Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Hat That Launched A Thousand Ships

Platypuss here. What began as a simple expedition in a small submarine (the Argonaut) through the sewers of Council, inspired by Victor Hugo and led by Pirate Goat, has already become an epic. This kind of thing does happen pretty often to Goat, as you may have noticed. At the last minute, many more Animals joined the expedition than had initially signed up and quarters are cramped. If you want to know how the Animals came up with this idea, along with advice from well-meaning bloggers, scroll down to the previous post from the lost land of Monday for the details.

(Goat interrupts here:) Hey Platypuss. You say this kind of thing happens to me a lot, but every time is totally different! How could the unsuspected perils of Rock Slide Tobogganing have possibly prepared me for what is happening down here under the potholed streets and glorious alleys of Council! If it hadn’t been for help from Sandra Leigh and Johnny Jack Poetry Guitar Guy, I’d still be riding on the outside of the submarine! Sometimes plans for things like submarines are hard to read, you know. And if I knew what I was doing, it wouldn’t be an adventure, would it?

Platypuss continues: It’s hard to say exactly what happened – Sandra Leigh may be at the bottom of this – she’s the one who mentioned “stygian” while wishing the crew well in their voyage through the bowels of the earth. Goat insisted that the word was French, but after an argument, Bink looked it up – and there we all were suddenly, not in the Council sewer, but in the Council Underworld. A portal to the past where all myths meet - all unbeknownst to the citizens of the surface chatting in the Thrifty Shoppe on dollar-a-bag day next to the abandoned People’s Theatre and the abandoned Timberline Title building with the sleek US Bank looming over all like an artificial life form…

Wait a minute, Platypuss! Goat here. That was not an argument. It was a battle of wits, and a valiant one. Bink is a worthy opponent. And I will just mention that HKatz too played a big part in our current peril – mentioning the Golden Fleece made Polar Knight start thinking about the lost link between the Golden Fleece and the Golden Eyepatch awarded at the Annual Pirate Picnic, and how it might finally be found in the Council sewer. Not to mention Johnny Jack Poetry’s discussion with Bink on the Greek root of the word “nostalgia” which ended up with Poetikat and Monster E. becoming involved recently with us in the battle of Troy! No one knew we would find ourselves in the Underworld. Where all the ancient battles are fought simultaneously like a multi-plex Valhalla right under the People’s Theatre! Perhaps Jeffscape could help us out of this one, I thought, but alas! - all communications systems were down.

We knew we were in the sewer directly underneath the People’s Theatre because the sagging structure produces eerie groans only audible in the Underworld where they are amplified by the sewer pipes- to an unnerving degree, I will freely confess. This is where the strange perils of the Underworld began to show themselves. Cleopatra, the much-beloved Finger Giraffe who is visiting us from those young muses Zoey and Grace, suddenly appeared with a new body and a hat from the Ancient Past! All the Animals were suddenly wearing hats! Party hats, we wondered? But we soon realized that this was no party, and began to wonder if we would ever make it back to Big Bed Land from this Labyrinth of illusion.

Strangely, it was the Big Bard of Big Bed Land, Polar Knight, who gave us the first clue as to finding our way out of the dreaded Labyrinth. I am always surprised when the flag of Poetry flies during battle, but Pirates are scrupulously honest (when they remember to be) and I must say that this happens with some frequency.

Polar Knight thought back to Subby’s mention of Victor Hugo on Robert Frost’s Banjo, which first led to our noble but perhaps doomed expedition. Polar Knight with the glow of inspiration in his eyes suddenly declaimed: “The most surprising rencounter was at the entrance to the Grand Sewer…from one of these hinges hung a dirty and shapeless rag …Bruneseau held his lantern close to this rag and examined it…they made out a heraldic coronet and embroidered above these seven letters: LAVBESP…They recognized the fact, that what they had before their eyes was a morsel of the shroud of Marat!!”

“Of course,” cried Cleopatra, throwing her hat into the ring, “the Charlotte Corday hat!”

Now, I’m all for open discussion among the crew, but it seemed to me that any sense of purpose had been lost. “What are you talking about?” I demanded.

So it turns out that there was this really complicated battle called the French Revolution. And this woman, Charlotte Corday, carrying a copy of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, assassinated Marat with a kitchen knife. (Hence the shroud.) Not long afterwards, the women in England who were found her action heroic started wearing a millinery confection known as the Charlotte Corday hat. Apparently they had no bumper stickers in these times. Sometimes history is just totally weird, I say to Bink. “You have no idea how weird,” Bink told me kindly, and began to tell me tales of hatpin murders.

Everyone rushed to the portholes. “Is that Charlotte’s kitchen knife?” someone shouted. “I think I see Helen of Troy’s lipstick container…” “Look - Lizzie Borden’s report card!” But suddenly our forays into the unexplored hook-ups of history came to a halt. After a dizzying ascent, we found ourselves in the harbor of the old Council Grange – we looked up past the toilet paper and the sink, to where a sign was printed on the open door: “Ladies,” it read.

“That means me,” said Cleopatra and she sashayed forth – in spite of the fact that I knew she could see, as we all did, the tank positioned ominously outside the window, its turret gun pointed right at us.

(Check back on Monday for the continuation of the Voyage of the Argonaut…and greetings to my old friend and Hugo/Louis L'Amour scholar, Dan Moors!)


  1. Er oh... tanks can be a problem, no?

    And I answer to smoke signals, too! No communication devices required!

  2. How exciting! And here I always thought Council a rather dreary town, though I very much want to see inside the People's Theater. Good luck, animals!

  3. I love these adventures of Goat!

    (somehow I feel I know you a bit better, since yesterday... :):):) xx

  4. This was so fun! Love the goat stories.

  5. Dear Jeffscape,
    that is indeed true of tanks in many forms...

    Dear Michelle,
    how can you have forgotten the magic and mystery of Council so soon? (It helps to see Council through the eyes of Goat, I will say.) We miss you! Isaac is looking handsome and intelligent, just how I remember him.

    Dear Willow,
    ditto about yesterday! It was vicariously charming and delightful!

    Dear Betsy,
    I'm glad you like the Goat stories - I myself had no idea that Goat was such a story-teller until I started this blog...

  6. How fun...and I'm still trying to say the Big Bard of Big Bed Land...

  7. Thanks Christine! When you can say it without fear, you are entitled to your first Polar Snowflake Badge of Poetic Merit. (Your Hostess Pinky points out that these look quite fetching when nestled in one's hair.)

  8. And if I knew what I was doing, it wouldn’t be an adventure, would it?
    You're right, what sort of adventure would any adventure be without mishaps and lack of preparation?

    A portal to the past where all myths meet - all unbeknownst to the citizens of the surface
    I love that kind of setting - another world existing beneath the feet of the oblivious. If only they'd take an interest and look (at least you're doing so, thankfully) And I love the line about the "multi-plex Valhalla" beneath the People's Theatre (nice contrast of venues, and having these epic clashes right beneath the abandoned theatre makes it feel less abandoned)

    And I will just mention that HKatz too played a big part in our current peril
    Thank you for mentioning it! I'm enjoying the consequences...

    Charlotte Corday hat
    Would never have expected this. That's another good element to adventures - confronting the unpredictable and mysterious (and the murderous and intriguing).

    Looking forward to the continuation....

  9. Thanks HKatz! As often happens with Goat, I found myself writing that line about adventure without thinking about it, and then I said to myself, "Wow, that's really true isn't it?" Sometimes writing itself is exactly this kind of adventure, it seems to me.

    I'm really happy you liked the Underworld setting under the People's Theatre - when I wrote "multi-plex Valhalla" I was going to delete it immediately, saying to myself, "Self, no one but you is going to find this anything but confusing and weird." But Goat countered: "Whose blog is this anyway? We're supposed to be able to write whatever we want, that was the whole point!" Lovely that someone else liked it!

    When I came across the Charlotte Corday hat phenomenon a few years ago researching hat-pins, it seemed almost unbelievable! Has always stuck in my mind...

    Loved your week in seven words, by the way. These are a true pleasure to read.

  10. I loved "multi-plex Valhalla," too! The People's Theatre has, no doubt, witnessed many thrilling adventures, above ground and below. Goat never ceases to amaze me! Now, I am on the edge of my seat, wanting to know just what will happen next. Brilliant storytelling, Platypuss!

  11. Aunt Phoenix,
    Goat here. Hang on to your seat, is my advice. Must go.

  12. So who knew the People's Theater was a multi-plex Valhalla? Remember the Charlotte Corday Jazz Band?!?