It’s Saturday morning.
For freelancers like me, the day of the week has less of a bearing on my work cycle than it does for forty-hour-a-week laborers or salaried employees. Now most of them have been sent home, their employers’ doors shuttered from the wave of “shelter in place” orders that have been sweeping across the country. Coronavirus has locked down the nation. As of now, the U.S. has the highest number of COVID-19 infections in the world, including a couple of our family members on the east coast, as I learned last night (they are recovering).
In this surreal time, every day is starting to look just like the last, and not much of it is good. The phone rings or I get an email and another one of my summer engagements has been postponed, if not cancelled outright. Thousands of dollars’ worth of speaking engagements and music gigs have evaporated, leaving me feeling depressed, helpless and emotionally flatlined. Yesterday a massive relief bill was signed in D.C. that may send some temporary financial help in a few weeks, and I was surprised and encouraged to learn that it contains provisions for money for freelancers working in the “gig economy.” We’ll see. Let’s say I’m cautiously pessimistic.
Like many of you, I turn to social media to find a bit of camaraderie in this disaster, but more often than not I come away anxious or angry, nowhere close to reassured or calmed down. It doesn’t help that I find myself scrolling through Twitter at one in the morning instead of sleeping. I really need to put my phone in the garage or something before I turn in. But with the help of some good friends and my ever-supportive, caring family, I’ll figure out how to get through this. I’m going to feel how I feel, and I’m finding ways to keep from bottoming out. Winter seems to have given way to spring here in Missoula, so I’m able to get outdoors several times a day. That has a positive effect on my attitude, every time. I hope you’re also finding ways to deal with the self-quarantine situation.
Many of my musician friends here are playing live feed shows from their homes, complete with a virtual tip jar, courtesy of Venmo and PayPal. I’m lucky enough to have income streams other than music, so I’m able to pivot to those projects. There may be an online performance from Bob Wire in the coming weeks, though.
I’m working on a handful of magazine projects, and the one with the nearest deadline is a 1200-word piece I’m writing about Bigfoot for a regional outdoors/culture magazine. I’m making it a bit of an update, talking to some Sasquatch enthusiasts and trying to find out where the big guy has been lately in the Northwest. Bigfoot sightings seem to come in waves, and currently things seem kind of quiet in the mainstream media. So, off into the news tributaries I go.
The next book I have scheduled for release is Haunted Montana, which comes out in July on TwoDot. I have some stories to tell, so I’ve been invited to appear at 7:00 pm on April 2 on a podcast called “My Alien Life,” which is produced by Cameron Bauer from Somers, a lakeside community in the Flathead Valley. I'm not by nature a conspiracy theorist, a cryptozoologist, an Area 51 aficionado, a ghost hunter or any of these fringe groups that seem to be everywhere online and on TV these days, but I do seem to write about them a lot. I haven’t figured out why that is, exactly. Am I drawn to the more “out there” individuals in society? Most definitely. They tend to be super-quotable, for one thing. Although I haven’t written much about the UFO scene, a lot of these subcultures tend to overlap with the others, and I hear a lot of stories.
This is not to say that every Bigfoot hunter also believes that we are not alone in this universe, but a lot of them do. I’ve talked with several attendees at a couple of Bigfoot conferences in the last few years, and quite a few of them do subscribe to pretty much all the unproven phenomena across the board. It’s a popular hobby.
One common element I get from all these interviews with people who have witnessed something that supposedly doesn’t exist, be it Sasquatch or a ghost, is that they are, every single one of them, absolutely convinced that what they saw was real. Some share their stories reluctantly as they are wary of being labeled a crackpot or worse. I spoke with an enthusiastic Bigfoot researcher yesterday, a young woman who approaches the subject from a scientific angle. She did have a face-to-face encounter with a Bigfoot when she was in high school, but she didn’t strike me as someone who would make up stories to get attention. In fact, she said it wasn't until she was in college that she told anyone about her sighting, for fear of being called a wacko. In our phone conversation she came across as intelligent, thoughtful, articulate and highly educated individual. And she is convinced that there is a bipedal hominid out there that has thus far escaped our detection, and will eventually be discovered and scientifically classified. Toward the end of our interview I said something that we agreed is one of the biggest things that keeps the researchers of mystery going: It’s harder to prove that something doesn’t exist than to prove that it does.
So I find that my place in the whole paranormal/extraterrestrial/cryptozoology realm is that of a chronicler. I’m an open-minded skeptic whose interest in all this is to gather the stories, to serve as a witness to the witness, and convey their testimony with the clear-eyed approach of a journalist. As for whether or not any of this stuff really exists, well, that’s all up to the reader.