On Saturday, April 12, after nicely being put up for the night before by Helen Jacobson, president of the 826 Boston board, I was a guest of honor during the formal launching of the Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute (GBBRI), the unique literacy center, which just opened in Massachusetts.
Above: The incredibly, simple but complex, to-the-point but creative, and intriguing but academically-appropriate GBBRI logo was designed by Amanda McCorkle of ColorQuarry.com.
(BTW, it was a good decision for me to attend, despite my recent loss, as it connected me to the roots of good parenting, tutorship, and the future of our culture. It also reconfirmed for me my passion for cryptozoology. I appreciate and thank you all for your condolences.)
Upon arriving, I visited their site and toured the “lab,” read from the “Bernard Heuvelmans Memorial Message Board,” watched a few minutes of Half Human playing on an old b&w tv set on a shelf, and examined the GBBRI’s well-designed logo and packaging for their one-of-a-kind products.
During the day, I gave a presentation to families with children, discussing the differences between mythical and cryptozoological creatures, talking about animals of discovery, and showing a variety of Bigfoot, Nessie, and other hands-on cryptica replica. I additionally spent time from about noon to 4, individually answering questions from kids visiting my table full of cryptid items.
After a great dinner at a crowded, delicious eatery named Cuba, with the board president’s family, including her delightful grandkids Becca and Emma (who at almost three seems to have developed a definite crush on me), it was back to a quickly transformed GBBRI site, now changed into a charity-auction, Sasquatch Symposium, and open free bar for folks gathered to help a good cause and be enlightened about Bigfoot.
The evening adult-oriented celebration included a panel that had Josh Bearman of the Yeti Newsletter via video remote from LA joining with the Boston site’s panelists ~ comedian Eugene Mirman, cryptofiction author Jim Sherphard, and me. It was all in good seriousness and fun. We had a lively exchange about everything from the “kill vs no-kill” philosophy to the positive nature of mammary glands on the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot.
Mirman, before the panel convened, gave a very funny slide show of various comedic cryptofiction cryptids that had the crowd roaring with laughter. The creations included a wide variety of beasties such as the “very long mouse” and the “bear with the face of a pretty lady,” some of which had been seen at such strange locations as “Newton” or your “neighborhood mall.”
Mirman is famed internationally as the landlord “Eugene” renting an apartment to the two guys on HBO’s “The Flight of the Conchords.”
I will share more in future postings about all the cheerful, attractive and interesting GBBRI leaders and volunteers (the gathering was attended by well over 300 people last night) whom I met on Saturday. (A few true Bigfooters, such as Rich Hansen and Michael Esordi, showed up too.) Also, I want to talk further someday about how I see positive contributions (on many levels) from members of the cryptozoology community to the GBBRI cause actually being of benefit to our field, to kids, and more.
For the moment, let me just note, one part of that conversation I had with Mike Esordi of BigfootSurplus.com who attended last night. Mike had some good insights into how the use of cryptozoology in this context actually brings the science to a new level. These people really have given a home to many things that folks like Mike and I dream about seeing set up.
Indeed, utilizing the “gateway” nature of cryptozoology to introduce kids and adults to science, writing, art, and a variety of other creative involvements in life through a physical site like this was wonderful to observe and visit.
Boston University’s radio station did an on-site interview with the director and some youth using the center this week, and I share that transcript here:
Bigfoot Lends a Hand
By Andrea Shea
BOSTON, Mass. – April 10, 2008 – Boston is a hub of scientific innovation. But one field of study has been low profile here….until now.
‘The Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute’ just opened in Roxbury, and we sent WBUR’s Andrea Shea to check it out.
She explains what Cryptozoology, a best-selling author, and Yeti hair-balls have to do with encouraging school kids to write.
Audio for this story will be available on WBUR’s web site later.
Sound of street
ANDREA SHEA: From the street the Bigfoot Research Institute looks like a cross between a science lab and a hiking store.
Sound inside the institute
ANDREA SHEA: Inside the place is chock full of the stuff of Cryptozoology. Hidden animals…such as the Yeti or the Loch Ness Monster.
DANIEL JOHNSON: Not mythical animals we believe these animals are out there and with you know dedicated research we can find them.
ANDREA SHEA: Daniel Johnson is the institute’s Executive Director.
Sound of boxes being cut
ANDREA SHEA: Flanked by a crew of interns wearing lab coats, he slices open boxes of stock for this new supply store where aspiring Cryptozoologists can buy…
DANIEL JOHNSON: Lollypops with scorpions, worms, crickets inside, we have a leech tank, we have giant crabs, we carry things such as monoculars, $20 good for one eye.
ANDREA SHEA: Wooden drawers are lined with vintage-looking bottles of Nessie tendrils, Yeti hairballs, and Unicorn tears…all for sale. Beside them sits an old-school typewriter.
Sound of typewriter
ANDREA SHEA: While the curiosities will pull in some money for the non-profit organization, its real mission lies behind a secret door.
Sound of secret door sliding open and then the busy writing room
ANDREA SHEA: This is 826 Boston…a cozy but rigorous tutoring center for area school students, ages 6-18. It’s one of seven novel storefronts created by Dave Eggers, author of the best-selling memoir, ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.’ The 826 shops in other cities have different themes: pirates, superheroes, time travel and outer space.
HANNAH NOLAN-SPOHN: It’s building literacy, its building confidence, it’s talking about writing as a process.
ANDREA SHEA: And it’s firing up imaginations, according to Hannah Nolan-Spohn, Programs Coordinator here at 826 Boston.
HANNAH NOLAN-SPOHN: At the same time it’s encouraging students by giving them a tangible product that they can take home and feel like ok, I am a published writer, my writing is worth while.
ANDREA SHEA: She recently published a book of poems written by kids here that were inspired by Pablo Neruda’s ‘Ode to a Common Thing.’
POEM: ‘Oh tree, you are bonito all year round. In winter your leaves are gone and your ramas are covered in nieve…’
ANDREA SHEA: Sophia Madden is a 4th grader who lives up the street. She says before 826 Boston opened the hours after school were tough.
SOPHIA MADDEN: I would go home with my mom and struggle with my homework so this is a real help for me cause I’ve been doing better than I have with homework and it’s a really cool place.
ANDREA SHEA: And not just for kids. 43 year old Maurice Ellis walks by this place every day…grew up in Roxbury…and wishes there’d been something like this here when he was a kid.
MAURICE ELLIS: I’m gonna let all the kids on my block know about this, if they don’t already know, but I don’t think they do because they’re hanging out on the steps now.
ANDREA SHEA: Christopher Patrone hangs out here. On this day the 9 year old is working with one of about 400 volunteers writing and illustrating comic books.
CHRISTOPHER PATRONE: This is the one I’m working on, it’s super Stupid Powers. There’s House-wrestling Teenagers, there’s Super Slow Turtle, there’s Ordinary Man and there’s Nagamom. Oh yeah, and there’s Pajama Monkey.
ANDREA SHEA: And then there’s Bigfoot. Patrone, like everyone here, wonders: does he exist?
CHRISTOPHER PATRONE: There hasn’t been any real evidence but I can believe in Bigfoot I do believe in aliens.
Sound of feet crunching through the snow
ANDREA SHEA: This weekend a posse of Cryptozoologists will test their beliefs at the North American Symposium on Sasquatch Research. It’ll be held here, where they can try out the Simulactron…a climate-simulation chamber that retraces the footsteps of snow-crunching Yeti explorers.
For WBUR I’m Andrea Shea.