The Last Jejuning

If you have not read my entry "What the hell is Jejuning?" please go here: http://dahanese.com/?item=767. It explains my past year or so with Jejune (which is an ARG that has been going on in San Francisco for the past three years.) Today, I participated in the final chapter - and now, I'm going to tell you about it.
About a month ago, I received an email from Terrance (the guy who set up my last Jejuning) - we were to infiltrate the Jejune Institute's Socio Re-engineering Seminar on April 10th in the Hyatt in San Francisco. We were to steal a specific orbit ball during out pre-screening the evening before the seminar and then kidnap Octavio, the head of the Jejune Institute, right after Torry (a Jejune Institute employee, sympathetic to our cause) gave the signal.

Simple, right?

The night before, we went to Suite 1140 in the Hyatt and sat in a tea tree oil smelling room playing new age music surrounding by Jejune employees dressed in white. We filled out a very touchy-feely new age kind of questionaire and one-by-one were brought into the back room to be tested by a scientist. Before the test began, the scientist left briefly, allowing me to search the room for the ball I was supposed to steal. After, I was asked a number of questions about deja vu (attached to a kind of heart monitor) and then told to watch a very trippy video with my full attention while the scientist watched me. After, I was thanked and left.

Today, Mike and I went to the seminar. It began at noon, but doors opened at 11:30. Upon arriving, we received these bracelets:

Inside, there were a number of scientists and employees plus technology, and a man in a very strange chair:

The man then stood and introduced himself. His name was Antoine. He showed us a video about the first Socio Re-engineering Seminar that took place in the 70s (where his parents met and conceived him.) A disciple of Octavio, Antoine was going to show the 175 or so people in the room how to attain Juvanescence. He then handed the mic to Yams, who then showed a live video where a dolphin talked to us.

After that, we moved chairs - saying "mmmm" with each step. This was to be done slowly, and with breathing much like yogic breath.

After the room was clear for us, we commenced our exercises. I'll miss some of what we did, but all of these exercises were very yoga-related, very new age, and all about building trust. We picked partners and alternated saying "yes" and "no" to each other. We walked slowly around the room, looking at the floor, and then sped up, and then looked up, and then smiled at people, and then touched fingers with people, and then shook hands with people, and then winked at people. We sat in circles and chanted. We swayed. We cheered AHHHHH at the top of our lungs and threw our hands in the air.

After this warmup, we took a break, and I snapped this photo of some of the Jejune employees:

Upon coming back, this is when stuff started to get intense. First we sat, and then were all told to take off a shoe. We then tossed all those shoes into the enter of the room - and then were told to fetch a shoe that was not our own.

We held that shoe to our hearts and communed with it. We closed our eyes and pictured a color - pictured the owner doing something with that shoe. We then were told to find the shoe's owner.

When I found the woman who wore the sneaker I was holding, I told her I saw purple, and her sitting on a park bench with her shoe. She thanked me.

(It was around this time I realized that the Jejune Institute might not be evil. Truth be told, I had never quite understood why the Nonchalants were warring with the Jejune Institute. I hadn't followed every piece of the fiction, and I knew that Jejune had worked with Eva (who was now Elsewhere) but not really why they were so bad. They didn't seem bad - they seemed peaceful.)

From the shoe exercise we then were to work on triangulation. We picked two people in the room (not telling anyone who they were) and had to keep each of those two people equidistant from ourselves as we pretended to mingle (as one would in a cocktail party) bantering aimlessly with the others in the crowd. Hilarity ensued. Also hilariously, the mark I was watching was watching me.

After this, we were partnered with a stranger and each pair was told to form a snake-like line around the room, each pair facing the other. When Antoine said so, we were to ask the other "who are you?" One person was then supposed to answer the question and the other was to listen without saying anything. I was partnered with an awesome girl who made noise music, was from Pennsylvania, drove a hearse, lived in a military family and had grown up all over the world, had recently lived in Georgia and was now in Pennsylvania. We answered this question to each other twice and honestly, I think I learned more useful information about this woman than I have most people I would call my best of friends. It was fascinating.

Antoine meant to do that, too. He talked about how people always have a barrier up - and describe themselves as "roles" - and we hide our deeper feelings and emotions. And while I knew that this was a game, I kept smiling because as far out and wacky as his delivery was, what he was saying was very down to earth.

Then we started dancing.

This dancing went on for... Twenty minutes? The room got very hot (and I'll admit it, stinky, it was kind of gross.) We danced the yes dance. We danced the no dance. We formed lines on each side of the room and one person in each group would dance any kind of movement they desired and then the groups would dance across the room, mimicking that movement. We turned in circles with our heads, our knees, our elbows, our whole bodies. We danced in circles with strangers. (Yes. Seriously. We did this. We chanted, we yipped, it was loud.)

After that, we got a snack. The snacks were delicious vegan and gluten free granola-y kind of bars. We were locked out of the seminar room - and when they reopened the doors, we were told to get hot water.

(I always made a joke not to drink the koolaid. Who knew it would only be hot water?!)

Antoine again got up and he told us all that we had something hard in our pockets, or hidden away - something brittle. He said that we were told to keep it secret, but we could take it out and put it in the water. Everyone looked disturbed, because we knew he was talking about the secret orbs we stole the night before, but we knew that Nonchalance had sent us to get those, and he was Jejune. So someone yelled at "WHY!" and he said "because they are tea."

Everyone laughed.

Over time, most people put their balls in the water. (I'll be honest, I didn't. Turns out, I'm actually pretty goddamned dorky and didn't believe we were supposed to do this. We were.)

Antoine drank his tea and spoke to us, and we drank our tea as well (if we had tea. I didn't.) Then we were given paper and pencils and told to write a stream of consciousness about what we envisioned one year from now to look like. As we wrote, Antoine said random words like "divinity" or "breath" or "noblemen" and we had to immediately insert that word into our writing and make it work. After the writing, we read our pieces to a stranger, and the stranger read their piece back to us.

From there we divided into four sections and got around bio chutes - white, breathable round pieces of fabric. We puffed them up into the air, then down, then up, then down, then up and all gathered beneath the chutes. We huddled down, tucking the edges around us, and we did something very like meditation.

(Well, they did. Mike and I did this:)

After we crawled out of the bio chutes, all of the Jejune employees had carnation leis on (we saw those being made the night before at the pre-screening) and Octavio was sitting among them. Octavio began by saying "do you really still think this is a game?" He talked about the principles of the Jejune Institute, and how, when we first began down this path, he said that after we were done we would see the divine in a million different every day things. (I think most people still doing this ARG would agree that we do, in fact, see that.)

This is Octavio.

After Octavio was done speaking, he said "Eva Bless" and was surrounded by his employees and then left out the back door. Immediately I wondered, why did he bless Eva if they are enemies? Then a girl in front of me said "we failed. We were supposed to kidnap him. We failed."

Indeed, while the seminar was over, people gathered around talking - we all thought this was the last chapter of Jejune, but people much more hardcore than myself were speculating that the game was not over - that there would be more. Torry had never arrived. We did not kidnap Octavio. People did not leave.

Then the fourth wall broke.

For those who don't know what the fourth wall is, it's this: When playing an alternate reality game, there is a line of reality you do not cross - you don't give up anything and traverse from the game into the real world. So, for example, the creator of the game doesn't break character, reveal himself, or talk about what he's doing. But, as you see from the picture above, Jeff, the creator of Nonchalance, stepped forward.

I listened to him talk for about half an hour as the very hardcore asked him questions about the game. This was, indeed, the end of the experience. The episodes I participated in before would still go on, but the Jejune Institute was closed and episodes that took staff to create would not be run anymore. And yes, initially Jeff anticipated there would be a kidnapping that would spill out into the street, but he said what happened in the room and the energy and activities we did were more important than that, so he let the seminar be as it was. (I'm not sure if that is actually true - kidnappings that spill into the street, in my experience, come with a fair amount of risk and legal angst. I know I work for a company that must consider these things where Jeff probably doesn't have to, but still - I'm guessing a citizen can't pretend to kidnap someone in a large city hotel.)

Jeff, I have decided, is a genius. As you may know, I run experiences (ARGs, if you will) in my job. It's pretty much my favorite thing to do. Jeff talked about the viability of his work in a commercial sense and alluded to being burned by companies who had asked him to mock up proposals for them. He said they wanted campaigns that were international and thusly had to be run mostly online. Jeff is interested in human interaction and real life experiences - and that is why I was so fascinated with Jejune. It took the idea of ARG and pushed it into years and years of rich content - grew a community of people into such a close knit bunch, and made an experience so rich and real that people paid $35 each to go to a seminar and dance around in circles without asking "why?" until 5 hours in.

Before leaving, I approached Jeff's best friend, and I gave him my card. Hopefully, someday, I'll get to sit down with Jeff and actually have that tea and talk to him, because honestly I don't know if I've ever met someone who sees so eye-to-eye with me on how these experiences should be run: online hubs to bring people together and enrich a story that works in the real world. Experiences that happen and rely on strangers coming together and becoming confidants and, ultimately, friends. That human interaction is amazing to me. That a single man's fiction can change so many people's lives and turn them into a true community that works together and makes fiction together is an awesome and beautiful thing.

While I don't know if I would have ended Jejune without the kidnapping - while I don't know if I agree with all the build up that did not actually come to fruition - I have to say I think it was a beautiful day and I don't regret it for a second, mainly because I got to see hundreds of people doing outlandish things without question (and I was one of those people.) And, after all, with things as epic as Jejune, no ending could live up to the journey. It's just too amazing of an experience to ever be happy when it ends.

To you, Jeff. And to Jejune.

7 Comments on "The Last Jejuning"

Apr 11, 2011 at 4:14pm
are these everywhere?
Sheldon Ross:
Apr 11, 2011 at 7:21pm
Thank you for this account. For some one who had to miss the final chapter after years participation, this is welcome relief to clear my ignorance.
Perhaps, the game will continue in another form.
Perhaps, Jejune Institute Chapter Two.
Rhea (Ouzel Isis Rhea):
Apr 11, 2011 at 8:59pm
Hey!! you were my story girl, so nice to learn about you and I hope the best for you and your fiancé! I'm really happy it turned out that way, I read into the point that this was going somewhere that was meant to point out this "ants in a singular world v. bees in a hive mind" kind of thing they were trying to get across the whole time, and how it didn't seem like they were responding to the kidnapping (plus I don't think Octavio wants to get dragged around town by a bunch a weirdos..he seems sort of out of bounds as far as that's concerned). I
Apr 11, 2011 at 9:06pm
Looks like I got cut off, anyways, this link is much nicer than my black metal/photography later down the blog up there. I just wanted to say I was completely impressed and realized that we were there to "get it" and I think most of us who would have showed up already "get things" but its nice to be reminded that we're so awesome ! :D
Apr 11, 2011 at 9:21pm
hey there! great write-up. i donno if you remember me but i talked to you at the launch party after the Something In The Sea ARG. I told you about the JI. I'm glad to see you followed up and went through with it. Shame i didn't know you were there or i woulda said hi. Very good write up. I'm still turning the whole experience around in my head. Still not entirely sure what to think about it.
Apr 11, 2011 at 11:28pm
hey everyone! awesome that this blog is getting such great pick up - i wish i'd proofread my work more, now that i know how many eyes were on it. everfalling - i do remember you. and i'm so glad you told me about it - when steve and chris first decided to do episode one, i thought of you and thought HELL YES I AM IN.
Apr 13, 2011 at 6:45am
my splicer masks are on a shelf next to my nonchalance stuff. it's my ARG nook :P

Leave a reply

Name (required)

Email (will not be published) (required)