point is the world map of Albertin de Virga, made in Venice between 1411 and 1415.  Drawn before the Portuguese had even captured Ceuta[1], and probably incorporating knowledge obtained from Muslim or Chinese merchants, the map confidently portrays the continent as bulging out to the west in the north, and then honing itself gently to a point in the South.[2]

It stands to reason that Muslim cartographers would have some idea of what Africa looked like by the early 1400s.  That explanation is more likely than a Chinese-centered cartography, though.  Still, there was enough sharing of information between Europe, the Middle East, and China to make any explanation of mapmaking that doesn’t include some amount of sharing far more suspect than one that does.  For one, accounts of Marco Polo’s sojourn in the east had been available for nearly a century by then.  The Fra Mauro mappamundi was, for example, said to be based in part on a map brought back from Cathay by Polo himself.

The key thing to realize here, though, is that if Gavin Menzies had simply claimed that the Chinese knew more than the Europeans of the 1400s about the navigation of the Indian Ocean the appropriate response would probably be something like, “Well, duh.”  European maps from before 1300 or so weren’t exactly based on anything closely resembling reality and the ones up until about 1600 still had some weirdness.  Hell, they were still bugging anyone and everyone from Africa or Asia about that Prester John fellow until sometime around 1500 and thought Gog and Magog were hanging out in Siberia for most of that time, too.

When confronted with an aberration on a European map it’s actually best to work under the assumption that the cartographer was either incorrect, making a wild guess, or treating legendary lands as real places.  This, though, is where the narrative and the conspiracy theories come into play.  We know now that the Americas exist and where they are.  We know now that Australia and Antarctica exist and where they are.  Any map that contains things that look like the Americas, Australia, and Antarctica before their official discoveries, then, invite speculation.

So let’s get back to the di Virga map and the Liu Gang map that Gavin Menzies compared it to.  The Liu Gang map is supposedly a 1763 copy[3] of a 1418 map.  So Menzies calls the di Virga map a 1419 map and claims he copied it from the Liu Gang map after di Virga ran into the Chinese somewhere.  The problem here is that there is no full date on the di Virga map, just the numbers 141.  Every other source I’ve seen reads the map as created in either 1411 or 1415.  So that’s a pretty strong mark against Menzies’ interpretation.

This is how conspiracies work, though.  There are two things, one of which is a map that was most likely a forgery.  Then there’s another map that’s most likely not a forgery but that seems to match up with the forged map and also has anachronisms and a fuzzy date.  So Menzies took the most generous possible interpretation of the fuzziness of the date and turned it into proof of his own theory.

I have, however, run a marathon where a brisk walk down the block would have been enough.  Remember: Gavin Menzies’ theory is that the Chinese discovered the New World in 1421.  His book, which has a copyright of 2002, makes absolutely no mention of Liu Gang, which you’d think it would since, y’know, it would be slam-dunk evidence.  That’s because Liu Gang didn’t reveal his map until 2005 or 2006.  Whether Liu Gang is in on the hoax is debatable, but for the sake of argument let’s say his story is correct and that he’s been suckered by a fake map.

Liu Gang’s map supposedly dates to a 1418 map created by Zheng He that shows the entire world pretty much as we know it today.  Gavin Menzies originally claimed that Zheng He discovered the New World on a voyage that lasted from 1421 through 1423.  So who gave Zheng He his 1418 map before his 1421 voyage?  Was it St. Brendan?

I’m gonna go with St. Brendan.

——————–

[1]A Muslim fortification on the opposite side of the Strait of Gibraltar from, well, Gibraltar.  The Portuguese captured it in 1415 as part of the long struggle between the Christians of the Iberian Peninsula and the Muslims of North Africa.  It’s currently a semi-autonomous Spanish possession because of things that are totally outside the scope of this project.  The Portuguese push to explore along the coast of Africa didn’t start until well after Ceuta.

[2]Toby Lester, The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America its Name, (New York: Free Press, 2009), 207.

[3]Purchased by a man named Liu Gang.  Liu Gang claims that it’s a copy of a 1418 map created by Zheng He as part of his voyages.  I choose to call it the Liu Gang map, though, since that’s easier and calling it the Zheng He map wouldn’t be accurate.

Meeting Expectations

I find that I really enjoy doing these posts where I write about the chapter I just posted. There’s a danger, though, that I’ll give too much of the plot away. This is balanced by the fact that I’m rediscovering something I wrote ten years ago and I’m actually changing it to reflect that I’m (hopefully) a better writer and (hopefully) better at coming up with interesting ideas.

After last week’s installment of this particular feature Firedrake left a comment that included this bit:

Now I realise that you’re going to do better than have the Magical White Guy be the simple solution to all her problems, but that’s the way it came over to me. Chapters 1 and 2 are all about expansion: break out, leave, do anything. Chapter 3 brings it all back down to the small scale: to three people, one town, and a plot we recognise at least in broad outline. I don’t have an answer to this, and indeed I’m not entirely sure it’s a bad thing, but it rubbed me wrong.

I was going to respond in the comments, but then I decided it would be an interesting launching point for another one of these posts. We’ve now gotten to know Nate and Emma a little better and seen them interact with each other a bit more.[1]

I genuinely appreciate the faith Firedrake expressed by assuming I would do better than having Nate be the solution to all of Emma’s problems. When I originally wrote the book, though, I don’t know that I deserved that sort of faith. I also don’t know that I was focused on Emma’s problems, either. I don’t think I really cared about Emma’s problems until later in the writing process.

Emma originally existed as a simple plot device. This was Nate’s story, after all.

I only shared the manuscript with a couple of friends and one told me he was really uncomfortable with the way Emma was introduced. He told me that Nate was too passive and Emma kind of took control and just told him what to do. He then questioned whether or not I wrote it that way because that was what I wanted to have happen in my life. It was an insightful question.

I wanted a woman to save me during that stretch of my life. I, in fact, wanted the girl I modeled Emma after to save me. She never did, which was probably for the best.[2] I unapologetically wrote Nate as an author substitute[3] Emma, then, was the author wish-fulfillment substitute.

I’m happy to report that Emma ended up developing on her own quickly. Between chapter 3 and the end of the book she got her own voice and her own character arc, which will come out more. There’s a lot I want to say here but can’t because spoilers.

RiverSongSpoilers

The book didn’t end where I thought it would originally. I can say that much. This re-write is going to result in an even bigger shift away from what I wrote. I have a pretty good idea of what that shift will be, but I’m leaving space to be surprised.

I love writing. I love this project on which I’ve embarked.

I also like the bit in Firedrake’s comment about chapters 1 and 2 being about expansion and 3 being about reduction. That’s exactly what I was going for. There’s a part later in the book when this becomes explicit, assuming I don’t change that bit.[4] I think it’s interesting that this notion of the story is so readily apparent to someone else, though.

I wrote Second Chances before I discovered the world of storytelling. I thought that a lot of my notion of the story and how to tell it came from storytelling, but the broad strokes of the large and small being interchangeable were already there. Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey was also there. I’ve spent a lot of time working in those spaces ever since.

I wanted Second Chances to be a small story. I wanted Chauncey to be a small place. This was partially because I wasn’t sure about my ability as an author, so I wanted something I could control. I created a small place intentionally. I find that I’ve really enjoyed revisiting the story now, since I can still see the scaffolding and I can enjoy seeing what I did right while honestly assessing what I did wrong. I can also say that I’m proud of the things that I did right the first time around.

Also, on a functional level, I chopped chapter 4 in half. It’s Saturday in Nate and Emma’s world and Sunday matters a great deal. I put Saturday and Sunday together originally, but there was a natural break that I apparently didn’t want to take advantage of in the original story. Why? Who knows.

——————————

[1]I’ve also discovered that the world has changed drastically since I wrote the book. I had to add the bit about the internet because in 2003/2004 when I wrote the original draft the idea of a shitty internet connection and no 4G connectivity wasn’t really a thing. I mostly wrote the original on a laptop that I occasionally hooked up to the internet using a 56.6 modem the size of a credit card that hooked into a slot on the side. My only good internet connection was at work. When I went to Western Illinois University in the fall of 2004 I finally had an always on internet connection for the first time. I was still four years away from my first smart phone (HTC Tilt using the Windows Mobile from before the Windows Phone phase).

There was something else that doesn’t come into play, but one of the questions I really had to wrestle with back when I originally conceived of the book was, “Do I have to have the characters discuss 9/11?” In 2002/2003 when I came up with the plot and started writing the book that seemed like a really big deal. We as a people were splitting the world into pre- and post-9/11 and talking about how it would define everyone’s life forever. Now? Not so much.

[2]Her name was Emily, for whatever that’s worth. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever met. I tried asking her out several times and she always turned me down. I think that was for the best, since I’m pretty sure that our lives were on inexorably divergent paths.

The odds that she’ll ever read these posts are somewhere deep, deep in the negatives, but I do hope that wherever she is she’s happy and fulfilled.

[3]In the original manuscript Nate’s car was a burgundy 1996 Chrysler Concorde. That was, unsurprisingly, the exact car I was driving at the time. I never specified where Nate lived, but in my mind he lived in Glen Ellyn, the town next to Wheaton, which was my hometown and where I currently live. He took a train into Chicago for work, which was always my notion of what adults did. I spent the last three years taking a train into Chicago for work and it actually gets really old really quick.

I’m also a White Sox fan and my dream car is a fire engine red 1956 Cadillac Sedan DeVille convertible.

[4]I probably won’t. I mean, I probably will, but I know the overall scope of the upcoming chapter won’t change. The interactions in and implications of said chapter sure as hell will, though.

Second Chances Chapter 4

[Explanatory post here.]

Chapter 4: The Unexamined Life

Nate pulled his car into the space between the house and the garage to keep it out of the bright morning sun. Three days on the road had left the usually spotless vehicle looking and feeling worn. He also didn’t really have anything better to do. Washing the car felt like something. He got out and started filling a bucket with water from the hose and some soap he’d found in the garage.

Tires crunched on gravel. Nate put the hose down and stuck his head around the edge of the garage. A big, black Chevrolet 1500 Extended Cab pickup pulled up and the driver killed the engine. The door opened and Emma slipped lightly out of the massive truck.

Nate stepped out into the driveway, “How do you get in and out of that thing?” he asked.

“I have a step ladder I use most of the time,” she responded, smiling. She was dressed in blue jeans and a t-shirt, with her hair pulled back into a pony tail and covered by a Kansas City Royals hat. It was a much different look from the well dressed, professional school teacher he had met when he first arrived in Chauncey. Dwarfed by the huge black Chevy, she looked far more the country girl he would have expected to meet in a small Kansas town.

She closed the door and stepped around the front of the truck. “Drive around on old country roads long enough and you’ll be wanting to trade your luxury and leather in for one of these,” she gestured back at the truck. “And you won’t have much fun the first time you get snowed in.”

“You’ve never experienced a Chicago winter, I take it,” he responded.

“No,” she nodded, “I haven’t. But I know we don’t have snow plows or too many paved streets around here.”

“Good point,” he said.

“So, what’s the plan for this fine Saturday, other than washing that shiny car of yours?”

“Well,” he said, taking off his White Sox hat and wiping his brow, “I hadn’t really given it any thought. Turns out this is only my third day in Kansas and I don’t know anything about the social calendar.”

She threw her head back and spun around. “Come on, Nate,” she said, her eyes locking with his, “You have that freedom you’ve always wanted now. No one is telling you what to do anymore, and you don’t have any of those limitations you were telling me about the other day. And now you’re telling me you don’t know what you want to do with it?”

“Hey, back off for a second there,” Nate said, putting his hands up. “I haven’t really given any thought to this yet.”

“What did you do all day yesterday?”

“Nothing, really.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I’ve spent the last couple years of my life with six-day work weeks and then I spent three days on the road. Cut me some slack. Besides, you’re the only person I know here. It’s not like I can just make a call and have something to do.”

“I guess,” she shrugged, “Sorry I didn’t talk to you yesterday. I was thinking about it, but ended up having way too much to do.”

“It’s okay. My inner demons had plenty going on to keep me occupied. That’s good, too. The internet access out here is shit.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Internet? What’s that? Is it one o’ them big city thingies?”

“It’s, um,” Nate paused and rubbed his chin, “It’s like a TV, but you type on it and you can look stuff up or watch videos and stuff.”

“Why would anyone want something like that?”

“For porn, mostly. And cat videos.”

“Well that just sounds like a huge waste of time.”

Nate nodded. “Yup, that’s pretty much what it’s there for.”

“You’re pretty much stuck here,” she shrugged. “We can get DSL in town but you might be stuck with dial up. Aunt Ruth never had much use for technology and I don’t think anyone felt the need upgrade the infrastructure when I lived here. You’re kind of in the middle of nowhere.”

“Well that’s just lovely.”

“Eh,” she held her hands up in a gesture of helplessness, “What’re ya gonna do?”

“Get my porn the old-fashioned way. I’ll steal Playboys from my dad’s dresser.”

She rolled her eyes. “Best of luck with all that, then.”

“I’m not entirely mad about that. I spend too much time on the internet, anyway.”

“So what do you want to do instead?”

 

Nate looked down at his shoes and thought for a few moments. Smiling, he looked back up at her, “Well,” he said, “I’ve always wanted one of those huge home theater systems, with big speakers and a giant TV.”

She stared at him for long moment. “You mean to tell me,” she finally asked, “That of all the things you could have, you want a stereo? And you want me to believe that you couldn’t have one back in Chicago?” She laughed, “Come on, Nate, I might seem like a dumb farm girl to you, but give me some credit here.”

“I’m not joking, Emma,” he responded, the smile leaving his face. “I lived in an apartment where my neighbors were an old couple and a cop who worked the third shift. You can’t have big, noisy stereos in those conditions. And Julia probably wouldn’t have let me get one after we got married and moved in to a new house, either.”

“Fine, then,” she crossed her arms over her chest and stopped laughing. “Tell you what. The only big electronics store around is back in Wichita. We’ll go there and you can buy the biggest speakers in town.”

“Guess I can hold off on the car wash for a bit,” Nate said, turning back towards the Acura, “We can be in town in about an hour.” He turned back to her, “But you’re going to have to lose that hat, if you’re going to ride in my car.”

Offering a quick, impish grin, she reached up and gripped the brim of the hat with three fingers and touched her upper lip with the tip of her tongue. “I thought you left Chicago behind,” she said, “And last I checked, the White Sox are from Chicago.”

“Well,” he said, “Some things are harder to leave behind than others.”

“I have a better idea,” she offered, “I won’t make you take your hat off if you don’t make me take mine off. I think you’re in Kansas now, Toto.”

“Toto?”

“Sorry. Bad joke.” She shrugged. “So do we have a deal or not?”

“Alright.” Nate shook his head and returned to the hose. “I’ll take it, but I don’t have to like it.”

“I never said you did.”

 

There was no east-bound entrance to I-70 from Shackner Road. Emma directed him through several miles of back roads before they could get back onto the expressway. For several miles of I-70, silence dominated the car. Finally tiring of the quiet, Nate asked a question that had been weighing on his mind. “Do you really think that I’m running away from everything?”

She took a deep breath, “What do you think, Nate?” she asked. “I don’t know you very well. I don’t know you at all, in fact, but I know something about people. And I know that people don’t just give up their plans, their future, their entire life, even, just because they think it would be fun.”

“But do you really think that I’m scared?”

She leaned back against the head rest and closed her eyes. Seconds seemed to turn into hours, and finally the silence became oppressive. Just as he opened his mouth to ask the question again, her eyes popped open and she sat up straight. “Were there ever bullies in your school?” she asked.

“Yeah, of course there were.”

“Did they ever pick on you?”

 

“A few times, I guess,” he said. His stomach began tightening into a hard ball as he began to see where she was going.

“What did you do when a bully came around?”

“I…I pretty much tried to avoid him.”

“And why,” she asked, turning to face him, “Did you try to avoid bullies?”

“Because I was scared of them, I guess,” he said, shrugging, “But that’s not the same. I mean, they could beat me up. I was never much of a fighter.”

She chuckled, “That’s pretty weak, Nate, and you know it. But let’s try something different,” she changed her tone. “Was there ever some girl that you really liked, but you could never talk to?”

Nate laughed and shook his head. “Yeah, as a matter of fact, that happened,” pausing, he thought back to high school. “Back during sophomore year I knew this girl named Katie. I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world.”

“So what happened?”

“Nothing,” he said, “Absolutely nothing. I could never seem to talk to her, I could never bring myself to tell her how I felt.”

“So,” she said, “You couldn’t talk to her…”

“Because I was scared,” he finished the thought, sighing, “I was scared she’d reject me, or tell me I wasn’t good enough or…I don’t know what I thought. And because I was scared I avoided even trying to get to know her.” For an instant he believed her, but just as quickly as he had agreed, his mind rebelled against the thought. “But it’s not like I ran away from home because of that. I mean, you can’t compare that to this.”

“Oh really?” she asked, “Seems to me you avoided bullies because you were scared of them, you avoided this girl because you were scared of what she’d do or say. So by logical extent, couldn’t we say that you saw what was coming up, getting tied down in marriage and a career and everything, and suddenly you got scared of what you saw?”

“Well…”

She cut him off and continued pressing the argument home. The thought came full circle quickly. “And wouldn’t you say that packing up and running off to Kansas sounds a lot like someone trying to avoid his problems?”

“Okay, fine,” Nate answered, “I’ll admit that it sounds like I’m trying to avoid everything back home, but I’m not doing this because I’m scared.”

She shook her head and sighed. “So why aren’t you in Illinois with your fiancee right now?” she asked.

“I told you,” he responded, feeling his cheeks flush with anger, “I realized that I wasn’t going where I wanted to go with my life. And she wasn’t my fiancee yet.”

Emma sighed. “Fine, your girlfriend who you were planning on proposing to at some point in the next week. However, you must not think I’m very smart.” She put her hand on his forearm. “Because only an idiot would believe that argument.”

“Or an idealist,” frustrated, he pulled his arm from under her hand and gripped the steering wheel with whitening knuckles.

“Now you’re just giving idealists a bad name. I don’t think you’re one, anyway. You’re just a little too aware of the world to ever pull off the old drop everything and chase your dreams shtick.”

“Why can’t I?”

 

“Because that’s life,” her voice rose, “And by most accounts yours had been going pretty well. You were about to get married, from what I can tell you had a high paying job, and even though you don’t seem to be very good at presenting an argument, you seem to be too intelligent to have concluded your life could have been better by running away from that.” She crossed her arms over her chest and studied the landscape.

For a moment he allowed her argument to fuel his anger. She had no right to tell him what was on his mind, no background to understand his actions. He toyed with the thought of turning around and taking her back, or simply stopping the car and leaving her by the side of the road. He dismissed that thought immediately. Alienating the only friend he seemed to have would probably be a bad idea. He looked over at her and shook his head. She did seem to be genuinely trying to help, after all. And he had brought it up, so there was no use in getting angry.

“So maybe I don’t know any way to deal with problems except by running scared,” he said, hesitantly. “Maybe that’s how I’ve dealt with everything in my life.”

She turned from the window to face him. “So you’re willing to admit you’re scared?” she asked.

He rubbed his neck with his right hand, analyzing her hypothesis. Several minutes passed and miles fell behind in silence. There was no real reason for him to have just up and left. At least, it made sense when he thought of the situations with his reasons. But when he viewed his actions from her perspective and saw them as the actions of a scared man running away what he had done made perfect sense.

“Yeah, I guess you are right,” he finally said. “I guess I did leave because I was scared that my life wouldn’t be what I had hoped for. But you have to understand, I had a good career, I was about to have the life everyone told me I should be searching for, but I looked at it and decided it wasn’t worth it. What’s the point of living the good life if the entire sum of your existence is spent within the four walls of your office?”

“Well I’ll be,” she said, “You finally made an argument that I can live with. Maybe you can learn.”

“What does that mean?”

“You did something big and irrational,” she replied, choosing her words carefully, “But you obviously had reasons and they’ve obviously been building up. You made a conscious choice and you packed before you left. The course of action you chose came because you were scared of either the problems you knew you’d have to deal with or the fallout of dealing with those problems. Admitting you got scared and ran away just means that we can deal with the actual, underlying problem.”

“Oh. Should we really do this in the car, Dr. Freud?” he asked. “Shouldn’t I by lying down on a couch somewhere.”

“No, eets ohkay,” she said in a terrible accent that sounded a bit like an Australian version of Dracula, “Joost tell me vhen yhou started vanting to hahve sex vit your mother.”

“That is the worst German accent ever. You know that, right?”

“Freud was Austrian, you know.”

“Whatever. Is there a difference?”

“Damned if I know.”

They lapsed into a comfortable silence.

 

They spent just over three hours in the central Kansas City. Two hours studying televisions, speakers and audio components left them hungry, so with a back seat and trunk filled with boxes and a delivery slip for a massive wide screen TV that was just too big for the sedan the pair went in search of a late lunch.

 

They found a little burger joint and decided it looked decent.

Nate excused himself to use the washroom as soon as they were seated. He got back a couple of minutes later to find Emma laughing at their ashen-faced waiter.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“He thinks we’re married,” Emma told him, eyes twinkling.

“That’s a rather odd thing to think,” Nate responded, raising an eyebrow at the waiter. He looked young and relatively innocent.

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” the waiter held up his hands defensively, “It’s just that you’re very…couple-y.” He looked down at his shoes. “I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” Nate shook his head. “I think she’s only laughing because she’s too smart to do anything like that.” He patted the waiter on the shoulder. “No harm done.”

“So can I get you anything?” the waiter asked, blatantly attempting to change the subject.

“Water, for the moment,” Nate said.

“Iced tea,” Emma said.

The waiter beat a hasty retreat.

Emma watched him for a second then turned to Nate. “Now what was that all about?” she asked.

“What was what all about?” he asked.

“That ‘she’s too smart to do anything like that’ comment, that’s what,” she said.

“Really?” he raised an eyebrow, “You need me to explain that?”

“That’s,” she paused, “Never mind. Forget I said anything.”

Nate shrugged, then decided to change the subject. “Speaking of women who should be too smart to be around me, what do you think I should do, you know, about Julia?” he asked.

“I can’t tell you what to do,” she told him, “But I can say this. If you go back, be honest with her. If you don’t, at least call her, talk to her. Give her closure. You might find it helps you in the process, too.”

Nate began to respond, but was cut off by the waiter returning with their drinks.

“Do you know what you want?” he asked.

“We should probably actually read the menu,” Nate said.

“Good plan,” Emma agreed.

 

“How much do I owe you?” Emma asked as the waiter dropped off the check.

“Don’t worry. It’s on me.”

“Let me at least pay my part of it, Nate,” she insisted, “You did just spend several thousand dollars on a home theater.”

“So another few dollars on lunch won’t be noticed, will it?” he asked, putting his hands up. “Besides, I’m sure you had better things to do today than wander around in an electronics store.”

“Actually,” she said after a long pause, “I really hadn’t planned anything.”

The waiter returned with Nate’s card and a pen. “I’m sorry again that I thought you were married,” he told them.

“What’s to apologize for?” Nate asked. “There are much worse things you could have mistaken us for.”

“I suppose so, sir,” he said, “And it’s just that the way you two talked it looked like you had known each other for a while and were, well, married.”

“No harm done,” Emma smiled at the waiter. “I don’t take any offense at it.”

 

“It’s not going to hurt your tip,” Nate said, picking up the pen, “If that’s what your worried about.”

“Oh, and a piece of advice,” Emma added.

“Yes?” the waiter asked.

“In the future,” she held up her left hand and wiggled her fingers, “Look for rings.”

His eyes grew wide. “I, uh, wow. I feel like an idiot.”

Nate sighed and shook his head. “She has that effect on people.”

“Hey!” Emma smacked him on the shoulder. “That’s mean.”

“I know,” Nate offered her a toothy grin.

“Um, yeah,” the waiter said, “Have a nice day.”

“You, too,” Nate replied.

He signed the receipt and they got up to leave. As they got back into the car Emma looked over at him. “Thanks,” she said.

“For what?”

“You know, lunch.”

“No problem. And thank you for giving up your day for me.” He started the car and pulled out of the parking lot, aiming the Acura back towards Chauncey.

The small talk continued for the next several miles, but as Nate pulled back on to I-70, he decided to try getting some personal information out of his passenger. “So,” he said to Emma, “We’ve had plenty of time for self-indulgent discussions about me. Tell me something about yourself.”

“I don’t know,” she responded, “There’s not much to tell.”

“You must think I’m really dumb,” he told her, doing his best to mimic what she had told him the two days before, “Because I can’t imagine you would think I believe that if you thought otherwise.”

She laughed. “Fine, I guess you’re right. I think it’s more that my story isn’t very interesting.”

“Tell you what. You tell me your story, and I’ll tell you if it’s interesting.”

Emma played with a stray strand of hair and feigned a moment of deep thought on the offer. “Fine,” she said after the pause, “You’ve got yourself a deal.”

“Tell on.”

Emma let out a long sigh and ran her hand through her hair. “I was actually born in Lansing, Michigan,” she told him, apparently deciding to start from the very beginning, “But I moved to Chauncey when I was seven to live with Aunt Ruth and Uncle Earl.”

“Why did you do that?” he asked.

“My parents died in a car accident and Aunt Ruth took me in. Uncle Earl died about four months after I came here, so she basically became a single mother overnight.”

“I’m sorry,” Nate said, not exactly sure how to respond to that kind of news.

“Hey,” she let out a half hearted laugh, “You shouldn’t be sorry. You didn’t kill them.”

“Still,” he said, reaching up with his right hand to give her shoulder a squeeze, “I’m sorry all the same. Both my parents are still alive…I can’t begin to understand how you feel.”

“You get used to it after a while, I guess,” she said, but Nate could tell it still bothered her. Either that or she just didn’t like talking about it to strangers. “Aunt Ruth was wonderful, though,” Emma continued, “I kind of think of her like she’s my mother. I don’t think I could have made it without her…”

 

Nate took his hand off her shoulder and put it on the car’s gear shift lever in the pause following her statement, more for something to do that wouldn’t disturb her than anything else. He had never been touched closely by death, and did not know how she, or anyone, could have handled so much in such a short time.

“When I graduated high school I went down to Texas for college,” the sudden change of subject and tone surprising Nate out of his thoughts. “I studied psychology. I think I wanted to figure myself out more than actually being in the field, though.”

“Well,” Nate let out a short laugh, “seems to me you learned it pretty well. You blew my cover pretty fast.”

She turned toward him and smiled, the sparkle returning to her eyes. “Hey, I said I didn’t want to go into the field, not that I don’t know how to learn.”

“True.”

“I liked college a lot,” she continued, “And I had a trust fund to pay for it, so I went to graduate school after getting my bachelor’s degree. I was working on my Masters when I met Charlie.”

“And this would be the ex-husband briefly mentioned the other day?”

“Yes,” she answered, “I thought he was the most wonderful man in the world. We got married right after graduation and settled down in Austin.”

“I thought you lived in the house outside Chauncey.”

“Well, we were in Austin for about two years, but the marriage started to fall apart. Turned out he wasn’t nearly as wonderful as I thought he had been.”

“What happened?”

A shadow passed across her face and Emma fell silent. “It’s…not something I really want to get into right now,” she said after nearly a mile had passed.

“That’s fine. You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to,” he said.

“Thank you.” A look of relief crossed her face. “I thought maybe things would be better if we moved back to Chauncey. I don’t know why I thought that, because things only got worse. Six months later the marriage was officially over.”

“I’m…I’m sorry,” Nate said, again unsure of how to respond.

“That’s life, I guess,” she shrugged. “I’ve been on my own for almost three years now, and I’ve gotten used to it.”

Again the car was filled with silence. For several minutes Nate looked out the window at the wheatfields stretching to the horizon. Finally he turned back to Emma. “You know, I feel pretty stupid right about now,” he said.

“Why?”

“What am I doing?” he asked her, “Running away from my job, my life and marriage because I’m too scared to go through it?”

She didn’t respond for a second as her face darkened. “So what?” her eyes narrowed and her voice rose, “Poor little Emma has had to deal with so much in her life, let’s feel sorry for her and think of how great life is because your parents didn’t die and your marriage didn’t end in pain and anger? Is that what this makes me, someone to pity and be a reminder of how much you actually had?”

“No, that’s not it at all,” Nate said, realizing just a little too late how insensitive he sounded, “I’m just saying that…well, I’m not sure what I was saying, actually.”

 

“I don’t need or want your pity, Nate Lassiter,” she crossed her arms and pressed herself back against the passenger seat.

For several moments Nate said nothing, sure that whatever he said would come out poorly and be interpreted in the worst possible way. After long deliberation he decided to try. “I’m sorry,” he told her, “I didn’t mean it that way. All I was trying to say was that my problems suddenly seemed so small compared to the stuff you’ve been through. It wasn’t meant to hurt you at all.” A wall of silence from the right side of the car ate his words and did not encourage him to continue.

The last few miles of the drive to Chauncey passed under an oppressive silence. As Nate pulled off the freeway he muttered, almost too quiet to hear, “Guess this just goes to prove that Julia’s probably better off without me. I never was very good at communicating.”

Molly was excited to see him as the Acura pulled up to the house, but Emma got into her big pickup without a word. Nate sat on the porch steps and watched the dust settle on the gravel road, absentmindedly scratching the dog’s head. “Maybe I should go back to Chicago and face everyone,” he told Molly, “Because it sure seems like I just lost my only friend out here.” Bereft of anything else to occupy his mind, he got up from the steps and started taking boxes into the house.

 

As the sun began to sink toward the horizon Nate decided it was time to go outside and appreciate the open spaces of Kansas. A few hours of work on his new sound system had brought him to the point where he could not continue until the TV arrived the next week, assuming he still decided to stick around. Waking Molly from a nap on the kitchen floor and grabbing the Frisbee, he headed into the backyard.

A few throws later he began to enjoy the quiet. The wide open spaces were refreshing and he enjoyed the symphony of nature that was so suppressed where he had come from.

In the failing sunlight Nate didn’t notice he wasn’t alone at first. Then Molly stopped paying attention to him and stared back towards the house. He turned, confused.

Emma stood silently next to the house, partially masked by long evening shadows. Her shoulders were slumped and her hands shoved deep into her pockets.

“Wha…what are you doing here?” Nate asked.

“I came by because I wanted…” she trailed off.

Nate walked over to her. She looked up at him. “Look, Emma,” he said to her, “I didn’t mean to say anything bad about you back in the car. I know I already apologized, but I guess it wasn’t good enough. I hope this time it is.”

“I know you didn’t mean anything,” she responded, “I’m kind of defensive about certain parts of my past, especially my marriage, I guess. It’s just that around here…” she trailed off again.

Her tone seemed to leave it up to him to decide what the cryptic statement meant, so he decided not to press her any further. “And I should have been more tactful,” he told her.

“I guess,” she said, taking her hands out of her pockets and stepping closer to him. “But you’re wrong about one thing.”

“What’s that?”

 

“You are good at communicating. And I’ll bet Julia isn’t thinking life is great without you around. In fact, I’d bet she’s pretty broken up about it.” Her deep, brown eyes locked on to his with the same intensity and probing gaze that had made him so uncomfortable the day before. In the dying light of the Kansas sunset it did not seem nearly so intimidating.

“Well, thank you for that vote of confidence.”

It took him by surprise when they embraced. The hug was awkward at first, but that soon gave way to something comfortable, familiar. It was as if he was comforting an old friend. They stood in silence for several minutes, allowing the moment to say more than any apology could have communicated.

Then, just as suddenly and unaccountably as it began, the hug ended. Emma smiled at him, then returned to her truck without saying another word.

Nate stared after her until the truck disappeared around a curve. Finally he looked back to Molly, silently observing him from under the big tree. “Come on, girl,” he said, “Let’s get some dinner.” and turned toward the house.

He hopped up the steps and into the house, pausing only to hold the door open for the golden retriever. For several minutes he moved around the kitchen, preparing Molly’s food and putting together a sandwich for himself. Sitting in one of the creaky kitchen chairs, he chewed thoughtfully, not entirely sure what to make of his current situation. “What do you think, Molly?” he asked the dog. “What have I gotten myself into?”

The dog looked up from her dish and regarded him silently for a moment before turning back to her meal. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “I keep talking, but you can’t tell me anything.” He let out a short chuckle, “I’ll bet that if you ever did talk, I’d have a heart attack.”

The dog remained silent.

“You’ll let me know if this whole thing gets out of control though, right?”

A short while later he grew tired of trying to figure out the mysteries of life. Choosing instead to find an answer to an easy question he turned on the TV in the sitting room. The old, small TV looked incongruous surrounded by all his new equipment. The satellite outside still seemed work, however. That was all he really needed.

A short while later Molly joined him, jumping up onto the couch and resting her head on his lap. Scratching her head and searching for baseball games, he flipped through the channels. The White Sox had the night off, so he consoled himself with a Giants/Diamondbacks game out on the west coast.

During the post-game wrap-up Nate fell asleep on the couch. The dreams did not start up at all during the night, and for the first time since leaving Chicago he slept soundly.

Liveblogging seaQuest Season 2: Vapors (continued)

Season 2, Episode 5, “Vapors”

Plot synopsis (blatantly stolen from Wikipedia): While on shore leave, Captain Bridger and Dr. Smith struggle with a possible romance after rumors about their love life sweep through the seaQuest.. Meanwhile, Henderson and O’Neill go out on a date, while Ford, Brody and Ortiz try to find dates. On their shore leave, Piccolo, Lucas and Dagwood respond to Piccolo’s father’s plea for help. (Special guest star: Dom DeLuise)

When we last left off everyone was way too interested in the budding romance between Beard Power Bridger and Dr “I’m literally the daughter of your ex-girlfriend” Smith. Everyone, that is, except for Lucas, Piccolo, and Dagwood, who were way too busy hanging out at a high school dance with the guy from Candid Camera while Lucas popped a boner over Piccolo’s mother. Also Brody, Ford, and Ortiz were on a boat.

00:24:15: Bridger goes to his old house on an island. This is odd, since I’m guessing it’s where he lived in the before time, the long, long ago when he was called out of retirement. I thought that island was really far away, yet he seemed to get there in a little zodiac. Either way, he starts talking to his dead wife about his mixed feelings. This would be more touching if it weren’t for the fact that season 1 ended with an abortive tonsil hockey session between Beardless Bridger and Dr Westphalen.

Also, what’s with the whole captain and ship’s doctor ‘shipping thing that seemed to pop up in this stretch? seaQuest is now on its second round and of course there was the whole Picard/Crusher thing that never quite got above a smolder because in The Next Generation the only regular who ever explored actual human emotions was the damn android.[1] Hell, there was even an episode where Data started dating someone on board.

There’s also a quick cut to Dr Smith holding a picture of someone and crying.

00:25:15: And we’re back to what we came in for: Piccolo, Lucas, and Dagwood searching for the box with Piccolo’s mother’s youth drugs.

The three of them have pulled up next to what looks like an abandoned playground and get out of the car trying to do the badasses in sunglasses thing. It is, again, important to note that Piccolo looks like a pro shop threw up on him, Lucas is wearing a shirt that’s about three sizes too big, and THEY’RE DRIVING AROUND IN A GOLF CART. No one has ever done anything badass in a golf cart and that includes the various missions in Grand Theft Auto that involve drive-bys in golf carts.

Also Piccolo is carrying a garden trowel. Shovels mean badass. Trowels mean we’re off to do a spot of gardening. And Lucas seems to be out of breath from walking twelve feet up a very slight hill. This is the greatest thing that ever happened to television.

Dagwood scolds Piccolo for being a jerk about his father because Dagwood doesn’t have a father. Lucas tries to explain how it’s possible to love someone without liking them. Piccolo has a hard time figuring out which direction is west before wandering over to a completely unremarkable part of the ground and kneeling down with his trowel. He stops after flailing weakly at the ground once or twice and demands help.

Then Dagwood starts digging in the ground like a mole on meth. The box is about two inches deep. Again, awesome. Also, between Lucas’s inability to walk up a slight incline and Piccolo’s inability to dig up a small box that’s practically visible from the surface I’m a little worried about the UEO’s fitness standards.

00:27:25: Back to the three dweebs on a boat. They’re still peepin’ honeys on the various beaches. Ortiz gets tired of waiting, accuses the other two of gold digging, and jumps off the boat.

Little does he know that Ford and Brody have just been trying to get him to leave so they can be alone together.

Ortiz also doesn’t care, as he swims up to two women hanging out on a jet ski. There’s no one else for miles. Just, hey, two women on a jet ski.

00:28:50: We cut back to the super awkward nerd date. Apparently movie theaters throw water at everyone in the future. That…that would piss me off. I’m still not entirely sure about 3-D, at least when Pacific Rim and IMAX aren’t involved. For that I’m willing to give all the money.

Also, Ted Raimi is trying his absolute best to ruin things.

00:31:10: Success! He gets a face full of ice cream!

00:31:15: And we’re back to the three stooges. They’re busting into Dr Smith’s lab to try to examine the pills.

Dr Smith gets a warning and heads in to chew them out. But, y’know, telepathy and guy who’s worried about his mother.

Then she forces him to apologize for spreading a rumor. Never lie to a woman who can read your mind. Seriously.

Smith also seems to think this means she doesn’t have a career on seaQuest anymore.

00:35:30: Piccolo has gone back to his parents’ house. He informs them that the pills are an insecticide. Then he begs her to be old because mothers are supposed to be old. Duh.

Apparently this is all it takes to reconcile between parents and son. Everyone is all better now and they’re going to have a puppies and ice cream party!

00:37:10: Darwin tries to get Bridger to give him ten bucks. Silly Darwin, money’s for people.

Then Dr Smith shows up. Emotional conversation in 5…4…3…

God, this is awkward. Pretty much any conversation that starts off with, “I know you dated my mother,” is bad to begin with. This, though…this is just wrong.

Also the telepathy thing. That doesn’t help.

Piccolo and Lucas show up. On jet skis. Then Dagwood flys by and falls off of his.

Ted Raimi and Midshipman Whatshername show up and still seem to be a thing. There’s zero explanation for this.

Then there’s, like, a barbeque montage. Everyone from the opening credits is invited.

[2]

Ortiz sails by on a big-ass yacht.

Piccolo tells Bridger he almost asked his mother out on a date. Piccolo and Bridger become buddies. They have a lot in common now.

Smith tells Lucas she’s not actually leaving.

All of this happens in, like, thirty disjointed seconds and then the episode ends. No more Dom DeLuise. I haz a sad. He was delightful.

So we end on a conflicted note. This was both the best and worst thing that’s happened so far in season 2. I’m genuinely excited for next week’s episode, though. So we’ve got that goin’ for us.

———————-

[1]Yes, I know that Riker and Troi had a past. And I know that at the end Troi and Worf ended up together. Also there was that one episode where LaForge fell in love with a holographic representation of some woman, then had a super awkward meeting with the real version of said woman. That was a hoot. Overall, though, everyone was pretty robotic about the whole thing. Even when Riker was attempting to bed green-skinned women it was pretty much, “Well, Kirk did this all the time, so I probably should, too. Someone’s got to do it and Picard’s not on board.”

Well, okay, there was that one time on Risa with Vash. But through it all there was this whole morning tea with Beverly thing he had going on with Dr Crusher. They totally could have gotten together and he could have adopted Wesley and…oh, wait, there’s the catch.

Also, I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty sure that Gates McFadden was my first celebrity crush. I’ve always had a thing for redheads. I now realize that I was, like, 10 and she was, like 40. I think I knew that at the time, too, but didn’t care. Is this too much information? This might be too much information.

Since we’re already here, the other possibilities for that honor were Yasmine Bleeth and Tiffani Thiessen. I’m pretty sure it was Gates McFadden, though. I don’t know what that says about me.

[2]Do you have any idea how many David Hasselhoff videos there are on YouTube? It appears to be an unlimited resource. I’m also entirely convinced that these videos are actual documentation of how he spends his day. Like, he wakes up in the morning, puts on his bedazzled biker jacket, rides off, gets into a limbo contest, and then ends up picking up hitchikers all the way home. The green screen effects on most of his videos are just there to throw us off the scent.