Saturday, August 18, 2007
Mp3 Experiment IV
I had to cancel my voice lesson today, so Chel and I decided to get out and do something today. I get FreeNYC.com events emailed to me daily, and after consulting the list I found this: http://www.improveverywhere.com/2007/08/12/participate-saturday-in-the-mp3-experiment-four/
For the lazy bunch who don't wanna read that, it's an underground Improv Everywhere event in which you download a 36 minute mp3 to your digital device that you can't listen to until the event. You show up at the place before 4 pm with your watches synched to the atomic clock, wear a red, yellow, blue, or green shirt, bring a camera if you want, spread out, act casual, and at exactly 4, press play on your mp3 players. The headphones added an element of secrecy to non-participating onlookers that similar events like Danger Art's "night of Fire" couldn't use to their advantage. Anywhere they went, they had to use text messaging and bullhorns, and the cops, although cooperative, always knew the next move. I think an interesting spin on this might be to be on cell phones, using a sort of telephone chain, but the logistics may take some figuring out. At least everyone would be spared the cell minute charges if they had free weekends.
We checked it out, it looked interesting, we didn't have to say "potato, potato" over and over (not that I wouldn't, potato potato potato potata), and it was at the at the World Financial Center Plaza, which has a beautiful park facing the water. I threw on a yellow "Banana loves Octopus" shirt, packed lunches and grabbed our li'l chihuahua, Mini.
We have a bit of trouble getting to anything on time, so we decided to use the car when we saw that the next train to Manhattan would be 17 minutes.
By 4 pm, we were on the Brooklyn Bridge headed to Manhattan.
As we listened to Nintendo Gameboy type music. As we sat through the same light three times we laughed as Steve, the omnipotent voice instructed us on what we would do next. As we looked for a parking space we imagined our fellow colored t-shirt wearers pointing to the tallest building, Nicaragua, and the "ugliest cloud" or skipping along as they were instructed to follow a German tourist with a yellow shirt, "a stupid mustache," with an MTA map while they listened to a digital polka. For whatever reason I flashed back to first grade gym class.
We had no trouble finding our fellow event attendees, they stuck out like a multicolored sore thumb. We ran into the park in time to create a target with a green and later red shirt bull's eye (see above pic), which is when my i-pod died and Chel and I shared ear pieces.
The games and sense of community were amazing. We played freeze tag! Cameras in hand, we competed for "an arbitrary prize we will never receive."
There was something like the spirit of childhood in the event. The by-standing people in then park watched us in amused puzzlement.
When it was over I didn't want to leave, I wanted to know who my fellow participants were, go to an after party, or come away with some kind of souvenir of our event other than the pictures we were instructed to take.
When it was over we clapped and "Mr. Blue Skies" by ELO became the exit music. I was amazed that they picked such an apt ending song until I realized aloud that it was the next song on my playlist, a nearby girl and and replied that she was temporarily excited to hear her song, too. I overheard another guy say to his friends that this was the most exciting thing he had ever been involved in.
As Chel and I slowly walked to the outer edge of the park to survey the crowd, Mini had business to do. At the moment it happened we realized we didn't bring her doggie bags, but Chel had paper towel in her hand from her packed lunch and we were just about to take care of it when two Park Patrol Officers approached us. The female officer was far more upset than the situation warranted, and immediately scolded us and without losing a beat, began writing us a ticket.
Face locked in a gesture of disgust, the female officer reprimanded me for bringing my dog to a park where dogs were not allowed and people were laying down and eating. I didn't know about the rules since we ran in late, and saw no reason from the website that we wouldn't be able to bring Mini. As it turns out they were allowed, but we were on the dog-forbidden grass, about 8-12 feet from the concrete path where they were allowed to be walked.
I apologized, pleaded, and nearly sang and danced to talk them out of my ticket. After having my car window smashed by the thwarted car-jackers last week, losing and subsequently having my phone stolen 2 days ago, and not receiving my mail/checks for almost two weeks, I almost threw up in the same spot my dog had been when I saw her scribble $200. Maybe if I had, they'd have to ban humans from the park.
They questioned my involvement in today's goings on, and that's when it occurred to me that I was the fall guy for the officers. The real reason for their anger was that they had no one to pin for we hadn't really done anything worth stopping the surprise event that they were too late to put the kibosh on (small aside, I love spell-check, I had no idea surprise actually had that 'r' before 'p', I always thought that was how the uneducatedly typed folk spellted it). The male officer, with his feigned frustration and persistent questions may have just been secretly jealous of our fun.
I now know that you can't have your dog on the grass, but the frustrated monologue that ensued spelled it all out for me.
"How old are you?"
"You all must have such impressionable minds to be so easily swayed into doing something like this, you don't know if they're going to harm you, how do you know you can trust them?"
she looked at me like I was an absolute moron to think that this might be fun, let alone quite exhilarating. I have far too many experience dealing with stone faced NY natives. Each day I deliver their packages on time, but never soon enough for them. Don't bother to crack a joke, they hate comedy. Politeness doesn't count for much either, they look at me disdainfully as though I were the very pile my dog had just left. Disdain, disdain, disdain, potato.
-I looked into the previous years experiments and figured I was in for a similar, safe experience worth a good story later. The email I received stated that it was suitable for all ages-
"well you disturbed these people in the park, there were frightened kids crying ."
(I didn't see anyone that was even remotely displeased but the park patrol)
-That shouldn't be, officer, children were allowed to participate as well-
Her partner continued to ask questions about the hows and whys of Mp3 Experiment IV, so I gave him the gist of it without giving any real information about the coordinators (I didn't find out who they were until afterwards anyway).
They continued to give me flack for the event's lack of a permit and repeated that we were disturbing the other park attendants and my dog is disgusting being in a park where people lay out and eat, and we were foolish to think this thing with the podcast in the park was a good idea. Apparently we fragile-minded types aren't allowed to enjoy parks, though I don't recall that on the park rules sign I read as I left the park, if only I had learned to read in school I'd know better than to go to parks or mindlessly listen to strange mp3's. Didn't your mom ever tell you not take Mp3's from strangers?
What seemed like five years later, IE's co-coordinator, Agent Schafer came over and asked why were being fined, but sensing that his persistent photographer was making matters worse, he politely stepped back while occasionally watching over us from afar. The female officer continued to trascribe The Old Testament, New Testament and War and Peace on my ticket.
After I was handed the ticket I was relieved to see that we merely owed a still-ridiculous $50, the "$200" was the maximum fine, which we were spared.
We broke away and met Agent Schafer and the "omnipotent Steve," (aka Ben Folds Fake, the IE's founder), who graciously paid our ticket after we discussed what had happened less than five feet from a puzzled group of Patrol Officers. No money lost or taken, we walked off with the ticket and cash to pay it; our souvenir and "arbitrary prize that we will never receive."