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April 10, 2011

I left the house yesterday and found myself part of the annual Park Slope Little League opening day parade, complete with marching band and about a gazillion kids in T-shirts five sizes too big for them. Always nice to have a send-off with fanfare.

I took the F train to midtown and walked past MOMA to the Sheraton. I used to spend a lot of time at MOMA. It was my favorite museum when I was a kid. I was wishing I could take AJ there. I made a note to stop back at the gift shop to look for a present for him.

I found the hotel easily, but finding the audition was a little trickier. After wandering around the conference area for a while, a woman standing near a registration table for Teacher’s licensing exams asked, “Are you here for J30pardy?” and directed me downstairs.

There were about ten people there when I arrived. I checked in at a table and they crossed my name off a list and gave me some forms to fill out. The casting director came out and took our pictures with an ersatz Polaroid and handed us the photo to put with “your application.” We all stood around and filled out forms and checked each other out. As soon as everyone had arrived – there were nineteen of us — we were ushered into a conference room with long narrow tables and Ergo chairs set up like a classroom. There was a table with three computers at the front on one side of a large projection screen with the Je0p@rdy logo on it.

The three staff members introduced themselves and bantered with us a little while, quickly putting everyone at ease. The casting director took charge and kept trying to convince us we were actually trying out for Wh33l of F0rtun3. He asked who had tried out before and about a third of the group raised their hands. He asked us to name a 5-time champion from this season and gave a copy of Je0p@rdy for the Wii to the one person who could do it.

Thy showed us a welcome video of Al3x Tr3b3k and reminded us to phrase answers in the form of a question, to speak loudly and clearly, and to wait until after the question to buzz in.

They ran a practice game where we raised our hands instead of using buzzers. I was called first. And second. And several more times besides. I didn’t miss any questions, but I did almost forget to ask for the next category once. Overall, though, I was surprised by how easily I fell into the pattern of the show. I haven’t actually watched it that much recently and I didn’t practice the question phrasing, so I wasn’t sure how that would go. But I didn’t even have to think about any of it.

After the practice test, we took two 50-question written tests. The questions were shown on screen for 8 seconds each and also read aloud. The first question made me nervous. It was something about an explorer and I wasn’t sure of the right one. But after that, it was a lot easier than I had thought it might be. I knew most of the answers with certainty, even the pop culture and sports stuff – all the sports questions were about women athletes. I guessed on a few (we were told there was no penalty for guessing). There was only one I couldn’t think of, but I saw, when I collected the answer sheets for my row, that neither did anyone else. There were a lot of music questions and a lot of questions I’d recently seen on either on the show or in my practice sessions of old shows.

One of the staffers took the tests out to score them (we didn’t find out our scores) and they told us about the mock test. We were called up in groups of three to try a game situation. I was in the first group with a man from Ottawa and another from New York. The casting director explained how the buzzers work and let us try them and we went from there. I was a little nervous standing up in front of everyone, but I felt like I did well. I managed to lock down one entire category, one of their word puzzle categories, and picked up a few other questions as well, including some recoveries when someone else had answered incorrectly. Then we put down our buzzers and one by one we had to talk about ourselves and answer some questions the casting director asked based on a page of personal information we were asked to provide. This is where I felt weakest. I was first, so I didn’t have the benefit of having heard a few other people talk. If I had, I would have done better. But I spoke up and answered the questions in a reasonably articulate manner. I wish I’d been funnier, though.

After that, I got to relax. We just watched everyone else do their mock games and interviews and I kept myself focused by playing along. I knew more than I had expected. I don’t know for sure how I did, but it was more fun and much less nerve-wracking than I’d expected. I definitely felt like I held my own with the others in the room. I started to wonder which ones I thought would be on the show. Maybe the tall and stylish law student who holds the record for fastest recitation of the first 100 digits of pi? Maybe the ex-service-man? Or the woman having a baby in July who rolled herself up to the mock test in her office chair so she didn’t have to stand? Or the guy in the front row who kept muttering all the answers audibly when it wasn’t his turn to play?

After we finished (at 1:30 on the dot), I headed back to MOMA to pick up a present for AJ. Then I strolled toward Central Park, getting caught in another parade, this one appeared to be Scottish – lots of St. Andrew’s cross flags and bagpipe bands running down 6th Avenue. I meandered around. I am happy to report that I got to Carnegie Hall and no practice was required.

I was heading for Lincoln Center to do some research in the Performing Arts public library branch. I spent a summer living with Cranky and doing research there some years ago and I was kind of looking forward to the visit. I had to plow my through mobs of families leaving what must have been a children’s performance in Lincoln Center theater. From then on, I was reminded of why I like research in private libraries so much better than public ones.

First of all, I should say that I am an experienced researcher and among the many public libraries I’ve worked in, NYPL-Lincoln Center is one of the very best, if not the best. The people who run the place are not just bureaucrats, as at some libraries I could name, but are respected and active researchers in their own right whom I regularly meet at conferences. The vast majority of the employees I’ve encountered at every level have been well-trained, helpful and friendly. But it’s still a public institution and bureaucracy is primary rule of the game.

Every library has its own culture and part of being an efficient researcher is quick cultural assimilation. I thought I knew the ins and outs of this library. I’ve done more work there than at any other individual library save my university library. But since I was last at there, the library has been renovated in a fairly drastic way and many of the procedures have changed too. The biggest challenge with this particular library is that even though it is public, it is designed for specialists, more like a university library. This means there’s not a lot of obvious information about how things work. It’s assumed that you already know. So you have to ask people for help constantly if you don’t. Here is my grand tour, which mean that about 15 minutes of actual research took nearly 2 hours.

I stopped at the first floor desk to find out where to go for music periodicals and was sent me to elevator to second floor. At the second floor, I stopped at another desk and they sent me to the third floor. I stopped and checked my coat and bag (required for special collections) and went to the first desk inside the security gate. The person at the desk gave me some document request slips and sent me to a computer. I looked up the docs I needed and filled out request slips for a microfilm and a bound periodical and took them back the desk. They then sent me to yet another desk and I filled out another form, handed them my slips, and waited for them to fill my order.

The microfilm came up first, but after I finally got it fitted into the microfilm reader (there were no instructions; lucky I’ve used just about every kind of microform reader at this point in my career) it turned out to be the wrong one. Then there was another request and more waiting. The second microfilm was right and I took some notes and returned it to the desk and tried to pick up the book, but they said I needed a library card (new policy since I was last working there) for bound periodicals. They sent me back down to the first floor circulation desk to get a card. I stood in a long line at circulation. When I finally got to a human, she told me I needed to sign up on a computer first and directed me to the opposite side of the floor. I found the computer and after much trial and error, finally found a page that allowed me to sign up for a card (of course there was no obvious link) and signed up and stood in the circ line again. At the desk for a second time, I showed a wide array of ID, and success! I am now the proud owner of a library card good for 3 months, at which point, presumably, there is some other procedure required in order to reactivate it.

I returned to the third floor, where I picked up enormous heavy book. Finally. Alas, it turned out not to be the right periodical. But this time it wasn’t their fault. They don’t have the one I’m looking for. There was some guy who, in the 19th c. started a bunch of different music periodicals and named them all after himself. This makes it hard to sort out provenance. I took note of a notice of marriage for one of the musicians I’m researching and also of a notice of the largest ever order of banjos (as of 1889, at least) by someone in Britain who apparently wanted 1706. (!?!?!!!!!) That last one has nothing to do with my research. It’s just kind of alarming. Then I turned in my book

Thinking I was finally sprung, I went to the coat check only to discover that while I had the ticket for my bag, the one for my coat had disappeared. The guy at the coat check called his manager who arrived fairly quickly with a clipboard full of forms, looking quite grim. He asked if I had looked around where I was. I thought about the fact that I had covered nearly every square inch of the library in the last 90 minutes. I said yes. I filled out my forms while he stood watching me judgementally (or maybe that was just me). He grilled me about the description of my coat and finally agreed to let the coat check worker hand over my stuff. I practically sprinted to the exit.

Back in the plaza, I was caught up in the crowds of people getting out of the matinee of Die Walkure at the Met. It was a stunning day, quite warm, and people were piling into the streets. It all felt very celebratory. I, for one, felt that getting out of the library with one of the things I looked for and all of my stuff was worth celebrating.

I meandered back toward the F train by way of the south end of the park, where I played the game “Tourist or no tourist?” with myself. The game was really too easy – so many cameras and gawking in the middle of a crowded sidewalk – so after a while, I switched to “hooker or no hooker” and sometimes “drag queen or no drag queen” and sometimes both at once. Best outfit observed: Enormous white platform shoes, black hose (not tights – see-through) under short short cutoff denim shorts topped with a leather jacket with long fringe. Not a tourist. Not a drag queen. Jury’s still out on the other option. I walked to Rockefeller Center and descended into the subway to head back to Brooklyn, feeling that I’d had a reasonably New Yorkish encounter.

Cranky and Baby J met me at the door. “Hi!” said Baby J. It’s her favorite word. She says it when you come in. She says it when you go out (although she sometimes says “Bye” too). She says it when you’re spending too much time talking to one of your oldest friends and not paying enough attention to her. But really, Baby J is so very disarming and distracting that she didn’t usually have to work too hard to get noticed. (More pictures of Baby J coming soon)

We all ate dinner together and after Baby J went to sleep, Cranky and I watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which I had never seen, much to Cranky’s surprise. My one-minute review: very funny, fun to see so many younger versions of actors I’m familiar with from more recent films, great soundtrack, and stunningly accurate essentializing portrayal of high school in the 1980s (I was class of ’85) remarkable for a film made in 1982.

I got a last few minutes of Baby J time this morning before heading back to the airport. I am missing them already. Hopefully I’ll get back soon. And now I’m hanging out at O’Hare killing some time before AJ’s birthday party at his grandmother’s house. Mr. Spy and AJ are picking me up in an hour or so after baseball practice (theirs, not mine). Still miles to go before I sleep. But it’s still close enough.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. freshhell permalink
    April 10, 2011 2:42 pm

    I think that hooker-no-hooker outfit you saw was on Red in the future. She wore something very similar the other day. Alas, sans white platform shoes.


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