Randonautica #8

The intention yesterday was “Pluto.” There was a reason for this having to do with Vaneigem’s theory of spontaneity, but the connection escapes me now. I don’t think it really matters. More and more, I sense that if there is anything to the idea that the Randonautica quantum-bot enacts some sort of mind-machine meld, it must be at the level of the subconscious, not of announced intention. That’s not to say that the unconscious can’t be summoned into consciousness, and those instances could possibly help explain some of the heavier randonauting synchronicities. But it seems doubtful that following the app’s directive to “focus on your intent[ion?]” during the five seconds it takes to generate coordinates is enough to achieve the necessary depth. If the notion is to be accepted, or in any case entertained, that there is a quantum-level relationship between the user’s thoughts and the app’s computations, then the possibility should be considered that the full accumulation of the user’s mental state, which may or may not be spoken or even speakable, is involved. Perhaps, then, we don’t know what our intention is until we arrive at the coordinates, or a sequence of coordinates, which reveal it.

It should also be considered that Randonautica is one of many Alternate Reality Games on offer, essentially an 18-and-up treasure hunt like Geocaching, which predates it by nearly twenty years, and letterboxing (or “questing”), which predates it by more than 150. The difference, of course,  is that instead of finding physical objects that have been planted in a particular spot by another person or people, the randonaut is looking mainly for coincidences. At base, randonauting is a fun and sometimes meaningful way to walk around (or drive around, if you prefer) and see new places and things — or familiar ones, but from a new perspective.

Perhaps above all, it’s good idea to stay aware that Randonautica is a fairly new and increasingly popular recreational platform — it has nearly doubled its number of Twitter followers in the last four months — that, despite cloaking its operations in some notable ways (e.g. who is this exactly?), is clearly aiming at greater development, mass appeal, and more overall legitimacy. It has recently redone (and relocated) its website, and started a reality television series. Meanwhile, the app itself seems to have just added protective language. At least, I think these “Pro Tips,” which now appear on the user’s phone when the app launches, are new:

And now on to randonauting.

The first coordinates, from “Anomaly,” were very near a location I had been sent to on a previous randonauting trip. Here is that pedestal where the Confederate statue used to be until it was toppled about three years ago:

This time, the coordinates were actually inside the government building that houses the Register of Deeds and other offices. Those offices, I discovered, have all been relocated across the street while the building is renovated:

The door was open, so I went in. There were two security guards inside. They were very nice. One of them told me the building would be under reconstruction for more than a year. I took a couple of pictures of the small lobby:

Outside, near the de-statued pedestal, is this bust of Malbourne A. Angier, the Mayor of Durham from 1890-93:

Among many other endeavors, Angier opened and co-owned, with Dr. Bartlett Durham, the city’s first general store, although Durham had not yet been incorporated and its name not yet taken from Angier’s partner. Angier became a very successful businessman. His daughter married into the Duke family. Here is an interesting sentence from the biography that accompanies the Docsouth page about the Angier monument: “According to one source, his willingness to sell land to blacks made the establishment of the Hayti neighborhood possible.”

The way to the next coordinates, using “Void,” took me past the jail:

There was a lot of standing water in this patch of grass. It smelled very foul:

The coordinates were again inside a government building, adjacent to the jail:

It was open but the security guard was not as nice as the ones in the previous building. He told me that the building was not currently open to the public (due to the pandemic) and that if I had no business here I wasn’t allowed inside. I explained to him what I was doing with my app and that the coordinates were just beyond where we were:

He said I could take a picture but then to turn around and go out the door I had just come in. Those were his exact words, as I remember them.

The next coordinates were inside Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Here are the words “Goodmon Field,” which appeared in my report yesterday:

Except for my own house and three places I have worked, I have spent more hours in this ballpark (in the years when I used to cover the team for a local paper) than anywhere else in Durham. Because of the pandemic, there has been no baseball here this spring or summer.

Someone named Malbourne Angier, likely the grandson of the man depicted by the bust, played three seasons of minor-league baseball for the Durham Bulls from 1913-15. Evidently a banjo hitter.

The exact spot was in the third-base bleachers. This was as close as I could get:

The city of Durham was called “Durham Station” before it was incorporated. The next destination was what is now called Durham Station:

After going to three randonaut destinations in a row that were closed, with only security guards around, it was a bit jarring to arrive at the very busy station, which seemed even busier because of construction going on just beyond it:

I took a shortcut to the final destination…

… which was a furniture store, also closed:

The view through the glass door:

This building housed another furniture store called Kimbrell’s for about fifty years. After the building was sold in 2014, Kimbrell’s moved out of downtown and Area moved in. Before this store opened in Durham, Area’s only location was in Greensboro, an hour west. About a decade ago we looked at a bed in the Greensboro store and considered buying it. Instead we bought one from Ikea. On the way home from Area, I overheard a man say to a woman he was walking with, “Saturday could be an Ikea day.”

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