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The Adventure Log: Opening Every Unmarked Door

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(no subject) [Jun. 15th, 2010|04:18 pm]
The Adventure Log: Opening Every Unmarked Door


So no shit, there I was in Belgium with no housing,* two nights remaining at my hostel, and a first day of work filled utterly with allergies from Hell. Not to mention that I spent 30 minutes trying to find out where exactly I was supposed to go to get to my job before I finally managed to get in. Therefore, it stands to reason that I would absolutely and utterly roll a botch on my Urban Knowledge (orienteering) check when trying to get back to my hostelj. And that I would have left my overlarge, overpriced map and my laptop in my hostel room.

The walk back from work to my hostel is supposed to take 30 minutes. This is a walk that I have done twice before without any problems. Today it took four hours. This is not a level of lost which one can easily achieve. One must WORK to obtain this level of being lost.

My job is located at the Royal Military Academy, which is close to the “European Section” of the city. This is slightly east of the city center of Brussels, which is also confusingly termed “Brussels.” My hostel is in Saint-Joost-en-Nood (or however this is spelled), a portion of the city just north of the city center. I managed to get from my workplace to the city center perfectly fine, and from the city center to Saint-Joost-en-Nood perfectly fine. The problems arose upon entering Saint-Joost-en-Noode. Apparently my street had bene equipped with a cloaking device. I walked through Saing-Joost for four hours. Like a poor marksman, I kept...missing...the target!

It went something like this. “OK, this is where I make the turn to enter Saint-Joost. Then I go forward, it zigzags a bit, and then I'm back. Um. This doesn't look familiar. I must have gone past it. Let me wander around a bit, I'm sure I'll find it.”

*finds out that he has walked entirely through Saint-Joost*

“Um. Let's try that again. Just start walking back, and...”

*finds out he has almost returned to the European Section*

“Well, great. Guess I should start going back and pretend this never happened. Hey, I was here before, and then I got lost. At least this won't happen again.”

It happens again.

I finally swallowed my pride and resolve of “totally-going-to-find-this-through-wandering-really” and asked a storekeeper when I went to get some soda. She didn't know.

And then suddenly, there in front of me, Dwaarstraat, the street the hostel is on. The wandering method worked! It just took 3 hours 30 minutes. And now I am lying in my bunk, feeling my throat crawl with allergies, hoping that my housing situation will go OK, and thinking that in 12 hours, I will have to be walking once more...

*Someone informed me that I was supposed to start these sorts of stories with that opening. It's not 100% true, I'm trying to get an apartment, but so far there have been difficulties like my debit card not being accepted yet.

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(no subject) [Sep. 27th, 2009|06:19 pm]
The Adventure Log: Opening Every Unmarked Door

One of the problems with driving to DUMBO is that there seems to be about a 20% chance of accidentally driving across the Manhattan Bridge into Manhattan. I need to improve that percentage.
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Meeting a Congress Candidate [May. 21st, 2008|11:18 am]
The Adventure Log: Opening Every Unmarked Door

As part of this year's UChicago Scavenger Hunt, our team had to fulfill this item:

17. Have a beer with:
a. A former candidate for civic office (e.g. Larry Doody) [5 points]
b. A current candidate for city-wide office (e.g. Barbara Currie) [10 points]
c. A current candidate for state-wide office (e.g. Will Burns) [25 points]
d. A current candidate for national office (e.g. Jesse Jackson, Jr.) [50 points]
e. A current candidate for POTUS (e.g. Barack Obama) [100 points]

One of the Chicagoites on the team has a father running for Congress in North Jersey. She couldn't get back to Jersey to have the beer with him, so I volunteered. So after dinner that night, I got into my car and headed out to meet with Dennis Shulman.

It was dusk as I left and quickly full darkness set in. I was fine with the initial part of the drive, making my way to the Turnpike and just heading north. I was in fact making good time.

Then I reached my exit, just shy of the GW Bridge. Or should I say, missed my exit. Because I had somehow found myself in an express lane on I-95 that allowed access to Exits 71 and 73, but not 72. And I needed 72.

So I made a u-turn at exit 73, only to find that there was no exit 72 going south here, either. So I turned around again, found my way into the correct lane, and took exit 72. But this was a bad omen for things to come.

Because navigating on the Turnpike is one thing. The signs are well-lit, there are plenty of cars around, and hell, the road just goes straight. Driving around an unfamiliar residential area is an entirely different story. Especially if many street signs are tiny or missing.

I managed to correctly guess the first turn based on distance travelled and busy-ness of the road. Then I successfully identified the second turn by following the car in front of me. But then disaster ensued.

I reached a point where the road went from being one-way to two-way, approximately at the appropriate distance, and made a left turn there. This turned out to be good, because I found a liquor store to buy the beer at. It turned out bad, because it was the wrong turn.

I followed the street for about a mile, searching for a street sign. Then I turned around, backtracked, and took another road for a half mile, searching for a street sign. But I hadn't backtracked far enough. Eventually, I backtracked back to the place I'd made the wrong turn and continued on my way. The correct left turn appeared and I made it.

At this point, I was about a half hour late, so I called up my host to warn him and solicit directions. He told me I was on the right track and to continue the way I was going until I hit a fork. I was uncertain about whether I had already passed the fork, so I backtracked again and discovered that I hadn't, but soon would. Eventually I found the street and everything was good, right?

Wrong. This was one of those ritzy suburban areas where every house was offset 500 feet from the street. Few bore easy to read numbers. I literally parked in the driveway of five houses before I found the correct house, a full hour late.

Dennis Shulman was extremely generous in welcoming me into his house. We drank the beers, posed for a photo with the beers, and sat down to talk politics.

Shulman's a Democrat; I immediately identified myself as a Giuliani Republican. So we disagreed on a lot of important things. And we had this fascinating, deeply thought-provoking conversation about a wide range of political issues. We argued the War. We argued space policy. We argued health care and came to an agreement that it was impossible to settle. We agreed on abortion, then discussed the way our agreement comes from such different angles. I left feeling that, even though we disagreed about most of the things I considered important to my political outlook, this was a person I would vote for if he served in my district.

The thing is, that is exactly what scav is about. Presented with a list of impossible things to do, you go out and do them. And in the process, you learn things about the world that surprise you, because "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible," as one of my heroes once said.

And the other thing is, somehow the adventure in getting there made it better. The fact that I had to work so hard to accomplish something so simple made the reward from it feel more significant.
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an Italian adventure (crossposted from my journal) [Jan. 27th, 2008|11:47 pm]
The Adventure Log: Opening Every Unmarked Door

The story starts tonight, after dinner. The scene: a dark Italian street, 11pm. The four girls had just said good-night and gone home. We (me and two other guys) turn around to leave, and almost immediately hear form behind us, "Buona sera." First thought: are we about to be mugged? We turn around, and there are these three Italian guys standing there. One produces an ID card, and says "polizia." They start asking us how we paid for dinner, if we have the receipt. It's almost like they were waiting for us. Now, we don't have the receipt, because we pay for meals in these tickets that St. Mary's gives us. So they ask Ross (guy who "paid" for the meal with the tickets) for his passport; he has it, fortunately. They ask us to go back into the restaurant with them.

So they get all ten meal tickets from the waitress, and our receipt, AND the owner's restaurant license; I think he's as confused as we are. The police captain writes out this whole long form in Italian and asks Ross to sign it, after he and his two buddies sign it. The owner and one of the waiters are complaining the whole time; the waiter says something to the effect of "great laws we have, here in Italy." Eventually they finish their form and give us a copy, and we leave. I think it was something to do with taxes, like they thought that since we weren't paying with money, the restaurant might not be paying taxes. It was a little creepy how they were waiting for us, though. We all thought at first that they were pretending to be cops, and trying to figure out how much money we had so they could mug us or something.

So tomorrow I'm probably going to go back to the restaurant, to apologize to the owner for causing him trouble, and maybe invite them to the bar for a round of drinks on us or something. I feel bad, but mostly I feel like Italian policemen are creepy.

Edit: Just in case I didn't make clear how surreal this all was, here is my one sentence summary that I gave to KatieMac:

We were interrogated by undercover Italian cops regarding our lack of a dinner receipt.
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Not a Prisoner! I'm a Free Man! [Sep. 17th, 2007|09:43 pm]
The Adventure Log: Opening Every Unmarked Door

So a while ago, <lj user=jaiwithani> and I were going from the Friends of the Library booksale to the local hobby store, Dream Wizards. Both are in Rockville, a stone's throw from each other. OK, so it's a stone thrown by Spiderman* or something. But eh.

Jai is a native Rockvillian, but hasn't been in the area for about 3 years. I have been in the area, but haven't driven around. He was driving.

So we start heading towards Dream Wizards, Iron Maiden blaring on the iPod hooked up to the radio, and oh there's the turn aaaand we missed it. Can we go here? We need to make a left turn. Too bad there are houses in the way, and they show no signs of abating. The road keeps veering right. Hey, a left turn! Wait, this is getting us someplace totally different. I guess we need to take another left turn.

Oh, hey. I know this place. This is the mediocre Chinese food buffet off to our right. OK, maybe we can turn left on the Pike, or....OK, we can cut through this random area beforehand, which...seems to be turning into a parking lot. Can we get out of here? Perhaps if we turn here...

At this moment, Bruce Dickinson sings out "Don't care...where the past was...I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING...!"

It was glorrrious.

*Note: This superhero chosen precisely - stronger than an average human, but not in Colossus, Superman, or Thor range.
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The Friendship Road [Aug. 13th, 2007|12:49 pm]
The Adventure Log: Opening Every Unmarked Door

As I was driving silvergirl42 home, we decided to improvise a new path to Route 1, because I missed a turn and decided that I could discover a better way without turning around. Route 130, in some parts of Central Jersey, runs directly parallel to Route 1 only a short distance away. In other parts of Central Jersey, it does not run parallel to Route 1. I decided that for the sake of symmetry of the universe we should pretend that this was one of the parts where it's parallel and take a road perpendicular to Route 130 until it dropped us off on Route 1.

It became clear very quickly that this stratagem denied all rational logic, but silvergirl42 and I decided that we liked driving on the road we were on, a picturesque little farm road with no cars in sight, so we continued down it, idly enjoying the scenery and sharing stories and catching up on old times.

On one side of the road, there were farm houses, offset from the road by long driveways. On the other side, the corn was as high as an elephant's eye and stretched off into the distance as far as we could see. All the way down the road, farm houses on the right, corn on the left.

Ultimately, we reached the end of the road, which we learned from a sign was the Friendship Road. And really, this was the high point of the adventure, because the Friendship Road had really proved a great spot to renew a friendship with a close friend I hadn't seen in two months.

So then we made a right turn off of Friendship Road, with no idea of the direction of Route 1. We operated under a few guiding principles. Numbered roads are more likely to take you some place. Driving toward places that have more cars is more likely to get toward Route 1. And retail is a good sign that we're making the right progress. Eventually, we found a sign for Route 1 and followed it diligently, and miraculously, it popped us out right near where we wanted to be.
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A hint [May. 24th, 2007|01:26 am]
The Adventure Log: Opening Every Unmarked Door

[Current Location |Bethlehem, PA]
[mood |adventurous]
[music |Seven Second Delay]

At least the first two panels should help us adventures continue our adventuring. (:
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And proof that not ALL my entries are sucky: [May. 22nd, 2007|07:15 pm]
The Adventure Log: Opening Every Unmarked Door

PHYS142 (Principles of Physics - E&M): B
HIST233 (Empire! The British Imperial Experience): A-
CHEM121 (Fundamentals of Chemistry): A
CHEM122 (Fundamentals of Chemistry Lab): A
HIST225 (Modern Military History, 1815-Present): A
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DUMBO Adventure [Mar. 8th, 2007|01:33 am]
The Adventure Log: Opening Every Unmarked Door

We took a class trip into DUMBO today. DUMBO, for those less enlightened, or less familiar with New York City, stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. It's a neighborhood in Brooklyn. I haven't been there too many times. Most of my classmates hadn't, either. But the performance of Hamlet we were there to see was supposed to be worth it, so we were there.

Our professor knew more or less where the theater was, so we were following him. At some point, my friend Sara says to me, "Didn't we just pass Water Street?" The theater was on Water Street. We had in fact passed it. I shrugged and said that I thought our professor knew where he was going.

We go two more blocks and find ourselves in a little park, right next to the Manhattan Bridge. It's 7:30 at night and all of New York City's lights are on, and we're looking across the East River into Manhattan and words do not describe how gorgeous it was. The lights contrasted against the night sky, framed by the Manhattan Bridge on the right and the Brooklyn Bridge on the left... It was beauty on an astonishing scale. We're confused, though, because there's no theater in sight. One of my classmates asks our professor if we're lost. He laughs a bit and says, "No. I realized that many of you have never been to this park and I decided to show it to you."

To myself, I start smiling and thinking, We're not lost. We're having an adventure. And how beautiful an adventure it is...
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In Search of Uniwatch [Feb. 4th, 2007|04:57 pm]
The Adventure Log: Opening Every Unmarked Door

I found myself under the impression that Paul Lukas, writer of ESPN's Uni-Watch column about the nitpicky details of sports uniform trivia, would be making an appearance at the 12th Street Bar in Brooklyn this afternoon, as a pregame appearance before the Super Bowl. Being a fan of the column as well as being interested in getting ready for the Super Bowl, I decided to go.

I took a train out to Brooklyn, suffering the aggravation of repeated train delays. Finally, I was at the corner of 12th street and 8th Avenue where the bar was supposed to be, and sure enough, on the corner is the 12th Street Bar and Grill. I go inside and it's a rather well-appointed restaurant with a tiny bar in the back. I am woefully underdressed in my Jonathan Coulton Re: Your Brains T-shirt.

I ask one of the waiters if Paul Lukas is here and he gives me a blank look. "Is he a friend of yours? Are you supposed to be meeting him here?" "No," I tell him. "He's a writer. I was under the impression he'd be speaking here." The waiter looks puzzled, still. "Are you sure this is the right place? This is a restaurant," he says, emphasizing restaurant in a way that lets me know that in his world, restaurants are not low-class establishments that book writers as speakers. I say, "His website said he was going to be at the 12th Street Bar." The waiter looks visibly relieved. "The 12th Street Bar is next door. This is the 12th Street Bar and Grill."

I thank him and go outside, and sure enough, the 12th Street Bar is right next door to the 12th Street Bar and Grill, and it's the kind of ratty bar I was expecting from the beginning. I go inside, but there's no sign of Paul Lukas. I ask the bartender, get a puzzled look from him, and trudge home disappointed. When I get home, I check the website and realize that Paul Lukas was supposed to be at the 12th Street Bar yesterday, not today. Oh well. That's my fault.

The point stands. Why the fuck is the 12th Street Bar next door to the 12th Street Bar and Grill? Are they just trying to screw with your head?
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