"See that clock on the wall? In five minutes you are not going to believe what I've told you."
~Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), Blue Velvet
Burbank is a peculiar place.
In the thirteen years I've lived here I've grown to suspect that – not unlike Blue Velvet's fictional town of Lumberton – behind the manicured lawns and tree lined streets, inside the 50s-era bungalows, lie all manner of strange goings-on. I've seen a toddler wandering the neighborhood alone at dusk, wearing nothing but a diaper (I stopped my car and helped find her home, natch). Last year, we had our very own streaker running about, wearing even less. Across the street and a few houses down, an elderly woman had lived with the body of her dead brother for nearly a year. Nothing surprises me anymore.
One night last week, on my way out to my backyard studio to check on the status of OccupyLA videos that were rendering on my computer, I happened to notice a plastic bottle on the lawn. The kids had been painting al fresco earlier that day, so I assumed it was just a paint bottle they forgot to put away. As I approached to pick it up, I realized it was actually an old hydrogen peroxide bottle with the label peeled off, and a thick gooey substance was dripping from a crack near the top. It occurred to me that the bottle must have been tossed over from an adjacent yard, resulting in the crack. Unsure of the contents, I gingerly picked it up by the cap with my thumb and index finger and carried it closer to the studio, where I could inspect it after turning on the porch light.
I grabbed a paper towel from the studio, and dabbed what I could now see was brown, viscous matter. I brought the paper towel to my nose and sniffed the unmistakeable aroma of, well... shit.
Inexplicably unmoved, I threw away the paper towel, continued into the studio to upload my finished video files to YouTube, then went to bed. Staring at my bedroom ceiling, I found myself wondering why the hell someone would fill a bottle with shit and, furthermore, why they would throw it in my yard. When in doubt, consult Google.
One "shit in a plastic bottle" search term later, I had something of an answer. And it will make you sick (if the header image didn't do that already).
The story goes that some bored street urchins in Zambia discovered that by bottling sewage, allowing it to ferment for a couple hours then inhaling the gas, they could produce a cheap, hour-long hallucinogenic high. A new designer drug was concocted in the third world, and it was to be called Jenkem. You may, however, know it by its aliases Leroy Jenkems, Winnie, Fruit from Crack Pipe or, my personal favorite, Butt Hash.
According to Snopes, In 2007, the police in Collier County, FL, based solely on the report of some parents whose child overheard his classmates discussing it, issued a bulletin announcing that Jenkem was "now a popular drug in American schools."
Time Magazine ran a story on this economical new drug craze that was sweeping the nation, but found themselves retracting because "there is actually no hard evidence that jenkem exists anywhere, and many say it is simply an urban myth." The kid in the above photos, which were included in the initial police report, was recognized by community members of the how-to website TOTSE and outed as a hoax. He is reported to have admitted as much online, saying that the solution used in the photos was made with a mixture of flour, water, beer & Nutella. He went on to insist that "I never inhaled any poop gas and got high off it. I just don't want people to ever recognize me as the kid who huffed poop gas." So it appears that Jenkem is the bunk, and apparently my poor idiot neighbor didn't get the memo.
My curiosity mostly satisfied, I went back to bed. But while I now know why someone might fill a bottle with human waste, the question of why it landed in my backyard still lingers. Perhaps I'll never know exactly who threw that bottle on my lawn, but rest assured, I'm keeping my eye out for anyone purchasing large quantities of mouthwash.