“I wrenched the nylon curtains back as far as they would go and peered through perspex window panes at the acrylic road.” -X-Ray Spex
Facebook never forgets. It keeps track of all my activity on the site. Over the years, that adds up to a lot. It won’t dump all the data upon request for me to download and I can’t search using criteria of my choosing, but through their filters I can find stuff going back years. For example, I can tell you that on August 22, 2010 at 7:05 am, I used my phone to check into the “Stump ‘n’ Hump Amputee Brothel.”
For the credulous among you, let me say that this place does not exist nor has it ever existed. It might exist somewhere, but certainly not at my home address where I was lying on my bed feeling bored and curious whether you can invent a place with a preposterous name, check in there, and have it appear as a valid location for everyone else to see.
It turns out you can do that, a point I’ve proven many times over.
The amputee brothel is the only fake location I’ve checked into from home. I have also never done it at anyone else’s home. That is a rule I adhere to. In my youth, I lacked this kind of restraint and used to gleefully piss in the sinks of friend and foe alike. I guess I’m all grown up now. Go me.
And oh yeah, I should mention I have avoided this activity at my places of employment because the corporate world is not known for its sense of humor. I’m unlikely to get caught doing it, but I don’t see the point in pressing my luck when there is rent to pay.
With people’s residences and my workplaces off limits, the locations for my check-ins have been more less random points on a map. Whenever what I thought was a witty place name popped into my head, I would whip out my phone and give birth to it.
For the most part, I stayed local. “Loan Gunman Collection Agency,” “If You Encyst Dermatology Clinic,” and “Joaquin Wounded’s Army Surplus Superstore” are in Oakland, while “Murder Most Fowl Poultry Plant,” “Fragrant Vagrant Homeless Shelter,” and “Mike O’Dolences- ‘The Funeral Guy!'” are in San Francisco. Well, as much as any of them can be said to be anywhere, that is.
It is probably no surprise that I am a big fan of “Bob’s Burgers” though my intention was not an homage to the buildings adjacent to the eponymous eatery. That isn’t a bad goal. It just wasn’t mine. For one thing, I started my fake check-ins before I started watching the show so my influences came a little from “The Simpsons” though far more from “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” which once had a wanted poster for an outlaw named “Joaquin Behindu.” I was not doing an homage to those shows either. Homages aren’t my thing. I am too selfish, too much of an ingrate.
My reasons were far baser. I wanted to fuck shit up and feel good about it. Fucking shit up is relative though. I lack the temperament to get off on doing anything truly malicious. Physical violence has never been my thing and my youthful fling with vandalism was neither satisfying nor lasting. I do however enjoy messing with people’s sensibilities and being a general pain in the ass. I also fancy myself to be a very clever boy.
If I were of an activist bent, I might describe what I do as culture jamming. It certainly has all the trappings of being such. I’m hijacking a communications medium and subverting commercial interests with my campaign of misinformation. Heck, I might even call myself as a one-man digital version of the Billboard Liberation Front if I were OK with lying to myself as well as everyone else.
The truth is that it was pure mischief at first, but after a while it started becoming something more. If you either know me personally or have read this blog before, you’ll have learned that I reach most of my epiphanies after I’ve crawled up my own ass. This was no exception.
One day while indulging my smugness over my puerile hijinks, I thought about the places I’d invented and I started to connect the dots. I imagined I created a parallel world, one that existed on the material plane of puns, crudity, and cruelty. I liked this world I made though I wouldn’t want to live there any more than God almighty would want to rub elbows with a bunch of smelly mortals.
However, I am not God. I don’t believe God is God either, but that is another topic for another day. If you buy into the God thing, you may find him or her to be benevolent, vengeful, a mixture of the two, or none of the above. What you’re not going to call God is a slacker. Take a look at the world. It’s a total clusterfuck, but you have to admit there is a whole lot of it. Even with omnipotence, a ton of work went into making this mess. To achieve the same end on a human scale, I would have possess a godlike sense of purpose proportional to human form. I would have to be Henry Darger.
Darger was a janitor by trade, but is remembered as an outsider artist and writer. Having no friends to speak of, he spent every waking hour outside of work creating his world, one that featured naked little girls with penises fighting against the big, bad atheists. This is not a world I either envision or desire, but it was his and he devoted himself to it tirelessly. By the time he died, he left a staggering body of work including a 15,000 word novel filled with hundreds of his illustrations.
I admire but don’t envy Henry Darger. I think I would get very lonely living my life as he did. Perhaps he got lonely too, or maybe he was genuinely happiest alone with his work. I’d prefer the latter were true. By all accounts, he never caused another soul any harm so it would be nice if he had a satisfying life on his own terms.
I can only guess as to what drove him onward. He had some pretty horrendous things happen to him when he was a kid and the news of a child’s murder affected him deeply, but these factors can only explain some of the nature of his work. They provide no insight as to why he bothered in the first place. It certainly wasn’t for fame. He never made any effort for his work to see the light of day. However, he didn’t throw it in the furnace when he was done with it either. He wanted it to live on, perhaps so a piece of him could live on as well.
There is a Dave version of that I can relate to. My own demise is likely decades away, but I would like to have some lasting effect on the world after I am gone. It doesn’t have to last forever, just long enough to cheat death a little bit.
A little bit is the best I can hope for. I am at my core both a dilettante and an instant-gratification junkie. Expectations of the scope and depth of my efforts need to be adjusted accordingly. In so doing, any comparisons between myself and the late Henry Darger become patently absurd.
My fake check-ins, these throwaway places, are thought up and executed with the same level of concentration as breaking wind. When it comes to effort, they don’t even rate compared to my other modest creative endeavors. I have five first drafts of novels gathering dust on a hard drive and of course there is this blog, an on-again, off-again labor of fickle love that has managed to amass over 200 entries in its almost 11 years of existence. Both the novel drafts and blog are undeniably more substantial yet neither have the reach or staying power of what I do on a lark while walking down the street. The places I’ve created are visible to everyone in the area on Facebook, and in San Francisco terms, that means everyone because I’m pretty sure the entire city has joined the site. And since there is no QA to weed out shenanigans like mine, none of my made-up places have been deleted nor do I expect they ever will be.
It looks like my best shot at a sliver of immortality will come in the form of this smart-ass world created off the cuff by me, a distracted mortal playing God. I’ll just keep adding to it when the mood strikes me and it’ll eventually amount to a legacy I can be proud of. It’ll be an anonymous sort of fame, but I’m fine with that. In my own little way, I’ll take my place with the DB Coopers and Kilroys of posterity. I could do much worse.
Some might argue that thinking there is artistic value to my fabrications or that they constitute a world in any cohesive sense is utter nonsense. They might say that the average person who stumbles upon my contributions to the landscape is more likely to be irritated than anything and that even those who are mildly amused probably aren’t going to attempt to retrace my steps and piece together the mosaic from my digital breadcrumbs. They might further go on to say that I need to get over myself and stop tagging the Facebook map like it’s a Muni bus.
These are valid objections and I would take them to heart, but I am too busy being up my own ass and having an epiphany.