Grim Fandango: it's poetry night at the Blue Casket
Every hep cat and chick in Rubacava is a poet tonight!
Welcome to Rubacava, where every bony undead soul in this hip-and-coming port-town is a poet, or so they think they are!
Including Velasco, the one-eyed-but-actually-no-eyed dockmaster who sorely misses his ol’ lady: the SS Lamancha. (It’s a ship, not a woman—but maybe for him, she was all that and more.)
Including the sullen coroner, Membrillo, with goggles on his forehead and no use for them, who should have clearly been a florist with such cheerful perspective on flowers and (after)life.
Even a certain no-good forger, Chowchilla Charlie, has a poem in him that a chinchilla may or may not be jealous of such crapuscular talent. You read that right; the a is on purpose.
And then there’s you—the witty but naive travel agent (or politically
incorrect term: reaper) turned janitor turned nightclub and casino owner stuck on finding and saving one particular chiquita (ah, Mercedes “Meche” Colomar, you sigh) from a certain Dom, and doom.
You’re Manuel “Manny” Calavera, and Manuel is you. At least for the next 10-something hours, you are, he is. Well, someone is, are!
In this Grim Fandango—whatever that means—a whole character arc awaits you from pessimism to heroism, prometo. But for now, set aside your savior complex and your secret mission with the resistance. (¡Viva la revolución!)
Tonight you’re poeting your heart out, big daddy-o.
And so, you put on your ginchiest tux, get your kick sticks out you’re compelled to smoke at every pause, and take yourself down to the Blue Casket. It’s open mic tonight, baby, and you have a few things to wail!
You get up on the stage, all razzle-dazzle ready, but the beatnik nation in this snazzy, shadowy joint could care less about your bleeding-heart vers libre (they’re too busy chewing over the real and raw kind of libre-ty over here).
(But I’ll bite this beat.) You indulge the hard-to-please free spirits—or are they really?—spirited away by Coffin Shooters the juiceman juiced them with. You cry out a gut-swallowing poem about teeth:
My teeth don’t care that my nose is melting
I reach out,
I reach out
I am not dead.
I am more than dead.
Also read: Become a proverb à la Ahti from Control
And just like your teeth could care less about your melting nose, all you get are crickets and hisses for claps.
Normally you, Manny—the Manny that is you or the you that is Manny—wouldn’t get your kicks from being so humiliated, but tonight, something—or someone—forces you to keep digging yourself a blue casket, and you dig it. It’s as if someone outside of you is working inside of you with controls.1
You, Manny, or your controller—you soon pick up on what’s up, or don’t—try again and again and again to impress the hep cats and chicks tough as toenails with what seems like randomly generated set of word salads, or poetry in other terms.
You choose words, or words choose you. You think to yourself, Who doesn’t love a poem about sleep? Who doesn’t love sleep?
An ode to snoozing for 30 more seconds
Break the mirror with your silence.
And ignore you, they do. At least you were right about one thing: they do love sleep. They are asleep.
It’s only when you talk to the gin mill cowboys of the club, and most importantly, mention the myth, the man, the legend—Salvador “Sal” Limones—you at last become their hermano de armas.
You feed your new comrades with one last delicious pièce de résistance:
I ate someone’s banana and they did not forgive me in a parallel dream
I crave disappointment,
I curl into a fist.
You heard me
inside a dream inside a dream inside a dream—
(Where did the banana disappear from the poem?) At last you’re absolved. If skeletal finger snaps aren’t proof of that, you don’t know what is!
You, Manny, the Manny in you that is you, the you in Manny that is, you (or controller you)—the foolish yet relentless grim reaper turned floor mopper turned casino and nightclub entrepreneur by moonlight of Rubacava’s be-still-my-heart waters and secret-not-so-secret agent in the shadows—are now a bonafide beat poet too, one of Manny!
Generate your own word salads in Grim Fandango
Grim Fandango is an old-school quest game set in retro-futuristic reimagining of the 1950s in the fictional Land of the Dead. You play as Manuel “Manny” Calavera, a travel agent (or reaper) tasked with getting recently deceased souls to journey to their eternal rest with a variety of luxury packages. But something isn’t quite right at the Department of Death, or at the Land of the Dead for that matter. It’s up to you, Manny, to untangle the conspiracy.
Grim Fandango is a cult classic among adventure games of the 90s. With a gripping story influenced by film noir and Mexican folklore motifs, poignant, punchy, and poetic dialogues, and unforgettable, special, and quirky characters, gamers come back to it time and again to relive the unputdownable experience.
The most notable of all—or at least for this gamer—is the Blue Casket open mic mini-game of sorts you can experience 100 times, if that’s your will. Generate as many poetic beat word salads as you please. Not only is it amusing, it’s also a great exercise at creativity and poetry composition.
This is The Office reference to Kevin Malone’s eloquent quote: “Who’s been saying that there’s another person inside of me, working me with controls?” He, of course, said it better than I could ever pay my tribute.