A Close Encounter With the Rodent Kind

This update on my treasure troving is long overdue. As I’ve already said, I’m spending an inordinate amount of time studying and puzzling over Michael Stadther’s book, and though Ana has recently started cracking down, Washington SquareI was able to get out and search one site before her “mandatory break period” was implemented. And the lucky location was … Washington Square Park.

But first, a preface to the story, an explanation of what drew me Old City. Since New Year’s I’ve been posting daily to a website called tweleve.org, a snazzy bulletin board that popped up to service all the newly minted treasure hunters (the URL is a nod to weirdly written numbers in the book). As the recent spike of visitors to TurkeyMonkey.com attests, my new friends at twelve have been swarming this blog. And sooner or later, I knew that some of the fanatics were bound to contact me. Which is exactly what happened two weeks ago, when I got an email from OSmaster, aka David, who said he urgently needed to talk.

Why I gave this random Internet stranger my phone number, I still can’t explain. And why I spent a half-hour chit chatting on the phone with him, on such compelling topics as “How fun is this hunt?!” and “What would you do if you found a token?!” — with Ana screeching in the background the whole time — well, I must’ve been smoking a little crack that day.

Eventually, when it was clear that I was trying to hang up on David, he cut to the chase. He said he knew where a treasure token was hidden, and he wanted me to check the site for him. Now, sure, I was thinking this guy is probably a serial killer luring me to a remote location where he can bludgeon me to death. But I was also thinking, hmm, what if he’s onto something?! (As Ana says, my judgment has been quite impaired lately.)

“Moon Trees,” David said, finally revealing his secret. “I’m sorry?” I replied. “Moon Trees,” David repeated, this time sounding like that man in “The Graduate” who is really keen on plastic. “During the Apollo space flights, the astronauts brought tree seeds with them into space,” he explained. “Then they brought them back to earth and went around the country planting the seeds. It was a huge craze. Everyone wanted a moon tree back then.”

David went to explain how the book was chock full of astronaut references, like the bee that “Buzzes.” Buzz Aldron! And the number 13, as in Apollo 13. And the dragonfly dialogue — just like mission control at NASA. And of course, there’s the “Moon Like, Moon Like” song, which David said was a direct reference to the moon trees.

Moon Tree brochure

Now, granted, this is one of the craziest crackpot theories I’ve heard about the book thus far. But David had two things working in his favor: One, I was extremely desperate to make some progress, any progress, on the hunt. Two, Philadelphia’s moon tree is located is located in Washington Square, where, as luck would have it, Ana and I were planning to go to dinner with Andy and Katie. “I’ll do it,” I said. And then OSmaster and I hastily agreed to split the proceeds 50/50. (Never did get to ask him why, if he lives in Jersey, he didn’t just check out the park himself. Strange, eh?)

Andy and I headed to the park an hour before dinner on Saturday, sans significant others, knowing full well that Ana and Katie would humor us for about two minutes. In order to check every single tree hole in the park, we’d need a helluva lot more time than that.

Philly Moon TreeThe moon tree was extremely easy to find, and also a huge disappointment. No knothole, no low hanging limbs, no gold token. We searched the benches and signs nearby. We scoured the historical plaques littered everywhere. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier seemed interesting, so I promptly climbed over the chain-link fence and began jumping all over the poor nameless dude’s final resting place. Tomb of the Unknown SoldierAt one point I climbed atop the park’s perimeter brick fence and attempted, unsuccessfully, to hop up to a large tree branch that seemed to have something frozen atop it.

When it was almost dinnertime, and Andy started moving towards the appointed Stephen Starr restaurant, I finally saw it: A tree, just like one in the book. It had large roots, and holes all around the base. It was perfect! I peered in close, half expecting the reflection of a gold token to shoot out one of the holes. And sure enough, something did shoot out. Only it was furry and angry.

The mouse landed a foot or two from my face. It scurried around the base of the tree into another hole. I would’ve taken this as my cue to check the empty hole for a token, only I was too busy making sure I hadn’t soiled my new khakis for dinner.

“So much for that knothole theory,” I reported to David later that evening. Suffice it to say that they’ve been indefinitely crossed off my list of token hiding spots. As for Washington Square, well, now that the snow has melted … I admit, I’m tempted to make another dinner reservation.

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