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  • Ted Mann 9:48 pm on June 8, 2005 Permalink | Reply  

    Potty Training for Kitties 

    The apartment that Ana and I are trying to buy in Hartsdale, New York, is beautiful, perfectly situated, and close to our jobs and family. But there is one drawback, and it’s a biggy: No place to put litter boxes.

    In our Philly apartment we had an unused back hallway that was the perfect place to stash kitty litter. It was almost too well suited — we ended up having upwards of three bins going at a time, just to cut down on our litter-scooping duties.

    Thankfully, my brother-in-law Dan is on the case. He just sent me a link to a blog called OhGizmo! (good name), which was plugging a new product called CitiKitty — a training seat that fits snugly on your toilet. You fill it with litter, give Mr. Jinx some stern instructions, and watch the magic.

    Here’s how CitiKitty’s website describes the product:

    Your cat naturally uses the CitiKitty training seat as its new litter box. Once your cat has adapted to the training seat you slowly begin removing the rings from the training seat reducing the amount of litter. As the rings are removed your cat will stand on the toilet seat for support and use the water below. After all rings are removed from the training seat your cat is toilet trained.

    At $30 (plus free shipping), how could I pass this up? My kitty toilet seat is already on the way. Thanks, Dan!

  • Ted Mann 9:22 pm on June 2, 2005 Permalink | Reply  

    The Five-Minute Fiasco 

    If you needed any more proof that this treasure hunt has gotten out of control, witness the last week.

    As you may already know from the posts below, we were in a mad scramble last week to get the second of the Treasure Trove tokens that had come into play (by we, by the way, I mean myself, Andy, and my brother Doug). We had deciphered the location of the snail token to be a park in Iowa, only an hour’s drive from my college buddy Craig. Alas, Craig didn’t make the drive, the token was found that night, and Andy’s brother arrived at the park around 2am to find the tree already looted.

    So, you’d think that with two tokens found, maybe things would calm down. I was certainly hoping so, given that I was planning a Memorial-day weekend trip to Vermont, starting a new job the next week, and moving to Westchester. Well, when the treasure hunt rains it pours.

    Almost the minute snail was discovered, the Internet boards starting chattering about the next tokens. On my last day of work at Penn Press, the caterpillar code was cracked. Then later that Friday, on the drive to Vermont, my cell phone was ringing off the hook with news that bee and butterfly were all but confirmed, too. Suddenly this hunt, which seemed interminable, had been cracked wide open.

    Dinner in DorsetWe spent the first day in Vermont relaxing with friends. Andy and I felt the constant urge to check the treasure-hunter websites and work on the book, but we resisted, knowing that our wives were already on a short fuse. If a nearby location was discovered, we’d need our women to be as sympathetic as possible.

    Then, on Sunday morning, I got up an hour early, headed straight to the computer, and there it was: The grasshopper location. JBAIRDSP. James Baird State Park, New York. Some nudnik from the west coast had basically posted the solution because, as I think he put it, “I can’t get a plane flight, so good luck. Go and get it! Last one to the token is a rotten egg.” This for the fourth most valuable jewel, valued at about $50k!

    Whatever his reasons, I quickly deciphered the solution method, called Doug (who lives only an hour from that park), and mobilized the troops. The wives were predictably annoyed, but when my friend Matt decided to come along (not because he thought we’d find anything, I believe, but just because he was amused at how worked up Andy and I were), they agreed to let us go for it. The girls would get to spend the day shopping in Manchester, sans naysaying husbands; the guys would get to search for a gold token, sans whining wives. The only odd person out was my mom, but she decided to come along for the ride — to ratchet up my level of anxiety and frustration, I suppose. The one thing I distinctly remember, before departing, was that I doubled back for some coffee. As I walked in to fill my travel mug, Ana said, “Ted, you know that if you’re five minutes too late, it’ll be because of your coffee addiction.”

    Doug got to the park around noon and immediately got to work. He found a map, matched the vine fragment to one of its trails, and began searching for a tree in that general area. The map was a perfect match, but the trees in that area didn’t seem to match any of the ones pictured in the book. Doug got really antsy when he ran into not one, not two, but about four other groups of people searching for the token. One family was from Louisiana; another guy had flown in the day before from Seattle, and he’d been searching ever since. Knotholes were being shredded, every inch of the nearby forest was inspected, people began to give up their searches.

    All of this was relayed to me through about 20 cut-off cell phone calls. Doug’s reception at the park was weak, and our service driving from Vermont and down the Taconic was even worse. Even Andy’s trusty GPS companion, who goes by the name Lauren, kept getting thrown off course. We stopped for a map of the park, but couldn’t find one; we took a wrong turn down a dirt road, foolishly ignoring Lauren; and we kept hitting traffic. Everything took longer than it should have, and by the time we exited for the park, Doug said he’d meet us at the parking lot and turn over the search (he had an annoyed wife of his own waiting at home, along with two screaming babies).

    True to his word, Doug was waiting for us next to the parking lot. I’d expected him to be disappointed, but his appearance was downright crestfallen. As we walked towards the park’s rest area, he said, “You’re five minutes too late.” I shook my head in confusion. “They just found it,” he said.

    Then I looked beyond him, towards the women’s bathroom where a young couple was jumping and cheering in a delirious dance. As we soon learned, jurzeyfresh (as I know him from tweleve.org) and his girlfriend Kristin had arrived at the park just like Doug. They’d gotten a tip from another Twelever named Packimocity (coincidentally, the first person to decipher the dragonfly token location, but not the person to find the token), who had also checked the message board that morning. They’d all driven to the park ASAP and just as they were about to pack it in, like Doug, Kristen noticed a tree right outside the women’s rest area. It didn’t look obviously like one from the book, but she saw a knothole about seven feet up. Worth a look, right? Sure enough, the grasshopper token was there for the taking.

    Grasshopper TokenWe stumbled around the park for a few minutes, consoling ourselves with the thought that at least we hadn’t flown across the country or driven all this distance with our disgruntled wives in tow. Doug drove back to White Plains dejected, bracing himself for the tongue lashing Tara was sure to give him. We stopped for lunch, and while dining, my mom ran out to a jewelry store so that, even if we didn’t have a emerald-encrusted grasshopper, at least we could give our wives a cheap substitute. Ana got a turtle pin, Gwynne got a pill box with rabbits on top, and Katie got a ceramic butterfly (which at least had the advantage of being an actual Treasure Trove creature).

    The girls were in a relatively good mood when we got back, and aside from a few angry outbursts the next day, Ana forgave me the trip. I’m not sure I’ll be able to forgive her that comment, though. Unless the spider or beetle solutions miraculously come to me in the next day or so, this will have been my only decent shot at claiming a token (and jewel). And even if they do, plane flights will be necessary. That line will forever ring in my treasure-tormented head: “If you’re five minutes too late … five minutes too late … five minutes.”

    A not so flattering picture of me and the lucky girl who found the token.

    Andy’s rendering of the crime scene. Click for an enlarged version. (That dude to the right of me is the one that flew from Seattle.)

    • Korey 12:08 am on June 3, 2005 Permalink | Reply

      That sucks…sorry, Turkeymonkey

    • Anderw Diller 1:39 am on June 3, 2005 Permalink | Reply

      I will never forget that trip:

      – racing down the Taconic parkway, weaving in and out of traffic, with:
      – your mom and you arguing over minor puzzle esoterica
      – Lori the mecahnical disembodied voice of the GPS scolding me for jumping off the Taconic
      – Doug calling every 10min and killing the GPS (both on my Treo650 Phone)
      – Matt chilling and reading HHGTTG
      – Me praying that the NY cops were taking a break that Memorial Day for speed traps
      – Ted telling everyone in the car to memorize all the pictures of the trees

      Even though we didn’t get thr token, we got a small piece of the hunt. It was way better than sitting at home pondering the puzzle….

    • Gwynne 7:53 am on June 3, 2005 Permalink | Reply

      …..but was it better than snagging some designer bargains?

    • Andrew Diller 9:33 am on June 3, 2005 Permalink | Reply

      Yeah, maybe not, there were some killer sales going on at Coach and the Maidenform outlets!

    • Andrew Diller 9:36 am on June 3, 2005 Permalink | Reply

      I was going to cast that extended weekend as a “Plugs Retreat” but then realized that didn’t quite encompass Ana or Katie, but then I thought, ah, so what, Rome wasn’t built in a day. They will post eventually. I really want to hear some gross doctor stories from them.

    • BRENTLER 3:22 pm on June 18, 2005 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Ted,
      I left you a message on the Tweleve forum last week and I see it hasn’t been picked up. I’m Princess_Grasshopper (Kristin’s) mom. I thoroghly enjoyed reading the story you wrote and hearing another perspective of the hunt on May 29th, plus viewing your pictures. Hope next time you’ll be more successful!
      P.S. My husband loves his coffee too!

    • fred (packimocity) 11:54 am on June 20, 2005 Permalink | Reply

      super story, ted
      I remember (vaguely) meeting you amidst all of the confusion and excitement

      Is it normal to feel now (and at the park) pangs of “guilt” for all those who missed a token by minutes, hours, or days even?
      I assume it is merely human nature, the cheer for the underdog, etc.

      I sincerely wish everyone could get some small “token” of participation in this Unique venture.

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