The Teleportation of Gil Pérez

That had to have been startling.

On this very day in 1593, it was widely reported that a soldier of the Spanish Empire, in the Guardia Civil, was guarding the governor’s palace in Manila, Philippines when he suddenly felt exhausted and dizzy. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, and when he opened them again, he found himself 8,845 miles away, in the Plaza Mayor in Mexico City. His name only popped up in a retelling of the story in 1908 (who knows how they figured it out), but supposedly he was a man named Gil Pérez.

I know. But suspend your disbelief for a minute and imagine what it would be like for someone wearing the wrong uniform to suddenly find himself smack dab in the middle of the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. That had to have been startling. Lucky for him, no one has ever reported that they witnessed him arrive (or disappear for that matter), or he would probably have been attacked on the spot.

Instead, he was taken (supposedly) to the Viceroy, Luis de Velasco, to explain himself. By way of proof, Pérez gave him a bit of news. It seems that the governor-general of the Philippines, Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas, had been assassinated the day before. No one in Mexico City could have known that yet, as news traveled by Spanish Galleon at the time, and was usually many months old upon arrival.

Think of it as the 16th century equivalent of, “If you’re not a catfish, then send me a picture of you holding two fingers up, and also holding today’s newspaper in your other hand.” Unfortunately, that “picture”, in this case, would take about 3 months to arrive. Oddly enough, the Viceroy was satisfied with this explanation.

But then the religious authorities got involved. Unfortunately, this “miracle” occurred right in the midst of the Spanish Inquisition, so these officials were already in a foul mood. They promptly threw him in jail for being a deserter (as if he would have had a choice under these weird circumstances), and for good measure they also declared him a servant of the devil.

Pérez, it is said, preferred being in jail to fighting (I’m quoting this article, so don’t blame me) “the jungle men of the Philippines”, so he was on his best behavior. Over time, the guards found him to be a good Christian, so charges were dropped, and yet he remained in prison, because what can you do with someone who has such magical powers?

Months later, the news of the assassination finally got to Acapulco, and Pérez was ordered back to Mexico City. In an amazing coincidence, some of the people on the boat with him recognized him as a palace guard from Manila, so with all that “evidence” he was set free and went back to his post in the Philippines.

This story has been repeated through the centuries by many writers. The one most recognizable to Americans will be Washington Irving, of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow fame. The tale has even found a home on YouTube. Check out this cute animation:

And this longer, more serious treatment of the subject from Mexico Unexplained:

I couldn’t let you down, dear reader, so I actually did “research” for this post. And I was immediately able to blow a hole in this myth. It all has to do with Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas, who is a legitimate historical figure who was, in fact, assassinated. The problem is that he was assassinated at sea, and no one in Manila would have known this by the next day. And according to Wikipedia, the assassination took place on 10/25, not 10/23.

But I don’t know where anyone got either of these dates. I’m fairly certain the assassination took place on 10/19. The most reliable source I could find is a very legitimate looking report entitled, GOMEZ PEREZ DAS MARINAS, CAPTAIN GENERAL OF MURCIA IN THE LAST THIRD OF THE XVI CENTURY, by José Raimundo Núñez-Varela and Lendoiro, Official Chronicler of the city of Betanzos and the City Council of Miño. (It’s in Spanish, but Google can translate it for you, if need be.)

The point is, if you’re going to tell a true story, then you should at least get your dates straight. But if our hero can teleport, maybe he can time travel as well. But with such powers, why cool your heels in jail, man?

Regardless, interpretation of this tale has changed with the course of time. These days, rather than speculating about Pérez’ congress with Satan, those who care to theorize seem to rest firmly in the teleportation camp. Pérez would not be the first person to show up in Mexico City with a strange story to tell. (I can attest to that. It’s a long story for another day.)

But a few decades ago, people were less apt to theorize about teleportation and much more likely to believe that he had been abducted by aliens and returned to the wrong location. Pardon me while I scoff.

First of all, have you noticed that claims of alien abduction are all but nonexistent these days, now that we all have cameras on our phones? Second, if aliens have the technology to travel through space, why on earth would they need sadistic probes to see our inner workings? And more importantly for the sake of this story, why would they forget where to dump Pérez once they were done with him?

I mean, come on… let’s be realistic, shall we? Hmph.

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Gone but Not Forgotten

I long for blissful ignorance on days like today.

The older I get, the more dread I feel when I think, “I wonder whatever happened to…”

Naturally, my friends are getting older, and you just never know. Times like these, I wish the internet didn’t exist. Before that, when you had that question, you had a much harder time tracking down the truth. If you were curious enough, you’d go to the library and pore over the microfiche, looking for news or obituaries, and then you’d flip through census records and phone books. Usually, you’d eventually give up and accept the fact that you probably weren’t going to get an answer.

I straddle the internet age and the non-internet age. I was in my mid-twenties when the world wide web first gained traction, so some of my friends are very internet savvy, and some find computers befuddling and mystifying on a good day. Because of that, some of my friends, usually the younger ones, have a big internet footprint, and others, usually the older ones, can barely be found at all.

Before the internet, most of us walked around blissfully ignorant of the passing of people we loved but had lost touch with. Now, it’s sort of a mixed bag. Some of my Google searches yield instant results. Some make me wonder whether a person had been a figment of my imagination.

Once, when I looked up an ex-boyfriend whom I remember fondly, not only did I discover that he had passed away, but also that he had left behind 19 children! Good grief, talk about losing touch. That was a shock to my system. But is it better than blissful ignorance?

I kind of long for that blissful ignorance on days like today. Because today I thought of someone and I Googled his name, and now I’m sad. Not surprised. Just sad.

I have no idea why I thought of Max today of all days. Just reminiscing, I suppose. Max and I go way back. We met 35 years ago because we both worked for the State of Florida, in different departments, both of which had burdened its employees with client caseloads about 10 times larger than they should have been. It was a windowless building that was a warren of individual offices. It was like a white collar prison. The stress levels in that building are impossible to adequately describe.

Max and I would cross paths in the lunchroom, and we bonded over our mutual burnout. As we got to know each other, though, we also bonded over our politics, our love of reading and writing, and the unspoken realization that we were both able to address issues in more depth than most of our coworkers, as much as it pains me to say that.

We kept up with current events. We enjoyed history. We read for pleasure. We loved to talk of our travels. Our horizons were broader than those of our peers. Max, for me, was like an oasis of nerdiness in a desert of monotonous groupthink. I always looked forward to lunch.

It may sound as though I had a romantic involvement with Max, but nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, he was 29 years older than I was, had children my age, and had completely different cultural references than I had. As much as we enjoyed each other’s company, we knew we were two entirely different types of primates, so to speak, and that was fine. We each, in our own ways, could be a bit much, so sometimes we’d get on each other’s nerves and have to take a step back. But it never lasted long.

Max was full of fascinating stories. He remembered nearly starving to death in the Philippines during World War II. He had been 5 when the Japanese occupied his country, and 8 when they were cast out. During that time, 500,000 of his countrymen died. He remembered having to hide from the Japanese. He remembered eating anything he could. Those experiences shaped him. I ache for that little boy.

In particular, Max was interested in reading anything he could get his hands on about José Rizal, one of the greatest heroes of the Philippines. Rizal’s writings helped inspire the Philippine Revolution of 1896, and he was therefore killed by the Spanish Colonial Government that same year. He was only 35. The country gained its independence from Spain two years later.

It was nearly impossible to have a conversation with Max without hearing about Rizal. I think he was intrigued by the idea that someone who had only lived a few decades could make such an indelible impact on a country. Max also sometimes lectured about Fil-Am History at a local college. He wrote many book reviews. He had been a teacher before coming to this country, just like his father, and I think he remained a frustrated academic for the rest of his life.

After a few years, his department moved to a building across town, but we still did our best to get together for lunch at least once every few weeks. At a time when I was struggling to figure life out, I’d ask him for advice, and sometimes I’d even follow it. And he’d speak of his family with such pride. I admired that about him. He knew what was important.

And then the lunches became once a month. And then a few times a year. By the time I started writing my blog in 2012, we had almost no contact at all except for the occasional email. But he would read my blog, and that meant a lot to me. Now it means even more.

One day, Max emailed me and asked when we could have lunch again. I had to remind him that I now lived 3,100 miles away in the Seattle area. And then I had to remind him of that every time I responded to his emails. It made me sad. For someone who had always lived a life of the mind, it must have been really hard to lose cognition, if he even knew it was happening.

Eventually, when he’d post a comment on my blog, it would be gibberish. Word salad. Impossible to comprehend. The first time it happened, it scared me quite a bit. I could tell he still really wanted to connect and communicate, but his ability to do so was gone. I never quite knew how to respond to those garbled comments, so I have to confess that I didn’t. But I’d think to myself, “Hello, old friend,” and I’d reach across the miles and years and squeeze his hand virtually.

Eventually the comments stopped coming. Ours was a friendship born in the workplace, so I never met his wife or family, never went to his home, and I doubt any of his loved ones knew I existed beyond being some lunch friend. Max was a very social person, so I’m sure I was one of many. I didn’t know anyone I could contact to inquire about him, and I didn’t want to upset anyone, including me, if he no longer knew who I was.

So today I Googled him, and found nothing. Then I found a half written, unofficial, only partially accurate obituary about him, posted by someone anonymously. I found no newspaper obituaries. Feeling slightly sick, I searched for him in FindAGrave. Nothing. I found an old Facebook page that he started halfheartedly in 2015, but never followed through with. On there, a niece had posted something recently that said, “Happy Birthday in Heaven, Uncle!”

I nearly burst into tears. And then I researched property records and discovered that his house had been transferred from his and his wife’s name to just his wife’s name, and the document she provided to do that was a death certificate.

There it is, then. The opposite of blissful ignorance. Sorrowful awareness?

I’ve been walking the earth for about a year and a half under the illusion that Max was out there somewhere, in body, if not in spirit. Perhaps his body finally went to that place where his mind had been dwelling for years. Who knows.

It occurs to me that we never discussed religion. Why didn’t we ever discuss religion? There’s never enough time.

If Max were alive now, he’d be 86. It’s exceedingly strange to only begin to mourn someone long after their passing. It feels wrong.

Goodbye, old friend. Thank you for the much-needed oasis. I’ll miss you.

I Want to Buy Greenland, Too

The man has lost what few marbles he had left.

Do you ever feel like you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole? Well, then we can be roommates. Nice to meet you.

Here’s what’s going on. Trump wants to buy Greenland, a semi-autonomous country, so he has approached Denmark about it.

Um… what part of “semi-autonomous” don’t you understand? Denmark can’t dump Greenland and all its nearly 56,000 residents, just on a whim, any more than we can lose the state of Texas to Mexico in a poker game. Prime Minister Frederiksen said that the idea was absurd, and rightly so.

Because of that, Trump cancelled a trip to Denmark, as he deemed her comments “nasty.” Notice how he never calls men nasty? And have you ever heard the way he talks about other leaders? Absurd is putting it mildly. Nasty is, too. He’s out of control.

This man has no concept of diplomacy. Denmark is an ally. You don’t throw a tantrum and wipe your sticky lollipop hands all over your diaper simply because an ally has pointed out the obvious.

This isn’t the 1800’s. Imperialism is dying a slow, embarrassing death. Land grabs, with no regard to the people living thereon or the taxpayers who would be footing the bill, are a thing of the distant past. The man has lost what few marbles he had left.

And this comment of his reinforces that belief. He says that people shouldn’t talk to America like that, and then made a comment about how Obama let people treat him like that, but Trump wouldn’t do so. He referenced the “fact” that the Philippines wouldn’t allow Obama to land Air Force One. He trotted that little bit of fiction out back in 2017, and it was debunked then, and it’s easily debunked now. If Trump had any grip on reality, he’d have given up on that absurd story when it didn’t work in 2017. But I guess some members of his base will believe anything, and his staff has probably despaired of setting him straight.

Oh. Did you see what I did there? I said “absurd.” I guess that means I’m nasty.

Having said that, I’d like to throw my nasty hat into the ring and say that I wouldn’t mind having a chunk of Greenland myself. Right now it’s mostly one big iceball, but what with climate change, and thanks to Trumps disdain for its inevitability, it may just be that Greenland will become one of the few habitable places on earth, provided you figure out a way to live without food and water.

So yeah, since we’re dreaming, what the heck, sign me up! I’ll bring a bunch of canned goods once the place thaws. I’ll live right next door to one of Trump’s golf courses in Greater Trumplandia. Ooh, and can I please buy the Eiffel Tower, too? It would look wonderful in my back yard, next to my garden gnome and my plastic flamingo…

Greenland Melts Away

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The Bunyip and his Cousins

Behold the fearsome Bunyip. This mythological creature was much feared among the Aboriginal people of Australia. Until recently I had never heard of this beast, but it intrigues me because it seems to be so far from even the mainstream creepy folk creature as to be unrecognizable.

Bunyip_(1935)

bunyip 2 bunyip stamp 

As you can see from the various artists’ renderings, no one can agree on what this monster was supposed to have looked like, and therefore one can only speculate as to what animal the Ancient Aboriginal Peoples could have seen that appears to have scared them silly. I think a combination of that country’s vastness and isolation and the fact that it’s already a land that is inhabited by some of the strangest animals on the planet all played a part in creating this extremely bizarre imagery.

It seems as though every culture has its bunyip. The boogeyman. The thing hiding under your bed or in your closet. Apparently all humans have a need to conjure up creatures out of their free-floating anxieties.

Below are just a few of the many.

chupacabra

The Chupacabra of Latin America

Mothman

The Mothman of the Appalachians

ebu gogo

The Ebu Gogo of Flores

 Aswang

The Aswang of the Philippines

 Brosno Dragon

The Brosno Dragon of Russia

 Canvey_Island_monster

The Canvey Island Monster of England

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Taniwha of New Zealand

 grootslang

The Grootslang of South Africa

 yeren2

The Yeren of China

jersey-devil

The Jersey Devil of New Jersey

Peluda

The Peluda of France

 mongolian_death_worm2

The Mongolian Death Worm of the Gobi Desert

 Ropen

The Ropen of Papua New Guinea

It’s a very big world that we live in, full of isolated and uncharted places. It’s also full of people with wild imaginations. But if even one of these creatures were to exist? That’s the reason they are so disturbing to us. We can never be quite sure. Shudder.

Happy Halloween.