“They say it’s a small world, but you can’t trust ’em. Never listen to what they say! They tell you that you only use ten percent of your brain, and they tell you not to talk to strangers, and they tell you that you can’t be a man cuz’ you doesn’t smoke the came cigarettes they do. They? Nothin’ but trouble, cats and kittens.
“Listen to your pal Frankie Nickels on KHAY–Hey!–cuz you know she ain’t gonna steer you towards the rocks. And if I do, well: you know where I am. When they tell you lies and falsehoods, you got no recourse. I sell you a bill of goods, you can come find me in the Victory Diner after the show.
“So. They say it’s a small world, but that’s a lie. World’s the size of a damn planet. Here’s how big the world is: you can fit Texas inside it.
“25,000 miles. Which, for all you metric system folks out there, is a certain number of kilometers. I don’t know, and I ain’t looking it up, and I resent you even asking ha ha ha. Look down, look at your feet. See where you’re standing? Start walking. Doesn’t matter which direction. Keep walking, and when you are finally back in that same place you started: 25,000 miles.
“This is assuming you are the Lord Christ, of course, since there’s a bit of water in your way.
“So you can’t hoof it. That means for the first 99% of human history and pre-history–all that time we was a-percolating in Africa and a-propagating ourselves outward–nobody did it. Gotta invent boats first, and I mean good ones. We figured out canoes and kayaks and all sorts of little skiffs to go fishing off the coast with, travel up and down the river, but this is open ocean traveling that Frankie Nickels is talking about! There’s krakens and whatnot out there!
“Whole lotta other stuff gotta happen before you cross the ocean. Gotta invent the compass. Chart the stars. Figure out latitude. Longitude ain’t as important. You can get along without longitude, but you’re stuck in the harbor without latitude. Gotta invent sails. Can’t row across the Atlantic.
“A boat’s just a floating pile of other people’s discoveries, ha ha ha.
“So now you got a boat. Now you can cross an ocean.
“But why would anyone want to?
“The spice, cats and kittens. Ginger and cinnamon and tumeric and pepper. Nothing had any damn flavor back then, cats and kittens, least not in Europe! Rabbit, goat, couple different kinds of birds. I suppose you got beets. Celery. Not much to arouse the palate, you get me? But there were spices, wild and exotic flavors, and they was growing like weeds in Asia. He who controls the spice, controls the universe. And he who controlled the spice was the Arabs.
“It mostly came overland, but there were some sea routes. From Java and Maluku and India. The spice came in via the Byzantine Empire, which was really just the remnants of the Eastern Roman Empire, and it landed in Venice, which was really just the remnants of the Western Roman Empire.
“Until 1452, when the Ottomans took Constantinople. Suddenly, life got a lot more complicated for all the good Christian merchants and businessmen in Europe. What we gotta do, they thought, is find a way around the Middle East. Go directly to the source. Hit up those heathens on the Spice Islands our ownselves, ‘stead of being end users.
“Portuguese were leading the pack. They always were a seafaring people. First Europeans to sail to India. Take a left at the Cape of Good Hope, can’t miss it, ha ha ha. Then they sailed around India, too. Made it to China and the Philippines. Got all the way to Japan. Africa financed all their adventures. Portuguese found gold. Sugarcane. Portuguese found Africans. Healthy market for all three commodities, and the caravels spread all across the globe.
“In 1511, they took a port city on the Malay peninsula called Malacca. It’s all strategic and whatnot. That’s not important. I’m just setting up the context of what I’m talking about here. Can’t play the game ’til someone paints a field, right?
“Malacca was controlled by a Sultan, but 1200 men and 8 ships firing their cannons at you’ll put an end to that Sultan nonsense toot sweet. Now Malacca belongs to the Portuguese, one of whom was a fellow you learned about in grade school named Ferdinand Magellan, ‘cept he wasn’t named that cuz he was Portuguese so his name was Fernão de Magalhães, but I can’t pronounce that right so we’ll just call him Magellan.
“Anyway, the winners plundered the city. As winners often do, ha ha ha. Magellan got himself some titles and a whole hunk of gold and jewels and finery, but the important bit is this: Magellan got himself a slave.
“Who is the hero of our story.
“This fellow’s actual name is lost to history. Dunno what his mother called him, but Magellan called him Enrique. He might have been from Sumatra, which is the next island over from Malacca. No one’s ever gonna know. Magellan baptized him, but the record does not show whether it took.
“Either way, Enrique follows Magellan back to Europe and here’s where you gotta start thinking about what kind of man this Enrique fellow is. Couple years they’re together, in a whole lotta locations. Morroco being one of them. Now: Enrique was working in Malacca, which was controlled by the Arabs. We’re assuming he wasn’t just some dude Magellan picked up off the street. Meaning Enrique probably spoke a little Arabic, but he didn’t ditch out on Magellan while they were in Casablanca.
“Maybe it was a beautiful friendship, ha ha ha.
“Long story short, Magellan’s working for the Spanish. Wore out his welcome back home. You know how that goes, cats and kittens. Happens to the best of us.
“Portuguese went east? The Spanish are gonna go west. They know the Americas are there, and they knew the Pacific was there, but they didn’t know how much Pacific there was.
“Five ships set out from Seville in August of 1519. The Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepcion, Santiago, and Victoria. Trinidad was the flagship, and that’s the one Magellan and Enrique were on. You know those boats they got nowadays with the ice skating rinks and comedy clubs in ’em? Yeah, well, these weren’t those. Three masts and hardtack and buggery.
“Took ’em until December to reach Brazil, and once they got there half the damn crew started mutinizing. Magellan had the captains who led it crucified.
“Remember, we’re talking about the old days here.
“Santiago gets wrecked. Through Tierra del Fuego to the this giant blue forevermore before them, and Magellan calls it Mar Pacifico. We been calling it that ever since. The San Antonio sees this immense bit of nothing in front of it and decides to desert.
“Three ships set out for Asia. How far could it be?
“They left South America in November and landed in the Philippines in March. There ain’t nothing in between those two addresses, cats and kittens, at least nothing that Magellan and his crew came upon. Just that ocean paying you no mind day after day. Gives me the shivers.
“Anyway, they get to the Philippines and Enrique can kinda speak the language. He’s translating the best he can when Magellan gets himself into some dopey intertribal warfare, and wouldn’t you know: that man got himself killed. This is a place called Cebu. Now, Magellan had left a will and in that will, he had freed Enrique, but the next in command didn’t quite see it that way. Guy named John Serrano. Said Enrique was too valuable to the mission, and that Enrique belonged to him now.
“And Enrique said, ‘Yes, boss. Sure, boss. What’s the plan, boss?’
“So this John Serrano fellow sends Enrique to go make peace with the natives who killed Magellan.
“Enrique says, ‘Sure, boss. Whatever you say, boss.’ Goes ashore, talks to the natives for a bit, comes back to the boat with great news. ‘They want to apologize. They want to throw you a banquet, boss.’
“This fellow John Serrano takes a whole bunch of the crew and goes ashore.
“Bad idea, boss.
“The ships hoist sail and skeedaddle, but there’s so many dead that they don’t have enough crew for all three ships. The Concepcion gets burned and left behind. Trinidad gets wrecked off Africa. Only the Victoria makes it home, three years after it left. But who cares about them? We’re talking about Enrique.
“Cebu, you see, is only about 1,500 miles from Malacca. Enrique started in Malacca. Went west to Portugal. West to South America. West to the Philippines. He went west for 23,500 miles and talked some strangers into shooting the bastards who caught him up in the first place.
“You think he couldn’t find his way another 1,500 miles?
“I think he did. I bet Enrique had a bit of gold secreted away. He spoke a whole bunch of languages. There was trading going on all over the area. Quick hop from Cebu to Brunei to Singapore to Malacca. And then maybe even back to Sumatra. I bet Enrique got to hear his momma call him by his real name at the end of his adventure.
“And that’s all the way around, cats and kittens. Circumnavigation, your grade school teacher called it. Can’t be proven, but it’s as good a story as any you’re gonna hear for free, ha ha ha .
“You wanna hear some music?
“Me, too. Let’s get some rock and roll music going on the Frankie Nickels Show on KHAY–Hey!–where it don’t matter where you came from, but where you end up.”