Nov. 29, 2009

Continued from Chapter 22: Show

Ugh. There's no way I'm getting home in time to get ready for work...

I pull all my electronics out of my bag, take the bag with me to the bathroom, and spend the next hour making myself presentable (or as close to it as I can), for both work and the shit festival that will follow. God, how do you prepare for being in a giraffe suit?

When I come out, everyone's up: Sen is still sitting in the same place, eating another apple; and, Gully's curling up with his laptop and a blanket over his legs on the couch on which he slept; and, Stan is eating a bowl of Crunchy Oat Aardvarks with... a person... who looks vaguely like Greenfin.

Sen smiles at me. She says, "Look at you, all dressed up. You look great!"

... which... thanks, Sen!

I say, "So... uhh... I need a ride to my car so that I can get to work on time..."

Stan, without looking up, says, "Actually, that is not something you need."

Greenfin says, "There's been a... change of plans."

I don't like the sound of this... That's what Baron von Evil said before attempting to blow up the Earth. For the second time.

Greenfin says, "Well... a detailification, really. Staff is going to be busier than I anticipated, so... I need you three to be in charge of the set."

See, initially, he was considering living a life of peace and harmony, in which he paid for every child in the world to get a good education and live healthily.

Sen says, "Us three? And, what about you and...?"

Greenfin says, "I'll be getting more volunteers, and Stan's in charge of costuming."

But, at the last moment, he realized that his true calling was to destroy the planet, so he invented this Earth-exploder button, and if it hadn't of been for Lady Gaga the Glamificent showing up at the last moment and reversing the polarity of the button, the entire planet would be gone.

Stan's lips curl into a grin, and he says, "I will make you all shine."


Sen says, "Anyways, everyone, think you can swing another sick day?"

Gully and I grab our phones, and Sen and Stan go to their computers.

I speed-dial work and-- "We're sorry, the number you have reached has been disconnected or is no longer in service..." I try again. "... If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please check the number and try your call again."

Shit... Did our work number get Barbed?

On the other couch, Gully is saying, "working on it... I'll hopefully be back tomorrow."

There is a pause.

Sen yells, "Let me log in, you mother fucker!"

Another pause.

Gully says, "Uhh... no. Television, sorry, yeah." He coughs.

Sen is pounding her enter key like a gorilla chest and finally just shuts her computer.

Gully says, "I miss you guys, too. Good luck with the zebra." And, he hangs up.

Greenfin says, "All right... Everyone ready?" Everyone's kind of looking at Sen, who is staring at her computer, frowning poutily. Greenfin says, "... great. You three follow me. Stan, you know how how to get there right?"

Stan shrugs.

There is a pause.

Sen says, "Okay, yeah... Let's... let's go." And, she gets up, grabs her purse and computer and starts walking to the car without looking back. The rest of us, Greenfin included, follow.


By the time we arrive at channel 12's studio (which is a floor of an office building), Sen is a bit more smiley, but still not at her usual chipperness.

Greenfin leads us in, flashing around his badge and smiling at everyone. When we reach his office, a guy in a suit is standing there already. The guy says, "Good morning, Mr. Crantz!"


Greenfin says, "Hey, Alfred. Any red flags?"

Alfred says, "Just this, sir: there was a message from someone on the board this morning claiming that he's coming to... some event you're hosting?"

Greenfin says, "Ah. Yes, yes. Which board member?"

Alfred says, "He... didn't leave any personal information, but wanted me to deliver the following message to you in person: 'Don't mess with a two by four, or it'll mess right back.'"

Greenfin opens his mouth and then closes it. He says, "All right... anything else?"

Alfred says, "One more small thing, sir."

Greenfin says, "Yes, Alfred?"

Alfred takes a deep breath. He says, "My name is not Alfred," and then he runs away.

Nobody says anything for some time.

Then, Sen says, "Mr. Crantz?" She grins.

Greenfin says, "You didn't think my name was actually Greenfin the Magnifarious, did you?"

Sen says, "Well..."

Greenfin says, "I'm not an alien either, I'll have you know."

Sen says, "Obviously..."

Greenfin says, "My name is Michael Crantz. Normal folks call me Mikey or Mr. Crantz, and while we're at my place of business, I'd appreciate it if you did the same."

Sen says, "Right. Of course."

Greenfin says, "Now... let me show you what you'll be doing..."


Greenfin leaves us in the care of a set designer wearing patched up jeans and a small splotch of blue paint on her cheek, with her curly blonde-going-gray hair done up in a frazzly pony tail.

Before even saying hello, the woman hands us trash bags and says, "You'll need these if you don't want to ruin your clothes."

Which, I mean, we don't, so... thank you?

We spend the rest of the morning and afternoon working on the set. The woman never tells us exactly what's going on, but does an impressive job of directing each of us to a different seemingly arbitrary task ("paint this board blue"; "cut up this cardboard in the shape of a star"), while also being gone just about all of the time doing (one would guess) her normal duties.

It's actually fun, something I wouldn't have expected from laborious work. And, Gully's like this super techie, basically finishing every task in five minutes ("I added three coats;" "this star's edges are so sharp, it can basically function as a five-pointed shuriken"), while I'm laboring to get the same thing done in an hour. Of course, I have the advantage that all I have to learn is this stupid song (which Sen helps me out by humming along with me throughout the morning, until Gully threatens to build a spaceship to the moon that is only big enough to take him), while Gully and Sen have this entire packet of lines that they keep glancing at throughout the day.

Somehow, at around 5:00pm, we're all done, and, with lots of things that were already built for other shows, it looks kind of like we have a bunch of pieces of nighttime jungle just ready to be moved onto a set.

The woman says, "All right, boys and girls. It looks like we're all set here... no pun intended!" She laughs like a chipmunk and pats Gully on the arm. "Now, you've got a few minutes to get your lines set before costumes is ready for you."

Sen says, "Great. Thanks, and where's..."

... but the lady is already gone.

Time is moving in fits and bursts, just like the people here. It's impossible to keep track of the time. Even after you look at your watch, it might be twenty minutes later by the time you put your hand back to your side.

Suddenly I'm in a chair and in a giraffe suit, and people are helping me with makeup. Being made up professionally is bizarre, like some kind of evil genius has taken over my body, and while it feels like my arms and legs and face and body are all frozen stuck, they're moving spasmodically, all over the place. My hand keeps twitching, and my arm keeps moving up to brush one of the many flies away from my face, but as soon as it starts moving, it rams into an impregnable rubber wall.

If the Chinese had known about rubber giraffe costumes, they would have been able to build something so much more protective than the great wall, maybe something that you actually can see from the moon.

And, then we're moving to the stage. It feels loud and hot and crowded, both in my suit and outside of it. And, I can kind of look around, but I can't really even see Gully or Sen anymore, just a crowd of people: makeup? costumes? meetup?

And, then there's this roar, a roar like nothing. Like, you hear a lion roar, and you think, "Holy shit, that's a lion. I'm probably gonna die. Shoot." You hear this roar, and it's primordial; it's subconscious. It rattles you to the little child from years ago who used to sit in front of the TV and wonder what it would be like to actually be in the crowd, to actually see up close these creatures who play such a role in your life but always through the filter of a screen. It rattles you so that that little child no longer wonders, no longer wants to be there, is happy with her pixelated television and her inability to interact. It reminds you of something important but is too loud to be able to figure out what that something is, and all that's left is its importance, rattling around in your brain. And, then, it's even too loud for that.



People move a bit out of my way so that I can see the stage, directly in front of me.

Sen walks out on stage, wearing a rhino costume (!), and the kids roar. She says, "Hey, kids!," her voice booming through some kind of sound system, and the kids roar, almost overpowering her. She says, "It's time to laugh... and learn!," and the kids roar.

It's like my ears are going to explode. Or they have exploded. Maybe this is what it feels like when your ears explode.

Thomas, Theresa, and Francis and a bunch of actual kids walk on stage, and then everyone on stage does some kind of weird dance that seems choreographed and impressive, but when you really look, everyone's just doing the same motion over and over again.

Or when you go insane. One definition of insanity is being unable to acknowledge and interact with the world around you. That sounds exactly like me right now. This world around me? Not the one I signed up for.

Then, Sen steps forward, and she says, "I'm going to tell you all a story," and the kids roar, and she says, "it's a story about good little girls and boys," and a bunch of people dressed as little girls and boys (with oversized bangs and lollipops and boy scout uniforms and frilly dresses and baseball caps) walk on stage and wave, and Sen says, "and evil snake people," and the kids scream as a bunch of people dressed in snake uniforms walk on the other side of the stage.

Life would be a whole lot better if it were a sign-up sort of deal. "Hi, new baby. What do you want your username to be? 'Rose'? I'm sorry, that's already taken! How about 'Rose387'? Great. And, what's your password?"

Sen says, "All the little girls and boys were playing and happy, just like you!" the fake little girls and boys do playing things (which is clearly unscripted: one of the fake little boys pantomimes swinging a baseball bat that clearly would have gone through a pirouetting fake little girl's head). Sen says, "They were gathering, meeting up, and having lots of fun!" All the fake little girls and boys laugh together like in a horror movie. Sen says, "Doesn't that sound good?!," and the kids roar.

"Help on Passwords: a password is a sequence of characters that only you know so that nobody can ever go gallivanting around pretending to be you: being stuff they can't afford, signing up for the military, killing people. If you've used a 'Social Security Number' on another life system, this is very similar, but more secure, because nobody ever sees it, even when they're trying to verify who you are!"

Sen says, "But, then, one day, an evil snake came up. BOOOOO!" and the kids roar with slightly deeper voices. And, one of the snake people steps up, and - holy shit - it's Stan, fidgeting a little bit and glaring at everyone, especially the kids in the audience. He says, "Hiss! I hate fun!"

"Great, now tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? When were you born? What color is your hair? How tall are you? How much do you weigh? What are you good at?"

Stan says, "I say, nobody should have fun! Who agrees?!" All the snakes hiss in agreement, but it's largely drowned out by roaring kids. Stan says, "Look there! Those little boys and girls are having fun! We must stop them!" and the snakes start slither-walking toward the fake little girls and boys, who all run around screaming, and all the kids are screaming too.

God, it's so fucking hot.

Sen says, "And, so, the snakes banned fun for all the little girls and boys! Oh no!" The fake snakes stop chasing, but now all the fake little girls and boys are moping around, and suddenly it's quieter (but still hot). Sen says, "BUT!" she smiles a huge smile at all the kids, and she says, "You all can help!" All the little girls and boys look up at the kids and smile and say, in almost unison, "Please!" and the snakes are all skulking and cowering from the kids. The kids roar a little bit more.

Sen says, "Here to tell you how you can help... give a big jungle welcome to... Jill the Giraffe!"


Music starts to play, a blaring almost indecipherable sound explodes from the speakers; it is as close to trumpet-sounding a zebra is to becoming the vice president of England.


Someone pushes me from behind, and I start walking forward, and the shouting becomes increasingly loud, and I'm looking at Sen, and Sen's looking at me, and she smiles, a smile that reaches both ends of her rhino costume, and I turn and I open my mouth and sing:

Who wants to lose their identity?

My voice echoes across the room, above even the voices of the kids. I can hear it coming back to me.

The fake little girls and boys have the next part:

Not me, not me, oh oh, not me!

And, from the corner of my eyes, I see old ladies coming from both sides, starting to tumble.

Who wants to lose their identity?

The old ladies are in front of me now, and they're doing some kind of synchronized break dance.

It'd be like eating a bumble bee!

I take a deep breath and let the music/sound explode around me, and the sounds of the kids, still shouting but more distant.

Who wants to lose the Internet?

I think that one of the old ladies is Darlene.

Two parts fake little girls and boys, one part me.

Not me, not me, nor you I'd bet.

I point haphazardly at children, and they roar.

Who wants to lose the Internet?

Darlene stands up for a second, turns and winks at me, and then she's down again and twisting.

It is, you know, where we all met!

And, the music fades to the background, and everyone stops moving.

I say, "You know, kids, we all love the Internet, like we love our parents, but some people want to keep us away from it, or take away what belongs to us there."

Sen yells, "BOOO!!" And the kids roar something deep.

I say, "Now, we know that you're all good little girls and boys, so here's how you can help! Go find mommy or daddy (or aunty or uncly [or grammy or grampy]), and tell them to go to this website here:"

And, then it's Ben, dressed as a cowboy, walking across the stage, until he's next to me, holding a huge sign:

And, there's a huge swell of movement from the kids, and little flashes of cell phone light everywhere.

I say, "Then, we can all be happy!"

Sen yells, "YAAAAY!!" And, the flashes of light are disappearing, and the kids roar and roar, so loudly that the rise of the music is almost imperceptible.

I say, "Everyone together now!"

Who wants to lose their identity?

And, the kids are actually singing. There must be cue cards somewhere or something, but they're really singing.

Not me, not me, oh oh, not me!

And, the old ladies start to dance again.

Who wants to lose their identity?

And, they're singing too, and everyone behind me.

It'd be like eating a bumble bee!

And, it's louder than loudness itself. It becomes corporeal.

Who wants to lose the Internet?

A being of its own right, able to change the world, able to change space and time.

Not me, not me, nor you I'd bet.

I'm not even sure I pointed that time.

Who wants to lose the Internet?

And, over everything, over all the noise, I hear Sen laughing.

It is, you know, where we all met!

And, I ride that laughter over the noise and through it, and I can't even see anymore, but I bow, or at least bend, and then I walk away, completely offstage, and I sit down.

Someone walks up, I don't even know, and she/he/it hands me something, I don't even know.


It's flowers, poppies, big and red, and there's a note: "I'm sure you were incredible. Love, Senmonster."


I mean...



The rest of the show, at least what I can see, is basically this:

  1. The two Barneys walk on stage, shake hands, and talk about friendship online.
  2. Gully and Greenfin do a skit about being safe online.
  3. Eventually, the snakes and the fake little girls and boys make up and become friends.
  4. Ben shows off our boycott URL a few more times.

Then, everyone - me (and flowers) included - has to come back on stage one more time, and we all crowd around Sen.

She says, "Thank you girls and boys, from all of us. We hope to be your friends for a long time!"

And, the kids roar, and then they start to stand up and walk away, and the crowd on stage starts to disperse.

And then, it's just a few of us (Sen, Gully, Stan, Greenfin, Darlene, Ben, and I), standing around, most of us just looking at Sen. Her face is bright red, and she's panting and sweating, but she's smiling, and her eyes are shimmering.

She says, "Well! Let's get out of these costumes!"

There are murmurs of approval.

But, as we turn to leave the stage, we hear a slow clap from the empty audience:

*clap* ... ... *clap* ... *clap*

There is a man standing in the aisle wearing a well-fitting business suit, standing next to... is that Carrie?

The man says, "Marvelous."

Greenfin says, "Oh, hello... Mr. Woodman."

Mr. Woodman says, "Hello, Crantz."

Greenfin says, "Can I... help you with something...?"

Mr. Woodman says, "I trust Alfred gave you my message?"

Greenfin says, "Ah... yes, sir."

Mr. Woodman says, "Good. Good man. But, you decided to mess with me anyway, is that it?"

Greenfin says, "Sir?"

Mr. Woodman says, "Crantz. You're not very bright are you? I'm the community manager for"

Greenfin says, "Ah... I... see."

Mr. Woodman says, "And, you messed with me. And, I came here personally to deliver this message: now you will pay."

Nov. 30, 2009 →



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