austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

To bathe your mind in the quiet tide

For Wednesday bunny_hugger and I set out with a plan to go letterboxing and then return home for dinner with my parents. This may sound like we just repeated Tuesday, but while that was the goal the results came out different.

Our target this time was a letterbox reported to be in the attractively named Shark River Park. This river does not deserve its name from the famous 1916 shark attacks, which got into the river up in Matawan; instead, according to my father, the river is thus named for the many fossil shark teeth findable there. My parents were surprised to learn that I've never to my knowledge found a shark tooth. It's possible I've seen many and just not noticed them; but without a clear idea what to look for, as best as I can determine, this ``shark tooth'' thing is an ongoing hoax to tease kids into thinking the outdoors is more interesting than it actually is.

But we drove to the park, found the parking lot, and immediately found that the clues to the letterbox there were ... aggravatingly ambiguous. Letterbox clues often include a bit of figuring-out-the-riddle to them, and could requite rethinking to understand their intent. bunny_hugger and I never seem to have such. Instead we get clues that seem to describe a slightly parallel universe's terrain. In this case we were frustrated by descriptions of ``the'' picnic bench out of many, or ``the'' clear field and the path opposite it, when the only path was nowhere near the available clear field. We did run across a park worker who wondered if we were there for a geocaching thing, which is close enough to what we were there for that we accepted it, and he seemed pleased with our existence.

Unfortunately, while we could find things that sort of matched the clues, we couldn't find key ones, like a wooden bridge with a bench just after it; in fact, we just couldn't quite match anything to where it was described as being.

Despite bunny_hugger's worries about being one of those people who calls on high technology to solve what should be low-technology issues, I took out my iPad, and we searched for maps of the park, and also the map of just where we were. And there we discovered what might well have caused our confusion: the park has two entrances, and we had gone to the wrong one.

We went back around and to the correct entrance and now we found everything snapping into place: the descriptions of the field and the picnic table and the trail made perfect sense and we could see the description of this letterbox made sense. We pretty soon found the first one, near a bench just after the wooden bridge, and we got into a nice little stamping frenzy of entering the letterbox into our logs and entering our stamps into its.

After this we went further into the park and to the more challenging second letterbox's set of clues. Here again the clues seemed to actually match the terrain pretty well, with the most ambiguous part being the mention of a piece of exercise-trail equipment which didn't match our initial mental impressions but which we could make fit closely enough. Well, and there was a description of the site being near a fallen tree, which --- and I'd like to mention this to any letterbox clue writers --- stinks as a clue because a forest is by volume roughly 25 percent fallen trees.

However, there was one which seemed somehow to be more distinctly a fallen tree than its compatriots, and sure enough right by it we found several bunches of trees any of which might have the letterbox. I pointed out one spot that I thought was the destination; bunny_hugger agreed with my pointing and went to some trees which were not the ones I thought I was pointing out, and that's where the letterbox was.

After this, and after retracing our steps somehow without getting lost in the winding paths all alike, we had some time left over. bunny_hugger suggested we go a little east, and visit the Silverball pinball museum in Asbury Park. I hadn't suggested it since I don't want to flood our time together with my particular interests, but I had gone over a month without visiting there --- I think in the rush of events I've failed to mention that visit, which had some amusing side points --- but I was glad for the chance to visit. And we drove there with me getting only a little bit lost in the final steps, none too seriously. (It also turns out to be pretty much across the street from Bruce Springsteen-mythology-centerpiece The Stone Pony, although neither of us is actually that fascinated by Bruce Springsteen.)

Given that we had a dinner date we estimated we'd only need the one-hour passes, and that was probably fine. According to my score sheet record I played fifteen games in that hour, some of which was spent admiring bunny_hugger, or watching her play. For the most part we stuck to the more classic, 1950s-and-1960s games, although there was the relatively recent and Elvira-themed Scared Stiff up front where it was convenient to play. The older games very often had startlingly low scores, which is part of the appeal for bunny_hugger --- she feels more confident she might get to setting a record on a game where the high score is 1200 than on a more modern game where it's 12,000,000. In fact, in something like a head-to-head match, where she played Blast Off and I played the nearly identical Apollo (one had the option of free games, while the other did not, so as to avoid the hazards of being counted as a gambling machine) she beat me, 1247 to 946. (I have a picture.) I'm rather sure she beat me on another game too, but I'm not sure which; I think it may have been Skylab/Spacelab, another same-game, variant-free-games pairing.

The Silverball Museum, to my delight and surprise, has a rather good changeover on the games it has. I think maybe less than two-thirds of the museum as we saw it in March was still there in June, but it was replaced with new games. One of those new games was a late 1970s Charlie's Angels, bringing to our mind the question: isn't a late 1970s pinball backdrop illustration of Charlie's assorted Angels redundant? We left, though, before trying out the magnetic bowling, with bunny_hugger pointing out our hour was expired and we had just about the right amount of time to get back home on time.

Her sense of timing was perfect; it was just about 6 pm on the dot as we pulled into my parents' development and we heard a weird nagging music coming from ... somewhere. I seem to have set my ringtone to be a weird musical piece, and I think I know why I did that --- back in November when I set the phone up I didn't have time to set a custom ringtone, so I picked the one from the built-in set which seemed least likely to have a duplicate. I've just heard it so rarely I didn't recognize it. As the Toyota Something wasn't in the driveway I figured my parents had gone to the restaurant without us and were asking where we were; I called and learned my father was in the living room. Promptly, my mother pulled in the driveway. And so we set off confusedly to an Italian restaurant in that strip mall with the ice cream parlor, Japanese restaurant, video game store, and diner we'd eaten at several times already this week.

The Italian restaurant --- which I had a nagging sense that my parents and I had eaten at before, mostly because of a mention in the menu that the restaurant also had outlets in Trenton, New Jersey, and in Newport News, Virginia, and I remembered finding in the past that was a weird trio of cities --- had entertainment, in the form of a guy playing music from a selection of CDs eclectic enough that while he asked for requests, we couldn't figure out a unifying thematic element to give us some idea of what might be requested. I hope he didn't get too lonely at it. I'm pretty sure Bobby Darin made the short list.

Following dinner --- another of those peaceful and happy parent/significant-other meals in what's been a comfortably sized roster of them --- we went to ice cream at the parlor where bunny_hugger and I had gone after miniature golfing. This time we were slightly better informed about the various kinds of ice cream, although it's not as though we were likely to be unhappy with whatever flavor we did get. My father quipped a bit about me playing the pinball game in the parlor (Indiana Jones, I think it was), but the pinball machine's been turned off each time we'd been there so who knows whether it's ever turned on.

This was, as you might figure, a tranquil day, conclusion of a good resting period before the anticipated excitement of Thursday.

Trivia: About two-fifths of England's land in 1340 was owned by the monarch, royal family, and high aristocracy; another three-tenths was owned by ecclesiastical officers and corporations. Source: In The Wake Of The Plague: The Black Death And The World It Made, Norman F Cantor.

Currently Reading: Rules For Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer For Realistic Radicals, Saul D Alinksy. I'm startled and pleased to discover that way back in my undergraduate days, as writer/editor for the leftist campus weekly, I had intuited several of Alinksy's rules (among them try to be entertaining; don't do anything so often or long it gets boring; and insist on the letter of the administrative procedure so that giving you what you want is less hassle than disciplining you Properly), although the various protest groups I advised thusly only accidentally took this advice. Still, there was that fun period the main protest group spent daily occupying a different administrator's office and then leaving immediately on being Ordered to do so, thus keeping them from ever doing anything they could be disciplined for under the student disciplinary code, but making for some amusing newspaper copy regularly.


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