Page 176. " as if he were tumbling down a great hole, like Alice "

Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll.

This is the start of her exposure to all kinds of fantastical experiences.  The simile is also used in the movie The Matrix.

Page 182. " Like Cairo in Egypt, in the Nile delta "

Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in Africa.  It was founded in the 10th Century by the Fatimid Dynasty, but the area has long been a site of national capitals, the remnants of which can still be seen in Old Cairo.


Google Map


The Nile delta has been farmed for thousands of years. It is home to all sorts of wildlife, including a large number of water birds.


Page 186. " I'm a Cherokee "

 The Cherokee are a Native American people. They settled mainly in the South Eastern United States and linguistically are considered part of the Iroquoian language family.

Page 186. " when they split he went back to Oklahoma "

Oklahoma is a state in the south central region of America. Its name comes from the Choctaw words okla and humma which mean 'red people.' 

Page 186. " He passed through Normal, and Bloomington, and Lawndale. "

Normal was originally known as North Bloomington but was given the name Normal in February 1865. Normal is adjacent to Bloomington and they are often referred to as the Twin Cities or Bloomington-Normal.

Google Map


Bloomington is the more populous of the two towns, and is home to the nationally recognised Illinois Shakespeare festival. Before the 1520s, the area was home to the Kickapoo people.

Lawndale town lies on Interstate 55, south of Kickapoo Creek.

In July 1977, two unidentified birds, referred to as Thunderbirds, swooped over the town. One grabbed a ten year old boy but dropped him soon after, possibly due to the screams of his mother.

Page 187. " an episode of M*A*S*H ended and a Dick Van Dyke episode began. "

M*A*S*H was adapted from the film MASH, which was based on the 1968 novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors.

The Dick Van Dyke Show was originally aired from 1961 to 1966, starring Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.

Page 188. " The Dick Van Dyke show had, inexplicably, become I Love Lucy. "

I Love Lucy originally ran from 1951 to 1957. The show then continued with three more seasons until 1960.

This much loved show starred Lucille Ball.

Page 191. " Home of Popeye "

Popeye, also known as Popeye the sailor man, was created by Elzie Crisler Segar. He has appeared in comic books and animations since the 1930s. He has remained popular over the years, with video games, commercials and a live action film being made.

Page 192. " He saw a covering of brown kudzu over three winter-dead trees "

Public Domain

Kudzu is sometimes referred to as the 'vine that ate the south,' and the 'foot-a-night vine.' 

It is a climbing plant native to Southern Japan and southeast China.  It was introduced to the United States in 1876 and grows prolifically there, as it does in most places it plants its roots.

Page 194. " 'I saw Harry Houdini once, and believe me, man, you are no Harry Houdini.' "

Hungarian born Eriki Weisz chose the stage name Harry Houdini because of the influence of French magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin on his career.

A famous magician and escapologist, Houdini also worked as a stunt performer, actor and film director.

Page 200. " Have you heard of the city of Ubar? "


Ubar is also known as Iram of the Pillars, Aram, Irum, Erum, Wabar and the City of a Thousand Pillars. It is a legendary lost city.


Ubar appears in ancient records as the name of a region or people, and is mentioned in folk tales as a trading centre which became incredibly wealthy.  Lost to modern history, it was long believed to be a myth. 

In historical Arabic sources and in classical texts, the name refers to a region, but in One Thousand and One Nights the name is associated with a people.

The Qur'an tells of a city called Iram, which is not mentioned elsewhere in ancient sources and which historians considered to be fictional until Syrian records were discovered that mention trade with Iram.

Islamic beliefs say that king Shaddad angered God, and the city of Iram was destroyed and buried by the sands.  A version of the story can be found in One Thousand and One Nights.

In the 1980s a group of researchers discovered an older settlement by the 16th century Shis'r fort.  Artifacts from all around the ancient world were found in the older fort, which had been built on a limestone cavern that would have provided the former residents with much needed water.  It is thought that this could be the legendary Iram/Ubar.