Randonautica #4

Yesterday, I read a story that identified the Randonaut community’s “official mascot” as a white owl and “the true symbol of the project” as “a piss bottle.”  The story linked above explains the mascot and symbol. (My remaining question is: How was it determined that the bottle contained piss?)

Later, I went Randonauting. It was a gray and drizzly day, unseasonably cool and clammy. Very few people were out and about. I set my first quantum to “Attractor” and my intention to “Mystery.” I was led here:

“The Grove” is one of any number of upscale residential complexes going up around central Durham.

The actual QRNG coordinates were a few feet behind and to the right of the two portable toilets. I had to pee, so I used one of the toilets. Perhaps it was a really big piss bottle, in one sense:

Across the street is the bank branch I use:

I set my next quantum to “Void” and my intention to “Change,” and was led to a house in front of which a man was gardening in the rain, although you can’t see him in this picture:

I set the next quantum to “Anomaly” and my intention to “Feel Something.” On the way to the coordinates, which were a little less than a mile away, I passed this yard:

A white owl.

On the fence to the left of the owl, the word SMILE in white:

“Feel something.”

I reached the destination:

Just a few seconds after I snapped the picture above, a man emerged from the house on the right (which corresponded with the given address) with a paint roller and tray. He shook out the roller, overturned the tray, and then went back inside. This house and the house at the previous coordinates were the only two where I saw a person in the yard on my entire walk, which lasted about two hours.

I set my next quantum as “Anomaly” except that I may have mis-fingered my screen because it came up “Void” again. The intention was “Build Something.” While I walked, I saw a man up on the train tracks that run above the street. He’s just to the right of the tree in the picture, behind a pole:

He was talking on his phone. He spent a few minutes up there, then descended to the embankment right underneath the train overpass, from where he took a few pictures of the underside of the tracks. I wondered whether he was perhaps also Randonauting. Eventually he ended up down on the sidewalk where I had just been:

My phone is fairly old and occasionally shuts down and reboots on its own when I’m out and about taking pictures. This happened twice in short succession here, and the result was that the phone battery was badly depleted by the shutdown-restart-reconnect efforts. After the second of these, it reached 0% and powered off.

I had committed the app’s final address to memory. It turned out to belong to an office building near the very middle of downtown Durham. It is a fairly nondescript building that houses a large nonprofit which owns a lot of properties in the area. I have walked by the building thousands of times without taking any significant notice of it. I have no pictures because, as I wrote, my phone died.

Immediately to the right of the building was a boarded-up bookstore (a precaution that many downtown businesses have taken during the last couple of weeks of protest and vigil). The MDF boards were lavishly and skillfully painted, as are many of these recently installed protective boards around the city center, with anti-racist protest images and text. The lines I remembered later from this graffiti were by James Baldwin:

The power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions.

Later on, I heard from the owner of a nearby business that a downtown business advocacy organization is lobbying to have these MDF boards put on display in a museum after they’re taken down.



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