Thursday, September 1, 2016

You want to own your own company? Start digging.

As of 9/1/2016 I will no longer work for the Everglades Day Safari. This may come as a shock, a pleasant surprise or be met with raging indifference. I will officially be the owner of Everglades Day Safari and here's how it happened.

The first job I ever had lasted one day. I was 13 and was a babysitter for three kids. I don't remember their names but I remember kicking a ball around inside the house with them and the image of the ball rising into the air and striking a magnificent native American sculpture and sending it plummeting to and shattering on the ground is burned into my brain like a picture on a TV that's been paused too long.

My next job didn't last much longer. My mom, in an effort to get me out of our summer camp in NY back in 1984, suggested I call a number in a classified ad asking for "help with yard work, no digging". I spent 10 days with a spade digging compacted dirt out of a creepy old man's carport. I collected my $320 for 80 hours of work and was grateful I didn't end up buried in the carport. I learned to ask at every other job after that if there would be digging.

My first official job was working at McDonalds. Everyone should work at McDonalds for minimum wage. It's inspiring. The perks included a free meal. The longer your shift, the more grade D beef you were allowed to consume.

I paid my way through college in part by working at Pizza Hut. Everyone should be a server at some point in their life. It teaches you to respect servers. I was a waiter and my first customer barked at me "Hey boy. Get over her" and plopped a gooey, half masticated piece of pizza in the palm of my hand. A bolt from the oven had fallen into his pizza and ended up in his mouth and subsequently my hand. No tip. Because clearly it was my fault. The manager was a moron. His mantra was "the customer is always right and the employee is always wrong". I lasted longer than he did.

After graduating from the University of Vermont in 1994 with a degree in Wildlife Biology, CaptainJoe Del Regno hooked me up with a job at Pillsbury because that makes sense. It was ideal. I'd roam the New York country side in search of grocery stores, shuffle around products and remove out of date cookie dough and eat it. Additionally I got to dress up as the Pillsbury Dough Boy or Sprout, the Jolly Green Giant's sidekick. These were $4000 air-conditioned costumes which you could easily hoard cookie dough inside and eat it while walking around at grocery story grand openings. I got fat in 1994.

I quit Pillsbury in 1998 and moved back home to Florida. I worked at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa for a few months. Got to dress up as Larry the Manatee. In June of that year my mother discovered a classified ad online, printed it out and sent it to me from the home she shared with my step-dad Bill Schreiber out in Montana. It was weird because I wasn't living with them so there was no need to get me out of the house. The ad was for a guide with the Everglades Day Safari in Fort Myers. It required, driving, pointing at wildlife and talking to people. I took a public speaking class in college and sucked at it, terrified to speak in front of people. I still recall staring out at..............what what happened?

So I applied for the job. When the owner called, I was living with my dad while I looked for my own place. I wasn't home at the time of the call but my dad Michael Corradino recalls the owner asking "what's wrong with your son? Doesn't he want a job?" I did but I had to pass a natural history test. Not a problem. Bird. Snake. Some kinda conifer. The owner Bob Cowlishaw had just bought the business the year before and needed a second guide. I guided from 1998-2000 but moved back to Vermont when business slowed. I worked as a Naturalist (not naturist dad) and Park Ranger for the Vermont State Parks (where I dressed up as Woodsy Owl and Smoky Bear - thanks Dennis Rosa and Linda Betts Rosa and Nate McKeen! until 2007 and worked for the Vermont Institute of Natural Science from 2002-2007 (thanks Susan Morgan Hindinger). I loved those jobs and the people I worked with and taught. Some of whom might be reading this if you haven't given up on this to watch a cat video. In 2006 Bob Cowlishaw called me and asked me if I would be interested in the Director of Operations position. I said no at first, struggling with the death of my mother and not wanting to leave the state for sentimental reasons. In 2007 when he called again I said ok.

It has been an interesting 9+ years. The business has grown tremendously. The funny questions are ceaseless. I've worked with many great people. Bob will officially retire on 9/1/16 and I will be the owner. I'm ready. I'm excited. I'll be working with a great team including Randi Rush Morse, Anne Murray Falcone, Em-Jill Holohan, Erin Dahl, Marc Weiss, Jason Calleri, Edward Olesky, Sharon Turrubiaters, Fred Robbins Robbins, Don Blalock and many more in the industry that are just now finding out I like to dress up in costumes. Being an owner already has it's challenges but MariaElena and Junglito are already stepping up to the plate to help.

Wow. Here we go. At least there shouldn't be any digging. Thanks for the classified ads mom.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Death by Glochids (by CJ Moi)

Guest blogger CJ Moi is an enthusiastically ADD OCD writer, speaker, promo agent, educator and naturalist. Once a resident of central Vermont (where she worked with Jungle Pete), her home base is now Seattle. This post is an excerpt from her first ebook, Being Nomad, which releases on February 1. The book is the story of her epic inner and outer journey, car camping and couch surfing for nearly two years across America and beyond, eccentrically rendered in email conversations, blog posts, Facebook posts, and lyrical pieces of writing and poetry. It is available for pre-order until February 1 at the special price of $2.99 at Barnes and Noble and Apple iBooks. Visit Being Nomad at

Darwin Award Nomination

n Tucson I got my first lesson about the consequences of carelessness. When undertaking a journey like this, when being nomad, one cannot afford to be even a little careless.

I felt that my visit to the southwest would not be complete without trying cactus pads, and being a long time forager in New Engla
nd, I felt that it would be a total cop out to buy them in a store. So one day I set out for my walk in the desert with a mission to bag me a couple wild prickly pear pads. I captured a green and a red one, not without some wounds to show for it. By the time I got back to the house they had fairly shredded the plastic bag I had bagged them in. Not to be deterred, I got out a knife and tongs and set to work to pull their fangs.

I couldn't quite remember the cactus pad defanging instructions from the foraging books I'd read and I didn't stop to pay attention to what I was undertaking. If I'd taken time to Google it, I'd have recalled that the large canines are not the prickly pear's only defense, and that the best way to thoroughly neutralize the clumps of insidious small fuzzy glochids is by running the pad through a flame and burning them off. Instead, I attempted to cut them all off.

(Nearly a year later in California I finally got to try prickly pear fruits with the guidance of an experienced forager. Despite the hard little seeds throughout the sweet pulp, they are much better tasting than the pads. And their glochids are much easier to avoid!)

But as one begins to cut into a prickly pear pad, it starts oozing a viscous liquid which engulfs any loose glochids. By this time I was getting a bit frustrated with all this painstaking process just for a taste of cactus pad. I hacked off a couple pieces, ascertained that they were glochid-free and popped them in my mouth. The punch line here is that I ended up with a glochid stuck in the back of my throat, just far enough down that I couldn't reach it without a gag reflex and couldn't dislodge it by scraping anyway.

Now I did Google, to find that I had plenty of company in the embarrassing glochid ranks of Darwin Award Nominees. Most accounts said that I'd be fine, albeit with a resident glochid for anywhere from several days to several months - except for a few that recounted the deaths of individuals whose throat swelled up and constricted the air passage so they couldn't breathe. But after a somewhat uneasy night I woke up alive, breathing and with the annoying tickly pain gone - the glochid had apparently dissolved.

Some great forager I was. How could I have been so stupid? To add insult to injury, the damn cactus pad didn't even taste all that great. But already I was at least smart enough to see the lesson here. Pay attention. Think. You can't afford to be careless on the road.

Nonetheless there would be times when I was careless again. Every time was a reminder. Every time the lesson went a little deeper. Still, it sometimes feels like it's only by rather dubious acquiescence from the universe that I'm alive to write this book.