A few years ago I joined a social network site called Blurt and for a while it was great. It was real people reviewing restaurants and stores all over town, and unlike most reviews it was irreverent as hell...."The halibut steak was so nasty even the cockroaches turned their antennae up at it and crawled away in disgust"....No restaurant was too low for reviews..."If you're going to make a Jumbo Jack this bad hold the pubic hairs, bro..." Not exactly Westways magazine material.
The reviews made me laugh more than made me hungry and I was hooked. The site got crazier and crazier, too. Not content to just review hot dog stands and gourmet sushi houses, the reviews extended to car washes, pet groomers, and even ventured into the Oscars, procrastination, and Heaven itself. Blurters even blurted Heaven.
There was a Blurter from Chicago named Crazy Alice who occasionally reviewed LA places and she was very funny and had a trashy attitude. Not the usual nauseating LA princess on Blurt, just a dame with a vicious sense of humor. I friended Crazy Alice immediately.
Unfortunately Crazy Alice was a little too much trashy and she was placed in Blurt Jail, meaning suspension from posting privileges on Blurt for ten days. Big fucking deal. A breath of fresh air and the philistines would rather suck the carbon monoxide of predictability.
As soon as Crazy Alice got out of Blurt Jail she got real loud about stupid Blurt.com and it reached a fever pitch to where she got kicked off Blurt for good. More people, the more acidic critics, were getting suspended or outright kicked off from Blurt for not kissing major ass to the shitty restaurants and night clubs that abused customers but still managed to drop a few dollars to Blurt for online "protection".
One night I got a strange PM on Blurt from someone in Chicago named "Lars". All it said was, "Hi, remember me?" The next day I got a friend request from a Blurter named "Lars". Why would I be friends with someone named Lars. Intrigued, I went to his profile and read a few of his reviews.
"This was a decent enough bar, but after all is said and done I would rather dine at home with a nice steaming plate of lutefisk".
"The theater was comfortable but not as comfortable as my shack with five different varieties of herring".
Every review ended with Lars regaling us of his love for cold Nordic fish delicacies. Somebody was pulling my chain, and I let her know. I PM'ed "Lars" and wrote, "Welcome back, Crazy Alice!"
She wrote back, "You caught it faster than anyone else".
Back to her old tricks, Crazy Alice, I mean Lars continued tearing up the poor city of Chicago with her brutal but funny reviews. And with pickled Norwegian fish, even. It was a fun ride for awhile but Chicago wasn’t a big enough city for her to hide in. Someone caught wind of her return because after two months she was taken down. Lars was no more, pickled fish and all.
I continued writing my reviews of restaurants, shoe repairs and record stores, with the capper being that the Los Angeles Times called me for a comment on the closing of the Virgin Megastore, based on my Blurt review. That was pretty cool.
Everything was going okay, what with my attending a few parties thrown by Blurt for Elite Members Only – I earned mine from talking to the LA Times representing Blurt. A nice sideline while I worked in the Executive Office of the LA County Board of Supervisors. But those were different times.
One day I got a PM from someone on Blurt called “Mona”. I didn’t know anyone called Mona. I clicked on the PM and there was a picture of a classic Beverly Hills fake blonde woman who looked like she stepped out of a real estate advertisement. All the message said was, “Guess Who????”
“Lars, I mean Crazy Alice, is that you?” I asked. She sent me back a PM saying that she was now using her real name (yeah, sure) and she moved her account to Los Angeles instead of Chicago. “I made too many enemies in Chicago”. No shit.
I definitely saw a Modus Operandi in her social networking skills: In the beginning Mona reviewed places sporadically, still being funny but kind of keeping a cool front. But social networking being what it is the yokels, I mean Blurters took her perky blonde photo seriously and assumed that’s what she really looked like. Consequently a lot of the guys added her to their friend list, not realizing what she really was.
And boy, did she play it like crazy. Back to her old tricks, Mona hit the Blurt message board with a raunchy ferocity that split her following straight down the middle. I stayed out of the way because I knew what was to come, yep, you guessed it: Blurt Jail. Apparently she made a few less-than Princess remarks about female bodily functions and an angry Blurt Diva blew the whistle on her.
The days later Mona got out of Blurt Jail and everyone, mostly her Blurt slaves rejoiced like Solzhenitsyn released from a Siberian gulag. “MONA’S BACK!!!!” “WELCOME BACK, MONA BABY!!!”
Don’t think her head didn’t expand like a weather balloon from all this adulation, either. She fancied herself the Queen of Blurt without ever attending an LA Blurt social event. She couldn’t. She was still sitting around the snow in Chicago, Illinois.
As we all know when heads get swollen the old friends either are forgotten or eventually turned against. Mona, no longer needing my worthless LA friendship, began trashing my reviews. “What a great time waster, Andy S.” “Andy S. you’re so tacky. What are you talking about?”
I began wondering what Mona actually did for a living - when she wasn’t posting her magic all over Blurt she sent me chat prompts on Gmail. “Can you believe these idiots? I actually have them believing I’m a real girl living in Beverly Hills. And how weird is this? Rhonda Z. who says she’s straight wants to make out with me, isn’t that funny?”
I hated her Lonesome Rhodes bragging routine because I knew and liked some of these people she was laughing at. Of course she added, “You know I’m only telling you this because I can count on you. You wouldn’t give me away”.
“No, I wouldn’t”, meaning I wouldn’t crawl as low as you ever would.
Meanwhile, the Blurt slaves were all fawning over her – “Oh, Mona, are you coming to the Blurt Party? I’ll take you even though you aren’t an Elite Member”. Ha ha. For once she got real quiet.
I started avoiding her reviews and her profile page with her new avatar being a picture of Faye Dunaway from Bonnie and Clyde. The tagline read, “I’m running this cell block at Blurt Jail”. Yeah, fuck you too, Mona.
And then the strangest thing happened: Mona’s reviews came out less and less. When they did they read more like childhood reminiscences. “ When I was a little girl I went to the Santa Monica Pier”…”The La Brea Tar Pits scared me as a little girl”…the girl from Chicago pining for old Hollywood. Then they just simply stopped.
I wrote a review complaining about a specific Fire Station that harassed all the women in my neighborhood, including my wife. This review created a shit storm of a furor on Blurt, so bad Blurters threatened to have me kicked off the site for good. It got pretty ugly, and I knew my days at Blurt were numbered.
One day at work I got another chat prompt on Gmail….from Mona. She said, “What a bunch of fucking hypocrites. Did you know I was raped by a fireman twenty years ago? They aren’t heroes. What a bunch of bullshit”.
ME: Thanks, Mona. I wasn’t going to war against the entire Department, just that station.
MONA: I know that. Those Blurters are just a bunch of clueless assholes, blowing the whistle on you just like they did to me in Chicago and now in LA.
ME: Are you in trouble again?
MONA: Yeah, some girls on Blurt have it out for me. Well, fuck it. You probably noticed I haven’t posted in awhile, huh?
ME: Yeah. Are you in Blurt Jail again?
MONA: No. Mona’s days of drinking and drugs have finally caught up with her. I’ve been diagnosed with cervical cancer.
ME: Oh, fuck, that’s awful.
MONA: Yeah, I have bigger problems now than Blurt Jail. Aw, fuck them anyway. If they had any idea what I really looked like with my gray hair and glasses they wouldn’t give a fuck about me. Well, fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke. Mona’s in a lot of trouble.
(Personally her rap about sympathizing with me and her terminal sickness had an Andy Kaufman vibe about it so I tried to tread lightly and not take the whole business too hard. Fool one person and you’ll fool them all, and I didn’t want to be just another one of her stooges.)
Once she let the cat out of the bag about being elderly, aka closer to my age, we talked about bands from the Seventies we used to go see, her favorite story being about Edgar Winter’s White Trash at the Hollywood Palladium. We were friends again.
One week later, I got another Chat prompt from Mona:
MONA: Can you talk?
MONA: It doesn’t look good. I’ve been sitting here all day on the laptop bored off my skull. I have this nurse who’s sticking all these needles in me. It sucks. Yesterday he had to bathe me because I was too weak. I’m not used to guys seeing me naked and there’s no sex. Ugh.
ME: That’s bad. I’m getting off Blurt next week. I’ve had enough of their shit.
MONA: You’re better off. I get friend requests every week from stupid guys, it’s ridiculous. Well, it’s bath time, kid. Talk to you later.
ME: Okay, Mona. Hope you get better.
MONA: It’s not in the cards, but thanks.
I knew the joke was over when she chatted with me a few days later.
MONA: It doesn’t look too good. I can’t hold my shit in, literally, or my food or anything. I just chat with people all day but I can barely do that anymore. I’m too fucking sick.
ME: That’s fucking awful, Mona.
MONA: I hate doing this, but look. If I don’t send you any more chats or anything, then you know the shit’s hit the fan. Here’s my brother’s phone number: 312-555-6666. We were never very close but since my illness he’s been coming around and helping me. If you don’t get any more messages call my brother and he’ll tell you what’s going on, okay?
ME: Alright, Mona. I’ll pray for you.
MONA: Good, throw in a few fucks and shits in for good measure. Bye now.
The chats stopped as predicted. Sick of the online harassment and mob mentality, I pulled out of Blurt for good. It was just as well; the more subversive reviewers all got reported and harassed to the point of either quitting or just being outright kicked off the site. It just turned into a champion ass kissers website.
Of course I checked the message board before leaving and there was a topic called “Where Are You, Mona???” From what I figured I was one of the few that got this bit of news, with everyone else left out in the lurch. Actually, from what Mona told me the only ones who knew of her illness were me and someone else from LA and a couple of Blurters from Chicago, otherwise it was pretty confidential.
Three weeks went by and not another word from Mona. It didn’t hang me up but I couldn’t help being curious. Finally curiosity got the better of me and I found her brother’s phone number and dialed it with my Virgin Megastore phone.
“Hello?” a man answered.
“Hi, I’m a friend of Mona’s and I’ve been trying to reach her. Do you know where I can find her?”
There was a pause at the other end of the line.
“No, I’m sorry. My sister died last week”.
“Oh, I didn’t know. I’m so sorry. Well, thank you anyway”. I hung up.
Blurt.com…..it took Blurters about a year to realize that their hero Mona checked out for good. How they eventually find out I don’t know. Maybe somebody finally broke the news after being sworn to keep it hush-hush. I don’t know and I don’t really care.
God damn Mona. I think about her from time to time because I can’t forget her. There’s something so simultaneously sad and disturbing about people like her. People who go on the internet for a little love and acceptance, committing social larceny by hiding behind a different name, a different picture, and even a different gender just to find some kind of acceptance.
The internet is an endless mine field of internet frauds, tens of thousands of lost souls lying about who they are just so they can be somebody’s hero, pretending to be and do things they will never achieve because they’re more frightened than the people they show off to.
And the ritual goes on every day, friend requests and people dumping friends and making friends with people they’ll never meet and flirting online with their fake pictures and their heavily guarded personal information.
Yeah, I think about Mona all the time because there’s an endless line of unhappy people who can’t see any sunlight in the darkness of their monitor screens, so they have to become someone else. Mona with her gray hair and glasses, the burnt out party animal who ended her last days conning young hipsters on the internet and feeling she had the last laugh. It makes me sad to think that there are people who think there’s some payback because the disguise only amplifies the loneliness.
The information superhighway is littered with roadkill, people who need to con every day just to score points and seek acceptance, resulting in a virtual Tower of Babel where thousands all speak to each other in different languages, never listening to the other person with the outcome being complete chaos of hellish proportions. Have fun with your social networks, everybody, but just remember that it’s all just a bad dream. Just like Mona.
P.S. Blurt.com is still up and running, with their patented tagline: REAL REVIEWS, REAL PEOPLE.