A retrospective on a piece of investigative journalism analyzing the hottest youth trend in the world.
The Interview with “Jonny Meats”
As far as journalistic leads go, I would describe “Jonny Meats” as room temperature. I met the grandson of Polish immigrants turned internet celebrity and folk hero just off campus, inside of the abandoned big box electronics store he had been squatting in ever since he dropped out of Waindell forty days into his second semester in order to “pivot to video.” Although I only heard Jonny’s name mentioned once in passing while I was eavesdropping on the window game conversation, I was (vaguely) familiar with him and his work due to notoriety surrounding the circumstances of his departure from school and his ensuing career as an online streamer and self-proclaimed “gamer/iconoclast”.
Like every other college aged dreamer in the world, I watched Meats livestream his flamboyant exit from Waindell, which quickly devolved into him barricading himself inside the store specializing in satellite enabled pagers and fax equipment with shopping carts and declaring “religious sanctuary.” Truthfully, my desire to speak to Jonny Meats that morning had only very little to do with my graduation piece. Of course, I would be remiss to not ask him about the window game, and it’s alleged rules and practices, but when I sat down with the sunken-eyed teenager in the bluetooth-only fax machine section of the bizarre store, my true interest lie in the circumstances surrounding that particular livestream. My aforementioned penchant for sniffing out strange and unique stories assured that I was far more interested in the rumors that municipal and regional law enforcement officers had forced Jonny into his stronghold of antiquated and useless electronics. The interview, which I have chosen to reprint in part in this publication (edited for clarity and length, naturally), began with Meats blowing a voluminous, red wine scented cloud from his vape pen directly in my face, and launching into a rambling and unsolicited diatribe about “Techno-Catholicism”, the religion he founded – and, as far as I could ever discover, was the singular practitioner of.
Johnny Meats (JM): See, the basis of it all, the uh, the “nuts and bolts”, if you will, is a more literalist interpretation of the concept of the uh, “Divine Spark”. That- the concept that you may already be aware of-
(At this point, Meats paused and requested that I not edit his speech in my transcription of our interview, down to his vocal false starts and use of filler words. After placation, he continued…)
JM: So the divine spark, you see, is often discussed as like, a sort of vehicle for inspiration. Like artists have muses, though those muses are things, or people, but in the case of a divine spark of inspiration, you are brought almost a “something from nothing.” Well, I thought, “What if this inscrutable intervention was truly a spark?” Something, you know, measurable and detectable on electronics equipment. A sort of fusion between the uh, esoteric higher mysteries of the universe with the banal and mundane. Anyway, it was- this was the line of thinking that initially served as my inspiration for Techno-Catholicism, and my uh, “pivot to video.”– Reprinted with permission
At this point in the interview, Jonny trailed off for a moment before pointedly asking me what my next question was, as if I had prompted his sophomoric effort at theology, and he was upset with me for doing so. Before I had the chance to inform him that I had yet to actually ask him anything, the dozens of fax machines encircling the threadbare armchairs we were conducting the interview from began to warble and shriek in a startling choir of whirring, beeping, and dial tones. Jonny, dropping his apparent and unnecessary indignation with me, leapt from the red high back and began to flit back and forth between each screaming machine as if he were a very confused yet tech-savvy hummingbird, inhaling from his vape pen each time a low-register hum churned through the air around us. After nearly three minutes of this – Jonny rushing back and forth between the fax machines, feverishly checking for paper jams or potential low ink level issues, leaving massive, sticky clouds in his wake, and the fax machines themselves filling the dusty high rafters of the store with the rippling echoes of the tortured mechanical cries of machines long since past their expiration date – Mr. Meats plucked a single sheet of paper from the tray of the machine closest to my chair, returned to his seat, and looked at me in silent expectation.
Margaret Blanchard (MB): Wait, aren’t these all bluetooth machines?
JM: Oh, yeah, the dial-up sounds and stuff are part of the uh, the aesthetic direction – just something I’ve rigged up to play over the public address speakers every time I receive a fax. It’s a good way to make sure I don’t miss anything, and the uh, it does a very good job adding to the gravity of the ritual itself, the receiving of a fax, y’know? That’s part of the beauty of it all. People don’t call anymore, they fax.
MB: The ritual? Could you elaborate on that?
JM: I certainly could.
MB: (after a pause) Would you please?
JM: Was this interview “not” meant to focus on this Window Game trend? Did I read your initial communique wrong? I remember you saying in your email that you wanted to discuss that with me, and that you uh, had hypothesized that I would know something about it, due to my uh, my hand in the- creating the Bolshevik challenge. Because I’m happy to tell you anything you want about that stuff. That’s why I let you past the barricade.
MB: I was actually wondering about the barricade-
JM: The Window Game itself is actually quite simple, at least in the- in its rules and customs. I’m not sure what you’ve heard or already know about it (at this point I intend to interject, but Jonny raises a hand to stop me) but the rules are as follows: A blender is filled with fragments of shattered glass, usually scavenged from whatever venue the game is taking place in. Then, the blender is turned on – tradition dictates that the most medium setting possible on the given blender is used. Finally, each participant in that session of the window game places their hands inside of the blender. Whoever keeps their hands inside the longest is declared the winner.– Reprinted with permission
The interview would continue in this fashion right up until its very final moments. I would attempt to steer the conversation towards Jonny Meats himself, sensing a much more intriguing story wrapped up in his digital religion and potential criminal activity. In exchange for my instinctual tireless dedication to telling the best story possible in the best possible way (a trait shared by every great journalist of history, by the way), Jonny Meats rewarded me with continued interruption. On the rare occasion I did manage to ask an entire question before he cut me off with something overly-poetic and incoherent, he would avoid answering it entirely, instead choosing to exposit further on the window game. The game, Jonny explained, was indeed something that people actually played. This information turned out to be incredibly useful in retrospect – Trends with such startling practices are often urban legends, birthed by nervous mothers and bored local media outlets, given life by the power of imitation and a global internet. The first issue with the interview was that Jonny could tell me nothing more about the window game than this – the fact that it was real, and the most basic rules. The second issue was that he insisted on scattering his scant breadcrumbs of knowledge about the game throughout an exceedingly long and frustrating conversation. The final portion of the interview, reprinted here, is what gave this entire experience meaning. To be candid, before this exchange with Jonny, I was flirting with the idea of abandoning this graduation piece about a violent and pointless game entirely, even if it would fill Annika with disappointment.
MB: Well, if that’s all, I think we should start wrapping it up.
JM: You asked about the barricade.
MB: Yeah, I did.
JM: When my grandparents moved here from Poland – bear with me – our family name was Kielbasa, like the sausage, yes. At Ellis Island, we were registered as “Meats” instead, and that- that’s where the problems began. It’s my brother’s fault. Really. As I’m sure can imagine, “Meats” is not a name that gets you uh, a lot of respect as a kid, and the unkind teasing- it got to my brother much more than me, I guess. He actually studied here at Waindell, for like an entire month before he flunked out because he was a lazy hack, one of those “I’m a writer who never writes because I’m too busy talking about writing” types. He changed his name – our name, our good Polish name – broke our dear Mother’s heart. Couldn’t stand the *shame* of being associated with the Meats legacy, I guess! He bankrupted our father’s butcher shop to attend this university, the only place on Earth that manages to drip with as much- as much pretense as he did. But these transgressions were NOT why he forced my hand, why I had to- to uh, duel him.
MB: Duel him?
JM: Yes! How else- How would anyone settle such an issue otherwise? That- The absolute villain that he was, had the temerity to insult my mother’s perogy recipe, directly to her face! After all the other- the countless indignities, as if he hadn’t wounded the legacy of the fine Meats name enough! So I challenged him. So I shot him! So what, yes, I killed him! I killed him that morning I left Waindell forever to flee to my current home and- and prison! When I went live that day, I was fully prepared to die in front of an audience, to hole myself up in the fax machine section and be riddled with bullets, but that’s- the divine spark, remember, we talked about earlier?
MB: I do.
JM: From the fucking fax machines, Margaret. These useless old stupid things! Bringing me something from nothing. That morning, as the riot squad forced their way past my shopping cart barricade and banged on the zip-tie locked doors of this FaxShax, the machines lit up and lurched to life! Not even connected to any network I’ve uh, I’ve ever found here, and what was it I found lying in the inbox tray? An ASCII art depiction of Jesus Christ in round sunglasses, like Morpheus. This was the moment I declared myself the first and last Cyberpope! This is why I take the holy sacrament that is the blood of Christ in the form of vape juice! This is why, as long as I remained sheltered within these four walls, I am residing in my religion’s holiest temple, and I cannot be tried for the so-called “crime” of slaying my rotten brother. Do you understand now?
(At this point, we sat together in mutual shocked silence that was only broken by the symphony of another incoming fax. This time, instead of dutifully tending to his machine idols, Jonny sat still as a statue, staring directly ahead, his face screwed up into such a grotesque facsimile of placid serenity that his current emotional pain could not have been any more obvious in any circumstance. Finally, the PA fell quiet, and Jonny retrieved the fax that was cause for the commotion. I watched his eyes carefully as he read it over and over, the cardstock trembling like a leaf in the wind, clutched in his unsteady grasp. Was this yet another one of the heavily implied moments of “radio silence” from his deity?)
JM: This… is for you.
MB: Uh, pardon?
JM: (reading from the fax) “Seek Diamond to play the window game.”
MB: Excuse me?
JM: This interview is over.– Reprinted with permission
(Part 3 preview: Keje and her Infinity Garden)