Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Glen and I were watching a "tru" life show last weekend, and the setting was in a state forest in Australia. On the show, several of the characters were engaged in a very British activity called orienteering. Glen asked me if we orienteered in the US, and while I vaguely recall the term from my very limited and traumatic time as a brownie scout, I had no recollection of what the activity was. Glen was able to explain, since, go figure, Canadians, orienteer, as well. It's basically a fancy name for a timed scavenger hunt, but it's a scavenger hunt, usually with high ideals: participants are given a compass and a topographical map, and learn about nature and terrain in the process, and engage in physically-challenging activities which builds character. The orienteering adventure must be completed in a certain time period, as well.

The timing aspect of the activity, of course, is the part that is so British, and yet, Americans are probably far more concerned about time, overall. I just don't quite get why anyone would want to put themselves in an unfamiliar setting and not be allowed the space and time to take it all in? And the name itself, to my American ears, seems to be a grammatical error, although the automatic spellcheck that comes along with the application I'm using to type this diatribe only protested the word "orienteered," in the third sentence in the previous paragraph, which I now realize is my own fault: I turned the noun, "orienteering," into a verb. I'm not going to change it, though, because many nouns that represent activities can be turned into verbs (e.g., I entered a race [noun]; I raced [verb] through the course [neither of which would ever happen, by the way]), and perhaps orienteering should be that flexible as well.

Anyway, grammar aside, we fought for independence against the British, and the traitorous Canadians helped our oppressors, and some days — as irrational as it is — I still hold a grudge, especially against the Canadians*, because look at them now: they cannot be happy with the Queen all over their money and her mural all over the sides of buildings in Canada — it stinks of dictatorship, and I have no idea why the Canadians don't get it. But still, a secret: I love so much about the British and their United Kingdom. I love their humor (but will not add the extraneous U to that word), and their dry wit, and their ability to converse on so many topics; I love they are far more concerned about quality and narrative rather than sound bytes and special effects; I love the regional dialects and the profoundly colorful way the British use their language. And for the life of me, I cannot shake this orienteering thing.

I've thought about orienteering a lot in the last week, wondering why it's done in rural areas, and figuring out ways to adapt it to an urban setting, because we all know there are just as many discoveries in the city as there are out in the wilderness. I like the wilderness a lot, but I live in the city, and after a lot of thought, I'm convinced a First Annual Trenton Orienteering Event is in order, and I hope you will consider participating, because not only will it be educational and full of character-building opportunities, but it will also be a whole lot of fun.

The details

1) I'm not one for strict time limits, but respect the need for framework. You don't need to register with me to participate, but if you participate, please submit your entries/evidence to me by next Tuesday, March 4, 2008.

2) Items you should use while orienteering in Trenton (items in red are required):
a) a buddy
b) a mode of transportation (feet are okay, and so is documentation from your own windows)
c) a digital camera
d) a compass
e) a map
f) a cell phone
g) a note pad

3) Scoring: each item found in the activities (below) are worth 5 points each, for a total of 65 base points. Bonus points are available for certain activities; and there are two big bonus activities worth 10 points each, also outlined below. People/team with the most points win. I am the judge.

4) Document your findings by taking (discreet, if necessary) digital pictures. Be sure to note the location of the finding. ALL FINDINGS MUST BE WITHIN THE CITY OF TRENTON. At the end of the contest, email your pictures, along with the pertinent geographic information, to me (my email address is to the right on this page).

The activities

A note about the activities: I have seen most of these things from my own porch/windows, and we're in a decent neighborhood, so you don't need to venture into the tough Trenton neighborhoods. Please do not assign an emotional value to any item on this list or think I'm mean and rotten; these are things we see commonly in Trenton, including what's in Activity #5. Sure, we shouldn't see these things so regularly, and maybe a raised awareness about frequency and location will help clean this place up.

Please find the following within the city:

1) One crazy guy in slippers, singing, either in the street or on his bike. FIVE POINTS. Two bonus points will be awarded if he smiles at you and then turns to hurl some verbal abuse at a neighbor.

2) Three "weed" trees, examples of which include the prolific mulberry, mimosa, or sumac. Note, this may be the toughest item on the list, since the trees don't have leaves this time of year, but learning a tree by its bark is good knowledge to have. Total of FIFTEEN POINTS. Two bonus points will be awarded if you can find a yard with all three. Two more bonus points will be awarded if any of the above-mentioned trees are growing into and have become one with a fence or piece of neglected furniture.

3) 4 clear pen hulls (ink removed, of course) turned into crack pipes. You must find one in each ward. No extra points available for finding more than four. Total of TWENTY POINTS.

4) 4 unneutered, unleashed male pit bulls. Must be male, intact, and without restraint. One per ward. No extra points awarded for finding more than four. Total of TWENTY POINTS.

5) One staggering drunk in North Trenton. Must be holding a bottle; brown bagging is okay. FIVE POINTS. Two bonus points awarded if he/she has clearly urinated on him/herself; two more bonus points awarded if he/she falls down.

6) Turn up a Microsoft Excel version of Trenton FY2008-2009 budget. Must provide electronic file to prove document is, indeed, an xls file. TEN POINTS.

7) Find Police Director Joseph Santiago in the city after 5 p.m. on a weeknight, or any time on the weekend. He must not be participating in a press conference in the city. TEN POINTS.

Please document your findings with your digital camera, making sure to record time and place of each finding. Email your findings to me no later than Tuesday, March 4, 2008. Be careful and have fun!


* Canadians often show up at my house with chocolates from a Canadian company called Laura Secord. Laura Secord was a Canadian "heroine," and her name is now synonymous with high-end, indulgent chocolate, even though I don't think she personally had anything to do with the chocolate business. She lived in the Niagara region during the War of 1812, and while her husband was recuperating from injuries sustained in the fighting, apparently some American soldiers forced their way into Laura's home and demanded dinner. She served them, and listened to their plans to attack the British by surprise, in the upcoming days. The Secords were fiercely loyal to the British Crown, and so Laura set out the next day to warn the British military. It was a hazardous journey, but she was successful: the British and the Native people who sided with the British, were able to intercept the Americans a few days later. Phooey.

I just received some large Laura Secord chocolate eggs for Easter, and they do look delicious. In January, we received a box of small, individually-wrapped chocolate Santas. I ate a few, biting the heads off first, in symbolic, but lame and misguided retaliation for Laura Secord picking the wrong side. Back in January, I brought a few of those foil Santas with me for my nieces and nephews, because I didn't want to eat them all. Anyway, little Emma, of her own volition, also bit the Laura Secord Santa head off first, chewed it ineffectively for a moment (she doesn't have all her teeth yet), and then with a twinkle in her eye, spit out Santa's head on to the floor. Her speaking skills are still developing, but she seems to have a firm understanding of what everyone else says. So, I asked her, "Do you like chocolate Santa?" And she gestured enthusiastically that she did indeed like the chocolate, and that she wanted to eat the rest of his little chocolate body, and she did so without spitting it out. I'm convinced that the kid is just kind of demented, and wanted to bite off Santa's head and spit it out. Witnessing young Emma violate Santa made me think about the nature versus nurture argument: my family is not "chew 'em up and spit 'em out" sorts, and I would have thought, until today, that that particular quality must be learned. Apparently not: Emma was born with the "chew 'em up and spit 'em out" tendency. And after eating the chocolate, Emma proceeded to do 50 military-style one handed push-ups, cackling like an insane marine sergeant the whole time; we are not a family of exercisers, and we don't have a history, that I know of, with the Marine Corps. My sister is in for a world of pain with that kid.


Greg Forester said...

I too was exposed to the horrors of orienteering during my Boy Scout years...

Until this day, I thought I would never hear that terrible word again.

Dan G. Tawnie said...

Oh man, numbers 6 and 7 for the win! Hahaha, hilarious read.

Brendage said...

Dude, we even had an orienteering club in high school. I remember their picture so well...right next to the A/V Squad.
I think the "sport" (and I use that term loosely) was created so map reading/compass wearing types would get lost in the woods and not be able to reproduce!
Boo Yeah!

Miss Karen said...

You kill me. Seriously. That is brilliant.

Even though orienteering is supposed to involve using the sun and a compass and the wind or whatever to orient yourself and find your way around (which is why, generally, you don't do it in urban areas), I have lived in Trenton for several years now and STILL get lost on a regular basis, and a map and compass could hardly hurt. Unless I get mugged for them, I guess. So anyway, I think we really might be able to get this orienteering thing going around here. We could drop people off in neighborhoods where all the street signs have been stolen/misdirected and see how long it takes them to get back to DeLorenzo's, or something.

Chrissy said...

I'm hoping people take this orienteering challenge -- Trenton is a tricky city to learn!

Slightly unrelated: Glen and Jenny wanted me to mention that Glen says Emma is "not even human." The term has been sticking, too. I wouldn't say Emma is animalistic, but rather like an unstoppable machine, like Summer Glau's character on the new Fox show, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." So Emma is like that "not even human," but without the metallic endoskeleton. Emma would probably win our orienteering competition, and because I am the judge, I'm not disallowing anyone from entering, not even pre-2 family members. All are welcome, even people who are "not even human."

Anonymous said...

This is a good idea! I wish I knew about this before the deadline. Maybe Mayor Palmer could give an award to the winner. It would be much better than giving an award to a murderer. pbaman