A Few Words Regarding Dax and SF0
Before I talk about the Journey itself, and my experience preparing for and playing in it, I wanted to say a few words about the person who brought me there. I first saw Dax in his role as The Villain, and his continuing narrative through SF0 was one of the first ways I realized that there was, in fact, a real meta-thread going through the site and a community of people who were involved in it. When Dax completes a task, I am often blown away by how well he has done it--I have often privately thought to myself that Dax had much of the same vision of the world as I have, but that he was even more willing to do things big, to put his whole self into them and make something truly incredible. Sometimes, I even get the sense that he would be better at being me than I am. To me, he has been the kind of impressive that makes you more than a little bit intimidated to meet him, much less try to come up to his level.
But in person, Dax was one of the most warm, welcoming, and encouraging people it has been my pleasure to meet. He welcomed me not simply to come to his Journey, but to take part in making it happen. He welcomed me into his city and into his home. He made, I think, all of us feel some sense of coming home and coming together here, and made it all feel as natural as breathing.
I think that's part of what made this such a wonderful SF0 homecoming. There were so many familiar names and faces, so many SF0'ers from all over whom I'd only known through the praxis. But all brought together by this strange and wonderful bond, and coming together for a shared purpose. That and some fine pancakes. :) It really was a joy to meet so many great people, and I honestly felt like I was meeting celebrities at every turn: larger-than-life characters and the people who make them real. It's a strange thing--to be both present and down-to-earth, while at the same time feeling like you're part of something bigger, something grand. It's a good feeling.
Scienceguru would likely rebuke me for gushing so much about this place and these people--I do know that much of our drama is manufactured, and has little impact on the rest of the world. But there is
something to Things Done Well, and people who do them. I have been impressed by so many things here; I think that, to steal a thought from Robert Pirsig, there is something about Quality which speaks to us all, and that we are striving to Do Things Well. That this is something common to the kind of people that SF0 attracts and retains. Humans are social creatures; we have a desire for community, to be around people we admire and have a common bond with. And while there is certainly an aspect of societal gamesmanship to it, the desire to impress and be impressed seems very tied to finding that notion of Quality, and trying to come together with others who share it. A kind of vision of the world, a cracked and wonderful way of seeing, and of showing how it can be possible to do something, and do it well, to share that vision. Being at the Chicago gathering, I felt like I was completely surrounded by people I really liked, though we had never met. People who make magic out of the everyday. It's a testament to the strength of the community that SF0 has created, and to Dax for having brought it together so well. Thank you.
Oh, yes--and there was a Journey! My role for the night was Lead Chaser. Some would say that having never been to Chicago, nor knowing even the vaguest layout of the city, would be a hindrance in this role. They are of course correct, but to turn down the honor on this basis would be the mark of a man with no sense of adventure. And I had no desire to be such a man.
Fortunately, Dax had done most of the work for me. He had constructed the map, convinced people to play the role of staff chasers, and worked out a schedule of chaser zone coverage beforehand, all of which were extremely helpful. My job was mainly to serve as an information conduit, keeping chasers apprised of player movements and making judgement calls on when and where to divert chasers from their planned schedule, in order to make sure that players were in maximum danger throughout the night.
So before the game started, I got in contact with each of the other chasers (except the notorious Beetle Bomb Bicycle Chaser, whom I left to create terror in her own fashion). I wanted to make sure that all chasers had made it to their starting stations, to make sure that they were in good positions and knew their instructions. :) I had also brought a number of resources to help me keep track of player and chaser locations throughout the night, so that I could quickly see what was going on.
This map had all the checkpoints, and I had constructed small sticky note pieces to attach for the staff chasers, as well as add when they had caught players. An additional color would be used to mark the locations of lead players progressing and of the large groups of players in transit. So, as the hour drew near, I felt that I had prepared as well as I could, for I knew that things would be crazy and hazy during the Journey itself.
I should let you know that I also did my part to keep the Chicago Journey free from rain. Before the Journey started, I was walking my areas and comparing with the map, trying to familiarize myself with the streets before having to run down them in hot pursuit. Naturally, the forecast had called for rain in varying degrees; and two hours before the Journey, the rain began. I initially thought that I could tough it out and continued to explore, but in what I thought was a rather peevish response, the rain redoubled its efforts, and before long I was quite well soaked. It was at this point that I decided that, no matter the inconvenience for costuming and for running, I would need an umbrella after all. And so, after a few abortive attempts, I finally found a store to sell me one. Tearing off the tag and removing the case, I stepped outside and opened the umbrella. You may find it difficult to believe the coincidence, but it was at that moment that the rain ceased. I kept the umbrella with me for the rest of the evening, and not a single drop more fell all night. So already, I felt that I had made a contribution to the Journey.
At some point, I should also mention that I was dressed as a pirate.
Because, really, it's more fun that way. I had a great time running after players, yelling things like, "Avast, ye barnacle-crusted landlubbers! Ye'd best run, afore ye find a taste of me cutlass!" or "Scurvy dog! Ye'll not escape me that easy!" Also, it makes it more fun to talk with people just walking by. I posed for a couple of pictures, and lost count after two dozen or so times being asked if it was a real parrot on my shoulder.
So, to sum up: before the start, I had coordinated with chasers (and added contact numbers for chasers and checkpoints, for quick access), and got into position in "0-1", the area between the start and checkpoint 1.
At 7:30, the players were released.
As it turns out, I was probably in the worst position of any chaser that night--I only chased a few groups of people between 0-1 (possibly partly because of the time I was taking to coordinate, but definitely partly because few people were taking the initial route I thought they might), and I waited a little too long to book it over to the second stretch I wanted to cover. I am glad that I coordinated with my other 0-1 chaser, though, as we did put him in a prime place for finding players. I'll refer to the other chasers by the code letters I used to track their position on the map--my fellow 0-1 chaser was M); others were C, D, S, and R.
At 7:54, I got the message from Checkpoint 1 that 'tons of people' had gone through; so I figured we had chased most of the people we would find between 0-1, and moved M and I up along the course. (7:56--I message M to move up to 2-3 (rather than 3-4), unless he still has a good amount of prey; he starts moving)
People made it to checkpoint 2 at 8:02, which added to my panic about people moving through more quickly than expected. Some further (though still incomplete) time reconstruction is below, from texts and phone logs:
8:02: C catches 2
8:05: More through checkpoint 1
8:09: D arrives b/w 1-2
8:12: S catches 2 by checkpoint 2
8:15: I catch one b/w 2-3
8:23 D tags 1 b/w checkpoint 1/2 and heads to 5
8:23: M nabs 2 on the way to his next post, which is 4 for him.
8:23: 2 more fall into S's hands
You can see we very quickly
rose to a significant number of players-turned-chasers. This, of course, leads to more chaos, as the player-chasers do not report to me.
8:26: First people through checkpoint 3
8:35: Stragglers through 1
8:41: C catches 2 more
8:47: Checkpoint 2 has had 50 or so through
8:51: First through 4
9:13: 10 through checkpoint 3
9:13: Checkpoint 1 shuts down, having not seen anyone for a while
9:52: First three to checkpoint 4
10:15: About 50 though checkpoint 3
11:01: Checkpoint 3 shuts down
It was a great experience, organizing a crew of chasers. Chaos, and madness--the surge of chaser growth, forcing me to redirect the staff to other grounds. Overall, the lack of information can drive you kind of crazy--trying to figure out how many chasers now exist, and where, and knowing where the players are along their checkpoint routes, how many are left...information can come in very quickly and change your whole outlook (I look back and see that at 8:23, 5 catches were reported in the same minute). You rely, in the end, on chasers being naturally spread in different locations and individual distributed action to take care of a lot of it, giving people general guidelines as well as specific instructions.
It was a lot of fun to try being a chaser for once, too. After a while, you start to look at things differently. When you're a player, you're always nervous, eyes always searching out predators, and always moving. But as a chaser, you honestly come to feel like you are stalking through the city, and you start to get a sense for movement. If it runs, it's prey
. After a while, it just becomes natural, even before looking for a blue ribbon. There were a number of times at the end, when I would see someone out of the corner of my eye and start after them...only to realize that it was just a normal person in the city, running to cross a street before the light changed.
The end was a fantastic conclusion to the night. I finally met zer0gee, who had buried something for me
--a beautiful lead chaser medal for my very own. I cherish both the medal and the time I had getting it. I also got to talk with her as she gave me a ride over to the afterparty, which was wonderful in its own right.
So thank you, to Dax, to all the wonderful people I met, to CG0 in general for hosting a wonderful journey in a wonderful city. I had a great time.