Friday, September 11, 2009

CI #18 -- Mystery Substance X

Arriving fresh out of the NASCAR from suburban North Carolina, I've been in NYC for over five years now. Obviously, the two places are quite different. (For instance, if you're one of the people I grew up with, you might be bristling with rage right now because "NASCARs" are actually "stock cars," but I digress.)

Some differences between the Country and the City were stark and immediately obvious: In NC, there are living things. In NYC, not so much. (Positive corollary though: No living things = no allergens to congest the author). Other differences, however, took time to detect and puzzle me to this day, like for instance the case of what I'm calling "Mystery Substance X." And so I ask the curious question, What is Mystery Substance X?

I'm not sure where or how I first stumbled upon Mystery Substance X (MSX). At once, it's instantaneously foreign and yet somehow familiar. Its appearances are irregular, though usually occurring on sidewalks. (In NC, there are no sidewalks.)

In my casual observation of MSX, I've noticed it appears more frequently in areas with fewer Starbucks in Manhattan and in the outer boroughs in general. Take, for instance, this specimen found in my Brooklyn neighborhood:

My gut tells me that it is some sort of organic compound with a lifespan of about a week (though this appears to be drastically reduced by extreme heat or cold). I've deduced that it must be generally harmless. Why else would NYC residents -- or NYC officials for that matter -- allow it to be so pervasive? However, close, street-level encounters with MSX do appear to induce a type of "total body halitosis," especially indoors.

Occasionally a small specimen of MSX will appear next to a larger one, which makes me wonder Are they growing? Are they multiplying? Are they ambulatory, possibly mobilizing at night?

I know I'm not alone in my concern for MSX. Why? because I've come upon specimens that have clearly been inspected by other third-party observers. Like in this case:

Clearly it has been disturbed, possibly by precocious neighborhood children the way they might examine a slug. Yet MSX continues to disturb me, especially when I see this:

Why would someone go through the trouble of collecting MSX in what can only be a "sterile lab pouch" only to leave the collected specimen sitting on the street?

Shifting gears, allow me to propose an alternate theory. Based on how ubiquitous MSX remains in NYC, the Capital of Culture, it's possible that MSX is a viral marketing campaign, perhaps for UPS, Buster Brown, or maybe the next Tyler Perry project. I can't say for certain.

Due to a lack of conclusive evidence, I have no choice but to assume conspiracy, and one that is much, much bigger than one blogger.

If you have desperately needed comments, questions or clues, please write to Let's take back our streets.

1 comment:

  1. I'm mostly interested in the thought of you snapping pictures of this pile of mystery shit.