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Coco-verse challenges #3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Coco-verse challenges #3
Carlos and Tina and their baby and Denny. Or an outtake from their drive to Dia de los Muertes. for Karen

“You can move in here,” Carlos suggested, gesturing around the newly cleaned up space above the garage. “Save you some money on that rat trap you call an apartment. We’ll knock out a street side door and make it your office. And Gabi will stay in your office while Tina and I are at work.”

“Unless I have to go tail a violent criminal who’s been stalking his girlfriend.”

“We’ll get you one of those backpack baby carriers, and buy Gabi one of those little lady-sized guns that your mother hates.” He grinned and picked the baby up, nuzzling her belly until she giggled.

Tina rolled her eyes and took her back. “Honestly, Papá. We aren’t arming our five-week-old child.”

“It’s never too early to teach her to defend herself against the evildoers of the world!” Carlos made a grand gesture with his arms, finishing up with his hand over his chest. “She’ll be a superhero. Truth, justice, and the Mexican way!”

“No gun, though,” Denny said. “Superheroes all have some signature thing. Maybe she can have the guitar string of truth!”

“I like it.” Carlos reached over and tickled under Gabi’s chin, then under Tina’s. “And the law books of justice!” He thought about it. “Well, actually, that’s sort of what regular law books are. What shall she have, Tina?”

“A gavel, of course. Why stop with lawyer things? She’ll be a judge superhero. With magical music skills. To solve crimes.” She grinned over at Denny.

“Well, yes, of course. She’ll need something from her godfather. Won’t you? Yes, you will.” He kissed the top of Gabi’s fuzzy little head (she was clearly going to get Carlos’s thick black hair). “As to the garage… maybe in place of the apartment, though I would pay you rent. But I better keep my office where it is. I need to meet people somewhere that looks professional.”

“Yes. The plastic lawn chairs and the card table give you a certain authority.”

“Enrique gave me a bonus. I’m using it for proper furniture. As soon as I get time to shop. The clients have been pretty non-stop since the Rivera case, and the thing with Jaramillo…” He shook his head. He’d barely finished riding the wave of publicity over Héctor Rivera when Piluca Jaramillo, an up and coming opera singer from the conservatory, had come to him to stop her boyfriend from stalking her. Things had escalated, and had ended up with a race across town on foot, and finally tackling the bastard to the ground in Constitution Square, relieving him of his knife, and cuffing him in front of about five hundred witnesses. It hadn’t taken the news crews too long to realize that they already knew him. The police hadn’t even pressed him too hard about having the cuffs. (In fact, they were trying to get him to take a regular job.) The publicity had kept people coming, a lot of them young women who seemed to think he was some kind of modern day knight.

“You have time to be here now,” Tina pointed out.

“I don’t sacrifice baby-time for furniture.”

Carlos laughed. “We could go online. Order things and have them delivered. It’s a radical new idea.”

Denny sighed and looked around the garage. It was possibly a few square feet bigger than the studio he lived in now. There was a little kitchenette, and it was cable ready. He could stay up as late as he needed to working on cases without worrying about waking the baby. “What would you say for rent?”

“No rent. You just pitch in on taxes.” Tina sat down in the little window seat. “We all save money, then buy the place next door. Then the one next to that. And we get our own little hacienda to raise generations of little crime-solving musical judges in.”

“We’re all going to have to step up the income to do that in this neighborhood. Or anywhere else in this city. We could move somewhere cheaper.”

“Well, I teach at the conservatory,” Carlos reminded him. “There’s only so far away from it that I can be. So, I guess we’ll have to bring in more money. My book’s still doing all right. There’s even someone who wants to make a movie, though I don’t think the Riveras will go for that. My agent wants another one. Who should I put in the dock next? There’s nobody else who stinks as much as de la Cruz always did to me.”

“You could write a perfectly happy book next,” Tina suggested. “Someone who turns out to be much better than people thought, instead of much worse.”

“No one buys those.”

Denny thought about it. “How about a book about how good guitars are for children?” He shrugged. “I mean, there’s research and everything, so it could be something you’d write for your regular job.”

“Maybe. Hmm. Or a children’s book.” Carlos leaned against the stove. The roof slanted down, and he had to duck a little. “That could be fun. But I think my agent wants another big true musical crime book. Maybe I’ll hire you if I find another crime.”

“Nah, that would just be fun work. We could just be a team again.”

“Then that’s the plan. I’ll just find someone in the music business who’s corrupt.”

“Wherever will you look?” Tina asked dryly.

He sighed. “I wish that weren’t sarcastic. But do you know how many people have already applied for legal help from the Rivera Institute? Sixty-three. It’s been in place for six months. That’s more than ten people a month, if you’re math-impaired. And most of them have legitimate contract issues. Two have good cases for plagiarism.”

“Only two?” Denny asked.

Carlos shrugged. “Well, about half of the ones in lousy contracts also think that some popular singer has plagiarized them, but for the most part, we’re talking about, at best, surface similarities that are more easily explained as coincidental family resemblance. They’re kind of crushed about that. But there’s enough real work to do protecting them from real problems without encouraging paranoia.”

“That’s… practical.”

“For a musician?”


Tina shook her head. “My husband has an unconscionably realistic side, for an artist. And here I thought I was marrying an irresponsible, flighty musician. It’s a perfectly good stereotype he’s breaking.”

“I’ll try to be more wasteful and flighty in the future. After we’ve bought up the whole block to turn it into a modern hacienda.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Tina said. “Now, her royal highness needs her lunch, so I will leave you two hacendados to sort out Denny’s living arrangements…”

How about the first performance of Frida and Hector's play, and the critical response to it? for princesselwen


Gemela (musical)

Gemela is a musical by Héctor Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Rivera wrote the music and lyrics, with additional lyrics credited to his brother-in-law, Oscar Rivera. Kahlo wrote the book and designed the major set pieces.

Dealing with the question of mixed marriage afterlives, Gemela caused both conversation and controversy upon its opening. The play tells the story of a pair of twins from Oaxaca, Arturo and Timoteo, who, during their time in the living world, traveled to Scandinavia, where Timoteo married the lovely Inga. Inga’s own twin, Astrid, objected to the marriage, as did Arturo. Picking up a century after their deaths, Inga and Astrid are in the Scandinavian Valhalla, young and beautiful, nearly human, awaiting the grand battle of Ragnarok, though Inga is not particularly interested in it. When she discovers a passage to Mictlan, she chooses to go to her beloved Timoteo. Astrid, determined to bring her back to “where she belongs,” follows. They meet with the brothers again, and try to find a way to reconcile their wildly different cultures.

Although both developers have moved on to other projects, the show continues essentially as first performed, ten years after its debut.


The story, developed by Rivera and Kahlo after a philosophical discussion of differing afterlife traditions in the real world, began with the idea of twins, largely, according to Rivera, because the conversation had begun with jokes his brothers-in-law (twins Oscar and Felipe Rivera) had been making. This initially humorous idea became the show’s major symbolic form, with the twinning of afterlives, the mirrored couples, and twinned loves of one’s beloved and one’s culture.

The play was developed against the backdrop of Rivera’s increasing fame after the revelation that the famed Ernesto de la Cruz was responsible for his death. With interest high, there was no difficulty finding production space and support for an original play, although Rivera had no previous experience in the form. His longstanding relations in the art district had kept him in touch with Kahlo, who assisted his family in the Día de Muertos Incident the previous year.

Because the Scandinavian view of the afterlife—largely influenced by the tales of the Vikings, though, like our own world, suffused with later religious input—is not the one we inhabit, and the people of that world are fully fleshed and often surrounded with living vegetation, the construction of that world many artistic innovations by Kahlo. “The flesh was the most obvious difference,” she said. “We went through many trials before coming up with anything that would work.” Working with recently arrived law enforcement officers, who had done reconstructive work with clay in the living world, she developed a movable foam framework, which would respond to the actors’ movements. “I’m still not satisfied with it,” she said. “Though I imagine they would have even greater trouble in Valhalla imitating our forms!”


Act I
The show opens in the inventors’ workshop where Timoteo and his brother Arturo are working on a flying machine. When they are together, they refer to it as nothing but a game, but when Arturo leaves, Timoteo reveals his wish to see his wife from the living world, Inga, who remained in Sweden after he himself died in the fighting during the Revolution, and who he believes might have re-married (“If I Could Fly Beyond The Sea”). On the wall, he has a painting she once made, left on an ofrenda by an unknown person. It shows a twinflower, the national symbol of Sweden.

The painting swings, and as it does so, the stage revolves, bringing the action to Valhalla, where Inga is painting again. She and her sister, Astrid, are waiting for Ragnarok, where Astrid plans to die her final death in heroic battle (“Thunder and Fire”). Inga is bored with the subject, and distressed that she has not been able to find Timeoteo. Astrid, who was not a great fan of Inga’s marriage, suggests that he went to a different afterlife, having heard a somewhat dark and mangled version of Mexican traditions (“Bones”). Inga, who had not been a believer in life and had considered both versions to be superstition, considers the possibility (“If I Could Fly Beyond the Sea (Reprise 1)”). She removes the painting from her easel, revealing a marigold, and places it in the same position that the twinflower occupied in Timoteo’s workshop, and immediately the workshop is flooded with light. She is reaching for it when Astrid returns and sees her. They argue (“I Had A Life”/”Gunnarsdottir”), and Inga jumps through the portal astride her flying horse, Skirnir. Astrid, fuming, follows her.

They land in the city, where Inga and Timoteo are reunited in a joyful song (“Mi Vida”/”Mitt Allt”), while Astrid, noticing the closed portal and realizing that they are now in skeletal form (and Skirnir has become a flying alebrije), sings a furious counterpoint (“Far From Home”). Arturo returns to discover this and adds his own voice, in his anger at his brother, both about the marriage and about Inga’s decision to stay in Sweden with their daughter (“Are We Not Good Enough For You?”). The songs, mixing Mexican and Scandinavian melodies, end in a furious crash of thunder, as Inga and Timeteo embrace, and Astrid and Arturo stalk off.

The remainder of Act I consists of the efforts of Inga and Timoteo to create a life, including a long overdue talk about what happened after his death, and why she never went to his family after learning that he had died, and never took their daughter to visit until she was sixteen, and laid the painting of the twinflower on the ofrenda, but felt the family’s hostility over her choice not to move in with them (“We Were Strangers”). Timoteo reminds her that he had not exactly been welcomed with open arms by her family, either (“Salt of the Earth, We’re Sure”). But they never stopped loving one another, and vow to make it work. Meanwhile, Arturo and Astrid plan to re-open the portal and separate their siblings (“They Don’t Belong”), but as they work together, they realize that they’re an effective team (“Amigas Locas”). With each arguing the superiority of their native afterlives (“Flesh and Bones”), they begin to fall in love. They have just given in to their feelings and joined in a passionate kiss when the portal opens up again (“Bridges”), pulling them to Valhalla and closing Act I.

Act II
Act II largely concerns the efforts of the two couples to bring everyone back where they belong and find a way to cope with the cultural differences.

Opening one month later, Astrid and Arturo have been enjoying the pleasures of being fully fleshed (“Clean Water, Fresh Air… And the Other Thing”), but Arturo is not given a place in the coming battle of Ragnarok, and Astrid misses the food of Mictlan. At home, Inga, while happy to be with Timoteo, misses the lush green landscape of Valhalla, and riding Skirnir over flowered meadows (“Twinflowers”). She believes she’s lost her place in the final battle. Timoteo, wanting her to be happy, builds a dragon-headed ship for her (“If I Could Fly Beyond the Sea (Reprise 2)”). She wants him to be happy as well, and uses her skill at painting to re-create the scenery from his hacienda in Mexico. But they are both worried about their siblings, and know they need to find a way to create a permanent bridge, so they can come and go at will. There is no known way to do this, and they go to various experts in the city, including a priest who merely comforts them (“Have Faith, My Children”), a journalist who is inordinately interested in their story (“Tell Me Everything”), and an official from the Department of Family Reunions who is mainly concerned with sending Inga back to Valhalla (“Where You Belong”).

Finally, Timoteo realizes that this can only work the way everything in Mictlan works—by the intervention of the living. They resolve to use Día de Muertos to connect to their great-great-grandchildren, who have long since scattered around the world (“Dear God, Where Are They Now?”). At the library, they find thirty descendants, but most of them are beyond easy reach, living in places with no formal mode of connection. They’re about to give up when they find a single boy, spending a year in Mexico with no knowledge of his own heritage there, much to Timoteo’s grief (“One-Sixteenth”). He does, however, have a picture of Inga that he has placed on his host family’s ofrenda, and, with Timoteo’s guidance, she crosses the bridge and makes contact with the boy.

In Valhalla, Arturo and Astrid are bickering again, and trying to re-create the portal, but Inga’s painting is no longer there, and they can’t think of anything shared between the worlds (“We Were Strangers (Reprise)”). Arturo admits that he knows how to use the magic of Mictlan to find the way home. In fact, when he’s alone, he’s been able to find a marigold bridge in the sky. But since he can’t find it with Astrid, he refuses to cross it. She tells him that she won’t be the one holding him hostage.

But as they start to argue about who will sacrifice what for whom, the portal open again and Inga flies through on Skirnir, their forms changing as they pass through (an effect designed by Kahlo). She says they need marigolds, which grow live in Valhalla, and they need them before sunrise. Timoteo is holding the portal with only the power of their great-great-grandson’s dream. Together, the other three rush out to the fields to get the flowers (“Gathering the Sunrise”), and, just as the sun is about to rise, cast the petals through the portal, where they form a permanent bridge, allowing them to pass back and forth between their workshops (“Bridges (Reprise)”/”Finale”).


Critical response was positive in initial showings, with particular praise for Rivera’s music, which was called “a nuanced fusion of disparate sources” and “an aural metaphor.” The performances, particularly Cristoval Rodriguez as Arturo, were universally praised. Some critics complained that the story was an oversimplification, and Esme Flores, a longtime fan of Ernesto de la Cruz who continues to cast doubt on Rivera’s story, declared it “an insult to our world.”

Audiences immediately took to the story, many having lost relatives to modern mobility. Members of culturally mixed couples first wistfully wished for such an easy solution, then began looking for it, leading ultimately to the new Travel Division at the Department of Family Reunions, founded by Himari Hasegawa de Perez, who was able to connect with her brother in Tokoyo. The Division has not been able to adequately explain the process of travel, only that it is “not difficult” and does not, unfortunately, consist of a marigold bridge and a portal, but Hasegawa certainly credits her interest in solving the problem to her repeated viewings of Gemela. “I’d just given up,” she said. “I thought I had sundered my ties to my homeland. But now, we have everything.”

Music and Lyrics: Héctor Rivera
Book: Frida Kahlo

6 comments or Leave a comment
sonetka From: sonetka Date: October 9th, 2018 04:55 am (UTC) (Link)
MUERTOPEDIA OH MY GOD. It has to exist, or at least exist soon! (I mean, the net has been around for a while, lots of users are dead now -- I bet Usenet in the LotD is absolutely hopping). I love that opera, and even more that it led to someone actually finding a way to the other lands, sort of like Star Trek inspiring actual scientists. I wonder what the twins thought of accidentally inspiring it?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 9th, 2018 05:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, Usenet! The memories!

Art creates as much as it's created, so I can definitely see it working that way.

The twins probably work in the division part-time, at least. :D
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 10th, 2018 05:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Carlos, Tina, and Denny are a great trio... and evoke another trio, even if the girl isn't with the ginger here.
I can just picture Bridget and the Riveras' internal screaming when they sees Denny in the news.
Also even when he gets a stream of clients, I'm seeing Denny trying to cultivate a Look(tm) with his chairs and table. Carlos and Tina aren't having it.

Aw this is flashing me back to your review of Star-Crossed.
It is cool that there is now a concerted effort in bridging the afterlives. Cal's (speaking of which, I'm surprised he wasn't mentioned by the Riveras; then again they probably wanted that private) comment suggests that other afterlives have already done so.
I can also imagine "skincations" occuring in the process.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 11th, 2018 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yeah, Denny has a "look" going. And yes, Carlos and Tina believe that look needs changing. And I imagine that after that scene with the stalker, he got a strict call from Enrique about putting himself in needless danger. ;p

I had fun doing the "Star-Crossed" thing, and I just wanted to do it again. Now I have a better graphics program, too.
princesselwen From: princesselwen Date: October 11th, 2018 10:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I like that the play became a fixture-like Les Mis in the West End. Very cool.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 1st, 2018 08:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sorry to have taken a break - I loved mine. That Denny is such a part of Carlos and Tina’s family. The other one was even better - so much information, and even a graphic. Loved the newspaper style.
6 comments or Leave a comment