Here’s another chapter I’m cutting from the final manuscript of my memoir…. enjoy! (and please ‘like’ if you do)
“Have you seen what’s happening in New York?” Tex asks excitedly as he pokes his head into my office.
“What are you talking about?” I don’t have time for his cryptic riddles.
“The iPhone is launching tomorrow, and there’s been a guy sitting in line outside the Apple Store since yesterday”
“Well, aren’t you curious to see if there’s a line in San Francisco?” I pause and think about it for a moment.
“Come on,” says Scott, pushing his way past Tex into the room. Their excitement is infectious. “Let’s just go take a peek. A drive by. See if there are any nerds in line.”
“You guys can do what you like. I have work to do.” I say, shaking my head impatiently.
Twenty minutes later I get a text from Scott. It’s a picture of two people sitting in camp chairs outside the Apple Store in downtown San Francisco. I laugh, but don’t think much of it. Next thing the phone rings.
“Polly, we’ve had an idea.” It’s Scott. He sounds excited. “We want to set up Peepshow Minigolf outside the Apple Store. There’s going to be a media frenzy out here any minute. Tex is holding our place in line.”
“You’re crazy. I have work to do. You want me to drop everything to get in line for an iPhone? I can’t even afford one.”
“Not to buy an iPhone- just to play. Come on, it’ll be fun.”
Peepshow Minigolf is our most ridiculous creative manifestation. Interactive anti-theater- the perfect script- a portable miniature golf hole, with a keyhole at one end and a clown face at the other. A colorful course which we invite passers by to putt through. We take it on all kinds of adventures, setting it up in unexpected places. There are dancers on the course- usually dressed as clowns- who try to distract you from your goal. Getting from one end of the course to another is a chaotic blur of dry humping, honking and screaming. Once you finally reach your destination, and putt the ball into the clowns mouth, you think it’s over but it’s not. The spinner wheel comes out and directs what happens next. Sometimes it’s a ‘high five’ for everyone on the course and all the bystanders, spreading out as far as the eye can see in all directions. Or it could be a conga line, with the putter at the front leading the way. ‘Group hug’ is a good one too, although being at the center of a giant clown group hug can be terrifying.
A few months earlier we had taken our friends on an adventure. We called it the Food Drive. Thirty five of us packed onto a tour bus. We were dressed as food mascots. Scott was a taco, and I was an ice cream sundae. We drove down to Los Angeles for the weekend to play Peepshow Minigolf on street corners outside famous Hollywood hotspots. I have to admit, the idea of setting it up outside the Apple Store is tempting.
“Well, Tex is staying. I’m gonna come and pick up the course. We can just do it for an hour of so. Fuck work. Get your butt in gear.”
“Okay, fine,” I laugh, and put the phone down. I push back out of my desk and contemplate my closet. Peepshow Minigolf was born on the 4th of July, so it has a patriotic feel to it. I pull out my red and white striped tail coat and my blue hotpants with the white stars. By the time Scott gets home I’m putting the final touches on my glittery make up and donning a giant foam cowboy hat.
“Haha!” He says, beaming at me happily, “you look great.”
I pull the pieces of Peepshow Minigolf out of storage while Scott is dressing. We are back out the door within twenty minutes, with a van packed full of props, speeding our way downtown. We pull up outside the Apple Store. By the time we arrive Tex has already been interviewed by the media twice. It’s an impossible corner with nowhere to stop, but we don’t care. We click on our hazards and unload. I throw Tex the keys to the van and he heads back to Mission Control to get dressed and pick up his girlfriend, Cat. Passers by watch in confusion as we set up the golf course.
“Yes, this is an iPhone shuffle,” I explain to a journalist, “it’s just a prototype.” I hold the tiny print out of an iPhone, only an inch wide, up to the camera. “The idea is that you put in all your phone numbers of all the people you might want to call, and then when you’re drunk you just call on shuffle. It’s exciting.” She laughs and takes down notes. I’m deadpan serious. “If you don’t mind who you’re calling, it’s more affordable than the fully featured iPhone.”
“And what’s this?” She asks, gesturing toward Peepshow Minigolf. At this point we have made some phone calls and gathered a few more clowns, and we are officially causing a scene on the sidewalk outside the Apple store. The line for the iPhone has started to stretch down the street.
“This is the new sensation that’s sweeping the nation,” Scott says over my shoulder, “it’s two of America’s favorite pass times joined together for the first time in human history. The girlie peep show and the miniature golf course.”
“Well, it’s not the first time. We did it last week too.” I admit to the journalist.
“Are you buying iPhones?” She asks, sounding more and more confused.
“Are you kidding?” I reply, “we’re bohemians, we can’t afford to spend six hundred bucks on a phone!”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“We’re here to put the circus in media circus!” I say, triumphantly as I honk my clown horn and run back to the course.
“The goal is the hole, the goal is the hole,” the dancers on the course chant as another putter steps up to take on the challenge.
There aren’t many times when you could set up a raunchy clown themed miniature golf course on the sidewalk in Downtown San Francisco and get away with it. Before too long the cops would move you on. This is our opportunity, and we’re making the most of it. We have been playing for four hours. People are starting to leave work, and the crowds are gathering. We are talking to journalists, making up stories, and playing golf. Cars honk as they pass. We’ve given out the url to the Peepshow Minigolf website a hundred times, but even the website doesn’t make any sense. It’s designed to be confusing.
The hours fly past, and as it gets dark the vibe on the streets changes. We look back at the line which now stretches out behind us and realize we’ve been there all day. Sitting on the course, we crack open a flask and pass it around. Tired clowns. What now?
“I think we should stay,” says Tex, “tomorrow is when the real craziness is going to hit. I want to be here for that.”
There’s no doubting him this time. We all want to stay. We call some friends and get a few visitors as the evening goes on. People stop in and say hi, play a couple of rounds and go home. The energy of the golf is more subdued, but we’re still playing. Eventually Tex goes for supplies, returning with dinner and sleeping bags. As we snuggle up on the course preparing for sleep, the white glow of the apple on the sign shines down on us and my heart is filled with joy. We giggle. This is absurd. The foam hat on my head and the layer of astro turf beneath us keeps me warm as the chill of the evening sets in and I snuggle into my sleeping bag. I’ve forgotten the work I’m supposed to be doing, wrapped up in the sheer novelty of the moment. Fuck work, this is far more important.
In the morning we wake up to camera crews arriving. Coffee is purchased and we touch up our clown face. We are interviewed hundreds of times, each of us telling a different story about who we are and what we’re doing there. The story is syndicated on Reuters and ends up being reported in India, New Zealand, and all over Europe, and the Peepshow Minigolf site is inundated with thousands of hits. Why are we there? To promote? To sell something? To make a statement? The truth is, we are there because it’s funny. The only goal is the hole.
By lunchtime we’re tired and the novelty is wearing off. There are just a couple more hours until the Apple store opens its door to let these eager consumers in to buy their shiny new phones, but we don’t care. That’s not what we came here for. Just as we are deciding to pack up and leave a couple stops to talk to us. When they hear we aren’t actually buying phones they offer to buy our spot in line. The game has changed. We officially have four spots in line- we are registered at the store- and this guy wants to pay us three hundred bucks to buy him an iPhone! Tex notices he is wearing the kind of watch that is worth more than most cars.
Ten minutes later I’m walking up and down the street in my American Flag clown outfit with giant foam cowboy hat holding up a sign that says: “Selling my spot in line.” There’s a happy, friendly vibe- like a party. These consumers are excited about their technology purchase, and the line stretches for blocks.
Suddenly an angry face comes out of nowhere and confronts me. “You’re disgusting. This whole thing is disgusting.” She is livid. “You are everything that’s wrong with America,” she glares contemptuously at me, but I just smile back. She doesn’t understand that I’m being ironic. She doesn’t know I’m British! “Consumerist capitalist bullshit. Fuck you.”
The foam cowboy hat, the British accent, the mini golf. It’s an amusing commentary, not a genuine celebration of consumerism. I’m taken aback. She spins around and storms off through the crowd. This incident doesn’t distract me from my quest. In fact it only deepens my conviction. There are people in this crowd with more money than sense who value my spot in line enough to pay me for it, and I’m not leaving until we have all four spots accounted for. In the end we pack up Peepshow Minigolf with eight hundred bucks in our pockets, but no iPhones.
A year later, a friend who is upgrading to the new model gives me his old iPhone, so I finally did get one after all. He said I deserved it.