This is an adventure.
We gathered in Griffith Park. We met old and new friends. Lincoln told us the rules. And so it began.
Nazzo - Before
The paranoia sets in immediately. Slowing to a walk as the mad dash away from Griffith Park ends, Theresa (a non-player), Lefthandedsnail, and I are absolutely certain every man walking a dog, smoking a cigarette, or sitting on a wall are chasers just waiting for us to get too close before springing upon us in a splatter of gore. No gore ensues. To ensure that the gore levels remain the same, we take side streets and carefully avoid traveling straight down Western, or remaining on Franklin for long. We decide to head for the White Horse bonus checkpoint, since it's basically on the way to the first checkpoint, and approach from the south to avoid any chasers watching the obvious direction. Upon arrival, we find not chaser guardians, but a group of eight or nine other runners who direct us to the bouncer for manifest signing. The Walrus asks to run with my group, but when we leave for the Red Line station, she stays behind. I wish I could say this was the last time I saw her alive, but in the end, she beats me to the last checkpoint. Fiddlesticks.
Our plan is simple: take the Red Line to Hollywood and Vine, then hop back on and take it to Hollywood and Highland, since the exit there is in a safe zone. No plan survives first contact with the enemy, however incompetent or unprepared that enemy may appear at first glance. My first contact with the enemy came at the top of the escalator up from the trains at the Hollywood and Vine Station, Lord Bojangles Winston-Jones walking a bicycle just ten feet ahead of me towards the station exit. I leapt behind a large railmap, and frantically motioned for Theresa and Lefthandedsnail to join me. I quickly let them know what's going on, and then we ghost after him a few yards behind. He stops to wait for the elevator to the surface, and we cluster in the lee of an open door, darting quick glances at him as he waits. As soon as he steps inside, we sprint up the stairs, and Theresa and I are out the mouth of the station in a few seconds. We turn to look for Lefthandedsnail, but she's nowhere to be seen. We retreat to a safe distance away from the station, at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, and nervously watch the exit of the station, unsure of what's going on. A few seconds later, Bojangles comes out of the station, mounts his bicycle, and heads in the opposite direction. We keep watching, and soon after, Lefthandedsnail emerges. We wave and yell to her, and then snicker over our close call. Apparently, after falling behind, she had decided to wait for him to pass her, then follow behind. It worked.
We keep moving north, just two blocks away from the first checkpoint. Unfortunately, it seems Bojangles had decided to prowl the surrounding area, instead of heading out to lurk near the checkpoint. He rolls out of a parking lot on our right, straight for us. I dive between two staggered rows of parked cars, and Theresa and Lefthandedsnail scatter in different directions.
I zigzag through the lot, trying to stay where his bicycle can't reach, but soon realize he isn't following. He knows which way I went, however, so as soon as I'm out of the lot, I hustle towards the first checkpoint's safe zone. As I round the corner onto Yucca, I spot Lefthandedsnail approaching from the opposite direction. We meet up and cross the street to the waving robot standing in the middle of an island, then stop to rest. There's no sign of Theresa or Bojangles, but there's also no time to mourn the lost. After getting our manifests signed by Lowteck, we head west, deciding to make a beeline for the Chinese Theater instead of trying to get back to the Red Line.
Unfortunately, Bojangles had the same idea. Within five minutes, a look over my shoulder found him quickly bearing down on us. We couldn't outrun him, so we dive into the parking lot of a small apartment complex, hoping for a side exit.
I sprint for an alley at the back of the lot, looking.
There is no exit.
I duck into a laundry room, and briefly open a dryer before realizing I outgrew hiding in them approximately one decade ago. Instead, I jump up on the sink next to the doorway and flatten myself against the wall, hoping a brief look inside won't find me.
I'm lucky. He doesn't look. After a few minutes, I pull out my phone and call Lefthandedsnail. She answers:
“Hey there, enemy.”
“I got away. Did you?”
“Well, see you out there.”
Hoping she fell for it, I sneak out of the laundry room and loop around back, where I find a door to the street marked EXIT I hadn't seen before. I try at it for a while, but it's locked and won't give. I come back and listen for Bojangles and Lefthandedsnail from around a corner, and hear voices, but after a minute decide they're from the tenants and leave. I get to the exit and look out at the street, and see Bojangles at the corner of Yucca and Cahuenga. I duck back and check back every few seconds until I see he's crossed the street, and then head out.
He's almost immediately on top of me. He turns back, and rides straight at me. I dodge into the street, double around a van and bolt in the direction he came from across the parking lot of the 7-11, then sprint half a block and duck into the parking lot of a dingy motel after checking back to see if I'm followed.
I take the break to check my map and decide on a new route, and after a few minutes of waiting, decide he probably isn't following. I trudge to the Chinese Theater along Franklin and circle around behind to come at it from the west. I'm safe.
Garnett - Before
After Lincoln had given the go-ahead, I began the game with the large group, headed up by Jake the Snake (a curly-haired non-player (or as Sturm und Drang would later put it, as-YET-non-player)). Our plan was to take a needlessly circuitous route through residential property to the bonus checkpoint at the White Horse, and from thence to the first checkpoint.
Of course, we immediately freak out when we see some guy walking towards us on Los Feliz, cutting short our plans to take Laughlin Park (which I continuously mispronounce Vitamin Park because the map is illegible) down to the proper latitude.
No matter! We used our maps and improvised, and I sang Safety Dance as we went. Jake kept hearing bicycles, which led to us talking about how saying "Chaser" is like saying "Voldemort", which led to me kvetching about Harry Potter spoilers.
On the way, we met a friendly Asian woman with a cat who said hello and asked us how we were doing. We responded with appropriate deference and cheer.
Then we crossed the street.
Then we crossed the street again, because I am bad at knowing what side of the street things are on.
Finally, we reached the checkpoint. I asked some guys on the sidewalk if they knew anything about Journey. They didn't.
The bouncer did, though.
Signatures in hand (except for me because I forgot) we headed through more residential streets, splitting up into a large group, and a small commando team of Edison, Jake, and myself. Our plan was to cut across the freeway at Carlton Way. That didn't work out (mainly because Carlton Way doesn't cross the freeway), so we used Hollywood instead.
On the way, we made a quick stop for water and cashews...
...but I soon passed on those cashews to a panhandler who seemed to be listening to his iPod.
I don't claim to understand the universe. I just live there!
Heading up Argyle to the first checkpoint, we meet up with our group and post watches in all directions. We arrive.
Once there, several things happen:
- I get my manifest signed.
- I steal Pamda's identity (her bank card and state license) unwittingly.
- I learn that Nazzo, my future compatriot, is the only one of his group surviving. The Mark II refers to him as the "human with human teeth around his neck". I politely correct him, noting that they are orc teeth.
- Our group decides to go back down Argyle and walk Hollywood to the next checkpoint.
That last resolution doesn't last long, since as soon as we are halfway down the block we see a biker coming our way, yell "it's Mackinney!" in girly voices in reference to Bojangles's mild-mannered alter ego, and run screaming in the opposite direction. This means we end up taking Vine down to Hollywood, at which point everyone but Jake decides to take the train after all, since it opens into a safe zone. Meanwhile, Jake leaves to go by foot. We cross the street, head to the Subway entrance, and as we are getting up parallel to it, someone yells "RUN!".
Oh boy did we ever.
Of course, there wasn't actually anyone there. But how were we to know that? :)
Once underground, I tried to buy tickets for the other runners. However, I unknowingly used Pamda's previously-mentioned bank card instead of my own, so it didn't work and another runner had to buy *me* a ticket instead.
We took the Red Line, and eventually emerged near Mann's...
...only to be tagged by Bicycle Bojangles, who tells us he's "pretty sure" that the second checkpoint is the El Capitan. After being corrected on this fact, he apologizes, declares us "free to go", and disappears into the night.
We make our way towards Mann's, admiring what seems to be California's Harajuku.
Finally, we found Captain Barbapoca (Tom O' Tillo for all you newhats out there), who was eager to hand out signatures, assuage our fears about using the mall on this block, and point us in the direction of a coffee shop.
It was at this coffee shop that I met up with the runner who would be my companion for the majority of the Journey.
(Nazzo in cyan
, Garnett in blue
I soon find myself at a McDonald's nearby, looking for a quick snack to keep me going for the rest of the journey. Unfortunately, after waiting in line for five minutes, I realize my wallet is in Theresa's pack, and contrary to my affirmation to Barbapoca that I wouldn't be buying her dinner tonight, I end up buying her dinner tonight. I'm introduced to Sturm und Drang, and we have a pleasant pile of sandwiches and smoothies. This is where I come in. The large group with whom I was travelling had split up for pit stops and strategizing, and I meanwhile had high-tailed it to the aforementioned cafe, where I find my good friend Nazzo fraternizing with the enemy. I meet up with Garnett at the cafe, and he orders a pile of food for his runner group (finding out in the process that I had nabbed Pamda's bank card, which happens to look identical to my own save for the name and number).
Unfortunately, the intended recipients of my three smoothies, three muffins, croissant and water are nowhere to be found - they had left the rendezvous point outside the mall where they said we'd meet up. We try to call them, and look all around the vicinity, but when we find Tac, Cheerio, the Reverend, and Black Coyote leaving, decide it's time to hightail it out, and split the spoils among ourselves. We leave separately, Garnett and I heading south on Orange to avoid any chasers lurking around the eastern edge of the safezone. Theresa and Sturm und Drang don't follow. I can only assume smoothies took precedence over victory.
Our initial plan from that point onward is to take a bus down Highland, but a quick conversation with a bus driver on his layover break show that this probably won't work. So instead, we head down Hollywood on foot, keeping a good lookout for anyone who isn't us.
We soon meet up with Tac and his band for a second time, and talk about our immediate plans (whether or not to go to the southmost bonus checkpoint) and Jake's current alignment (Tac believes he saw Jake with a red armband, and that a later bizarre phone conversation confirmed this). We decide to split up to avoid being a big target, and we bid Cheerio &al goodbye as they branch off to the left. I quickly discover that I've somehow lost my sense of direction, and I soon find myself asking Nazzo if he's sure we're headed south. And again. And again. My fears assuaged, we continue, and finally arrive at Santa Monica Boulevard. One long street down, one to go!
Turns out the one to go is longer. Much longer. We keep looking over our shoulders to try to catch a bus, but none pass, and we trudge all the way to Santa Monica and Gordon without event. I turn back on my camera and manage to get about five minutes' footage, starting with a shot of Nazzo looking suave. (He is not wearing his hat as I am using it to carry the remaining bakery goods.)
At Checkpoint Three we're met by a zombie who doesn't seem to know what's going on, and decide to keep moving as soon as we can.
As soon as we can doesn't mean as fast as we can, though, and we're utterly exhausted and footsore at this point. (At least I am.) We take a seat at the nearest bus stop. Nazzo uses the wall, but I have other plans.
While waiting, we are intercepted by one of the most frightening chasers I've ever seen, at a speed that would make Bicycle Bojangles turn his head.
He tags me and dances around the barrier with Nazzo for some time, but we are finally able to convince him that the entire block, up to the next big intersection, is in fact a safe zone, as per Barbapoca's advice. Foiled and thoroughly miffed, the Chaser departs, and soon enough our bus arrives, disgorging the large runner group, who seem to be hot on our heels.
The bus driver is a kindly woman, putting up with me finding change to pay the toll. On our way, she asks about all the odd people who seem to be out and about on this street. We give her the cliffs-notes summary, that it is a scavenger hunt and the zombies near the graveyard are simply officials in this matter. She proceeds to pass this information on to unknown friends via a hands-free cell phone, as we search for a good place to get off the bus and continue towards the fourth checkpoint. And here I was thinking she was just a bit off in the head. Hands-free, right!
When we do so, I stop to get cash, and in the process realize that I've left my manifest on the bus, which has already receded from view. I curse inwardly, but do not let the calamity affect my drive. If I cannot claim the spoils of victory as a runner, I can at least act as a loyal bodyguard to Nazzo and see him through to the end!
...which we aren't even near, of course. Even though we're fairly close to Checkpoints Five and Six, it's still a few blocks up Edgemont to Checkpoint Four. We start walking, skirting a block east to avoid the Edgemont/Santa Monica intersection, and spend a long trudge doing nothing but looking over our shoulder expecting a bicycle every few minutes. We eventually end up on Edgemont notwithstanding, and walk past the Scientologist temple on Sunset, as well as the enormous Kaiser Hospital. Finally, after a long stretch of paranoia, we arrive at Hollywood Boulevard, and prepare to enter Barnsdall Park.
Which is at the top of a hill. Spongemonkeys.
So we scale that hill. And we sing a silly marching song that my mom taught me. And we get to the top and can't find anyone there, a problem exacerbated by the fact that we never asked the checkpoint zombie who we were supposed to find here. After fruitlessly asking some passers-by whether they had seen "anyone who looks weirder than us", I go to take a pit stop and Nazzo calls one of his still-living associates, who reveals that the checkpoint master is a fairy. While Garnett is in the restroom, I ask theater-goers if they've seen any diminutive womens with wings about. None have. I inform Garnett of our quandary.
In a last ditch effort, I clap my hands wildly, and shout...
"I DO BELIEVE IN FAIRIES! I DO BELIEVE IN FAIRIES! I DO I DO I DO!"
And we hear clapping in response, which leads us to the checkpoint proper, as guarded by River, Lincoln and River's father (whom we mistake for Lowteck, assuming he had come here after going off-duty).
They congratulate us on being the first to the checkpoint (again!) and I confess to having lost my manifest. Lincoln gives me a disapproving look, and asks if I am, then, serving as a decoy. I answer, "I am now," taking Nazzo's patent-felt fedora and in the process becoming probably the most conspicuous runner still in the game.
On our way out, we examine Nazzo's map to determine the safest route. We decide whilst cutting across a parking lot to stop at the Vermont/Hollywood Rite-Aid and refill the camera's batteries. Once out, we quickly scout around the area to be sure that there are still no chasers nearby before continuing.
That's when Nazzo realizes his manifest is missing, too. And while he backtracks into the Rite-Aid to look around and I scour the parking lot, disaster strikes. I am tagged. Nazzo
I run harder than I've run in a long time. Rite Aid is not out there on its own with its handy parking lot. It's part of a huge strip mall. It's on the end of a huge strip mall. I'm running for the next corner, which is at the other end of the huge strip mall. By the time I reach the corner, Jake has fallen behind, but I hear another chaser after me, and dive around the corner, hoping for some hiding place to pop out at me. The walls on either side of the street are pretty flat, and I see no alleys. I dive into the street, and lay down behind a car, still clutching the wallet I had been looking for my manifest in as I inch further and further into the street so they won't see my legs when they pass on the sidewalk.
As I hear them catch up, I'm sure they'll hear my keys jingling or my panting, but I only hear Sturm telling Jake that I was here a moment ago. I take Jake's "THAT MEANS HE'S STILL HERE!" as my signal, and bolt across the street to a door propped open by a caution cone. I dive in, spin, kick the caution cone into the street, and slam the door shut in Sturm's face.
I fly down the steps, not sure if the door locks or not, and hide under the bottom flight to catch my breath and make one more futile search through my pockets for my manifest. Maybe I stuffed it down my pants by mistake and it's stuck to my sweaty underwear? It's not. Bah. I realize I'm missing something else. Garnett has my hat.
Meanwhile, I have caught up to the group of chasers that tagged me, and one of them (the very Jake who led my first group that night) is talking to Nazzo
on his telephone, telling him that he will be arrested unless he gives himself up. I am handed the phone in order to deal with the lack-of-manifest issue, and I make my motives clear to everyone: I will find the map, return it to my friend, and then
turn. The chasers are amicable to this, and I return to the Rite-Aid parking lot forlornely picking up scrap paper in the vain hopes of finding the one I seek.
Arrested? I'm going to be arrested? Jake seems to be sure I'm on the third floor, I CAN HEAR YOU STOMPING UP THERE, and informs me that the building is surrounded. I take this in mind, and continue walking south, turning around my second corner from the building and preparing to loop back to look for my manifest. On my way back, I see Theresa, Jake, and Sturm walking away from the building, and call to taunt them a little bit. I also pass the large group of runners, and tell them to find a different path, as there are chasers where I'm coming from. I later find out that when explained what the game was, one of the security guards had told the chaser group that I was on the third floor, whether or not he actually had any evidence of that will never be known. One interesting thing, though, is that I was never on the third floor.
arrive, I turn, and we retrace our steps back to the last point at which we knew we had the manifest, to no effect. Finally, Nazzo
suggests that I look in my backpack, and, wonder of wonders, there it is below half a foot of detritus. I hand it to him, pick up my ribbon, and tell him, "You have until I put this on. Run." I run. With my hat.
And then I changed.
Garnett - After
Meeting up with the chaser group again (Sturm und Drang, Jake, and Theresa, I believe) I inform them of Nazzo's escape - of which it seems Jake has already learned. We hop on a train to the fifth checkpoint, meeting up with Bojangles and swapping information on the remaining runners on the way. Once there, we spend some time taunting the runners through a fence (giving me a chance to return Pam's identity to her). Realizing that many of the runners are already there, we decide get ahead of them by spliting up and posting guards around the final stop of the night. We encounter Waldo Cheerio along our way, who jumps out at us before he realizes we are on the same team. He returns to his hiding spot, and we finally arrive at the hole-in-the-wall location of the finish line, staking out the surrounding streets. Suspecting from our earlier modus operandi that Nazzo will take backways to reach the end, I stake out the south side of the block, hiding behind a parking lot divider and waiting for the first runners to arrive.
Nazzo - After
I run. Well, more of a jog, really. I'm pretty tired by this point. I slow to a walk when I reach Vermont and Hollywood, and keep a weary eye out for any chasers. I could take some side street to avoid the major intersection, but that would involve heading back and passing Garnett. I head east on Hollywood to Virgil, and take that south to Sunset to approach Checkpoint Four from the east. I despair for a moment, realizing it's on the other side of the street from me and I'll have to make a run for it, but I see no chasers around, and none tackle me a I sprint across the crosswalk to find safe haven at El Gran Burrito.
For once, I'm not the first there. The large runner group I'd run into earlier was already there, having head straight down Vermont.
I feel pretty dumb by that point. Side streets seem to have gotten me nothing but Bojangles on wheels, Jake the Snake, and despair.
I sit down for a few minutes and take a rest. While waiting, the place becomes surrounded by chasers, and I begin to worry about leaving. I meet up with Edison Small, and we decide to head out before the other runners do. We first try the back exit, but Black Coyote is there. We then scope out the street, but decide that Bojangles is probably lurking out there somewhere. When I encounter Loki, I don't realize until the second or third time I've passed him looking for a way out that I haven't had my manifest signed, and offer it. Our last option is the Red Line, and we lurk about it for a while trying to decide between actually taking it or just going through to the other end of the station on the opposite side of the street. Eventually, we take it down to Vermont/Beverly, and then get off to approach along Heliotrope from the south. When we exit the station, we're not sure which way west is, so we head along Beverly for a couple blocks until an elderly Hispanic gentleman confirms that Melrose is north of us. We find Heliotrope, and walk along. After a couple blocks, we see a large crowd on the sidewalk, and assume it's the line for a club, not realizing we've reached Melrose. We actually end up just across the street before the sight of Garnett lurking in the parking lot and his cry to "get them" alert us that we may have reached the checkpoint.
I dodge around a car, onto the sidewalk, then around the other side when Garnett informs me by his silence that I am indeed NOT safe, and dash into the safe zone. Surprisingly, unlike my other three traveling companions, Small also makes it.
This was an incredible experience. Exploring the city with friends, running wildly, entertainment through interaction with the real universe. Even though I was probably the most forgetful/disorganized person there (forgetting a bonus signature, losing my manifest, &c &al) I still had tons of fun, both as a runner and as a chaser. The chaser part was particularly interesting: having all of my knowledge of the first part of the game, of my past alliances and trials and successes, and yet suddenly viewing these memories from totally different objectives, along a totally different trajectory of desire. I kept thinking to myself, "this must be how vampires feel all the time".
All in all, a fantastic night. I can't wait for the next one.
Mission accomplished. This night was what living should be about all the time, using your wits and eating a sandwich.