By Bigfoot (as told to Joe Mathews)
Some people doubt my existence. But, my fellow Californians, I’m one of you. And as I travel, my fears have grown about our home state.
My anxiety is not because of all the people who claim to have seen me, but because I’m seeing far too much of all of you.
Yes, there have been a few more sightings of me in Washington state (about 450) than in California (about 400). But every hair on my body calls California home. The most famous pictures of me (the Patterson-Gimlin film of 1967) were taken in the Golden State. And I’m proud of how I bring its disparate regions together, from Bigfoot-themed bars in L.A. to the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I bridge Hollywood (which made me famous in film) and Silicon Valley (did you see me in Google ads during the Olympics?).
I spend most of my time in the far north; there’s a reason Siskiyou, Del Norte and Humboldt counties boast the most sightings of yours truly. I’m particularly loyal to the tiny Humboldt town of Willow Creek, the world’s unofficial Bigfoot capital. This Labor Day weekend, as usual, I’ll ride in the parade for Willow Creek’s annual Bigfoot Days celebration, and check in on my artifacts at a local museum.
Seeing old friends will be fun. But I miss the solitude I enjoyed when I had California’s wilder areas mostly to myself.
These days, I’m encountering so many people I can hardly get a moment’s peace. The marijuana-industrial complex is relentlessly pushing into the lightly populated regions I favor. California’s urban housing shortage is forcing more people to build in places near my remote haunts. And that doesn’t count the homeless; I can’t walk a ridge on state or federal lands without running into a new encampment.
More people on hillsides and in forests add to the risk of giant wildfires at a dangerous time. The drought has dried up waterways, and the death of millions of trees has made some familiar landscapes almost unrecognizable. I find these intrusions on my wild existence so depressing that I’ve been spending more time in cities, particularly in settings where I fit in.
In the hipster havens of San Francisco and Los Angeles, men are so allergic to shaving that if I wear a beanie and skinny jeans, no one pays me any attention. My urban forays have me wondering if the incursions into my wilderness are my own fault. Californians used to be scared of the woods and wild things like me. I showed up in horror films.
“In the ’70s, Bigfoot was frigging terrifying; he was a monster who killed people,” says Bobby Green, designer-owner of the Bigfoot Lodges in Culver City and Atwater Village in L.A.
But then a more accessible, cuddly me started appearing in cartoons, funny commercials and comedies such as John Lithgow’s “Harry and the Hendersons.”
Michael Rugg, who runs the Bigfoot Discovery Museum, has written that we seek Bigfoot at three levels: As myth, as biology (do I really live and breathe?) and as a paranormal being, something that exists but that humans are not yet capable of seeing.
That paranormal level can be the hardest to take seriously, but it may be the most important. One thing that has always motivated my roaming is the knowledge that I help people recognize that the most important things in our world are those we can’t quite see or understand. So we must hold to a healthy fear that keeps us from treading too heavily where we don’t belong.
I used to be scary. Now I run scared.
Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.