This is Brick Road. He’s a character in an old SNES rpg called Earthbound. If you’ve played it, you love it. If you haven’t, you should. Brick Road’s hobby was hiding treasure in dungeons, replenishing treasure chests that had been emptied, and leaving convenient signs to help orient explorers.
Have you ever been playing a video game and thought, “Who the hell would leave all this treasure in the bottom of a cave? And why?” Well, that someone is Brick Road, and the why? That‘s what I’m here to discuss.
Have you ever stumbled upon something hidden in the world, like a geocache you weren’t even looking for, a piece of someone else’s scavenger hunt, or an old box of antique awesome in your late great uncle’s attic? Remember how it felt? That childlike sense of wonder and mystery and the bliss of a broken routine. That’s why.
Ever since I met Brick Road in Earthbound, I’ve wanted to create opportunities for small adventures like that – to make the world a more interesting place. Years ago, when I was making jewelry, I hid it all over town and posted clues that people could use to find it. Some people even took it and replaced it with other little treasures. A great local artist, Daniel Gulick, has been hiding his paintings around town in an annual Art Hunt for years.
Last year, I started buying antique post cards from junk shops. If they’d already been sent once, I would mail them back to the original receiver’s address, so that the people now living in that house could receive the same post card that someone living in it 60 years ago had once received. If the card had NOT been sent, I’d send it to whatever was featured on the front. In one case, I got a linen postcard from the late 1800s that featured a then all-women’s college. I sent it to them. The archivist sent me back a letter telling me they’d framed it and hung it in the library, as it was the oldest image they had of the college.
Most recently, I wrote 12 pieces of a story and mailed them separately to a number of coffee shops on the same two blocks in a large, faraway city. Then, I sent only ONE of the shops a list of all the other players, but no explanation. It’s up to that shop to seek out the others, and if they do, piece together the story. It will also cause these direct competitors to meet, if they haven’t, and to cooperate.
These little games are cheap, they required very little effort, and they keep my hands and mind busy on otherwise boring evenings. The world is only as interesting as we make it, and little opportunities for unexpected adventure are sorely lacking, but we can fix that. We can start small by hiding little gifts for our friends, or better yet, creating a short sticky-note trail around the house that culminates in a prize. We can leave notes in the backs of the books we donate. We can send anonymous letters. We can be like Brick Road.