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The Essay
Show #424
Pantaloom Chigwell Bengaze
David Gunn

Pantaloom Chigwell Bengaze was another in a long line of shamans of that illustrious clan, but he didn't arrive at his preordained calling easily. His father, Bendiego Bengaze, a Tucson trial lawyer who wasn't above employing the paranormal to improve the odds of his clients, had Pantaloom practicing law before he'd ever even read a deposition. Eventually, he sent him to La Escuela Cucaracha de la Ley y Bebidas in Mexico City. When Pantaloom graduated, Bendiego set him up as a full partner in the firm. To those in his office who complained that "The Cockroach School of Law & Mixology" was hardly an accredited academic institution, especially since its schooling consisted of but a twelve-week mail order course followed by a three-day graduation bender in Cancún, the elder Bengaze stressed that it had been an intensive twelve weeks.

Nevertheless, Pantaloom struggled to march to the same drummer as did his dad. Like his cousin, Beano, he couldn't suppress a predilection for the transcendental, and his use of metaphysical legerdemain to illustrate simple bankruptcy proceedings didn't play well in court. Eventually, even Bendiego grew weary of correcting his son's legal gaffes, and he banished him to the firm's galley to mix drinks for the rest of the members of the bar.

Although Pantaloom was better suited to mixology, he still tended to question the reality of the drinks he was commingling, which in turn led to recondite experimentation with his primary liquors. One day, while blending crème de kirschwasser with a host of mystery ingredients and simultaneously reciting a cryptic legal brief in Esperanto, he produced a cocktail that was seventy-five percent liquid gold. Instantly, two Navajo spirit guides--Wampum Joe and Bunyip Boy--materialized in front of him. While the former admonished Pantaloom for generating only an 18-karat product, Bunyip Boy heaped positive reinforcement upon the lad, and hinted at a vast repertoire of untapped Bengaze powers. As an enticement, the all-puissant spirit guide briefly turned Pantaloom into pure energy. Even Wampum Joe was impressed--he reached out to touch Bengaze's sparkling hand and singed all the hair on his body and his next of kin's body. And while Bunyip Boy recontextualized Pantaloom into traditional human nucleic acids immediately thereafter, the young Bengaze was a changed mortal from that moment on.

During the day, he continued to mix drinks for his dad's judicial cronies, but at night he attended the Ben-Shakti School of Shamanism across town. Well, it was across town this week, but the school's location changed with the phases of the moon. The regents believed that anyone who couldn't deduce the school's whereabouts--and the body language of the local crows provided plenty of hints--oughtn't be attending it. Pantaloom had no difficult finding the school, even when it once materialized inside the giant inflatable saguaro atop the Hooters Restaurant on Burdock Boulevard. His ability to communicate with the school's topiary captured the attention of Ood-nan-tunk, the great Norwegian tribal mystic and dean of the Weaving Department, who agreed to tutor Pantaloom.

Ood-nan-tunk had always been a superb storyteller, and it was a natural progression for him to go from yarns to weaving. He could explain all of the natural laws of the universe--and some of the unnatural ones--by various interlacings of the warp with the weft. The peyote plaiting technique, for example, enabled him to turn gold into base metals. And there were more knotting, looping and twining methodologies than a shaman could be reasonably expected to perfect in a lifetime.

Pantaloom, of course, was not a reasonably expectant shaman. He consistently found something to challenge in each of Ood-nan-tunk's traditional teachings. Even a belief as basic as the infiniteness of the spirit gods' savings accounts provoked a "yeah, but ..." from the young Bengaze. By the end of the first trimester, both mentor and apprentice were questioning the reality of their own existence. For all of Ood-nan-tunk's prodigious wisdom and amour-propre, he began to sulk a bit. For a while, he even stopped teaching. He just sat on the floor in the center of his office surrounded by a ring of animatronic caltrops and intoned the word "weaving," over and over again, like some threadbare mantra. This seemed to Pantaloom like a reasonable path to Enlightenment, so he joined in at an interval of an imperfect fourth.

Although these droning sessions failed to lead Pantaloom to Navajo nirvana, he was briefly able to transmogrify into a coruscation of impure energy. After he returned to human form and doused the fiery sofa on which he'd accidentally sat down, his mind was suddenly able to devise the most exotic of cocktails. Ingredients leaned heavily on the abstract and metaphysical, and libations became more hypothetical than tangible. Pantaloom's "ethereal mixology" soon took Tucson by storm und drang. Even his stylized incantation became a craze in the city's karaoke bars. Ultimately, he was accorded an adjunct professorship at Ben-Shakti where, emanating late at night from the Laboratory of the Distilled Spirits, one could often hear the sound of a shaman chanting "weaving."

Today's 424th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar is itself an interlacing of our own musical corpus with that of an in-studio composer whose recontextualized name spells "homesick ski win," all forthwith distilled into a savory musical commentary by Kalvos.