I'm in the basement of a street art gallery in Barcelona, quaffing free beer. The place is buzzing with art, artists, and general riffraff like myself. In one corner stands a black and white silhouette of Christ, which on closer inspection is not painted, but speckled with white powder applied to a black canvas. There's a shrine with candles lighting up the plaque below:
I tell James they should make rubber wristbands saying What Would Cocaine Jesus Do? James is the kiwi guide I'd met on a bike tour of the city that morning. He and I turned up at the gallery independent of one another by a coincidence as pure as the powder in front of us (very... according to the gallery owner).
He introduces me to Kim, a photographer. I can tell she's a photographer because she has a camera. That, and she says "I'm a photographer", apparently working for a marketing firm in the UK in some place that isn't London, thereby exhausting my geographical knowledge of the country. As soon as she says 'marketing', I blurt out: "I HAVE A MARKETING IDEA."
I pull a €5 euro note from my pocket and start folding. "Oh, you're doing a magic trick?" she asks, wary I'm some pick-up wannabe.
"Magic? No no, this is origami. I want to know what you think of this... I've got a marketing idea for a website, right?
"And, umm—" I fold the €5 into quarters. "You know QR codes, those barcode things you take pictures of and they—"
"I know what QR codes are."
"Okay, right. So, like...what do you think —' "
"Hey, I know what you're doing!" she flashes with excitement. "James, look at this."
James is busy admiring a portrait mosaic of the monopoly man, hashed together with chopped up bits of money - not monopoly money, mind you, but five-euro notes.
"James," she drags him over. "Look what your kiwi friend is making. It's one of those paper swans."
"It's a crane." he says, and goes back to the painting.
He'd taught her - independently - how to fold cranes only a few days prior, the same time I'd conceived the website, paper cranes, plastic meatslop and all.
I make the final folds, stretch out the wings, puff out the body and put it in her palm.
"Hey that's not bad," she says.
"I'll be needing that back by the way," I laugh with a hiccup - that's my kebab money for the night and the beer is making me hungry. "So, that's my business card. I mean, it wouldn't be made of money, I can use normal paper." I point at the wings. "That's where the website name will go." I point at the middle portion, flattened out. "And that's where the QR code goes. I'll make a hundred of these little dudes, plant them all over the city and bam, that's my marketing plan"
She looks at me incredulous. Not in a good way mind you. Like I'm a dolt.
And fair enough. It's a neat concept, but that's about it. Rather fiddly and time-intensive when you think about it. Beyond that, what is the fruit of all this labour other than a touch more traffic to the site?
And this whole QR code thing? I'm not convinced it is a thing. Sure, yeah, they're everywhere you look. On grocery items alone you'll find them checkered across bananas, boxes of cereal, teabags and bottles of wine - just when you thought breakfast couldn't get any more exciting...
They're everywhere, and yet, they're nowhere. These QR codes - in all their ubiquitous glory - provide little incentive for users to scan them, and so they fade into the background like the television static they so closely resemble.
But consider this: you're in a cafe, taking the tube, or riding the lift. And there, beside the sugar sticks, strung from the handrail, or jutting from the intercom, is a paper crane: small, handmade, and three-dimensional. It's purposeful, staring you in the eye, exacting your attention. What's this all about? Who made this, and why?
I call these my stealth cranes.
I explain as much to marketing girl, but I can see she's lost interest. And sure enough, after I fetch more beers, she's gone. Maybe she's run off to steal the idea, make some patents and cash her millions. Or maybe she thought it all a bit fanciful. I'm going with the latter.
And I understand why. It's all too fledgling, this idea. In this quest to generate traffic I'll have to print, fold and deploy countless cranes, but to what end? A few extra hits on a site? It's hardly a lucrative enterprise. Sure, with a few non-intrusive ads, I could make a buck or two, but only ever enough to cover web-hosting and base costs.
Which is fine, by the way. It's never about the money. It's a neat little project I can work on, and that's all this has ever really been about. A fun way to market a personal blog.
So, I guess that's where this little thought-train hits the terminal. Last call. End of the line. Please collect all personal belongings on your way out. Mind the gap between the train and the platform.
There's one thing though. I've had this one nagging thought.
What if I make this work?
I mean, really make this work. What if I put my heart and soul into it? What if I give it everything I've got?
It's times like this it helps to ask the ultimate question.
What would Cocaine Jesus do?
Welcome to YEAHBUTNAH.