Several hours before I used the Randonautica app yesterday, I went out of the house and passed the new city parking deck which consumed a good deal of my attention last fall while I conducted a field study of the structure. I have not gone into the deck more than a few times in 2020, and not at all since the coronavirus outbreak began three months ago. When I walked past the deck today, two vultures suddenly appeared just above me, flying low, as though they had launched from the roof of the deck. I thought of perhaps going up there for the first time in a few months but decided not to.
A little while later, I passed by the office I share with another writer. I haven’t been working in it since the pandemic began in March. Just outside the street door to the office were two men I know in passing: one through the writer with whom I share the office; the second man lives two doors down from me and, I now learned, is friends with the first man. It turned out they were using the office for the day, having been given the key by the writer I share it with. They were taking a smoke break outside.
My Randonautica usage is concurrent with my reading of some of the work of the French sociocultural theorist Guy Debord (1931-1994), whose theory of the Dérive (1956) is an antecedent of Randonautica. The tenant in the other side of the duplex we own has a PhD in Philosophy and knows twentieth-century theory well. Late yesterday afternoon, as I prepared to go Randonauting, I asked my tenant what he knew about Debord and the Situationist International movement Debord co-founded, explaining its connection to Randonautica. Not surprisingly, my tenant was well versed in the Situationists and gave me a book to read by one of them (not Debord). I put it inside the house and made ready to go on my Randonaut walk.
At that moment, the two men who had been using my office approached on the sidewalk in front of the house. They came up to our porch. Since one of them lives two doors down, I assumed they were headed to his house and stopped off at ours to say hello. It transpired that they had accidentally locked the keys inside the office and themselves out, not knowing that the knob lock push-button has to be released; otherwise the door locks behind you. The writer with whom I share the office generally likes to keep it locked. The two men’s destination wasn’t the second man’s house, then, but mine: they were hoping I could let them back into the office. (The first man had called me a few minutes earlier, but I didn’t recognize the phone number and hadn’t answered.) They also said hello to my tenant, whom the second man, the one who lives two doors down from me, already seemed to know.
I told them that their timing was perfect, because I was just leaving the house, and the three of us walked back to the office together. On the way there, the man who lives two doors away from me told me that he and my tenant had been students at Duke University around the same time, and that was how they knew each other. He went on to say that the editorial assistant to one of my tenant’s graduate professors had been the editor for the book he, my neighbor, had recently completed writing and published. I recognized the professor’s name: he was the father of of one of my good friends in high school, over thirty years earlier. We agreed that was quite a coincidence.
We arrived at my office. I let the two men in with my key. We said goodbye, and then I initiated the Randonautica app. That meant that I began Randonauting from the office instead of from home, about half a mile away; therefore, all of the destinations to come were almost certainly different than they would have been had I started from my house, as I had intended.
For the first destination, I chose Attractor” as the quantum and “Venture” as my intention. The point generated by the app was just a block or so away from the office:
Directly across the street from this building is the entrance to the parking deck where I conducted last year’s field study and over which I had seen the vultures flying earlier in the day:
I decided to go ahead and go up to the roof deck, as I did about ninety times last fall and early winter but had not done since late January. There were no cars on Level 7, as had nearly always been the case during my research:
What appears to be a pole base has been in this sector of the deck since last December:
So has the folding table I brought up to the roof and stashed in a cranny last September:
One new sighting, though, was of a person on the roof of the residence next door to the deck on the southwest side. I had never seen anyone on it before:
On the way down, I saw a security guard making the rounds:
Randonautica next sent me, via the quantum “Void” and my intention “Onward,” to one of the exact same addresses it sent me to two days ago, just a block or so from our house, although to a slightly different point this time. In fact, the actual coordinates were not in front of the building I’d been directed to on Thursday, but the next building over: the fire station.
In front of the fire station were orange cones blocking its lot. I had never seen cones there and it seemed odd to block the egress of fire trucks:
In the church parking lot across the street, two office chairs, one in front of a dumpster:
And the other here:
My next destination was triggered by “Anomaly” and an intention I have since forgotten which had to do with continuation, progress — I can’t recall the actual word. The coordinates were just up our street from where I already was, and then three houses down a cross street. As I passed the building next to the fire station, I saw a television crew and reporter setting up:
A few feet farther on revealed a gathering of protesters. The woman speaking into the megaphone is a colleague of mine at the restaurant where I work, which I have also not been to since the pandemic began because it’s closed. It was hard to recognize my colleague with her mask on, but I verified that the familiar voice was hers because I could make out her identifying tattoos:
I asked a bystander what sort of event it was. She told me it was a protest and march to demand the removal of the city’s police force from public schools. The building in the picture, which is a block south of our house, is the administrative office for the city’s public schools. I had never seen anything happen here other than people parking their cars and going in and out of the building. It’s ordinarily not a place where people congregate, so this was unusual, although the protest’s meeting location made sense in context, of course.
I continued down my street toward the next Randonaut coordinates, which were just three blocks north and half a block east, although I very seldom go to this street. This is my block:
The point to which I was directed was in between two houses, right around where the canoe is in the picture (inverted against the house on the right):
Earlier this month, our tenants told me they were thinking of buying a canoe and asked me if it would be alright for them to keep it outside the house.
The next destination was set using the quantum “Attractor” and the intention “Hope.” I was sent back south along my street, again passing the protest gathering, until I reached a parking lot next to the Durham courthouse, with more orange cones:
In front of the courthouse, a few dozen meters from these coordinates, is the pedestal from which a Confederate statue was toppled and damaged during a daylong protest in August of 2017:
I chose “Void” again and set an intention of “Progress.” My new coordinates from Randonautica took me right back to the protest again. On the way, I realized the protest was why the fire station lot was blocked off, to keep protesters from parking in it:
In a public parking space on the street across from the fire station, I recognized a car which belongs to a good friend of mine, who was serving as a volunteer peacekeeping marshal for the protest in an orange safety vest, like some marshals are wearing in this picture:
I continued on to the Randonautica coordinates, which were indicated by an address just two doors away from my house. It seemed that, as assiduously as I kept setting my intentions for forward-motion, progress, venturing, etc, the app just as persistently kept sending me up and down the same north-south axis, always by the protest and by my house, as though my will was being denied and superseded by the QRNG‘s will.
As it turned out, these coordinates did not quite match the listed address, two houses down from mine, but took me a few meters closer still to my house: the parking area of the home of my next-door neighbor, a husband and wife with three children. The husband was on the porch. Because I know them, I felt it was okay to walk onto their property and stand on the Randonaut coordinates, from where I stopped and said hello.
A really big spider web near the oval window:
I told my neighbor about the Randonautica app, and that its purpose is to open the user’s eyes to “blind spots” that are all around the user’s familiar setting because (according to the Randonautica project Wiki):
no matter how many variations on how your day may pass, there are always some places where you simply cannot be, because none of the chains of your decisions leads there. Such places may be somewhere nearby. On your street there may be a lane in which you will never think to look and you do not even know about its existence.
The QRNG finds and sends the user to these blind spots. When I told him about this procedure, my neighbor said that in the world of video games, it’s called “completing the map.”
I can’t remember what quantum or intention I set for the next destination. The app sent me back south, once again passing the protest, until I reached an address right next to the restaurant where I work (but not since the pandemic-derived executive shutdown order closed it in March). Some people were sitting outside on the restaurant’s patio furniture, eating and drinking.
The exact coordinates were on the mall just west of the restaurant:
The message on this sign just outside the restaurant was chalked by the tattooed colleague I’d seen speaking into the megaphone at the protest:
For my final Randonaut destination, I chose the quantum “Anomaly” and the intention “Clarity.” I got this message from the app for the first time:
The route to the substitute, non-Anomalous quantum-point took me just two blocks south of the restaurant, along the same north-south street I’d been up and down all afternoon, to an office building. The precise coordinates were within a copse of shrubs in front of the building. They were apparently planted there to conceal these three large electrical boxes:
Just on the other side of the shrubs, in the parking lot, was a news truck:
In front of the building, more security.
When I passed the protest again on the way home — it had been going on for well over an hour — I saw my friend’s car again, now blocking the cross street, preparing to lead the march, which was about to get underway. He was sitting at the wheel. I said hello to him. Right next to the car was my tattooed colleague from the restaurant. I said hello to her, too, and introduced her to my friend in the car.