Some years ago I wrote a blog about the Jejune Institute. I waited quite some time before posting that blog, because Jejune was something best discovered without assistance. I stumbled across strange stickers and unusual signs and gradually pieced together a path that led me to the Institute’s door, and I didn’t want to spoil the opportunity for another to feel that sense of wonder, with some fear mixed in for good measure, as he tried to decide whether or not he’d accidentally joined a cult. Only after the Jejune Institute began publicly advertising its own existence as a sort of “real world game experience” did I feel it was acceptable to share some information about it here.
Now, some years later, I’m here to share details of a related experience, this time as a member of the Latitude Society. Sadly, while my Jejune post came while Jejune was still operating, this post is only possible now that the Latitude has come to a close.
As the Jejune Institute wound down, I befriended several of its creators, most notably Jeff Hull. While I never quite knew who did what with regards to that project, Jeff was head honcho at Nonchalance, the company that had produced the experience, and someone brimming with ideas concerning the repurposing of public spaces for secret games and clandestine art projects. When Jeff contacted me in June of last year to let me know he had “an object he’d like to pass onto me” I was pretty excited. It was with considerable disappointment that I had to inform him that I was getting married in less than two weeks’ time, and would not return to the Bay Area until mid-August. It’s a testament to my belief in the creations of Nonchalance that, as excited as I was for my pending nuptials and subsequent honeymoon on the continent, I felt no small amount of regret that I could not immediately partake in the new project. Had it been anything other than my wedding, I’d quite possibly have postponed the affair by a week or two for the opportunity to return to the magical land of Elsewhere, to which I was sure Jeff’s “object” would grant me entry.
Eventually I did meet with Jeff, at Oakland’s Chapel of the Chimes columbarium, a place of resonance to me as a Jejune member. There, Jeff explained that he was inviting me to join the Latitude Society, an ancient community that has existed in secret for centuries. By accepting his invitation I was bound to a code of absolute discretion, and was not to share any information about my invitation, or the society, with anyone else, ever. Or else. As such, I’m only sharing now because Jeff has closed the society and posted a long blog of his own describing its creation and spilling its secrets.
If you want to know the nuts and bolts of what was involved with joining and participating in the Latitude Society there are now plenty of “walkthrough” web sites and blogs, so I’ll spare you the minutiae. The short story is that the invitation Jeff handed me was a plain white credit card that unlocked a door to a non-descript building in San Francisco. Once inside, the house began to interact with me. Lights flashed, noises sounded, and I soon found myself sliding down a curved slide, in absolute darkness, then crawling through a narrow, carpeted tunnel, also completely dark, before emerging into a library of sorts. An open book read itself to me, complete with moving pictures, as if by magic, after which I made my way to a rathskeller where I poured myself a drink. Nowhere along the line did any other human interact with me; the house itself was alive. There was more, including a sort of scavenger hunt through the Mission District, before I ended up in a secret video game arcade where I played Asteroids using a bronze coin I’d acquired along the way. The game was interrupted by a digitized face on the screen (even the video games come to life when the Latitude is involved) who told me what to do next.
Besides being an amazing afternoon’s experience in its own right, a door had been opened to something that Jejune had only partially offered– a recondite family of likeminded individuals. That was the true magic of the Latitude Society, for once initiated (indoctrinated?) you were welcome to invite others of like heart and mind to join the community. The community was based upon the notion of “experiential tithing,” which is a fancy way of saying we were all encouraged to create and share experiences, talents, and ideas with one another, with the goal being to give more than you get. There are other aspects to the society, including myths, lore, and rituals, that I still won’t share, and I hope others won’t, either.
The Latitude Society introduced me to hundreds of amazing individuals, and I’ve developed friendships with many that will last long after the demise of the organization. It granted me access to the artistic endeavors and creations of so many talented and enthusiastic people, as well as the chance to simply sit and discuss myriad topics of mutual interest with people whose knowledge and opinions I value. Further, it gave me the opportunity to share my own creative visions and passions, and allowed those compeers (for that is what one society member calls another) with whom my notions resonated to partake in that which I was offering. Much of what I shared with compeers were my bartending skills at twice-monthly speakeasies in the rathskeller, though I had a number of other experiences to tithe had the society lived on. Sadly, it has come to an end. Hasn’t it?