“I was expecting it to be at a record store,” said Gage Muckleroy, an environmental engineer who drove down from Bowie, Md. to the sleepy corner of Brightwood at Jefferson and 7th Streets NW, hoping to grab a copy of The Universal Sigh, aka the Radiohead newspaper.
As Alex Baca predicted earlier today, while Radiohead knows many things, the L’Enfant Plan is not one of them. There was no Radiohead rep to be found at 784 Jefferson; in fact, the address doesn’t even exist. The closest edifice is the Brightwood Park United Methodist Church at 744 Jefferson, where nearly 30 Radiohead fanatics—some using their lunch breaks, others just playing hooky—gathered in wait.
“It makes me not want to listen to Radiohead,” mused Carla Vizzini, a special-needs teacher at a nearby school who used up her lunch hour in futility. She joked that she’ll be making more room for Lady Gaga on her iPod.
Jon Fies and Ben De Laurentis drove up from Lynchburg, Va. with three of their friends. “We’re Radiohead freaks,” said Fies, who along with De Laurentis plays in a band called Steal the Prize. Their friend Jonathan McMillan took an entire day off from his job as a web designer to make the 400-mile round trip.
As much as the crowd of castable Radiohead fans—plaid shirts, corduroy jackets, and wayfarers abounded—could have felt played like chumps for following what turned out to be a map-making error by their beloved art-rockers, the mood was far from dour. Some got excited when a white hearse slowed down, hoping it was all part of the elaborate scheme. The stretched-out Cadillac disappeared into a driveway across the street.
“Fuck them for not giving us something for free!” someone blurted out to a chorus of laughs, though no one would claim the exclamation as their own.
As more people arrived and the minutes passed, it became less and less hopeful that someone would come by with copies of The Universal Sigh. I tried to explain Baca’s reasoning, that whoever chose the locations did not account for the existence of both Jefferson Street and Jefferson Drive.
“But they had the ZIP code right,” one young woman pleaded, noting that Radiohead’s website did, in fact, list the block’s ZIP code of 20011.
Eventually, Chloe Rice, a 24-year-old architecture student at Catholic University, got a call from a friend near the Hirshhorn Gallery at 7th Street and Jefferson DriveSW. The modern art collection was in fact the place to be. The crowd dispersed as people piled into cars or scrambled over to Georgia Avenue to catch a No. 70 Metrobus. A few decided to remain on the church’s stoop, holding out hope that Radiohead did really intend to distribute its paper in a random neighborhood. Taryn Joswick, a self-described “Radiohead freak” who told the Bethesda pharmaceutical company she works for that she was going to a medical appointment, exchanged phone numbers with a young man rushing down to the mall who offered to confirm the actual location.
Perhaps De Laurentis put it best. Upon realizing he had been hoodwinked by shoddy maps, he offered a clever, albeit obvious, bit of commentary:
“This is the universal sigh.”