July 18, 2012

Unused Superhero Hideouts

    Alex was recently telling us about the New York Public Library and how it’s his favorite place in the world.  To illustrate this, he added that if he was a superhero, he would make it his hideout.  Aside from reassuring me that I’m not the only one fantasizing about being a superhero, it triggered my inner geek to wonder what other places were being overlooked as hideouts for yet unborn avengers.  Today, I give you the first result of this delirium.

    Unused hideout #1: The Periodicals Storage Facility at U of M.   Hidden inside the tower in the main building (the one everybody calls the phallus) are several stories of metal shelves that hold all the health sciences publications the University has ever subscribed too, from Annals of Forensic Medicine to Prostate.  The floors are steel platforms covered in cheap linoleum and connected by narrow staircases that sometimes lead nowhere.  The windows are small and dirty, and barely let in any daylight.  This is not compensated by the pale fluorescents, many of which have not been replaced for so long they stopped meeting safety regulations in the seventies.  I remember once walking in there in search of an article and finding a drawing a friend had etched in the dust on a window three years earlier (and although the rest of my description might make an overly enthusiastic use of hyperbole, that last part is entirely factual).

    The superhero that goes with it:  I picture a bookish type, studying late into the night at a little desk by one of the dusty windows overlooking the Côte-des-neiges cemetery.  He’s brought coffee.  A lot of it.  He made it in a old stovetop coffeemaker he just bought at a garage sale.  It’s a strange machine, sold by a strange old man who claimed it was from some abandoned town in the Ukraine.  It works fine but has valves all over it that don’t seem to do anything.  It’s the first time our student had used it.  He’s made three thermoses full.  He’s drinking mug after mug of the stuff.  He’s anxious about an exam the next day and doesn’t notice the strange taste.  Midnight comes and goes and he keeps drinking.  Eventually he falls asleep on his copy of Base Pairs Quarterly.  When he wakes up, he is changed.  His hands now shake at an unknown, hyperfast frequency that can shatter even the hardest material, and make any man insane.  He has become Kaffeïne.

    His cheesy tagline: “Justice pulls an all-nighter.”