The Search for Redlich -
Feeling like it might still be the day before tomorrow, I wandered in a pleasant haze through Leidseplein Platz looking for the perfect all-beef Chicago hot dog with spicy brown mustard and freshly cut onions. It took another 2 hours of walking in circles, hard to do in a public square, but completely rational behavior for one still blown away by the quality of the Hawaiian Chronic.
My mouth tasted like a combination of water bong resin, bananas and yeast infection discharge for some reason, but for the life of me I couldn't remember how I would know that. My mind raced back to memories of a former girlfriend experience and I suddenly did remember why. The dry heaves continued for the next three minutes.
Though my head was clearing, the hunger pangs were not. The thought of food, almost any food, but especially that hot dog, was becoming a basic, bottom rung on the Maslow triangle sort of need. I had to find something to cure the munchies.
Reaching into my pockets for loose change or paper currency, I found scraps of paper instead, with notes written all across both front and back. The fog was lifting and I suddenly remembered my recent visit to the Spoof Club, otherwise known as the Skoob & Thistle in Amsterdam. The notes were mostly story ideas taken at the S&T, but a few were barely legible, clearly written after our table top session at the S&T, and smelling of bananas.
One piece of paper was mostly blank, which made it stand out from the rest. It said simply, "Find Warren Redlich, 45n59, 9e15". It quickly went back in my pocket for future reference and I reached for my wallet to look for any remaining currency. Thank Buddha, God, Yahweh, Allah, and Shiva, there was still money left from my hazy evening.
I found a small storefront still open despite the late hour and the window was filled with thick, oval shaped Belgian Waffles. They weighed about a kilo each, filled with sugar and brimming with starchy, satisfying goodness. I ate two and watched my stomach expand as the waffled soaked up the remaining alcohol.
Finding my way back to the Bulldog Hotel, I crashed like a rookie Nascar driver who jerkes the wheel a little too hard on worn tires. I promise that will be my only Nascar analogy, ever.
The next morning I rose from the ashes of the previous evening, mouth tasting like ass, but instantly remembered being intrigued by the strip of paper with the strange numbers on it. I struggled to remember how the man known as Warren Redlich ever came up in conversation. "Maybe it was politics", I thought to myself. I remembered arguing with somebody at the Banana Bar about the benefits of Congress over Parliament, but the memory was still fuzzy. Still looking at the paper, I decided my mission that day would be to follow the clue if for no other reason than it being the start to another story idea.
The Internet Café was the first stop this morning. Coffee, pastry, and a fresh view on the world. Logging into my Gmail account first, I looked for any reference to the man known as Warren Redlich, but no hits on subject or text. A wider Internet search hit the jackpot, but it didn't make any sense. He was a local lawyer to the Albany New York area and a member of a local town council. There were a couple of stories about him generally being a stand up guy, but nothing else, wait just a minute, maybe…
Hating to scroll, I mean if you can't find what you need on the first page of hits, why bother, right? There it was. The first Item on page 2 from the magical world of Google. Warren Redlich, Spoof Writer.
"But what of the numbers?", I thought to myself. Then I said to myself, "Self, we need to dig a little deeper".
"45n59, 9e15". What gives? I wondered if any of the characters I had met at the Spoof Clubs a.k.a. the Skoob & Thistle would have a clue. Would Woods know? Could Fergus decode the message?
I entered the codes into the search engine and found references to the area around Lake Como in Italy and specifically a little town of Tremezzo, pronounced "Tray-Metzo" with a tongue roll on the "Tray". The codes were longitude and latitude map references. I printed an internet picture of Mr. Redlich, grabbed a coffee to go and headed for Schipol airport.
Sitting next to a German who didn't believe in the concept of under arm deodorant, or bathing, or wearing clean clothes for that matter, and me trying quite literally, to occasionally suck some fresh air from the corner of my sealed window, it was a long and painful flight ending in a windy, 3 hop landing.
Ah, Milan. Detroit, with a touch of glitter and a little more history. Manufacturing towns are pretty much the same the world over I think, except you may not be car jacked on the streets of Milan. Still, you have to wonder when walking through the airport and seeing that many troops with automatic weapons on the catwalks above you.
My Herts car representative spoke a little English. She informed me that there were no automatic transmission cars available, but they did have a 1.6 liter, 5-speed turbocharged, Opel available at a discount rate. I suddenly felt cool, and sporty. I had heard of the Autostrada and the lack of speed limit there. The 5-speed turbo might be just the thing. "Bad Ass Wortham rolling down the Autostrada in an Opel Sports car. An American might not know that the Opel brand is basically a line of family cars, but hey, a man can dream. Heading out with my keys to slot C9, there is was in all of its beauty. My Opel, 5-speed, 1.6 liter, turbocharged, minivan. It was HOT man, HOT I tell you, and I looked cool in that minivan. For my age, anyway.
I'd like to tell you that the drive was interesting or fun, but it wasn't. Though travelling 170 KM/hr in my minivan, I was being passed by these little rusty boxes on 12 inch tires called "Puntos" from Fiat, the engines screaming as if ready to explode as they passed. Cars that have no aerodynamic business travelling that fast were passing me on the Autostrada. I felt like Barry Manilow in white bell bottoms and scarf, sitting in the Blue Note for a Miles Davis tribute. Totally uncool.
I found the town of Tremezzo easily and parked near the Canary Yellow Grand Hotel to start my search. I expected it to be a long day of rejection and dead ends, much like my writing career, but concierge at the Grand Hotel recognized the man instantly.
"Si, Mr. Redlich" he said. "He stay here about a week, then disappeared. Even his clothes were left behind unpacked." I asked if he knew anything else. "Well, he did ask the location of a certain church in Bellagio. I told him how to take the ferry across the lake to get there."
"Anything else?" I asked.
"He was a nice man, good tipper". The Concierge was now holding out his palm, and I greased him with a 10 spot.
Finding the Parrocchia Basilica S. Giacomo just off the Bellagio city center, my path was buffeted by numerous street vendors and performers. I liberally showed Warren's picture to anyone who would stop to look, but no one recognized him. Turning to face the church in the distance and complete my journey, my path was suddenly blocked by a Mime doing the obligatory "I'm blocked by a window" bit. He extended his arms to block me, while another Mime snuck up on me from behind to grab the picture from my hand.
I suddenly felt a hard pointed object poke me in the small of the back and a quieted voice say in broken English, "Walk towards the Basilica, now."
The two mimes continued with what to an outsider must have looked like a street comedy routine with a tourist. I remember hearing children laughing behind me. I didn't know at the time that the Mime behind me was kidnapping me at the point of a finger. Who knows these Mime rules anyway? Once in the dark shadows of the church, I was literally shoved into a cellar door and down a flight of stairs, hearing the doors above me slam shut.
"Are you alright?" A man's voice asked. I saw a figure move into the light afforded by a small window block above. I studied his face for a second. "Warren?" I asked.
"How do you know my name?"
"I came looking for you".
"That's really nice of you, I think, maybe a little creepy, but why?" Redlich asked.
"It's a long story involving an encounter at the Skoob & Thistle, and a night of debauchery in the red light district of Amsterdam." I said.
"You must have been hanging with Whitehead and Ian B. I bet they pulled the Banana Bar trick on you. Peel and eat shrimp, my ass."
"No shit", I said. I couldn't get the taste out of my mouth".
"Yeah, but how does all of that that lead you here? I mean I've been locked in here since January and figured no one would find me." Redlich said.
"Somehow, one of your fellow writers knew your last known location was Tremezzo and gave me a couple of clues. Maybe they took notice since your absence from the Spoof. You know you've missed quite a few deadlines. I guess they were worried."
"I wondered if I'd ever be rescued." Redlich paused, then looked at me. "Some rescue".
"Yeah, sorry about that. I wasn't on the look out for dangerous Mimes".
"It gets worse. These fanatics are connected with a group of Opus Dei Militant Catholic Mimes who don't like comedy writing. They watch the internet, read The Spoof and target writers who travel around Europe."
"That's insane" I replied.
"Hey, you ever wonder what happens to an occasional Spoof writer who just disappears off the face of the Earth? This is why." Redlich said.
"No Shit." There were several seconds of silence before I asked the logical question. "Now what do we do?"
"I don't know man. I haven't been able to find a way out of this place. At least the pasta they feed us is pretty good."
"Militant Catholic Mimes Against Comedy, now there's a great story" I said.
"If only we could write it", Redlich replied.
"Let's work together and figure out a way to get our of here." I said. "Then we'll blow the doors off this conspiracy against Spoof writing".
Looking around the small cellar, spotting a few paint cans and evaluating our own clothes, an escape plan began to form.
"If only we had a Henway" I said.
"What's a Henway?" Redlich asked. "Wait a minute, I blew that one. Three kilos".