March 15th, 2007 5:12 PM
The Tale of Team Camel
The night is dark and streaked with filthy rain when we hit the end of Market. The ferry building juts into the air like an obscene altar to alternative transportation. The thick night is sodden with the rain, and the aroma of wet dogs permeates everything. Where I expect to see teaming throngs of starry eyed idealists, I see only passing vagrants and vagabonds. I stare grimly at them, hoping for some flash of recognition, but their eyes are cold.
We walk through the empty halls of the Ferry Building, glancing around for any signs or signifier, but find none. A family, evidently lost in the urban labyrinth approaches and asks for directions. I size them up, trying to figure out if this is how the game begins.
Soon, we feel the pull of our empty stomachs and stroll into the automat to order greasy burgers and fried potatoes. Temporarily sated, we send our voices out on carrier waves to a signal tower, relay them back to our allies, who direct us to a bus stop across the road. We approach warily.
Investigators and provocateurs huddle in the relative dryness of the shelter and we are handed the evidence, and a rule sheet. We read it quickly, and not as thoroughly as we should, and we head out for the parking garage at 5th and mission.
One grimy train ride later, and we're back out on the road, pummeled by filthy water. We triangulate our location by the garish neon signs, and soon find ourselves on the roof, digging our frozen fingers into plastic baggies to retrieve strange photographs. A man approaches, tall and shrouded in a rain coat. He hands us more evidence, and mutters the word "Lexington" before returning to the gloom.
At this point, my socks are soaked through and I can feel the skin tearing. I can't make it much longer, I say, and we enter the mall across the road. We stalk nervously among the great edifice of consumerism, until a shoe store sings it's siren call. I purchase socks, and put them on in the subway.
The N train takes us past the metropolitan splendor of the downtown area into the strange hinterland of Mission Bay. I glance idly at the rule sheet, only to discover that we have been tracked this whole time. I curse my foolishness. Of course they are after us. Why wouldn't they be?
At the last stop we depart the iron horse, and begin our journey into the darkness. A man, maybe a player, maybe just some poor sod afraid for his life, runs past us at a full clip. Best be careful, I mutter to my companion. We draw up our hoods and walk slowly. Our best hope would be to be mistook for two wanderers, and avoid the enemy agents.
We reach the river that bisects the park, and while looking for a crossing we see a strange sight: A man, on a three wheeled bike, slowly advancing on us from a distance.
No sudden moves, I whisper. We continue walking towards him.
We reach an intersection on the path.
Now! I hiss, and we break into a sprint, moving laterally to the strange figure. We dash among the monolithic apartment complexes, gasping for air, until we make our way back to the path, having fully routed our pursuer.
A bridge is illuminated in the distant industrial light, and we cross it; we return to our aimless walk, keeping one sideways eye on the man on the bike. He is peddling away from us now.
On the other side, we enter a glass enclosure to find a surreal scene. A kindly couple offers us pencils and papers, and asks us if we are here to take "the Bar". I nod slowly, not knowing where this will lead. I can see Ms. Gae go pale. She has been through this before, and has no desire to do it again. Still, we must, and we do.
When we are asked to identify our selves on a map, I draw an arrow pointing to my relative position. Ms. Gae takes the map, and steps on it, leaving a dark boot print. Clever girl.
That ordeal over, we collect our reward, and venture back into the storm, now with one additional point circled on our map. In the deluge, the map has turned to sludge, and our navigation becomes labored. We take the long way, mucking through puddles of industrial grime, huddling in shadows whenever anyone passes. We move like ghosts through an unfamiliar cityscape; instantly recognizable, but utterly foreign.
The map leads us to the dark spaces beneath a vaulted freeway. We see two strangers in the dark, sizing us up. We walk slowly, heads down, attempting to size up these strangers. No doubt they did the same to us. When we were sure they meant us no immediate harm, we turn sharply and close in, catching them off guard.
The man is pacing and anxious, his companion is stoic. He grills us and we respond with stony passivity. Finally he relents, and hands us the evidence. He points us in the direction of the cal train rails, and we slip away once more.
We attempt to catch a bus, but lacking a schedule, or a clear idea of our destination, we fail, and strike out on foot to the hospital.
It is a long weary march. We pass through a forest of warehouses and begin to climb the hills of the lower city. We knew we were bound for a hospital, but not much else, and many a time we become lost in the unknown terrain. The rain has mostly abated now, but I am soaked to the bone.
We finally reach the hospital. A strange piece of art stands alone in a field and it tickles the back of my skull. I paw through our soaking evidence, until I find what I am looking for. This statue is a sign, and beneath it's concrete base, further photos are found.
A glance at my watch proves my fears correct: the time is drawing near. We search for friendly agents around the hospital, and spot a trio of smiling people, who don't look sick enough to use the hospital for it's intended purpose.
I think we're looking for you, I venture.
You probably are, they respond. The last of our evidence changes hands, and we collate our stack.
At the outset, as our group was made up of two, we agreed we would stick to the facts, no matter what they be... no evidence would be notarized.
When my partners back is turned, one of the agents offers to do just that. I am sorely tempted, but think on the consequences of betrayal, and politely decline.
We meet up with another group, and I watch with mild bemusement as a stack of photos are notarized, and stricken from the record. I take a little joy in that they are on the same side as I.
We are graciously offered a ride to the docks, where a party is rumored to be held. I have no trouble accepting, as I am weighted down with great buckets of water, and am sore from many traveled miles.
At the warehouse, we linger long enough to hear the verdict and consume a few libations before once again walking a mile or so through the ghost lands of the cities east side. It takes us an hour to call a cab, and I nearly pass out as soon as I am sitting down.
That night, we sleep the sleep of the just.