Sunday, May 16, 2010


last weekend was the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt. despite the fact that i graduated six years ago, and the fact that lately i've been far more inclined to bitch about my postsecondary educational ventures than to laud them, i still love the scavhunt with every fibre of my being, and i still participate eagerly in it.

this year was my eighth hunt, and my third with GASH, the Graduate and Alumni Scavhunt Team. we're a fairly small team, which has only been in existence for three years, and we consist of a bunch of people who love Scav so much that we continue to do it, even after graduation, plus a few friends of alumni scavvies who want to go crazy for a few days and experience the Hunt. i'm so glad GASH exists, since not only would it be a little creepy for a 27 year old to scav with a team full of undergrads, i'd be basically teamless since my last dorm team, the Shoreland, doesn't even exist anymore.

i also get the feeling that GASH is really starting to come into its own. its first year, it was a great idea testing the waters. its second year, it was back...with a few new faces, but it still seemed to be mostly people who were class of '04, '05, and maybe '06. this year, however, felt like proof that it's here to stay. we not only had a lot of returners from the first two years of the team, but we started getting some younger scavvies--people who were undergrads during GASH's first year or two, and decided to come scav with us instead of staying with their dorm team for another year. that's not to say there's not still work to be done to keep the team going...we definitely need to recruit among upperclassmen [to join us after they finish] as well as among alums [to join us instead of continuing to return to dorm teams], but organizationally, this year was a really positive sign.

alright, enough about organizational stuff...that may have been a little boring, but they were thoughts i wanted to get in writing, more for my own benefit than anything. i know why you're probably reading this, if you're still reading this...crazy scavvie stories! :D and, yes, there were definitely those.

just as in 2008 and 2009, i went on the road trip. for anyone who's not familiar with scavhunt, even though most of the items are done in and around Chicago, there is always a road trip. each team sends four people (or, more accurately, up to four people--this year GASH sent four, but the last two years it was a rather grueling three-person trip!) on the road, and the only constraint is that the furthest point can't be more than 1000 miles from the UChicago campus. we also have to wear silly costumes.

this year, the road trip was horror-themed. the costumes this year were Vincent Price, Zombie Michael Jackson, the Accidental Mummy, and Skeletor. [i was Skeletor--the second straight year that i *clearly* got the most awesome costume in the bunch!] the destinations were in Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania. some of the highlights, lowlights, and miscellanies included:
  • writing a parody of "Hero of Canton" from Firefly. about William McKinley. and singing it. in President McKinley's mausoleum. right next to the stone crypt where his body is. (yes, this was a shoo-in for my favourite item on the Hunt this year. i haven't ever seen Firefly, but there's just something awesome about doing something silly that close to a president's final resting place--i know we went to Eisenhower's mausoleum on road trip two years ago, but nothing we had to do there was anywhere near this silly!)
  • disco-dancing in front of the prison from Shawshank Redemption.
  • learning the lesson that the roads in Scranton, Pennsylvania suck. seriously. don't drive in Scranton--especially anywhere near the Scranton Expressway--if you can help it at all.
  • visiting the creepiest place on earth--otherwise known as Ashtabula, Ohio. Ashtabula was the site of the Ashtabula Horror, a train wreck that killed 92 people in 1876. we had to visit the historical marker at the Ashtabula County Medical Center, an audio information site in front of the hospital that talked about the train wreck...and then go to Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Ashtabula and visit a mass grave where people in the disaster who were burned beyond recognition were buried. this all happened around 11:oopm. it was...quite creepy.
  • accidentally discovering another town in Ohio with another disaster-related mass grave--that the scav judges knew nothing about until i told them at judgment. we stopped at this little roadside rest stop in Fitchville, Ohio on the way home, and there was a historical marker outside the rest stop. i wandered over to read it, and it was about a fire at the Golden Age Nursing Home. the day after President Kennedy was shot, an electrical fire killed 63 people there...21 of whom were buried in a mass grave at the local cemetery after their bodies were not claimed. morbid, i know...but i was surprised that there were no items about it, given that it would have mirrored the Ashtabula items so well.
  • seeing Nick (one of my fellow road trippers) dressed as Vincent Price, skeezily hitting on this huge Whistler's Mother statue. between the bad puns and the absurdity of hitting on a stone statue, this was awesome.
  • seeing the smoke from the Centralia, PA mine fire. the fire's still burning, the smoke stinks...and it's kind of creepy to see it emerging from slate-covered hills. it was funny, though...when we went there for the scavhunt item, there were a couple of filmmakers there, making a zombie movie. it's a good place for's desolate, it's remote, it's unpopulated, and you don't need special effects to make it look like there's smoke rising from the ground!
  • getting completely shot down when i said something couldn't be done. after we finished all the items, when we were on our way back to Chicago, i was reading the list. one of the items involved getting a Stradivarius--either a violin, cello, or viola. i muttered that there was no way any team was going to do that. James, who was sitting next to me in the car, said there absolutely was...and then pulled out his phone to call his friend, who was an antique violin dealer who had an authentic Stradivarius cello for rent. he set up a time for us to take a judge to see the instrument, and sure enough we got that item. i was flabbergasted.
  • getting back from road trip when it was still light outside on Saturday! seriously, that does not happen...usually we get back at 2 or 3 in the morning, and we're all dead tired, and there's only time to groggily hand the photos off to whoever is organizing them, and try and sleep a few winks before judgment. not this time. we got back around quarter to 8pm. the rest of the road trippers helped take a captain and a judge to go see the Stradivarius, and i had time to not only get the pictures in order, but also to do a couple of other items [visit the Falcon Inn to take a picture of the Cholie's window, visit a few of President Obama's old residences, work on a warp-speed performance of "Do Re Mi"...] before i slept.
anyway, those are a few highlights from my Hunt. if you want to see pictures, i posted them on my facebook. i have video of other items, but i haven't put them online yet; when i do, i'll link them here.

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