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Posts Tagged ‘snake show’

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.

On the Road

February 9th, 2009

This one was really grueling. 3175 miles in 8 days. Stops in Glendale AZ, Glendale CA, Anaheim, Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, CA; and on the return trip in Quartzite, Glendale – and during our Big Detour through Sedona,  Flagstaff and Albuquerque. It was my privilege and responsibility to be traveling with Julie, Charley (the dog) Alley (cat) four lizards and a dozen snakes.

We rented a big passenger van this time, thinking we’d need the extra space and some room for one of us to sleep while the other drove. Bad idea. 14 mpg on the highway (ouch) and the seats weigh a good 200 pounds each. There’s hardware to remove if you want the floor space too. Worst of all, we were told it had rear climate control, when it in fact had only rear FAN control, and all of the airflow was concentrated on the driver side, so managing the resulting rear temperature zones was extremely problematic the entire trip.

Speaking of which, the departure from Dallas went normally (read late) enough, but a bit west of Weatherford the antenna began to ice up. Shortly thereafter we saw the first of a dozen 18-wheelers we would find lying on their sides as the stretch of I-20 before us was a solid sheet of ice all the way to Odessa.

Among these big rigs who seemed to have forgotten that the rubber side is supposed to stay on the bottom, the last was stretched all the way across both lanes ahead of us. I eased down the left lane past at least a dozen more trucks lined up down the right, and cautiously approached the front of the line. As the overturned rig finally came into view (hard to see with the rubber side pointing toward you in a heavy freezing rain at night) I carefully got out of the van to investigate. The ice under my feet was at least an inch thick. The driver was just climbing out and I was able to confirm that he was okay and 911 had been called.

I then checked to see if there might be a way I could sneak past his cab, going somewhat off the road, to escape. The other drivers said, “We would if we could!” and helped guide us around him. I’ll bet everyone else was trapped there for at least a couple more hours. As it turned out, we didn’t have the time to spare.

On top of having to maintain a top speed of 40 mph for all of those miles, the rain was freezing on the windshield faster than the defroster could keep up with. We had to stop about every 30 miles to let the melting catch up. The antenna just got thicker and thicker. At a few points we had to use a canned de-icer to free the wipers when they froze over too thickly. We only lost traction once, but that brief moment will sure put your heart in your throat. I was carrying very precious cargo.

We thought the extra space in the big van would facilitate a sleeping area for one of us in the back while the other drove, but this night would have none of that. The dog liked it though. More room to stretch out than he was used to.

Beyond the ice we took a short, fitful, shell-shocked nap together (which helped a little) and made our way through New Mexico and Arizona. An old friend of mine lives north of Phoenix in Glendale, so we stopped there for a brief break and headed off for the other Glendale – the one in California and the site of my first interview.

Ryan Ray still has the show up on http://ryanray.com. We were scheduled to be there at 5pm for a 6pm show. We arrived at that very spot at 4:55. It was entirely apropos to do a show under conditions of sleep deprivation in front of a logo that says, “Wake Up!” Check it out – it’s very California. The full name is “Wake Up! Explore Your Passion” and Ryan was interviewing me as an example of someone who gave up the normal career path to pursue a dream. Tell me about it.

Then followed the trip from Glendale to Anaheim. I’m not sure which was worse, the ice – or the 5. Californians are generally a very friendly bunch – until they get behind the wheel. More aggressive than Dallas, more even than Houston. Almost apocalyptic. After that of course, a hotel room about three hundred yards from the entrance to Disneyland is the perfect peaceful and serene environment for recovering from 30 hours of low-level ambient trauma.

Loading in is a pretty big deal for us. It takes four trips with the four wheel dolly at least. If someone raises an eyebrow I just offer, “What can I say? We pack heavy.” That always works.

That was Wednesday night, and fortunately all I had on the books for Thursday was a late morning meeting with Tania (she was awesome) to hammer out the last-minute details, and a quick late afternoon introduction to the meeting of the museum’s board of directors (including Anaheim’s Mayor Curt Pringle) featuring Aussie the Carpet Python, Capone the Tegu and yours truly. That left more time for recovery, including a great meal of sushi and miso to help reset our nerves.

Friday I did something I don’t normally agree to do. Three shows in three hours. I need time between to reset and regroup, but the logistics demanded the schedule we did, and I’m nothing if not a team player. But when the last kid left (I let them greet me and pet Neon on the way out) I had to admit that I was really wiped.

Soo, I loaded up the van again (they all needed a water dish rotation, and that’s easier to do in the hotel room) and got that and a few more details squared away. A quickie nap and we were off to Huntington Beach to do Real Orange for KOCE, followed by a fast trip to Laguna Beach to put those animals in Chris Trela’s office so we could see that marvelous production of “Around the World in 80 Days” at Laguna Playhouse. Great stuff.

Saturday was a bit less hectic, with shows at 11, 1 and 3 for the general public. Julie was there to help with video and after show interactions. Hope the annual show idea works out. We love Muzeo and would be thrilled to be involved in what is bound to be a great future for this innovative approach to the fostering a local interest in the arts.

Then it was Sunday. We got mostly packed up and Chris treated us to brunch at a bakery/café in Downtown Disney. Perfect weather, excellent meal. I’ve always understood why people live in California, I just remain somewhat confused as to how.

It was of course, the day of The Big Game (I understand you can’t use the S-Word without written permission from the NFL these days) but the ticket cues at The Resort were very full. By the time we were on the road again, it was almost game time. We averted a complete mess on the 19 (thanks to Chris again) and took the 57 to the 10 (that’s how they say it there) and we were off – headed East.

We found The Big Game on an AM radio station, but that began a big AM surfing series as we crossed Eastern California, otherwise known as the lunar surface. We got a leg up on that problem from a great guy named Ed that we found at the California Visitor Center in San Bernardino at the 10 and Route 66. He downloaded and printed a list of stations across the regions we were headed through while we browsed the excellent info exhibits. They’ve really put some effort and money into revamping their Info Centers. This one is first class.

We managed to hear most of The Big Game. We were rooting for the Arizona Cardinals, so the game itself was a little stressful, especially when a channel would fade out during an exciting drive. By nightfall we were thinking rest stop and the one we found had an RV parked there, watching the game. We parked next to him and caught Arizona’s last big touchdown play on his big screen through the window. Sweet.

Our next stop was in Quartzite AZ for a meal. Too bad the rock shops you’d expect to find in a town of that name were all closed, but we found a great little bar and grille called The Yacht Club, which made a mean fish ‘n chips. The crowd was understandably subdued, but they had a lot to be proud of in their Cards for making it as close as they did. They almost won The Big Game, and our Cowboys who were expected to do that didn’t even make the playoffs.

By the time we made Phoenix, it was 4 am. A bed and a shower gave us the resolve to take The Big Detour. Sedona, AZ. I’ve always wanted to see the area – felt it calling to me, you could say. Extra rental fees, fuel, mounting incidental expenses and all – we were going.

That’s a whole other story. It’ll be my next entry.  Lots of pics.

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.

Market Street Festival – Columbus, Mississippi!

April 9th, 2008

I’m craving boiled peanuts. Must be Market Street Festival time!

Every April my mind drifts to Mississippi, and to a town that seems to have adopted me. My first visit was for Discovery Networks, representing Animal Planet for CableOne. They were just launching new Discovery product, and my show made a great reason to sign up for cable.

The response was so big that CableOne has invited me back year after year, and this one’s going to be bigger than ever. We’ve got a bigger tent so everyone can actually fit inside, and the festival itself just keeps getting more acclaim as one of the very best local festivals in the entire South.

This year’s dates are May 2-3. A band will play Friday night and Saturday is the big street festival, followed by another great band jamming into the evening. I’ll be doing three shows outside CableOne’s location on May 3.

Columbus is a great college town located on the Tombigbee river, a lush landscape filled with heritage and history. The festival boasts some of the best food from the area, plus booths with all kinds of interesting things that I only seem to see at this particular event. The entertainment is always excellent, and I’m very pleased to play my part in that.

The folks at CableOne have become like family to me, and it’s great to be invited back to the big party. They pulled off a genuine miracle a couple of years ago after a tornado hit the town, getting cable and high speed internet back online in a huge undertaking. This bunch is really top notch.

My entire fascination with snakes began in Mississippi, in my great-grandmother’s back yard in Jackson.  That little Speckled King snake really created a cascade effect.

So if you’re in the Columbus area be sure to catch the show, but if you’re in Memphis, or Tupelo, or maybe Jackson or Birmingham – why not load up the family and make the trip? I guarantee – you’ll love it.