As for San Francisco: It seemed the ball had been here up until about 45 minutes earlier; there were several tweets with photos from happy, headphoned people with checkmarks next to their names (professional Katy Perry fans??) that showed I had indeed found the right bench. But all it bore now was this symbol.
I had no idea what it meant. I checked the interactive map to see if the disco ball icon in San Francisco had moved. It hadn't. It started to rain harder. I sighed and headed for the office.
Then, idly scrolling various Katy Perry-related areas of the internet as I walked, I found a tweet from a Katy Perry fan who had managed to hear the song just before the disco ball had mysteriously disappeared. "They are taking it to the Castro fyi," read his missive -- a distant, 140-character message in a bottle. An Instagram post confirmed this, locating the ball more specifically near the Castro Theatre. A vision: all the Katy Perry fans partying in front of the theater, having fun, listening to "Chained to the Rhythm" just a mile away, without me. I turned around and headed for the Castro, full of renewed vigor for the comrades I'd yet to meet.
At this point I sent a text message to a few friends, just in case I was killed in a freak accident and no one could determine why I was walking around in the rain instead of at work at 11 on a Wednesday, an interactive map of Katy Perry-themed disco balls on record as the last thing I'd ever Googled. "I'm walking around in the rain trying to find a disco ball that's playing the new Katy Perry single," I explained. No one seemed concerned.
I spotted it not long after rounding the corner of 17th and Market. There, chained to a metal post outside of Hot Cookie, next to a pink sign explaining through the universal language of emoticon that one needed only headphones and this marketing gimmick to achieve happiness, was a shimmering, welcoming disco ball.
No one else was there.
Kneeling down to the wet cement, I briefly investigated the ball's physical properties, not unlike a monkey learning about a rock's potential at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I disconnected my earbuds from my phone -- "Teenage Dream" would have to wait -- and just as I was about to plug into the headphone jack, a young woman with an umbrella appeared, asking if she could take my picture.
Cory was a brand-new intern with Universal Music Group, and it had been her job to put the disco ball together earlier that morning, audio player inside, then babysit it all day long, taking photos of people listening to "Chained To the Rhythm" and sharing them accordingly on social media. She explained apologetically that she had been at Dolores Park earlier, until an officer from San Francisco Rec and Park came by and asked if she had a permit. She did not. He directed her to unchain the rhythm, so to speak, and move on.
So here she was outside Hot Cookie. She had called her boss to discuss the new location, but she certainly didn't know how to update the interactive map. So far only two people aside from me had found the rhythm as it was currently chained at its new location. Cory legitimately felt terrible about this. I tried to tell her it was no big deal. I refrained from telling her about all the new Katy Perry fan friends I was now never going to make. It wasn't her fault. I pressed on. I plugged in.
Here is my review of what turned out to be only part of "Chained to the Rhythm," as I heard it absolutely blasting on loop out of a plastic disco ball with no apparent volume control features in the middle of a downpour while balancing an umbrella with a record label intern taking pictures of me on Castro Street: "Chained to the Rhythm" sounds like if Lady Gaga's "Alejandro" and Sia's "The Greatest" and Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music" had a baby, only worse.