Sunday, August 2, 2009

Thank you, Chicago

Here's what happens when you get Kat, Rick, Ricardo, Col, Meg and me to sign up for a little thing called the Great Urban Race.

Team Doppelganger:

Team Non Sequitur:

Team Commando Kilts:

Well, the six of us had decided beforehand that we would all work as a team. Good thing, too. Rick and Ricardo *know* Chicago. I know that if you go too far in one direction you'll end up in a really big lake.
We started with up to 500 two-person teams (don't know the final tally yet) in a light drizzle at the Cubby Bear. As soon as we got our envelopes containing the clues, our plan to take a few minutes to carefully map out the order in which we would complete the tasks went straight to hell.
Our first hurdle: choice of footwear. Kat, Rick, Ricardo and I all wore Converse All-Stars. One of the detours: Either find a *real* person wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and have team members pose with that person or have team members pose with a *real* person wearing ... you guessed it ... Converse All-Stars. We read that clue right at the beginning and didn't know if *real* person meant that we wouldn't count because we were participating in the race. Obviously, none of the other 10 billion teams around us knew, either, because we were swarmed with people wanting to pose with us and our shoes. After being stopped a few times before reaching our first task, I started telling other teams, "We are NOT real people."

On the way to Task No. 1, we solved the insanely simple riddle: Mr. Reynolds is odd. He likes balloons but doesn't like parties. He likes books but doesn't like reading. He likes weeds but doesn't like flowers. He likes swimming but doesn't like water. He likes letters but doesn't like words. He likes noodles but doesn't like pasta sauce. He likes apples but doesn't like plums. He likes coffee but doesn't like tea.

Take a picture of team in front of a street sign that Mr. Reynolds would like:

Next up: Go to Comedy Sportz and play charades. I SUCK at charades, but Kat decided I'd be better at the guessing part. All three of our teams were doing this at the same time, and I could see Rick/Ricardo and Col/Meg on either side, all finishing before us. PANIC. The fear must've helped because I quickly guessed our word: ruler. Task finished and a stamp was affixed to our clue sheet. (Remember this stamp. It's going to be *crucial* later.)

On the way to our planned next task, I spot what we need for a detour. Either return to the finish line with a job application from a business in Chicago. Or have team pose in front of a "now hiring" or "help wanted" sign.

Up next: Make your way to Chicago's famous tattoo shop owned by Dale Grande. Take a custom rub-on tattoo from the box inside the door. Take a picture of team in front of the shop with the tattoo applied to one teammate's face. Sounds easy, right? This task cost us some serious time. No matter what we did, none of us could get the little buggers to stick to our faces. Yeah, the clue said to only take ONE tattoo from the box. We ended going through about 15 trying to get this to work.

On our way to the next clue, I spot a random guy getting on the train, and he's wearing ... Converse All-Stars! A *real* person, thank God. I think he was a bit taken aback by our enthusiasm in wanting to have our picture taken with him.

Next: A hot dog is waiting for you at Chicago's Dog House. Take a picture of one teammate feeding a hot dog to another teammate.

Our picture's OK, but the one of Rick and Ricardo is priceless:

Thank God there are no pictures of the next task: Make your way to Kingston Mines. All teammates must complete a short dance lesson. You will receive a business card from your dance instructor once you complete the lesson. This dance instructor, I think, enjoyed screwing with us. We would think, "OK, we're done." And then he'd start right back up again.

On to the next task (Seems like we walked about 15 miles to get there. I'm not prone to exaggeration or anything): There is a park in Chicago dedicated to a 1939 movie directed by Victor Fleming. Make your way to this park and take a picture of team in front of the statue of the character played by Jack Haley in the original movie. I have to admit, I never even knew there was an Oz Park in Chicago.

The bus ride. Pardon the phrase, but this is where the wheels began to fall off. It started off great. A couple of teams on the bus and a bunch of *real* people gawking at us. It was nice to relax, drink some water and look at the photos we'd taken so far. Plus, the bus ride allowed us to see the number of flags hanging in front of the Palmer House Hilton, which we needed to complete another clue. Sweet.
And there were a couple of pictures of Rick and Ricardo on the bus looking very ladylike (Part one of the rest of us saying, "It's a good thing they didn't *really* go commando."):

Disaster, part one: The bus ride ends, we get off and cross the street. The light turns and I realize I don't have my camera. Rick, my hero, leads me back across the street. Mind you, the traffic -- including the bus carrying my camera -- is starting to move. But how can traffic *not* stop when you have a 6-foot-7 dude in a kilt and a chick in pink pajama bottoms running wildly across the street, yelling at a driver to stop? Camera saved and first disaster averted.

Next clue: Find the restaurant owned by Herman Joseph _______, which is famous for its Dortmunder-style beer. Take a picture of 10 people (including teammates) under the restaurant's tall vertical sign doing Molly Shannon's "Superstar" pose.

Disaster, part two. On our way to the next task, I realized I'd lost Team Doppelganger's clue sheet. We NEED this sheet to finish because it has a stamp on it from the Comedy Sportz task. Feeling utter shame.

Crisis averted? OK. So we have no clue sheet, but ... BUT since there are 12 clues and we only need to complete 11, Kat and I figure we can just do the clue we intended to skip, finish the race and tell the check-in folks that we skipped the Comedy Sportz clue -- the one that required a stamp. Our goal: On our way to our last task, find a place that has what we need to complete the now, not-skipped one. We needed to buy one of the following four things: one pack of eight or markers and a coloring book; one miniature Matchbox car; one item of Barbie clothing or an accessory; or one hardcover children's book. Then we need to go to 30 E. Adams to donate the item to the Starlight Children's Foundation. Good cause. We can do this. And there's a Walgreens on our way. Unfortunately, it was the most crappy Walgreens on the face of the planet, and it didn't have any of the things we needed. Feeling defeated again, but pushing onward.

Crisis averted? Part two: Go to the tennis courts at Daley Bicentennial Plaza. All teammates must complete the three challenges given to you there, including a crab walk, a leap frog and the wheelbarrow. After completing this challenge, you MUST receive a stamp on your clue sheet (uh, which my team no longer has) to receive credit for this clue. Kat and I, knowing we're out of the race, decide to just take pictures of Rick/Ricardo and Col/Meg making fools of themselves. And then ... Col comes through ... She walks up to me, in drug-dealer fashion, and says, "Here, take this." I look at her hand and it's a crumbled-up clue sheet. It's not OUR clue sheet, but it's a clue sheet. Back in business. Screw the poor losers who dropped their clue sheet! So Kat and I start doing the crab walk. It was brutal. Kat looks at me and says, "You wanna quit? We've done almost everything, we've had a great time ..." I say, "Aren't you going to feel disappointed if we don't ACTUALLY do this?" A resounding "Eff that." So we started taking pictures ... (Part two of us saying, "Thank God they didn't *really* go commando.")

So, those four finish the task and receive their stamp. And I thought, "Well, what's the harm in asking the guy to stamp our sheet?" Worst he can say is no, right? Kat refused to do it and handed me "our" clue sheet to give the guy. Whaddya know? He stamped it. Booyah! Walking out of the park, I say, "Well, we still have to go buy something and go donate it." Kat: "No we don't. Col, hand me your clue sheet." And the sneaky little woman LICKS the stamp we need from Col's clue sheet and rubs it on ours. It's a blurry mess that barely looks like a stamp, but what the hell? It's a good thing Meg was doing the race with us. She learned a very valuable lesson right before heading off to college: Lie, cheat and steal your way through life. God, I'm a great aunt.

Last stop (we're idiots): Now we have to go to a certain Chicago landmark and pose in front of it holding up the number of fingers representing the number of flags we saw outside the Palmer House Hilton. Where did we go? The Art Institute lions. WRONG. Had any of us paid attention, the clue said: Count the number of Olympic flags hanging in the south-facing window at 22 W. Washington street. Then take a picture of team in front of the lion pictured (on clue sheet) to the right. OR Count the number of flags at the Palmer House Hilton, then take a picture of team in front of brown statue pictured (on clue sheet) to the left. Freakin' Picasso statue, NOT the lion.

The train ride back to Cubby Bear: God bless transvestites, but the one we rode with on the train was not convincing us with "her" stories about "her" "husband," "kids" and "grandkids." We also got to hear about "her" MIT-educated daughter who's addicted to heroin, how "she" escaped New Orleans just before Katrina and about "her" house, which had just burned down. But we were treated to "her" extremely masculine features, "her" mustache, the incessant brushing of "her" hair and the track marks on "her" arms and legs. Jamie, wherever you are -- good luck, man (or woman, whatever.)

The finish line (otherwise known as the moment of truth): We crossed the finish line in a not-too-respectable time of about three hours. We'll find out in a day or two how we ranked, but I'm sure it won't be pretty. Didn't really matter in the end, though. We had a great time. That's what matters, right? And were we "officially" disqualified for our faked stamp? Nope. We had to show our pictures and our clue sheets at check-in. The man checking "our" clue sheet looked at the blue smudge and started to question it. Kat chimes in, "Yeah, that's from Comedy Sportz. Sorry, it got kind of blurred in the drizzle." "No problem," he says. Seriously, who says lying, cheating and stealing don't pay off?

Update: The results are in. I think I counted 528 teams. Teams Non Sequitur, Doppelganger and Commando Kilts finished 291, 292, 293. No medals for us, but I'm sure we had much more fun than those losers who finished first.


Anonymous said...

Dude, you spilled our secrets to the world!! I bet we came in 451, 452, and 453rd! Note to self for next year: safety pin clue sheet to clothing just like mom did to your mittens in kindergarten!

Katie said...

hahaha, loved reading this. hilarious! I'm so glad I showed you the way to the GUR!

Duffy said...

Dude, what the efff with divulging the finding of the abandoned sheet? Secrets don't make friends and friends don't make secrets =]

Ricardo said...

Thanks for putting my nether-regions out there for all to see. Is nothing sacred anymore?

june cleaver said...

I have wanted to see Ricardo's "nether-regions" since high school!

Thanks-now I can mark that off my "things I never got to do but really wish I had." list.