Today a friend and I were talking about how little life there is on the streets, compared to when we were in college. I thought it was probably because a lot of spontaneous creative impulse goes online nowadays. That in turn happens, I think, because of the fiction of recognition. If I stage a parade down the main street by the university, a few people will see it. If I do something online, a million people may see it. It’s the extension of the fantasy of fame into our personal lives, lives in which no great risks are taken, in which a person who photographs themselves in “wacky” sweaters is as likely, if not more likely, to be recognized, as a painter working for 20 years, whose skill and vision rivals that of Paula Mondersohn-Becker.
It is my belief that, as the online world becomes, as everything does, assumed into the general population, as it becomes less and less a place where attendance establishes you as a special being and where the fantasies of fame and value become as difficult to sustain as in the real world but where the payoff is much less, some group of young people is going to haul off and say fuck it! They’ll go out on the streets. They’ll make paintings, and sing songs, and stage plays and generally freak out the oldsters who will grow enraged that these kids aren’t at home tagging photos like they did when they were young.
In the meantime, I personally have felt that the widespread ties that seemed like they would never stop growing, that the small bit of recognition I have gotten online, have hit the reality of the Law of Diminishing Returns. I do more and get less. And meanwhile, the streets have even fewer people than they did the night before, and even less of me than they did. Or, more to the point, I have less of the streets in me than I ever did. Maybe it’s a transient feeling, though it intrudes more and more as the months go on. Perhaps I’ll do nothing about it. Or, perhaps I’ll do something cataclysmic, like delete all my online properties, insofar as I can. (People say once you’re on the Internet, you are on for good. I have not found that no more true than most common wisdom.) Maybe I’ll create a publication again. If I do, it won’t have an online presence. And so it will be as precious as gold. Or as popular as it would have been had I given it one.
I remember when I was in college, I and friends of mine, would make a pilgrimage to the 7-11 near the University. The pilgrimage would have to be after midnight because that was when Willie MacCallum worked. I think I don’t have that name right. Anyway, every month or so Willie would publish another edition of Either Bob or Debbie. EBOD was a hand-written, hand-drawn, usually four-paged “magazine.” By magazine, I mean it was Xeroxed on either stapled-together 8 1/2 x 11 paper or on 11 x17 paper that was folded over. (I think it was the former, at least mostly.) It was a comedy magazine, whose sole author was also its illustrator, art director, publisher and typesetter. It was weird as hell, a combination of a dadaist manifesto and the Prairie Home Companion. For weeks afterward it would be quoted and talked about. It isn’t on the Internet. Not anywhere. Last I checked, there was not even a single reference to it there. If that remains so, this will be the first. But when every transient post on every blog has dissipated into the electronic ether, there will still be copies of Either Bob or Debbie found between the pages of somebody’s Riverside Shakespeare. No one will remember TechCrunch, but someone, somewhere, will remember Either Bob or Debbie.