Iguanas and Ghosts.

After a quiet January, I was led into a much stranger February, with the usual penchant for adventures.

I went to an audition for a print ad for the Monte Carlo Casino, where I did the usual headshot/resume thing. They asked me to tell something interesting/crazy about myself.

I guess they were expecting one of those “This one time, I had too much to drink and I….” stories, but I just shrugged, and offered: “well, the first time I went to the Grand Canyon I discovered a dead body….”

They looked absolutely stunned, and told me that was definitely crazy. And I got the job.

Before the shoot took place, I had other adventures going on in the form of doing a little bit of paranormal investigation at the Museum.

The Museum, being in the area where Vegas was supposedly first settled, has had its share of stories, and in some cases, unexplainable phenomena. So the Ghost Anomaly Research Project (or G.A.R.P.) was called in.

As far as the teams went, there were eight of them, and Charlsey and I making up the Museum employees. So after giving a brief tour and some of the rundowns of the various weird things that happen at the Museum, we split into two groups of five.

Let me tell you now: The Museum is super creepy in the pitch black of the night, and as the hours passed, it never got comfortable. Al those rooms of Egyptian artifacts, robot dinosaurs, and several rooms full of taxidermed animals adds to the unsettling factor. Even the sharks were more active at night.

My team started in the African gallery. We were packed with EMF devices, night vision cameras, and a scanner that read through AM stations backwards that is said to pick up spirit voices. Granted, it’s not like a full-on conversation. It’s basically snippets of words, like overhearing someone in a busy restaurant.

In that room, we attempted to initiate conversation. One of the girls asked if there was anyone there, so which the scanner blurted out a “yes”. When she asked how many people were in the room, the device said “seven”, and two dots appeared on a separate device. Bear in mind no one was touching anything. And some things, like names were getting repeated to raise issues about the coincidental nature of it all.

The Museum is located next to an old Mormon fort that dates back to the Civil War times. From the conversation had, supposedly, there was a five year old Mormon boy named Robbie that didn’t know where he was, or the year it was, but was killed by his Father in a stream. There’s a nearby stream separating the Museum and the fort, and a spring that goes under the Museum.

I took pictures and got… something that was incredibly bright, like a track light about the lion and zebra. But there’s no light there, and the paint isn’t glossy or reflective.

Spooky orbs.

Spooky orbs.

At one of the investigator’s suggestion, I downloaded a Ghost Radar on my phone, an app that basically looks like the motion tracker from Aliens, and is capable of spouting out words similar to the scanner. In the boiler room, another investigator had his app going, and while the two programs did their own independent thing, they started syncing up with similar words. His would say “Texas”, and mine would say “cowboy”. And then the signals started perfectly matching with number, intensity, and location. It was the only time it did this all night.

There were other weird things. Knocks would appear from walls that shouldn’t, and no one was standing by. Charlsey mentioned that one of the back phones that never rings rang around 12:30 to a dead line, and then did the same at another phone up front.

My team started getting weird electrical pulses in the women’s bathroom, and the men’s room wasn’t much better. As we left the room, we hear a male voice say two words. I was the only man on my team, and the other two guys were way downstairs, and it wasn’t their voice. We went up to the front, and as we returned by the Nevada gallery, we heard full talking. One of the videos had turned on by itself and was playing. When we investigated the room, one of the scanners, repeatedly displayed the word “beware”, and then a ton of signals started popping up.

Foreboding hallways.

Foreboding hallways.

Hard to say what the results were from the night, but my interest was definitely piqued. I resolved myself that I wanted to do the “ghost hunting” thing again.

As for the modeling gig at the Monte Carlo, the time had come to do the shoot.

It was a weird set-up. They didn’t seem exactly sure when my call time was, which started out in the middle of the night, then after waiting for a while, got shifted to early in the morning. It was a fun piece, having to work with a giant iguana known as “Mister”. Then again, “Mister”, no matter how gentle he was, managed to claw my arms and face a few times, so makeup had to be applied to cover up the now bloodied areas.

Meeting "Mister".

Meeting “Mister”.

Truth be told, I don’t know what happened with this gig. The photos from the other characters were published, but mine never appeared. I contacted the casino, the advertising agency, my agency, whoever I could, and no one had a clue to to what happened with my photos, or where they went, so they never got published outside of a few outtakes.

The promo that sorta kinda never was.

The promo that sorta kinda never was.

After all this, I did another mascot thing for a trade show, where I wasn’t familiar at all with the character I was playing, but man, was he popular with the tech crowd. They knew and loved this guy.

It was like a small apartment in there.

It was like a small apartment in there.

While the gig itself was easy, I was in the early stages of coming down with a cold, and t he temp assigned to be my handler was… unusual. He had an aversion to helping me, as he told me that he “didn’t want to touch another man”, like one touch would somehow render us into a permanent domestic partnership. This left me usually having to navigate myself.

But I pegged him from the start that there was something “off” with him. He was so super eager to please, even if it meant dropping everything (me) to accommodate a convention goer. I think he was looking for additional employment opportunities outside this job, as he repeatedly kept saying that he needed more work. He had a tendency to repeat the same stories over and over and over.

The second day we were there, the client wanted to put the little characters on video. They had wanted me to hold a laptop or an iPad, but I had to politely decline, saying that my arms couldn’t reach far enough to be able to hold the laptop with both hands, and the gloves didn’t provide me enough of a grip to securely hold the computer or iPad in my hands. I didn’t want to drop or damage their equipment, and they agreed we shouldn’t try it. My handler found that unacceptable, and started yanking my arms hard trying to force me to reach to grab the computer. The clients again declined when they realized that the guy pulling on me was causing me pain. My handler snapped at me that I should have done what they wanted. It’s not that I didn’t want to. I just physically couldn’t in the suit. No one was angry about it, save for my handler.

After awhile, he just got to the point where he would just leave me for extended periods of time, which is like the first rule of “bad” behavior for his position, due to the fact that performers can overheat in the costume, people have a strange attraction to hassling/fighting mascots, and the fact that I couldn’t see or move easily to save my life. He would go to fetch buttons and t-shirts for show-goers, and then walk the convention floor looking for them, so these weren’t “fast” strolls by any means.

The last day, we were back in the client’s media lounge again, for whatever reason, my handler still apparently took it personal that I couldn’t hold the computer from the day before. He started telling multiple employees of the client that the only reason I didn’t hold the computer from the day before is that I just didn’t want to try (again, not true). People weren’t bringing the issue up. He was stopping them to volunteer this to people. During one of his story retellings, he again yanked my arms hard saying that he bet I could have done it if I had wanted to, and then told me that if it were up to him, he would have kicked me in the head until he had made me do it.

After that, he started to desert me again for extended periods so much that yes, I overheated at one point and nearly passed out until I walked in the convention hall by myself and found my other mascot partner and his guide, where I told them what happened. Bear in mind that I was still struggling through my increasing cold through all of this.

When everything came out, both the client, and his temp agency immediately came to the convention center and railed on him. The guy was so eager to please the client, I think he was angry at me for “failing” them and was punishing me for it. At least, that’s the only thing I could rationalize out of his behavior. I could have cost him his job, but my mascot partner and I switched guides, putting an end to the issue. But what a weirdo. The client themselves were as nice as they could be.

And of course, my back went out again during all of this, which wasn’t fun. I recuperated, and went to Cactus Joe’s for a break, which gave me the chance to meet this fellow:

Not uncommon to see at the sanctuary.

Not uncommon to see at the sanctuary.

My adventures were not fully over for the month, as I had to help Sarah Jane get her license.

There’s two stories to this tale: Mine and hers (her site is hilarious, but definitely NSFW, just letting you know now).

A while back, she had her license suspended for reasons I’ll let her explain, and while that time had passed, and she’s been driving, it came to her attention that she’s been driving on a continued suspended license. So much for people giving critical “need to know” info. like that, as she was caught unawares. So needless to say, she wasn’t supposed to be driving, and that’s where I came in.

I left work early to drop her off at the DMV, as well as a chance to see the new house she’s moved into. As with any moving process, it takes a while to get acclimated (as attested to a closet or two at my own place that I haven’t quite gotten around to yet), but for being freshly moved, the place looks nice. As per her, I was greeted by hair curlers and a bathrobe, which honestly, I wish more people would show up to the door in. I appreciate a casual attitude from people as it is.

So she gets ready, and then off to the DMV. In comparison, she is tiny in contrast to my tall, willowy frame, so it took me a while to adjust all the mirrors and seat, and pre-set all the radio stations to things that I like to hear, add on a lift kit and hydraulics, add custom yak hair to the interior…. But we were on the road regardless.

Nothing out of the ordinary. It shouldn’t be, anyway. It’s a driving test. What could possibly happen with such a mundane task, but as soon as I turned off the car and started to hand over her keys, she started hopping up and down and angrily cursing. Of course, one can’t ignore this sort of thing, so upon inquiry, she forgot all her paperwork on her kitchen counter, and her driving instructor was ready. “Please go back to the house and get those papers”, she intoned desperately. “Yellow folder! Hurry!” So I raced back to her house as her driving instructor waited impatiently.

Now this is where our tale branches off in two directions: Her story and my story. My story detailed a race against time to her house… with every single person driving as slow as they possibly could. Other student drivers? Who can say. All I know is that I was freaking out as I raced her truck back to her house, a vague, conceptual idea of where it was having only been there once, and behind every slow driver on the road. Seriously. People wouldn’t turn. They sat at right turn lanes at red lights, even with no traffic, and me, guessing for the best, made it to the house, burst in through the kitchen at top speed (after figuring out which key constituted as the house key), and then meeting my new nemesis.

I was backing out of her driveway, when a car just drove up in the street, and stopped directly in front of me. I stared at him. He stared at me. I motioned intently that I needed to move. He stared at me. I made confused sad and pleading faces, mouthing the word “Move”, while he again just stared blankly at me. Our eyes locked. Nothing happened. Finally, I turned the truck around, still with unadjusted mirrors, and hoped for the best. I grabbed the nearest driveway, and pulled in. Again, he stopped behind me and stared at me. I rolled down the window and bellowed “MOVE”, to which he finally complied, and drove past to let me out, and drive back against now newly-activated school zones, and pedestrians that utilized the word “mosey” to the very fullest. Oh, my God, I was dying.

Sarah, on the other hand, stalled incessantly to buy me time. She stalled on the eye test, reading slowly. She said she had to go to the bathroom, and took forever in there due to “cramps”. She stopped to show the driving instructor (a man that she described as an R. Lee Emery drill instructor type) interesting things in a completely jovial manner. She “confused” as to which entrance I was going to come in, leading them on a “oops” walk an extra time or two.

And finally, as the man demanded that not having a car to drive for a driving test was unacceptable, and where was the driver, I barreled up full speed to the lot, getting out and tossing her the keys. Covered in our own sweats of harried desperation and panic were we from our separate adventures, but Sarah got her driving test started.

And failed the test. Turns out, they didn’t even need the papers after all.

Disconsolate, we drove to Fremont Street for a Thai luncheon, and commiserated over our separate adventures, and her cranky driving instructor. Then it was off to my own next round of random hijinks.

For the next “First Friday” would set the tone for one of 2012′s greatest and strangest adventures….