Tickling is Torture, or I went to Comic-Con and All I Got Was a Bunch of Cell Phone Photos that Misrepresent Reality
By Nicholas Jackson
Downtown San Diego, California. July 22, 2016. Friday afternoon. Comic-Con. It’s like 100 degrees and I’m in front of the Subway on K Street, hair shaved into a mohawk, sunburnt, anxious, a couple blocks away from the massive crowds on Fifth and on Harbor. A Boba Fett is eating a footlong. Distant music, car brakes, shouting through megaphones. An exhausted kid drinks a soda. Meat sweat smell and a shirtless dude’s cotton candy vape.
The edible, a heart-shaped candy from Valentine’s Day, was probably a bad idea. I text Nate, ask for an interesting take on Comic-Con because my initial assumptions are negative and unoriginal and probably say a lot more about me than anything else. Call an Uber. Close out a bunch of Safari tabs. Notice a site (where’d this come from?), an advocacy org devoted to the Slow Loris, these cute bug-eyed primates from Indonesia. In popular Internet videos they’re tickled and raise their little arms and coo.
My Uber driver has tattoos and gauged ears. EDM and small talk about how expensive hotels are this weekend. In the back of the Jeep Cherokee, still on my phone. Apparently tourists in Indonesia pay enterprising locals for Slow Loris selfies and this demand necessitates the poaching and brutal back-alley defanging of the cuddly-looking (but poisonous) mammals. A truck pulling a Starz billboard cuts us off at a stoplight and I’m dropped off near Petco Park.
With no plan, I’m randomly scribbling notes and taking a bunch of photos. The people walking around are very young. Braces, short shorts, Justin Bieber hair. Most everybody is in plain clothes, graphic t-shirts. A group of attractive women hand out copies of a new fantasy novel series. Another group of attractive women hand out bottles of a new flavor of Jarritos cola. Another group of attractive women hand out packs of Trolli Sour Brite WEIRD BEARDS (gummi candies shaped like NBA player James Harden).
A big police RV with parabolic antennae and surveillance cameras on its roof next to a matte black armored police Humvee next to a couple of regular old police cars next to a pile of electrical cables. There are a ton of police vehicles actually. Six or seven of them down this street. No human police officers, though. Okay, maybe one or two way down there. I wonder if this is part of some kind of intimidation strategy, or if maybe the SDPD is just understaffed.
More cell phone: podcast. Scott Carrier in my earbuds, something about how Donald Trump is the lizard king. Camera. People don’t seem to mind getting their photo taken. Internet. TicklingIsTorture.Org. Cute Internet videos create expectations that incentivize the horrific treatment of innocent creatures. Drugs that take longer than you expect to really kick in. So many people everywhere… I don’t know why I do this to myself. A very long line for the Samsung Suicide Squad Virtual Reality Experience leads to the Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge. A homeless guy up there asks a fat Jon Snow for spare change and a cool breeze blows.
Down at the water hundreds of people camp out on the grass in tents and lawn chairs. My first thought is how expensive hotels are this weekend. They’re sleeping out here? Probably not allowed to. Waiting for the sun to go down? Then what? Maybe there’s a boat that’s going to take them on a ride or something. Is it a performance referencing some TV show I’ve never seen before?
Time passes. Come down a little. Less freaked out. Still hot and need to pee, though, which probably can’t happen without some interaction I’m unwilling to have, so I start walking up Park towards Market. Chill and wait for an Uber there.
My notes are illegible. My photos are blurry. The ones I can make out, I don’t really recognize… Festive stilt guys, happy families, rainbow centaurs, giggly kids eating free candy, lots of proud people in elaborate handmade costumes…
Down there, walking around–did I panic and fixate on the negative, and the photos expose an objective positive truth that I ignored at the time? Or are the goofy photos evidence of how I misrepresent reality by capturing only the uncharacteristic smiley moments? Incongruity. My dumb brain recalls the Slow Loris. Something about what memes miss.
As the Uber arrives, a lone C-3PO– ragged and downtrodden, blocks away from the Convention Center–crosses the street. I snap a picture of him and we take off towards my apartment.
Nicholas Jackson lives in Southern California and produces i might go to the beach, a weekly archive of long distance phone calls and field recordings.
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