Archive for June, 2013

Father’s Files

Over my many years as a more or less observant itinerate, I tried to learn all I could about scams and petty theft. Like getting lost, watching such things in real time brings a satisfying adrenalin rush. For example, I always sat in the back row of buses in Mexico City so that I could watch the pickpockets at work. Still, there were two places where I was very careful about what I did and where I went: one was the entire country of Guatemala and the other was the entire city of Bogota, Colombia.

Except for once. That was when I found myself walking the streets of downtown Bogota because of a layover between Peru, where I was working, and Medellin Colombia, where I had a meeting, and a fellow in his early fifties, really thick glasses and a full head and shoulders shorter than I, stopped me. He asked if I was a foreigner and said that there were problems with terrorists and counterfeit bills in Colombia (there were) and said that the police wanted all foreigners to come in to have any money they had exchanged checked so that they—the police—could close in on the counterfeiters. He said he worked for the police and would take me to the nearest police station to check any money I might be carrying. It was an interesting proposal that I was about to turn down when another fellow—same age, same height, same glasses and same rumpled suit—came up and asked if we knew where the nearest police station was because he was from Ecuador and had been advised by the hotel where he was staying to check with the police concerning any paper money he may have exchanged.

My first friend said that he was about to take me to the police station for the very same reason and told my second new friend to come along.

There are a couple of other things that I had learned over the years, like for example, that an Ecuadorian accent in Spanish in no way, resembles a Colombian accent in Spanish, and that if somebody is lost and has stopped to ask for directions, he doesn’t lead when he doesn’t know the way. Fascinating, I said to myself as Friend # 2 took off first for the police station. I wanted to see just what the scam was so I followed, assured that all I needed to do in case of trouble was to knock their glasses off and they would spend the next four days trying to find them.

A couple of blocks further on, my two new friends were chattering away about whether the weather in Quito was like the weather in Bogota, when they stopped and Friend #1 said, “Look, there is going to be a long line at the police station. But if you give me the money you exchanged and your passports, I can go to the head of the line for you.” Friend #2 hesitated a moment, fumbled for his wallet, took out some crisp, new bills and then he took what looked like an official passport from his coat pocket and handed all of it to Friend #1.

They both waited, looking at me. I said nothing.

“Do you have any money?” asked Friend #1.

“No, I haven’t been to the embassy to get any yet,” I answered—which was a lie since I had oodles of dollars in Peruvian soles, scads of dollars in Ecuadorian sucres, a bunch of dollars in Bolivian pesos and a whole lot of dollars in real dollars, all stuffed into my boot tops.

“Are you sure you don’t have any money?” asked Friend #1. “You can trust me. Friend #2 here trusts me” he added.

“No, I don’t have any” I repeated, “And, no I don’t trust you and I don’t trust your buddy here either.”

They looked at one another, they looked at me, they looked at one another and said, “Okay, we will be on our way” and as they left they both nodded hello to a smiling old guy sitting on the corner.

Three days later I was reading the Medellin morning news at breakfast and there, on page three, was a report of a tourist in Bogota who had been scammed by a scam that was very much like the one my two friends tried to pull on me. My conclusion, that I have saved all these years just for my kids in a large volumn called “Father’s Files” is: “Folks can think up any number of ways to separate you from your money. Some work on some and don’t on others. Be careful out there.”

Now, I know this has nothing to do with your search for Forrest Fenn’s treasure, so let me leave you with a bit of news on that subject.

Over the last week or two, I have received a couple of comments from a new friend, Tommy Gregory, wanting me to check his web site (www.nmtreasure.com). He thought I might find it interesting. I did check and I do find it interesting; I made a screen grab of it for you.
Screen shot 2013-06-22 at 10.16.55 PM

Be careful out there,

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Crowdsourcing 2.0

So. At 7:00 p.m. last Sunday, I settled in with popcorn and an apple to watch the History Chanel. It was the premier of Mountain Men, a new show that had been advertised over and over and over again as I listened to the Baltimore Orioles squeak through another one. I was ready for the life of Jim Bridger or Joe Meek or even Kit Carson whose bones live just up the road in Taos.

Now, I generally don’t watch the History Chanel because I have been burned too many times; too many “high caliber” survival prepies who distrust anybody not their live-in other third whose job is to can squash while the big guys try out their new 50 cal on squash at 500 yards as a training exercise to keep invading aliens out of their squash gardens. I mean, the History Chanel has to do with history like fast fooderies have to do with real food—and, to my disappointment, Mountain Men was no exception. What it was, was what seemed hours of four guys—one in Alaska, two in Montana, and one in Appalachia whose heads will eventually be nailed up on the wall of some grizzly’s den.

One of the two in Montana couldn’t cut down a tree without getting his chainsaw caught and then letting it roll down the mountain; the one in Alaska had to set his plane down in bad weather because he didn’t check the weather report, was running out of gas and had the habit of flying around Alaska without instruments; and the guy from Appalachia kept running his horse up a rocky river bed. None of them, and especially the other Montana guy, seemed to care much for people. I figure they will all start blowing things up in the next installment.

As a matter of fact, they were totally unlike the real Mountain Men who could cut down trees with their butcher knife, always knew what the weather was going to be, and understood that a horse with a broken leg was little more than dinner. And they did, indeed, like people. A good many of them had two or three wives—at the same time; they would go out of their way to help anybody who needed help; if somebody didn’t show when they were supposed to show, they went out looking for them—even if the missing worked for the competition; and seldom did they ever go anywhere alone. They loved to tell and to listen to stories, they enjoyed a good game of cards, they bought into any new thing they could afford and even invented some stuff of their own. What drew them to the mountains was not a dislike for other people.

They even liked crowds. Witness the popularity of the “rendezvous” where thousands would show up: whole tribes, old friends, and pioneers with news from home. And, after the beaver became scarce, any number of them quit trapping and became politicians!

My guess is that, just like you, they would even have bought into “crowdsourcing” especially if it meant a truer course to a hidden treasure. With that in mind, I offer the most recent result of Crowdsourcing 1.0 (which is now Crowdsourcing 2.0) and here it is—the nine most “popular” clues in Forrest Fenn’s poem, The Thrill of the Chase.

1. “As I have gone alone in there.” (Some say that this is nothing more than a chapeau, an introductory phrase—not really a clue—that sets us up for the rest of the poem).
2. “Begin it where warm waters halt.” (Obviously, the first “step” in a series which may or may not be the poem’s first clue).
3. “And take it in the canyon down.” (Everybody seems to like this clue but there is total disagreement as to just which canyon it is);
4. “From there it’s no place for the meek.” (This one seems to have brought out the adventurer in a lot of us but it is kind of like the Alaska guy who flies without instruments. “Forrest Fenn, Land Surveyor” tells us that what we need to know is both “direction and distance” if we are going to get to where we want to go. “No place for the meek” doesn’t quite give us the distance part. In my mind, “not far, but too far to walk” does give us distance but crowdsourcing hasn’t yet said those are important clues).
5. “There’ll be no paddle up your creek.” (Interestingly, most everybody includes this one though nobody seems to know what it means);
6. “If you’ve been wise and found the blaze.” (Let me interpret this one: it says, “If you’ve been wise” not, “If you’ve been lucky.” That at least means that not only do we need to find the real nine clues but that we also need to interpret them correctly. That said, I think that finding the real nine will have been easy compared to the effort required to make the correct interpretations).
7. Look quickly down. (Do we really want to waste one of the nine clues on this one? It seems to me that if we really believe that we have found the blaze, we will look up, down, east, west, north, south, and crossways—several times each until we have either found the treasure or admitted that Forrest Fenn has won again),
8. “Your effort will have been worth the cold.” (More adventure. I like it).
9. “If you are brave and in the wood.” (Can’t tell if the clue is “brave” or “wood” in this one. Forrest uses phrases like “no place for the meek,” “no paddle,” “worth the cold,” and “if you are brave” and then says that even a child can go out searching. You think he might be playing with us?)

In summary, I’m not sure we are there yet but at least “tarry scant” is no longer included. I have left all of the comments up so you can make your own count using your own formula. Jump on in. Consider crowdsourcing a working democracy; consider it a committee meeting and a quorum vote. You can even consider it the “wisdom of the crowd” although the jury is still out on that one.

Best wishes,

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