Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Recollections Of Madness

It's been a few days now. Is that right? Three nights? Two? Four? Well, regardless, the Madness has passed. For now. The chains are off. The drugs have kicked in (or worn off - it's hard to tell), and things are back to Normal. But in another six months... Well, we'll worry about that later.

Yes, every sixth months or so, the Madness overtakes us, and we wander around Los Angeles County in packs, searching for meaning - or at least for clues. Blame Walt Disney. Blame David Wechter and Michael Nankin. Blame David Daskal. But don't blame us - we're helpless (and often hopeless) victims of Madness.

So what can i tell you? It started at Golf 'N' Stuff, down in... Norwalk, i think. Nothing is certain. Teams got the first clue a month ago, and that led us all to the mini-golf place. But first we met at John and Beth's apartment - around 9:45 p.m. At 10:08 we got a call from Central Command, asking us our guess as to the first location. Jeremy, our team leader, said Golf 'N' Stuff, which was right. We were told to hurry on down there, because we were going to be playing a round of mini-golf before getting the first clue - that meant, before midnight. So we packed everything into the car that Jeremy and Brian had rented - fully insured so we could kick the shit out of it if we wanted to, or needed to - and rushed down.

Brian backed the car into a spot right by the exit, so that we could race out of there as soon as we got the next clue. The car was full of beer, caffeine, maps, snacks and tiny flashlights. But before we got into the beer, there was a round of mini-golf to be played.

Kate gave us our tickets, and Cynthia escorted us in. She asked us if we wanted to do the easy or difficult course. I thought, Easy. So did Jeremy. Brian and John agreed. But then Beth shamed us all into choosing the difficult course. When was the last time i played mini-golf? I think it was maybe eight or nine years ago. With my parents. My hometown - Sterling, Mass. - got a mini-golf place around that time, and we tried it out. I'm pretty sure that was the last time i did it. Maybe that was fifteen years ago - i don't know - time is a tricky thing. But i did all right - my score for the course was 49. Par was 52. Not bad. I mean, my ball never left the course, though it did once get stuck in one of the holes. Beth's ball ended up in the river, but we managed to get it out after wrestling with an angry alligator.

When we were done, there was time for a drink while the other teams finished up. We had two coolers full of beer in the trunk of the car, so we hung out by the car until the call came in for the teams to gather. There was also the ceremonial fingernail-painting. Beth had glow-in-the-dark nail polish, and so it was applied so that we'd be able to see each other in the dark. Something like that.

Ryan, the Madness Coordinator for Round Five, went over the rules, and also mentioned that Kate had lost her wallet at one of the locations, so to keep an eye out for that. It sucks to lose a wallet, but if a wallet is ever going to be found, it's best to have fifty people scouring the areas with flashlights, and that's what was going to happen. Yup, ten teams this time - the most of any scavenger hunt so far - ten teams of five people each. Each team has a different color. We had gold this time. Last time we were purple, and the three times before that we were green. So our shirts are gold, and our clues are on gold paper. No fucking with another team's clues. That's one of the rules.

I've never read the rules. And i'm pretty sure no one on our team has ever read them. But they go over the rules at the beginning of each game anyway, and we sort of pay attention, so it's fine. One clue leads to the next location, where you find the next clue, and so on.

The teams with the five best golf scores got a five-minute head start on the other five teams. We had the third best golf score - after White Team and Green Team. So we got our clue and ran to the car.

Second clue (the first being the one that led us to Golf 'N' Stuff): "Now crank up track #1 and go to the last of its kind in LA County."

Each team got a mix CD. Track #1 was by At The Drive-In. So away we went. Our team was nicknamed Team Apathy. Instead of our names on the backs of our shirts we had words like "indifferent" and "whatever." Mine said, "impartial." But that didn't mean we were going to drive under 80 miles per hour the whole way. At the drive-in, we scattered. I took off down along the fence, but within seconds i heard shouting, and returned to the car.

Third clue: "What's up, Whitey? As the sun goes down over that six-mile fountain, you might find James Joyce and Michael Bolton playing chess while Beck eats a jelly-filled."

Beth and John got this right away, because they'd been to this doughnut shop before, and they have a friend who plays chess there. So we spent no time at all trying to figure this clue out. The place is at the corner of Sunset and Fountain (as the clue hints at) - across the street from Ackbar. The stuff about James Joyce and Michael Bolton - well, they're mentioned in the lyrics of a song by Beck that's about that area. Beth figured the clue would be taped under one of the tables in the courtyard. So while Brian parked the car, the other four of us split up - Beth and i going to the courtyard, Jeremy and John searching outside. The next clue was outside. And we were in first place. Nine other clues were still there. As Beth and i ran out, some guy was playing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on guitar. As i passed him, i said, "Now play 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road.'"

Fourth clue: "I never met a man I didn't like. / I want to say that I have no problem with people knowing that I'm in a relationship with a man right now. I have not been in a relationship with a woman for almost 10 years."

The first line was by Will Rogers. But there are a lot of Will Rogers locations in Los Angeles County, so while that narrowed it down, it didn't tell us precisely where to go. The second bit is a quote from George Michael. Right away we knew it was that special bathroom in Will Rogers Park. Anytime i work at Fox Studios, i pass that park, so i knew right where it was. There was no quick way of getting there, so we took Fountain all the way to La Cienega, then cut down that to Santa Monica, then turned up Beverly - to avoid most of the traffic on both Santa Monica and Sunset. The clue was on the wall just outside the men's bathroom. And we were still in first place.

Fifth clue: "34.128307, -118.228514 Don't do something stupid like stopping in the middle of the freeway."

We pulled over near the park (but not so close that another team would see us), and used Google Earth to figure out the coordinates. You know that song "The Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie? It starts off, "Why are there so many songs about rainbows?" Well, how many songs about rainbows can you name? There's "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" by Judy Garland, "She's A Rainbow" by The Rolling Stones, "She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow" by Cream. And that's all i can think of off the top of my head. Anyway, that song keeps popping into my noggin, especially since Halloween when i saw an odd rendition of it performed on a stage in Santa Monica. Anyway, back to the Madness...

That clue led us to the Highland Park area. No quick way to get there either. The GPS or something said to take Sunset all the way to Highland, but that made no sense. What we should have done is take Coldwater over. But by the time we realized that, we were already on Sunset, so we took Laurel Canyon over to the 101, to 134, to 5 South, to 2 North, and got off at Verdugo. I am familiar with this area, because that's the exact route i took to The Peak Show Studio Compound back when that band threw the best house parties ever (seriously, there has never been anything like those nights, and there most likely never will be again). But instead of turning right onto York to get to The Peak Show house, we took a left, and that led us to a footbridge that goes over the highway. Beth found the clue, and away we went. We were now in second place. Or maybe third? Were we ever in third? I'm not sure. But we were definitely no longer in first place.

We pulled over into a parking lot to read the next clue.

Sixth clue: "The 2nd largest country in the world is only the 36th most populated. 2010 * A = ____ - B = ____/F = ____ * 2 = ____ - 1020 = ___/D = ____ *E = ___ +17= _____ - 4000 = ____ - C = _____.
A = Clue # that lead you to Tang's
B = Year Midnight Madness was released in Theaters
C = Number of tracks on the official LA Madness V Mix CD
D = Number of days in this month of November
E = Final page number in your official LA County Street Atlas
F = Standard number of players on a Scavenger Madness Team

Someone shouted out "Canada," so i said, "La Canada." And we did the math, but it led us to a page that didn't exist. And John figured out the anagram in like three seconds, and away we went. We grabbed the clue at the park, and were still in second place (behind the Orange Team).

Seventh clue: "Ssh! You're headed for a nice, quiet neighborhood! But don't worry... this ain't a creepy crawl mission. In fact, the original house doesn't even exist anymore! Trent took the door when he left, but you just need to find the wall near the telephone pole that Tex climbed in '69."

The second i saw "creepy crawl," i knew it was the Tate house. "Head back to Beverly Hills," i said. I couldn't remember the address offhand, and it occurred to me it could be the other house as well, except that i don't think Tex Watson climbed a pole outside that second house. I guess no one else on our team had read or seen Helter Skelter, and actually i had just watched Live Freaky! Die Freaky! in which the Manson murders are re-enacted by puppets.

We took 134 to 101 to Coldwater Canyon, and took that over the hill back to Beverly Hills, and actually turned right at the park - passing the George Michael toilet again. The Orange Team passed us going the other way, so we knew they'd already found the clue. But we had some trouble finding the house, which doesn't exist. Apparently there are two Cielo Drives. We stopped at the first one, and started searching around. There was, in fact, a telephone pole near a wall, and i briefly ended up on someone's property, but quickly realized Ryan wouldn't hide the clues there. (David might, but Ryan wouldn't.) So we continued up the hill - me and John. Jeremy and Brian went back to the car, and then drove past us up the hill. But they missed the turn to the actual spot.

If you got a Delorian and traveled back in time to when you were six years old and then buggered yourself, could that be considered child abuse? Or just self-abuse?

Lon was parked on the side of the road, so i knew we were in the right spot. At that point, John was up ahead - why didn't he talk to Lon? I don't know. Beth was behind me. So, figuring that the road to my left was actually a driveway, i started running up it. But it was a road, and i ran out of energy pretty quickly. Up ahead was a car and five people. At first i took them to be one of the other teams, but it was some of the folks from the other house up there - i guess there had been a party. "Where is the Tate house?" i asked them. "Right at the end," the guy said. So i ran down there, grabbed the clue, and started back. As i passed those folks again, the guy asked, "Are you on a scavenger hunt?" "Yes," i said. "I knew it," a woman shouted happily. "If anyone else comes your way, tell them they've gone the wrong way and send them back down the hill," i said. But they refused to do that. As we were heading down the hill, we saw Grey Team searching by the gate and wall where we first searched.

Eighth Clue: "Between The Mermaid and The Sea Sprite," (And there was a crossword puzzle.)

Brian very quickly realized that The Mermaid and The Sea Sprite were both motels down in Hermosa Beach, so that's where we headed. On the way we tried to solve the crossword puzzle. John, i think, suggested that maybe where words intersected, those letters would spell out the exact location of the next clue. It seemed logical. After we solved three or four of the crossword clues, Brian said he thought that all the puzzle was doing was leading us to Hermosa Beach, which is where we were going anyway, and that we didn't need to finish the puzzle. He was sort of right, though some of the puzzle clues did mention the statue where the clues were hidden. But we never did finish the puzzle, and we found the clue anyway. Brian found that one, if i recall correctly. And when he grabbed it, he ripped it, so two or three pieces of the clue were left behind, and he had to run back to retrieve them. We then taped the page back together to read the ninth clue.

Ninth Clue: "Calabaza ( f. pumpkin, squash; goard; an ignorant person.
Find the place where the virgins and Hindus meet."

Immediately we knew we were going to Calabasas, so we started driving north again. And there is a Hindu temple on Las Virgenes. Ryan and i had driven right by there a month or two ago, when we were working on a low-budget production called Gemini Rising, so i knew which exit to take and so on. We found the clue immediately, and got back in the car. We were still in second place.

Tenth Clue: "Have a bite with the Mayor of the Sunset Strip in his own booth."

John right away was thinking a Denny's in Hollywood, so we headed in that direction. He said The Mayor of the Sunset Strip was Rodney something. And i was like, of course, Rodney Bingenheimer. He was Davy Jones' stand-in on The Monkees television series. Anyone who knows me at all knows i'm a huge fan of The Monkees. And i once met Rodney at a screening of Head. Anyway, Brian or John figured out that he has a special booth at Canter's, so that's where we went.

When we got there, most of the Orange Team was on the sidewalk outside the place. We had caught up to them. They didn't seem in any hurry to go in, so Beth and i headed for the door. That seemed to spur Orange Team on inside as well. I went straight to an employee and asked which booth was Rodney's. She pointed it out to me, so Beth and i went to it and looked underneath the table. But there were no clues. Beth suggested we call Ryan - thinking that maybe this was like that place in Long Beach last time where you had to call in and after forty-five minutes someone would hand us the next clue. I had to take a pee, so i went upstairs to the loo.

When i came back down, i learned it was all over. Ryan and Kate were waiting in the other room of Canter's, and Orange Team went to that room first. So we came in second. It had never been that close before. Team Apathy decided to go back outside and have a few beers while we waited for the other teams to arrive. The next to arrive was Grey Team, and soon after them came Purple Team. Then there was another long wait before Green Team arrived. And then still another long wait before the other teams came. And by then the sun was up, and many people were asleep.

After Red Team and Blue Team arrived, Ryan called in the other three teams. We had to be out of Canter's by 9:30 or something. We had arrived just before 5:30 a.m. By the time we left it was 8:30 a.m. But we left with trophies. And fortunately for us, we had all parked over at John and Beth's place, which wasn't too far from Canter's. I was home by 9:30 a.m. Another night of Madness was over.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Armistice Day, Not Veterans Day

Tomorrow, November 11th, is Armistice Day. A lot of people have forgotten this, and that's due to the government changing the name to Veterans Day. The word "armistice" means a stopping of war by mutual agreement - that is, a peace. A "veteran" is someone who served in the military. Obviously, these are two very different things.

Armistice Day is the anniversary of the day in which peace was declared between the Allies and the Central Powers at the end of World War I in 1918. (You might remember this being mentioned in school - the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month - ring any bells?) That's what the day celebrates - an end to war. And isn't that something worth celebrating?

By changing the name to Veterans Day, it changes the entire attitude. Rather than celebrating peace, the day now celebrates those who fight in wars (or rather, those who have fought in wars). By changing the name, it's like we're giving up on peace, and considering it as an unattainable goal. There will be never be peace, but there will always be people who fight in wars, so let's celebrate them. By calling the day Veterans Day, you're acknowledging that. After all, World War I was the Great War, the war to end all wars. And clearly it didn't do that. So let's give up on the idea of peace, and instead celebrate those who engage in war. It's seriously messed up.

By the way, most of the rest of the world still calls it Armistice Day (or Remembrance Day). It's only the United States that does stupid shit like change the name. So tomorrow, wish people a happy Armistice Day.