Early in October, there was an online test for the annual Jeopardy college tournament. Having returned to school this fall, I decided to take it. I felt like I didn't do very well, but a week later I got an email saying that I had passed the test and had been invited to an in-person audition! When I registered for the test I had to pick an interview city, of which there were several around the country. New York was not one of them, and the nearest were Washington and Boston. I chose Boston because I hadn't been there before and have always really wanted to visit. So a week after that I was completely surprised by this invite, and of course I said yes! Now, I should say right now that the odds of me actually making it onto the show are still very slim. Several hundred people were interviewed, and only 16 will be chosen for the show. But the fact that they had whittled down the applicants to a few hundred meant that I had to have done pretty well on that first test, so I'm pleased I got as far as I did.
The interview was the morning of November 8, which was a Saturday, so I headed up Friday morning. I went by bus (NOT Greyhound), and the trip took about four hours. I had driven through western Massachusetts before, but had never been to Boston. I've always really wanted to go there, so the chance to do so was what really excited me about being picked for the audition. It always seemed strange that I hadn't been there yet, seeing as I've lived just a few hours away for six years now, but given my financial situation I could never justify spending the money to go up there just for a vacation.
I stayed at a Sheraton near the hotel where the interview was held. My hotel was in a neighborhood called Back Bay, which is an old, upscale part of the city. I was on the 18th floor and had a beautiful view out my window of the surrounding neighborhoods and the Charles River in the distance. I was only in town for a couple of days so I knew I wouldn't be able to do much sightseeing, and rather than trying to run around and see as much as possible I decided to just explore the area where I was staying and see what there was to see. Which worked out great, because it turned out that a lot of the city's famous sites were right in that same part of town. Beacon Hill, the most well-known neighborhood, is right next to Back Bay, and I stumbled upon it while I was out exploring. You know the old sitcom “Cheers”? Well, it was inspired by a real bar in Beacon Hill, and I walked past it while I was out exploring. I also passed by the famous Trinity Church and several other old buildings; I just love the way Boston has found a way to preserve its history by integrating it into the modern city.
The audition, which after all was the purpose of the trip, lasted for about two hours. First we all took another test, and after that three of us at a time played a mock version of the game. (This was very low-tech; instead of actual buzzers, we used pens ;)).After our turn at the game, we were each asked a few questions, I guess to make sure we were interesting enough to not bore the show's audience ;) Everybody else was from a four-year school; one guy went to Yale, a few went to Harvard, and then there was me, from LaGuardia Community College! But I did okay, I didn't embarrass myself—at least, I don't think I did! Like I said, I'm not holding my breath waiting for them to call—though I wouldn't be completely surprised if they did. It was just fun to make it to the next round and see how the whole contestant search thing works.
After the audition I went down to Providence for a few hours. I had never been to Rhode Island before, so I took advantage of the chance to check one more state off my list. RI now makes thirty-one. There is a commuter rail that runs between Boston and Providence; the trip is about 70 minutes each way and is less than $8 one-way.
The most famous landmark in Providence is the Rhode Island State House, which is one of the largest in the country and has the world's 2nd-largest marble dome (after St. Peter's Basilica). During the week there are tours of the building, but since I was there on a Saturday I could only see it from the outside. It is quite impressive, and it struck me as kind of ironic that this was the center of government for a state most famous for its puny size. The City Hall is also worth seeing. Downtown Providence is pretty small—it's not a huge city—but across the river there's a historic district where a lot of city and state offices are held. I didn't explore it in too much depth, but I walked along the river for a while, and again, I really enjoyed how well the city had managed to preserve its history. The riverwalk itself is very nice, and in the summer they have something called “WaterFire,” where they light bonfires on the river and accompany it with music, often live performances. So, that's about all I did in RI, but I'm glad I got to see a little of another important city and got to add another state to my list! 19 more to go.
And that's about it. I wish I could have stayed in MA a bit longer, but I had missed one class already and had to get back. Boston is a beautiful city, and I hope I get the chance to go back and see more of it in the near future! At the start of last summer I hadn't been to either Boston or Baltimore, and now I've been to all five major cities along the Northeast Corridor, as well as every New England state except Vermont. So, I feel like I've actually done something this year, which is nice.