Newspoetry Conspiracy Theory
I had to solve the mystery.
The next day I went to the Newspaper library. After hours of research
I found an article about a start-up called "On the Job Consulting"
in an old issue of the Octopus. I wondered whether this was the computer
company that hired only artists that I had heard mention of in the
Daily Illini. I had read about it in an article that had something
to do with a secret school... And back then a little sentence caught
my eye about someone named "William Gillespie." I wondered whether
he had some connection with "Newspoetry" or the "School for Designing
a Society." I decided to keep looking. Finally, after 18 hours of
scrolling through microfiche, I found an article about the School
for Designing a Society in the News-Gazette. And this article mentioned
that Newspoetry was a project of the School!
I was astonished to discover that Newspoetry was, in fact, all along,
a project initiated by the School for Designing Society. This suggested
that the matter went deeper than I thought. You see, as I continued
my investigative work, I discovered through a private interview with
an anonymous database programmer that On the Job Consulting had designs
upon Newspoetry, considering it to be the key to their corporate mission,
and was poised waiting for Newspoetry to go public with its IPO...
But what did the Performers Workshop Ensemble have to do with anything?
Would Herbert Brün (who, as far I could tell, called the shots
for these people) want anything to do with the poems of Futrelle,
and this "William Gillespie"? And I had also heard mention, from an
unreliable source, of something called the "Gesundheit Institute."
Curious, I eventually found out the phone number of the reporter
who had written the Gazette article and called her at home.
First, I tried to pry her for information over the phone about the
hostile takeover of Newspoetry dot com, but she claimed complete ignorance.
Such ignorance could only be concealing true facts, but, for the time
being, I played along. Finally she suggested that we meet in person,
as there were certain things she did not feel at liberty to discuss
on an insecure telephone line.
This was promising.
That evening, I took a bottle of wine and a notebook to the address
she had given me: a house on California avenue I had never noticed
before. I had never noticed it because it was completely surrounded
by dense trees. Between the trees and the house was a run in which
a restless doberman paced.
I finally found the back door and knocked. When the reporter cracked
the door she asked me if I was alone.
Finally, she let me in. She would not touch the wine I brought, and
instead took an open bottle of her own from the refrigerator, poured
herself a glass, and insisted I drink her wine as well. As the wine
she proffered did not appear to an exceptional vintage, I was confused
by her gesture, and instead drank my own.
For awhile, I consciously tried to lead her in aimless chatter. We
discussed film... or, should I say, the movies. Like whether it was
worth transacting with Amazon.Uk
in order to obtain the
uncensored DVD of Eyes Wide Shut, or how we shared a stern disregard
for Tom Cruise, or which was Tim Robbins' worst role during the period
in which he was struggling to pay off Cradle Will Rock, which
we agreed was arguably the best American film.
Then I changed the subject to the row of portraits above her mantle.
She abruptly seemed to grow withdrawn.
"So, tell me about yourself" she said eagerly, as if out of desperation.
"Well," I stalled, "I'm actually a graduate student in Rhetoric here
at the university," I lied, "doing a dissertation on electronic literature,
and..." And, to my astonishment, as I glanced up at the portraits,
the one closest to me was a framed oilpainting of Futrelle himself,
looking somewhat sinister, in a suit, wearing an eyepatch, talking
angrily on a black rotary telephone. In the play of light from the
row of candles in what I realized was a sort of shrine, I could barely
not make out the signature of the artist.
The next portrait over, I realized, was of a hallowed, gaunt face
with a cloud of unruly hair: Gillespie. Only his face appeared to
have a slash of red paint across it in the manner of a no smoking
sign. I must have appeared visibly shocked because I heard the reporter
stop breathing. Gillespie had disappeared from the Newspoetry scene
a number of weeks before, seemingly vanishing without a trace,
and I had dimly suspected foul play. As I stared at the portrait,
my eyes widened as I notices that the red paint was still wet!
And then she asked "Have you ever heard of Spineless
Books?" I gasped, because I had not. How many overlapping identities
and false trails would I have to stumble through before I made some
sense of this mess? At that point, I carefully considered fleeing
in terror. But, the doberman...
And who were the "United Mime Workers"?
Two days later I got a lead and caught a flight to San Francisco.
Sam Markewich met me in Golden Gate park. He was wearing a rubber
Nixon mask with a strap-on dildo for a nose; I could not identify
his features, although he had hairy knuckles. He said he came from
the planet Uranus, and that he had a nasal infection. He gave
me a nasturtium. I was having trouble piecing all this together. He
said he used to work for Newspoetry and that he had scored a lot of
booty. I took this to mean that he had done some embezzling.
Still, it was not clear who I was dealing with.
Although the meeting with Markewich was a bust, I was in Oakland
drunk off my ass and scrawling obscenities on the wall of my hotel
room with my own feces when I got a call.
I met Sam Patterson in Hawaii, which was as close to San Diego as
he was willing to discuss these matters. In San Diego, he assured
me, there were conservative elements who would ensure that he was
destroyed for what he was willing to reveal to me.
But, on that beach, beneath those coconuts clustered in those palm
trees, he revealed to me that he had actually done some sort of masters
thesis on Newspoetry, in a university in San Diego whose acronym he
was not comfortable revealing. Over the next twelve hours, and over
113 margaritas, I slowly picked his brain.
So I gave up the search, based on a reliable tip that it was all
really not that interesting.
I returned to Urbana, dropped out of the journalism program, and
tried to relax.
One afternoon I was sitting at home taking a warm bath, enjoying
my new life, thinking about when and to where I would go when I left
Urbana, considering various film schools, when the doorbell rang.
As I stood out on my porch, wearing a towel, dripping, the man and
woman with the glazed eyes introduced themselves as my neighbors from
immediately across the street. After this brief introduction, they
explained to me that my cats had been in their garage, which was unacceptable
because cats were "indoor animals," and that they had (they boasted)
used a trap to capture their neighbors' cats before, and sent them
to the pound, and that they were just warning me, to be nice, that
they had a lot of birdfeeders and were big fans of birds, and that
they would without reservation trap my cats and have them institutionalized.
Then the man smiled crookedly and asked "are you a student?"
"No," I said, stepping inside, and slammed the door.
To this day, I still don't know whether these people had some connection
with Newspoetry, but at the time I could not shake the suspicion that
Futrelle had set them up, just to keep me paranoid and off-balance,
to remind me that, when I had investigated Newspoetry, I had opened
a can of worms which could never again be closed.
After a day of thinking it over, I decided it would be best to confront
them. Anyone who knows my cat Sebastian knows that to be stuck inside
a building with him will eventually become an unendurable hell. Sebastian
is Siamese, a cat you might call "vocal." There was no way I could
live with Sebastian without letting him go out.
So I built a bird suit, with gigantic wings I could unfold through
a lever system, and a big bird mask made of paper mache and feathers,
with a large beak that I could peer out of.
I tromped up their porch stairs with my webbed boots, and clumsily
rang their bell with the tip of my large wing. I heard a tinkling
crash, as if of breaking glass, and wondered whether I had knocked
something over. As I tried to maneuver to look around, my beak fell
closed immersing the inside of the mask in darkness. I could not see.
I thought I heard the door open. Then silence.
Unsure what to do, I began to move the levers that unfolded my giant
wings and shouted "I am the Bird God! I have come from Bird Land to
tell you not to bother your neighbors' cats!"
And then I heard nothing. I wasn't sure whether they had closed the
door, and, truth be told, wasn't sure that they had opened it to begin
with. I wasn't sure that they were even home. As I tried to turn and
grope my way off their porch I heard plate glass shatter. I must have
broken a window with the tip of one of my large mechanical wings,
which I had forgotten to fold back up.
Now, as I sit here in prison writing this down, I have to admit this
much: that this is all I know. I may never find out what Newspoetry
is or how it relates to the other clues. And, frankly, I am sick of
the whole mess. All that is clear is that there is something amiss
in East Central Illinois, something that may even extend into the
lower reaches of the Urbana city government and the local media. Even
food co-op may be involved. I think I am safe here in my cell,
at least I hope I am, and I can pass the days reading USA
Today and doing the crossword puzzle in the morning, and by reading
old Stephen King novels in the afternoon. It is not a great life,
but really no worse than any other.
To be continued ...