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The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts

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The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts

  The Yggyssey

  How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts, Found Out Where They Went, and Went There

  Daniel Pinkwater

  * * *

  Illustrations by Calef Brown

  * * *


  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  Boston 2009

  * * *

  Text copyright © 2009 by Daniel Pinkwater

  Illustrations copyright © 2009 by Calef Brown

  All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce selections from

  this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue

  South, New York, New York 10003.

  The text of this book is set in Apollo.

  The illustrations were created in brush and ink.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Pinkwater, Daniel Manus, 1941—

  The Yggyssey / by Daniel Pinkwater ; [illustrations by Calef Brown].

  p. cm.

  Summary: In the mid-1950s, Yggdrasil Birnbaum and her friends, Seamus

  and Neddie, journey to Old New Hackensack, which is on another plane, to try to

  learn why ghosts are disappearing from the Birnbaum's hotel and other

  Hollywood, California, locations.

  ISBN 978-0-618-59445-0

  [1. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction. 2. Ghosts—Fiction. 3. Witches—

  Fiction. 4. Space and time—Fiction. 5. Haunted places—Fiction. 6. Hotels, motels,

  etc.—Fiction. 7. Hollywood (Los Angeles, Calif.)—History—20th century—

  Fiction.] I. Brown, Calef, ill. II. Title.

  PZ7.P6335Ygg 2008



  Manufactured in the United States of America

  MP 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  * * *


  1. Room Full of Spooks 1

  2. Hollywood History 5

  3. My Mother Has Theories 9

  4. I Am Not Antisocial 12

  5. Cutting School 16

  6. Pacific Seas 20

  7. Ken Ahara 23

  8. The Ghostiest Place in Town 27

  9. The Penthouse 30

  10. Gone Ghost 33

  11. Ghostology 35

  12. Ghost Detective 38

  13. Atomic Bomb 42

  14. The Wolf Makes the Blueberry Strong 45

  15. Mushroomburgers 47

  16. Doughnuts at Dawn 50

  17. Sleepover Mary 54

  18. Who We Like, and Who We Don't 57

  19. Center of Attention 59

  20. Why a Duck? 63

  21. In the Garden 65

  22. Schmoozing with a Shaman 69

  23. The Day After Halloween 74

  24. Ghostly Halloween 78

  25. The Big Parade 81

  26. Pumpkin Pie and an Apparition 86

  27. The Day of the Dead 90

  28. That's It? 95

  29. Mr. Wentworthstein 97

  30. Muffins on the Roof 101

  31. Gypsy Boots 103

  32. Talking to a Dead Bunny 106

  33. Invitation to Insanity 111

  34. Loopy Birthday to You 113

  35. This Is the Plan 117

  36. Wiener Whistles 120

  37. Through the Cooking Class 123

  38. Iggy in Underland 129

  39. Neddie! 133

  40. Uncle Father Palabra 136

  41. Something 142

  42. Why Exactly 146

  43. Shoofly Pie 150

  44. New Yapyap at Night 153

  45. The Hole 155

  46. Big River 158

  47. Kind Hearts and Crunchy Granola 161

  48. My Name 166

  49. On the Road 169

  50. Gingerbread House 171

  51. Millions of Cats 175

  52. All Day Long 179

  53. Like a Charm 183

  54. Back on the Road 188

  55. Walking Along 193

  56. The Valley of the Shlerm 196

  57. We Discover More 200

  58. What? 205

  59. The Dark Forest 209

  60. Dawn in the Forest 212

  61. Head Games 216

  62. Your Feat's Too Big 220

  63. How It's Done 224

  64. Supernatural Days 227

  65. Perfect Opportunity 231

  66. Witch Rodeo and Ghost Olympics 234

  67. Which Witch? 237

  68. Shmenda 241

  69. Going Home 244


  Room Full of Spooks

  When I got home from school, my room was full of ghosts ... again! They were being invisible, but I could feel the cold spots in the air.

  "Did I speak to you ectoplasms about this, or did I not?" I asked the empty room.

  Silence. The ghosts were dummying up.

  "Rudolph Valentino! I can smell your lousy cigar!"

  There was a faint smell of cigar smoke, the trademark of the ghostly Valentino, so I knew he was among them. And my bedspread was rumpled. Probably they were sitting on my bed, playing cards.

  "Look, you spectres—this is a young girl's bedroom, not a club! Why do you have to hang out here all the time? You have an eight-story hotel to haunt. There's a complete apartment reserved for your personal use. Why don't you stay there? It's the nicest one in the whole building." The management had sealed off a large apartment because it was way too haunted for living guests to put up with. The hope was that if they gave the ghosts their own space they wouldn't haunt the rest of the hotel so much. Some hope.

  "We get bored," Rudolph Valentino said. "It's nothing but ghosts there."

  "So you crowd in here so you can bore me, and stink up my room," I said. I was mad. I really liked most of the ghosts, but a woman is entitled to some privacy. Grumbling and mumbling, the ghosts climbed out my bedroom window, made their way along the ledge, and climbed into the window of the apartment that had belonged to Valentino in 1927. I had been in the apartment lots of times. Like the ghosts, I had to climb out my window and go along the narrow ledge to get in, which was a little scary to do if you weren't already dead.

  The Hermione is not a regular hotel in the sense that people check in for a couple of nights or a week. It's all apartments, some tiny and some quite large. People live in it for months at a stretch, or all the time. It was quite the fancy address when my father first came to Hollywood in the days of the silent movies.

  You can see what a deluxe sort of place it was. It has architecture all over it. There are rough plaster walls, old-fashioned light fixtures made of hammered iron, fancy tile floors, and dark, heavy woodwork with carvings and decorations on it. There are tapestries that hang from iron things that look like spears, and a couple of suits of armor standing around. It looks like a movie set. It's a combination of old Spanish California and the Middle Ages, with some Arabian Nights thrown in.

  I have lived in the Hermione all my life. I know the old hotel from top to bottom. I have been in all of the apartments, the basement, the laundry, and the restaurant that's been closed for years, and I know about the deserted tennis courts and the second, unused, and hidden swimming pool where the enormous turtle lives. I know things about the hotel that Mr. Glanvill, the manager, does not know. Chase, my favorite ghost, was the one who showed me where to find the master key someone had mislaid a long time ago. It opens every door in the place except the one to Valentino's apartment where all the ghosts h
ang out, because the door lock is rusted solid.

  Chase is not the ghost of a person. She is the ghost of a black bunny rabbit. She has been sort of my own personal ghost since I was a baby. We are able to talk, which is something you can't do with a living bunny. Chase changes size. Usually, she is bunny-size, but I have seen her get to be as large as a German shepherd dog.

  Rudolph Valentino is the ghost most people would know about, because he was a big movie star in the 1920s—but the oldest ghost, and the one who should be most famous, really, is La Brea Woman. Valentino doesn't compare to La Brea Woman for being distinguished. She is the only human whose bones have been pulled out of the La Brea Tar Pits. She lived about nine thousand years ago. She is the oldest human ever found in Southern California. Plus, she was murdered—someone knocked her on the head with a rock. We are all proud of La Brea Woman. And she's a nice ghost. She's shorter than I am, in her early twenties, and she always has her hair in curlers and wears sunglasses with pink frames and fuzzy pink slippers. She is friendly and cheerful, and talks a blue streak in some ancient dialect that hasn't been heard on earth in thousands of years.

  I don't know exactly how many ghosts live in the Hermione—at least a dozen, maybe more. Not all of them like to communicate—they just haunt, appear and disappear, walk the corridors—some of them moan, or cry, or make ghostly laughter. Chase is the only ghost with whom I can have a conversation. Valentino will exchange a few words with me—but that's just his polite nature. Also, he may be nice to me because he knew my father in the old days.


  Hollywood History

  My name is Yggdrasil Birnbaum—most people call me Iggy, which I do not like, but what are you going to do? And my father is Captain Buffalo Birnbaum, the old-time cowboy movie star. He is very old for a father—he is fairly old for anybody. He is the handsomest man alive. His story is an interesting one. He was the son of a wealthy family. He was born late in life, as I was to him, to Colonel Horatius Birnbaum, who fought in the Civil War. After the war, Grandpa Horatius went to Chicago and got rich in the glue business.

  Everyone has heard of Alpenglue, "the mucilage of mountaineers."It was the first modern superadhesive, and Horatius invented it and made millions selling it to a nation bursting with busted things that needed to be glued during the great westward expansion. No homesteader in a covered wagon or prospector heading for the gold fields would have thought of setting out on the trip without a supply of Alpenglue, to repair broken wagon wheels, or stick the handles back on his six-shooter. Alpenglue could also be used to stitch up tomahawk wounds, and smeared on the bottoms of boots it enabled the wearer to cross frozen mountain passes in winter. And you could eat it if you were starving.

  By the time my father and his twin brother, Herman, were born, the days of the Old West were almost over. It didn't last very long. Trains already crossed the country and cities had electric lights and telephones. But there were still bad men and lawmen, some of the old Indian war chiefs were still alive, and cowboys still rode the range. As young men, Buffalo (who was called Buck in those days) and Herman wanted adventure—so instead of going east to college, they took a supply of Alpenglue and their boots and bedrolls and headed west.

  My father got to be called Buffalo not because he was a big buffalo hunter—the great herds had already been killed off by the time he got to the West. He got to be called Buffalo because while most cowboy sharpshooters, quick-draw artists, gunfighters, and pistoleros could shoot a silver dollar thrown into the air, he could hit a nickel, which has a buffalo on it—hence the name.

  My father and his brother, Herman, who later mysteriously disappeared, had lots of adventures, rode the range, worked in the oil fields, lived with Indian medicine men, prospected for gold, and ran the first combination soda fountain and Turkish bath west of the Rockies, and at one time Herman, who came to be known as Prairie Dog Birnbaum, was the acting governor of Montana. A film director named Max Von Hinten saw my father giving an exhibition of trick riding to entertain some friends, noticed that he was the handsomest man alive, and talked him into coming to Hollywood to act in movies.

  It wasn't long before my father was a big movie star. This was in the days before movies had sound. Hollywood was growing by leaps and bounds, and heaps of money were being made. My father had a deluxe apartment at the Hermione, owned a big Italian car completely covered with hand-tooled leather, and kept an African lion as a pet. When talking pictures came in a lot of actors lost their careers because they didn't sound good, but my father continued to be a movie star, only not such a big one. He made some movies in which he played a character called the Baritone Buckaroo. In these movies he was a cowboy who sang. My father couldn't sing, so they had him move his lips and the singing was done by an opera singer named Lauritz Melchior.

  By this time, my father was getting a little bored with being a movie star. Also, he was pretty old. He could still ride better than anyone but Roy Rogers, and he was still the handsomest man alive, but he wasn't enjoying being an actor so much. Also, he had saved a ton of money and still had his share of the Alpenglue fortune, so there was really no reason to work. His last movie was called The Baritone Buckaroo Fights the Nazis. After that, and to this day, he spends time at our ranch in Arizona, or here standing around Gower Street talking with the other old cowboys, and also hanging out in the History Department at UCLA, helping to record the history of the Old West.


  My Mother Has Theories

  My mother is much younger than my father. She is sort of a normal age for a mother. She is a psychiatrist. She and my father met when the studio sent him to see her about the morbid fear of horses he had developed. He wasn't so much afraid to ride them, but when he was in bed he would imagine that there were horses in his living room, drinking his liquor and laughing at him. The next day, on the movie set, he would turn suddenly and say to the nearest horse, "So, you think I'm a joke, is that it? You think I'm a figure of fun, do you, you miserable hay burner? I know what you and those other plugs think of me." So the studio sent him to see my mother, and they talked it over. She helped him to understand that his problem arose partly from having grown up in the glue business, and also that the horses probably really were laughing at him for being in those lousy Baritone Buckaroo movies.

  My mother is the most beautiful psychiatrist alive, and she looked good with my father driving around Los Angeles in the Bugatti touring car, getting hot fudge sundaes at drive-in restaurants. Pretty soon they fell in love, got married, and had me.

  My mother still does psychiatry. Most of her patients are movie stars. She says that Hollywood is a gold mine for a psychiatrist. Because she is a psychiatrist, she has theories of child rearing. Her biggest theory is that stress is bad. She thinks that all ailments, mental and physical, are caused by stress. She thinks stress is worse than the Black Plague or a herd of stampeding bull elephants. I am strictly forbidden to be frustrated, repressed, or restrained. This can be annoying. Sometimes you want to be frustrated, repressed, or restrained. Of course, I am also strictly forbidden to be annoyed. To keep me as stress-free as possible, my mother enrolled me in the Harmonious Reality School.

  The Harmonious Reality School is modern, progressive, and advanced. It was started by an avocado grower from the San Fernando Valley named Dr. Nathan Pedwee. He wasn't a regular doctor—he was a fruitopath. Fruitopathy is the science of healing diseases with various kinds of fruit. Dr. Nathan Pedwee got rich selling avocados and real estate, and also wrote a book about how to improve your golf game. His theory about how to become a better golfer was to live a stress-free life. He thought that stress created muscular tension, and that would mess up your swing. Avocados, he said, were the antidote to muscular tension—avocados, and never being made to do anything you didn't want to do. The school runs on his avocados and no-stress principles, as explained in his book The Pedwee Way.

  You can major in finger painting through sixth grade at the Harmonious Real
ity School. It is a fully accredited primary and secondary school, recognized by the Department of Education of the State of California.

  I like the Harmonious Reality School fairly well. You can do pretty much whatever you want, including getting up and leaving the premises. I do this fairly often. The school is near Sunset and Vine, which is smack in the middle of Hollywood, and there are lots of things to do and look at in the neighborhood. The teachers are polite, and the kids, while confused and mostly illiterate, are friendly.

  Needless to say, there's a lot of health food served at lunch, especially avocados, and this guy called Gypsy Boots comes in from time to time to lecture on nutrition. I tend to slip out at lunchtime and get a bowl of chili or a hamburger over on Vine Street.


  I Am Not Antisocial

  I don't often socialize with the Harmonious Reality kids outside of school. It's not that they aren't nice kids, but they are all ... droopy. They are too cooperative—they're completely on board with the health food, no-stress, never-compete, avoid-anything-difficult philosophy, and it makes them seem to me that they're missing a part.

  I read in Coronet magazine, in one of those bottom-of-the-page things, there's an old Spanish saying: "A kiss without the mustache is like an egg without salt." This stuck in my mind. For one thing, if a kiss is like an egg, that's pretty disgusting right there. And if it's like an egg with a mustache, that's beyond disgusting. But it makes a point I can apply to my fellow Harmonious Reality students—they're like eggs without mustaches. I prefer to spend my time with the various characters who hang out in the neighborhood. There are always cowboy actors, extras who pick up work by the day at the movie studios, hanging out around Gower Gulch (that's Gower Street and Sunset Boulevard).

  Most of these guys were real cowboys, and they all know my father, so they're nice to me. They lean against the buildings, rolling cigarettes, and spitting, and telling stories about the old days. Of course, every one of them has a secret map to a gold mine that's guarded by Indian spirits or magic rattlesnakes. There are a couple of drugstores where the serious actors hang out and show off for one another. They're not as interesting as the cowboys, but it's fun to watch them, especially when someone like Orson Welles or some other big director comes in for a milk shake and they all try to get him to look at them.

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