Authors: Dave Cicirelli
Copyright Â© 2013 by Dave Cicirelli
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Cover photo Â© gioadventures/iStockphoto, Â© LordRunar/iStockphoto
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This book is a memoir. It reflects the author's present recollections of his experiences over a period of years. Some names and characteristics have been changed, some events have been compressed, and some dialogue has been re-created.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Fakebook : a true story based on actual lies / by Dave Cicirelli.
1. Facebook (Electronic resource)âHumor. 2. Online social networksâHumor. I. Title.
To whoever said, “Honesty is the best policy,”
you are a wonderful liar.
The events in
took place between September 2009 and April 2010. It was a wonderful time for online pranksters when cell phone cameras were still pathetically bad and “checking in” was something your mother did when you hadn't called for over a week.
This book is a true storyâbut life doesn't always conform to story structure. For the sake of the reading experience and the wishes of people involved, some events have been streamlined and certain names have been changed.
This is a book about how I lie a lot, so don't look so surprised.
“Thank god, Phyllis left,” Netti confided to my Aunt Cathy. “I was mortified. I could barely say hello or good-bye.”
“I noticed you were avoiding her. What's going on?”
“You don't know?”
“Know what? Is something wrong with my sister?”
“It's not Phyllis, though my heart breaks for her. Has she told you anything at all? Maybe she's in denialâ¦”
“Netti.” Cathy was getting impatient. “Just say what you want to say.”
“I'm not sure it's my place. I could be crossing the line even talking to youâ¦” There was a pause. She knew things about me. Sensational things. “It's about your nephew, David.”
Netti's my second cousin, first cousin to my mother, Phyllis. For months, she'd been watching my life unravel, but this wake for my Great-Aunt Stella was the first time she'd come face-to-face with my immediate family since it all began.
A few years ago, none of this would have been possibleâmy mother had always been the main artery for news about the Cicirelli boys, and without her involvement, second cousins like Netti and I would only know each other from polite exchanges at the occasional wedding. But now Netti knewâfirsthand and in startling detailâthe trials and tribulations of her cousin's children.
“What about David?” Cathy asked.
With wide eyes, Netti whispered, “He ran away from home and is now hitchhiking across the country with someâ¦some young Amish girl.”
” Cathy's voice rose above the murmur of the funeral home.
Netti felt the sweet relief of confession and continued, “He had a breakdown, quit his job, and started walking west. His father begs him to come home, pleading and bribing, even offering to bring him home-cooked meals out on the highway, but Dave won't listen to reason. It's heartbreaking.”
“Where does he think he's going?”
“He won't say, but his last stop was Pennsylvania Dutch country. He walked all the way there just so he couldâ¦toilet paper an Amish farmhouse. He even got their horse and buggy! It was so cruel to that horseâ¦”
“I've heard of a sixteen-year-old doing something like that,” Netti's husband suddenly chimed in from out of nowhere, “but a twenty-six-year-old? That's very immature. Very immature.”
“David was even arrested for it! Because they were Amish, he was charged with a hate crime! And now he's on the lam with his Amish girlfriend, and his friends are cheering him on! Can you believe it?”
“I'm dumbfounded,” Aunt Cathy said in a daze. “Where on earth did you hear about this?”
“I saw it all on Facebook.”
My phone and desktop chimed simultaneously.
FW: Wine & Cheese Fries Tasting EventâInvitation Artwork-R3
The artwork is not approved. Any photography used can show a consumer holding wine, pouring wine for a guest (but not for themselves), or having the wine sit on the table, but in no way can it show a consumer drinking it. Our marketing materials should not create the impression that we are promoting excessive drinking.
I began to write back:
But I didn't actually hit SendâI never do.
“Hey, Dave.” Christine, the account executive for the project, popped into the graphics bullpen. She was wearing a thin, gray penny coat, her purse strap carefully balanced on the edge of her shoulder. A perfect picture of typical fall New York fashion. “Just wanted to make sure you're still here. Did you get my email?”
“The one you sent, like”âI looked at the time signature of her messageâ“forty-seven seconds ago?”
“Yeah, we need to send these invites out ASAP, so if you could send me the revised artwork before you leave tonight, that'd be great. It should be just swapping a photo.”
“I had a feeling Legal might push back. She's not really drinking the wine, though. The glass is just perched on her lips. It's really evocative.”
“I hear you, but we're out of time,” Christine said. “Let's just play it safe.”
“Sure. It's still going to take a little bit of time to do it right. Can it wait until tomorrow?”
“Wellâ¦the event is in eight days, and it has to go through Legal again.” She put her hand on my arm. “I'd really appreciate it.”
I tensed up. After five years of working in a mostly female office in an industry full of charming people, I'd developed a Pavlovian response to flirty gestures. It's a real liability on first dates.
“I'll get it done,” I grumbled.
“You're the best! I owe you a box of wine.”
“So my overtime rate is pretty cheap, huh?”
Christine laughed as she headed for the door, and I spun my chair back toward my screen and opened the working file for the invitation. I looked at it for a moment. I was proud of it, but it didn't matter. Another good design and another night sacrificed at the altar of Legal.
I get it. You can't expect to be paid to do what you want all day. I was providing a service for a client, and revisions are part of the deal. But it still stings to have your work discarded so casually. To paraphrase legendary ad man David Ogilvy, “When a client changes the design, I get angryâbecause I took a lot of trouble designing it, and what I designed, I designed on purpose.”
I needed a moment to grieve. So I stepped out of the design department bullpen and into the cubicle-rich main office. The bones of Handler PR are like any other office spaceâfluorescent lights, white walls, and gray carpeting. But everyone's workspace is a collage of client productsâfrom stacks of action figures to top-shelf whiskey to prepackaged pastries (actually, a pretty accurate timeline of my life's vices).
Public relations is an interesting field and a little harder to understand than its sister discipline, advertising. Everyone gets advertising because you notice it. Your television show or your magazine is interrupted for a commercial break, where a brand has purchased the opportunity to evangelize on its own behalf.
PR is more subtle. Rather than interrupt the show, PR works to get the show itself to talk about your brand. A holiday gifts segment on the
, any time you see someone holding a giant check on the news, a celebrity spotted at a sponsored eventâthose are all the work of a PR agency making its clients “newsworthy” to consumers. When done well, the “earned media” of PR is cheaper and more effective than the “purchased media” of advertising. People trust a third party. “It's the difference,” our credentials presentation states, “between saying you're a good kisser and having your ex-girlfriend say, âTrust me, he's a good kisser.'”
So if the account staff's job is to create a campaign that will call attention to the client, then it's my job, as a graphic designer, to call attention to that campaign with promotional packaging, logos, event invitations, sweepstakesâanything at all.
I made it to the water cooler, filled the Handler PR branded glass (that I'm pretty sure I branded), and took a sip. I wondered if Poland Spring would allow me to be photographed in such a compromising position. Then I caught myself feeling bitter. As far as gigs went, it could be a lot worse. “Get people talking.” That was what PR is about. Sometimes it was an exciting challenge.
But sometimes it was like tonightâarbitrary and fickle. Sometimes it reminded you that you were in a support role, a service to another service industry, and that you ultimately had no voice in a process that has too many voices. Sometimes, I reminded myself, being a professional simply boiled down to doing what you're told.
“Do what you're told.” The phrase jumped out at me whenever I heard it and had always rubbed me the wrong way. Along with “just the way it is,” and a half-dozen others, it's simply a hollow argument ender. It asks someone to place blind obedience to authority ahead of reason, and that had always bothered me a bit.
At that moment, I felt a weird little itch as a slightly unprofessional but irresistible idea that had been lingering in the back of my mind for weeks slid to the forefront. It was a silly, immature, and completely absurd thought. Yet I hadn't been able to let go of itânot since the Labor Day weekend when it was conceived.
Sandy Hook, New Jersey, is an odd little sandbar that juts ten miles off the northernmost tip of the Jersey Shore, pointing toward the Manhattan skyline. Its National Park status makes it home to a lot of little curiositiesâthings like decommissioned World War II naval barracks, a marine-biology-focused high school, and a disappointing stretch of nude beach. (I once saw an octogenarian there wearing nothing but a knee brace.) Compared to the more commercially developed beach towns to the south, it's a truly unique place.
I sat on the beach there, facing the pink and orange sunset and completely satisfied with that morning's snap decision to spend the Labor Day weekend at my parents'. I was totally decompressed, like I'd hit a reset button on all the stresses that life in New York City can bringâwith the only reminder being my new email-enabled iPhone.
Part communicator, part toy, and part office leash, the iPhone had a strange hold on me and had quickly become my go-to distraction during any moment of downtime, whether I was waiting for the ATM or waiting for the sun to set.
So as nature put on a brilliant performance in the vast vista in front of me, my eyes still wandered toward the five-inch screen. I opened Facebook.
In Red Bank. At the Dub.
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It had been a while since I'd seen Tedâsix months, maybe. He was a good guy, if a little predictable. He liked watching sports and bullshitting, not a whole lot else. But I hadn't left Manhattan to find adventure, and the prospect of catching up with a friend was an appealing one.
I drove along Navesink River Road, treating myself to an evening glimpse of the riverside mansions I'd spent my high school summers landscaping, and soon crossed the bridge into Red Bank. Its old, pretty downtown is lined with nineteenth-century three-story brick buildings and lit with wrought-iron fixtures. It's easy to imagine horse-drawn carriages going up and down the streets more than a century ago.
I parked my parents' Saturn between a sports car and a pickup truck and cut through the back entrance to the Dublin House. Passing through the main bar, I took a quick look in the adjacent living room, with its leather chairs circled around a big fireplace. I walked past the main staircase, then out the front door, and was instantly reminded why I liked coming here. Manhattan has almost every kind of bar, but it doesn't have a bar in a house.
I saw Ted sitting with Steve at a table on the brick patio.
“Cicirelli. I didn't know you were around,” Steve said as he signaled for another beer. “Still in the city doing the art thing?”
Steve Cuchinello was usually part of the group I saw when I was in townâour nearly identical last names had given us a half decade of homeroom together.
“Yeah, still there doing the art thingâ¦sort of, I guess. I'm doing promotional marketing, like press kits and stuffâclient work.” I instinctively reached for my phone and its inbox before I caught myself. “I don't really want to think about work right now, though. I'm in town to take it easy.”
“You know,” Ted said, “my dad used to say September was his favorite month. I never understood it, but now I get it.”
I nodded. “It used to have this stigma of school startingâbut now it's just really nice weather. The shore trash goes home, and it's just locals.”
“Locals? Hey, BENNY, go home!” Steve shouted, referencing the (BE) Bergen County, (N) Newark, and (NY) New York City residents who spend their summer weekends “down the shore,” supporting our local economy and ruining our reputation.
“Hey man, don't lump me in with those Staten Italians! I'm grandfathered in, and I really do miss it sometimesâ¦though sometimes I think I just miss going to the beach and having my mom cook me dinner. I think I just want summer vacation.”
“Yeah, that'd be nice,” Ted said.
“You are on summer vacation, Ted,” I retorted.
Ted had started an import-export business out of his house. He spent his daysâ¦setting his fantasy lineups? No one understood what he did, so we just insisted he didn't do anything.
“I have a real job!” Ted protested. He probably did, but in our defense, it had been a long time since we'd seen him answer his door in anything other than mesh basketball shorts.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I accidentally looked at my phoneâit had become a habit even during conversation. There was only an email about routine building maintenance, but it was enough to return some of that anxiety I'd shed by the ocean. “You know what I do miss? I miss the lack of responsibility. I miss being immature.”
“What do you mean?” Steve asked.
“Likeâ¦remember when Chris Wasco sold his prayers on eBay?”
“Yeah, of course,” Ted answered. “That was classic.”
“Nothing was better, though,” Steve interjected, “than the time the track team took John Randell's Christmas display and decorated the front of the high school with it.”
“Exactly!” I said, leaning forward. “I miss that. I miss being able to do something dumb and irreverent just because it's funny. That kind of âwhat the hell' attitude we used to have. Everyone's so cautious nowâeverything has stakes.”
Steve raised his eyebrows knowingly and asked, “Looking to pick another fight with the Amish?”
I had a respectable track record of unorthodox mischief, going all the way back to an unsanctioned comic-book art business I'd operated out of the stairwells of River Plaza Elementary School, although that was ultimately shut down by the infamous Safety Patrol sting operation of '94. But the weird high school feud I'd started with a menacing Amish webmaster was my signature piece.
As a high school junior, I'd discovered a handful of Amish web pages. Struck by the brazen hypocrisy and absurdity of the concept, I started an email feud with an Amish webmaster. Suffice it to say, things got heated, and the whole episode captured the imagination of my classmates for months. I found myself at the center of at least a dozen Amish-themed pranks.
“Ha! I don't knowâ¦maybe? I haven't been as proud of a project as that one in a long time.”
“Speaking of, can you believe I have to start planning our ten-year reunion soon?” Ted interjected.
“Who cares about high school reunions?” Steve replied. “I have Facebook. I already know how fat and bald everyone got. The only reason I log in is to see how I'm doing. âBeating you, beating you, beating youâ¦huh, Johnny from third-grade soccer camp has a really hot wife and a sweet car? You're blocked!'”
“Yikes. Guess I better start getting ready,” I said with a laugh. “I mean, Steve raises a good pointâI really want to win this reunion.”
“You better get on the ball. Designing press kits for fabric softeners doesn't exactly stack up to John McLaughlin practicing international law in Brussels with some hot Belgian chick and a Mercedes SLS.”
“McLaughlin? He seemed like the kind of guy who'd need a lawyer before being one.”
“I guess he switched sides of the bench,” Steve joked.