“I’m not just talking about my wife, I’m talking about my LIFE, I can’t seem to get that through to you. I’m not just talking about one person, I’m talking about everybody. I’m talking about form. I’m talking about content. I’m talking about interrelationships. I’m talking about God, the devil, Heaven, Hell. Do you understand… FINALLY?”
- Harding, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Germantown, a melting pot of cultures and languages, is as famous for its open air markets as it is for its Zen gardens. As Germantown’s name suggests, the area was first settled by German émigrés at the beginning of the twentieth century. Successive waves of immigrants added new ethnic influences over time. The 1950s and 60s witnessed an influx of Southeast Asians fleeing the wars in Korea and Indochina. Refugees from impoverished Caribbean nations came in the 1980s and, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europeans began to arrive in droves. All huddled masses, yearning to be free.
An ornate Bavarian clock tower called die Glockenturm is the official symbol of Germantown. Along with the twisting cobblestone streets lined with hex signs, sausage shops and beer halls, the clock tower conveys an Old World charm. Local tradition claims that the miniature statues of medieval townsfolk come to life at night and descend into the city to perform good deeds. “Gunter” the blacksmith is particularly adept at foiling robberies. In 2000, the city commissioned another landmark to recognize and honor a century of immigration: the Spring of Unity. Situated in Beacon Park on the waterfront, this pink marble fountain features a central tower of eternal flame surrounded by a circular reflecting pool. Because the monument represents all four elemental forces, practitioners of magic consider it neutral ground ideal for sealing pacts.
God, The Devil, Heaven, Hell
Germantown’s spiritual activity, like its cultural makeup, is a weird blend of myths and religious beliefs. The residents hold an annual holiday (“The Tempest of Toads”) complete with carnivals to commemorate a torrential flash flood in 1952 that dumped thousands of toads onto the streets. While local politicians and community leaders throw rubber toads to giggling children at the big parade, spectators snack on a wide variety of dishes from the West Indies, Vietnam, Korea and Estonia. On the weathered boardwalk, churches and temples of every faith alternate with restaurants, pubs, and souvenir shops. Diyu, a smoky mahjong parlor, attracts professional gamblers, amateurs and curious onlookers. The establishment is famous for its distinctive ghost money featuring the glaring visage of Yanlou Wang, the King of Hell. Mysterious night clubs fuse jazz, hoodoo and Santeria featuring the musical stylings of Headless Haunt & His Moaning Bones. Tourists wait for hours in line to browse at Mr. Homper’s Conjuration Shop, an eclectic store cluttered with peculiar antiques bearing exorbitant price tags. Once or twice per year, bystanders may even witness the elusive Mr. Homper peering from the shop’s attic window.
About One Person
Even in a neighborhood as diverse as Germantown, individuals struggle to belong. Gheorghe’s Gym promotes boxing as an alternative to the gang lifestyle. Community and business dollars fund an initial youth program, while promoters finance local talent for the popular amateur circuit. Gheorghe secretly trains Trina “Rabbit” Rodriguez, an ex-chola turned masked crime fighter. The diminutive brawler assumed a new identity as Knockout since a heated dispute with her former gang left her beaten, bloodied and left for dead. Knockout serves as a role-model to the patrols the streets of Germantown at night, unaware that she is being groomed on behalf of Gheorghe’s associate, the priest called Black Collar. Behind hanging ducks and stacked crates of produce in the market district is The Wheel of Joy, a Tibetan herbalist shop. An aged bhiksu Buddhist monk named Kunzang Tenzin resides in the back rooms, administering both healing acupuncture and elaborate tattoos to a small but privileged clientele. The supernatural community speaks with reverence when discussing the monk’s fabled artifact: the Tibetan Flash Sheet, seventeen designs painted on thousand-year old yeti skin. Simply inking one’s flesh with these occult sigils confers great power, but only to those worthy of such a gift. There have been three known bearers of these mystic tattoos: the post-war crime buster Harrier, the serpent lord King Naga, and the Master of the Snow Lion Claw, a Korean-American police officer known as Frostbite.