A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Day in the Life, Pt 1

5:30 AM CDT, Chicago, IL> After downing perhaps a few too many margaritas -- and definitely a few too many cognacs -- for a co-worker's going-away dinner, wake up to start packing. Also on the list: shower, eat breakfast and feed the cat.

7:00 AM> Stand outside my apartment building to wait for the bus.

7:35 AM> No bus. Hire a cab.

7:45 AM> Get on the Blue Line at Belmont Ave.

8:45 AM> Get off the Blue Line at O'Hare.

9:10 AM> Through security; on plane. It turns out that I mistakenly reserved the seat in front of the emergency exit row, rather than the exit row itself. Not only do I not have extra leg room, but my seat is prevented from reclining at all.

12:00 PM EDT, LaGuardia Airport, Queens NY> Landfall. Viewed from the air, there is a surprisingly large number of baseball diamonds in the NY metro area.

12:20 PM> Grab a shuttle bus to Manhattan. The driver argues with a tourist over whether or not he's legally compelled to accept credit cards. For the record: he isn't.

12:50 PM> Arrive in "The City." Grand Central Station, unlike Chicago's Union Station, actually looks like a place that you could use in order to travel to other places. This intrigues me.

12:57 PM> I'm also intrigued by the subway system -- they actually have 1) Multiple routes on the same lines, so that you're not stuck making every single stop over a long distance, and 2) More than two tracks on many lines.

1:30 PM> Exit the subway, make it to the girlfriend's friend's apartment, where we'll be crashing.

2:00 PM> Lunch at a cafe on Central Park. My omelette is dry and uninspired. Disappointing.

3:00 PM> Quick walking tour through Central Park. My hopes of stumbling upon a dead jogger under a bridge and calling Detective Briscoe fall short. Of three simultaneous explanations, I'm not sure if it's more relevant that:
  1. New York, contrary to popular belief, is less crime-ridden than many other parts of the country.
  2. Law and Order is a TV show.
  3. Detective Briscoe is a fictional character on that tv show.
  4. The actor who played Briscoe is dead.
It's also exceedingly hot -- over 90 -- and excessively humid. This will become more important later.

4:00 PM> Pit stop at a Walgreens on the way back to the apartment to pick up some contact lens solution and other sundries. Thanks to the Gestapo Dept. of Homeland Security, the solution will not be able to travel back to Chicago with me or with my girlfriend to Ann Arbor. Best 9 bucks I ever spent.

P.S., bomb the president.

4:20 PM> A quick 20 minute nap at the apartment. This, along with the fact that I put a pair of jeans on afterward, will also become more important later.

5:10 PM> Good-byes are said to the girlfriend's friend (our hostess) and dinner plans made with our friend Dr. Greg. We're to meet him and the rest of our team at a Cuban restaurant on near the Columbia campus.

5:40 PM> After changing trains at Times Square, we're hurtling toward the Upper West Side on the #1 Subway. I didn't realize--though to be fair, I should have suspected--that there was public ferry service in New York. If you'd like to get on a ferry, make absolutely sure that you're on one of the first three cars on your red line train. I trust the poster on this.

6:10 PM> I, for one, am a little miffed to find that the rest of our group has already ordered by the time the girlfriend and I make it to the restaurant. Trying to not just show up in a Cuban restaurant, I order a fried cod sandwich. It immediately becomes less tasty sounding as soon as I order it, and will continue to do so until I give up, 3/4 of my way through the sandwich, 40 minutes later.

7:45 PM> Our large group arrives at Riverside Park, on the Hudson River at 110th St or so. The reason we're here, not just at the park but in New York, is for Midnight Madness, an annual scavenger hunt in the city.

But Midnight Madness, whose relatives in the Bay Area were known simply as "The Game," isn't really a scavenger hunt. Each checkpoint in the race is hidden in a puzzle; the starting point is itself the answer to a puzzle, with the solution only handed out the day it begins.

The riddles are pretty difficult. The earlier versions of the Game, which were designed by high-level nerds at Stanford, involved quite complicated mathematics and pick-up physics. More general versions, like this one, are closer to brainteasers, and include pop culture and at least some reward to those of us who go outside once in a while.

I'd been on two of these in Michigan with my girlfriend, Dr. Greg, and other friends from UM. We won the most recent one, handily wiping the floor with the assorted middle aged folks and their families who were our competition. Of course, driving around the Detroit suburbs is a different animal than running around Manhattan on foot.

It was humid, hot, and the mosquitos were out in full force. I was still wearing jeans, sweating profusely and warily keeping an eye on New Jersey to the west. Detective Briscoe doesn't have any jurisdiction over there; Jersey is only an invitation for a meddling district judge to screw up your case, or to be executed altogether.


Blogger steve said...

So, did you feel like *way* more important as soon as you stepped into New York City?

4:42 PM

Blogger Jefe said...

You're probably long gone, but a nice chill bar where you can play some pool and not get hassled is The Edge, at E 3rd St. and 1st Ave. in the lower east side.

8:17 AM

Blogger neill said...

I was totally in that area, actually, but didn't really have any free time anyway (nor enough time to finish writing the rest of the story, apparently)

1:55 PM


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