This next one is from DECADES OF CONFUSION FEED THE INSECT #27
- August 2000
I find myself in a prismatized birth cage, my eyes masked and
shuddered and my words deranged.
I hold the ash of a name burning in an oil lamp Sleeping trees
cradle and sway with the slow of their sap I envisioned a broken rainbow hung
languidly around the mouth of the moon Seen in the circle of a blood warm river
And the great cities of the wombs Giving forth a rueful shriek of lost summer
The voices of multitudes congeal to greet their tomb Paradise
did live and breathe on the face of these waters.
But as they shifted into motion she was concealed in robes
of language And strewn asunder as a rain of flowers.
The unisonal choruses of breathing Moves as waves of liquids
against the ears of the recieving And I find that they make themselves at home
And they do not leave and None of us are ever alone My eyes are reflections
in your eyes And your eyes are reflections in my eyes and as we begin to unify
We also splinter and divide And as we cleave together Dancing like maniacs in
our own personal forevers A house of cards begins to collapse And we thought
we saw the first thing And we thought we saw the last thing But some strange
unspeakable length Easily yawns between all our instruments and imaginings You
are never dead in the stars that the ocean is thinking And we have have held
in our hands the most brilliant light Although we felt it snuffed and silenced
Here's one from DECADES OF CONFUSION FEED THE INSECT #28 - November
Just as the sun is setting Retinas recieve what they are believing
All the clear skies we are breathing Asleep as the sea Or the kingdom of everlasting
fire Just as the path is obscured The end is behind us And the beginning is
becoming clear Beside the rain puddle on 44th. & Locust St. Where leaves leave
trees to be pushed by breeze Fragile boats sank by the beaks of drinking birds
If you listen along for the word..... To the honor of the invisible and inaudible
For all the musics never recorded For all the words never spoken For the unborn
uncounted unknown and unreported We are ever and all uncalculable Unknowable
untraceable undecipherable unlabled As the whole thunder and the chatter of
rain When it knows itself, becomes your face
Reprinted from Casey Grabowski's zine TRIC - # 18, Spring 2004
This is a reprint of an article I wrote about the phenomenon
of "Toynbee idea" tiles. I have since become involved in the creation of a very
in-depth documentary film chronicling my more than a decade long fascination
with this phenomenon. Here is a link to the film, entitled
I first noticed the message in the street: "TOYNBEE IDEA IN
KUBRICKS 2001 RESURRECT DEAD ON PLANET JUPITER". The year was 1993, or early
'94. I was standing on the crosswalk of 4th. and South Street, looking directly
down at the pavement.
This cryptic message was staring back at me, emblazoned on the
asphalt, inexplicably, in bold red white and blue letters. I thought this was
quite strange. I puzzled over all the many things the message could mean. I
asked my friends if they knew anything about this. Their theories made even
less sense than the message itself, such as the idea that it was some sort of
advertisement or art project.
Art project was the most plausible theory, but what was the
project? I tucked the thing away in the back of my mind. Several years later
I took a job as a foot courier. Not a bike courier mind you, but a courier by
foot, delivering packages and messages mostly in the center city Philadelphia
area. During my treks around the center city area, I began to notice more of
these cryptic street messages. Many a time I angered pedestrians and motorists
or nearly got run over as I stood in the middle of busy intersections gawking
at something which was seemingly invisible to everyone else. All of the "tiles"
(as they referred to themselves) bore basically the same message, the only variation
being that some said "movie 2001" instead of "Kubricks 2001". Along with this,
there would sometimes be smaller messages along the "border" of the message
(which was presented in a rectangle about the size of a license plate) which
said things such as: "YOU MUST MAKE AND GLUE TILES!!! YOU!!! AS THE AMERICAN
MEDIA IS WORKING WITH THE SOVIET UNION AND ITS THOUSANDS OF FRONTS IN USA..."
or "ONLY BY DESTRUCTION OF THE MEDIA CAN THIS MOVEMENT SURVIVE".
I would think about these things as I delivered my packages
during the day, and would get a little excited when I knew a delivery would
take me past a favorite "toynbee tile". There was one in particulaer which had
intrigued me for the whole of the several months I had been working there. This
one was smack dab in the middle of the intersection of 16th. & Chestnut St.
Near it were two normal toynbee tiles, red white & blue lettering with the standard
message. But the one in the middle.... looked like the slates of the ten commandments
melted into the asphalt. It was impossible to read the whole thing during busy
work day traffic, so one night I returned and wrote down the text with a pen
and pad. What unravelled was a tale of seething paranoia, racism and delusion.
The fact that this was also coupled with a bizarre mantra concerning Arnold
Toynbee (british historian), pop culture and sci-fi theology all added up to
quite an intensely strange picture. The text of this tile, in its entirety:
JOHN KNIGHT, OWNER OF "THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER" - HELLION
JEW - WHOSE HATED THIS MOVEMENTS GUTS - FOR YEARS - TAKES MONEY FROM THE MAFIA
TO MAKE THE MAFIA LOOK GOOD IN HIS NEWSPAPERS SO HE HAS THE MAFIA IN HIS BACK
JOHN KNIGHT SENT THE MAFIA TO MURDER ME IN MAY 1991. (unreadable.....)
JOURNALIST ALL OF THEM GLOATED TO MY FACE ABOUT MY DEATH AND KNIGHT-RIDDERS
GREAT POWER TO DESTROY. IN FACT JOHN KNIGHT WENT INTO HELLION BINGE OF JOY OVER
KNIGHT-RIDDERS GREAT POWER TO DESTROY. I SECURED HOUSE WITH BLAST DOORS AND
FLED THE COUNTRY IN JUNE 1991. N.B.C. ATTORNEYS, JOURNALISTS AND SECURITY OFFICIALS
AT ROCKERFELLER CENTER FRADULAENTLY .....(unreadable)..... UNDER THE "FREEDOM
OF INFORMATION ACT" ALL.... ORDERS OF N.B.C. EXECUTIVES GOT THE U.S. FEDERAL
DISTRICT ATTORNEYS OFFICE AND GOT THE F.B.I. TO GET INTERPOL TO ESTABLISH TASK
FORCE THAT LOCATED ME IN DOVER ENGLAND.
WHEN BACK HOME INQUIRER GOT UNION GOONS FROM THEIR OWN EMPLOYEES
UNION TO SEND DOWN A "SPORTS JOURNALIST" -WHO - WITH BASEBALL BAT BASHED IN
LIGHTS AND WINDOWS OF NEIGHBORHOOD CARS - AS WELL AS MEN OUTSIDE MY HOUSE. THEY
ARE STATIONED THERE STILL. WAITING FOR ME. N.B.C., C.B.S., GROUP "W" WESTINGHOUSE.
TIME. TIME-WARNER. FOX. UNIVERSAL - ALL OF THE "CULT OF THE HELLION" EACH WERE
MUCH WORSE THAN KNIGHT RIDDER EVER WAS. (MOSTLY HELLION JEWS). WHEN K.Y.W. AND
N.B.C. EXECUTIVES TOLD JOHN KNIGHT THE WHOLE COVEN GLOATED ON HOW THEIR SOVIET
PALS HAD FOUND A WAY TO TURN IT INTO A.....
All of this was carved into four panels that were permanently
attatched to one of the busiest intersections on the eastern seaboard, and no
one seemed to notice. But it was after reading this message that I realized
without a doubt that this was no "art project" - this was no "andre the giant
has a posse". It was not "ironic" or silly. This was genuinely scary, genuinely
mysterious, and as far as I could tell I was the only person to have noticed
Searching the phrase on the internet turned up basically nothing,
until a Drexel student named Bill O'neill decided to do a website about the
phenomenon for a student project. I remember being annoyed that the site theorized
that the "plaques" were made out of metal (which they obviously weren't, even
if you saw one from 50 feet away), and calimed it was "impossible" to investigate
them due to....... TRAFFIC! I guess it was easy to do a website, but hard to
go to a downtown intersection before or after rush hour. I guess there is also
a degree of jealousy and resentment on my part, as I felt O'Neill was being
lauded as the "expert", even though all he did was make a website - and he seemed
to be generally not all that interested in its contents.
One very good thing that did come of this website, however,
was that once its creator started to get reports of tiles in other cities, he
made a chart to keep track of all known reportings & their locations. realizing
that these tiles were not just a Philly phenomenon, I decided it was time to
do some serious documentation. I studiously photographed all the tiles in philly,
then made trips to other east coast cities where the website reported them,
photographing tiles in NYC & Baltimore. I discovered that there were many other
color variations in the design..... I saw tiles that were blue, green, orange,
pink.... a wide array of design and color, but always the same message. There
were some interesting "extra" messages such as this one, from a tile in New
"EVERY CONCEPT OF PAST 500 YEARS DONT EXIST IN CHRISTIAN HEAVEN
THEY ONLY EXIST IN CHRISTIAN HELL". NOW THE "CULT OF THE HELLION" ARE NOW SEARCHING
FOR MORE THAN ONE HELL (IDEOLOGIES) TO GET MORE REWARD.
And of course there were the little sideline rants about the
media conspiring with the soviet union (which hadn't even EXISTED in many years)
to do unspecified bad things presumably to the creator of the tiles and/or society/
civilization as a whole. Documenting the tiles became my hobby, as I felt there
was no one else doing it, or at least not systematically. Then one day, while
checking up on Bill O'Neills website, which I did with some level of frequency,
there was a quite exciting update. Someone had reported a tile in South America!
The first sighting outside of the continent! And, what was more, this tile supposedly
referenced a street address in Philadelphia - the tile reportedly read: TOYNBEE
A. 2624 S. 7TH. ST. PHILADELPHIA PA. 19148-4610 USA Bill O'Neill was skeptical
that there was a tile in South America, but I was not. Why would someone lie,
and even if they did, why would they also formulate an imaginary street address?
I thought the mystery would soon be solved, and wasted no time
in going to the specified address, full of questions and a bit of fear of meeting
a raving lunatic who might think I was a "SPORTS JOURNALIST" come to bash his
head with a baseball bat for blowing the whistle on my soviet pals. However
I was in for a bit of a dissapointment.... the man who answered the door seemed
quite sane, and claimed to have absolutely no idea what I was talking about.
Indeed if anyone looked carzy, it was me. I theorized he could have been lying,
but then why put the address on the tile in the first place? A friend who wrote
a letter to the address concerning the "toynbee idea" phenomenon recieved no
However, my trip to the heart of South Philadelphia was certainly
not in vain. Because scattered throughout the neighborhood were a great many
very unusual Toynbee idea tiles! This was extra strange and telling because
the tiles were always found in downtown, high traffic areas. But this was a
quiet south philly neighborhood, quite a way off from the downtown or shopping
districts where the other tiles were placed. Also, these tiles were "experimental"
in design. Many didn't say anything, but were just garbles of letters and shapes.
Some contained very rudimentary phrases such as "THIS IDEA". There was even
a tile at the end of the very block where the small one story house was located!
This led me to the conclusion that at some point in time the creator of these
tiles did reside at this address.
The idea occured to him (we know he is male due to a masculine
self reference on a tile in Cleveland) most likely while observing what is a
very common occurance in this neighborhood: the city is constantly repairing
everything from potholes to cracks with a runny kind of tar called asphalt crack
filler. This material tends to swallow and then hold in place anything that
happens to fall in it. Besides the experimental tiles stuck into the pavement,
I also saw scissors, cassette tape shells, combs, a barbie doll arm, a spring.......
and many other objects flattened and attatched by accident to the street. It
would be easy to imagine someone dreaming up the concept of making art or messages
to attatch to the street after seeing this sort of thing every day. I went back
later and of course photographed all these things for my ever growing "toynbee
scrap book". At this point I reached a bit of a lull - I had a lot of photos,
had corresponded with other toynbee buffs, and had a neat hobby in taking photos
of the tiles, but I felt I had come to a sort of dead end.
The address turned out to be a false lead, even though it was
obvious that AT SOME POINT this person had lived there. Also, no new toynbee
idea tiles had appeared in quite some time. General interest seemed to be at
an all time low. Even Bill O'Neills website was dead. This was around the winter
of 1999. I kept my little file of photos, but the whole thing started to fade
a little from my mind, even though I did tilte my band at the time's debut album
"resurrect dead" in honor of the tiles. But all that waning interest and banishment
of the toynbee idea tile phenomenon to the depths of my mind was to disappear
very soon, and be replaced by a new and burning interest, due to an almost miraculous
"CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF THE TOYNBEE KIND"! I can't remember the exact date - it
was sometime in late 1999 or early 2000.
I was living in a warehouse in Chinatown in Philly, 224 N. Camac
St. My habit at the time was to stay up until about 4 or 5 AM, then go for a
walk to the local "Wawa" (a common Philly convenience store) to get a snack.
This little ritual always cured my insomnia, even though I performed it too
late to actually get any real sleep - I was running on coffee and only sleeping
4 or 5 hours a night. One night, like any other, I made my journey to my neighborhood
Mecca of junk food and deli sandwiches. I noticed nothing unusual, just the
still night air and the ever familiar sights and sounds of a semi-slumbering
city. On my way home, munching on a "shorti" (Wawa's 6 inch deli sub) I noticed
something weird in one of the crosswalks. I had trained myself over the years
to always scan intersections for anything odd, with the hopes that it might
be even a tiny scrap of a bygone toynbee tile. But I knew there was no tile
in this crosswalk..... as I drew closer I saw what appeared to be a toynbee
tile-sized shiny black mound glistening in the streetlight. And then I got a
shockwave of panicked excitement as I realized what this was -- a freshly placed,
minutes old toybee idea tile.
Placed in the street somewhere in the 10 - 15 minute time window
when I was in the store. I shouted into the night "toynbee idea! toynbee idea!".....
no reply, just the sound of buzzing streetlights. Nothing. Not another human
in sight. Even the pigeons, who were sleeping sound on the corner building saw
nothing. But, barring an actual one on one encounter with the tile creator,
I had the next best thing - the key to the method of "making and gluing" tiles!
The tile turned out to be just that - a tile. A standard floor tile, although
it was much more bendable. I presumed it could be linoleum or some sort of semi-rubber
tile. Vinyl, which is what basically all modern floor tiles are (linoleum isn't
even manufactured in the U.S. anymore) is much more brittle and rigid. From
this tile, the lettering was carved out, apparently with an exacto blade or
razor. When you heat a tile, it becomes very easy to cut.
This is done so that tiles can be form fitted in odd places,
and cut to fit around pipes, etc. The lettering was then inlayed with tiles
of other colors. But the most intriguing part was the way it was designed to
be molded into the street. The tile itself was covered with intricately folded
layers of tar paper, which were glued together with what looked to be wood glue.
Then tar was introduced into the whole concoction. The weight of the car tires
and the heat of the sun serve to press and melt the tile into the asphalt. The
tar paper serves as a temporary layer of protection against the tile cracking
befor it is squashed into the street. It also has the added bonus of disguising
the tile while it is vulnerable to being picked up & thrown away. I returned
the next day with my camera and documented the fresh tile. I got photos of it
with my hand peeling up the edge, and photos from side angles (laying on the
street) to demonstrate the way it was constructed in layers. After seeing this
fresh tile< i realized why not a lot of people have seen the "mad tiler" in
action -- it probably takes about three seconds to place the tile.
Most of the work would be prep. I theorize it would take a
few hours to construct it, but once it's ready, it's just a question of finding
a high traffic area and throwing it down. If you made it on a piece of cardboard
and wore rubber gloves, there wouldn't even be much mess. And once it's in the
street it will, unlike other forms of "graffitti" remain indefinitely until
the street is repaved. I believe the tile on 4th. & South St. in Philadelphia
has been there since 1983. That's more than 20 years, and it's still readable!
I relayed my story via e mail to Bill O'Neill, figuring if he ever put the toynbee.net
site back up he could post it there. I never heard back from him, but when his
site finally went active again he did include a link to a copy of the e mail
I had sent him relating the tale. Humorously enough, I once found a chat room
about unexplained phenomenon where someone was saying I made the whole thing
up, citing the extreme unlikelihood of me finding a fresh tile. Then the next
person to post said that I must be the person making the tiles! Otherwise, they
argued, how would I know what it was made out of?
Well....... since I did touch it, feel it, pick parts of it
up and take a scrap of the tile to a plastics analyst, it was actually pretty
easy. I've seen tar paper and glue before, so the only real question was the
tile itself. As I said, I removed a small piece, which I still have to this
day, and which I believe is linoleum. Searching the internet for toynbee idea
related material has always been a big pastime for me. There have been a number
of notable newspaper articles to appear, mostly due to the publicity generated
by Bill O'Neills site. All of these articles, which very greatly in quality
and depth, can be found online. They include articles from the New York Times,
Cincinnati City Beat, Columbus Alive, Kansas City Star, and, perhaps ironically,
the Philadelphia Inquirer, which includes some brief quotes from myself & of
course some words from Bill O'Neill. But there was one article, which I had
seen referenced on the internet, that seemed to be far and away the most interesting.
It was from a March 1983 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer,
and was written by the Inquirers then daily columnist Clark DeLeon, who currently
writes a weekly column for the metro. He did a quirky human interest story about
a man obsessing over -- guess what -- ARNOLD TOYNBEE -- STANLEY KUBRICK -- and
-- this is what seals it -- THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD ON PLANET JUPITER!
The article is not available online, so I went to the library and looked it
up on microfiche. There was something rather cool about researching this mystery
on microfiche. I felt like a detective from an old movie, about to find a missing
piece of a puzzle in a dusty, forgotten canister of microfiche. When I finally
located the article, which is dated Sunday, March 13, 1983, I was not let down!
The article, which is just a short three paragraph blurb, more or less, is called
"Theories: Wanna run that one by me again?" It begins: "Call me skeptical, but
I had a hard time buying James Morasco's concept that the planet Jupiter would
be colonized by bringing all the people on earth who had ever died back to life
and then changing Jupiter's atmosphere to allow them to live."
The article goes on to say that James Morasco said he was a
social worker in philly who came across this idea while reading a book by historian
Arnold Toynbee. He said Toynbees theory on "bringing dead molecules back to
life" was depicted in Stanley Kubricks adaptation of Arthur C. Clarkes 2001:
A Space Odyssey. Morasco is quoted briefly as saying: "There are no scientific
principles I've found that can make this possible. Espescially colonizing the
planet Jupiter which has a very poisonous atmosphere. The possibility of giving
that planet an oxygen atmosphere is beyond even science fiction writers imaginations."
Clark DeLeon goes on to say that while this quote may lead
one to believe that James Morasco doesn't believe his own theory, that is not
at all the case. He believes that between Arnold Toynbee and Stanley Kubrick,
there should be a way to pull it off. He was reportedly trying to contact newspapers
and talk shows to spread the message. He mentions that he founded an orginization
dedicated to the concept, called the Minority Association.... which consisits
of "me, Eric, Eric's sister who does the typing, Frank...."
DeLeon concludes his article with what was perhaps the best
possible conclusion he could have written, all things considered: "You may be
hearing more from Morasco. And then again, you may not." So mystery solved,
right? We can all go home now? I mean, it was James Morasco, right? Probably
not. A newspaper columnist who did some research into Mr. Morasco found out
he had died several years ago -- the only James Morasco listed in the Philadelphia
directory, dead. And still the tiles continue to appear, as recently as last
year. Even Clark DeLeon doesn't think Morasco was the tiler.
I contacted Clark DeLeon recently to see what his thought were
-- I wondered if he was aware of the cult importance placed on his very brief
column of 20+ years ago. He said I was not the first person to have contacted
him concerning the tiles. According to him, he first noticed the tiles in 1983,
and mentioned seeing the South St. tile, or a different one in the same spot,
20 years ago. He said he briefly mentioned this in his column, which led to
James Morasco contacting him. I could not, however, find any other mention of
"Toynbee" anywhere else in any of DeLeons many columns to appear in the Inquirer
pre March 13 1983. DeLeon claims that James Morasco denied being the creator
of the tiles, but said he knew who was responsible. DeLeon says that after their
one brief conversation, Marasco never tried to contact him again. So maybe it
was Eric..... or Frank. One tantilizing detail of DeLeons' article is that Morasco
mentions that the Minority Association had a typist. Which means that they either
had a newsletter of some kind or kept minutes -- now that would be something
I will conclude all of this appropriately with a few open ended
puzzles and tantalizing details -- Bill O'Neill claims to have gotten an e mail
from someone claiming to have met a man talking about "Toynbee/ Kubrick/ Resurrecting
the dead on Jupiter" in the Philadelphia Greyhound bus terminal in the 1980's.
The man supposedly was making wheat paste flyers with the message, and made
repeated references to performing short wave radio broadcasts on a regular basis.
And perhaps there is some truth to this -- anyone who has tuned into shortwave
radio I'm sure has heard some pretty strange transmissions from persons unknown.
And it's possible playwright David Mamet heard such a transmission. He wrote
a short off-broadway play in 1985 called "4 AM". In this play a late night talk
show host recieves a call from what could be James Morasco, obsessing over Toynbee,
Kubrick, etc. It would be interesting to hear David Mamets thoughts on the matter,
but he has proven rather difficult to contact. A few final messages, taken directly
from the text of Toynbee tiles in various cities:
I'M ONLY ONE MAN AND WHEN I CAUGHT A FATAL DISEASE THEY GLOATED
OVER ITS DEATH. THAT'S WHEN I BEGGED THEM NOT TO DESTROY IT. THANK YOU AND GOODBYE.
-- from a tile located on W. 3rd. & W. Prospect in Cleveland, Oh. UNDER F.O.I.A.,
N.B.C. JOURNALISTS FUNNELED F.B.I. INFORMATION ON METO SOVIET.....(unreadable)....IOUS
PR.....ORDINATE....AN ATTEMPT.....ON ME SEM......
-- from a tile on 7th. & Market in St. Louis, Oh. I USE ASPHALT
CRACK FILLER......(unreadable)....SEVERAL LAYERS PLACING TAR PAPER OVER IT SO
CAR WHEELS WON'T MESS IT UP.... -- from a tile in Pittsburgh, which no longer
exists. There is supposedly another tile which contains "instructions" in Toledo,
Oh., but I haven't been ther yet.
Hopefully it hasn't been paved over like the Pittsburgh one!