What the hell is Jejuning?

If you've been following my Twitter account for any length of time, likely you have heard me say at least once that I have been Jejuned. If you are confused, this blog post is for you. It probably won't make you any less confused, but it will at the very least explain what the hell I mean when I turn the word jejune into a verb.

First, some backstory.

My job is to run interactive marketing and the community team for 2K Games. As such, I'm in charge of all experiential programs. You might call them ARGs, but I think that sounds too pirate-y, and I'm not a fan of "viral" either, so experiential it is. In real world terms, this means I ran a BioShock 2 campaign called Something in the Sea, another one for Mafia II called The Story of Frankie Potts, and now have embarked on Project Enemy Unknown for XCOM. SITS is most like jejunery - crazy puzzles, alternate world and fiction within the world where we live now, real world events, crazy mailings, crazy phone calls - the whole works. I really loved making SITS and it took my fascination with ARGs/viral events to a whole new level - one would call it obsession. And since I create these things for my job, it makes sense for me to research and do as many as I can.

Which brings me to Jejuning.


My friend Steve (at the time a 2K Marin designer - although now he's off to the better coast and Irrational) was the catalyst for Jejuning. He and his then girlfriend (now fiance) Rachel were going to do an ARG-like event in San Francisco and invited me and Mike to come. He also invited our friends Chris and Jake, who are also insane gamers who work in video games. When we started, we knew there was going to be a story, it was going to be trippy, and we were going to wander around San Francisco.

Before we went, we looked at this website, which is sort of the "intro" to the adventure: http://nonchalance.com/. We also looked at http://www.jejuneinstitute.org/ which *is* part of the adventure.

Jejuning day one doesn't have many pictures, but went like this: We went to the 16th floor of an office building, watched a crazy video from the head of the Jejune Institute, took some paper with crazy ass directions on them and walked around San Francisco following clues. We were "opening our minds" for the Institute, learning about different levels of being, and in general being inducted into their program. During this quest, we found a detective's office and that he was searching for a woman named Eva who had vanished. (This was one of the best moments of the day, actually, because the floor where the office was happened to be closed the Saturday we were trying to go, and so while we were looking for a way to go up the elevator a gal in the shop near us yelled "there's no detective up there! It doesn't exist, I don't know why people keep looking for that office.") After spending about two hours winding around Chinatown, we ended up back at the same office building we began (allegedly a psychologist we needed to meet worked there.) However, instead of finding the doctor, we were given a key to unlock a creepy locker in the office and find this really strange altar to something called Nonchalance. (And now, a picture of Steve and Chris going in to that locker.)

We knew, going in to the event, that there were three chapters to Jejuning, so we headed out to find out what we could about Nonchalance over in the Mission. There, we listened to a radio station powered by this Nonchalance group, but then deemed it too late in the day to go find all the hobo coins and teeth the station was telling us to get from nearby shops, so we reconvened a couple weeks later on a sunny Saturday morning.

If you are asking yourself how I just went from scavenger hunt to hobo coins, yes. Exactly.


Part two of Jejunerying was honestly where shit started getting really weird. Our first excursion entailed us learning more as disciples (kind of) of the Jejune Institute. However, stepping in to the world of Nonchalance we were now finding out that Nonchalance and Jejune were enemies - and that the Institute was bad. Also, that Eva was very important to Nonchalance and we had to find her. So, for this hunt, we walked around small shops in the Mission (a cool pirate shop, a place with a lot of taxidermy, a record store, a used bookshop...) asking for hobo coins and teeth.

(This is info on the guy whose teeth I was holding.)

You used these coins in different shops to get the teeth and other goodies, as well as directions to new locations. Eventually, we ended up taking part in the world's tiniest postal service and received our very own painfully tiny letter.

I couldn't make this shit up. Well, I do for a living, but never a teeny letter.

During this journey, we learned a lot about Eva's life and childhood: In short, it was fucked up. Her mom was kind of insane and clearly part of the world of Nonchalance - and her mom vanished/died when Eva was younger. Eva also became a wild and trouble child in her teenage years. We also learned about Elsewhere Public Works, which is part of the whole Nonchalance movement, and that Eva's mom was Elsewhere - which ostensibly is a place within the universe but not here. You know, I guess if you transcend.

Calling this number gets you some trippy info. I really, really love how they use shop owners and message services to make this game move forward.

The highlight of this day, as a side note, was when we tried to find the Hip Hop Shoe Repair. See, we went to a lot of real stores during our adventures, and visited Hip Hop's MySpace page on our iPhones and Android devices, but we weren't sure if the place existed. It doesn't (at least I'm pretty sure it doesn't) and the recording on their answering machine was all we needed - but the fact we spent a good ten minutes around a closed newsstand, trying to puzzle out whether we were supposed to actually find a way INTO the tiny ass thing, really hammered home how well done Jejuning can be.

Eventually, in the record shop, we received a CD and were instructed to listen to the last track. (Side note: I may, at some point, write a critique of Jejune wearing my I-Make-Shit-Like-This hat. I think a lot of this is done amazingly well - and gets better with each event - but I think some things were real stumbling points and clumsily handled, like this CD. However, for the purpose of trying to explain to you guys what I've been doing, I'm leaving that stuff out.) Anyway, back to the CD, we had to go to my car and listen to it because people don't carry Discmen around anymore. The track brought us back to Eva's childhood and took us on a walk with her and her mother. We got to listen to them talk and, if we had been able to listen on a Discman, we would have been able to walk the route with them and see what they saw. That didn't happen, but Eva and her mother ended up at a used bookshop, so our last stop was there.

Based on our instructions, we were to find this area in the shop. In this bookcase was a tiny diorama (I think made by Eva) about her life.

We found the book we needed to find (during the recording Eva played interdimensional hopscotch.) The book was filled with nothing but the following on every page:

This led us to a website which asked us a whole bunch of questions (you can try and play with it here: http://elsewherepublicworks.com/ but you really need the information we garnered to get anywhere.) We also found http://rememberingeva.com/ which led us to our third adventure: retracing Eva's last steps before she disappeared.


We ended up around Coit Tower for our third day - where Eva hung out with the Savants (her friends.) Each of us came with an mp3 that had recordings of police investigations. We wound our way around this amazingly beautiful and slightly hidden back trail in that area, listening to these recordings by her friends, living Eva's last night.

This wasn't part of Jejuning - it was just there and creepy. One of the things I love about this game is that it brings out the eccentric parts of San Francisco and makes them make sense when looked at in this crazy world where mind manipulation and Elsewhere and Nonchalance is real.

Along the way, we picked up a post card, found out that Eva vanished when her drunken friends scattered, running from a cop car, and that a hobo who some thought harrassed Eva was probably in on the whole Nonchalant movement. To end the day, we came to a video store that had the below picture in the window:

That's Eva, by the way.

In the video store, we found a tape (and thankfully the store had a working VCR or we would have been in a world of hurt) where we saw Eva undergoing a mind experiment in the Jejune Institute. They were recording her dreams in a way that could, sort of, make them reality. (The idea of being able to suck dreams out of a person's head and record them on tape is kind of awesome.) Then, at the end of the video, someone help up a piece of paper with an email address on it - something about a lost mix tape.

And thus, I come to stage four.


It was decided that I would email the address and figure out what to do next. I was down with this, because I was learning some really great stuff. However, when Terrence emailed me back, completely in-character, and asked for my address and phone number (and whether I used carrier pigeons, which was rad, because carrier pigeions are effing amazing) I was hesitant. (I gave my work blackberry to him - easier to change if I end up being inducted into a real cult.)

For about a month leading us to yesterday's event, I received three phone calls, several emails, and a post card - all with cryptic messages and instructions. I had to go alone, I had to remember certain directions, instructions, and mantras, and I had to be somewhere at precisely 10:30 AM. I knew 7 other people would be there with me, and it was crucial we were all there, and I didn't find out the address (which was in Oakland) until the day before the event.

I really liked that this fourth (and secret) chapter of Jejuning was so difficult to get in to. I guess they figured if you had invested three weekends already and were willing to give your address and phone number to a complete stranger, you'd jump through a lot of hoops. The downfall to this chapter was that no one else did it with me on that day - so I'm kind of Jejuning alone now. But more on that later.

I arrived at 10:15 and met 7 strangers. I thought one of these people would be a plant, but they were actually all people just like me. The person who emailed me last, Miguel, had received instructions from Terrence to meet someone two days before our event to get our final instructions. That person was a girl playing the tuba on the sidewalk - she was playing the Tetris theme. (AWESOME?!)

Since we each had separate instructions, we each spoke a certain thing at a certain time to figure out where to go - which was down a path and to a mausoleum.

There was a funeral going on, and there was a drum banging, and the juxtaposition of real and fiction was really awesome - also the worry that we were being highly disrespectful. I also wondered what someone, coming to visit a dead relative, would think about 8 youngish folks traipsing around a mausoleum reciting near gibberish.

At the mausoleum, we each recited our "mantras" which ended up being a string of instructions on where to go in the building.

My first mantra was "forward through the left arc" - see, arc!

During this event I tweeted so that Mike (waiting for me in the car in case I got killed) Steve and Rachel could hear about what I was doing.

We found this boombox - which really fit in with the decor - and on it Eva's voice instructed us what to do. Essentially, we were to wander around the building to open up our senses and learn how to trust each other - also to bond as a group. That's not what she said in her instructions, but it's what happened.

There were eight of us, and Eva instructed us to find blindfolds (hanging in the room with the boombox) and put them on four people. Then, those four stood behind four who could still see, placed their hands on the other's shoulders, and were lead by the person who could see. I could see at this point, and the gal who I was leading even said "I don't even know your name" before she put her blindfold on. She was clearly nervous (and only knew me as "WEST" - we each were renamed as points on a compass) so I whispered "hi I'm Elizabeth."

Eva's voice led us through the mausoleum - up and down stairs and through passageways. She had us take in fountains, rooms, plants - breathe deeply - the whole shebang. Then she had us switch, and I ended up being led blindfolded.

Finally, we came to a room and were told to place the boombox on this wall:

Then, we were told to find four more blindfolds (which freaked everyone out.) We then all put on blindfolds, turned to face the wall/boombox, and were told to put our hands on that wall. The sense of vulnerability was pretty astounding, but we all did it. We also all turned to the right and put our hands on each other's shoulders and somehow, no one screamed when Eva's voice said she would lead us and we started walking. The gal in front somehow talked herself into believing the person who took her hand MUST have been one of us eight. But no - it was a Jejuner person (who we never saw by the way - she led us through the mausoleum, kissed one of the gals hands, and vanished before we could take our blindfolds off.)

When we had sight again, we were in a different room, but the boombox was there. This was the coolest part of the day for me - the dedication to that level of detail and creepiness was great.

From there, we were directed to go into a small room, sit in a circle, and look into each other's eyes. Again, very yogic and trust building.

Finally, we had to leave the boombox and go find one last thing from Eva.

We found a map:

That led us to a tape:

And a coded pamphlet I still don't know what to think about:

We also found a letter, written by people "like us" who had also heard the voice of Eva and embarked our our journey. This letter told us we were now a tribe - and that we should listen to the "lost mixtape" that we were holding, name our tribe, make our own sounds, and send those sounds to a certain email address.

So that's where I am right now in my Jejuning. Me and seven strangers are now bonded, I have a tape I have to turn into an MP3 so we can all listen to it and make a sound from, and the eight of us, I guess, are going to continue Jejuning. Why? No idea. I don't really believe in Divine Nonchalance, but I can tell you it's given me some great ideas for my upcoming work. Do I wish Mike were doing it with me? Yep! Do I think I'm getting inducted into a cult? MAYBE. Will I continue down this rabbit hole? You bet your ass I will.

TLDR: If you are in San Francisco, do this. It's awesome.

And that concludes my blog entry on what the hell Jejuning is. If you want more information, google "unfiction jejune trailhead" or read the wikipedia article on the Jejune Institute. There is a lot more fiction than what I've described, and several other websites - but this entry was long enough without all of that - so I'll let you discover it for yourself, if you want.

But really. Just come here and do it for yourself, instead.


3 Comments on "What the hell is Jejuning?"

Nov 16, 2010 at 7:42pm
That is fantastic. I wish I lived anywhere near SF.
Apr 14, 2011 at 6:37pm
Thanks for this great digest! I did chapters 1-3 and managed to crash chapter V but I live in LA and was never able to do Chapter IV. Was it Chapel of the Chimes? Thanks again and look forward to revisiting your blog.
Apr 20, 2011 at 1:05am
Yes, it was!

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