Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hide Your Things Anywhere

Some people like having their bag with them when they go out. Certainly most women - in my experience - feel more comfortable being out on the town with some necessities at hand in bags of varying sizes. I've rifled through some purses in my time and can not truly argue with the desire to have an ipod, tiny umbrella, gym clothes, tissues, giant wallet, book or two, gum, deodorant and so on. The male version involves a backpack or manpurse that holds roughly the same contents. The point is: people carry things and seem to like carrying these things. People like to be distracted and have distraction available for down-time. People like to anticipate problems and carry the solutions with them.

I was once like that. Unfortunately, I have lost my taste for traveling with added weight. My dilemma is that I do still prefer traveling with many of the aforementioned objects. Certainly, a book. A magazine. An umbrella. An ipod. I like having them. I don't like holding them. I don't like having to watch them in a crowded bar. I don't like any further imbalance when challenging my equilibrium with the bar's wares. If you feel similarly conflicted, I have recently been exploring a new option:

Hide your unwanted but indispensable objects in plain sight around New York City (or a city of your choice).

About six months ago, I left my house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and headed into Manhattan for a birthday party way downtown, around the South Street Seaport. Expecting a long subway ride and being the kind of person who doesn't like to stare into space, I brought a New Yorker along with me to read. I'd gotten through the Talk of the Town and maybe the first article when I reached my destination. I curled the magazine up and put it in my backpocket and started walking towards my friends' apartment. As I walked, it started to fall out, and seemed like it was going to be a drag at the party. Sure, I could just put it aside when I got there but that policy had resulted in a high rate of forgotten belongings. In a pinch, I would have thrown it away but dagnabbit, I hadn't yet read their persnickety, self-righteous film reviews and definitely wanted to check out the feature on Ghostface. Pondering my options, I noticed a lone payphone kiosk on my right. A gap between the phone and the frame of the kiosk caught my eye. I curled my magazine up even tighter and slipped it into the space. Stepping back, I made sure I was alone, nodded appreciatively at the magazine's shadow-covered inconspicuousness and headed for the party.

I then got drunk and forgot about my magazine. A few days later, it occurred to me that I had left it hidden downtown. I made my way to the South Street Seaport area and found the phone kiosk. Lo and Behold, my magazine was still there. I think I may have said the word 'Nice' outloud. I looked around. No one had witnessed my triumph. On the other hand, no one would know my secret talent for hiding things around New York City. Until now!

I went on to test my almost paradoxical ability to travel lighter but carry whatever I wanted with me. Payphones offered the best options for magazines. But what about other objects? What about money? I have another amazing ability. It is the ability to accumulate change. I guess I don't buy a lot of things that end in round dollars. Thusly, I walk the earth with lots of coins. It's actually not that big a deal. It's not that big a deal IF YOU HAVE POCKETS!

Basketball shorts rarely come with pockets. When they do, it is the rare basketball player who wishes to play five-on-five, three-on-three or 21 with the weight and jingle of coins in his or her pockets. Having bought myself a gatorade one day for the sensible price of 1 dollar and twenty-five cents, I was left heading to the park with my keys, my gatorade and my three quarters. It felt like too much. Yet, I couldn't see myself throwing any of them away. Passing a small series of hedges in front of an apartment building, I had a notion to bury my change at the base of the third hedge. I heeded this notion, keeping my peripheral vision engaged for curious pedestrians. Standing up, I recounted the hedges just to be sure and headed for the courts.

I then played very poorly, walked home in a funk and forgot about my 6 bits.

Coming back from a cup of coffee the next day, I recalled the change I'd left hidden. I walked casually to the burial ground and scooped out the coinage. It was all there. Dirty. But all there. And this wasn't just some magazine. This was currency. I'd successfully hidden currency on a public street in New York City. I self-consciously pumped my fist and said the word 'Yes' outloud.

To date, I've hidden umbrellas (looped around the branch of a tree, behind the front wheel of a car), change (buried in gardens, flower pots and sitting on window sills), magazines (phone kiosks, under benches, behind the back wheels of cars), books (under the gate of a closed deli or shop), and groceries (tea, vitamins, a big orangina - all were secured in an apartment's first floor flower bed). I've been known to stash the half-drunk pepsi or gatorade bottle but have thus far never returned for them.

Crazy? You might be right. Not worth it? Possibly. It generally falls into the category of too much work for a mildly more convenient experience. As you can see from the above anecdotes, I still ended up forgetting the very thing I had sequestered in the hopes of not forgetting it. But damn it, hiding things is fun. That's why I'm sharing it. There is something reassuring about being able to conduct your own public scavenger hunt in one of the world's largest cities and always be the winner.

When recovering my hidden property, I like the feeling that strikes me:

I can trust New York.


Blogger S said...

thx for your amusing stories cas. i used to hide lipstick in an empty cabinet in the bathroom at a teen club in mineola. i may have even hidden my tiny teen wallet there too. since that time, my wallet has been stolen several times at parties, when my purse is actually in plain sight. so i'm a lot more cautious now. however your adventures restore my confidence in the whole stashing endeavor. (if i start the practice again, i won't hold you accountable if anything bad happens.)

7:20 AM  
Blogger S said...

i want to add that back in the day it was all good. and i'm glad that it's all good in your dimension too. maybe i can tap into that good vibe. good.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Mark Elijah Rosenberg said...

That's funny. I have a spare set of keys and $20 hidden near my apartment.

On a more serious note, I saw a documentary video installation recently -- by Francisca Benitez, shown at the Smack Mellon gallery in Dumbo -- which consisted of slow camera pans up tall trees, where large, lumpy plastic bags were nestled into the large branches. The trees are in Paris, in a park near the international train station. The bags are placed there by Afghani refugees, who arrive homeless, with only a plastic bag of possessions. While they seek work during the day, they stash all their worldly belongings in trees.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Casimir said...

This post was actually a ploy to find out where people hide things.

I'm going to find and steal not only your 20$ and spare set of keys but also the belongings of those Afghani refugees.

11:11 AM  

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