Trivial pursuits

Yep, put my toes right there.

Way back in, oh, sometime earlier this year (February?), Dan and I both signed up to take the online Jeopardy test. Several people I follow on twitter signed up to take it as well, and as the day and the hour grew closer, I started to get a little bit nervous about it. I thought that was pretty funny, since it’s not like taking a 50-question online quiz would make any difference in my life (it wasn’t for a grade, or to pass a class, or anything else one normally gets as a result of taking a test). Finally, the appointed time arrived, and we both sat in the same places we always do (me on the couch with the laptop, he on the desktop across the room) and we took the test simultaneously.

* * * * * * *

When I was in 6th grade, my middle school had a geography bee (sponsored by National Geographic). It was set up like a spelling bee, except that instead of spelling words, you had to answer geography questions. Despite competing against 7th and 8th graders, I did pretty well (I think I was in the top 10 finishers) and had a lot of fun. In seventh grade, my school did the geography bee again. And I won. My prize was a globe and a subscription to one of the magazines National Geographic published for non-adults, and I had the opportunity to compete in a regional bee if I did well enough on a written exam. Sadly, I must not have done that well, or maybe there was some sort of scheduling conflict, because I never went any further than that school-wide contest. Still, my photo was in the paper, which is what passes for news around these parts.

We won’t talk about what happened in my 8th grade year (I came in second. To a sixth grader. Yeah.), but I got more interested in the National Geography Bee because it was hosted by Alex Trebek. Trebek, as anyone who has watched television in the last 25 years knows, is also the host of Jeopardy, a show I’ve been watching since childhood. I had all these fantasies, once upon a time, of auditioning for the teen tournament or the college tournament but it never got any further than that. My brain is the sort of brain that holds all sorts of useless trivia, and the only thing it’s really gotten me is the ability to beat most people at games like Trivial Pursuit. I can watch Jeopardy and know most of the answers, most of the time. Yay?

* * * * * * *

When I met Dan, I knew I’d met my match in brain sponge/regurgitation abilities. We played Trivial Pursuit once, and he beat me handily because he knew the answers to the sports questions in addition the all the other kinds of questions (sports are my weakness in that game). Dan’s brain for trivia is like 8 times the size of mine, which is saying something. He took the online Jeopardy test in early 2008, and actually did well enough to go in for an audition. Sadly, he was unable to go because they wanted him to audition the same week we got married, so obviously that wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t even know about it until years later, because I was in such a wedding-focused brain fog at the time that even if he told me about his feat (they wanted him to audition for Jeopardy!), it went in one ear and out the other.

So this test that we both took in February was sort of like a do-over for him, and for me it was kind of my chance to feel like maybe I was still a little bit smart. Happily for Dan, he got an email a couple of weeks ago telling him Congratulations! He passed the Jeopardy online test, and would he be able to go to LA to audition for the show?

We talked about it, the pros and cons of driving versus flying. Where he would stay, or we would stay if I went along. The cost of gas and the wear/tear on the car versus two plane tickets plus car rental. Since we both have far more time than money these days, we decided to drive (and heck yes, I wanted to go along. That’s a long, long drive for him to do alone, two days in a row). Oldest Friend, who was in NYC for work, said we could stay at her place (the second time we’ve stayed with her in LA when she wasn’t actually there). We picked out an audiobook at the library to keep us company on our many-hours drive through the most boring part of California, and I put some baby carrots and hummus and apples and oranges in a cooler bag, and Dan put on his “I for one welcome our new computer overlords” t-shirt, and on Wednesday we got in the car and drove to LA. He was fighting a nasty cold that had appeared suddenly on Monday evening, which obviously wasn’t an ideal scenario, but he felt better after sleeping most of Tuesday. We spent the drive listening to a science fiction novel that to our surprise had been written in the early 80s, so the plot included the Cold War and Soviet brainwashing techniques, and we got to hear multiple descriptions of the female characters’ legs and boobs (which, after a while, we had to laugh at the absurdity of every male age 18-80 falling in instant lust with the Town Bicycle). Despite one stop for Subway and one stop for gas, we made it to West LA in just over seven hours.

* * * * * *

After a morning fraught with ridiculousness (no hot water, so Dan had to take a cold shower and I heated water in the electric kettle to enable him to shave; the car had to be moved by 8AM to avoid a street sweeping ticket), Dan headed out to his Jeopardy audition. I plotted a walking route via Google maps that would take me to the Santa Monica pier and back. That’s right, I *WALKED* someplace in LA. I might have been the only person to do so that day, but I wanted to get some miles in after the previous day’s drive and the one to come after Dan finished his audition. I filled up a water bottle, grabbed an energy bar, and pocketed my pedometer, and I walked more than four miles to the beach. After exploring the pier a bit, I took off my shoes and socks and I dipped my toes in the Pacific ocean, the first time I’ve done that since moving back to California.

Here’s what I saw during my trek.

I saw this sign and all I could think of was that they were using electricity to shock bad kids, underground

Crustaceans at the Santa Monica Pier

Nothing's running yet at 9:30 AM

I got so excited when I saw Zoltar, and he looks nothing like the one in Big.

Bouquet on the beach. Well, IN the beach.

One of the clementines had been stolen by some seagulls that were fighting over it.

I was about halfway back to Oldest Friend’s house when Dan called to tell me his audition was over. I could tell it went well by the tone of his voice*, and, despite having already walked approximately seven miles at that point, I got a little spring in my step. He really did it, I thought. He auditioned for Jeopardy and crossed something off his life goal list.

I arrived at Oldest Friend’s house to find I’d walked 9 miles total. We packed our few belongings and got in the car and drove just over seven hours north, only stopping once, for gas/bathroom break, at the station right by Leah and Simon’s house. (We knew gas there wasn’t too expensive, and it’s just off the freeway.) Our kitties were happy to see us when we got home, and we were happy to be out of the car. It felt surreal, for sure: in the morning, I was in Los Angeles, walking through Santa Monica, touching the cold ocean water. In the evening, I was in Cloverdale again. The hours through the Central Valley, listening to the story about the Evil Commies and the Good Americans having to work together to study an alien spacecraft felt like a time warp. All I’ve got to show for that 36 hours are the photos.

*The story of the audition itself isn’t mine to tell (since I wasn’t there) but he’s in the contestant pool for the next 18 months and might get called to be on the show as early as July. If he actually does make it on the show, obviously I’ll write about it then!

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