Periscope Depth

90 east toward chicago, on my way to cincinnati

The Hunt Is On
While wandering downtown Chicago early on a Saturday morning, taking amateur pictures of the architecture, I passed the occasional pair of fit twenty-somethings in identical T-shirts, consulting a map or a clipboard. The collisions grew more frequent until I found a horde of them in Chicago’s government center, participating in something called City Chase. I wanted to explore on my own, and lacked a scavenger hunt partner besides, but it looked like fun.

Between doing some voice-over work for Urban Interactive and the lead-up to an Internet Inc. outdoor chase at our new office, I’ve been thinking a lot about scavenger hunts of late. The one time I had an opportunity to plan one – for my acting troupe in college – led to a lot of frustrating puzzle entries, excessive distances and yelling. But the variables involved fascinate me. You want entries a good distance from each other, but not so far that they exhaust the players. Clues that hinge on insider knowledge without being too obscure. Lots of different factors at play; that’s why they call scavenger hunts the “sweet science” on ESPN.

… Ladies
A man on a street corner in the Jewelry District asked if I was in the market for jewelry. If I’d said “yes” (it takes a lot of effort for me to lie), that’d have to be one hell of a pitch. Jewelry stores, with telephones and burglar alarms and everything, surrounded me at all points of the compass. That’s a lot of credibility to overcome.

“I invented diamonds.”

“The jewelry?”

“No, the stone itself.”

“… go on.”

In any case, still being a bachelor, my answer was a resigned “No.”

And We Are Here As On A Coordinate Plane
“Where are you?” Hawver asked via cell phone. “I’m at … 800 South, 300 West,” I told him. “Oh, wow,” he replied. “I’m at 800 North, 100 East.”

I love that about Chicago. I could navigate myself, or someone else, to any point in the city, and I’ve only visited there four times. All I need are coordinates. I couldn’t do that in Boston, and I’ve lived here longer than any one city. I only just realized, two years ago, that the streets crossing Commonwealth Avenue (Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield) ascend in alphabetical order. Until they don’t. And that’s only if you stay west of the Common. Past that, it’s a swirling toilet drain into Cthulhu’s eye (i.e., Government Center)

We arranged to meet near to 0,0, via some combination of walking and subways. Once there, we took the Red Line north to Addison. The Red Line sits on mostly a straight north shot outside the city, so the N values increased but the E/W values stayed relatively constant. I did some quick math and consulted my encyclopedic knowledge of Blues Brothers dialogue in my head. “Are we getting off near Wrigley?” I asked.

Hawver, verifying that I had indeed taken the pebble from his hand, nodded.

Hot Dog … The Failed Movie
We’d come all the way to Wrigleyville to visit Hot Doug’s, the world-renowned hot dog shop. “Sometimes there’s a bit of a line,” Hawver cautioned. “But usually no more than …”

We slowed our walk as we approached the cafe, opposite the Williams and Midway pinball factories. Over one hundred and fifty people stretched in a line out the door, past the end of the building, and into the residential neighborhoods surrounding it. We got to the end of the line and waited for twenty minutes. It never moved.

Admitting a temporary defeat, we retreated to a taquerista near Logan Park. I had some chorizo and chicken tacos. “That’s probably the one thing I’d miss about moving out here,” I said between bites. “Fish.”

It Takes A Lot Of Money To Look This Cheap
Hawver’s band, The Lovers, played at Quenchers‘ 30th anniversary bash. They’re a five-man set: guitar (Hawver), keyboards, bass, drums and the lead singer (who also doubles on guitar or keys for some songs). They blend some electro New-Wave sensibilities with garage rock attitude – just fun, foot-tapping rock. They also managed to pack out the back room – somewhere between 30 and 40 people.

Hawver introduced me to their keyboardist Kevin and their manager Ashleigh that evening. “You manage these fools?” I asked her.

We The Living
I suffered a few minutes of confusion when I saw T-shirts for “The Livers” in the merch pile before the show started. Had I been mishearing Hawver’s band’s name all these months? Not so, as it turns out; The Livers followed The Lovers on the playlist. My second guess, equally incorrect: they weren’t a punk band. Because a band named “The Livers,” if they mean the organ, has to be punk.

No, The Livers are two guys who record themselves playing bass and drums. They then project this on a screen behind them while playing guitar live. The (recorded) drummer counts them in and they use a DVD remote to skip between songs. It’s furiously awesome.