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The story of Foamhenge, a subreddit about a rock on a styrofoam cup

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foamhenge r/Foamhenge

The update came on October 10th, 2016.

“Rain has been sporadic. A couple of inches a few weeks ago. It was enough to cause [the] grass to just grow like crazy. So I mowed around the cups a week or so ago. [I] haven't been able to get in and clean up the grass that's closest [to the cups], but might just leave them like that for now.”

The commenters left missives of support, like “Thank you so much for this update I was getting very concerned.” Others praised the photographic evidence that proved the diminutive structures had survived another storm.

This is an example of big news at r/Foamhenge, a subreddit dedicated to chronicling the journey of an upside-down styrofoam cup with a rock perched on top.

The architect behind Foamhenge, known on Reddit as FigMcLargeHuge was standing in his large Texas yard when the idea first hit him. As he tells The Verge over email, it was simply a matter of serendipity. There was a rock. There was a cup. And so naturally, there was a question: how many days will the rock last on the cup?

For two years, Foamhenge stood as a monument known only to FigMcLageHuge. “[Introducing the creation to Reddit] was the point where I said to myself, This has gone beyond absurd, how long will it actually last.” he wrote. “I thought a styrofoam cup would dissolve within days, and combined with the summer heat, I wouldn't have given it a week.”

r/Foamhenge launched near the end of last year, and as the subreddit grew, the cup slowly broke down.

foamhenge r/Foamhenge

Every so often, and without any real regularity, Fig began offering updates to his 1,800 subscribers, to note how the cup was faring in the rain or the sun, or after an ice storm. Those who followed the subreddit seemed to find comfort in the fortitude of a haphazardly stacked object that, in another context, might just have been a pile of garbage. In April 2015, inspired by communal support, Fig constructed another Foamhenge next to his original; this time the base was made from a cup of instant ramen.

r/FoamHenge is not the most popular subreddit, nor is it the most active (Fig once said the subreddit “moves at the speed of decay”). But what it lacks in scope and pace, it makes up for in pleasantness. Fig told me he couldn’t think of “a single negative comment” posted on r/Foamhenge over the years.

“There are people who really care,” he wrote. “If I go too long, I will get the occasional prod for some pictures, [but] there seem to be a lot of people who are just as interested as I am about seeing these cups dissolve over time.”

And it helps that Fig himself seems to be able to deflect negativity without really trying. When one commenter wrote, “This is the most boring thing I have ever seen” on the first ever r/Foamhenge thread, Fig responded as if he were having a different conversation entirely: “I have this feeling of accomplishment now. I guess I just get a very small rush from looking out after a storm passes through and seeing the cup still sitting there. When the wind is blowing in the 50+mph range and it's raining sideways I am amazed that it's still there.”

foamhenge r/Foamhenge

On June 22nd, 2016, tragedy struck Foamhenge #1. “Big news everyone,” Fig wrote that day. “The large cup has failed structurally. As you can see from the pictures, the weight of the rock seems to have finally taken its toll.

“I [lifted] up the top,” he added, “and it seems that a spider had made a home inside, and a weed was also taking up residence.”

This was a blow to Foamhenge fans, who mourned the loss of the cup like an old friend: “This is tragic. I am gutted. The cup is dead. Long live the cup.” But the disappointment didn’t last long. The day after the Foamhenge #1 caved in, Fig found a big soda cup from Sonic to take its place. Today, the instant ramen cup and the Sonic cup sit side by side.

Asked what makes the structures so resilient, Fig told me, “I am no structural engineer, but I would venture a combination of the strength of the foam added to the shape of the cup. Being that it's close to the ground probably helps it cut the wind some... I also don't have a wind tunnel but would bet it would take some 50 [mph] winds to even come close to affecting them.”

Fig is quick to note that he doesn’t want Foamhenge to be any kind of tourist destination, it’s just two rocks on two cups in a big yard in Texas after all. When asked if he thought Foamhenge was a symbol of anything, Fig wrote, “It started as a foam cup with a rock on top, and far be it from me to tell anyone how to interpret the true meaning. Go listen to your favorite band and let the symbolism come to you.”

foamhenge r/Foamhenge