Notes from the Underground – Life as a Fixer

At the Last Bar at the End of the Universe I met a guy who was, by all appearances, utterly ordinary. He was tall, heavy set and every inch of him, from the indoor scarf to the thick glasses screamed ‘Parisian software programmer’. But the high-pitched laugh of a child at play gave away the presence of something more. He walks me through his life as a ‘fixer’ in the Parisian underground. Though perhaps ‘mixer’ would be more apt a term for this fire-breathing BDSM vampire–ninja, who lives a life and philosophy hinged on the concept of combining elements of disjoint ideologies…

Even though I’m one of a very small number, there’s a title for what I do. I’m a ‘fixer’. A fixer in the Paris underground. Basically I’m the guy who can put you into contact with any group, take you to any place or any event, some of which are of my own conception. I don’t know everything; I know about everything. That’s unusual in my milieu. People think in blocks. Especially in underground culture, people define themselves in terms of the group they are a part of and there’s little interchange between them. I think it’s a shame.

I do my best, in person, via mailing lists and forums, but there’s a lot of egoism, a lot of looking down on each other. What the fuck!? These are almost all people who have experienced what it’s like to be looked down on or avoided by general society, and then they do the same to each other. So I mingle—or in many cases more than mingle—with a bunch of different subcultures: gay, hacker, goth, geek, vampire, otaku, ninja, Capoeira, fire-spinner, squatter…

Initially I learned a lot and encountered a variety of people by necessity. Twelve years ago, when I was twenty, my mother threw me out of the house. We have a very, very tense relationship. When I was young if I got a bad grade or did something bad, she got angry and threw things at me. I had to live on the street for two years. You learn to live by yourself, and fast: where to sleep, how to pick locks. I was already connected to a few underground communities, mainly on the internet, when my mom kicked me out. I knew how to find people online to teach me things, validating a theory of mine that you can learn anything with the internet. You want to learn something? How about lock-picking? Okay. You have a forum for lock-picking. If you don’t understand, there’s often an IRL (in real life) workshop in Paris hosted by people from the forum. “I’m ‘so and so’ from the forum; can you teach me that?” And they do it. You can always use the internet to get in touch with people who can teach you something.

I was already a geek back then. I don’t mean someone who plays video games and reads comics. A geek is someone who sees something and wants to try it. You have mechanics geeks, who make their own engines, repair and customize cars. To me that’s a geek. You have something, you try to meddle with it, experiment, and that’s my work. I like to experiment, to build things. I had a computer when I was ten, and I tried to make my own games and everything. I like to build. When I see a lot of things, I say, “Why not try?” I’m a kind of Jack of all trades. I’m not very good at a lot of things, except Computer Science, but I’m average at a lot, a lot of things. This is what makes me a good fixer. If you have a project, you can come to me, and I can see things from many angles. I can help you. If I don’t have enough skills, say as a mechanic, then I know a mechanic who can help. I have a global vision of the project, and I know the people best suited for the job.

I borrow a term from the occult underground to describe the way I live. I’m a sort of ‘chaos magician’. This sounds a lot more mystical than it is. Chaos magic is a kind of mimetic crafting. Every practitioner works out his or her doctrine and rites based on what works for them. That ‘s what I do: pick and choose methods and beliefs and combine them into something that makes sense to me.

For example, I practice hypnotism. While I don’t believe in witchcraft or magnetism, when I watch certain rituals of theirs it’s clear to me that they put others in a very real trance state. Whatever magical justification they ascribe to it, it works, so I integrate their techniques with my own. I do a lot of BDSM, and so I mix hypnotism and bondage. Bondage exponentially augments susceptibility to hypnosis. When you are tied up you are at the mercy of the person who tied you, so every suggestion they make is very strong. Ninja rope-tying techniques I learned from my ninjutsu master also come in handy. For certain people with vampiric fantasies, I do all of this wearing fangs, the same fangs I used to intimidate a lot of people while working as a bouncer.

As a guide in urban exploration, I find that being the sole guide and leading someone into another world, like the abandoned, overgrown train tunnels below Paris, also makes them much more suggestible. Sometimes I hypnotize or practice domination in such places. To me it’s a great success to give a girl shattering orgasms without making any real physical contact, but it’s not all sexual. A lot of my techniques come from Sophrology, a structured method of relaxation, so even friends of mine who might not be open to the idea of bondage in a sexual context often ask to be tied and relaxed.

So it’s about mixing and it’s about fostering dialogue. Street art and performance for instance. There are performing magicians who do fire magic and street artists who breathe fire, but I saw that no one was mixing the two. That’s stupid! You both do fire, but you don’t mix. I told them, rather than taking your fire stick and using it to breath fire, it’s much cooler to do it out of your flaming hand! So I contacted magicians and street artists and asked them, “how do you do this, and how do you do this…” And now you see a lot of people shooting fire and breathing fire from their hands and mouths. I do this with my fangs. It looks awesome.

I’ve brought a lot of things together, but I haven’t really inspired people to be like me. Only a few people understand being interested in nearly everything. A friend of mine is a hacker, but he said, “lockpicking doesn’t interest me,” and I said, “Okay, suit yourself, but I’ll go to your house and pick the lock, get physical access to your computer and then you’ll see”. People stay with people like themselves and assume that everything is being done the right way. When you look at things from a more global viewpoint, you see all the time that things aren’t as you’ve been told, and you doubt more. That’s not something everyone wants; it can be depressing.

And, of course, sometimes people fear you. I lost one of my acquaintances when I demonstrated that I can pick a lock in five minutes. She freaked out and never talked to me again. A lot of my friends don’t greet me by handshake since I demonstrated the ability to hypnotize highly-susceptible people that way.

I do my best to change the way people think. I’ve taught morality courses based on demonstrating how easily a crowd can be made to believe falsehoods with a little bit of suggestion. After a few years on the street and some odd jobs, I found an IT job for the French IRS. I only have a high school diploma, but I do a lot of Computer Science. In the French administration there’s a test. Degree or not, if you do well on the test, you can get a job. People at work and elsewhere find out about me and they say, “For someone who does the things that you do, you seem so… normal!” I say that it’s a technique of fascism to categorize and dehumanize people from different groups. I’ve had jam sessions with dominatrixes that ended in deep discussions on the merits of Pokemon. There are even girls who come to me thinking they deserve punishment and then freak out when I wake them up the next morning with cartoons and hot chocolate and it’s the best they’ve ever been treated by a guy!

My main project looking forward is a social networking site that will be free and open source, based off of my experience. You go onto the network, input the skills you possess—like lock-picking for me—and people can ask for help. You have a door problem, so you search for the lock-pick skill and all the lock-pickers will get an email. It’ll help link people to places as well: “Here’s a blacksmith with a metal shop. If you want to make a fire staff, you can go there. He’s good and cheap.” Really it’s about linking students and teachers. My main goal is to finish this social network, invite everyone I have in my address book and mailing list and have it grow from there. Maybe it’ll render fixers like me obsolete, but it’s for a good cause.

In the end, a lot of girls just want to be with a mesmerizing, vampire who can throw fireballs. I’m there for them.

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