Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
My eyesight not being so hot these days, I depend on books on CD (I still want to call them “books on tape”) from the library. When this addiction began, there were only a couple of shelves of CDs. Now there are rows upon rows of them, and you can order any that aren’t in stock.
My memory not being so hot these days, either, I put a secret mark on the ones I’ve listened to so I won’t keep checking out repeaters.
When the library gets a new shipment of books on CD, it sweetly labels them “new,” and often I’ll just grab four or five of those at random, hoping for the mother lode. This past week I scored big with a 16-disc biography of Abigail Adams (new), the novel “Caleb’s Crossing” (special ordered) and a book titled “Maphead,” by Ken Jennings (new).
I don’t know much about geography, so I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for “Maphead,” but it turned out to be interesting, entertaining and had (all important) an excellent reader.
It became downright fascinating when Jennings described a game he got involved with in hope of luring his son outside, away from his computer.
The game is geocaching, “the biggest hobby that nobody knows about.” It seems that all over the world, people are logging onto http://www.geocaching.com, signing up (for free) and, using their GPS systems, finding caches that others have hidden in the vicinity.
The caches range from metal ammo boxes to film cans (both now rare) to covered plastic bowls to a tiny locket. They contain sign-up sheets, and some have little toys, which, if you take one, you are supposed to replace with another. Of course there is a website for cache toys.
This massive treasure hunt is going on internationally, and if you enter “81611” when you go to the site, you’ll find that a slew of them are hidden in and around Aspen, listed in order of their distance from the center of town.
Click on one of the caches, and it will tell you how large the cache is (micro, medium, macro) and will sometimes give you a clue in code. The code is simple because they tell you what it is, and it’s the same for all clues (duh). There are also comments from people who have found the cache and the date it was found.
You enter the longitude and latitude in your GPS, and armed with the clues, off you go. Not having a GPS myself, and my tramping-around skills not being so hot these days, I have contented myself by vicariously following some of the hunts.
Sometimes innocent passers-by (“muggles”) will uncover a cache, but by and large this is a huge secret game going on right under our noses and feet. Needless to say, I had never heard of it, and now it’s so big it is beginning to be ruined by its own hugeness.
When I was a kid during World War II, Kilroy Was Here drawings began appearing all over the place. The drawing was of a simple head with a big nose, looking over a wall, with the Kilroy message.
I was a serious tramper in those days, and it warmed my heart to find a Kilroy drawing back underneath a bridge or on the beams of a house under construction or penciled on a folded piece of paper tucked between two rocks in the woods.
Geocaching is a bit like Kilroy but more sophisticated and technological, as are we. Those were simpler times. It would make my day to come across an old Kilroy, but they disappeared like all of the Quonset huts.
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“Many of these stoic commuters endure brain-numbing traffic jams so they can service vacant mega homes, making sure all the lights are on and that the snowmelt patios, driveways, sidewalks and dog runs are thoroughly heated so as to evaporate that bothersome white stuff that defines Aspen’s picturesque winter landscape and ski economy,“ writes Paul Andersen.