EsoZone Report

EsoZone Report
by Justin Hager on 2007-09-22 17:36:41

DAY -1: Around 8pm. Private Messages pouring in over IRReality IRC chat from Lucifer Benway, one of the trio of one who organized and made real the NotSoTemporary Autonomous Zone known as EsoZone. I have a couch to crash on in Portland. Here is the number. Call it. Seal the Deal.


Martial drama has entered an unacceptable level of delay into the car that was supposed to hoist my physical body up the West Coast to the opening ceremonies. Free rides are not always the same as freedom.

UlyLaz Dude, seriously.
UlyLaz DO
UlyLaz NOT

Quick. Change. No money for a plane. Greyhound. Seventeen hours. I can afford this.

Calls. Laundry. Packing. No sleep. A bottle of wine. Nervousness. Premonition feelings. 5AM, taxi at the door. And so it begins.

DAY 0: Early thoughts and feelings have suggested that EsoZone would cause a serious break between the “astral” world and the “real” world. A vortex. As I'm crossing my first bride and leaving the shelter of the Bay, I see a crane working. It's branded: VORTEX. I draw the vortex on my arm, and it doesn't leave for the remainder of the weekend.

Brief respite of sleep before Sacramento. Getting off the bus and smoking on the sidewalk with my travel gear spewed around me. Two people warn me to be wary of the cops, because I've got a pillow and a suitcase on the street. Homeless people are not tolerated. Where the fuck am I? Everything reeks of Texas. Greyhound is based out of Texas.

Ninety minute delay. I sit in the bus terminal: worn, nervous, impatient. I try and guess who amongst the lot present could potentially be Eso-ites. I also wonder who or what could be causing this delay, from an irrational synchronistic perspective. The answer to all the questions turns out to be no.

Seat 23, surrounded by the usual bus folk. The horny frat boy who hopes to screw in the bathroom with a stranger. The ex-con. The retired woman with white hair. The impoverished single mother. The sprinkling of underpaid Hispanic men. The city hopping hippie.

More coffee at every stop. All of the food disturbs me too much to think about eating it. I am shaky. I try to read The Will to Power but grow tired of rereading every sentence three times and the words shaking on the page. I come to the conclusion that now is the proper time to do some initiatory work in Scrying, to see what those who began in Portland and those who had already arrived were up to. A little EsoPreview.

Before I left, I was told that I would not be alone on my trip. Sleep-deprived, half-starved, I began to see faces. In the clouds. In my tiny mirror piece. In the glass of the bus. I believe, now and then, that strangers, animals, and entities who can't be defined by bodies and space were watching my ascent into Portland, keeping an eye out for me, aiding the safety and nonsanity of my journey.

I stepped off the bus, shaken and stirred by the things that I had seen, not sure where I was, what would come next, but enjoying the freshness of the air. I payphoned for a pickup. I sat crossleggeded on the corner in my neon-dress and sent my beacon out.

Come get me.

Swooped up in a Red Mustang. Folded in the back seat. Talking GPS maps. Food. Sleep.

DAY 1: Distracted breakfast with near strangers who have opened up their cars, homes, and lives to accommodate an equal stranger. I need to walk. I need to shake off the bus. I need to wash away the bus.


In an alleyway, I find a red boxing glove on the street. I walk down the street with it on my left fist, and I decided after wandering lost for about fifteen minutes in South-East Portland that I have no choice but to live there.

I make some prints, shove them in frames, tape up the frames. I know these are less than great, in terms of my artistic photographic practice, but here I am flown ten degrees too far off the handle to care about self-promotion. I still have art. I still hang it. I still slap on my EsoZone badge. Here I am.

Here are more internet strangers. Here are people I know in words. Here are names I recognize. Here is the venue. Here is the coffee. Here starts my documentation. I can't stand still. Too many people. Social overload. Life is not a chatroom.

Opening address. Highlight: The idea that we should all cut through the bullshit of our paramemetics and discover the truth of each other. Go deep. Flay the skin.

Freeman was originally slotted for about an hour, but he grabs the stage and delves into about four hour of rapidly fire explanation of the esoteric power of corporate/pop symbolism. I only catch bits and pieces, but what I hear makes me laugh the deep gut “SO TRUE” laugh.

I have a number of brief and flittery conversations. I am buzzing too fast and hard to stay in one place. I want to see Portland, so I decide to bring a bit of EsoZone out into the larger world.

I take a brief barroom tour of downtown. Flirting. Promoting. Chatter. Strangers. I tell everyone that will listen why it is that I've come to their town and that I already know that I want to live here.

After an hour or so of meandering I get back to see my original ride has arrived (glad I didn't wait). A drunken man invites both of use to a warehouse party on the other side of the bridge. Freeman is either talking about oil company logos or the Little Mermaid or perhaps both. I don't know where I will end up. I don't want to know where I will end up.

Where I do end up is outside a strip club at 4AM with a stripper's number written in Sharpie on my arm with plans to meet up before I leave town.

I manage to flag down a cab who wanders around with the meter off for about twenty minutes looking for another fair before finally taking me back to my crashpad. I haul myself up the stairs, find the door unlocked, and pass the fuck out.

DAY 2: Coffee and hashbrowns are all it takes to start any day off right.

Roll into the middle of the Mutant Meatspace Networks panel. The discussion that takes place can't be separated from the event that is unfolding. EsoZone is at its heart the unfolding of a number of Mutant Networks both off/on-line unfolding themselves in one physical and psychic space, and over the course of the day I observe the tendency (noted in the panel by Trevor Blake) of groups to be self-selective.

I have a fervor for the fringe. Even when surrounded by the fringes of mainstream society, I manage to place myself on the fringe of the fringe.

A trip to the store for cigarettes finds me, Siv, and Nekospecial semiclandestinely attaching ourselves to a local downtown tour group, freeloading onto its tail. We are lead down into the basement of a local pizza place to visit part of the tunnels that run beneath the city. We are told the area that we're in was originally an opium den. As we walk down the stairs, one of the patrons of the restaurant picks up on our lead and jumps on the tail of the tour. There are bottles full of nails whose lids are attached to the ceiling. After about five minutes in the basement, the tour guide finally takes us aside and lets us know that our presence is not welcome.

I have self-selected myself into the Discordian/Slax0r group. This is our initiation.

One vegetarian lasagna later I'm sitting outside the Someday Lounge, feeling like I should be inside listening to the panel, but enjoying relaxing in the sun too much to force myself inside. Siv, Ceilede, and I begin an unofficial panel of our own. The LOLOLOGY Panel commences while the Art, Music, and Magick Panel rumbles on inside. For about forty-five minutes, there is not a single moment when one of the three of us is not laughing our asses off.

This marks for me the beginning of the reoccurring theme of laughter/play vs. SERIOUS BUSINESS. Between laughs, we manage to actually discuss the conflict of these two things. The hilarity of self-seriousness and the great importance of laughter in maintaining sanity. Our LOLOCOASTER is pretty much uniformly ignored by everyone around us until the panel lets out. A photo-op moment occurs directly to our left in which virtually everyone is all swished out in dark clothing, mirror shades, and grim serious expressions. We peanut gallery the posing relentlessly and almost get several of grim faces to burst out in laughter with the flash.

How can we really get past the skin of things without first laughing at how flimsy and fragile it is?

I am comforted when I see Paul Laffoley being interviewed by the Viking Youth. He appears to pretty much be laughing and shooting the shit with them. My new gauge of a person's success in magick and in life is their ability to have a healthy giggle. I have been implanted with a LULZ chip.

A couple meandering hours of loose conversation and attempts to finalize plans with my new stripper friend. Waiting for the next thing that I simply could not miss. Reading on the Internet from afar about EsoZone, one of the things that excited me the most was the performance of the Foolish People. I come from a theatrical background, and for some time I've been obsessed with the idea of living life itself as a performance piece.

When I read the piece of paper handed to me outlying the premise of Dead Language, I found myself nodding with every other word. In a world where media is endlessly reproducible, your flesh, your movements, your words, and the way that they transmit and reproduce themselves inside the people around you is the only authentic recourse left to the artist.

Excitement and anticipation at peak. Taking a seat. Preparing. Focusing. Opening all my senses (physical and otherwise) to what I am about to experience. A poster of a demented Jesus figure is rolled out above my head. I am handed a piece of paper with instructions, advice, and an enrollment application for the Denaissance Corporation. Attatched to the paper is a little plastic bag with a prescription for H23 and my first sample dose, a little red pill. I am already thinking: these people are doing something amazing. The lights dim. The air is charged. Noise and music merge. The curtain rolls back.

Cloned and replicated muses. Testing the audience for the presence of the spider people. Computers that generate plotlines for the aspiring audience. Heavy stimulant usage. Several people are led or picked to interface with their own private muse.

I admit to a modicum of jealousy that I am not amongst them.

Blonde/brunette. Black/white. The balance between the two pillars of the High Priestess. Tangible/Spiritual. The entrance of Mr. Shine, head of the art-delivering religion of the Denaissance Corporation, receives a standing ovation from the audience upon his entrance.

At one point, I am looking behind me, and when I turn back Lucy is staring directly into my eyes. I return her gaze for about ten seconds before she breaks and moves away.

Deliver yourself into the cult of art. Sacrifice your identity to the endless replication storylines and themes. Prepare to receive the Last New Story to be told and retold.

But something goes wrong. Someone has accessed the Story without permission, before the moment of its unveiling. YOUR PASSAGE IS REVOKED.

Lights out.

These are fragments that will ultimately fail to capture the raw power of what I witnessed and felt during the first part of Dead Language, but they are all that I have for this report.

Everyone I talk to is in a state somewhere between awe and fear. There are spider sympathizers who are more than a bit concerned about the war that seems to be waged upon them. The insistence upon a uniformity of stories is disconcerting to ritualized individualists.

A brief Discordo-Conference takes place shortly after the performance debating whether or not we, as good Erisians, are obligated to introduce the element of the Golden Apple into the Foolish People's Part Two. Their performance seems to invite response, to invite action. The consensus is favorable, and I resolve myself after this first bout of observation to actively confront the space that they are creating in their work with my newly-enhanced laughter.

One of the first thing Paul Laffoley explains after taking the stage (and insisting that ALL the lights be turned off) is that the device attached to his belt is an external difibulator, and that if his heart hiccups it should snap him back into action. Despite this and despite the fact that someone has to help him climb the stairs onto the stage, he proceeds to explain the future technology of his diagrams and drawings for four hours, eventually stopping only because the bulb of the projector showing his slides finally fails.

After about fifteen slides, information overload set in. It didn't help that I lack the scientific background and understanding to even grasp a number of the terms Paul threw out offhandedly. I wander my way back into The Green Room and sit by myself on a couch, half-listening to Paul's lecture and half-reflecting on my experiences of the day.

One of the bar staff of the Some Day Lounge wanders through and gives me a smile and a goofy face, relieving any doubts that I may have had as to whether or not my presence in the backstage area was acceptable, and then shortly after a whole crew of people filtered back into the room.

This was a moment for me that proved a theory that I have regarding social geometry (and life in general, for that matter), that the fringe and the center over a long enough timeline become basically the same. This is one of the reasons I've always liked camping out in the background of situations, because eventually anything and everything will come directly to you.

I make some drawings in a notebook for a theoretical EsoZone zine. Chat with people about the sort of beneath the skin issues that I came here to talk about with like minded folk. I relax and let Paul set the background for my social experience. After a little while, Siv (my official EsoBestFriend) comes back and proclaims that his mind has officially been blown by the phrase (which ended up being repeated ENDLESSLY and still is being repeated ENDLESSLY): “You crush a neutron star, fold it into a Klein Bottle, and that's how you power your time machine.”

The rest of the evening is spent in relaxed conversation. A running theme for me emerges of my interest in social geometries. How the shapes that people arrange themselves in direct and manipulate the flow of communication. At one point, I even begin to purposefully manipulate this flow by arranging the positioning of my chair. This marks the first time, aside from the boxing glove and my glamour, in which I actively show the kind of magickal work that I do in my day to day life. I have a small but appreciative audience.

After Paul finally wraps up, Zephyr begins his record-spinning of the evening. His audience is unfortunately small, and I try briefly to dance and help increase it. My heart isn't in the mode for busting a mood, though, and before long I find myself back outside chatting and biding my time until the end of the night brings me back to sleep.

DAY 3: Lingering in the morning at Danny Chaoflux's apartment, I pick my clothes with intent. Red pants, red shirt, red coat. Power. Fire. War. I am ready, after two days of careful observation and merging with a favorable (if small) tribal group, to insert parts of myself into the full EsoZone HiVE.

The boxing glove, an important component of my magickz outfitz, is mysteriously missing from where it should be when I arrive. I engage in a number of symbolic gestures to summon it back to myself and run around with a impish glee, preparing for my Erisian Demons to wage full warfare on the all-too-Serious-Business at work in some quadrants of the psychogeography of Eso.

I watch a little bit of the Sorcery Panel. Giving full vocal cheers and props when Luficer Benway mentions the then-unspoken third way of obtaining implements of magickal workings which has always been my preferred method: finding them on the street. I bounce internally and externally when Lupa says, “If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong.” The geometries are shifting the “battle” in my favor before I even properly begin.

I spend a little time also in the HyperGlyph Workshop, drawing a panel of a group comic, expressing my boxing glove antics. A Discordian robot is consulted for the text of the comic. We all started writing LULZ and SRSB on each fist, expressing the conflict and balance between the two. I write SRSB backwards as BSRS, and promptly decided to erase the RS, leaving only BS. After the Sorcery Panel ended, my boxing glove finally emerges, and I elect to write SRSB on the fist of it.

Siv and I wander around town a little bit, drifting, taking pictures, and making a stop-in at Powell's. I buy a copy of Rudolf Steiner's A History of Esoteric Science, which I lose before the end of the night. Strangely two of my friends back home buy a copy of the same book on the same day.

Right before Foolish People Part Two begins, I walk around the block of the EsoZone venues five times, evoking Eris, hoping to further the influence of her energy on the space. On my third run around, I notice a man who was on the Greyhound bus with me on my trip up. He exited the bus long before we got to Portland. I know something important is about to happen, but in reality I have no idea how important.

I seat myself intentionally in relationship to the other Discordian elements that I know are present in the room, trying to arrange favorable geometries. I sit and wait with my inner grin shining strong. I have no planned actions, but I plan on acting. The lights fade. Cue curtain. Act Two.

This is the breaking of the veil. Hidden beneath the endless reproduction, the degredation of Xeroxed personalities, the viral reproduction of memetic social customs, there is something original, and in order to find it someone has to die. The baby of a muse is ash.

Tell me the secret that will unlock the stars. Tell me the word that recreates Eden.

It's all inside you. The art is on the inside. Your language is dead. You have forgotten your own name. Expression is a lie that has been told countless times. Wipe the third eye clean and begin to see for the first time.

Art on the inside, blood on the outside. I shiver when these words are spoken, knowing that I have already acted. All my clothes are red.

There is laughter, for me and for them. I am touched and wiped and marked. I am seen, clearly.

Everyone gets sigilized by ashes on their foreheads, the death of the copied self, the birth of the self.

I am marked by Naia and Lucifer, whom in my deranged cloud visions earlier I now recognized as the two people who I had seen together at a crucial moment. This was all going to happen, marked as I am when the lights fade.

As I stand, I am covered in ash, on my jacket, on my forehead, on my pants. Ash is everywhere. My ash, however, is an initiation and a trial, which I pass through with grace, because I wear it with pride. When I get apologies for ruining my clothes, from Naia (who probably spilled the ash on me in the first place), the fact that I am undisturbed and uncaring proves something about my character that is, perhaps literally, written on my forehead for the rest of the night.

Sushi afterwards is chaotic as fuck. Twenty or so of us descend upon an unassuming restaurant. No one seems to have any idea what they or anyone else ordered. Sushi comes in an endless stream, but we eat. Things are passed from person to person and table to table. For many members of the Foolish People, this is their first sushi experience ever. Unlikely to be replicated. Uncopyable. Bringing their art with them. I leave my boxing glove on the coat tree as a tip.

After sushi, I wander around Portland with the stripper I met on the first night. Her name is Kayla. We spin around with our eyes closed to decide which direction to go. We sit with golden seals and talk about laughter and life plans. We dance with a bunch of 60 year old couples at a Senior Prom. We offer to buy Kinko's sign. Our offer is turned down. I might never see her again, but if not she learned something for me. How to be silly.

My Erisian evocation didn't pay off during Dead Language, but it came full speed on top when The Red King took the stage. He and his crew of “We Destroy Ourselves So You Don't Have To”-isms are pretty much as SRSB-looking as anyone that I've ever seen in my life, which makes it all the more fantastic that a sequence of strange events occurs during the build-up music to their entrance.

1. An unusually loud voice could be heard from outside the venue with the doors closed saying, “No! Not yet!” The entire crowd immediately burst into laughter.

2. Out of nowhere, a man began ranting semi-drunkenly and playing piano. As far as I have been able to establish, there is not actually a piano in the Someday Lounge. Just as quickly as he appeared, he vanished.

3. A woman began dancing, also drunkenly, to the Red King's intro-music and half-fell over a number of people sitting nearby.

After these events, The Red King finally makes his entrance burning a huge bushel of sage. He successfully banishes me, and I leave to take another drift around the city. John and Lucy, of the FP, are standing outside when I get out. They had been looking forward to seeing what he would do, but couldn't sit through the absurd and over-the-top cliché-isms of the actual performance.

After a brief walk, I return to the Someday Lounge. The performance is still going on, but I make it back in time to see naked female groveling and the shattering of a huge mirror, which are both enjoyable things. Then it's over. Then we say goodbye and hug. Again and again. EsoZone is over.

And yet it's never really over. The transformation that I underwent on the third day, the move to action, is still lingering inside me as I write and look back. It was with me when I saw my father in Arkansas. It was with me when I met a beautiful girl that I am now spending every waking moment possible with. It was with me when I visited the AAAZ. It is with me when I look in the mirror. And it will be with me when I pack my belongings up and haul them back up the coastline to Portland.

EsoZone created a space inside me, and when all the skin is stripped away EsoZone always WAS a space inside me. Over the course of the days, it cultivated and grew. The day after, Klint and Lucifer were already beginning to talk about who they would get for next year, planning had already begun more than 365 days in advance, because the space is there and it demands to be filled.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, not because of anything that was planned but because the organizers created a space to explore what lies beneath the skin, to let it breathe, to let it shine, to let it grow. A place where anything was allowed, as long as it was sincere and true.

A place where, perhaps, I lived for the first time, and still live stronger than ever.