Day 28: LOCK DOWN
Our search for 4Chan appeared delayed indefinitely, and not just because we had no idea where to start looking, but because Central Park was surrounded by some very stolid and well-prepared soldiers. It reminded me of the days that followed 911, and that was no accident because even the radio was reporting that the troops were a response to detected internet activity in New York. More specifically, the intercepted transmissions all concerned terrorist acts targeting Manhattan.
"Radio, Shmadio," Tobey said. "We'll see what 4Chan has to say about this."
"Will we?" I asked." I don't even know if we're getting out of Central Park. And if we do, then what?" Tobey thought for a moment and then held up a Polaroid.
"Well, when we were on the bench before, I took this pic of a kid leading a blind man into a pile of dog crap. I bet he knows where to find 4Chan."
"You sat and watched a kid fuck with a blind guy?" Oz asked.
"Dude, you don't understand," Tobey protested. "It was like a YouTube video. And I haven't seen something like that in a really long time."
Oz ignored the response. "Well, I heard a rumor 4Chan has been congregating in the Village."
"Why don't we just check out the nearest chapter of NAMBLA?" I asked.
"Dude, not cool. You don't want to mess with 4Chan like that," Tobey said.
"Playing with fire, Gladstone," Oz agreed.
"What? I'm just sayin' it to you. And writing it in my journal. It's not like I'm putting it online. There is no online!"
Tobey and Oz still seemed uncomfortable.
"Look, if my journal somehow ends up in a time and place where it's printed online, I'll worry about it, but until then, can we just focus on the possibility that major world Governments are without Internet while some third world enemy combatants have found a way to dismantle and exclusively harness its power?"
Oz stamped her cigarette out under her boot. "How could that be true?"
"I don't know, but if such a thing were possible, it would convey a terrifying tactical advantage. And somehow these thirty troops with flak jackets and guns seem like a sadly deficient response."
We made our way to the perimeter. Ozzy's bag was searched, and dogs sniffed around our shoes, but we were allowed to leave the park. Still, for the time being, no one was leaving Manhattan. The subways and tunnels were closed. Nothing moving in or out, and there was nothing for us to do, but get better acquainted as we headed towards our ambiguous destination.
"So, how do you two fags know each other?" Oz asked.
I was a bit taken aback. "I'm sorry," I said. "is 'fag' Aus slang for-"
"Dudes who fuck each other."
"Wow. Hardly politically correct."
Oz took a drag from her omnipresent cigarette before answering.
"I get naked for men on the internet. How much political correctness were you expecting?"
Tobey laughed, but it made me sad. "What's your real name, Oz?" I asked.
Tobey broke the silence that followed by explaining he and I were mutual admirers: I read his horribly inappropriate celebrity blog faithfully, and he was a big fan of the three lists I wrote for McSweeney's over five years ago. An internet email exchange that blossomed into a beautiful friendship, or at least, a beautiful acquaintanceship that lasted years while my real life friends seemed to fall away over time.
"And what about you," Tobey asked. "Why be a dirty cyber hooker?"
"Well, I have to shower anyway," Oz said. "I might as well get paid for it? Besides, I didn't realize making fart jokes online was God's work."
"Well, it beats a real job."
"Fuck, yes. Seriously, Gladstone, how do you do it?"
"Well, I'd prefer not to," I said. "Actually, I've been preferring not to so much, that I'm out on disability."
That made Oz very happy and she took the flask from my pocket. I felt her nails grace against my chest.
"Cheers," she said with a hearty swig. "I knew you were too together not to be batshit. Its always the straight-laced customers who get their freak on."
By the time we got to the Village, our conversation was largely over. We had reached that point where people can't become any closer without disclosing painfully personal details or bonding over a shared traumatic event. And since I wasn't ready to discuss Romaya's death, I was really ready to find 4Chan.
Day 28: 4CHAN UNPLUGGED
I observed something interesting: New Yorkers are much more helpful to provocatively dressed 23-year-old Australian girls than they are to men over 30, dressed in rumbled sports jackets, and reeking of scotch. That might not be enough for a sociology paper, but it was an interesting fact nonetheless.
We met a 14-year-old boy who was using a skateboard and a staircase hand rail concurrently for the sole purpose of destroying his testicles. According to him, the Bowery Poetry Club had been having a 4Chan members only night every Tuesday since the Internet crashed. That information was also confirmed by a 52-year-old tattoo artist missing an eyebrow. Only one of those two people then asked Oz if he could "touch her boobies." Oh, and Tobey. But that was like an hourly occurrence.
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