The Jeopardy saga – bookend edition

I admit it – after having studied intermittently full-tilt for the past five weeks, I’ve vegetated since I got home from New York. I hadn’t been reading nearly as much for pleasure (by which I mean “for Netgalley”) in the last month +, and started making up for a little lost time. So, finally, here we go. This is – for benefit of my own lapse-prone memory – the account of the New York journey apart from the audition – what we did before and after. The during will be the next post, for the benefit of anyone who couldn’t care less where we ate. : ) For details of the actual tryout, please skip to the next posts…

I can’t believe it’s been a week.

On Monday afternoon I tried (and failed) to finish the Eyewitness Guide to London I’d begun, and got as far as the Tower of London – where there was a fascinating little note that Rudolph Hess had been held there in 1941, which led me to looking into the whole story. I did finish working my way through the presidents, trying to fix the order in my mind along with VP’s (a shocking number of vice presidents died in office) and college affiliations and suchlike. I had thought a lot about how to fill out the email they sent me:


Oh. Kay. I’m not that interesting (don’t tell them I said that). It might be entertaining to come out with the fact that I didn’t finish high school, but I decided not to go there. I believe the five things I wound up with were, in some order or other:

1) Most embarrassing moment? That would be the time I locked my finger in the car door.

2) I make hand-stitched teddy bears

3) When my family gets together, we laugh – even at the cemetery

4) My favorite occupations are reading and writing – I put the “dent” in “sendentary”

5) I once flew across the country to attend a wedding at which I’d never met the bride, groom, or any of the guests, including the ones I stayed with for several days.

Of course I’ve been thinking of all sorts of alternatives – like “three of the greatest moments of my life were being thrown by a pony, run away with on a horse, and growled at by a wolf”, and “My uncle smuggled a Shetland pony on the ferry as a Christmas present for my cousins”, and “I have more books in my home than some town libraries”, and “I’ve worried my parents by always acing ‘Potent Potables’ since I was about ten”. Next time. (I thought of putting that last one down when the bunch of us went out for Mother’s Day, and an hour later it was as thoroughly gone from my mind as if I’d been hypnotized. I just remembered it. *sigh*)

I printed as neatly as I could, and then suddenly read:


*&$! I had printed it a few times, which was good; I put together a full copy of the email, and then it struck me that I didn’t really want to fold it all up. The only thing I could find was a manila folder (which was marked “Children”, from when I was in art school and used to keep a photo morgue, yes I’m old), which seemed like a good idea at the time.

That night I did all sorts of silly things to get ready: painted one pinky nail a la Drop Dead Diva (not Ironic Taffy, though); tucked a few totems into my pocketbook (the horn belonging to a Boromir action figure, the Star Trek badge my nieces gave me, my sonic screwdriver (which doubles as a pen, so at least it’s practical!) … I know, shush. None of it weighed much of anything, and a little outbreak of superstition never hurts unless there’s fire involved). I finished making notes on the presidents, still stunned at how many vice presidents died in office. I made sure I had the “five things about you” etc. in its folder somewhere I couldn’t lose it. And then I crashed. Surprisingly, I slept pretty well.

I had made 11:30 reservations at Serendipity 3 in NYC, famous from the movie with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale (named “3” not because it’s the third location but because there were three partners in the founding of it), so my sister, the Kid, and I took the train that would pretty much get us there with plenty of time to spare. Which we did. I feel I need to mention the graffiti we passed about halfway to NY: “WE ARE ALL LOSERS”, repeated in variations over the next mile or so. Thanks for that, whoever you are – I owe you a smack. It was on the train and in Grand Central that I realized how dumb that folder was. Never thought to take a tote bag or anything, so I was in constant fret-mode about losing it, getting it wet, bending it, or discovering that one or all of the pages had dropped out of one of the three open sides … Doofus. At Grand Central Station, gawked at the ceiling again (it never gets old), queued up for a cab like good little law-abiders (unlike that other time), and off to lunch. It’s also always amazing how the cab drivers all, every one, go about ten miles an hour with periodic bursts of about 80. Still, knock on wood, none of the cabs I’ve been in have ever quite hit anyone or anything. We queued up again at the restaurant – which looked tiny, like a lot of places in the city: about a twenty-foot-wide-or-so store front. There was a decent line before they opened (late) at about 11:40 or so, and I was a bit glad of the reservations even though we were at the front.

The space widened out at the back (don’t we all) to a really lovely – charming, even – room hung with dozens of Tiffany lampshades, along with memorabilia of all sorts and kinds and mirrors and a marionette which I believe was Andy Warhol. The menus were huge – in terms of having a lot of options, and also because they looked like open newspapers while being read. The three of us wound up ordering the same thing, which was a “young chicken sandwich” and iced tea … Well. The teas came in goblets that needed a bit of heft to raise, and the sandwiches – sort of open-faced, whether that was intentional or not … The chickens might have been young when butchered, but by the time they hit our table they were a bit old – parts reminded me of Mom’s chicken when it’d been a bit overdone and then reheated. (Sorry Mom.) Still, there was the famous frozen hot chocolate to look forward to, right? Um. Well. It was nice, of course – it was chocolate … but it was basically a chocolate Italian ice, and got watery very quickly. Oh well. They sold the perfume in the little shop in front (as the Doctor said, “I like a little shop!”), so I finally got my hands on it – along with a bag to make sure I didn’t lose that stupid folder with the Jeopardy email anywhere.

We had plenty of time afterward – I think we walked out of there at about 12:45, and that was even with somewhat slow service, and the audition was at 3:00 – so we wandered a little. About a block away I suddenly noticed what we were passing: Dylan’s Candy Bar! I think there was a Food Network thingy on this place a while back: three floors of candy, including a dazzling array of by-the-pound self-serve bins. (As it turns out, their chocolate was almost as disappointing as Serendipity’s, but oh well. C’est la guerre.) It was a bright, fun place, and worth the visit, if not the money spent – still, I found something cute for my graduating niece, and took a cute picture (“Kid! Go stand next to the bunny and I’ll take your picture!” “What bunny?”).

It’s blurry, but I felt silly taking the picture so there’s just the one.

After Dylan’s we pretty much decided to hop in another cab and just go to the Sheraton and figure out what we wanted to do from there. At which point the Kid needed the ladies’ room – that huge iced tea + the frozen hot chocolate – so into the Sheraton we went – and wound up basically just hanging out in the bar for about forty-five minutes. No one really felt like wandering further, and the only shopping nearby that I could see was beyond our means, so … The plan was that when I went off to the testing, the two of them were going to the Met (which a little bit of me envied), and so they did – by way of part of Central Park, in which they stumbled onto the filming of a scene from the remake of Walter Mitty (which worries me – why would you remake a movie – which was based on a book – and change the whole story?): they might wind up in the background! (Wait – that means we have to watch it. Darn.) I wasn’t – quite – hyperventilating; it was more a bouncy let’s-get-this-show-on-the-road nervous than I-need-a-paper-bag-to-breath-into, fortunately.

The Event itself I will post separately – this is the part of less interest to anyone but me, I daresay.

After we were let go, around 5:30, I made my way back to the lobby and found my sister and niece waiting. I gave them a quick recap, and they filled me in on their adventures – they had, as planned, headed for the Met, and went sort of by way of Central Park. They had approached one of the many horse-drawn carriages just out of curiosity – and come to find out a trip from the end of the Park down to the Met would cost about $150. They found a cab.

But not, however, before they almost stumbled into a movie shoot. Apparently the wonderful brains of Hollywood are remaking The Secret Life of Walter Mitty; according to imdb it will star Ben Stiller (which kind of worries me, but then again: Night at the Museum) and Sean Penn is rumored to be co-starring – and, somewhere in the background of a scene shot in Central Park may be two familiar faces. I wouldn’t normally plan to see it – thinking of what they did to Meet John Doe, not that I’ll ever watch that remake either – but now we kind of have to. (What is a movie starring Danny Kaye based on a book by James Thurber, Alex?)

We all kind of looked at each other, sitting there in the Sheraton lobby, and couldn’t quite make up our minds what to do. Home, or …? Finally we just decided to head to Grand Central, and explore the areas we’d never explored before … which, when it came to it, wound up not happening. We were all pooped, and picked a train and got on it. (Come to find out it was a Peak train – and the round trip tickets we held were Off-peak. That never happened before – it was $5 more a ticket, for pete’s sake. Oh well.

Shortly after the train started off, we heard an announcement – presumably to someone who could do something about it – that someone had locked themselves in the bathroom. I hope it wasn’t the bathroom that was right near us, because the three of us, at least, burst out laughing. And then my niece tweeted it. Sorry, person who was already embarrassed …

Two interesting things seen through the train windows: in Harlem, as, I believe, we were just pulling into from the station, I saw a man leaning on his hands against the grate of a closed tobacco shop. He was right below me, motionless, his head down; he was an older man with graying hair, and he had me a little worried. Then, coming from the street so that she emerged from directly below the train, a woman approached him. I thought for a second that she had the same thought that I did – that there was something terribly wrong, and being in a position where she could talk to him she was about to. She went to him and touched his arm, and he jumped a little, and turned, and his face lit up – and he put his arms around her neck and hugged her. Holding hands, they went a few feet away from the store to the street corner, and stopped, and he put his hands up under her hair – the train was coming in now, and the outskirts of the platform were starting to encroach – and he kissed her. And when the platform finally blocked my view he was still kissing her. I felt like a voyeur – well, I was; they had no idea anyone was watching that, though it was on a public street corner – but I was strangely moved by it – it was kind of wonderful.

The other thing? A little ways into Connecticut there was a rainbow. I’ll take that as a sign, thanks.

It was a lot brighter in person…

As we were walking back to the parking garage, across the street from the station, all of a sudden I heard “Hope I see you on Jeopardy!” Wha -?? I turned to see a car pulled up – and my fellow Connecticut tryer-outer whose name I really should remember. I yelled back “You too!” and just marveled at the fact that he – who lived in a completely different town – should have happened to take the exact same train we decided on spontaneously. Fun

I cannot wait to see familiar faces on the show. Can’t wait.

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