Monday, December 19, 2011


The other night I found myself ordering a Super Taco at El Rancho Grande, the local mexican food joint that's open well past midnight and features a kickass salsa bar. The Super Taco was fantastic, but is not the subject of this post.

On my way out the door, I took a moment to examine the flyers and neighborhood postings taped to the wall. My time with Nonchalance taught me to demonstrate extreme curiosity regarding walls covered in flyers, as they're a super obvious opportunity for an intriguing mystery to begin taking shape. How else these days could anyone looking to screw with people address an audience with complete anonymity? It can't be done any other way, I tell you.

At any rate, I quickly spied a nondescript sheet of paper taped near the bottom of the collage of colorful ads for guitar lessons, used furniture, and Spanish tutors. This piece of paper was plain white, and featured a totally normal typeface that read: "Help Pan with the MAZE. Helen wandered into the MAZE weeks ago. She hasn't been seen since. This MAZE needs our attention. For more information, please contact Pan." The bottom third of the flyer was devoted to tear-off tabs that all sported the slogan "Help find Helen" alongside a web address.

I was floored. Clearly this was the start of some brand-new mystery. Who was Helen? Why was MAZE capitalized every time? What did any of this mean? I grabbed a tab and started walking home, super anxious to look up the website and fall into another grand adventure.

Fuck, I love adventures.

But it turns out I was kind of drunk (hence the Super Taco at 1 am in the first place), and in the course of gesturing wildly to my fellow drunkards on the walk home, the slip of paper with the address escaped my jacket pocket. I realized what had happened after it was too late, and no amount of googling the relevant keywords revealed anything useful. I went to bed a sad man, and awoke having completely forgotten the incident.

On my walk to the coffee shop that next morning, I found myself practicing a routine eyes-to-the-ground maneuver in an effort to avoid contact with a crazy guy yelling at a bus on the street corner, and at the exact moment of looking down I stepped over the scrap I'd dropped the night before! Normally I don't pick anything up off the ground in this city, but such is my ravenous hunger for intrigue that I lunged for it. Triumphant, I marched to Cafe Abir ready to be blown away by whatever lay in wait.

As it turns out, "Pan" referred to the small Pan Theater in the East Bay, the MAZE is the humorous nickname its volunteer workers have given the series of hallways you have to navigate to reach the stage, and Helen is a poor elderly soul who got lost in the hallways on her way to view a performance this past holiday season. The whole effort that necessitated the flyer in the first place is an ongoing grassroots attempt to raise money to demolish the hallways and erect a new theater entrance that minimizes patron hassle/confusion, and that's the extent of it.

I was mildly crushed. I mean, I wanted to trip into a hallucinatory world of sleuthing, and instead got to feel bad for this crone Helen. On the other hand, I had to applaud the Pan Theater people for creating a flyer so nondescript and intriguing that I actually took the time to look something up that ordinarily wouldn't have piqued my interest in the slightest.

This is the future of advertising: subtle trickery. I can't wait until the day that mysterious opportunities left and right end up leading participants to the new flavor of Doritos in the chip aisle at Safeway, or a website for the redesigned 2013 Nissan Xterra. Let's hear it for creative duping!

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