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125 + 145 points

The Longest String by Lincøln, Spidere, mock piratey turtle

August 20th, 2008 1:14 AM / Location: 37.758675,-122.4274

INSTRUCTIONS: Mark an urban trail no less than one mile long using a single piece of string or thread. Ideally, the trail marker never touches the ground.

We knew that the Longest String would be hard. But we had what seemed like a really good idea: go through the trees in Dolores park, creating a massive spider web of string. In our heads, this was a beautiful possibility.


Of course. we decided to do this right after prom, at 2 in the morning. We convinced ephermata and ashley to come along, but it was wet, and the string was clotheslining passers-by. Pretty soon, they gave up and left. piratey was still slightly intoxicated at this point, so at first, a large park of Spidere's contribution to the task was dealing with an overly enthusiastic piratey. one who was tired and sleepy from the drive the night before, from dancing, and from the cold and wet. Running up and down hills pulling string was not possible, and progress was slow. The string was in two large spools, and one smaller one (to be tied together to make sure the mile was well and truly met), and it looked never-ending. This was starting to look like an impossible task.

Fortunately, we had a secret weapon.


This was the first time either of us had tasked with Lincoln, and it quickly became clear why he is at the top of the leaderboard. The man is insane. That's a compliment, of course. He was tireless--restringing the line so that it was high enough to go over the passers-by, moving implacably up and down hills, planning out the structure and directing Spidere and piratey. I tell you, it was astounding to behold.

So, with Lincoln at our side, the impossible became possible. The web began to take form; hope had returned again.

Naturally, something had to go wrong. In this case, it was in the form of a drunk guy swearing and jumping up at the string, trying to bring it down. Naturally, we wanted to finish the project, and shouted out to him. Swearing was the response, so piratey and Spidere walked over to talk with him. he was quite upset about putting up string in "his park" and mucking it up for him and his friends. He was considerably drunk and showing off for his friends. piratey, of course, would have none of his ridiculous argument that our art was wrecking "his park"; she started shouting back at him, saying things like "Right, and you are going to pick up all your cigarette butts and beer bottles when you leave", and things started to escalate.

If you want a challenge, I recommend attaching yourself to a tipsy and enthusiastic legendary tasker, who happens to be dressed as a pirate and in the mindset, who wants nothing more than to put up her art....except, maybe, to pick a fight with the drunk guy trying to stop her. While Spidere had been frustrated with not being able to let piratey rest and go string up lines before, it was about now that he really started to think that never-let-me-go might have been a bad idea.

Fortunately, Spidere had just been reading about a technique called "pace and lead". When dealing with someone really upset and unreasonable, instead of simply acting reasonable and keeping calm, the idea is to start by matching the other person's intensity--yell, flail, generally show the other person that you understand the strength of their emotion. And then dial it down in steps, leading the person back to reasonableness. Either the technique worked, or the good cop/bad cop was effective, because Alex (the guy's name) promised to leave us alone for 10 minutes so we could finish, as long as we promised to take it down. piratey was fuming over Alex's being a punk and wanting trouble, but Spidere was elated: negotiation works!

So we continued, stringing up the cross-webs. Then, just as we were finishing, more trouble. Alex yelled "10 minutes" and ran over pulling down string as he went, cursing and carrying on. He saw Lincoln working throwing string up to make art and Alex became enraged and he charged Lincoln and started trying to fight with Lincoln. Fortunately, he didn't land any punches (largely fortunately for him, considering Lincoln's size and skill). But he did get very angry when he tried to throw a punch and Lincoln dodged out of the way and he slipped in the wet grass and fell into it, he got even more pissed when he charged at Lincoln and as Lincoln stepped past him, smacked him in the head as he went by causing him to sprawl to the grass. Alex was not happy. When Spider and piratey came over, he went after Spidere, too. This made piratey even more angry, but she tried to put herself between them, as he was (slightly) less willing to hit her. Bear in mind, we were Never Letting Go at this point and piratey was still bearing a pirate hook for a hand. Eventually, we were able to talk him down and let him know we would start cleaning it up now. His sister came over and talked with us, too, thought we sounded reasonable, and tried to calm her brother down. We kept our distance until he calmed down enough for us to begin cleaning up without fear for our lives.

And it was a real shame that we couldn't leave it up until day...but it didn't seem right to leave it to be destroyed and become a mess for the park attendants to clean up. So we took our scissors, and moved from spoke to spoke, cutting and pulling string. Destroying our creation before it really had a chance to shine. piratey was really depressed after this, about the nature of people to object to things strange and beautiful. She was used to causing joy and curiousity, not anger and wrath with her tasking. Also she disagreed with Spidere's insistence on taking it down, especially after the guy left (no surprise, leaving a great deal of trash and beer bottles strewn all over.) it's a tough thing to do, to go along with something you really disagree with.

It took a while, and some rest, and several tasks, before piratey's faith in humanity was restored (it helps that there are a lot of wonderful people who play SF0), and it is a shame that the only photos we have are of fragments of web at night. But we did create something beautiful, however briefly, and that is something we will always have.

+ larger

Park diagram
Spidere and Piratey
Magic was in the air.
Loop up
Lincoln In Tree
Lincoln in a tree
Lincoln untangles
Line in the mist
The string after the cutting down.
Big pile of string on the ground.
Piratey Sad
Untangle the leg.
A mile of string
Spidere and string
Getting up to go home
Goodbye, string
Spidere's original park diagram

29 vote(s)

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7 comment(s)

(no subject)
posted by Lincøln on August 20th, 2008 3:10 AM

If you want to zoom in or move around on the first image up there of the map and the path of the string here's a link to the Google map:

View Larger Map

(no subject)
posted by rongo rongo on August 20th, 2008 10:22 AM

Sounds like dealing with the cranky guy was part of the art experience, so it's great that you all were so open to handling it.

posted by mock piratey turtle on August 20th, 2008 11:10 AM

i wasn't open to handling it. i was open to kicking his ass. luckily, calmer heads (which i was attached to) prevailed.

(no subject) +3
posted by SNORLAX on August 20th, 2008 10:49 AM


(no subject)
posted by Minch on August 20th, 2008 11:18 AM

it makes me smile that lincoln is your secret weapon

(no subject)
posted by Dax Tran-Caffee on August 22nd, 2008 10:32 PM

This is a failed praxis. A failure that is worth a thousand votes. Triumph!

(no subject)
posted by ananas on September 24th, 2008 12:21 AM

Wanting to find some urban planning research on Dolores Park, I googled "dolores park diagramming," and was surprised to find this as the second result. I wish your web lasted. What fun it would have been to behold in the daytime.