They say confession is good for the soul.
I have been a naughty monkey; actually, I’m “The” Naughty Monkey.
You see, I have been engaging in covert activity. Not only that, but I met with the press in a dark North Slope alley. OK I requested a dark alley because I really enjoy cloak and dagger stuff, but we ended up at an establishment with tasty adult beverages-naughty monkeys speak more freely with liberal doses of social lubricant.
Unbeknownst to Ms Monkey of MonkeyShines fame, the super secret project was about to be splashed all over the pages of exit133.com
Better yet, you can enjoy the comment section in which Tacomans share their treasure hunting stories and photos. Heck, so many would be monkeyshiners were clamoring to tell their stories and post their pictures that the site crashed for a day. (*latest check shows 153 comments on this post)
After spending countless hours in a sweaty hot shop, suffering multiple thermal burns and becoming dehydrated while creating glass floats and medallions emblazoned with the serpent head to represent the year of the snake, I was determined to ensure that Tacomans would continue to be excited about this annual tradition of guerrilla art in which over eight hundred pieces of glass art were distributed throughout Tacoma by sleep deprived art junkies high on sugar and caffeine.
It needed to be clear that there are “rules” to monkeyshines. Take only ONE. This is about serendipity, a sense of joy, magic and sharing with the community, not being a greedy toad.
The other story I wanted to get out, is that of “Marble Man” who around the same time, spreads glass marbles around the city for monkeyshine hunters to find. I shared Marble Man’s story in hopes that others might also be inspired to give back and make this an even more fabulous event that it already is.
What I am going to share today, is what it’s like to be part of a small scale covert operation covering a large area.
I am going to share with you… The dark side of MonkeyShines.
It started out in the wee hours of the morning on the day of Chinese New Year (before you get too excited, know that when behavior is bad, such as stalking and attempting to follow us, we will change up the date just to mess with the offenders)
We met at a secret location in Tacoma’s gritty industrial section to collect the shiny prizes and make certain that as many areas of the city would be covered as possible.
Carrying my box to the MonkeyMobile I looked over my shoulder to make certain that I was not being followed.
I took the most circuitous route to my assigned area possible, always switching up direction should a pair of headlights stay behind me through too many turns.
I parked off the beaten path in a dark alley, made sure my box of shiny treasure was not visible to passers by, and with a pocket full of medallions, I stuffed one glass float in my puffy jacket to keep the glimmer of it’s shiny beauty from giving me away, and hit the streets, sidewalks and alleys looking for appropriate places to hide the treasure.
A car slowed down to see what I was doing.
I took a short cut to another street.
They changed direction to follow me.
Even without the dead giveaway of the shiny object, I was suspect and was now being stalked.
Much like a scene from mission impossible, I sprinted down the alley and dove into some bushes just before they turned the corner.
Just as I emerged from the prickly bushes, they turned around. I sprinted across the alley and on to a rooftop where I laid on my belly gasping for breath, making certain my head could not be illuminated by their flashlight, while they tried to figure out where I had gone. After what seemed like an eternity, I saw them drive to another section of the district I was covering. I got up, dusted the leaves, dirt (OMG, is that GUM?) off myself, climbed down from my precarious perch, and hid the orb I’d been laying on. (OUCH)
The imprint of a serpent’s head may be visible on my sternum for a few more days, but at least the orb survived my ungraceful bellyflop.
After that encounter, I modified my tactics.
Carrying a flashlight, the hunted pretended to be a hunter.
Yeah… that frustrating moment when you learned via Facebook, Twitter (using the #monkeyshines hashtag) or exit133.com that someone found a monkeyshine in a place you had already looked?
I was watching you search; heck if there was no other option to avoid appearing suspicious, I might have even said “Hi” to you and then hid it after you had left.
You see… naughty monkeys have no shame.
Some were hidden in classic places, others well off the beaten path to be found by non hunters in a true moment of serendipity, perhaps years later.
After two hours of stealthy activity, I headed home to watch the fun unfold on blogs and social media sites.
Not only had Marble Man been busy (for a couple of days as best we can tell) but others left beautiful stones, seashells, erasers with the words “you rock” written on it, and other treasures. One individual even left a glass pear and had the joy of reading about how it was found.
I had the joy of reading one account of how a very obscurely placed float was noticed by a child in the passenger seat of a car at a stoplight after a morning of unsuccessful searching.
I smiled at the stories of people who found their first ever monkeyshine, and was excited when I saw that a friend of mine had found a float that I had blown (sadly, he will never know this)
Yeah, I was tired (from lack of sleep and some unplanned sprinting and climbing) but it was worth it to see the joy and magic the rising sun of the lunar new year was bringing to our fair city.
There are still MonkeyShines out there Tacoma, just waiting to be found…
Remember, take only one, and consider the joy of giving back.
And don’t forget to post your stories and share the joy.
PS: Ms Monkey would not forgive me for this breach of monkey etiquette if I did not give a shout out to the Tacoma Arts Commission and a slew of dedicated artists, and other volunteers who make this gift to the community possible each year.