This file contains writings not included in the published edition of Gospels from the Last Man . These texts are mostly later and record some of my contacts with Cosmo after I left Madison for Taipei, Taiwan. The first of them, however, is earlier and is of special interest for understanding our local Wisconsin history. --Eric Mader
Picnic Point: What is it Really?
(The following notes are based on a conversation with Cosmo di Madison that took place in 1993 or 1994. The conversation concerned the peninsula that juts out into Lake Mendota and that has been rather dully named “Picnic Point” by revisionist authorities. At the time I wrote them, I put the notes in a folder with other things, neglecting to write them up into final form. The earlier Madison edition of Gospels from the Last Man was already at the printers, and so the true history of Picnic Point has remained only partly revealed. I offer these notes here in an attempt to complete Cosmo di Madison's explanation of the site--namely his explanation of what it really is. It is not, as most believe, a merely natural landmark. My notes were mainly in the form of running quotes.)
Cosmo di Madison: "Picnic Point is actually a fallen ruin: it’s the last remains of a Stairway to Heaven built by the Phonecians, who were the Indians. It was built long before the English, Germans and French came to Wisconsin.
"When the stairway was finished, only the very pure would try to climb it. But if they made it to the top, they would realize they were not in the Heaven they thought they would find, but in the real Heaven, the Catholic Heaven.
"Many of them didn't know things rightly, but because of their just ways Jesus had pity on them and would let them come up. If their lives were accepted, they could be let in, after their souls were converted and properly purified.
"The ones who couldn't be accepted were thrown down the sides of the stairs. So the sides of the stairs became a fucking mess, and the Indians got the idea from all the blood and fucking carnage on the sides that the climb up the stairs was a challenge.
Sitting across the water from the UW-Madison campus, most people take Picnic Point to be one of the city’s beautiful natural landmarks.
"But the ones that were thrown over just didn't lead acceptable lives. Or they stopped on the way up, which was fucking stupid, because if you were going to climb the Stairway you couldn't stop along the way. That was one of the rules. The ones who led proper lives could figure out the rules, but the ones who led evil lives had a different attitude about things.
"So it was a challenge. You had to be able to keep climbing, and it was a long climb.
"The Indians were in great shape, Honey. It wasn't so hard for them to climb it. If they stopped along the way it was just because they wanted to waste time, or fuck around. But that was a mistake. Because they'd be sittin' there enjoying the view, scratching their balls, and all of a sudden an arm would come flying down from Heaven and whip them over the side. Shooo! " Cosmo di Madison mimics the arm whipping them over the side.
"It is hard for me to comprehend the Stairway," I say. "Why did they actually build it? It sounds to me like the Tower of Babel."
"God destroyed the Babel project because the people who built it were impure and had no chance of salvation. They even had the project of walking into Heaven with their weapons, which is stupid. I mean, how fucking stupid can you get? Can you picture those fucking idiots coming into Heaven with swords and spears? I mean Duhhhhhh! Get some fucking brains, ya hear me? So the Tower of Babel was a fucking stupid project by a bunch of evil fucking idiots. The stairway in Madison was nothing like that. It began as a regular Phonecian building project. They didn't even want to reach Heaven at first, but just build a magnificent monument for the people. But God saw that the Indians had a chance for purity, that they led just lives, so one night He completed the stairway Himself. When they woke up, they could see the Stairway was different from when they left it."
"They could probably see it was much taller," I pointed out.
"The stairway became a Divine Work. It was a beautiful work in stone, it was a very solid structure. But you couldn't see that it reached all the way to Heaven. That was impossible to see just by looking at it. That's impossible. The upper parts were purely abstract."
"So the top of the stairway was abstract? In what way?"
"The top of the stairway was not a part of this material realm."
* * *
Cosmo di Madison: indefatigable archeological sleuth and expositor of Madison’s sacred history.
* * *
The Japanese singer Shuko Yanagisawa has much to relate concerning the gallantry of Cosmo di Madison. Apparently our man is not in the least put off by her stunning beauty and fame, and knows just the words and tone likely to win her over.
One night Shuko was talking with her friend Kyoko at Amy's. Cosmo di Madison slid into an empty chair at their table and began discussing this and that: the day's political events, his backbreaking police work, the reasons for the abnormal weather. From these less pressing topics, he deftly steered the conversation around to the following suggestion:
"Why don't you ladies just c'mon and join me up in my apartment? First you can heat me up some warm milk in the kitchen, and then you can both be my blanket. C'mon. What d'ya say?"
(Because of the modesty of Japanese women, I never expect to find out whether this line actually worked or not.)
On another occasion, Cosmo di Madison was talking with Shuko in the cafe when he suggested the two of them go outside together for a smoke.
"C'mon, Honey, let's go do some smoky-smoky," is how he put it.
It was outside, out of the earshot of the cafe crowd, that Cosmo di Madison expounded to Shuko the reasons for his attentions to her.
"Do you know why I like you, honey?" he asked.
"Why?" wondered Shuko Yanagisawa.
"I like you because you smell like mama," said Cosmo di Madison, taking the last drag from his cigarette and flicking the butt in the gutter. "C'mon, let's go back in. It's fucking cold out here."
A few days after this declaration, Cosmo confided in me his love for Shuko. We were sitting together in his apartment.
"She's so sweet," he said. "I love her so much, Eric. She's such a honey. Ya hear me?"
"I hear ya, doll."
"What am I gonna do when she goes back to Japan?" he wondered.
"I don't know," I said. "Probably you'll have to stop off there when you're on one of your Asia missions."
"Hmmm," agreed Cosmo di Madison, thinking already about how often he may be able to manage it.
"I know what I'm gonna do!" he decided suddenly, standing up from his chair and beginning to pace about the room. "I'm gonna give her one of my diamond mines in Indonesia. She'll like that, won't she?"
"I hear Indonesia's very beautiful," I said.
"She'll love it! We'll give her the diamond mine, and then I'll make her my wife."
"Your eighteenth?" I asked.
"I'll treat her like a queen," he assured me, gesturing at some of the art treasures here and there about the room. "She'll be my queen, ya hear me?"
"She'll be very happy," I agreed.
Cosmo di Madison sat back down again, and his brows knit heavily, as if he had suddenly discovered some hitch in the plan. I waited to hear what it was.
"She's so sweet, Eric," he said. "Ya hear me? I love her so much." And so the conversation continued.
Cosmo di Madison usually gets on well with the Greeks and Moroccans who frequent Amy's Cafe. This should be no surprise, as many of them work undercover for him. But recently things don't seem to be going so well.
"I'm sick of these fucking Greeks and all these fucking Arabs around here fucking things up," he complains in obvious exasperation. "They should just go back to their desert and get off my fucking oasis. Ya hear me? Get the fuck out of Cosmo's Central Wisconsin Oasis! I've had it with these people."
I ask Cosmo what went wrong.
"Basically they're not doing anything for me," he complains. "All they're good at is stealing my money, and I'm getting fucking tired of it. They're all crazy too, ya hear me? Bunch of fucking kooks."
"What are you going to do about it?" I wonder.
"What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna start the Freddy Kruger business again," he says decisively, referring apparently to the bogeyman from the horror movie Nightmare on Elm Street. (I've never seen this film, but I do remember the poster. It featured a leering old man with a scarred, greenish face and seven-inch fingernails.)
I ask him just what it would mean to "start the Freddy Kruger business again." What, exactly, did Cosmo intend to do?
"I am Freddy Kruger," Cosmo tells me. "I faked my death, and now I'm back. It's time for Freddy Kruger. Freddy Kruger all over again, ya hear me?"
The thought of it is truly scary. I am glad I am not one of Cosmo di Madison's enemies, as I would not like to see him in my own nightmares, which are bad enough as it is, what with sharks and spies and twisted, eroticized incarnations of certain of my elementary school teachers.
The Freddy Kruger business. Would this then be Nightmare on Elm Street II? But now that I think of it, I seem to remember that there already was a Nightmare on Elm Street II. And a III as well. Hmm. So what Nightmare on Elm Street are we up to by now? How many more are we going to have to sit through? I don't know. But as I watch Cosmo snarling and practicing his Freddy Kruger, there at the chair across from me, I think just how lucky I am that I've never stolen a penny from this man, and I wonder if I should indeed warn Faisal, Antony and Mustaphah that it is time to pack their things and skip town.
(Note: Though Cosmo rails against them here, Faisal and the others at Amy’s have always been among his greatest helpers in Madison, always watching out for him. Cosmo has railed against me too for stealing his money, as he’s railed against his family. For a time, Cosmo lived just across from Amy’s on Gilman St.)
(This and the following text were written after my move to Taipei.)
August, 1997. I hadn't seen Cosmo di Madison for nearly a year, and had only spoken with him a few times by phone during my absence. He proved maddeningly difficult to reach by phone from Taipei, and besides he was nearly always unwilling to speak frankly about things over the line. Upon my arrival in Madison, then, I rang him up.
"Hello, Cosmo, how have you been?"
"Is that you, Eric?"
"Yes, it's me, doll. I'm in town."
"Where are you?"
"I'm staying at a friend's place on the east side. I want to see you."
"Come downtown today," he said. "I'll be at Steep 'n Brew."
"I'll come down."
"Will you be there in about an hour?"
"An hour is fine. I'll be there."
"I love you, Eric."
An hour later I was sitting in the window of Steep 'n Brew drinking one of their iced coffees--still the world's best. Then I saw him stride up the sidewalk and enter the shop. Wearing longer hair now, an unzipped black leather vest with nothing under it and skin-tight leopard-spotted lyotards, he was still the man I remembered him to be. We hugged warmly as the new staff looked on from behind the counter. Cosmo di Madison got an icy and sat down.
"How is it over there in China?" he asked me right off.
"It's fine," I said. "What’s been happening here?"
"It's getting better there," he said. "It's because of me. You know it, don't you? The Chinese are starting to respect their ancient wisdom again. It's been hard, but they're learning. A lot of them forgot."
"Cosmo," I said, reaching over to touch the top of his head, "Cosmo, you're balding."
"What do you mean?"
"Look," I said, pointing to the bald spot. "Right there. You're starting to lose your hair."
"I'm not balding," he said with a smirk.
"What do you mean? Look!"
"It's not the same thing," he said, with a wave of his hand.
"What do you mean it’s not the same thing?" I continued--for he was grinning dismissively, not actually offended by my insistence--"You're starting to lose your hair."
"No, that's not it," he replied. "It's not the same thing."
"How is it not the same thing?"
"My wives always like to rub the top of my head," he said. "They like to rub my head every night. It causes my hair to fall out."
"Is this true?"
"You bet it is, doll. If you had women rubbing your head all the time like me, your hair would be falling out too. Sometimes they even want to suck my head. I'm lucky I have any hair left. Ya hear me?"
The guy at the Steep ‘n Brew counter was standing there laughing at our discussion.
"It's good to see you, Cosmo."
"I miss you, Eric," he said. "But let's get some more icies." And then, turning to the two new staff members slacking next to the espresso machine: "Hey, what are you pumpkins doing standing there when my friend needs an icy! C'mon, hop to it! Two icies on the double!"
* * *
Jody Mosher and Cosmo at Steep ‘n Brew. This was before Cosmo’s balding got more serious, for which Jody bears no responsibility.
* * *
I was standing before the cafe counter with Cosmo di Madison. I took a crisp $1,000 Taiwan bill out of my wallet and showed him the smiling man on the back.
"Do you know who this is, doll?" I asked him.
"Of course I know who it is," he replied. "Grandpa was a great man."
He grabbed the bill out of my hand and showed it to the person behind the register.
"Doesn't he look like me, Luke? Doesn't he look like me? I miss grandpa," said Cosmo di Madison sadly, turning back to me. "I think about him every day."
"I didn't know Chiang Kai-Shek was your grandpa, Cosmo," said Luke, surprising me with his historical wisdom.
"You knew he was. I told you so. You just forgot."
And then, turning to me: "These people don't listen like you did, Eric. It's not the same as when you were here. Ya hear me?"
And Luke, much to my chagrin, even tried to charge him for his iced coffee. Things were not the same indeed.
September, 2002. Phone discussion with Cosmo di Madison. Everything is pretty much as usual. He tells me he's having trouble getting money because his accounts are being siphoned off by his corrupt relatives and the woman impersonating his mother. He's also having trouble with the young George Bush. "We give him the speech to memorize, and when he goes out and gives the speech he changes everything and fucks it all up." I was happy to learn he was back in the cafe and that the staff treats him well. There were at least a few years when they made themselves part of the conspiracy against him.
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