CRAIGSLIST (2007)

Down through time, people seeking answers have tried out meditation, mantras, positive thinking, and the Power of Now. Some have looked to the stars. Others have looked for signs and portents in animal entrails, amulets, crystals and tea leaves. Some have used plain old plastic to connect with the Psychic Friends Network. But most take a mainstream approach: they pray to a Cosmic Spook for guidance, inner peace, or free stuff.

Not me. When I’m looking for something weird or wonderful, I open my laptop and go to Craigslist.

Craigslist, one of the Internet’s great success stories, is a network of online urban communities featuring free classified advertisements. There are categories for jobs, services, housing, personals, music gigs and resumes. There are also forums for politics, religion, and many other topics. Founded in 1995 by Craig Newmark for the San Francisco Bay area, Craigslist has expanded across the US, and is now in approximately 310 cities all over the world, including Vancouver.

Forget blogs and e-bay: this online emporium for rugs, rants and pranks is a word unto itself, and a local one at that. The humour – usually unintentional, but not always - is a bonus. Typos are a treat in the For Sale forums, where there’s always a chance of coming across a "sleigh bed," a "rot iron" dining set, "chester drawers," and in a classic West Coast malapropism, a "Haida bed." But I’m not on Craigslist just to snoop around for mispelled stuff. I’m there for the sheer mystery of it. Why do so many people think their used Haida bed or sofa is made more desirable if an adorable plush toy is propped up on it in the photo?

Some of the odder local offerings are preserved for posterity on a web page devoted to the Best of Craigslist, Vancouver. "Free Chicken to Good Home," offered "the most miserable-looking little chicken I’ve ever seen," discovered at corner of Commercial and Hastings.

"So there is a dirty and tattered (but otherwise healthy) little chicken in my bathroom, I can hear him chirping away as I type this. He has water, some torn up newspapers and some whole grains to eat. Oh, and we put the lava lamp in there in case he got cold."

This Craigslister points out that he will only give this chicken to someone "who will take care of him and NOT eat him."

I won’t relay the forensic details of "To the Guy Who Crapped in My Parking Stall Last Night." Okay, I will. "First, you are almost certainly male. Either that or you're the 1976 East German Women's Olympic Gold Medal Weightlifting Champion. There's a slim possibility you're a horse."

"I Need a BBQ and I’m a Darn Good Backyard Wrestler," is the heading from one Lower Mainland resident, who’s clearly had trouble with the "neighbours’ no-good teenaged thug sons" who destroyed his Broil King. "Those boys in their oversized tracksuits, all fired up on whatever they do up in that weird shack they built up in the tree, listening to that foul-mouthed rap music, are trying to break me. They know I’m a semi-pro wrestler, that I trained with Chuck Norris back when I lived Long Beach; they know I was once in "Blackbelt" magazine; they know I am skilled and deadly adversary." But this fellow doesn’t fight young punks anymore, ever since finding the Lord. "But if someone wants go get me a new Broil King, I will train them into an elite street fighter over the summer, get them a Ninja suit or Karate jumper and let them into my weapons closet to select throwing stars, whips, bamboo fighting sticks, Korean battle hammers and secret weapons I will not describe here. Then this person will rid my street of these p***y-boy rappers and I will resume my weekly BBQs and backyard wrestling clinics."

Normally I’d say you can’t make this stuff up, but in the case of the backyard BBQ wrestler, I think somebody did. The last item below also raises some questions about people with Internet connections and a lot of time on their hands:

"Free object: I have an object here that I'm dying to get rid of. It's made of material and is about so big. Origin unclear, purpose vague or misunderstood. Ideal for something. Has never let me down. Then again, has never let me up, either. Would easily fit inside something else and could, possibly, allow other things to fit inside it. It boasts an exterior surface, a top-side, a bottom-side, and assorted vertical planes. There is no handle that I can discern. Responds well to gravity and inertia. Take this damn thing off my hands. It's driving me nuts."
Sounds pretty iffy to me. But come to think of it, I’ve got at least three of those damn things at home myself.

Geoff Olson