CHAPTER 9

Long damn chapter! DL starts out telling Prairie how she met Takeshi, initiating a very complicated flashback. It seems that Wayvone and the Mafia try to hire her to put the deadly, delayed-action Vibrating Palm ninja move on Vond (who is threatening their drug dealing), but despite her hatred of Vond for seducing and subverting Frenesi, DL is afraid of getting involved with the Mafia. She flees to Columbus, Ohio, where she tries to hide in the Clark Kent guise of a mild-mannered file clerk. But the mafiosi find her, kidnap her, hijack her to Tokyo, and sell her into white slavery. Her buyer turns out to be Wayvone, who first fucks her and then sets her up as a whore in a whorehouse. Vond is coming to Tokyo; Wayvone will arrange for him to be sent to the whorehouse, and to be directed to DL, at which point DL will zap him with the Vibrating Palm. (To make extra sure that Vond goes for DL, she will be made over to look like Frenesi, Vond's "type.")

Meanwhile insurance adjuster Takeshi is looking into a disaster: an experimental laboratory has been demolished, apparently by being stepped on by a Godzilla-like monster. Takeshi meets his old colleague Minoru, they return together to Tokyo, and in a bar they reminisce about a mysterious adventure they shared in Tibet. Afterward, at the Tokyo Hilton, Takeshi is grabbed by Vond, who suspects a trap and needs a decoy. Vond sends Takeshi to the whorehouse with his (Vond's) ID.

In a brief flashforward, Takeshi arrives at the SKA retreat in the present -- i.e., as DL continues her account to Prairie of how she met Takeshi in the first place. Then the flashback resumes.

DL is wearing fuzzy blue contact lenses as part of her Frenesi-disguise, and hence fails to spot the substitution. She makes love to Takeshi, thinking he's Vond, and lays the Vibrating Palm on him. Then, realizing her mistake, she flees back to the SKA retreat. Takeshi (tipped to her location by a slightly-apologetic Mafia guy) follows her there in the hope she can undo the VP. To introduce himself to the Ninjettes he sings a silly song, "Just Like a William Powell." He seems at least as interested in getting back into DL's pants as getting cured. The Ninjettes put Takeshi on the Puncutron machine, which seems to effect a temporary cure, and send him back out into the world with DL as his partner for a year and a day. There's a no-sex clause. DL and Takeshi fuss and fight, but in classic screwball comedy fashion (just like William Powell) they begin to fall in love.

From a tough diner-type eating joint, Takeshi calls Tokyo to check up on the progress of the "monster-stomp" investigation. He finds out that "someone" from Japan is after him as some weird fallout of the investigation. Conveniently, he and DL meet Ortho Bob Dulang, a Thanatoid who lives in a town called Shade Creek, near Vineland. Takeshi and DL decide to hide out there for a while until the Godzilla Squad loses interest in Takeshi.

In Shade Creek Takeshi sets up in business as a karmic (as opposed to insurance) adjuster. He and DL become friends with Vato and Blood; a flashback describes the foursome's first meeting. A year passes, and DL and Takeshi agree to extend their one-year partnership. A short flashback to Blood and Vato in 'Nam, making up their own version of the Chip 'n' Dale song. Flashforward to meet Thi Anh Tran, Blood and Vato's live-in accountant. [Coincidentally or not, Thi Anh Tran's initials, TAT, happen to be the acronym for the Thematic Aperception Test, which has been used for many years as part of the basic psych evaluation battery: You make up stories about simple pictures, revealing all unknowingly.] A flashback describes how B&V met Thi Anh Tran in the first place. Flashforward to present: Blood and Vato answer an emergency tow call from Shade Creek. There's a short aside on the Woge, Yurok Indian creatures.

Blood and Vato find a Toyota in a treetop. The driver turns out to be Weed Atman, an old friend of DL's who (according to Blood) was "gunned down" ten years earlier at Trasero College of the Surf. He's come looking for the karmic adjuster. B&V bring him to DL and Takeshi. Vato reveals an important piece of info: apparently, Weed was "set up" by Frenesi.

Flashforward to where Prairie is listening to DL and Takeshi tell this tale. Prairie is upset that her mom would have killed a guy. DL reminds her that Frenesi was working for Vond.

Prairie takes a break for some comedy in the kitchen with fluorescent Variety Loaf. Suddenly the SKA retreat is under attack, presumably by Vond. Takeshi, DL and Prairie make their get-away in DL's trick Trans-Am.

 

p. 130 "Fresson process studio photograph"    Photographic printing process that uses coal to produce paper prints with a unique luminosity and grain. Fresson printing produces an image that is characteristically diffused and subtle, reminiscent of the "pointillism" of Impressionist painting. The image is extremely stable; Fresson printing is considered the most archival of any color procedure in use today.

p. 131 "If you want real ninja product..."   The whole sequence about hiring an assassin is pure cyberpunk schtick.

p. 131 "The Vibrating Palm"    This may be a subtle reference to the old joke-store "buzzer" or "shocker" -- and resonates nicely with the rubber scampi on the previous page.

p. 131 "YakMaf" = Yakuza/Mafia.

p. 133 "legendary in the dopers' community"   Why is the gas station toilet legendary? And why would DL care anyway? All she needs to do is change into her disguise.

p. 133 "baby-blue shadows..."    Nice description -- and a precursor to the color of Frenesi's eyes.

P. 134 "beige hose, white underwear..."    Pynchon's description of DL's Clark Kent outfits is surprisingly accurate, especially for a male. It's like giving the O-O (see note, p. 79) to a nice Midwestern girl, circa 1960.

p. 135 "She wasn't sure right away that being sold into white slavery would turn out to be at all beneficial as a career step..."    The kidnap-and-auction sequence is good, fast-moving storytelling: breathless, tense, gripping, light on flashy effects. This is also familiar cyberpunk territory, especially the interview with Wayvone.

p. 136 "older gentlemen with fingertip deficiencies..."   Yakuza who have screwed up, and demonstrated their remorse by cutting off a fingertip.

p. 139 "Ufa, mi tratt' a pesci in faccia..."   Literally, "Oof, you've thrown a fish in my face!" It's an ominous Sicilian warning meaning, "You've insulted me most unpleasantly, treated me in the worst possible way!"

p. 141 "I knew it!"    Prairie breaking into the seamless narrative is almost a Brechtian alienation effect. By now the story is moving so strongly that we've totally forgotten the "as-told-to" frame.

p. 141 "How could [Frenesi] have ever gone near somebody like this Brock guy?"   Good question. Pynchon never really answers it -- unless we accept the idea of Frenesi embodying America's fatal fascination with authority.

p. 141 "what-is-reality exercises"    Reminiscent of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick.

p. 141 "Ninja Death Touch calculator"    This joke strikes another false note. The entire sub-plot revolving around the Vibrating Palm is broad comedy, of course, but this smart-ass gag is severely out-of-scale.

p. 142 "might as well stay home -- watch a Run Run Shaw movie!"   Hong-Kong-based Run-Run Shaw produced the popular (and violent) Bruce Lee karate flicks, also lots of action-packed swords and sorcery adventures (like the ones that clearly inspired a lot of the DL and Takeshi sub-plot).

p. 142 "yellow headlamps of the tech squads..."   The scene in the Footprint is reminiscent of the monolith excavation on the moon in 2001. Also, most of the Japanese dialogue is phrased in Pynchon's unique, sounds-just-like-a-movie style.

p. 142 "...the shadowy world conglomerate Chipco..."   This imaginary entity (an echo, perhaps of the sinister YoYoDyne Corporation in The Crying of Lot 49) is presumably some Intel-like company whose microprocessor chips are sold world wide. No doubt the chips are designed to keep a covert watch on everything, and report back to Chipco -- similar to Byron the Bulb and his fellow gridmates in Gravity's Rainbow.

p. 142 "gigantic animal footprint"    Godzilla's size is pretty well known, and this (as we shall see) sauroid footprint is too large to be that of the big G. However, Godzilla is a product of Japanese movie model technology of the fifties, so who knows what the eighties might bring?

p. 142 "Wawazume Life & Non-Life"    Is this a joke? And what kind? Maybe they insure things other than lives. Maybe Thanatoids get "non-life" insurance. Or it could just be a satirically "tactful" Japanese way of referring to death.

p. 143 "By the time...gods of the sky."    Note that this immensely long and complicated sentence takes up more than half the page!

p. 145 "Singapore Sling"    A frivolous cocktail with a pleasant flavor and a lethal punch: the signature drink of the bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, a British colony taken by the Japanese in WWII. Conceivably, Minoru might have been stationed there, and picked up a liking for this tourist syrup.

p. 146 "Chuck, the world's most invisible robot"   Like the fastest draw in the West. Want to see it again?

p. 146 "some planet-wide struggle had been going on for years"   More Pynchonian paranoia.

p. 146 "the Himalayan caper"    Story is written in mock Le Carre shorthand. Here (as elsewhere) Pynchon penetrates to the essence of a genre and gives us a few masterly strokes that evoke the same effect as an entire novel by a lesser writer.

p. 146 "Semtex"  For many years, Semtex has been the plastic explosive of choice for sophisticated aircraft bombers and other terrorists.

p. 146 "pirate ships of the stratosphere"    Presumably, they mount attacks like the one on the Kahuna flight.

p. 147 "We called you -- the Kid."   As in, "I never did the Kenosha Kid?" (See Gravity's Rainbow, p. 60.)

p. 147 "disco music coming out the club doors"   Cyberpunk atmosphere.

p. 148 "The Yak Doc Workshop"    This may be a riff on Doc Yak, a comic book character.

p. 148 "Takeshi...saw Vond...and thought...it was himself..."   Vond and Takeshi look alike. Does this, as they say, signify? Takeshi as anti-Vond? It's hard to imagine a dark Japanese and a light Caucasian looking alike, but anyway, there's one for each of the tomatoes: an adjuster (insurance or karma, ma'am?) for DL, and a badass for Frenesi.

p. 149 "gaijin" = Japanese for foreigner, stranger, outsider.

p. 149 "Found a cab"    Once again Prairie startles us by breaking into the gripping flashback narrative, but this time the present-tense Takeshi breaks in with her, having just arrived at the SKA retreat. Very cinematic. Takeshi moves instantaneously from past to present, a double-exposure match-dissolve effect.

p. 149 "Moe!"   The first of several references to The Three Stooges, a nothing-if-not-preterite comedy trio specializing in crude, cruel slapstick.

p. 150 "fingering its smooth rigid contours"   The mock-porno is cute.

p. 151 "I couldn't see shit."    DL mistakes Takeshi for Vond because of her fuzzy contact lenses. This mistaken-identity riff is worthy of Shakespeare at his most far-fetched and funny.

p. 151 "Eeoo!"    Flash! Pynchon's ear fails! This just isn't as close to the Valspeak expression of disgust as we expect from our boy. The transliteration needs a little more "u" or something.

p. 153 "Fuckin' Vond. He's the Roadrunner."   Yes, he is.

p. 154 "Licensed DOM's" = Doctor of Medicine?

p. 155 "Ninjette Coffee Mess"    Navspeak. In the military, particularly the Navy, coffee mess is a little area where the coffee maker, cups, etc. are kept.

p. 156 "dorai kuriiningu" = "dry cleaner" More Jive Japlish.

p. 156 "perchloroethylene"   A highly toxic chemical often used for cleaning movie film.

p. 157 "Not a bar, Fumimota-san."    Silly joke, nicely placed.

p. 158 "Evoex"   The etymology of this new tranquilizer is clearly from the bacchanalian ejaculation (and crossword puzzle word) "evoe!"

p. 159 "Michiko Yomama"    A nasty pun, based on the black insult, "Yo' mama!" Let your guard down for a second, and the guy slips in one of these every time.

p. 160 "Nukey"    Orgasm and atomic detonation meet in one of Pynchon's most awful/wonderful puns (nuke = nookey).

p. 161 "technically dead"    Since Takeshi lives without fear, this makes him a perfect samurai, and echoes the idea on p. 29 about how a samurai is always prepared to die.

p. 162 Song: Just Like a William Powell.    Echoes "Like a Meat Loaf" (p. 363), and, of course, Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues."

p. 163 "Which reminds me, about your PX bill..."   If you had any doubts about the samurai/ninjette subplot being for laughs, this page should convince you.

p. 164 "Puncutron"    An imaginary therapeutic device whose name suggests an infernal combination of eastern medicine (acupuncture) and high-energy western technology (cyclotron). There's a bit of "punk" in there, too.

p. 164 "Detractors included...managed to keep."   A silly sentence, written in painful mock-German syntax for no discernible reason. Or...it might be a riff on the famous quote from Winston Churchill. Reportedly, Churchill received a memo from a civil servant complaining about his ending sentences in official documents with prepositions and/or dangling participles. Churchill returned the memo, and red penciled in the margin: "This is the sort of pedantry up with which I will not put." Either way, there still seems to be no discernible reason for Pynchon's strained syntax except as a playful goof.

p. 164-165 "Taiwanese Healthy Brain Aerobics"   More foolishness, this time mixed with music. The selection of tapes for Puncutron listening includes The All-Regimental Bagpipes play Prime Time Favorites (the Tube again!), and perhaps Pynchon's best judgmental title: The Chipmunks Sing Marvin Hamlisch.

p. 166 "...men convinced us that we were the natural administrators of this thing 'morality'..."   Sister Rochelle's feminist Eden parable suggests an interesting modern scenario: Frenesi = Eve, DL = Lilith, Vond = Serpent. This would help explain Frenesi/America's irresistible attraction for the authoritarian Vond.

p. 167 "The Ordeal of the Thousand Broadway Show Tunes"   Transcendental malarkey.

p. 167 "YOUR MAMA EATS, how can we resist?"   Aggro dining.

p. 169 "Cheapsat"    Preterite communications personified.

p. 170 "Like Death, Only Different."    While this is a nice definition of the "oid" suffix, it begs the question of exactly what Thanatoid's are.

p. 170 "But we watch a lot of Tube"    Thanatoids watch lots of TV, trying to advance further into the condition of death. This makes them Reaganite kids? Couch potatoes? Embittered hippies? Everyone in America? Anyway, advancing further into the condition of death is only a restatement of the law of entropy, which may mean that everyone in the universe is a Thanatoid.

p. 171 As Takeshi reaches for pie, he's "checking the edges of the frame."   Does this mean he's in a film? Or is Pynchon just grabbing a handy cinema term?

p. 171 Takeshi tries to "go the opposite way! Back to life!"   This anti-entropic movement makes him a great hero, a symbol of intelligence (the only truly anti-entropic entity), the life force.

p. 172 "Shade" (as in Shade Creek) = ghost.

p. 172 "thick fluids in flexible containers" = scumbags.

p. 172 "The Woodbine Motel"    Harks back, perchance, to the 1870's, the Union Pacific railroad scandal, and the Credit Mobilier. When one party was asked, under oath, where the money was, he replied that it had "gone where the woodbine twineth."

p. 172 "The Zero Inn"    Very thanatoid, preterite and Zoyd-like. Also another zero.

p. 173 Thanatoids are "victims of karmic imbalances -- unanswered blows, unredeemed suffering..."   So are the Thanatoids victims of the Seventies? Or another version of the preterites in Gravity's Rainbow? Maybe they're just over-determined ghosts of some sort. This description is similar to the kind of thing that psychics talk about when they're trying to make your poltergeists go away; it's the unresolved baggage that keeps the ghosties on the move, and out of wherever they belong. Remember, too, that Shade Creek is "a psychic jumping-off town" where the Thanatoids wait "for the data necessary to pursue their needs and aims (i.e., ghostlike revenge) among the still living..." (p. 171)

p. 173 "Although the streets were irregular and steeply pitched..."   The description is an attempt to capture the effect of an Escher drawing--or perhaps the expressionist sets in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari [1920].

p. 174 Thanatoids are injured by "what was done to them."   Here they seem like left-over hippies, Vietnam vets, America's victims. Preterites who want revenge.

p. 175 "Karmic adjustment"    Well, yes, it's a nice progression from insurance adjustment, but what does Takeshi actually do? Prairie is still wondering on page 192, and DL never lets on. In any case, it looks like these Thanatoids are dead California yuppies; a resource to be exploited by preterite tradesmen.

p. 175 "interesting work with airplanes"    So, during World War II Takeshi was a kamikaze -- hence the same Takeshi who's in Gravity's Rainbow! (See Viking edition, page 690) This brings up an interesting, though peripheral issue: As a Kamikaze, Takeshi flew a Zero. A-and there's a reference on page 672 (of GR) to "Zeros bearing comrades away," reminding us of those human lives as binary code in God's PC. As we've noted, there are lots of other "zero" reverences (that's a pun, not a typo) in Vineland.

p. 176 "Domo komarimashita!" = Japanese for "Thanks a lot!" or "You're welcome."

p. 178 "Interpersonal Programming and the Problem Towee"   Pynchon definitely has an attitude on this kind of California stuff. He also seems to have a grudge against Mercedes drivers.

p. 178 "Sounds like the team I bet on last week."   Vato gets to make the bad pun this time. This is a great montage of the growing relationship between Vato, Blood, Takeshi, and DL.

p. 179 "Vato wanted it to be a sitcom."    Another example of how deeply TV has invaded our thoughts.

p. 180 "I'm Chip! I'm Dale!"    A sly comparison of chipmunks: Disney's cartoonic Chip 'n Dale Vs. Bagdasarian's sonic Alvin, Simon, and Theodore.

p. 186 "octogenarihexation" = 86'd = tossed out.

p. 186 "Yuroks"  The native American Yurok tribe lives along the lower 36 miles of the Klamath River, and along the California coast from Wilson Creek to Trinidad Bay. This may provide a clue to the location of Vineland County. Being Indians, the Yuroks are, naturally, preterite in the Pynchon universe. The woge (note lower case) seem to be Yurok thanatoids, therefore ultra-preterite.

p. 187 "Bernard Herrmann"    The famous film composer, whose credits include, among many other great picture soundtracks, Hitchcock's Psycho [1960].

p. 187 "A Toyota in the treetops"    Is this a tip of the hat to the boat in the tree in Marquez's famous novel of magic realism, One Hundred Years of Solitude?

p. 188 "...vanish unaccountably between Shade Creek and the V & B pound, as Thanatoid units...had been known to do..."    Vanishing Thanatoid cars may push the envelope of fantasy a bit too far. And yet, and yet... They wind up in the tops of trees, you see. It's kind of like 'toon cars: 'toons can drive real cars, real people can drive 'toon cars. Plus, it sets up (much later) the disappearance of Vond's ride in Chapter 15.

p. 188 "Sate..."   A totally abrupt scene-change to Takeshi's, a literary jump cut.

p. 188 "Weed Atman"    Another great name. Weed = marijuana. Also perhaps, an echo of Steven Weed, abandoned boyfriend of heiress Patty Hearst, which raises a very faint reverberation of Frenesi as Patty-in-reverse. Atman = Hindu for breath, the principle of life, the World Soul.

p. 188 "Prairie was hearing this, in her turn, from DL..."   Prairie breaks into the narrative, bouncing us unexpectedly back to the present. These abrupt break-ins by Prairie are fun.

p. 189 "Variety Loaves...not, as once supposed, safely dead but no, only, queerly, sleeping..."    Thanatoid lunch meat!

p. 190 "Me gotta go"    A line from Richard Berry's "Louie Louie."

p. 191 "FFAR" = Folding Fin Aircraft Rocket Launcher, a rather nasty device attached to Apache helicopters around about the time Pynchon was writing Vineland.

p. 191 "Kick Out the Jambs"    If this is a reference to the MC5 tune, Pynchon (or his editor) should have known that the correct spelling is "Jams."