Strange Radiation

Andrew Willett, unreliable narrator.

MOB4: shoes, media, metamobs

Today’s Big Event—other than shoehorning all my cousin’s worldly goods into an ancient Honda so she could move to the other side of the frickin’ continent, not that I’m bitter—was the Fourth NYC Inexplicable Mob. (See my earlier entry if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)
Sari and I gathered in one of the four staging areas (read: bars), all of which were down near Broadway and Houston. Even before the ball got rolling, we could see some of the handwriting on the wall. This one was gonna be big. There were dozens of people crammed into the area by the door at Puck Fair, all waiting for their marching orders. There were people on the sidewalk who couldn’t fit into the bar. There were members of the media.
Yup. We hadn’t even gotten to the actual mob yet, and we could already see one guy interviewing somebody for radio and a couple of people with extremely professional-looking cameras. The cat is clearly out of the bag on this social experiment.
Eventually, we got our Magic Slip of Paper. Our mission: to arrive at Otto Tootsi Plohound, an extremely hoity-toity shoe store just two blocks away, and spend five minutes impersonating a busload of dazzled tourists from Maryland. (See the note’s full text on The Official Record.) Sari and I meandered into a candles-and-martini-glasses store next to the target and waited for our moment, which was 7:18PM.
At 7:18:45 we left the tchotchky shop and advanced on the shoe store. And then we learned that forty-five seconds is an eternity where a flashmob is concerned. Easily two hundred people were already inside, milling around, looking thrilled to be surrounded by the Gothamite glamour of it all. You wear these? On your feet? An upset-looking man barricaded the glass door with a hairy forearm, so Sari and I pressed up against a wide plate-glass window instead. Every now and then a helpful co-conspirator inside held up a sandal so we could get a closer look. We oohed and aahed appreciatively. I even called Paul on my cell, as per instructions. He couldn’t understand why I was getting so excited over a bunch of shoes, but I wasn’t really listening to him anyway. It would have spoiled my rhythm.
I should note also that every other person seemed to have a camera at this thing. It worked well with the busload-of-tourists conceit, too. Pros and participants snapped the shoes, the staff, one another with glee. Inside the store, people stood on the benches for better angles. Media were everywhere. At least three radio reporters worked the crowd—two of them apparently from Germany. Germany? Those who hadn’t made it inside crowded the sidewalk. One photojournalist seemed obsessed with the bus-stop sign behind us; we couldn’t tell why.
All this, of course, created a metamob: a throng of onlookers who really, really wanted to know what the hell was going on. “I think it’s a mob!” said one woman. Her friend cooed appreciatively, in a way that meant that she had no idea what woman #1 was talking about. They kept wading through the crowd, bound for Pravda and apple martinis. People spilled out into the street; they started to clog traffic on the opposite sidewalk. The radio people dashed around. The bus-stop-photos lady moved to put us in the background of her sign photos.
And then it was over. The general rule is that we’re supposed to disperse, as quickly and mysteriously as we had arrived. But this time that didn’t happen. There was only one door, and Hairy Forearms Man took a while to realize that nobody was trying to come in it anymore, so a major traffic jam formed. People swirled around on the sidwalk, waiting for friends to escape the store or posing for pictures or talking to radio people. The onlookers lingered, seeking enlightment. So much for mystery. We even ran into Cesar, on his way to dance class. Signpost lady took the signpost’s picture, again; we posed nonchalantly in the background. She eventually left, with an assistant in tow carrying her stepladder. We headed out ourselves. On the way to the subway station I had a chance to read the sign.
The next Inexplicable Mob is scheduled for Thursday, July 25. To get on the mailing list, email For further coverage of this one, check the always-reliable cheesebikini? plus the photos on Satan’s Laundromat.


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  1. MOB #4

    Mob #4, tonight, was at Otto Tootsi Plohound, a very expensive shoe store on Lafayette Street. According to the instructions, we were “on a bus tour from Maryland. You are excited but also bewildered. It is as if the shoes…

  2. Sari (of course)

    OK. I had to be the first person to provide a comment – as I have been begging for the comment feature for awhile. I just wanted to point out that Andy and I are IN the pictures from Satan’s Laundromat. Scroll down – you’ll see Andy looking through the window – as I am absurdly small – I am once again blocked by a large stranger. However, you can see my hand gesturing wildly! The backs of both of our heads can seen in the exit photo! Exciting.
    Ah…fame in the blog sub-culture!

  3. Doesn’t surprise me Germans were there they have press crews in New York and DC, besides that it is the middle of July, which means approaching the height of vacation season so light, fun story like this would be very typical for their media right now.

  4. “The Mob Project, DFW” has been started! please tell your friends, family, and everyone that lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of texas to join! thanks!

  5. The first RockCityFM event in Detroit will happen in two weeks! RockCity FM is a postmodern trans-cultural collective interested in using odd or fantastic group moments to shift the way that people think about the future—while having fun at the same time!

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