It was snowing, and I was on foot, determined to find no less than every piece of art hidden around the city, as part of Caldera Gallery’s Hide and Seek treasure hunt for all. It didn’t matter that my goal was logistically impossible—as Mercury was retrograde, the clues were hard, not all the maps had been released, nor had the 30-plus pieces of art yet been finished or stowed away, and I was but a tiny human wearing substandard (but oh-so-cute) boots, wandering the city on foot in search of buried art I’d never seen, but was certain I had to have.
It all started the night before at the Baca Street holiday shop-a-thon, when the neo-folk rad Caldera folks launched their eagerly anticipated treasure hunt with homemade cookies and a wall full of xeroxed maps. I’d followed a trail of cleverly coded breadcrumbs to “little Amsterdam.”
“Amsterdam…Amsterdam…” I repeated, clutching a tiny sculpture bearing the clue, free-associating my way toward the middle of the riddle, “…hookers, windmills, drugs, braids—”
“The Red House,” boyfriend blurted. “It’s a smoke shop.”
There, our Do you have a clue for us? inquiry was greeted with a stony “Huh?,” fortuitously interrupted by a guy-in-charge type who knew what we were talking about, and handed us a(nother) clue/piece of paper featuring a Mesoamerican pyramid, a snake and the word “barista” scribbled upon it.
“The Aztec!” I shrieked, as excited to have figured it out as I was bummed to realize the groovy coffee joint was closed.
I awoke the next morning to a flurry of falling snow, eager to nab the undoubtedly wonderful art awaiting me at the Aztec. Alas, boyfriend had taken the car, so while I wove etheric threads of protection around the mysterious treasure piece I’d have to pick up later, I scanned my map collection and plotted my onward-seeking strategy. Having unearthed the clues embedded in a poem, I leaped into those aforementioned substandard boots and raced out into the snow, speed-walking toward the red locomotive incongruously parked on the bike path at Cerrillos and St. Francis, under which was taped a wrapped gift and a note crowning me the triumphant finder. I danced a celebratory roadside jig and then hightailed it back to Caldera, as the note instructed, only to arrive at the same time as a 13-year-old girl, all shiny braces and gleaming spirit, clutching her own wrapped treasure. We tore into our finds, and I’d barely glanced at my framed, mismatched sock monster drawing before cultivating a seething envy for the teenager’s crocheted panda.
Mine sucks, I thought to myself.
I silently pouted while Sandra, Caldera co-founder and half of in-house art duo SCUBA, quietly stuffed copies of her own map into a wall-posted pocket. Reinvigorated by visions of the cute, figurative adorableness she surely crafted, I committed myself to finding her piece and went about circling the room for the obtuse clue painted on a gallery wall.
Two locations, three ancillary consultations and a whole lot of snow later, I sprinted back to Caldera.
“Can I borrow a car?” I asked no one in particular, panting and manic.
Gallery co-founder Crockett Bodelson offered me a ride to Video Library for my next clue, as well as to the Aztec to pick up my waiting treasure, which turned out to be a pair of Neanderthal surfers riding a concrete wave that was blue and kook-friendly and nowhere near eutrophied.
Must be the Caribbean, I concluded.
At Video Library, we watched a roughly cut video that sent me back to Aztec (Street), bounding up the stairs at Double Take, where a note in an ancient typewriter pointed me to a sooty old oven housing a painted brick wrapped in a hand-knit checkerboard sweater.
This is my big, fat treasure? I thought, brushing black particulate off of my sleeves.
I set out for the long walk home, trudging through the snow, struggling to balance a hefty pair of concrete surfers, a sweater-clad brick and a mismatched-sock-wearing monster. I happened upon the Axle guys, laughing in front of their mobile fire pit parked next to their mobile art gallery. Arms full, feet wet, hat snowy, I joined them for a breather and kvetched about my icky art.
Jerry waxed passionately about Krazy Kat, promptly Ignatz-ing my brick, and allowing me to see how quick and contracted and childish I’d been, hating on my treats because panda girl got a panda, and a pretty blonde wearing leg warmers found a rhino. It’s the downfall of comparison, of the “grass is always” (as in never) “greener,” of distracting ourselves with what’s going on somewhere else—we miss the magic of our own realities, our own nows and our own free art finds; at least, that’s what I do.
On this end of it, warm and dry, competitive mania waning, Mercury still retrograding, I love my fat concrete surfers, not just because Ms. Neanderthal can curl left, but because a wonderful human named Cris made her and hid her and put his heart into her, a heart I get to hold a little tiny piece of on my mantle, next to Ignatz’ checkerboard brick and a mismatched sock-wearing monster named Kevin.