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Far From Flatbush

What I Found in My "Other" Box

I learned this weekend that Facebook has a spam folder where messages go sent by people who aren't your Facebook friends. It's called the "Other" box, and apparently I'm not the only one who was unaware that it existed. It's questionable if even Mark Zuckerberg knew about the box before news broke that for a hundred bucks you could send him a message that wouldn't go into his spam folder.

But this isn't a post about Facebook's stupidity. It's a post about what I found in my Other box, most of which wasn't spam. The messages, dating back to early 2010, were from all kinds of people who wanted to get in touch with me about my writing. One of them played a major role in my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man.

Let me say right off that I’m not one hundred percent certain that the message is legitimate—that it’s from the person whose name is attached to it rather than an imposter. But after looking at his Facebook page—yes, even he appears to have one—I’m inclined to believe that it is legitimate. His minimalist status updates—“April 8, 2011: Time is dragging on lately… December 10, 2010: Franks and Beans tonight”—and one friend, Human Rights Watch, do not strike me as satire. Please look at the page and decide for yourself. (And yes, some prisoners do have Internet access.)

The prisoner in question is Mark David Chapman, the man who murdered John Lennon and who was in Attica Correctional Facility in New York State until last year, when he was transferred to Wende Correctional Facility, also in New York. His message, sent on October 20, 2010, says the following:

Hello Robert
’read your book. I liked it very much.
Happy Halloween,
Mark C


Though I’m always delighted to hear from people who like my books, this one creeped me out for obvious reasons. And I imagined how strange it must have been for Chapman—assuming it is Chapman—to have read a book that partially takes place inside his head.

I responded to the message and asked if it was really him. Then I sent an e-mail to my publisher at Headpress: “Do you think we can get him to blurb Beaver Street too?”

It’s probably necessary to say here that the e-mail was intended as a joke. Because I’ve often found that when things like this happen, the only thing you can do is laugh about them—as I’m still chuckling today about the existence of Facebook’s Other box and what I found in it.
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