Thomas Pynchon and Us
People read Thomas Pynchon because he's fun. That's why one reads any good novelist, of course, no matter how "literary" or "difficult." Melville is fun, Dickens is fun, Joyce is surely fun.
Pynchon, who we rate as one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century, is big fun. For one thing, like all great novelists, he reveals fascinating, underlying truths about the culture, society, and characters in his books -- and his keen intelligence lends weight to these insights. For another, the beauty and grace of Pynchon's writing is fun -- from his gorgeous turns of phrase and extended metaphors to the artfully complicated plots he loves to weave. Also, he's incredibly, shamelessly comical -- "goofy" might be an even better word -- building in terrible/wonderful puns, silly names, and broad slapstick at every possible turn. In addition, he includes an amusing array of elements from popular culture -- comics, horror movies, rock 'n' roll, TV. Finally, Pynchon is fun because he knows so much interesting stuff -- scientific, literary, historical -- and puts so much of it into his books. As a result, reading his novels can be every bit as challenging (and rewarding) as solving a difficult puzzle.
There's a down-side to this, of course. Like Joyce, Pynchon can be tough to get into. His plots tend toward the labyrinthine, his best gags often turn on obscure biochemical or mathematical references, and critical concepts in one book may have their origin (and explanation) in another. Even Vineland, his most accessible novel, has confounded many literate readers.
Given all that, it's surprising, perhaps, that Pynchon's books are as popular as they are. At the same time, we know there's a huge number of people who would love Pynchon if not for that "tough puzzle" aspect to his books.
So, for all those folks who want to read Vineland, but are uneasy about making their way in, we've put together a "starter" kit, a Captain Midnight Decoder Ring that will serve you as a resource, a reference, a map, and a handy-dandy Pynchon guru all in one.
Pynchon's literary output, though of very high quality, has not been prodigious. His first novel, V, came out in 1963. The Crying of Lot 49 was published in 1966, followed by Gravity's Rainbow in 1973, and Vineland in 1990. [Books published after 1990 are not listed here.] A collection of early short stories, Slow Learner, appeared in 1984. Over the years we've read these volumes repeatedly -- partly because rereading helped us understand them, but mainly because rereading Pynchon is more rewarding than reading most books for the first time. If we had to rate them, we would rank V and Gravity's Rainbow as his great works-to-date, with Vineland just a hair below. The Crying of Lot 49, for all its appeal, seems relatively minor.
Babies of Wackiness (our title comes from a TV show on page 159 in the hard-cover edition of Vineland) started as a series of trans-continental e-mail messages between two pals who love Pynchon, have read all his books many times, and were reading Vineland for the first time, at the same time. We wanted to share our delight in the cool parts, our amusement at the outrageous jokes, and our confusement over some of the obscure references and intricacies of the plot. As we exchanged questions and answers, we found ourselves getting deeper into the book than we'd expected. This process turned out to be so much fun that we kept at it -- and roped in some of our other friends to help. Before we knew it we had this book.
Since we're neither lit-crits nor academics, you'll find our tone informal; after all, we never really expected our notes to be read by anyone else. But our intention is more serious than the tone suggests. We hope you'll find the material useful. And we hope you'll read Babies of Wackiness with the same sense of adventure, and discovery, and excitement that we felt writing it.
Who, you might ask, are we? John Diebold is a seagoing geophysicist employed by the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University. Michael Goodwin is a writer of books and magazine articles on film, food, music, computers, and traditional American culture. He was an almost-founding-editor of Rolling Stone, Managing Editor of the Canadian film magazine Take One, Senior Editor of Francis Coppola's San Francisco-based City Magazine, and an Associate Editor of PC World. He is also an occasional screenwriter, software designer, and calypso record producer.
Also worth mentioning is that all three of us (Pynchon, Goodwin, Diebold) attended Cornell University. Pynchon graduated in 1959. Goodwin started in 1959, and Diebold made his appearance in 1960. A-and not only that, but Goodwin actually met Pynchon. Sort of. At some point (probably 1959 or '60), Goodwin found himself at a party at a beatnik fraternity called Watermargin. Pynchon (even then a well-known campus character, respected as much for his adventures with Cornell Folk Song Club president Richard Farina as for his writing abilities) was there too, standing across the room, talking with Farina. Goodwin has always regretted the shyness that kept him, a lowly freshman, from walking over and greeting the post-graduate celebrity.
We're very grateful to all the friends and associates who helped us with this book: Richard Hyatt (martial arts), Audie Bock (Japanese films), Charles Pickel (film stock, studio lights, firearms), Robert Lauriston (Sicilian slang), Bob Dickerson (sportscasters, monster flicks, Italian jokes), Judy Nihei, and especially Naomi Wise, whose close reading of the novel (and our manuscript) provided us with invaluable insights into theme, plot and character -- as well as solutions to countless textual puzzles. Additional material has been provided by a number of devoted Pynchonians who found their way to this text on the Internet and emailed us with invaluable contributions. Our thanks go out to Ben Riley, David Wisker, Anastasia Miller, David B. King, Jennifer Grodowsky, Major Dennis Bloodnok, Doug Henning, Christopher Cohn, Peter Bell, Dan McGovern, Joe Parchelo, Martin Meyer, Fred Sanford, Wesley G. Morgan Jr., Owen Kilfeather, Arlene C. Harris and Judith Ryan-- as well as several others whose names seem to be lost on the hard disk...
In some respects, Vineland is Thomas Pynchon's reinvention of Orwell's 1984: a novel about the triumph of totalitarianism. In 1949, when Orwell's novel first appeared, many Europeans and Americans considered the greatest threat to world freedom to lie in Soviet Communism. However, by the time 1984 actually rolled around, most of the details in Orwell's book had been outmoded by real events, giving the false impression that things had worked out OK after all. For instance, there was no Big Brother -- except, maybe, in the Soviet Union, where he wasn't much bother to most Americans. Vineland turns on the idea that while details may have changed, it's far too early to congratulate ourselves. Orwell's concerns about the erosion of individual liberty are still very pertinent, especially in America. Big Brother isn't dead, he's just hired a good public relations consultant.
Orwell's 1984 was about Communism; Pynchon's book looks at home-grown American totalitarianism: Nixon/Reaganism. Vineland is set in 1984 partly to make the Orwell connection, but also because that was one of the heaviest years of the CAMP anti-marijuana campaign in northern California: a small-scale version of Vietnam with helicopters and soldiers invading Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. Pynchon sees CAMP as a paradigm of how bad things have gotten, how far fascist forces have dragged us from the American ideal of personal liberty.
However, while Vineland's ostensible "present" is 1984, it ranges over most of the last century, concentrating particularly on the 25 or so years between 1960 and 1984. Its main focus is on the sixties, and one of Pynchon's primary purposes seems to be to raise some important "lost" questions, questions that have neither been asked nor answered by our politicians, or our cultural leaders: What happened during the sixties, and to the sixties? How did we get from the sixties to the nineties? What did we learn? What did we lose?
It's a well-known fact that the winners get to write the history books. Over the last 25 years, the history of the sixties has been rewritten and distorted by a series of ever-more conservative politicians and TV anchormen. (For that matter, the decade was grotesquely distorted by the media while it was happening!) Worst of all, as time passes and fewer people actually remember the sixties, this distorted picture becomes more and more difficult to challenge. Vineland is Pynchon's attempt to take back his/our history; we (in the person of Thomas Pynchon) must define the sixties, not the fascists represented in the person of Brock Vond, the book's sadistic villain. Vineland is about the power that inheres in memory.
Pynchon is not suggesting that we ought to reinstate the sixties; he is far too ambivalent about it to propose such a thing. The point is to understand its true nature, so we can use the good parts and learn from the mistakes. For all its broad comedy and free fantasy, Vineland is a serious attempt to reclaim this history from the Tube and its ideological sponsors: Vond, Nixon, Reagan, and the rest.
Considering that the kids of the sixties were the first generation to grow up with TV as a ubiquitous, inescapable fact of life, its baleful influence, its push toward personal passivity, and its glorification of the authoritarian government line, are all critical elements in helping to explain the grim slide from the free sixties to the fascist eighties. Pynchon's attitude toward TV is easy to figure out: He loves it, but at the same time he distrusts it deeply. The fact that he always capitalizes it ("the Tube") shows how seriously he takes it; and his cascade of TV references, jokes, and sub-plots make it clear that he considers it a key element in his story. (A reasonably reliable source reports that Pynchon is a tube-watching insomniac.)
Dr. Deeply's "Tubal Detox" clinic, the National Endowment for Video Education and Rehabilitation (NEVER), and Hector Zuniga's misadventures there, make it unmistakably clear that Pynchon thinks America's national addiction isn't to drugs at all, it's to the Tube. And he leaves no doubt that the authoritarian messages on the Tube are "official" propaganda. As Zoyd Wheeler (one of Vineland's main characters) and his pal Mucho Maas agree, the prime purpose of the Tube is to "keep us distracted, it's what the Tube is for." At the end of the book, one of the younger characters makes this theme explicit when he blames TV for gutting the idealism and energy of the sixties. "Minute the Tube got hold of you folks," he says, "that was it..."
Pynchon goes to great pains in Vineland to show us the frightening degree to which TV addiction has penetrated the culture, and to what an extent his characters have learned to define their lives in terms of the authoritarian messages that come flickering from the screen. Cop car sirens play the theme from Jeopardy, characters hum the music from The Flintstones, rock bands play tunes like "TV Crazy." Birds fly down from the trees to perch on windowsills so they can watch. A child, protesting a slur, complains "You think I'm one of those kids on Phil Donahue..." Instead of "killing" someone, two characters agree to "cancel his series."
The book's structure is cinematic, and extremely complex: its story unreels in a daunting set of jump cuts and nested flashbacks worthy of an underground movie by Stan Brakhage or Gregory Markopoulos. Typically, Pynchon begins a section of narrative with one character telling (or remembering) an incident, but before too long he's shifted point-of-view, jumped to another linked flashback (or flashforward), or rotated into pure fantasy. He seldom emerges from a flashback in the same place, at the same time, or with the same character with which he started. Nonetheless, Pynchon is such a masterful story-teller that the narrative thread is never lost; his fractured editing just adds to the fun.
The complexity of the narrative is intensified by Pynchon's frequent shifts from comedy to tragedy to fantasy and back. In addition, he intrudes frequently as a genial host-narrator with songs, silly names, and amazing puns--all of which fragment the story-telling even further. This technique seems Brechtian, but it's really cinematic: reminiscent of a Marx Brothers movie, or Hellzapoppin', or a Richard Lester comedy. It seems primarily designed to be entertaining rather than didactic: By breaking into the narrative, Pynchon lets us "enjoy our enjoyment," makes us aware of how exciting the story has become, before we plunge back into it. It's like waking from a sweet dream for just a moment, knowing we can close our eyes and pick up where we left off.
Late in the game, we learn that we may, in fact, have been watching a movie (with a Hollywood happy ending) all along; in fact this movie may even have been directed by another of the book's main character, filmmaker Frenesi Gates. Then again, it may not have, and we may not have. Many elements in the book, like this one, are deliberately left ambiguous.
Story, Theme, Motivation: An Ambiguous Groove
Vinelandconsists of two stories, lightly connected, both of which come together in a bogus happy ending. The main story revolves around Frenesi Gates, a young woman from a strong leftist background who first joins, and then betrays, "the movement." While there's lots of comedy in this tale, it is primarily quite serious and grim. The secondary story involves Frenesi's pal DL Chastain and her partner Takeshi Fumimoto; this satirical sub-plot (which may take up even more pages than the "main" plot) is a wildly comic adventure with elements taken from biker flicks, samurai martial arts thrillers, film noir, beach party movies, John Le Carre spy stories, cheap monster movies, and cyberpunk science fiction novels. It's a hoot.
Pynchon uses ambiguities and uncertainties quite purposefully (and successfully) to create his effects and set his groove, but one ambiguity is troublesome. The entire novel turns on Frenesi's betrayal of her comrades, her history, and herself--but the motivation behind this central event is never spelled out convincingly. The best Pynchon can do is ascribe it to Frenesi's lust for the sadistic FBI man Brock Vond--but given Frenesi's background this motive is hard to credit (aside from her "genetic" inclination for men in uniform, inherited apparently from her mother). On page 260 [of the hard-cover edition of Vineland; all page references in this book refer to that hard-cover edition], Frenesi says: "You know what happens when my pussy's runnin' the show..." If this is really her only motivation, it seems like a shaky foundation on which to build a book.
However, if you think of Frenesi as an allegory for America this makes a bit more sense. Frenesi is born of revolution (Sasha), but a revolution that was fought against its own attraction to authority (Sasha's sexual heat for men in uniforms, represented by all the "checks and balances" that got built into the American system). In this sense, Frenesi, who was born in 1946, can be seen as a personification of postwar America -- the America that gives in and votes for Nixon and Reagan, the America that lets itself get fucked. DL provides a clear alternative: Instead of falling in love with the symbol of authority, she becomes it: a floozy with an Uzi.
The Thanatoids: Like Death, Only Different
Another mystery, that of the Thanatoids, is a bit easier to figure. Pynchon muddies the water by giving us overlapping, contradictory data about these ghost-like characters. Literally, the term means "like death, only different," hence living-dead, or zombies. At other times Pynchon tells us that Thanatoids watch lots of TV, and try to advance further into the condition of death. Under this definition they could be Reaganites, couch potatoes, embittered hippies, or possibly the entire population of America.
Thanatoids are also "victims of karmic imbalances -- unanswered blows, unredeemed suffering..." So does this make the Thanatoids victims of the sixties? Another version of the preterites* in Gravity's Rainbow? Or simply over-determined ghosts? Thanatoids are injured by "what was done to them." This might make them Vietnam vets, or a larger set of America's victims. At one point Pynchon describes them as a "lost tribe with a failed cause," which makes us think of the Herreros and the gauchos in Gravity's Rainbow. And as the book is drawing to a close, Pynchon says, "What was a Thanatoid, at the end of the long dread day, but memory?"
[*The term "preterite," is a Calvinist theological reference meaning "those passed over by God, or those not elected to salvation or eternal life." Thus, a preterite is anyone living life with no promise of redemption -- the true condition of everyone who faces life honestly. Pynchon's compassion for these universal losers is central to his work.
The term does not appear in Vineland, but the concept does -- and in any case, Pynchon uses it loosely. Since he's not really a Calvinist (nor, we suspect, a Believer in any conventional way), he often uses the concept to describe those without power. Vond, who has power, is elected. Zoyd, who doesn't really have power, is preterite -- as are the Thanatoids. DL and Takeshi, who have at least some power, are somewhere in between.
On an even simpler level, Pynchon believes in Good (Preterite) Things and Bad (Elect) Things. Good Things include musicians, Hohner F harps, ukuleles, hip forties slang, zoot suits, dope, etc. (This clearly makes Zoyd, DL, and Takeshi Good/Preterite.) Bad Things includes power, the elite, Reagan politics, etc. (Vond is clearly Bad/Elect.) What makes tragedy and suspense is that there are things (and particularly people) that are both, or in between, or of unknown quality. Frenesi has both good and bad qualities; Zuniga does too.]
We think the Thanatoids are not meant to be taken as "real" characters at all, but as a literary representation (all right, make that "symbol," goddammit) of the failed dreams of living people (or societies). Also great disappointments, missed opportunities, Unfinished Business, and/or awful unredeemed mistakes. These particular Thanatoids exist because the history of the sixties has been stolen, and falsified. Reclaiming that history may let them rest (or even party) at last.
Happy Ending: Just Like In the Movies
It's extremely odd that Pynchon, one of the finest writers of the 20th Century, should have a problem with endings -- but that's the fact, Jack. His best ending, the stupendously cinematic blackout in V *, is undercut by 36 pages of slow, intricate Epilogue that follow. The Crying of Lot 49 ends with a drawn-out reverie in which Pynchon seems to have finally discerned what the book is about -- communication -- but now it's time to pay the piper, finish quickly, and abandon the infant novel crying in its basket on the publisher's doorstep. And while the ending in Gravity's Rainbow is structurally "correct" (the plot and all the characters atomize as the V-2 explodes at the end of its parabola), it's maddeningly unsatisfying since the book ends without a resolution.
[*"Presently, sudden and in silence, all illumination in Valletta, houselight and streetlight, was extinguished. Profane and Brenda continued to run through the abruptly absolute night, momentum alone carrying them toward the edge of Malta, and the Mediterranean beyond."]
Given this grim history of bitter ends, it should come as no surprise that there is a problem with the ending of Vineland. Vond is conveniently "faded out" (via a budget cut) in Chapter 15 to enable the Happy Ending. But if the novel represents the real world (as we must assume it does, or it would be no more than a pointless divertissement), what "real" event occurred in 1984 to justify Vond's withdrawal and defeat in the book? None, we think. Did Vond (and the threat he represents -- a repressive and totalitarian government) fade out in 1984? Hardly. The heaviest Federal/CAMP attack ever on Humboldt County marijuana growers occurred in August, 1990. Since Vond has clearly not faded away in real life, it's a cheat that he does so in the novel.
One of the most obvious (and charming) of Pynchon's stylistic trademarks is his frequent use of musical references; in fact, he seems to have a musician's viewpoint. Musicians (particularly jazz musicians), are hip, hep, preterite, and -- above all else -- cool. The jazzman on the bandstand observes the scene on the floor, but remains uninvolved, and often unobserved himself, though of course his rhythm and melodies are making the dancing happen -- a bit like Pynchon's role in his novels. But if jazzbos (and Pynchon) are preterites, they're preterites who recognize and accept their unredeemability -- which frees them to create, for only we are listening.
Song lyrics have appeared in Pynchon's work from the very beginning -- other people's songs at first, but, increasingly, his own too. There's a revealing observation in one of Pynchon's earliest stories:
"...[Dennis Flange] would sing Cindy the Noel Coward song, half as an attempt to recall the first few months they were together, half as a love song for the house:
'We'll be as happy and contented
As birds upon a tree,
High above the mountains and sea...
However Noel Coward songs often bear little relevance to reality--..."
By the time V appeared, Pynchon's penchant for song as a literary device was apparent; scarcely a chapter can be found without at least one set of Pynchonian lyrics, and some "real" songs appear as well. This continued with The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow, and Vineland.
Some of the early songs come with helpful hints for guessing the tunes. For instance, most of page 203 of the Ballantine paperback version of V is devoted to the 1956 phenom of Davy Crockett, going on to declare that "the [Davy Crockett TV/Movie theme song] invited parody." Whereupon Pynchon gives it to us with both barrels: nine verses of The Ballad of Rooney Winsome. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly difficult to assign tunes to Pynchon's more recent lyrics. Given all the hints that Pynchon is, in fact, a musician, it's only reasonable to assume that most of these songs are set to original melodies -- but until Little, Brown comes out with The Authorized Thomas Pynchon Songbook, we're on our own.
In 1970, a folk-rock band called The Insect Trust (one of whose members, Robert Palmer, would go on to fame and fortune as a music critic for The New York Times) issued an LP called Hoboken Saturday Night. It included a version of one of Pynchon's loveliest lyrics from V, "The Eyes of a New York Woman." An appropriately bluesy tune was provided by one Jeff Ogden -- not a member of the band. Surprisingly, Pynchon was displeased with Insect Trust's initiative. A lawyer representing the writer contacted the band and told them Pynchon wanted the LP withdrawn. After some negotiation, the band agreed to stop performing the song live, and Pynchon withdrew his threat of legal action. As far as we know, this is the only time a Pynchon song has been performed and/or recorded.
Pynchon's songs in Vineland are arguably his best. If only we knew the tunes!
Songs In Vineland
Little Grass Skirt ( 63)
Wacky Coconuts (66)
Floozy With an Uzi (104)
Just Like a William Powell (162)
Kick Out the Jambs (191)
Thanatoid World (224)
Another Cheap Romance (281)
Lawrence of Arabia (309)
Daughters of the Road (331)
The Tube (336-337)
Es Posible (356)
Like a Meat Loaf (363)
Movies in Vineland
Film and filmmaking was a major theme in Gravity's Rainbow -- and clearly, Pynchon's interest in the cinema has not flagged. There are more explicit film references in Vineland than in any previous Pynchon novel. This tends to underscore the possibility that the novel is, in fact, itself a movie. Some of the films are imaginary "movies for TV" -- usually in the form of The Something-or-Other Story with Somebody-or-Other. Real movies are invariably followed by a bracketed date -- probably a satirical takeoff on academic film criticism.
Return of the Jedi  (7)
The Clara Bow Story -- with Pia Zadora (14)
Friday the 13th  (16)
Gidget  (17)
The Frank Gorshin Story -- with Pat Sajak (48)
Hawaii  (62)
The Hawaiians  (62)
Gidget Goes Hawaiian  (62)
Godzilla, King of the Monsters  (65)
Mondo Cane  (96)
Flight of the Phoenix  (96)
2001: A Space Odyssey  (178, 294)
Psycho  (187)
Ghostbusters  (190)
20,000 Years in Sing Sing  (294)
Young Kissinger -- with Woody Allen (309)
The G. Gordon Liddy Story -- with Sean Connery (339)
The Bryant Gumbel Story -- with John Ritter (355)
The Robert Musil Story -- with Peewee Herman (370)
Magnificent Disaster-- an imaginary basketball movie for TV, with Sidney Poitier as K.C. Jones, Sean Penn as Larry Bird, Paul McCartney as Kevin McHale, Lou Gossett, Jr., as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Douglas as Pat Riley, and Jack Nicholson (notorious round ball fan) as himself. (371, 377)
One of the greatest pleasures in reading Pynchon is his genius for creating outrageous/clever/amusing names for characters and places. Vineland finds him in impeccable form:
Zoyd Herbert Wheeler (3)
Prairie Wheeler (3)
Cucumber Lounge, a bar (3)
Log Jam, a bar (3)
More is Less, a discount store for larger-size women (4)
Breez-Thru gas station (4)
Van Meter (8)
The Blind Side Gazette, a newsletter devoted to bickering (9)
Ralph Wayvone (10)
Isaiah Two Four (16)
Septic Tank, a band (18)
Fascist Toejam, a band (18)
Billy Barf & the Vomitones, a band (20)
Gordita Beach, a California town (22)
Melrose Fife, a fat policeman (23)
Scott Oof (23)
Frenesi Margaret Gates (27)
Dr. Dennis Deeply (33)
N.E.V.E.R., National Endowment for Video Education and Rehabilitation (33)
Vineland Palace, a hotel (33)
Phantom Creek (35)
Vineland Lobster, a euphemism for crawfish (35)
Morning, one of RC & Moonpie's kids (35)
Lost Nugget, a longhair saloon in Vineland (36)
Bud Warriors, a beer rider gang (37)
Lotus, another of RC & Moonpie's kids (40)
Steam Donkey, a Vineland bar (41)
Redwood Bayou, a restaurant (42)
Le Bucheron Affame, a restaurant (42)
Humbolaya, a California Cajun restaurant (43)
Ti Bruce, chef at Humbolaya (43)
Old Thumb peninsula (43)
Rick & Chick's Born Again, an auto conversion shop (43)
Eusebio ("Vato") Gomez (44)
Cleveland ("Blood") Bonnifoy (44)
El Mil Amores, Vato and Blood's tow truck (44)
Bodhi Dharma Pizza Temple, a restaurant (45)
Millard Hobbs (AKA The Marquis de Sod), a landscaper (46)
Blodwen Hobbs (47)
Seventh River (49)
Ernie Triggerman (51)
Baba Havabananda, night-manager of the Bodhi Dharma Pizza Temple (52)
Arctic Circle Drivein (54) [apparently a real chain of real drive-ins in Oregon, with franchises in Corvallis and Albany during the 1970s.]
Kahuna Airlines (56)
Dark Ocean Hotel (57)
The Cosmic Pineapple, an acid-rock club in Honolulu (58)
Flash Fletcher (68)
Crocker ("Bud") Scantling, anti-unionist (75)
Eula Becker (76)
Anson Weeks (78)
Eddie Enrico & his Hong Kong Hotshots, a band (78)
Ramon Raquello, bandleader (78)
Shondra Wayvone (93)
Gelsomina Wayvone (93)
Gino Baglione and the Paisans, a band (94)
Lugares Altos, an exclusive, walled community (95)
Two-Ton Carmine Torpidini, a Mafia heavy (95)
Meathook, the Vomitones' bass player (98)
187, the Vomitones' horn player (98)
Bad, the Vomitones' synth. player (98)
Aggro World, a magazine (107)
Las Hermanas de los Pepinares, a Jesuit order (107)
Tetas y Chetas M.C., a Chicano bike gang (116)
Moody Chastain (118)
Norleen Chastain (120)
The Lucky Sea Urchin, a water-trade joint (123)
The Enraged Sparrow, a secret Ninja strategy (126)
The Hidden Foot, another secret Ninja strategy (126)
The Nosepicking of Death, yet another secret Ninja strategy (126)
Drain, Oregon, a town (132) [a real town, actually -- about half an hour's drive south of Eugene]
Lobelia, a transvestite white-slave (135)
Chipco, a shadowy world conglomerate (142)
Professor Wawazume (142)
Wawazume Life & Non-Life, an insurance company (142)
Yat Fat, a building (143)
Yak Doc, a workshop (148)
Roscoe, Brock Vond's factotum and partner (148)
Puncutron, a machine (149)
Evoex, a new tranquilizer (158)
Michiko Yomama, Takeshi's ex (159)
Babies of Wackiness, a TV series (159)
Nukey, a computer game that includes elements of sex and detonation (160)
The Ordeal of a Thousand Broadway Show Tunes, a Ninjette sanction (167)
Your Mama Eats, a restaurant (167)
Galaxy of Ribs, a dish (167)
Brisket Fantasy (ditto)
Cheapsat, an economy communications satellite (169)
Ortho Bob Dulang, a Thanatoid (170)
Zero Inn, a Thanatoid hangout (172)
Mi Vida Loca, Vato & Blood's Custom Deluxe tow truck (177)
Taco Carajo, a Mexican restaurant (182)
Gorman (The Specter) Flaff, a Vietnam War speculator (182)
Once Upon a Chitlin, an upscale soul-food restaurant (183)
Weed Atman, a math professor turned revolutionary (188)
Mrs. Lo Finto, an Italian mother (190)
Zero Profile Paint and Body, an auto alchemy shop (192)
Ditzah Pisk Feldman, a radical film editor (194)
Zipi Pisk, Ditzah's sister (196)
Mirage, an astrologer and 24 fps member (197)
Death to the Pig Nihilist Film Kollective (197)
Krishna, a 24fps sound person (197)
Sledge Poteet, a black radical filmmaker (196)
College of the Surf (203)
Rex Snuvvle, a graduate student (207)
All Damned Heat Off Campus (ADHOC), a committee (208)
The People's Republic of Rock and Roll (PR3) (209)
Jinx, Weed's wife (211)
The Blackstream Hotel, a Thanatoid hangout (219)
Holytail, the last refuge for pot growers in northern California (220)
Willis Chunko, Vineland County sheriff (220)
Karl "Kommandant" Bopp, an ex-Nazi (221)
Piggy's Tavern and Restaurant, a grower's hangout in Holytail (221)
Dr. Larry Elasmo, a dentist (225)
Chickeeta, his assistant (225)
BAAD (Black Afro-American Division), revolutionary Brothers (230)
UHURU (Ultra High-speed Urban Reconnaissance Unit, AKA Bruno) (231)
Virgil "Sparky" Ploce, a comical anti-communist (251)
Quilbasazos, a Mexican fishing village (257)
Indolent Records (283)
Leonard, a midwife (285)
Dmitri and Ace, Hub Gates' spotlight crew (287)
Knucklehead Jack's, a biker bar down the street from a federal facility (300)
Wendell "Mucho" Maas, a record producer (307)
Trillium, Mucho's (forever eighteen) friend (308)
Count Drugula, Mucho the Munificent's former alter ego (309)
Dr. Hugo Splanchnick, a snoot croaker (310)
Intemperate Hill (318)
The Fast Lane Lounge, a Vineland bar (318)
Vegetable Road, on the way to Zoyd's place (319)
Tokkata & Fuji, a Japanese trading company (325)
Bubble Indemnity, a store in the Noir Center (326)
The Lounge Good Buy, ditto
The Mall Tease Flacon, ditto
The Lady 'n' the Lox, ditto
Sid Liftoff, a movie producer (337)
Roy Ibble (338)
Chuck's Superslab of Love Motor Inn and Casino (343)
The Harleyite Order, transvestite, bike riding nuns (358)
Sister Vince, said order's theologian (359)
Elmhurst, Zoyd's lawyer (359)
Tex Weiner, Sasha's current romantic interest (and what size is his whatsis?) (361)
Holocaust Pixels, a Thanatoid band (363)