November 17, 2010

#70, #161 & #114: Throw A Pumpkin Into The Gorge, Climb McGraw Tower & Request A Song

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In anticipation of Halloween, several weeks ago A, L and I took a trip to Wegman’s to purchase some gourds for Jack-o-lantering purposes. In the wake of Halloween, it seemed ludicrous to not set A’s rotting Jack-o-Lantern on fire and hurl it into the gorge. Hello, #70.

An activity involving fire is likely going to be a good time, so we were pretty pumped for this flame and throw action. We gathered at A’s apartment to prepare for the ceremony, if you will. A had taken care of most of the hard work since she had already carved (and inadvertently dried out) the pumpkin. We knew we couldn’t simply light a pumpkin on fire, so we figured stuffing the carved pumpkin with newspaper would make the gourd easily flammable.

We had our newspaper-stuffed pumpkin and a lighter in tow, but this task has been complicated by the installed high rise fences on the bridges. Generally, I try to avoid felony charges for arson and inflicting third degree burns on myself or anyone else. I was worried trying to catapult this pumpkin over six foot fences was inviting the possibility to launch it directly into the fence, have the pumpkin ricochet, and set the entire bridge aflame. Thus, the most complicated step was strategizing and determining the location of the throw.

The bridge connecting Collegetown and the Engineering Quad has a set of stairs leading down to a wooded path along the gorge. The path gave easy access to the gorge, and there were no trees, leaves or other flammable wild life to impede the pumpkin’s fall into the water. We were good to go.

We weren’t planning on recruiting an audience for the event, but as we turned onto the stairs, a random young man about to cross the bridge yelled, “what are you doing?!” Well, I was holding a 30-pound pumpkin stuffed with newspaper, A was holding a pretty legit lighter . I’m not sure what it looked like to the unassuming eye, but there was some evidence to suggest we were about to partake in an activity that involved pumpkins and fire.

“Uh, who are you?”

“My name is Ramsey … are you about to set a pumpkin on fire and throw it into the gorge?!”

Apparently, he had done this once or twice before (who knew flaming pumpkins had a cult following?). Ramsey, we learned, was en route back from a chemistry prelim and needed some cheering up … and who isn’t cheered up by lighting something on fire? With R as a spectator, the heat (ha! So punny) was on.

A lit the newspaper and slowly the paper was engulfed in fire. I probably could have waited for a slightly larger flame, but after nearly a minute, I got impatient and released the pumpkin into the gorge. On the way down, it hit a pipe that was jutting out of the side of the gorge, exploded into several chunks and splashed into the water with satisfying oomph. The executive summary: no forest fires, new friend, exploding, flaming pumpkin. Success.

A complete non sequitur to pumpkin flaming: this past weekend my M(om) and D(ad) came to visit. Honestly, I think hoping to be portrayed in a more positive light in this column (last column, I confessed I sometimes preferred my dog to my parents) they wanted to #161 climb all 161 steps to the top of McGraw Tower. McGraw’s 161 steps are precisely the inspiration for the 161 list so I was obliged on several fronts to join them.

The tower is only open for climbing at specified times, but planner M had researched the chimes concert schedule  and we opted for a six o’clock climb to the top.

The climb of the 161 steps wasn’t too bad, and the view from atop the tower was well worth the trip. Aside from the 360 degree view of Cornell’s campus, you have the opportunity to see the chimes master play the chimes concert. Not to mention, #114 request a song to be played on the clocktower, which naturally I did (sidenote: the selection of chimes-friendly Beatles songs is notable).  Watching the chimes master play was impressive; I don’t know what I had envisioned “the chimes” to look like, but the instrument is huge and requires literal jumping to reach all the notes. #114 is a nuanced and entertaining spectator sport.

If I had to value-rank the 161 things, climbing the clock tower would definitely be up there with the “must-dos”. Good pick, M and D.

Original Author: Eve Shabto