June the Hitchiking Mannequin

a t r u e s t o r y

Instigated and chronicled by Sabeth Ireland

Update! E-mail from June


In the spring of 1988, in the name of I don't know what, we decided to send June, a mannequin who had been a fixture at our office in San Francisco, to the temperate and tolerant state of Florida for Spring Break. We got her up in her best Suzie Wong dress and her Blanche duBois mules, and put her on the side of the freeway just like any other hitchhiker, with a destination sign and a small suitcase. In the suitcase was a letter of introduction and a handful of self-addressed, stamped postcards. Call it a concept. What we figured would probably happen is some arty sort would snatch her up and install her in a loft somewhere and be able to say that they got her "from the side of the road, man, with all this stuff!" I mean, we figured that in San Francisco, a fully dressed mannequin complete with luggage couldn't be expected to hang around for long. At least not in that perfectly good Suzie Wong dress. That was Frank's concern--how long would June have her dress? Anyway, the plan was hip and, barring mannequin abuse, June would end up with a new life.

To make things festive, we took her to the pub for a farewell beer. Katrina took pictures of her at the bar, then we walked her over to the nearest freeway entrance and set her up. She was a literal pain in the ass to set up. Her bottom half usually came loose while you were easing her on or off the stand (the stand being a round base attached to a fairly stout vertical rod that went up a hole located where no natural woman has one). Plus, on accounta she didn’t have any hands, we gave her a pair of flimsy latex gloves, rubber-banded to her wrists, that had to be blown up all the time. So not only was she a bitch to handle, but we installed her on this little tiny triangle of ivy right between a very busy Broadway (at that time famous for its topless dives) and the official on-ramp to the freeway. Whoever picked her up was gonna have to be pretty determined to get her. Anyway, we stuck around the neighborhood for about an hour, then drove by the spot where we'd left her and yep, she was gone, all right. Arivederci, June!

A good three months later we heard from June. Nobody could believe it. Since it was one of the cards we had put in her suitcase, we ruled out the possibility of an inside job. Yes, yes, I know. One of us could have sneaked back to June after the others were gone, stolen the postcards, kept them for months, given them to someone they knew who was going to be traveling cross-country with instructions to really get one over on his/her stoopid pals hahaha but take my word for it—nobody I know, especially nobody who can see the beauty of sending a mannequin on a hitchhiking trek to Florida, is that lowball. So forget it and run along, now. Besides, by the time we received the next three cards it was clear we had become part of something truly wild and, well, far out. Judge for yourself. Here is the precise (unedited, uncorrected) content of June's cards. Click on the images for full-size repros of the postcards from June.

First card, no postmark:

Hippies picked me up

“Like, I’m totally psyched to finally be on the road! These old hippies who picked me up were nice enough but I must have spent weeks in that opium den. Only seemed like a few hours. Every time I remembered to leave, I couldn’t turn the doorknob, and most of the time it didn’t occur to me to leave. My dress will never smell the same. It still seems to have a totally NOD-OUT effect on anyone in a closed space, like a car. They just start breathing deeper, then run off the road. So we’re all eating lots of acid, like a tab every couple of hours, to stay awake. Love, June.”

Postmarked May 12, Grand Canyon, AZ

I'm dead “Been up for four days now but a dose every couple hours builds you up a wicked tolerance, like double every day. So now we’re up to eight tabs every couple hours or a sheet a day. I’m no longer sure if we’re still headed east because those swarms of giant bats are obscuring our view of the great writhing unwinding tarmac ribbon. But the gravity of my destiny recedes ultimately to an infinitely small point which is also infinitely large when viewed from the proper perspective, that is, how long will I be dead? If, of course, one can speak of death when one is after all only a mannequin. But I feel that I have a higher purpose, a more significant mission than to indulge in the vapid ritual of hedonistic decadence they call Spring Break. But alas too soon we will run out of blotter and might as well go to Florida anyway, if only to score some good coke. Love, June.”

Postmarked May 16, Roswell (!), NM

“Out of the land of hot tubs and avocados and its pervasive fog of blissful vacancy--and into Death Valley, a good hostile hard sharp poisonous barren place where the absence of life is almost tangible. Here, you have to think about staying alive, which lends itself to thinking about life, which lends itself to eating a lot of mescaline and sitting on a rock staring at a cactus, or maybe just a dry gulch. I would laugh when ravens tried to eat my hard flesh, but my face would crack.. I never laugh. Never play water polo either. Love, June.”

Postmarked May 17, Alexandria, LA

Card text “Here I am in Las Vegas, international center of human depravity. The DREGS are here, folks, real decadence, despondency, desperation, and ugly people. This is where liberty and justice are doubled over in the gutter, vomiting rivers of 75 cent gin-and-tonics. Like L.A., Las Vegas is not interested in earning but in getting--the Work Ethic put a .45 slug through its frontal lobes in a seedy motel on Desert Inn Road. The TV alternates ads for ‘Auto Pawn Instant Cash’ with ads for ‘Al’s Used Cars’ and I bet my surgical gloves the address is the same. Won a grand at Baccarat and blew it on some mediocre blow. Stayed up wired at the bar in Caesar’s Palace all night. The perfect statement of Vegas’ psyche is evident in its emulation of Rome’s ultimate disgrace. Its alcoholic decadent decline into debauchery, hedonism, and farcical excess. Every subsequent civilization, until this one, has regarded that as a caveat. One of the great things about stimulants is that they can save you the price of a hotel room which was nice since I didn’t want to go home with any of the dozens of sleazy slimeball seventies throwbacks who tried to pick me up at the bar. At 3 I got a $2.00 steak dinner with my friend. Vegas is actually rife with bargains if you look for them, the reason being that one’s presence is statistically valuable to each casino. They’re just counting on you to dump at least ten bucks into the quarter slots while you finish your free drink. Outside, there’s the neon. Walls of neon, skies of neon, a roar and a rush of neon. Rivers of neon prance gaily up to dizzying heights then shower down in a liminal bark. Subtlety has no place in a town with enough neon to light up the dark side of the moon. Well, the coke’s calling me, and after that we’re heading to Arizona and its big ditch, so ‘bye for now. Boy am I looking forward to getting some really GOOD blow in Florida. Good thing spring break’s over, I can get a decent price.”

We never heard from her again. There was one more postcard from Athens, GA, but we could tell it wasn't from the real June. Someday, I swear I'm gonna be sitting in a bar somewhere —- maybe even Las Vegas -- and I'm gonna overhear someone talking about the time they picked up a hitchhiking mannequin in San Francisco. I really have no doubt about it. Life is like that.

Update!: We just received our first e-mail from June. Then, a few weeks later, a follow-up from June's cousin! She appears to be hanging out in Oregon, but you know June: by the time you read this she could have moved on... She writes:

"I'm in this guy's office. He works in Eugene, OR. I have no idea how I got here but sometimes they put me in the men's restroom.

The dress is fine but guys have no concept of matching buttons, or even how to sew one on. It was a hard Winter, lots of flooding but I'm being treated well for the most part.

Oops, the guy is getting back from lunch, gotta stop and freeze in the corner again. . .

As always. . . .


Then, out of nowhere, this rolled in from June's cousin Babs:

"I was surfin the Net the other day, while the Boss was out, and came across your site... and, I couldn't believe it, but right there before me was..... cousin June !!! 'Haven't seen her for YEARS, but she hasn't aged a bit - I'd have recognized her anywhere!

"If she writes again, give her my address & tell her "Cousin Babs" (from Tulsa) said Hi! Life is treating me Good - In fact, I've done quite well for myself since I got out of that dreadful Barber Chair..... Gone back into Modeling...... Got my own full-time gig on the Net... Tell her to stop by sometime, when HER boss is out of the office!

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