By “us,” I mean a regional thing here. If you’re a reader from, say Serbia (and yes, I do get traffic from there. Thank you, whomever you are), you may not care. Except, you still might, because of the way I’m going to explain it.
One week, usually in May, the Northern California locale hails back to the western days that founded the cities here, including Redding. Even though Redding wasn’t exactly a hot bed of the most notorious shootouts in the world, it did manage to be host to some stagecoach robberies by the infamous Black Bart, and the Ruggles brothers, just a few blocks from where I am sitting, managed to give the punch to the phrase “a short drop and a sudden stop.”
So during rodeo week, a whole host of things go on, culminating in the actual rodeo, which also happens a few blocks from here as well. But the real intrigue happens at the beginning–on Monday.
A fake bank robbery is staged by a local group called the Asphalt Cowboys. This “robbery” involves two public figures wearing masks, who always manage to get away in a ridiculous hail of faux gunfire. (Yes, guns are prevalent here, I’m glad they are, and yes I have them too). The “loot” is hidden within the city limits, and a set of daily clues are released to the media.
Of course the “loot” is usually an envelope, containing instructions inside to claim a prize, which starts at 500 DOLLARS in cash. This reward goes down by 50 dollars every day, as long as it isn’t found. There is a separate reward for identifying the robbers,too. I don’t do this part, because I don’t schmooze at the local political levels.
Yet, to this day, I have not yet been THE ONE. Every year, I set out to the fields, riversides, parks, benches, barbecue pits, statues, fountains, boat ramps, stairwells, overpasses, flower beds, trees, bushes, homeless camps, parking lots, lamp posts, paper dispensers, coke machines, and any other possible denizen of said recompense. And every year I come up NAUGHT.
I’ve been doing this ridiculous form of self-flagellation for thirty-five years. I have been standing next to it when another child of the corn was wandering near me, and found it underneath an electric box by the river. Two years ago, I was walking to the spot when the guy who got there TWO MINUTES before me was running past me jumping around screaming that he found it.
Seriously, I almost shanked him for it.
But here’s the radioactive isotope. Those clues are written by someone who knows where the loot is. That’s ALL I know. This does NOT grant them an automatic ability to cast the subtle hues of region and placement in the rhythmic confines of iambic pentameter. Or, for that matter, a badly-constructed haiku. So ultimately, the clue will be so ridiculously ambiguous, that hordes of neo-zombies are scurrying through MY YARD thinking they’re onto something. But this kind of ambiguity raises another specter:
In Shasta, the county, the loot you will find
You may have to sit on your behind
At which time the loot is located approximately 35 minutes later inside a multi-layered Russian egg, nested inside a ten-numeral cylindrical codex, and wedged in a tree knot by the Bonneyview boat ramps.
Of course. The clue gave all that to them. If they find it early, the local news interview them. At which time they tell the reporter that the clues, while not specifically pointing to an INSIDE TIP, gave them little nuances that simply are part of the larger “hunch.
One year, a punk-rocker who crawled up on the train trestle to, and I mean this–“write poetry,” laid his head right on the bag. he found it because he was getting ready to smoke–I mean WRITE–poetry.
I was on to him. because I too, used to write poetry in that park. Especially the kind that wasn’t mixed with free verse and irony.
Then of course, there always holds out the possibility that the clue writer this year earned a liberal arts degree majoring in Blues Clues. Then, I won’t stand a chance, because the ink won’t be dry before some other “poet,” unencumbered by an addiction to employment runs out and becomes the immediate beneficiary of:
We just got a letter!
We just Got a letter!
We just got a letter!
The loot’s under Sundial Bridge!
The next opportunity for me to debase myself before my fellow man begins Monday. And you know what? I’ll be out there.
And I’ll be covering my sad, vacuous progress here.