By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
8:30. Yahoo! Chat. There must be about 10,000 people in here, crowding into the multiple "Lobbies" and "Adult" rooms like "Married and Flirting" and "LoneBoner." Me? I'm waiting for Stargate SG-1 star Richard Dean Anderson to get on at 11.
9:00. I've scrounged up stale Drum cigarettes from a corner and I'm smoking. Eating crusts of the pizza. Looking at porn. At Wifey's World, a nubile young couple named "Hubby" and "Wifey" in Oregon market their amateur porn. Wisely, they have 72 screen grabs available online to satisfy all comers don't ask me how I know there are 72.
A word about online erotica: the explicit rush of sex and the graphic photos are no doubt its biggest attractions. But Net porn has another character: it is a welcome outpost of humanity online. After you've been staring at text and computer-generated graphics all day, porn is one of the few places where you can see the soft, inconsistent edges of bodies.
10:45. There is a natural black to the RW, but the only darkness online is the drop shadows.
I crawl into bed and sleep. I miss Richard Dean Anderson, but there will be another B-list actor on tomorrow, I'm sure. There is always another one.
Food supply: six slices of bread, two centimeters of Jameson, cheese, onions, peanut butter, jelly
6:30 a.m. I spend 15 minutes with my head under my pillow wishing I hadn't agreed to do this article. Check my e-mail and learn I have nine messages from people sent after midnight.
6:43. I decide to wash dishes and be proactive.
7:45. The sun streams into my apartment. The Net needs a natural cycle, a dawn at least. Even television slept once, late at night when the American flag would wave and the screen turned to static. Then came infomercials.
9:00. Underworld MOO Connect to 208.148. 73.5 5000 What's your name? Phrisky Choose a Race: [D]warven [E]lven [H]uman [G]nome h[A]lfling For help, and level limits, type 'help.' RACE? > a
I have telnetted into the Underworld (a kind of autonomous 24-hour Dungeons and Dragons). There are hundreds of these environments residing on machines across the Net. I choose mine at random. I'm looking for company, but bored with being myself. H:19 M:106 V:62> look statue What you see is the Midgaard Worm, stretching around the Palace of Midgaard. H:19 M:106 V:65> examine worm You do not see that here.
After bumbling around, I encounter Hargrim, "a tall dark man, leanly muscled, with a haunted look in his eyes," who, the text explains, is not "a player-killer." Hargrim, telnetting in from Australia (he's about to go to bed), decides to give me all of his possessions: a "dwarven" ring, leggings, Moorish "bracers."
We are visited by a god, Lucky, "who licks Hargrim." My computer freezes and the trapdoor opens. I drop out instantaneously.
Noon. Irritable. More porn.
12:55. I'm at fitNOW, an exercise site. I have to get another plug-in first to watch a clip of "Abs of Steel." I spend 15 minutes getting the player. Then, in a tiny, jittery box, Tamilee Webb (M.A., Exercise Science) tells me about her career. I can't hear a word.
1:00. Another PB&J.
1:35. I've decided to create my own club on Yahoo! A scan of the list of created clubs reveals this: most have just one person in them.
Bay Area elite singles: 1
NJ Married ISO what's missing: 1
No Morals: Have genitalia? Want cock? Come on in: 5
2:00. My club, called Solitudinous, is up. Now just waiting for guests!
3:00. Beautiful. I'm stretching in my first online yoga class at Timages (in Shockwave). The laptop is propped up on the desk so I can still see it while in I'm in warrior pose. An illustrated woman leads me through the asanas, accompanied by the sounds of gulls and an animated crashing shoreline behind her. For the first time since I started, I feel actually tired. Not the shallow exhaustion of looking too much.
4:00. My first new friend: girly-sounding (23/F/ New York). She's become so sick of the Net, she says, that she "called up [BBSs] the well (and echo, and drizzle) and asked the help desk to change my password." Both her Web sites are on "hiatus." "I need more... air," she says. Somehow, though, she still has time to post in my club.
4:30. Girly-sounding is responsible for one of the more moving sites I've found: bittersweets.org, where folks write about the endings of their romances. "Joe" writes in: Date: 95-03-01 21:23:57 EST From: *her* To: *me* I can almost feel you at my side, and I can almost feel your lips brushing against mine. Not too much longer. Gotta run, I really do love you Joey, I hope you know that. Trea. Date: 95-04-07 01:37:35 EDT From: *her* To: *me* I didn't ask for this relationship to be over nor did I ask for it to begin. I could never imagine myself ever being with you and I couldn't play that game any longer.
Vulnerabilities aren't hard to find online. But they are always, somehow, news.
5:30. I escape onto the roof of my building, to catch some unfiltered day without the machine around. I hear the sound of a flushing toilet, the djembe drums outside the Key Food all sounds I don't control or "request." I'm tired of driving the machine. As powerful and culture-shaping as the Net may be, it doesn't do anything unless you ask it to. It is more of an engine than a medium, and it fuels off our curiosity. Without questions, it does nothing.