It's around 9:30pm on a Friday night and I'm racing around downtown Santa Cruz looking for Wasabi and a copy of Pootietang. Memories of the Crank Mob incident three weeks ago echo in my head but tonight's "Scrounge" scavenger hunt is only about 25 people and we're all riding in different directions so there is little worry about getting hassled by the cops or worse, drunk, aggressive drivers.
The streets are aglow with faces eager, anxious for excitement. Sadly, the options for adventure on a Friday night in 21st century America are fairly limited to conversations about Ninjas vs. Pirates, Grand Theft Auto, Hollywood premiers, expensive bars, and tons upon tons of corporate coffee shops. It's a desperate, ravenous spectacle, all juxtaposed against an imperial government that kills people living on land where the world's remaining barrels of oil are buried. And it's all so we can keep this ugly spectacle going.
And then there's this psychotic scavenger hunt. Psychotic because we have 2.5 hours to get a list of items as far away as Aptos and UC Santa Cruz, and as hygienic as taking your picture next to a sleeping homeless person. Psychotic because most of the items outlined do NOT require purchasing massed produced goods and then taking them home to collect dust. No, tonight we're grabbing what's free or cheap - handfuls of sand, movie ticket stubs, deflated basketballs, it's absurd and I'm not sure why I'm doing it. Oh yeah, it's better than the spectacle.
I poke into record stores, bookstores, and videostores looking for a copy of Pootietang. But it's a nay-no on the runny tine, and I leave quickly. I head for the parks and "forbidden" spaces in search of Poison Hemlock and maybe a picture of an alley cat. On the outskirts of downtown, the streets are quiet, and you can smell the fresh ocean breeze, the wild skunks, the marijuana. It's lovely and I think about how this may be the perfect balance between feeling compelled to buy some shit at a store because there's nothing else to do and riding aimlessly throughout the night because there's no place in particular to go.
Except, I'm getting sweaty. I'm also getting tired. I secure a deflated basketball, a fistful of redwood duff, I ride out to Arana Gulch in search of Socrates' last drink. It's dark and I'm technically not suppose to be here but it's worth the risk of watching the stars obliterate the memories of television screens and I think about how living rooms are cages, as are cubicles, and classrooms. I can hear a party somewhere, female laughter, there's no Poison Hemlock here and I kick myself for not remembering that it's a plant that grows closer to riparian areas, i.e. I'm looking in the wrong place.
I race back towards downtown with only 5 minutes before the rendezvous time with my team. San Lorenzo Park, like so many American parks, is closed at night but I ride through nonetheless and find a huge patch of the plant that killed Socrates, take a sample and head back downtown. In the distance I spot an alley/feral cat - I pull out my camera but it quickly bolts into the bushes. Call of the wild I guess.