Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stoners dept.

Garfunkel: Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

Simon: Parsley, sage rosemary and thyme...

Garfunkel: What the fuck?!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Five Questions With... Billy Willard

This is the 2nd segment of The Bigfoot Diaries' new Wednesday feature called Five Questions With...

Last week I dug a little into the mind of Ross the Boss Friedman, who is most famous for being the lead guitarist of the New York retro punk band The Dictators and the metal act Manowar.

While rock stars are always a hot topic here at the Bigfoot Diaries, this time I am going in a completely different direction. I have actually tracked down a real life Bigfoot hunter for this week's piece, one who is fresh out of the news. Perhaps you read the article or saw the footage on ABC news. Billy Willard of Manassas, Virginia is the person who is featured, and we were lucky enough to capture him for a few minutes of his time.

It should be important to note that when I read the piece on the ABC News website, I could tell that they were making a mockery of Mr. Willard. The web page even went as far as to post a video with the story... A video that shows a man that appears to be drunk rambling on and making a fool of himself, and is completely unrelated to anything the narrative is about.

It should also be known that it is not my intent to ridicule anyone who is featured on this site.

Through emails I have had several conversations with Mr. Willard and found him to be completely credible and dead serious about what he is hoping to accomplish. He hosts an Internet radio show called SasquatchWatch Radio and he actually covered that very topic last week. There are too many people who are willing to use the Bigfoot phenomenon as a means to fatten their wallets, and they do a lot to discredit the scientific evidence that is out there. Billy Willard is fighting the good fight, and he is not one of the bad guys. So with that out of the way, let's get on with this week's segment:

Five Questions with Billy Willard

1. An article I read about you said that you are on the 'verge of a Bigfoot discovery.' Was that taken out of context and if not what are you doing that nobody else has done, and what makes you so confident that you will find the elusive creature?

No, not really. I do feel very strongly that we are getting close to making a discovery. We now have information from several eyewitnesses in a certain area on the private property that indicates that the creatures or beings (whatever you want to call them) are frequenting one general area. Signs of footprints and sightings in the same area as well as other information yet to be released have lead me to believe we are getting close.

2. Have you ever seen the legendary beast, or at least come across footprints, fur, heard vocalizations, etc?

No, I have never had a sighting, I've had glimpses of things, but not ready to say I saw a Bigfoot. I have come across a few footprints. One in particular was found in Culpeper, VA. It was 15 inches long and it was along with two other identified prints in a trackway. While on the private property we are currently researching, I did hear a very loud, strange vocalization I've never heard before. It was a high pitched, long drawn out scream, with alot of volume. There is so much I've found and experienced since 2005.

3. How did the Sasquatch Watch of Virginia come about?

Two of my son's (Josh and Tim) started Sasquatch Watch of VA as an online forum back in 2005. They got me re-interested in the subject, I've been interested in the subject since age 8 when I was first introduced to the movie, Legend of Boggy Creek. When I found out there were others out there looking for this mystery creature, I decided I too would like to join in the search.

4. At some point in one's life that person decides whether or not to believe in something, or just pass it off as fantasy. I think with Bigfoot, the scientific evidence is out there... Dermal ridges on plaster casts, the Patterson-Gimlin footage from Bluff Creek, The Jacobson photos to name a few... What would you tell a sceptic if he was harassing you about what you do to convince him that there is a credible foundation to your belief system? In other words what is your best argument that Bigfoot exists?

I use several arguments. First, there are accounts of this creature that date back to the first natives of North America. Countless carvings done by the Native Americans picture an ape-looking being. Second, we have journals and books from some of the first settlers of North America that talk about big hairy giants coming from the woods and throwing rocks at the forts. Third, we have hundreds if not thousands of eyewitnesses from all over the world that have seen a strange creature resembling Bigfoot. And not just regular folks, we are talking about police officers, govt officials, park rangers and many more "high up" folks. Fourth...the best film footage of course in the famous P/G film. That in itself gives us alot of information. In addition of course all the casted footprints, hair samples that come back unknown, the list goes on.

5. What in your opinion would happen to Bigfoot if he was actually captured? As cool as it would be, I hate the idea that he would end up in a cage at a zoo somewhere.

ALOT. The work would not be over. Capturing one or even finding a body would open up a whole new area of study. We still would not know important things like how to they live, how do they stay out of sight, why do they stay out of sight, do they leave among family groups, what is their life span...the study would be endless. What kind of intelligence does it have? Where do they go, where do they live? What do they eat? And of course, I'm afraid that this would open a whole new scenario up. People in search of the creature...way more people with intentions of getting a trophy. From another standpoint, would this discovery make science have to re-write the science books? Who knows?

(Bonus question): How many Bigfoot creatures do you suppose there are in North America right now?
 I don't feel qualified to guess that number. The late Dr Grover Krantz had an estimate of around 2,000. I'm not really sure. Only time will tell I guess.
Thank you very much, Mr. Willard. The Bigfoot Diaries wishes you the best of luck in your quest, and would love to have you back after you make your discovery!

Monday, June 28, 2010

My Euphoric Midget Anxiety Disorder

Once a long time ago when I was in the 7th grade I had a mad crush on a girl. I don't remember what her name was, but that is not important to the story anyway. What is important to the story is how I felt every time I was around her... Which was um... Befuddled.

She had me in her web, and I was as helpless as a fly. Whenever I saw her I had that preteen sense of euphoric anxiety. Maybe I was yet too young to know why I liked her, but I knew that I did... And despite my best intentions, I could never bring myself to tell her how I felt. Instead, I would follow her around the hall ways of junior high like a puppy. She might just as well had me on a leash because I knew her class schedule as well as my own, and I would follow 10 feet behind her to each of her classes. Sometime I would even get out of my class with a bogus bathroom hall pass just to walk by the doorway of the room she was sitting in. If I was lucky, she would be sitting close to the door and I would see her... Sometimes I would walk past the door three or four times just to make eye contact with her, then quickly glance away. I was overcome with nerdy shyness. It was pathetic, looking back on it...

And then it happened all over again, just the other day.

I was in a video game store in Des Moines looking for the original Mario Bros. game for my Nintendo 64. I wasn't having any luck, as apparently modern video game stores have deemed the 64 console obsolete. I walked up to the counter to inquire why such a kick-ass game system didn't get the respect it deserved when I came face to face with a real life MIDGET. Suddenly I had that feeling of euphoric anxiety that I had  in the 7th grade all over again.

I used to say that I would love to have a midget posse' around me at all times. Then somebody misunderstood what I said and accused me of saying something totally different. Now I say I would like to have a midget entourage around me at all times.

It's true. I have always wanted an entourage of little dudes hanging around, following me into bars, restaurants and shops. I wanted to be that guy that entered a party with a handful of midgets in accompaniment, and I have wanted to be that guy since I was a little, when I watched 10 midgets wrestle Andre the Giant in the most shenanigan-filled wrestling match in the history of television. That was long before Kid Rock had his midget pal and way before Jonnie Knoxville introduced us to the psycho aggressive Wee-Man. Had I played my cards right earlier in life, I might have brought this to fruition... But...

So here I was in the video game store just 3 feet away from this little guy and I couldn't form a sentence. I was caught entirely off guard and words can't describe the scary pressure that took over my thought process. This little dude was wearing a Slayer tee, ripped up jeans and high top tennis shoes. He had long wavy blonde hair, just on the cool side of a mullet. In other words, this little fella was the Holy Grail of the midget kingdom. He knew it and I knew it and I was speechless.

"Hey man, what's up?" he casually said to me as he filed video games into a sliding drawer.

"Not much there little whipper snapper... Just kickin' it old school... We should totally become besties and go listen to some speed metal or something..." is what I wanted to say,  but all I could manage was "N-n-not much. Just looking."

"Cool man, if I can help you just let me know!"

I turned around and went across the store pretending to take another look for games that fit my console, knowing damn well that there was nothing even close to a Nintendo 64 item in the entire place. I stood behind a rack of PlayStation 2 games and peeked back to the counter. Little dude was still filing merchandise. There were a few other people in the store and I couldn't shake the anxiety that was building within me. One part of me wanted to approach him again, this time with a with a sense of coolness, but the other part of me which seemed to be stronger just didn't allow me the courage to do so.

So I just stood there and stared... 10 feet away... Like a puppy on a leash.

To make a long story short, I stood behind that rack for about 5-10 minutes before I just decided to leave the store. Little dude took me completely by surprise and had me in his web. I couldn't summon the guts to approach him, or even the words to say. I mean how do you approach a midget under the guise of just hanging out. It's not like I was out to exploit him or anything, just to hang out with him and expect him to want to always be by my side no matter what, and hope that he had some midget friends that would join us... It's hard to find words for that.  

Knowing where he works I look forward to going there again someday, this time with a headfull of courage and the right words to say. Meanwhile if anyone knows where to find a working version of the Nintendo 64 Mario Bros., give me a shout... And if you know a midget or two give me a call.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

BP Considered a Shoo-In for Oil Spill Hall of Fame

BP's recent performance has almost guaranteed them a lock to be enshrined into the National Oil Spill Hall of Fame.

"They have come a long ways in a relatively short time," said NOSHoF spokesperson Richard Slick. "A year ago they weren't even in the discussion. Since then British Petroleum has definitely proven that they can compete with the big boys at any level."

BP has come on strong lately. When a deep water oil rig explosion caused a pipe to burst on April 20th of this year, BP has since pumped hundreds of millions of gallons of crude into the sea. The impressive gusher continues to flow at the time of this publication all but guaranteeing BP a shoo-in to the Hall.

"The fact that it killed 11 people is a unique touch that most oil companies can't claim, " continued Slick. "And while the Lakeview Gusher of 1910 spilled more oil, we have to remember that it was on land... BP is doing their craftwork out at sea."

Slick was referring to the Lakeview Gusher oil spill that occurred in 1910 near Bakersfield, California. That spill lasted 18 months and lost 379 million gallons of oil, but very little if any was leaked into the ocean. The BP oil spill is nearing 300 million gallons of oil, but has been gushing it's crude into the waters of  the Gulf of Mexico. It is on-going, and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight to it's geyser-like bursts. In addition to killing 11 people, it has damaged precious shore line and killed hundreds of thousands of sea anaimals. It has financially ruined gulf shore businesses, and caused shipping costs and seafood prices to skyrocket. While these factors are always considered a plus for NOSHoF induction, the key that's locking BP in is the longetivity of this deep sea spillage.

"As far as deep sea oil spills go," said Slick, "BP is the iron man in the competition... The Cal Ripken if you will."

Bob Dudley, newly appointed managing director of BP acknowledges his company's recent successes.

"I'm actually amazed at how good we have gotten at this oil spill thing," he said. "BP is absolutely honored to be considered for the Oil Spill Hall of Fame. Every day we keep wondering if the streak is going to end!"

Saturday, June 26, 2010

When Heroes Disappoint

We've all seen the commercials.

Dos Equis beer has been running an ad campaign for several months now featuring actor Jonathan Goldsmith as "The Most Interesting Man Alive." I thought it would be cool to hang out with such a person, so I tracked him down. He was extremely cordial, and I was shocked to find out that he lived just down the street. Who would have thought that a man of such stature was a neighbor? I mean this man has traveled all over the world, climbed Mount Everest, and stolen eggs from an eagles nest while dangling from the lip of a very high cliff... What the hell was he doing living in a small town in Iowa? I figured that he chose to live in a small town on purpose, as a way to be out of the public eye. It gave him a chance to be himself without the bother of paparazzi, and that fact alone even made him seem more interesting. This guy was fascinating! I jumped at his offer to come down for a visit.

His house was very normal. I had driven past it virtually thousands of times without even noticing it, let alone knowing that within it's walls lived the most interesting man on the planet. I was able to walk to it, and even thought that it would be a good idea to do so because there was little doubt that his refrigerator was chock-full of Dos Equis beer. I also envisioned exquisite art on his walls, zebra skin couch covers and the sweet stench of expensive pipe tobacco encompassing his abode. There would probably be three or four gals in his presence, I figured, each scantily dressed, and it wouldn't have surprised me if a butler opened the door and led me to Mr. Goldsmith, who was in a back room sitting on the zebra skinned couch flanked by these beautiful women smoking his pipe and wearing a velvet bath robe. This was going to be cool.

I came to his house and knocked. To my surprise nobody came to let me in, but instead I heard a "Come in!" from the other side of the door. I turned the knob and walked into his house. The ammonia-like smell of cat urine was immediately overwhelming, and I could see the litter box on the floor. It was in desperate need of being changed and cleaned, and it sat right there in the main room under the picture window. Very little light was let in, but not because the window was covered by fancy drapes. Instead, the giant window was cloaked with those white generic window blinds that you can buy at Wal-Mart for $4.39. "I'm back here!" said the same voice that invited me in and I worked my way towards it. I went into the next room and there was Mr. Goldsmith.

"Hi," I said. "I'm Gooseneck!" I reached out my hand and he took it and gave it a light squeeze.

"Nice to meet you," he responded. "Excuse my mess, I am not much for cleaning."

The smell was overwhelming and the house didn't have any of the exquisite features I had envisioned it having. There was no art on the walls except for a few drawings of what looked like stick people and stick cats. There were no women flanking Mr. Goldsmith, nor was there a zebra skinned couch or a hint of sweet tobacco smoke in the air. Just that putrid rotten smell of cat piss. The man certainly wasn't dressed like the most interesting man in the world. He was wearing grey sweatpants and a blue t-shirt that said Members Only on it. He was watching America's Funniest Videos on his television, which wasn't even modern. It was an old Sony model with a 26 inch screen. Aside form the television on a stand there wasn't any other furniture in the room except for the chair he was sitting in. He invited me to bring in chair from the kitchen which was in the next room over, and I did. The smell of cat piss was burning my eyes.

"So what brings you to small town Iowa?" I asked him.

"Oh not much really." was his only reply... And that's how it went for most of the time I was there. The conversation was very one-sided, even awkward at times, and it was always me who instigated it when it occurred.

"Got grand kids?" I asked, pointing to the pictures of the stick figures on the wall.

"No." he said. Then silence.

"So what do you do for excitement?" I asked, expecting an extravagant response.

"Not much really," he answered.

He didn't at any time offer me a cold Dos Equis, nor a martini, nor a sloe gin fizz, nor even a glass of Japanese Sake'. In fact he didn't offer me anything to drink, and from the looks of it there wasn't much to offer. The kitchen was as messy as the rest of his house, with every dish he owned sitting in the sink or on the counter next to it. There was a half empty gallon of milk sitting on the counter also, which looked like it had been there for a few days as the milk looked more like a solid than it did a fluid. I'm sure it would have stunk had I been able to smell it... By now my nose was running form the ammonia vapors emitting from the cat box.

After just a few minutes I realized something that was totally unexpected. I was in the house of Jonathan Goldsmith, a man who had dined with kings and queens, who sailed a small sail boat across the Arctic Sea, whose mother had "SON" tattooed on her arm... And I was bored out of my fucking mind.

The smell of cat piss was so bad that I started to get a serious migraine. From the looks of that box there should have been about 30 cats in the house. There was enough compost there to fertilize Eastern China, and the stench was so powerful that it was causing the lights to dim. But the entire time I was there I did not see a single feline.

After about 20 minutes of awkward conversation dominated by silence, I decided it was time to go. I had resorted to holding my breath while sitting inside the house because I wasn't sure at which ratio ammonia and oxygen becomes lethal. Leaving was just as awkward as being there, and essentially I just told him that I better be going. He nodded and thanked me for stopping by.

"I don't get much company, " he said.

I thanked him for his time, made it back to his front door and stepped outside. The smell of oxygen hitting my nostrils was instant relief. Never mind that it's impact hit me with the force of a two-by-four, it just felt great to breathe again...

Chicago Cubs: Celebrating 50 years with a Legend

Fifty years ago today Ron Santo made his major league debut with the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs were playing the Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and Ron batted 6th in the lineup. He had a fantastic debut going 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs. The Cubs won 7-6 despite giving up 4 runs in the ninth, and Ron Santo has been northside hero ever since.
Santo, the inaugural inductee into the Bigfoot Diaries Hall of Fame went on to have a legendary career with the Cubs, and his presence has been a beacon of light in what seems like a never ending losing streak. His game was intense, but his voice in the radio booth has been a source of hope and assurance since he took on that role in 1990. Cubs fans have shared their best and worst moments with this man, who right along beside them wore his emotions on his sleeve. As it was while he was playing, nobody wants a Cubs victory today more than Ron Santo does.

The Cubs are planning a special ceremony for Santo on Monday when the team returns to Wrigley to face ironically, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Santo is set to throw out the first pitch, sing the seventh inning stretch and flags commemorating his 50 years will be flown on the grand stand.

Sounds like a great day at the ball park. Wouldn't it be nice if the Cubs could squeak out a rare victory?

Friday, June 25, 2010

I Hate Myself For Loving You

Driving home from work just a few moments ago I just about drove my car into a ditch.

I had turned the Cubs game onto the radio and caught the first inning. The Cubs were up but all three batters were retired without incident. My team incidently are playing the White Sox, the hottest team in major league sports right now. The Sox have won 14 of 16 lately, including 9 in a row.

When the South Siders came up to bat the fireworks exploded. Carlos Zambrano gave up 3 hits to the first four batters and then on a slow breaking curve ball that fell right into the batter's wheel house, he gave up a three-run shot to Carlos Quentin.

Eventually Zambrano was able to get the final out but the Cubs were down 4-0. Radio announcers Pat Hughes and Ronny Santo described how Zambrano, in one of his signature temper tantrums, stomped on the bag at first. I used to think that Zambrano's inability to control his emotions was fun... Here was a major leaguer who has so much passion for the game that he brings everything he has to the table while wearing his emotions on his sleeve. But that was when the Cubs were playing well. Today I finally had it. I snapped. I became so angry that I almost drove my white Geo Metro right into the ditch.

Sometimes it takes a managerial meltdown to rally a team back to it's winning ways.

If I was Lou Pinella, the Cubs' manager, before Zambrano got back to the dugout I would have been out there on the field, and in his face. I would have screamed so loud at Carlos Zambrano that the veins in my forehead would have resembled the Eisenhower Expressway. I would have been on him like like a fly on an Ethiopian, cussing and yelling at his side all the way back to the bench.

Then, after chasing Zambrano into the fetal position in a corner of the dugout, I would have trekked back out onto the field, walked into the other dugout, and punched Ozzie Guillen right in the mouth. This would have no doubtedly gotten me kicked out of the game... Maybe the league. So then I would have turned my attention to the home plate umpire. I would have kicked dirt on him, spit on him and shoved him with both hands. I would have kicked at home plate until it gave a little and once able to get my fingers underneath it, I would have pulled it up and heaved it into left field.

By then security would be all over me, so I would have no choice but to retreat back into the Cubs bench where the players would all be at the furthest point away from me, and do one of those fake lunges at them; the one that men do outside a bar on a Friday night when they catch another dude eyeballing their old lady, but don't really want to fight. I would have gone into the club house, and taken my shower.

An hour later or so later, after they secured home plate back into the ground, and everything seemed to be back to normal on the field, I would emerge from the club house carrying a sledge hammer. I would have then wailed away at the roof of the Cubs dug out until it was knocked completely free. Then I would have proceeded to smash it into tiny pieces on the first base line. I would go back into the club house, only to reappear a few moments later with a a can of gasoline and my Cubs Zippo. I would set the entire pile on fire with a blaze so fierce that Miss O'Leary's cow would instantly be forgotten in Chicago's historic lore. I would then no doubtedly be tazered by Chicago police, kicked and beaten, and carried out of U.S. Cellular Field, locked up, never to be seen or heard from again.

As I said, sometimes it takes a managerial meltdown to get a struggling team fired up and put back into their winning ways. My meltdown would be of epic proportions, and while I wouldn't be able to see it I would take extreme gratitude in knowing that while in my padded cell the Chicago Cubs were finally playing up to their potential and competing for the top spot in the National League Central.

I don't know what I hate worse... The White Sox, or myself for being a Cubs fan.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Five Questions With... Ross the Boss Friedman

This is the premier post of a new segment that will appear on the Bigfoot Diaries. It's called Five Questions With... In which I will pick a person of interest and ask them five random questions. Actually the five questions will be pertinent to what that person signifies, and a sixth bonus question will be more random.

To get the ball rolling I was able to track down Ross (The Boss) Friedman, best known for being the co-founder of The Dictators and Manowar. Other acts he has been associated with are the Manitoba's Wild Kingdom, Brain Surgeons, HeyDay, The Spinatras, Fabienne Shine, and Shakin' Street.

Most recently you can hear Ross The Boss on Fox's new commercial for the 2010 baseball All Star Game. The soundtrack is the Dictator's version of California Sun, cut with a nice edit to Ross's blistering and unmistakable guitar solo.

He has played all over the world, from the mythical CBGBs in New York City to European monster rock festivals. His legendary guitar style is and has been appreciated by fans and musicians alike, but it's not over-shadowed by his humbleness. When his band Shakin' Street opened for Black Sabbath in 1980 on their Heaven and Hell tour, he was shocked that one of his own idols, Ronnie James Dio knew who he was and was a fan of the Dictators.

He comes across as such a normal dude that it is hard to put the rock star label on him... Not in the sense that he is not a rock star, but in the sense that he is a big brother type who hasn't let fame go to his head. While his electrifying guitar solos take you to the outer edges of the stratosphere, his personality remains grounded.

With out further adieu, Five Questions with Ross The Boss

1. The guitar intro to Who Will Save Rock and Roll from the DFFD album is ridiculous. In my opinion it is the single greatest guitar riff to ever open a rock record... Especially given the fact that the Dictators hadn't put out an album for a number of years. How did that riff come about?

Actually Andy had it on his demo, I only jacked it up in my own imitable way!

2. What is one of your best memories from when you toured with Dio's Black Sabbath on their Heaven and Hell tour in 1980 with your band Shakin' Street?

The fact that I was playing with my idols. Black Sabbath and Ronnie Dio was the high point, I was in awe of those guys! Still am.

3. You played CBGBs quite often and lived to tell about it... What was playing at that legendary place like, especially behind the scenes?

CBGBs behind the scenes was amazing .Everyone knew everyone , we were all very friendly and out of our minds ! If you know what I mean.

4. How did the Dictators who are notoriously a New York band end up playing the soundtrack for a commercial for the 2010 baseball All-Star game which is being played in Anaheim?

Basically our label Norton records had the contact with Major League Baseball I believe, pretty damn cool eh?

5. Your bands have played all over the world. Is there one place that sticks out as your favorite venue?

I loved CBGBs. It was a dump but our dump. Ha ha! RIP.

(Bonus question): Bruce Springsteen is a huge fan of the Dictators. Do you and he argue over who is the real Boss?

I constantly kick Bruce's ass over the name but you know, who can argue with him? Ha ha... I love Bruce!!

Thank you very much, Ross... Too bad ALL bosses couldn't be as cool as you are.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why Grown Men Shouldn't Drink

"He was what I would call a Sasquatch... He had long hair that was uh...Yallowish gray."That is how Tim Peeler of North Carolina described the beast he saw on his property one night recently.

He was too nervous to go for his camera according to the news report, but in his own words he talked "rough to (the bigfoot) and run him off." This seems to be a common problem that most people have who see this elusive forest creature. They get so nervous that they can't get a steady shot of him... Thus leaving the rest of us to judge that person's quality to determine if the person is a reliable source, since no other proof is available. In this fella's case it seems interesting to note that while he was too nervous to reach for his Kalimar Micro 110, he wasn't too nervous to talk rough to the alleged bigfoot to scare him away.

"He come right by me, he wasn't 10 feet from me." Mr. Peeler said as he pointed a whittled stick towards the woods.

It's unfortunate that Mr. Peeler couldn't summon the nerve to reach for his $15.00 camera... At 10 feet he could have produced perhaps the most substantial scientific evidence in the history of mankind. But there is an underlying component involved here. It seems that this fella was so shaken by what he saw that he called 911 to report it... Twice.

Now one wouldn't be so brazen to call 911 just to add credibility to a lie, would they? It's hard to imagine that this would happen, but judging from the area this man seems to live in could it be that boredom had set in and he decided to take his 15 minutes of fame the hard way? Does it seem out of the realm of possibility that Mr. Peeler might have consumed a swig or two of home made whiskey before making that call? Judging by his speech pattern this could have quite possibly been the case...

In Ohio a man made a call to 911 after some heavy drinking just to save his own ass. It seems that after being dared to do so, 24 year old Brandon Farmer jumped onto the back of a semi trailer stopped at a traffic light and took a ten mile thrill ride while hanging on for dear life. Pushed to the level of desperation, he called 911 to have the truck pulled over so that he could get off. While he was able to safely get off the truck, he didn't get off so easy with the law. He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

Silly rednecks... Trix are for kids.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ham and Swiss on Rye at 80 Degrees

It got about 80 degrees today.

Why is that important? It's not... But if you hang on a second, I will tell you why it matters.

I ride a mower for a living, a Kubota 2880. It eats grass like a trucker eats apple pie. I mow for a school district, which incidentally celebrated it's last day of school today. Now aside from the fact that the last day of school is frivolous... Not necessary in the entire scheme of education... Meaning that the kids spend no time in the class room, every square inch of every field in the district was filled with children either engaged in a  game of kick ball or some other amusement. In other words, today was a free pass day. Not a single kid was in the classroom doing a writing assignment or fretting a pop quiz. School technically ended yesterday, and today was for fun and frivolity.

Mowing was a tough act. As I said, with the weather so nice every square inch of school ground in the district was filled with kids playing one game or another. So we did what we could on the most obscure areas of the schoolgrounds, but finally decided that it wasn't worth it. We mowers were basically offered a free pass, and you can bet that we took it.

Now every day I make my lunch... Two ham sandwiches with cheese and two bottles of water. They sit in the truck for about 4-5 hours, which honestly would probably go against the health code if they were to enforce one. Especially when the weather turns hot, as it does now everyday. Today was no exception except for the fact that somebody at the maintenance shed decided that they were going to take a free day also, and do a giant BBQ for the people who could make it.

Well we had our free day... But we didn't really have the leisure of making it obvious. We tooled around as much as we could, mowing here and there, all the while just putting in our time trying to keep busy. After all, these are our tax dollars at work here. At noon, as we did everyday, we saddled up to the truck to grab lunch. The old man I work with said to put my lunch away, that his wife (who drives a school bus) was at the BBQ and was going to bring us plates of food.

Well she did. Two big pork sandwiches apiece, potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans, and some kind of sauteed onion dish that was actually quite delicious. Also, two pieces of cake (each) for dessert.

Needless to say, my ham and cheese sandwiches sat in the truck for an extended period of time today.

After we did our time I brought my sandwiches home. The cheese was melted, and the bread was soggy from the humidity and the heat. I hope to revive them by putting them in the fridge. 

Will they be good tomorrow? We will certainly find out...

And that's why it mattered that it was 80 degrees today.

The Bigfoot Diaries Go Secret Shopping

I didn't know Jonnie Wright when I first introduced myself to him.

Somehow I came across his blog and then added him as a friend on Facebook from there. I enjoyed reading his customer service reviews at the (Un) Secret Shopper and found his wiry sense of humor to my liking. His smile was contagious, as was his attitude. I felt drawn to him like a moth before a flame. Ok, maybe not in that dramatic sense, but we did share a common bond, the knowledge that customer service is the most important attribute a business has, and it's seemingly strange disappearance in today's society. Having worked in the restaurant business for several years I learned this knowledge first hand. A customer was only as happy as the person who waited on him/her... And a smile or a frown has the power to make or break that person's day.

I asked Jonnie about doing some secret shopping. I envisioned eating in a nice restaurant perhaps cutting into a giant and juicy steak... Keeping notes as I reached for the A-1 sauce, paying particular detail to the service and attitude that was being attended upon me... So I got excited when Jonnie called and said he had a gig for me. As it turned out, it was a far cry from the experience I had envisioned.

My assignment: Infiltrate and secret shop a popular auto dealership in Des Moines, Iowa.

I was a bit apprehensive about the gig to be honest with you. I mean come on... Why did my first secret shopper trip have to be at a car dealership and not something a bit easier... If not a steak restaurant, say a Quick Trip or something?

Car dealerships were like foreign lands to me... Bright lights, pushy salesmen, the smell of burnt popcorn and day old coffee in the lobby... Enough weirdness to drive me way out of my comfort zone. Every car I have ever bought came from the discount section on the advertising page in the newspaper, or often from somebody I knew who needed to upgrade and found it convenient to push their old rust box off on me for a handful of pocket change.

Car dealerships hold that stigma of being over-priced and over-staffed with con artists who's job it is to screw you out of every penny they can to fatten their own wallets, while flattening yours. Aside from the high pressure salesmen, there are the hidden costs in the contract, the high interest rates, the inflated warranties, and the knowledge that if you need them, the men in the repair shop are trained to break off your radiator hose in order to sell you a new one... I was apprehensive.

But nonetheless, I took the job. After all, Napoleon didn't become a great leader by invading Rhode Island. He pummeled tough British and Spanish forces at the Siege of Toulon to start his military career.
With my right hand in the breast of my shirt, and upon my white steed, I ventured in to conquer... (Mostly my fears).

Now, my white steed is a 1994 Geo Metro that has over 240,000 miles on it. I picked it up last fall when the desperate owner needed to sell it cheaply in order to get himself (and his newer pick-up truck) to Arizona for his annual winter hibernation. He didn't have a means to take both vehicles, and sensing that time was running short, he pushed it off to me for just a couple of hundred dollars. It was a good buy... I have since travelled in it worry free. In the glove box is every receipt that details any purchases that have been made towards the car. The tires are generally new... Have a receipt to prove it, and the motor was rebuilt in 2008. A little notebook details every oil change since 1996, and there are also lists of gas prices with dates along with the itemized MPG from the car's previous tankful. (Did you know that gas cost just over 2 bucks a gallon in 1996?) It was a good buy then, and it is still an excellent car. Aware of the fact that the last thing I need is a car payment, I drove it into the bright lighted foreign land and found a parking spot right up next to the main building.

I got off of my steed and wandered over to where the new cars were parked. I was feeling extremely self-conscience, afraid that I was emitting the smell of someone who was only there to evaluate the dealership's level of customer service. I wandered past a few high-end sports cars, and put myself into the mind frame of what I would be looking for, had I actually come to buy a car. The high-end sports cars would be nice... But not very practical. Nor did I figure it would be convincing to a salesman that I was serious about buying a new Dodge Viper per say, after driving onto his lot in a Geo Metro hatchback. I scanned the lot in search of something that might appear to be a little more in my price range, and I was a little amiss to realize that there actually wasn't anything on the lot that was within my price range. I felt like a stranger in a strange land.

Suddenly I heard the voice behind me.

"Can I help you?"

Probably not, I thought. I'm a lost cause right now... I turned around and sure enough, one of those high pressure salesmen was approaching me.

Or was he?

He just stood there, a row of cars away from me right outside the door of the building I had parked next to. I waited a second or two to see if he was going to come any closer, and when it was apparent that he wasn't, I walked towards him.

"I don't know really", I said as I approached him. "I'm kind of new at this car buying thing." I held out my hand and offered my name.

He eyed me surreptitiously and then he eyed the Geo Metro. He cautiously shook my hand and said his name was Barney. Maybe it was the Corsican army uniform I was wearing I do not know, but he didn't befuddle me with high-pressure.

"Let me know if I can help you with anything."

Alright. Now stop.

I am new at this secret shopper thing, but having read countless posts from Jonnie's secret shopper visits, and having been coached by him just a few minutes earlier, I knew that this wasn't going well. Jonnie, if he were writing this would explain in great detail how salesmen shouldn't use open-ended questions when dealing with customers. They generally lead to nowhere, and it seemed that nowhere was exactly where this was leading. This particular sales person wasn't making my first visit to a car lot enjoyable, nor was he easing my tensions. I was already weary of these guys... Now I felt even more flustered, not because this guy was hitting me from all sides with high pressure, but because he was doing just the opposite and not engaging me at all. There was no friendly hand shake, no smile, not even an indication that he cared about me being there one bit. I was miffed that he hadn't approached me and I had to retreat back to him. Suddenly I saw the value of customer service from a buyer's standpoint. This guy didn't like me, and I certainly was not about to buy a car from him.

Nonetheless, I had a job to do so I answered back even though he didn't actually ask me anything.

"I am actually looking for something pre-owned... Am I in the right area?"

Again, Mr. Not-engaging lived up to his name.

"Over there" he pointed. There was a lot adjacent to the one we were standing in just below us down a few stairs. "That's our used car lot... Somebody will be happy to help you out over there. I only deal with the new cars, but there is somebody down there who can help you out."

"Um thanks, Barney." I replied, feeling like I just got chased off of private property.

My secret shopping debut was not starting out too well... At least for this sales lot. Not actually dressed like Napoleon, I was wearing a pair of casual shorts and a white t-shirt. I actually began to wonder if I had under dressed for the assignment, and even wondered if I should have chosen my other car to drive onto the lot. But that was a ridiculous notion. Barney did not know what my motives were, and he never took the time to find out.. His interaction with me was short, unprofessional and belittling. It certainly wasn't something one would expect from somebody who makes his living based off of commission from selling automobiles. I drove onto the lot in a dinosaur, and was dressed as though I was just driving by and thought I'd take a look at what was available. I should have been the perfect customer in his eyes... Not somebody to chase away.

I walked down the stairs onto the lot with the pre-owned cars. Another building occupied space on the lot, and hundreds of pre-owned cars were lined up in rows across the front of it. I was hoping my experience would gain a little momentum and get a little better.

It didn't.

Once again I found myself walking aimlessly around looking for an automobile that seemed to fit my style. I eyed the prices on the windshields more than I eyed the cars themselves, looking for something a bit more realistic towards my price range which I decided was $15-20,000. It didn't take me long to find a car or two in that range, and it didn't take long to be approached by another salesperson. And once again I was approached with an open ended question.

"Can I help you find something?"

I turned around to find myself face to face with a different salesman.

"Hi," I said, extending my hand. I told him my name and that I was interested in looking at pre-owned cars.

He introduced himself as Bill, but instead of engaging me at this point, walking with me and showing me the cars around his lot, he basically turned me loose.

"This entire lot is pre-owned," he said pointing around the lot we were standing in. "There are more used cars in the back too... Let me know if you have any questions!"

I was shocked. Where was the high pressure that I was dreading as part of this assignment? The dealership was not busy at this point; in fact besides Bob and myself, there was nobody else on the lot. It was hot outside... Miserably hot I am sure for somebody wearing a tie, but it wasn't unbearable. If we were standing in a rainstorm then it might have made sense to turn me loose (not acceptable, but sensible), but not on this day. I stood there in utter disbelief as Bill turned away and went back into the building. Feeling like I had just arrived at this place and hadn't given it a fair chance, I decided to wander to the back of the building to look around. I had been blown off twice now in about 10  minutes, but I wasn't about to leave yet.

The rows of automobiles on the back lot seemed endless. As I walked amongst the cars I wondered how I could ever find one that suited me and my needs all by myself. There were way so many options available. It would have been nice if somebody had come with me to ask me questions about my specific requirements and wants, to help me narrow my choices down a bit. It would have been a nice touch to have somebody walk with me, to engage me... to make me feel like a wanted customer, not an outcast in a strange world. It would have been nice for somebody to address me by name... To make my valuable time spent there worthwhile. It would have been nice to have a pleasant experience during my very first secret shopper expedition... Unfortunately, it wasn't in the cards on this beautiful day.

After about 15 minutes of walking between the rows of cars I decided I had spent enough time at the back of the lot and started the long walk back to my little Geo Metro. It didn't feel much like a steed at this point, just a lowly old car that had already lived through it's glory days. It didn't have the glossy finish that the cars around it had, and it didn't have a bright yellow numbers across it's windshield. Despite it's maintenance upkeep, I had a sinking feeling that the old car was on it's last legs and could only be squeezed for a few more miles. I might be in the market for a new car soon, I thought. And I probably won't be coming here when that time comes.

I thought of a quote I read from life coach Tee Crane: Stand in your power - speak your truth clearly and beautifully - make a massive contribution to the higher purpose. When we live in truth with integrity - we naturally influence our environment and everything in it. Live deeply and completely - with power and purpose as your island. you ARE the power and presence of the universe - this is YOUR creation.

We live in truth with integrity-we naturally influence our environment and everything in it... That line repeated itself over and over in my head as I walked back to my car.

As I neared the stairway that led to the parking lot where my car was I encountered a man who, judging by the uniform he was wearing, worked in the service department.

"Have you been helped?" He said to me cheerfully.

"Well, I was talking to Bill," I said, "But I..."

"Oh Bill..." said the serviceman, interrupting me. "It's your lucky day... He's our best guy!"

"Wow..." I replied, getting into my car.

As I drove away, in a sick twist of ironic fate I had to pass a sign to get out of the lot. In big cheerful letters it thanked me for my business.

Monday, June 7, 2010

There's a Warning Sign on the Road Ahead

Somebody please explain this to me... I mean yeah. I get the gist of what the sign is trying to say, it's just...

Yeah... You know, I bet there is a great view of the ocean back behind there.