If you are coming back, you know that I like to travel. There is an exhilarating feeling in sampling new foods, getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things. So why not try it in a fresh setting? If I had my way I would visit a new country at least 4 times a year, and a new state each year. My heart whispers to me to grab my comfy shoes and follow the road until it ends. Of course, most days my wallet tells me I can travel as far as the back yard. And your own bed is one of the nicest places you can be. Yeah, call my Dorothy, but there is no place like home. Lucky for me I live I a pretty nice small town that offers a lot of goings-on and local delights.
My little Midwest town isn’t a grand cosmopolitan landscape, but it is a reasonable drive from a few. Both Minneapolis and Chicago are within a half-day drive, so if I ever hunger for some professional music, theater, or art I can fill my tank for a mini day trip adventure. Both of these cities have a pulse, a heart beat of their own.
My little town has a beat of it’s own too. Spring time brings the beat of the stir-crazy, been cooped up in the house all winter, good grief when will the cold end, why is there still snow on the ground kind of rhythm. As soon as that thin red line on the thermometer hits 40 degrees, many of my Midwestern neighbors slide into shorts and dust the flakes off those grills. No sir, the winters around here are not for the weak. But when those glorious greens start popping out of the snow, you can’t hold us back.
I moved to this little town several years back and in my first year here, my roommate, Paul, introduced me to several local treats. The local community theater being one (yes, slightly shameless plug here), a wonderful collection of family-run shops and restaurants that seem to sprinkle every town. And then there was the annual spring event, an event that I will actually be missing this year because I’ll be visiting said friend this year. It is THE annual spring event. This event will completely confuse any newcomers, it will leave families and friends huddled in dark rooms, muttering the strangest random words into a phone for 54 hours. It leaves in its wake several hundred or so people completely sleep deprived, fumbling around parking lots in the brisk and damp morning air looking for clues. Grocery stores have nearly empty snack shelves, food delivery places run full force, and local cheese factories run out of cheese curds. Yes, it is….Trivia.
What is Trivia you ask? And what does it have to do with the pulse of a town? The brief answer is… ell, there really isn’t a brief answer. It started as a fundraiser for the local university over 40 years ago and over time it has become so much more. It has become a reunion for old high school and college friends, and an economic boost to the local hotels and restaurants. For me it has become a way to spend time with some close friends from the local community theater (not-so shameless plug).
If I explained the full details of the game we would be here a while. But basically you put together a team, find a house with ample room, plenty of soft fluffy furniture, and a kitchen full of supplies.Throw in a few cuddly pets for good measure while you’re at it. Charge up those tablets, phones and laptops, then break out every almanac (yes, people still have those) and reference book you have. You and your team will listen to trivia questions read by a student on the local University radio station, then you and your team of screwballs will call in your answer to gain points. You have the length of two songs (in most cases) to call in the answer. Did I mention that this goes for 54 hours straight? And that there are usually around 400 teams. And that teams range from 2 to 50 players? There’s more to it, but any outsider who witnesses this will generally have one of two reactions. The first being “hey sounds fun” or “so where are the straight jackets?”
I love my team. We have a smaller team that consists of an age range of about 8-years-old, to “mostly-grown-up”, to “there is no way I’m telling”. We converge in the host family’s home, take over the living room, dining room, and kitchen. If you came into this home at any given point over Trivia weekend you will find people curled up under cozy quilts, and likely holding a glass filled with coffee, wine or beer, haunched over computers and such. Charging cords will trip you at every turn as you maneuver over and around the people on the floor, trying to follow that amazing aroma that is coming from the kitchen. Because no one goes hungry in this Trivia house. We have a magic mama who cooks up a fierce bean chili or homemade pizza. There are various plates filled with fruits, veggies and an assorted selection of baked items on the dining room table supplied my team members. Oh yeah, and coffee. No sleep-deprived Trivia train is complete without coffee. And more coffee. Did I mention the coffee?
Usually on Friday evening at 6pm everyone starts out strong and energized. The house is loud and full of energetic excitement. People come and go as they are able, some will find a dark spare room to nap, telling a teammate, “wake me up around 2am for the Trivia Stone”. Saturday you might observe us going on a second wind, perhaps straddling that fine line between spastic energy and Oscar the Grouch.
If you ask people in town how they feel about this annual spring event there are mixed thoughts. Personally, I love it. Mostly because it lets me enjoy the company of my friends and for a little while we get to have our own little wild party. I’ve invited family members and friends before but they either politely decline or inform me that their team will consider an alliance. I also like to be the person who covers those sleepless hours when the rest of the team is down for the count. If you were to come looking for me at 3am Sunday morning, I will have a coffee close by, my tablet will be casting a faint glow upon my face, and my phone will be close at hand. My pup, Charlie, would be curled up at my feet and I would be speaking in a hushed stage voice to my two or three remaining teammates. As it happens,most of the others on the team would have fallen victim to sleep deprivation by this point.
An exchange at this time of morning might go something like this:
“But was the question looking for the actor’s name or the character that he played? Read back the question.” A yawn may escape me as I ask. When discussing our answer submission the details are important. Painfully important.
My leery-eyed teammate, cocooned in his or her own blanket, will sluggishly lift up the ragged team notebook. “This small screen amateur detective spends a lot of time playing in his home office. He decorates his office with his favorite art including a print of a bird’s-eye view of a winding staircase. What is the name of this fictional detective?”
“The answer is Richard Castle, it has too be.” I’ll say, to which there will be some discussions and a sluggish frenzy to find video or photographic proof.
“See?” I’ll say as I turn my tablet to show my friends a Youtube link and point to the screen. Then after a few mumbled affirmatives, we reach for our phones and feverishly dial and redial until we hear an annoyingly perky and caffeinated voice answer “Hello, Trivia ID number please?” We will give them our ID number and our answer before we take a break before moving onto the next question.
By Sunday evening, reinforcements will arrive and we make a final push to correctly answer as many questions as humanly possible. We have a haggard look to each and everyone of us, but at this point none of us care. Right up until midnight, with the last few questions, we search through the internet, books, DVD and music collections for those precious answers. We hope that we are able to get the answer in on time.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is how we spend one deliriously, sleep-deprived, caffeine-infused, food overloaded weekend each year in our little town. We look like we are straight out of a TV sitcom, but we don’t care. We are surrounded by good people, good friends and by Monday morning, good memories.
So, do you think you are up for a little Trivia?