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Posts Tagged ‘daryl sprout’

More catching up

December 18th, 2009

Ok, I’m typing again. The best thing about spacing, facing and tweeting is that it forces me to write, which I’ve always thought something should be doing.
June is the end of snake mating season so that traffic slows down a bit on the Snake Removal front, but then in August all the little babies begin to hatch (or gravid females of some species will give live birth) so Aug-Nov is the busiest time of the year for that.

It’s also the busiest time of the Snake Encounter year, with libraries, parties, fairs and festivals – and usually a museum here or there being among the possibilities. Libraries in particular have their Summer reading programs, and since I’m willing to travel farther than most, you never know what far flung Texas town I’ll be in next. Generally speaking, my library shows are usually rather significant violations of the fire code (room capacity) but Fire Marshals, men who aren’t afraid of burning buildings, are rarely as calm about snakes. Don’t think I’ve ever had one in my audience.

In late August I boarded the Carnival Conquest for a trip to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. A buddy of mine (I was best man at his wedding) in Houston had a marriage that lasted less than two years, so I went along in her place (with her blessing) on what was supposed to be their 2nd Anniversary cruise. All in all it was amazing, and I befriended and hung out with a group of closeup magicians that were on board. Usually they only have one, but the other three were going from there to other ships the following week.

I also met the ship’s acupuncturist, who did a great workshop on intro to Chi Gong, and I had a session with him later. Pretty cool.

The timing was a challenge, being gone for a week during peak season, and cell time (and internet time) at sea both cost a fortune, but it was a worthy experience. In Cozumel we took an excursion and I swam with stingrays, and one big female was thrashing around when any of our group tried to hold her for a photo op (including the guides that knew her) but I gave her Reiki and she promptly went to sleep in my arms. She didn’t move a muscle for several minutes until I gently let her swim away, which she did VERY slowly as if in a trance. The guides were freaking out.

In Grand Cayman we snorkeled the wreck of the Cali, a ship that was a sailing vessel and later an engine driven ship, later unwisely converted to Diesel. This stressed the boat so bad during a full power attempt to beach her to escape an oncoming hurricane, that the seams began to give way and let water into her holds – which were filled with a huge shipment of rice. The rice met the water and expanded – making the Cali the only seagoing vessel ever sunk by rice. The port authority later declared it a hazard and ordered it destroyed, but the military types who brought the explosives got it wrong by a decimal point, and blew her to smithereens. It blew out almost every window facing the port, and impaled her mast deep in the ground quite a ways onshore. Very interesting wreck to explore, and the sea life there is gorgeous.

All in all the Snake Removal season continued a decline that has pretty much mirrored the economic news, with more and more people deciding that if it costs money to fix, maybe that snake problem isn’t so bad after all, or being duped into cheaper alternatives like snake repellents, which do not work – but have a powerful placebo effect. You rarely see a snake in the same place twice anyway (from his point of view, you’re HUGE) so you put out a smelly powder and don’t see him there again – and you think it worked. Usually, your footsteps (he can feel them through the ground) are what drove him off instead – if indeed he was even still around when you did it.

Meanwhile, some members of our government are trying to legislate people like me out of existence, proposing a ban on what is apparently a growing list of constrictors that would make it illegal for me to transport my animals to many of the places where I do my shows. The day may come when I’ll have to decide upon a venue to work for and put down roots. That’ll be sad for a lot of clients who have booked me year after year because, they say, I’m their most requested performer. I’ll create an alternative show with more magic, more stories, more media and fewer snakes, but some cities are so clueless about all of this that bans on “all constrictor snakes” are being considered or even enacted. The smallest baby corn snakes that couldn’t constrict your pinkie hard enough to turn it pink – are constrictors.

October I was performing almost every Friday and Saturday night at Screams, the Halloween park in Waxahachie on the grounds of the Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival. I was the new kid on the block and was strictly busking, but the response was good enough that I expect bigger things for next year.

November is birthday month for Julie, my son Daryl, Julie’s dad, several of my friends – and me.

And December, my usual slowest month, did at least have Discovery Science Place the first weekend. There’s a day camp show in late Dec, and I did walkaround at a couple of parties. At least, for now, everyone is still eating.

October and other hot topics.

December 10th, 2009

Dear me. Four months without a post? Scandalous. Lots of catching up to do, so I’ll start with a few smaller items and we’ll see where it goes.

Wow. What a ride October was. Screams is the world’s largest Halloween theme park, and General Manager Coy Sevier contacted me about a building they had made into a mostly enclosed restaurant, which he proposed could have a stage and heating so a Snake Encounters show would be possible on October nights. I had been invited before, but the temps were just too cold to do outdoor shows that time of year. I would be an experimental new idea for the park, so I could either charge a separate admission, or I’d be busking. I chose the latter for several reasons, and I have to say that it was a learning experience all around.

With four propane heaters provided by the park, and one by me, I barely managed to keep everyone up to temp on a couple of those nights. Part of the problem was the building’s roof was designed to let heat OUT during the summer, and closing off all of the upper level vents will be critical to doing this next year. Crowds were generally packed and responses were favorable, but passing the hat in a time of economic downturn is harder than it looks. My son Daryl and his girlfriend Dani helped with that most shows, and now they’ll have a real conversation starter listed on their resumes.

Of course, being booked for every Friday and Saturday evening in October meant I had to turn down a lot of Halloween parties so it literally cost me to do the gig in some ways. The only break in the action was the Grayson County Fair in Denison, which had been booked before Screams approached me. That was another set of complicated variables. Cold rain and swampy parking areas made doing that one a big challenge, but overall our efforts were successful and they want me back next year for a third visit.

Throw in a Scout show or two and you’ve got a reasonably busy month.

Snake Removal continued to struggle with more and more people with a snake problem in a time of economic stress deciding that perhaps the problem wasn’t so high priority after all. In ways other than financial, in some cases at least, that is a good thing.

I did get a SR call to go on in November – all because the client had hired a “competitor” instead. This guy had charged by the hour for wading the pond on the site of a large housing development. It was choked with Hydrilla so wading it would have been highly problematic, and any snake would have had a huge advantage over anyone trying to do it. No one saw him wade the pond, but he reported shooting SEVEN Water Moccasins, who were literally attacking him according to his verbal-only report. No carcasses, no photographs, no evidence whatsoever. He told several homeowners there that his diagnosis was that the entire property was infested with deadly Water Moccasins. He then quoted the client $22K to “treat” every house there with Snake Away.

Snake Away is a combination of mothballs and sulfur, neither of which is effective in repelling snakes unless applied so heavily that it would repel all of the humans. No “snake repellent” has ever been proven effective in actually altering snake traffic. And they chose this guy because his price for the inspection was cheaper.

I saw a picture of the only snake that had been seen (and of course subsequently killed) by ANY of the homeowners, and it was, without the slightest question, a harmless yearling Texas Rat snake.

I grieve to think how many other clients in the Metroplex might have actually paid this guy, an independent pest control operator who, “also does snakes,” which almost always means either doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or does but lies and plays on people’s fears to ramp up the price.

Tubed at last.

July 23rd, 2009

Thanks to my son Alex taking up the challenge of learning how to edit and post video (he’s 16 so he has a natural advantage) I finally have a couple of clips on YouTube, with more to come.

The challenges of selecting clips to use were more involved than either of us anticipated.   First of all, audience members kept getting in front of the camera at important moments, severely limiting the number of possible vignettes available.  Each animal’s part in the show has a story, and it doesn’t work well if you don’t get the whole thing.

Sound levels are a challenge too, as are the differences that can creep in between what you edit and what you post.  Still trying to figure that one out.

So what you can see so far are two clips from my eighth visit to Columbus, Mississippi to perform at the famous Market Street Festival on behalf of my friends at CableOne.  The first is my introduction. The second is the bit I did with my Jungle Carpet python.

So check ‘em out, leave comments and let me know what you think.  I think they do give a decent idea of the look and feel of the show.

Return to Mobile, AL

December 22nd, 2008

I’m more than a little overdue to post this one.

Four more sold out shows at the wonderful Gulf Coast Exploreum, and I have three separate tales to tell about that trip.

First, the museum did something I’ve never tried before. They staged my show in their IMAX dome theater. It was very much like speaking in a lecture hall (I did that for the Texas A&M Veterinary College Open House a couple of years ago) only with steeper angles. The lighting was a big challenge but the sound system was awesome, and seating was clearly very comfortable for all those present. On the first day, the second show was sold out before the time the first one ended.

Big kudos to the excellent staff of the Museum, who also added a fun element to the experience due to the layout of the theater.  Like most IMAX domes, the audience exits out the top, which opens into a large area where I was able to let folks interact with Capone (the big black and white Tegu) and Neon (the big albino Burmese python) and me directly.  Nicely done.

A local TV station filmed one of the shows, and while the lighting in that room wasn’t designed for a show on a stage at the bottom, some of the footage is still pretty good.  They aired it across the region later.

Second, I was graciously invited to stay at the home of Special Events Coordinator Abigail Reeves, whose house is lovingly referred to by the locals as The Purple Palace.  One extremely artistic and creative lady, Abigail has the most outrageously decorated dwelling I have ever seen.  Her Scion is a well-known and award-winning “Art Car” and the house is at least that elaborately well done.

In her younger days she saw (and in many cases met) most of the great performers of the age, and her collection of memorabilia alone is amazing.  The Beatles, The Doors, The Who – you name ‘em Abigail was there.  She weaves all her own rugs and gave me the most incredible snake design picture frame and an artsy “Coexist” light switch cover.   Both her own work.  She’s one extremely interesting person that I am glad to call my friend.  Her neighbors are an extended family and I had the most wonderful evening of true local hospitality when we visited.

The third tale involves a couple of trips across the bay to Orange Beach,  to join Dolphin Queen Cruises, under the able command of my friend Captain Lori DeAngelis.  On the first day I arrived in the evening after her last cruise and Lori, her hubby and I went back out for a brief trip as the sun was setting.  I faced down one of my own little phobias (there was, after all, a jellyfish warning out at the time) and eased into the warm, dark water to float on my back, holding onto a line from the transom.  It was absolutely amazing hearing the dolphins clicking away beneath me, echolocating the dimensions of the big floating thing above.  Awesome.

Day two, at Capt. Lori’s invite – I became her first mate for an amazing experience, a shrimping trip.  A very nice family from up North had booked this very exclusive private two hour cruise which included casting the net, hauling in the catch – and most importantly – tossing the culls overboard.  Among the shrimp were small red snapper, drum, little blue crabs and such – which get tossed over the stern – and the dolphins know this very, very well.

They follow the net as it is being towed, converge as it is hauled in, and get right up close to the boat to catch what gets tossed overboard.  The other dolphin cruises all move in close to give their passengers a good look, but the really close action is aboard Capt. Lori’s vessel.  Very, very memorable.  The family gets to keep the shrimp, and this particular catch was pretty impressive.

During a lull in the action I did some magic for them, and now Capt. Lori wants me to do that again on a future trip there.  A shrimp, dolphins and magic cruise.    Hard to beat.

BTW, please pardon the resolution on the images.  I took only video on this trip (helps with the dolphins especially) so all the pics are vidcaps.

I love Mobile.  And the surrounding area.    Hope to return soon.