CHAPTER 14

Even after he abducts Frenesi, Vond maintains an unhealthy interest in baby Prairie (who has stayed with Zoyd). A year after Frenesi leaves Zoyd, Zuniga (acting at Vond's direction) sets up Zoyd for a drug bust by planting a gigantic brick of pressed marijuana at Zoyd's pad. Sasha shows up and takes Prairie. Perhaps at Zuniga's request; if true, this is a kind gesture on Zuniga's part.

Zoyd (who really loves Prairie) is whopped into jail, where Vond taunts him cruelly. After threatening Zoyd with life in prison, Vond offers him a deal. Apparently Vond wants to make sure that Frenesi is never tempted to leave him (Vond) by her love for Prairie, so he offers Zoyd his freedom if he agrees to take the kid and disappear. Zoyd agrees, but Vond has him beaten anyway. Zoyd goes to Sasha's, and picks up Prairie. But first he tells Sasha about some other stuff Vond has insisted on: Zoyd must perform an annual act of public craziness so Vond will always know where he is. [Of course, this contradicts the idea of "disappearing"; if the act of public craziness lets Vond track Zoyd and Prairie's location, it also negates the whole point of hiding Prairie from Frenesi, who can watch TV news too. Oh well...] Sasha suggests that Zoyd "disappear" in Vineland, where she has family.

Zoyd thumbs his way north. He stops briefly at a refugee commune in the Sacramento Delta, but when that proves too noisy and uptight he heads for San Francisco. There, he looks up Wendell "Mucho" Maas, a character from The Crying of Lot 49. Mucho is temporarily elsewhere, but Zoyd crashes at his palatial (but drug-free) rock 'n' roll pad for a few days, meeting Mucho's blonde girlfriend Trillium and her friends. Zoyd sings Prairie a silly lullaby, entitled "Lawrence of Arabia."

There's a brief flashback to Zoyd's meeting with Mucho (then an LA record producer) in 1967. In those days, Mucho was a major "head" -- but gave up drugs after a traumatic meeting with Dr. Hugo Splanchnick, an anti-cocaine nose doctor (or "snoot croaker," as Pynchon puts it). Back in the present Mucho reappears, and reminisces with Zoyd about how Zuniga screwed up the Corvairs' shot at a recording career (a brief flashback here). The two share a sad, accurate appraisal of the scary way things are changing, and a grim (also accurate) view of the future.

Zoyd and Prairie continue on their trip north to Vineland. They run into old pal Van Meter in Eureka, and together they drive "back" (presumably south) to Vineland. There's a brief historical/geographical essay on Vineland. Zoyd discovers that he likes the region, and finds a place to live in a trailer on a piece of land off Vegetable Road. He does odd jobs, hangs out happily with the other ex- (and not-so-ex) hippies, and even makes contact with Sasha's (and Frenesi's) left-wing family members -- who take him in despite their mistrust of his non-union lifestyle. Zoyd's love for Prairie deepens. He relaxes, coming to believe he's finally free of Brock Vond.

 

p. 294 "But when he found out about Prairie...something else, something from his nightmares of forced procreation, must have taken over, because later, in what could only be crippled judgment, Brock was to turn and go after the baby and, noticing Zoyd in the way, arrange for his removal too."    This explains Vond's attack on Zoyd in Chapter 4 -- but note how "crippled judgment" buys off Pynchon's lack of clear motivation for this series of events.

p. 294 "...a shaggy monolithic slab..."    A great joke about the huge brick of weed that Zuniga plants at Zoyd's pad. "Let me guess," says Zoyd, thinking of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick's monolith, "2001: A Space Odyssey [1968]." "Try 20,000 Years In Sing Sing [1933]," replies Zuniga. This joke is especially funny because both titles include numbers, and because both guys include scholarly references to the years the films were made. (Pynchon, of course, has been doing this throughout, but this is the first time he does it in dialogue).

p. 297 "Following the wisdom of the time"    Pynchon refers, with vague disapproval, to the touchie-feelie California notion that men should "get in touch with their feelings" and, presumably, cry their little hearts out. However, Zoyd, who has gotten used to crying, is finding out that, in fact, big boys don't cry.

p. 297 "Museum of Drug Abuse"    Sure, Pynchon.

p. 298 "gnathic index"    In craniology, the ratio of the distance from basion to prosthion to the distance from basion to nasion, expressed as a percent of the latter. Aren't you glad you asked?

p. 299 "who feared nothing unless it was taking apart a transmission"   Vond's Scorpiopic self-destructiveness is compared to that of the "beer outlaws" of Zoyd's youth (see page 37). This observation is quite accurate: Only advanced automotive nerds can take transmissions apart (and get them back together again).

p. 298-301 "I know how to take care of Frenesi, asshole..."   Vond is unbearably cruel and sadistic in this interview with Zoyd. Unlike the hero of "Leader of the Pack," the lyrics to which Pynchon uses for a joke on p. 270, Vond is both bad and evil. What an asshole! And he really hates hippies -- presumably for being childish. But who's really being childish here?

p. 299 "those rectal spasms of fear"    Zoyd once again experiences this not-so-leit-but-definitely-motif in Vineland. (See also pages 10, 45, 116, 207.)

p. 300 "Not the Earth Brock was acquainted with"   A great line!

p. 300 "...squealing, screaming guitar solos that defied any number of rules, that also lifted the blood and reassured the soul..."   Could be Jimi Hendrix. Or a description of Vineland. But mainly it gives Zoyd an idea that the "real" world still exists, and so will he.

p. 301 "she calls up one night..."    Vond seems interested in making sure that Frenesi won't be able to find Zoyd and Prairie. Of course this is contradicted by the "public act of craziness" that Vond has insisted Zoyd perform.

p. 301 "I have her power of attorney, she gave me that even before she gave me her body..."   That is, Frenesi surrendered her identity to Vond first; bondage before intercourse. There's a distant echo here of Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues": "She got a mortgage on my body, now, and a lien on my soul."

p. 302 "the count at 5:30 AM"    Body count, that is -- a basic security measure in prisons.

p. 303 "EPT"  Emergency Planning Team?  Help us, somebody!

p. 303 "Agustin Lara tunes"   Augustin Lara was born in Mexico City in 1896. He began composing songs in 1929, influenced by the popular dances and jazz forms of the 1930s and 40s. He composed well over 400 songs, many of them written for Mexican films. His best known song is probably "Granada." Lara died in 1970.

p. 303 "conjunto" = Spanish for "small band," or "combo."

p. 303 "los vatos de Chiques" "Chicano dudes."

p. 307 "Prairie kept waking up every couple hours, all the way back to her old baby ways."   This is true baby stuff. Is Pynchon a daddy? Consider also all the baby details, and Prairie's teenagerhood. This is hard stuff to get from a book, but with Pynchon's genius for bringing research alive you never know.

p. 307 "Mucho Maas"    A pun, of course, on "mucho mas" (much more, in Spanish). Also (and also "of course") ex-husband of Oedipa Maas, and one of the main characters in The Crying of Lot 49, in which Mucho is a DJ disgusted by his former incarnation as a used car salesman for a group called N.A.D.A., and becomes dependent on LSD.

p. 308 "Paranoids concert at the Fillmore"   CL49 fans will recall that Mucho's ex, Oedipa, was briefly hung up on Miles, lead singer of this pre-punk group.

p. 308 "absquatulation"    Absquatulate is a coined word, apparently meaning to make off, or decamp.

p. 309 "guest stash"    A special supply of smoke for visitors was not uncommon in the houses of serious weedheads at this time. However, since Zoyd can't find the guest stash at Mucho's house he has to roll his own. Bummer!

p. 310 "unforeseen passion"    A good description of Mucho's love for cocaine.

p. 310-311 "Dr. Hugo Splanchnick"    The entire Splanchnick sequence is immensely funny, including Pynchon's use of "snoot croaker" to describe the doc's specialty.

p. 311 "stop-me-search-me VW bus"    The epitome of Sixties California hippie culture, which (wonderful to say) continues to survive, everywhere, to this very day.

p. 311 "'Aw' said the dopers, the speech balloon emerging from their tailpipe"  All of a sudden, we're in 'toontown.

p. 312 "...me entiendes como te digo?" = Spanish for "Unnerstan' what I'm sayin'?"

p. 313-314 "I guess it's over..."    It seems likely that this is Pynchon delivering the "nut paragraph," as journalists call the central idea in a story. This dialogue seems heartfelt -- especially the stuff about the tube ("keep us distracted, it's what the Tube is for,") and rock 'n' roll ("just another way to claim our attention,") and "Soon they're gonna be coming after everything, not just drugs but beer, cigarettes, sugar, salt, fat, you name it, anything that could remotely please any of your senses...," and "It was the way people used to talk." Yes, it was.

p. 313 "Please go careful, Zoyd"    Mucho has made much the same settlement with the establishment that Hub Gates has: joined the approved union, settled down, stopped making a fuss.

p. 314 "Enjoy it while you can, while you're light enough for that glass to hold you."   Prairie on top of the Hip Trip pinball machine is a marvelous image capturing the fragility of the moment, the certainty of loss, age, death.

p. 314 "Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge represents a transition, in the metaphysics of the region"   Great intro to Zoyd in Vineland.

p. 320 "spool tenders, zooglers, water bucks and bull punchers"   Logging jobs.

p. 321 "Many would be the former tripping partners and old flames who came over the years to deal with each other this way across desktops or through computer terminals, as if chosen in secret and sorted into opposing teams...."   Some folks get on Welfare, and others administer it. Another incarnation of the binary/preterite metaphor.