On Tourist Towns

Featured image source: Junji Ito’s horror manga¬† “Army of One.”

My hometown is a tacky tourist town, and as such, has always prided itself on its tacky public art installations. They’re usually nothing particularly terrible. Oftentimes, they take the form of things like stone statues of people sitting down looking at a small obelisk on the ground. They cheapen the town’s atmosphere, but aren’t exactly eyesores worth complaining about. Anyone with an inkling of artistic taste would just groan and move on.

The latest schlock shoveled out by this city’s council of old fogeys, though, surpasses mere kitsch. It’s dreadful. It’s monstrous. It’s even disgusting. And it’s right outside where I work.

Let’s back up a bit.

So the place where I work is a jewelry store. The landmark we use to help people find our store is a K6 red telephone box, the kind that you’d see in London about 80 years ago. Not content with leaving an out-of-place phonebooth in peace, the city council here has bastardized this poor thing for various public art projects for as long as I can remember. The previous inhabitant of the phone booth was a grey steel tumor in the shape of a faceless man, who had been hanging off the side of the phone booth’s door. He was perpetually in the act of trying his hardest to pry the door open, leaving a small crack into which tourists often tossed their trash (despite there being a trash can ten feet away). I imagine this didn’t sit well with the city, because one day, I noticed that my flat bendy friend was gone.

Several days later, I came to work and saw a public servant shoving what appeared to be wooden boards into the phone booth. Upon closer inspection, I came to a blood-chilling realization: these boards were covered with pulsating, fleshy, hairy masses.

Okay, so they don’t pulsate. But they are fleshy, and they are hairy, and they do wear swimsuits. They’re made of some kind of foam or rubber which has already begun decaying, giving some of the bodies inside a zombie-like appearance. Basically, three of these boards are pressed up against the poor phone booth’s windows to give the impression that the booth is completely filled with beachgoers. You can see butts, legs, boobs, nipples, armpits, and hair crammed against the glass. But you can’t see faces. That would just be too much, apparently.

You see, my town is a beach town. And… yeah, that’s as far as the line of thinking behind this monstrosity goes. This is the kind of dreck this city cooks up on Tuesday nights, just so geezers with nothing better to do at 11:00 PM can kvetch during the City Council meetings.

So now I’m stuck with an eldritch horror living outside of my storefront. What’s worse is that the city put this thing inside the phone booth right before the heaviest rains we had gotten in the past ten years. When I came back to work the next week, I found mold growing on some of the bodies. The phone booth had essentially become a petri dish.

My friends and I all think this is the worst thing to ever happen to this town. So what do the tourists think of this abomination? Their reactions range from tickled amusement (old ladies; I’m really curious to find out just why this aberration makes them titter, and whether they’re diseased in the head or not), to pure horror (small children), to disgust (teenage girls), to bemusement (Chinese tourists), to utter confusion (everyone else).

This monstrosity is slated to fester in its current location for at least two more years. My friend invited me to go to the council meeting tonight to protest the heap of flesh, but I’m not sure whether I’m more content with sitting on the Internet complaining about it instead. Then again, the only way to get what you want is to speak out, so…

Anyway. Without further ado, I present to you:

Junji Ito’s “Phonebooth”

Reminder that someone got paid to make this, and then spent many hours actually constructing it.