July 15, 2009

flash mob

"How's your sense of adventure tonight?" I ask Cristina on the phone on my way back from (still) hauling boxes from the old apartment.
"It's good. what's up?"
"There's a rumor going around that Dave Chappelle is going to do an impromptu stand-up routine in Pioneer Square tonight at midnight. I think we should go."

This is what C and I did with our Tuesday night. All day, rumors of a show had abounded -- primarily on Twitter, though it spread to other corners of the internet -- but no one could confirm. We went back and forth about whether it was worth it. We'd both spent a good chunk of the day hauling stuff into the apartment, and we were tired. But at 11:15 I said, get your shoes on, we're going to the party.

We could not possibly have foreseen how crazy it was. Downtown, people were flocking to the square. It was hard to drive; pedestrians were all over the place. Drunk, stoned hipsters on skateboards were coasting down the sidewalks. Cops lined the block, standing idly by in anticipation of trouble. It was unbelievable: a couple of Dave sightings (we knew he really was in town) and a truckload of unsubstantiated rumors were all it took to bring thousands of people into the city. Above the square was a giant cloud of smoke; the air smelled like cigarettes and pot. We made our way into the throng at about ten minutes to midnight and stood around in awe. Behold: the power of Twitter.

"I kind of think this would be funnier if nobody showed up and we'd all been punked," Cristina remarked. In front of us, people kept running into other people they knew. This town! A girl with an epic bleached-blonde mohawk sat on one of the pillars behind us; in the forty minutes we waited, we watched as clusters of people scaled the exterior of the Starbucks to sit on the roof. People lined every available surface. Occasionally, someone dropped a beer bottle. There were a lot of cell phones. There were a lot of cameras.

"This has the potential to turn really nasty really fast," I said. Someone shook the sides of the stage in protest. I wodnered if the crowd would turn ugly. Occasionally groups of people within the mob would begin to cheer, as if Chappelle had showed up, but we didn't buy it. At one point a skinny black dude climbed up onto the stage (a stage which had been set up for a noon concert) and pumped his arms in the air in celebration, as though he were about to give a show. We were all momentarily duped, and subsequently disappointed to discover it was an impostor.

Cristina and I decided we would leave by 12:30 if nobody had showed up. I was reluctant to go but obviously we couldn't wait forever. By that point we really assumed it had been a hoax. There was a slow trickle of folks who had come to the same decision. We were still glad to have come, though, just for the sheer ridiculousness of it, the sense of community.

"Crazy, huh?" the parking attendant said, as I left the garage. "I was just down there -- it's nuts. He still hasn't shown?"

When we got home we pretty much went straight to bed. As I climbed into bed I checked Twitter one more time and groaned.
"What is it?" Cristina asked, plopping down on the bed.
"He showed up!"

Dave had apparently taken his sweet time -- not realizing in any way how big the mob had become -- and hadn't arrived to the square until just before 1 AM. According to the story, he only told 4 people at the gym, and the rumor spread like wildfire. He had only come armed with a practice amp and a small mic, so no more than the first few rows of the crowd could even hear a word he said. They struggled for an hour to get better sound before finally calling it quits.

Here's apparently the best video, from The Oregonian. I took some photos of the crowd but god only knows where my camera cord is. Buried under 500 pounds of unpacked boxes, probably.

Dave Chappelle at Pioneer Square

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