Perdido Explained

I know where most of the inspirations for the details of this story come from. Here they are, with my thoughts on what I would do if I were to revise the story. Sorry if I explain some things that are obvious, but not everyone has the same background.

Perdido means “lost” in Spanish. It is the title of an old Jazz tune. Its actually a happy tune…that gets “lost” in that it endlessly repeats. My use of the title was meant to be darker.

The opening line is a play on the fact that my name is Adam.

I think the Desire character was an amalgam of the crushes from Highschool and before. They fit the description, as did the my crush from Plebe year. I kept the word Gypsy from the original story as that is how it was published. I had no concept that the term was derogatory. I feel like the narrator of this story, set in the eighties in my head, would not have known to use the word Rrom or Romani. I might say Balkan in a revised version, or specifically made her Romanian…and probably give her a Romani name. I might give my hero a couple of other girls in his history to reinforce the fear of intimacy and to justify his use of the term “The Rest.”

Orpheus was a musician in Greek mythology. His love, Euridice, dies and goes to Hades. Orpheus follows her there to get her out. However, as they are walking out of Hades realm, he defies the dictate of the lord of the underworld and looks back. He sees the silent shade of Euridice return back to the land of the dead. A modern retelling of it is in the Move “Orfeo Negro.” The title song is a Jazz standard Bossa Nova that I have played many times. Both references are deliberate, and apropos for an underground Jazz Club.

The dropping out of a physics program was inspired by Robert Pirsig of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance. He too joins the Army. The Jazz described here borrows a lot from that book and from Zen and the Art of Archery, especially in the ending sequence of the horn assembling itself and the music playing the musician.

Rachael is because I wanted a Jewish name. It might also have been inspired by the Rachael character that works with Conner MacCleod in the first (and only true) Highlander movie. Cullens, instead of Collins, was because I wanted something more Irish than English. Rachael is 20 or 21 years old. Their relationship had not moved to romantic by the time the action takes place. Both characters are more damaged than the real people that inspired them. If I were to revise, I might even make this an explicitly enumerated number of dates…like three. Enough so that he’s hooked and will take some action, but also enough that he is unsure if she really likes him. I might make it explicit that they haven’t gotten physical as I don’t want him to have too much information. And I didn’t want her to be comfortable with touching after her recent abuse.

Joe Kent is probably based on the Dale Turner character that Dexter Gordon played in “Round Midnight.” Francis befriends an alcoholic Dale. Dale is based on Dexter, himself a Jazz Giant, and on Lester Young, one of the first great tenor sax players. Lester invented many of the terms from Jazz, like Bread for money. In the movie, Francis and helps him get sober and playing again. The real life story is fairly similar, but instead of a tenor Sax Player, the real life Francis Paudras befriended the piano player Bud Powell. The name Joe is probably inspired by Joe Henderson, but its also just a good old sounding name. The name Kent is an allusion to my Uncle Ben, who went by many names when playing music (changing often for tax purposes). One of them was Kenny Benton. Uncle Ben got me started on Saxophone. Joe is probably also inspired by George Garzone. I took lessons from him during Highschool. He taught me Jazz, and he taught me how to think. He never said any of the things in this story, but they are not too far out for him. He’s known as the Yogi Berra of the Berklee School of Music.

The feeling of guilt over feeling happy was based on my reaction to my Grandmother’s death. At some point, I got frustrated about going to the funeral, I think. it was a long time ago and I was young. I then felt guilty for feeling frustrated.

Bill as the bartender was not my brother Bill, but rather a play on the song Piano man. Instead of John at the Bar, I put Bill there. The irony is that my brother Bill would become a Bartender a couple decades later.

The city it 2/3s New York and 1/3 Boston. The college is an amalgam of Brown, Tufts, and Faber College from Animal House.

The lake house is definitely supposed to be in The lakes region of New Hampshire. The house is mildly inspired by my folks house in New Hampshire, although it is laid out nothing like it, and there really wasn’t a back door. Also, we would never lock the doors of a vacation house while we were in it, but Aussie did, again showing he knows there is something wrong about the situation. Maybe the brother from the fraternity would have tried to call him, but he probably wouldn’t have the number. He might have called the police, but he probably was too freaked out and just hid in the house instead.

I have long been a fan of Spenser, both from the TV shows and from the Novels. I had been reading a bunch of the novels around the time I wrote this, and I took a lot of inspiration from them. I hope I didn’t rip them off too badly.

I don’t want to say too much about the inspiration for the attack. Suffice to say something very different and very similar happened to someone I was close to back in high school. It messed me up and sat there for a long time. That was probably the nucleus of this story. But she was not Rachael. And, while history does not repeat itself, it sometimes rhymes, and my description here reflects closely on other attacks I know of on other friends of mine that I have learned about after I wrote the story.

I think I have a bit of a hero complex. A desire to be a white knight, upon a fire-y steed. That is why I went to West Point. But I’m no Paladin. I’m a nerdy Jewish boy from the burbs. That plays saxophone.

When I went to Spain in 1986 or so, I read a comic book. It had several short comics. One was called ‘Juan, el Saxophonista de jusiticia” or Juan the saxophonist of justice. A captured woman is tied up by the villain. Juan (dressed as Zorro) swings in through the window. The villain is scared. Juan whips out his saxophone and starts wailing out a tune. The villain, no longer scared, hits him on the head. The final scene shows a recovering Juan with a friend remonstrating him, “Te he dicho. La Saxophone O la Justicia.” which translates to “I’ve told you. The Saxophone OR the the Justice.” Pretty sure the Adam in this story was actually Juan. He’s 26 years old.

The plot holes I would plug if I were to edit this are the fact that our narrator magically finds out where Kim lives, and the fact that they don’t actually teach privates to choke people to death. But what I’ve learned since then is the Buck Sargent that live off post may have junior enlisted over on weekends to drink and teach them martial arts. Privates also are not supposed to have fire arms in their barracks, but they could keep them in the arms room, and sign them out to take them to a range. But they are more likely to stash them at the Buck Sargent’s house, and there are very likely to be gun ranges in the vicinity of most Army posts. There certainly was in Hawaii. I’m sure there are others. It should feel mostly realistic that our untrained narrator would be able to solve this mystery.

I’d remove the charcoal rubbing. I like the interview with the former land lady, but I’d find a less silly way to work that in, probably by having a bunch of letters forwarded from the old address. I’d clean up her language, make her more real and less of a caricature. I think she might be inspired by some characters out of Herman Hesse novels. I’d keep the spectacles.

Aussie and the fraternity brother were as generic as I could make them. I wanted to mask the antagonist as long as I could, hence the nickname. Jason Peters is, I think, pulling in two names of Billy’s friends, but I liked those kids, so I don’t want to vilify them. I really just wanted as bland a name as possible. I don’t love the monologue that explains what happened, but I wanted to move the story as fast as possible. I possibly could drag that out, or have the narrator deduce what happened by some torn clothes etc. I do think that the not-eating part is important and I would keep that. I wanted the antagonist to be somewhat aware that he had done something very bad.

The fact that out narrator is a tanker shows that I had not yet chosen to go Infantry. That didn’t happened until the following summer, after Drill Cadet Leader Training with an Infantry Basic Training company at Fort Benning. But I knew I was probably going to have to go Combat Arms, and tanks seemed like a smart move, especially after Desert Storm.

Time was stress at West Point. Minute callers would announce how many minutes to formation. Being a minute caller meant being an open target for the upperclassmen. Being in formation meant being a target for upperclassmen. We had limited time to get between classes. Being late meant punishment. Loss of free time and more inspections. Weekends away were explosively fun, but we had to be back by accountability formation 1930 hours on Sunday night. Hence the clock to voice his frustration.

I could take the train down to NYC from West Point, provided I could get a ride across the river to the Garrison or Croton Harmon stations. I didn’t have a car at the time, and I figured a poor Jazz musician in the city wouldn’t have one either. The train does not run up to the lakes region anymore, but it did for a long time. The tracks are still there, and I have cross country skiied on them many times.

I am surprised myself by the amount of times I mentioned temperature or used it as a metaphor. I suspect it was the gloom period at West Point (January Through Spring) that inspired that. I was cold a lot. But the terms are used a lot in Jazz. Cool was Miles Davis. Hot Jazz was Louis Armstrong.

The closing is pure Humphrey Bogart. Or Mike Hammer. I probably couldn’t get away with playing Harlem Nocturn over the closing credits, but that is what I heard in my head.

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