Current Story: "Manila to Shanghai'd"


February 20, 2012

Finally through with studying for work I was able to spend my Saturday morning as a Saturay is meant to be spent: practicing Eskrima drills with a rattan baston (stick) in each hand. It was good feeling the stinging vibration of rattan striking rattan coursing through my hands everytime stick met stick. Feeling the rythm of the drill, the movement and of course, strike of wood I just stop thinking and act. Not thinking for me is to do the impossible.When I'm practicing I focus like I rarely do in the rest of my day to day life. Furthermore it inspires me when I write, to make better and more natural fight scenes. Thankfully though, since it's just practiced I've never had to face down multiple angry assailants with bolos.

Since you've read "Manila to Shanghai'd", and if you haven't then you probably should, I'm going to toss out the super-secret recipe for the Mattie Grumman Special. (Non-roofie edition). In reality it's my take on a drink made in every bar on Diego Garcia.

1.5 oz Mango or Pineapple Rum
1 oz Triple Sec
2.5 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Mattie's Mix*
Dash of grenadine

*Due to the secretive nature of tiki bartending Mattie's Mix cannot be revealed on the internet but if you really want to know what it is feel free to email me  and I'll tell you. Also, since the story took place in the late 1940's Mattie would not have used Captain Morgan Mango or Pineapple Rum, she would have used a mixture of Havana Club (Blanco Rum) and fresh mango nectar. Even without her special mix, made right this drink should have a drunken fruit punch quality to it. Just be careful who you serve it to because it can get a Filipina plastered in a drink and a half.

Random thoughts on old school bartending- I love old drinks and making them. I've a very well stocked bar at home and every book I could get (y'know, all three of them) on mid-century tropical drink making. What Mattie made her two passengers, the Zombie, barely would have needed drugging. Donn Beach, it's creator, had a two per customer limit on the thing. It was a complex, layered booze feast with Pernod as the kicker. Mattie definitely did not make that for herself afterwards, especially since she still had a plane to fly.

The Zombie, which debuted at Don the Beachcomber's in 1934 was the first BIG tropical drink. It's what put Donn Beach and his restaurant on the map and started the whole tropical drink craze that would remain popular until the end of the 1960's.  So what happened when you ignore the two drink limit? According to Don Siegel, direct of "Dirty Harry", after drinking three in one night in 1939 he gave up drinking for the rest of his life. If you want to learn more about the Zombies and other similar libations I recommend Beachbum Berry's "Sippin' Safari". (Since I pulled the Siegel reference and most of what I know about the Zombie from that book I figured it deserves a shout out.)

Now besides the drink here's a few things you should know about "Manila to Shanghai'd". First you should know I wrote it about a year before "Secret of Morolonago" was finished. When I started this website I wasn't sure if I should post this short first or the first part of Philippine Cache. In the end Philippine Cache won because this story isn't a good introduction to Mattie or her world for first time readers, of which you all would have been. Except for my Grandpa, Nanay Oli and my good friend Waris.

It was written before I felt I really found Mattie's 'voice'. The exact way she should feel and act. You'd think after working on this for so many years that wouldn't be an issue but the story was always changing. When set in the modern day, as the story first was, Mattie was a really smart and clumsy museum docent working in Norfolk, Virginia's Edsel Museum (a play on the famous Chrysler Museum of Art) who stumbles on to this big mystery. She couldn't shoot, fight or fly. She recognizes her shortcomings and hires a man named Art Ryan  to do the heavy lifting for her. That didn't quite ring true at the time, though with what I've learned writing these stories I may revisit the idea in the future. That gave way to setting it post-World War II and removing Art as an accomplice. I wanted Mattie to be a standalone character, a survivor who's seen the worst the world has to show but is still glib and easily amused anyway. That was when I wrote this little story, as I was making that Mattie. Some of the inspiration for that was reading old pulp stories by Robert E. Howard (or if you watch Scooby Doo, Mystery Inc. Howard E. Roberts).

So while outlining the big story I got the idea for this piece and just wrote it out. Then I started over and you have the Philippine Cache as it is. Mattie now is relating the story first person, as if telling a bar story a few years after the fact as opposed to the third person I wrote this in. She fight efficiently using Philippine martial arts and of course she can now handle her balut. With "Manila to Shanghai'd" we start on the bad guys and introduce an odd-looking stewardess before finally revealing who the star of the story is.

Originally one of the pair of criminals was John Maxwell, but since I've written "Secret of Morolonago" he couldn't have prior history with Mattie so I had to slightly re-write him as someone else. Another big thing was the airplane. As much planning and studying as I've done since starting work on this thing in 2008 this story was written right after I decided Mattie would fly a Catalina and so hadn't fully studied it yet. A bit of advice on history, the internet is good for lots of information and overviews but for the hard details and minutae there's still no beating books and if possible first hand accounts. My go-to guides for Mattie's Cat  are a reprint of the 1945 PBY-5A Pilot's Manual, Squadron and Osprey reference books. All are invaluable and if you happen to know any PBY pilots or crew please feel free to put me in touch with them.

Overall I had a lot of fun writing this and my grandfather just loved Mattie's stewardess uniform. Go figure. I drew the initial picture of her as a stewardess for him specifically.


Manila to Shanghai'd

Mariveles, Bataan Province, Philippines

This metal 'Soldier's Grave' is part of the Death March Memorial at Kilometer 0, where the march began in Mariveles. An identical sculpture is on Corregidor as well. We found this by accident, we were driving to the bancay boats to get to Corregidor when we missed our turn. I noticed the Death March marker we passed said "2 km" on it, so I asked our driver if he could go another two kilometers before turning around. Sure enough two kilometers down the road, across the the beach and nestled in a quiet little park next to a Jollibee fast food restuarant was the Death March Kilometer 0 Memorial Park.

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