A true story in which I become an object in a scavenger hunt


coffee at Tate Modern

As we were leaving London's Tate Modern, a British woman approached. “Sorry to bother you. We’re on an office scavenger hunt and need a photo with a bearded man.” She added “It’s a competition,” likely as clarification in case “scavenger hunt” was a foreign concept.

(Gale and I exchanged amused glances. Five years ago, in Antwerp, a young woman who was participating in a bridal scavenger hunt sought us out as I was writing in my notebook because she needed to take (and keep) a ballpoint pen from a stranger.)

I told the lady that she was in luck as I happened to fit both her criteria. She snapped a quick selfie with me, then departed with thanks. Behind us, Gale noticed that her colleagues, watching our exchange from a few yards away, were shaking their heads and waving their hands. “You have to shake hands!”

She had left out that requisite characteristic, so she apologetically asked for a mulligan. This time Gale snapped a photo as the two of us posed with clasped hands and big smiles.

I quickly gave her a Bucktown button before she scurried off to join her coworkers for their next discovery.



A true story from Liverpool

“Can I ask you a question?” The ruddy mid-thirties man said eagerly, waving as he approached across the busy Liverpool town square. I don’t know what expression I gave him, but he quickly added “I’m not going to hit you, you’re bigger than I am!” Now within normal speaking voice range he asked Gale and me “Have you got a sense of humour?” “No” and “Yes,” we answered respectively and simultaneously.

Taken back only a moment by Gale’s response, Paul introduced himself and proceeded to tell us about the self-published humour magazine he “and his mates” were selling. He had a lot more to say, but I was lost in his verbal freight train of familiar syllables that only occasionally coalesced into recognizable words. Trance-like, I smiled, nodded, and decided I liked him.

After exchanging a fiver for two issues (one pound in savings!) I presented him with a Bucktown badge. As we parted ways with handshakes all around Paul leaned in and whispered to me “they’re good bathroom reading.”

Gag Mag Covers

A few steps away, we turned back and Paul was approaching another couple, now wearing our pin on his chest. Gale said “Too bad that he lost his job after the brain tumor.”

What? Apparently, I had been smiling and nodding throughout his sad tale.



A true story from Wales

In the ruins of the old Roman fort called Caer Gybi stands the 13th century Saint Cybi’s Church. A sundial on the face of the chapel is inscribed in Latin, “Life though long it stay will end in night and day.” (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

Saint Cybi

As we explore the medieval grounds a middle-aged Welsh couple approaches and the man warmly asks “Are you locals?”

The woman’s name is Ann, we learn. The man’s name will remain a mystery, after two repetitions and my unsuccessful attempts to say it back he kindly lied “Yes, you got it!”

We continued to chat, with a few more linguistic puzzles being brought forth, then Man offered us a religious tract. “We are Christians,” he said, then clarified when asked, that they are not members of the church where our impromptu meeting was occurring.

tract

I immediately remembered the Hare Krishna we met on Portobello Road and offered one of our Bucktown buttons (“badges,” they call them here) in exchange. This time, it was accepted.

Later, in the town of Holyhead, we see Man and Ann across the street. We exchange waved hellos.


A true story from Dublin

The Temple Bar
(Dublin, August 1, 2019, early afternoon)

A tall slender dark-haired woman with exotic eyes rises from a previously unnoticed floor trap in front of the beer spigots. Her sudden graceful and seemingly unannounced ascent, not unlike Salacia rising from the sea, surprises all the patrons crowded around the bar top. She, as well as her coworkers, are unperturbed as she quietly closes the hole in the floor and begins to draw an ale.

In the corner of the room, a singer plays on.

Dublindiptic


A true story from Portobello Road, London

The robed Hara Krishna follower approached me with an outstretched hand holding some sort of sticker. “Gift. Gift.” He said, gesturing with whatever it was.

I reached into my right pocket and his eyes crinkled with a smile. I extended my hand, offering him a “Bucktown” neighborhood button that we commissioned for our trip.


Bucktown Button


“No. No.” Shaking his head he thumbed the edge of his robe to indicate he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, pin a button on the saffron garment.

I extended my hand again, asking him to accept it anyway. He turned and briskly walked away saying “No. No. No. No. No.”

(July 2019)


Hunting the Little Woodcutter of Amsterdam


Public jpeg


"The Little Woodcutter" is a beloved hidden art treasure in Amsterdam. Or, at least it had been, until recently.

After 45 minutes of searching (spread over two separate visits) we decided that the vague and apparently incorrect hints about its location weren’t working for us, so we reluctantly turned to the Internet for more specific details.

Of all the photos we found online, this one from Road Unraveled provided enough context to figure out exactly where The Little Woodcutter could be found:

LittleWoodcutter jpeg


And that’s all we needed to discover the sad truth. The Little Woodcutter, having stood since 1989, is no more. Here’s a photo I took from that same spot in October 2019. The fresh cut wound in the tree is all that remains of where he once was.

Little Woodcutter of Amsterdam

Goodbye little fella. We hope that someone had the presence of mind to save you and find you a new home.

The Little Woodcutter of Amsterdam (1989 - 2019)