from chapter two of pynchon’s inherent vice

TWO

DOC TOOK THE FREEWAY OUT. THE EASTBOUND LANES TEEMED with VW buses in jittering paisleys, primer-coated street hemis, woodies of authentic Dearborn pine, TV-star-piloted Porsches, Cadillacs carrying dentists to extramarital trysts, windowless vans with lurid teen dramas in progress inside, pickups with mattresses full of country cousins from the San Joaquin, all wheeling along together down into these great horizonless fields of housing, under the power transmission lines, everybody’s radios lasing on the same couple of AM stations, under a sky like watered milk, and the white bombardment of a sun smogged into only a smear of probability, out in whose light you began to wonder if anything you’d call psychedelic could ever happen, or if—bummer!—all this time it had really been going on up north.

Beginning on Artesia, signs directed Doc to Channel View Estates, A Michael Wolfmann Concept. There were the expected local couples who couldn’t wait to have a look at the next OPPOS, as Aunt Reet tended to call most tract houses of her acquaintance. Now and then at the edges of the windshield, Doc spotted black pedestrians, bewildered as Tariq must have been, maybe also looking for the old neighborhood, for rooms lived in day after day, solid as the axes of space, now taken away into commotion and ruin.

The development stretched into the haze and the soft smell of the fog component of smog, and of desert beneath the pavement-model units nearer the road, finished homes farther in, and just visible beyond them the skeletons of new construction, expanding into the unincorporated wastes. Doc drove past the gate till he got to a patch of empty contrac­tor hardpan with street signs already in but the streets not yet paved. He parked at what would be the corner of Kaufman and Broad and walked back.

Commanding filtered views of an all-but-neglected branch of the Dominguez Flood Control Channel forgotten and cut off by miles of fill, regrading, trash of industrial ventures that had either won or failed, these homes were more or less Spanish Colonial with not-necessarily-­load-bearing little balconies and red-tile roofs, meant to suggest higher-priced towns like San Clemente or Santa Barbara, though so far there wasn’t a shade tree in sight.

Close to what would be the front gate of Channel View Estates, Doc found a makeshift miniplaza put there basically for the construction folks, with a liquor store, a take-out sandwich place with a lunch counter, a beer bar where you could shoot some pool, and a massage parlor called Chick Planet, in front of which he saw a row of carefully looked-after motorcy­cles, parked with military precision. This seemed the most likely place for him to find a cadre of badasses. Plus, if they were all here at the moment, then chances were Mickey was, too. On the further assumption that the owners of these bikes were here for recreation and not waiting inside drawn up in formation prepared to kick Doe’s ass, he breathed deeply, surrounded himself with a white light, and stepped in the front door.

"Hi, I’m Jade?" A bubbly young Asian lady in a turquoise cheong­sam handed him a laminated menu of services. "And please take note of today’s Pussy-Eater’s Special, which is good all day till closing time?"

"Mmm, not that $14.95 ain’t a totally groovy price, but I’m really trying to locate this guy who works for Mr. Wolfmann?"

"Far out. Does he eat pussy?"

"Well, Jade, you’d know better’n me, fella named Glen?"

"Oh sure, Glen comes in here, they all do. You got a cigarette for me?" He tapped her out an unfiltered Kool. "Ooh, lockup style. Not much eating pussy in there, huh?"

"Glen and I were both in Chino around the same time .: Have you seen him today?"

"Till about one minute ago, when everybody suddenly split. Is there something weird going on? Are you a cop?"

"Let’s see." Doc inspected his feet. "Nah … wrong shoes."

"Reason I ask is, is if you were a cop, you’d be entitled to a free pre­view of our Pussy-Eater’s Special?"

"How about a licensed PI? Would that—"

"Hey, Bambi!" Out through the bead curtains, as if on a time-out from a beach volleyball game, strode this blonde in a turquoise and orange Day-Glo bikini.

"Oboy,’ Doc said. "Where do we—"

"Not you, Bong Brain," Bambi muttered. Jade was already reaching for that bikini.

"Oh," he said. "Huh … see, is what I thought is, here? where it says ‘Pussy-Eater’s Special’? is what that means is, is that—"

Well … neither girl seemed to be paying him much attention any­more, though out of politeness Doc thought he should keep watching for a while, till finally they disappeared down behind the reception desk, and he wandered away figuring to have a look around. Out into the hall­way, from someplace ahead, seeped indigo light and frequencies even darker, along with string-heavy music from half a generation ago from LPs compiled to accompany bachelor-pad fucking.

Nobody was around. It felt like maybe there had been, till Doc showed up. The place was also turning out to be bigger inside than out. There were black-light suites with fluorescent rock ‘n’ roll posters and mirrored ceilings and vibrating water beds. Strobe lights blinked, incense cones sent ribbons of musk-scented smoke ceilingward, and carpeting of artificial angora shag in a variety of tones including oxblood and teal, not always limited to floor surfaces, beckoned alluringly.

As he neared the back of the establishment, Doc began to hear a lot of screaming from outside, along with a massed thundering of Harleys. "Uh-oh. What’s this?"

He didn’t find out. Maybe it was all the exotic sensory input that caused Doc about then to swoon abruptly and lose an unknown amount of his day. Perhaps striking some ordinary object on the way down accounted for the painful lump he found on his head when at length he awoke. Faster, anyhow, than the staff on Medical Center can say "subdural hematoma," Doc dug how the unhip Muzak was silent, plus no Jade, no Bambi, and he was lying on the cement Hoor of a space he didn’t recognize, though the same could not be said for what he now ID’d, far overhead, like a bad-luck planet in today’s horoscope, as the evilly twinkling face of Detective Lieutenant Bigfoot Bjornsen, LAPD. 

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