I had a deep and personal talk with a dear friend, electrocuted dozens of middle schoolers for science, ate fresh bread and good cheese, played on swings and left treasures in a protogeocache, watched earnest college students (SO YOUNG) sing Doctor Horrible, ran a personal best 10k next to a pretty girl I hadn’t seen in years, cooked a giant lunch, took a walk in the sunshine, and spent hours at Planet Motherfucker eating incredible barbecue and laughing with smart people. I am very lucky. This was a good weekend.
So, when I got the aforementioned iPad at a delicious Moroccan dinner with Kara’s family, I thought I had had a lovely thirtieth birthday and now all that nonsense was over with. She and I had planned to go get lunch and see Meek’s Cutoff with our friend Arlie yesterday, and I thought that would be a neat Saturday. When we parked near the theater downtown, though, she kept insisting we had to go meet Arlie at Pioneer Square a few blocks away. Okay, I thought, whatever.
Except when we got there, I saw someone else I recognized. Hey neat, I thought, Kellie’s here too! And so are a lot of our other friends! Wow, this is a weird coincidence. Why are they holding signs and shouting at me?
Kara had been planning a giant pervasive game involving everyone we know–even utilizing international design services–for a month behind my back. I was completely unaware of this until well after she started explaining the rules. It was basically a version of Journey to the End of the Night, except during the day, and also the only person being chased was me. I had to run around, getting the signatures of people stationed at five different checkpoints on the “happy” side of my birthday card. Each checkpoint had a small safe zone around it, but outside those, everyone else would be chasing me down; if they tagged me they got to sign the “unhappy” side of the card, and the person who did so most often got a prize. (Spoilers: no he didn’t.)
Herein follows the narrative of my desperate attempt to evade my relentless, sadistic friends. You can follow along on the big map I drew. It’s color-coded by time: my route to the first checkpoint is in blue, then red, then green, then orange.
We started in Pioneer Square, where I took off in an attempt to get a head start before I had completely finished reading the handout. THIS WOULD BE IMPORTANT LATER. I circled around down off the bottom border of the map and made my way up along Naito Parkway to the first checkpoint, the fountain at Saturday Market. I got into the safe zone just ahead of Kellie, in plenty of time to get my card signed by Tony and Mandy, then successfully lost any pursuers in the crowd.
Unfortunately, in doing so, I also dropped the card and couldn’t find it even after repeatedly retracing my steps. I ended up paying three bucks at the Market for a little card with an engraving of a cat holding a fish on it just so I could continue the game. I headed up to a good place to take the measure of the second checkpoint, the Chinese Gardens, and even from blocks away I could see a cluster of chasers just waiting for me.
“Aha!” I thought, as the stealthy Matthew Schuler walked right up and tagged me from behind. “I have clearly tricked these poor saps into thinking I will hit each checkpoint in order, which is not required by these rules that I have not read all the way through! I’ll just skip up to checkpoint 4 now and double back after they get bored and wander off. Good thing I have limitless endurance and it is not hailing!”
I was wrong about many of these things.
I actually used the hail as cover to get into the fourth checkpoint, the Blue Room at Powell’s Books, cleverly evading the nonexistent people I was convinced were waiting at THAT entrance. I then wandered around the Blue Room for ten minutes, wondering where the hell my signatory was, before Susan finally deigned to arrive and inform me that the window for her checkpoint had yet to open.
“Window?” I said.
“Did you read the rules?” she said.
I had already missed my chance to hit checkpoint 2, by dint of sheer idiocy, but I had maybe enough time to still make it to checkpoint 3 if I really hustled. This is why the red segment on the map is the longest one! I did hustle, and made it to the ticketing counter at Portland Union Station with a minute to spare, though my desperate, wheezing jog meant that I had no time for stealth and got ambushed by a whole group of fuckers in the driveway.
I threw off most of them by sneaking out a side entrance and hiding behind a bus, but just as I was thinking I’d sneak up the stairs to the Broadway Bridge and take that back down into the Pearl, I saw Matt Nolan tripping eagerly down them. I was still very annoyed at having my tag-count increased fivefold at the entrance, and I decided right there that Matt was NOT going to get me. No way! ALL I HAD TO DO WAS RUN INFINITELY FAR.
You will note that after the point labelled “MATT ATTACK” on the map, the green line travels around to the far side of the bridge entrance ramp, then up it, across traffic, to the top, back down, and into the Post Office. I only got that far because Matt was lugging a giant bag and a belly full of Indian food, and because I hid in the passport office with my gut sucked in and the lady at the postal counter heeded my desperate finger-to-lips silence gesture. I probably should have gotten arrested.
Anyway I left the post office, now running late for my RETURN VISIT to checkpoint 4, and immediately got tagged by Arlie, plus Matt finally caught up just outside the door to Powell’s. So much for all that. Despite my pulling moves which might humbly be described as “Bourneian” within the confines of Powell’s, I got tagged repeatedly in there too before I finally got Susan to sign my stupid card, and Grace (whom I hadn’t even met before!) pursued me doggedly through Whole Foods and in front of more speeding cars. It was only then that it occurred to me that Kara really should have gotten everyone to sign a waiver.
I limped up across the overpass, got ambushed, and lost the card AGAIN, though this time when I backtracked I actually did find it. That didn’t keep me from getting tagged like a brick wall on a street named after a civil rights activist, particularly by Jonathan (whom I’d faked out earlier) and Matt, who were out for blood. Not even sneaking through a parking garage under a building could throw them off. I finally staggered up to the fifth checkpoint outside the stadium with minutes to spare, and everybody got Oreo cupcakes and went back to a bar for beers and war stories.
I measured that route against the scale on Google Maps and, by that rough math, I ran about fifty-six thousand kilometers altogether. I was tired and the leg I pulled last week was throbbing. I had also lost the game by every measure possible. It was awesome! Thanks to Laura, Amy, Arlie, Jonathan, Matt, Matthew, Matthew, Harry, Harry, Grace, John, Casey, Kim, Greg, Susan, Marie, Mandy, Tony, Jeremy, Holly, Kevan, anybody else I forgot, and especially Kara for pulling off the most ridiculous tailored birthday stunt I can imagine.
Sumana called me out on my 2007 goal-announcement entry and asked what the follow-up was for 2010-2012. First, HOW IS IT 2010 ALREADY. Second, I thought I’d already done an update on how those goals went, but I can’t find it if I did, so here we go:
- Get driver’s license
- Everything else
Okay, so at 28 I have managed to just reach a 16-year-old’s level of basic competence. Right on track! I got accepted to Clarion but couldn’t afford it, and GSP gently declined my teaching application: this indicates an unsurprising trend of nonprofit programs being happier to take my money than to give me more. I stopped running not long after I posted that entry in 2007, but I struggled into reasonable shape last summer and might be able to get there again now that I own an inhaler.
So. Let’s try this again.
My goals for 2010 are to script a graphic novel and run a half-marathon.
My goals for 2011 are to write a novel and publish a computer game.
My goal for 2012 is to be out of non-student-loan debt.
I downloaded LCD Soundsystem’s 45:33 because it’s the first album I’d heard of that was specifically designed to be run to. Unfortunately it’s way too slow for that, but it’s still pretty good music. I had been rating everything on it three or four stars on iTunes, and suddenly–halfway through a song I’d already rated–I found my mouse hovering over the five-star button. Because somebody had started playing chimes.
This is a serious problem and I don’t know what to do about it. As soon as a song incorporates chimes, handbells or tone bars of any kind–especially, as they are often used, in counterpoint–I will unconsciously decide that it is the greatest song ever and listen to it ten times in a row. I can’t help it!
I would say that this is a flaw in my musical taste, but it is widely agreed that my musical taste already consists largely of flaws. This is a crack in the very foundations of my aesthetic sensibilities. It is a metaflaw. Chimes are a sloppy exploit for the kernel of my brain.
Someone recommend a song that will ruin chimes for me forever. I want to change.
I have the instinctive habit of never mentioning the goals I set for myself, on the grounds that if I then fail to meet them, I don’t have to be embarrassed. But embarrassment makes for good blog entries! So here’s the setup, even if it takes a long time to pay off, one way or another.
My goals for 2007 are to get my driver’s license and complete a half-marathon.
My goal for 2008 is to teach at the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program.
My goal for 2009 is to attend Clarion South.
On Sunday I was supposed to meet Caitlan here so she could drop some things off before she, Kristi and Melissa went touring in London. The original estimate was that she would show up at 1:00, give or take an hour. Kevan and Holly left to go to Kew Gardens at 2 and Caitlan still hadn’t made it. By 4:00 I figured they’d just decided to lug things around rather than spend time getting here and back, so I decided to try air-drying all my laundry simultaneously. In my small upstairs room, this means festooning every available protuberance (coathooks, shelf corners, light fixtures, etc) with my underpants.
By 6:00, Catriona was home and I went out running. Circa 6:50 I returned and was greeted by Kevan. “Oh,” he said, “your sister and her friends came by. They’re upstairs.”
My life is a sitcom, second in a series.
In the last couple weeks I’ve gone from running every 48 hours to every 36, with reasonable consistency. I’ve also finally added a loop to the middle of my route that (according to the Google Maps pedometer) takes it up to a proper 5K. I haven’t timed myself yet, but I’m doing it without walking breaks, which has always been my real goal.
My ankles are holding up surprisingly well, I think because most of the route is on dirt rather than concrete. I feel pretty good about this, man! It’s almost like I’m in training, except I still get to eat pizza and cake all the time.
Disturbingly, the songs I listen to while running have changed very little since I first posted them over two years ago:
- Beastie Boys – Sabotage
- BT feat. Mike Doughty – Never Gonna Come Back Down
- Fatboy Slim – Right Here Right Now
- Foo Fighters – All My Life
- Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American
- Jimmy Eat World – A Praise Chorus
- Lo Fidelity Allstars – Battleflag
- Lunatic Calm – Leave You Far Behind
- Pearl Jam – Do the Evolution
- Propellerheads – Spybreak
- Rob Zombie – Dragula (Hot Rod Herman mix)
- The Prodigy – Mindfields
Granted, I wasn’t running for most of that time, but I need some new music. The problem is that I’m selective about what will really propel me; it either has to conjure a very specific kinetic feeling or be pre-associated with it. Obviously it helps to have been in The Matrix.
Last Friday, Kevan, Holly, Josh and I journeyed to the end of the night as part of the 2007 Hide and Seek Fest, a city-spanning pervasive game, free to all 100+ participants because it was sponsored by a charitable foundation and Gideon Reeling, who may or may not exist.
We showed up at a condemned warehouse in Wapping at 7:30 pm,
We also got maps of central London with instructions on where to meet our contacts; those getting all six signatures would, at the end, get a handmade t-shirt. Each of the contacts was within a specific safe zone. Outside such zones, getting tagged meant you switched out your runner tape for a chaser ribbon and became one of the enemy. Josh spoke openly of his desire to make such a switch from the first five minutes of the game. It is perhaps difficult to explain why this landed him the de facto leadership of our little group. Mostly it has to do with decisiveness.
We split off from the other ninety-six humans and walked from the starting point to the first checkpoint (in an alley amidst curry restaurants) and the second (buskers playing Bob Dylan next to St. Paul’s); despite lots of eye-darting, walking backwards and mild panic at the sight of anything red, we didn’t actually see any chasers until we were nearing the third. The contact was in the basement of a pub in an alley, and the alley was the safe zone. Our acquired paranoia served us well here, as we assumed chasers would be lurking near both mouths of said alley. Josh wandered up to check while the other three of us hid in a bus shelter across the street. He disappeared behind traffic.
“Hey, is that Josh?” I said, just as a figure in a dark sweater came pelting back down the street. Four red ribbons followed hotly. Kevan, Holly and I slipped into the alley behind them. Josh would later inform us that the chasers’ faces when they glanced back at us were worth the effort.
He got away from them and met us downstairs, where a blind poet was stamping our signature sheets with green thumbprints (it was crowded and he took forever, so I tried to sneak my own thumb onto the inkpad, but it turned out he was not really blind). Having seen chasers in action, we were now even more paranoid, and ran from the alley exit to a bus stop (public transport waiting-places were also mini safe zones). I was the only one to see the ambush sprung on the man who walked out just after us. It was like one of those documentaries where the springbok does not get away.
The fourth checkpoint was a matter of walking into a phone box and having it suddenly start ringing; it was the last one we would all make together. We had passed the Zombie Inflection Point (ZIP). Despite all our watchfulness and circuitous routes, the available chasers had simply begun to outnumber the runners.
Have I mentioned how BIG this game was? The walk from the start point to the curry zone was 1.4 miles, and by the time we were approaching the fifth checkpoint in Hyde Park, we’d gone over ten; we’d taken a couple buses but were too paranoid to try the Tube. It was also after 2300 hours, and rainy. Holly had been running errands all day and had not sat down since around noon. This is probably why they got her first.
Jogging away, grieving for the loss of Code Name Cakebaker and knowing that she had already become one of them, we remaining three decided that stealth would no longer avail us: we had to make a frontal assault on the main park gate. Josh entered first and was immediately savaged. Kevan and I got in on the ruse that I was a chaser on his tail, but that didn’t last, and before long we had a pack behind us. We split up in the darkness, and I escaped my pursuers by simply running the wrong way until they got tired and gave up. I would later learn that Kevan had almost successfully peeled off and hidden behind a tree, until Josh turned back and found him.
I was now alone in a huge and very dark urban area at 11:30 pm. I had made it into the inner-park safe zone, but I had little idea where the remaining checkpoints were, and less of how to navigate to them. I was definitely the worst choice for lone-survivor status.
Clinging to the idea that the contact people were somewhere on the south bank of the Serpentine, I wandered back and forth until I ran into Paddy and Nora, who had survived entrance to the park by the considerably smarter avenue of hopping the fence. They had also rolled up their armbands into little strips and linked elbows to further conceal them. All about subtlety, Paddy and Nora.
Despite initial wariness until I had demonstrated my survivor armband from a safe distance, they let me tag along with them to the contacts (Russian dancers), who informed us that there was no safe zone around the final checkpoint. It was after midnight; we had to hop the fence again to get out of the park. I was lucky that they let me follow them again, this time onto the subway to Waterloo Bridge.
We left the Waterloo Tube station, our last vestige of safety, and climbed the entrance to the bridge; we descended to the semi-flooded beach. We could see the organizers who had sent us off from the warehouse standing amidst cameras and floodlights next to a moored party boat. Between them and us, red-beribboned, wearing an evil grin: Josh.
I swear I am not making this up.
The footrace away from the checkpoint, and the subsequent double-back, took just about everything I had left in me; the organizers were shouting “ah, let him go” by the time I started my final sprint, but only Josh knows whether he did or not. Either way, I made it there untagged and got a handshake for my trouble. Paddy and Nora, happily, had slipped in while I led the sentry away.
That is pretty much the whole story; I didn’t get a t-shirt (either the announcement was a joke or they ran out before we straggled in) but I don’t really care. We’ve all been sore and stiff-legged for two days.
If anyone ever asks me again why I wanted to move to London, I now have a very succinct answer.
Update 5.14.2007 1141 hrs: Kevan has made a mental leap farther than me and worked out that Gideon Reeling (or “giddy and reeling”) is a pun on the name of Punchdrunk, an avant-garde interactive theater company that is apparently quite good anyway.
I’d always thought that the route I ran–when I ran–was about three miles: my average plod is about 6mph, and I ran for roughly half an hour. Also it kind of… felt three-milesish.
At least I know that for a while, I was still in reasonable shape to run a 5k (for which half an hour is a hideous time).