Hi, my name is Joey Sweeney, and, like 773 other people, I am Facebook friends with Shayna Sykes. Since Shayna and her boyfriend/babydaddy Blake Bills rocketed to infamy locally and nationally yesterday, thanks to a two-state, two-stolen-police-car insane-o movie-ish chase scene that, thank God, only resulted in one broken leg and some property damage, I have received numerous messages from friends and colleagues asking the same things: “How in the fuck are you Facebook friends with Shayna Sykes?” “Do you know her?” And, as often as you’d imagine: “Are her boobs real?”
I will try here to attempt to answer all of these questions, to the best of my knowledge and memory.
I met Shayna during the summer of 2011, when she was working at PYT for my friend Tommy Up, and I had more or less given up coming into the Philebrity office for hanging out, just about daily, at what was then Arrow Swim Club. It was a pretty glorious summer. I’d been called in to throw parties at the pool in the wake of Nicole Cashman leaving/being pulled off the project, which was pretty glorious in and of itself for me, personally. But once I started working on stuff there, I realized something even better: The rollout for Arrow was so piss-poor that they sold very few memberships, and as a result, even in high summer, you’d go to the pool and no more than a dozen people would be there, ever. (This changed when the pool came back the following summer as North Shore Beach club and they sold out of memberships almost right away.)
But I digress: The point is, that summer, that pool was like the PYT/Philebrity clubhouse. Everyone thought it was full of Jersey douchebags — and to be fair, they did show up from time to time — but more often than not, it was just handful of people, chilling out. And this is where I met Shayna, who at the time, was living in some strange Tommy Up Brady Bunch experiment of a living situation, where he and a whole bunch of staffers were living together in a house just across from the Piazza. Suffice it to say that neither this living arrangement, nor the dream for one summer that was the Northern Liberties Leisure Class, lasted very long.
Shayna was nice. She really was. I never got to know her beyond a surface level, but she was funny and outgoing, and after one post-pool night of bar-hopping with her, Tommy, and Jay Yo, she friend-requested me on Facebook. That might have been the last personal interaction I had with her, but for seeing her comings and goings on Facebook. Which is kind of what made yesterday’s developments such a shocker.
See, after that summer, the Northern Liberties Leisure Class didn’t quite hang out as much; nothing bad happened, people just drifted away a little. (Sarah and Andy and Tommy, I miss you guys! Let’s get hot dogs!) But from what I gathered via Facebook, Shayna had really gotten her life together. She shacked up with her man Blake, whom I’ve never met but, yeah, totally seems like bad news, and, last year, had a baby. From her general tone, and from the pictures of that really, really cute baby, it seemed like things were really going her way and that she was quite happy.
Let this be a lesson to all of us who believe you can actually keep up with your friends’ lives on Facebook.
Because apparently, that impression could not have been more wrong. And when I saw this whole craziness on the news yesterday, I had probably the same set of reactions that most people did. One was that, although, the crimes involved the whole mess yesterday were serious indeed, there is certainly an element of humor in how absurd it all was, how Keystone Kops-ish it all was. Which is why you instantly started to see animated GIFs and instant memes about it (that quickly turned into this congregation of mouth-breathers).
But then, of course, there is an overarching sadness to it all. Looking at the reports that are still coming out, if I had to guess, I’d say that the chase and its prelude were an awful instance of drug use dovetailing with some kind of standing mental health issues on the part of one or both of the couple. And perhaps even worse, there’s the matter of their seven-month-old child — whose parents, both of them I think we can safely assume, are going to be in jail for a while. That’s no laughing matter at all. That’s just sad.
None of us get through this life without knowing people, casual or otherwise. And when my phone started blowing up yesterday, it made me think about the strange time we live in, and what an odd feeling it must be for people who have casual online relationships with people who wind up committing even more serious crimes than the ones that happened yesterday. People probably asked them the same questions as they asked me, and they probably had the exact same answers: I don’t know? They seemed nice enough? (As for the boobs, what do you think?)
Here is what I do know: All of us are part of a community, a continuum of humanity, despite the best efforts of Philly.com commenters to try and mark the line where one person’s humanity begins and the other’s ends. And don’t get it twisted: That’s where a lot of the more derisive humor about this insane situation is coming from. But as for Shayna? She was a nice enough person who obviously got out of her depth on a whole host of levels. And though I barely know her, I would bet that when Shayna gets well, and gets some clarity (and here’s hoping that she does), this is what will make her feel the worst: That she nearly killed a ton of people while violating that continuum, using a stolen-ass police car to do it, and having her baby taken away from her in the process.