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#516978 - Mon Mar 15 2010 09:22 AM Interview with McGruff
BxBarracuda Offline
Forum Champion

Registered: Wed Sep 05 2007
Posts: 5117
Loc: Bronx
What type of area do you live in, Urban, Rural, Mixed. What are the upsides and downsides to the area you live in.

I live in a rural area about 60 miles southwest of Washington, DC. It's a mixed area of farm and woodlands, but we're in a small, wooded development about two miles off Route 17, which is a divided highway. The nearest center of civilization is the town of Bealeton, about seven miles north, which isn't really a town in the sense of having any kind of a "downtown" area or city hall. It's more like a bit of development strung along the highway. Then we're about midway between the larger cities of Warrenton to the north and Fredericksburg to the south, both about 25 miles.

There is no upside to living here. I don't care for the area much, but my mother has been here since my dad passed away in 1986. My mom is 82 and has not been in the best of health for several years but I'd like to keep her in her own home for as long as I can manage to do that. It's a nice house and all that, but it's not where I want to be.

Where is it that you'd like to be?

Right now, Id like to be closer to my grandkids. I rarely get to see them and it seems like theyre growing up so fast. I feel like Im missing out on a lot. Im too far away to do little things like helping my son and daughter-in-law fix stuff that goes wrong in the old house. Its a Civil War relic and needs a lot of upkeep. Ultimately, Id like to spend my old age down on the river.

If you could do anything you wanted for a living, what career would you choose and why?

I'm a little past the what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up stage and I still don't know. If I had it to do over again, I think I'd like to be a high school history teacher.

The area you live in is so rich with U.S. history. Does that have anything to do with your choice of being a high school history teacher?

Probably. Like you said, there is a lot of history around here and I dont think a great many people appreciate it. I grew up near Leesburg, Virginia, and never knew back then thats were the government ran to when the British burned the White House. I may have liked it better had I known something about it. I love old houses and buildings and really hate when theyre torn down to make way for yet another lane of traffic, or some ugly office complex.

How long have you been on FunTrivia, what was the site like then and was AskFT a part of the site then?

I found FunTrivia near the beginning. When I first got online, I wandered into the Trivia chat room on AOL and played there for some time. One day surfing for more trivia, I came upon FT's weekly trivia tournament which was 20 questions, and sometimes it took most of the week to complete. Sounds incredible now, as you could probably google the entire thing in less than 10 minutes, but back then there was a whole lot less internet and you needed to use five or six different search engines to find what little there was to find. I got more use out of the World Book Encyclopedia purchased for my son than he ever did, you know, those expensive multi-volume sets of real paper books with matching dictionaries that look so nice on the shelf. There was no such thing as Wikipedia. I'm glad I was able to get online that early to see the internet grow like it has and to experience how it was. I remember everything being very plain and sort of gray, the graphics were simple, and the funny thing is, it didn't seem slow at the time and we were connecting at "lightning" speeds of something like 2400 bps.

Zbeckabee & BX
Have there been any members, past or present that have influenced your time at FT?

Probably George (gtho4) the most. He has always been the one I ask for advice. Hes brilliant and has always helped and encouraged me, steers me out of problems, and explains things I dont understand. I dont have a great deal of computer savvy, no formal training of any kind, and George has given me a lot of the FunTrivia how-to. He also has the diplomacy to tell you when youre doing something wrong without making you feel like an idiot. Thats difficult to do in an online environment, and something I have tried to learn from him. I came out of the AOL chat rooms with a pretty cocky attitude and a viscous tongue which took a lot of time to tone down and still occasionally rears its ugly head. I know I often come off as being rude and humorless, unfriendly even. Its difficult to remember sometimes that people cant see your face or hear the tone of your voice to know youre being sarcastic or saying something you think is funny.

What is the funniest or strangest story you have to tell from your years on Fun Trivia?

There are too many strange stories to even start. I enjoy some of the messages that come into site feedback. Some people seem to think FunTrivia can answer any question they have, solve any problem, or is responsible for everything they see on their computer.

Did that all play a part in the current Board Rules?

AskFunTrivia didnt have a whole lot of structure in the beginning. Anyone could post a question and anyone could answer. Im not even sure you had to be a registered member. You could put in any username you wanted, but there was a guru list that tallied the number of answers you supplied, so if you wanted to climb the list, you had to use the same name. There wasnt really anyone in charge. Terry or one of the admins looked in once in a while if someone reported profanity, but it was pretty much a free-for-all. Then it was re-vamped so you had to be registered to post and Terry gave the top five gurus limited access to delete unsuitable questions. I was the only one of the five who took up the offer. I was there all the time, I figured I may as well. It has been overhauled a number of times since, and the board rules sort of wrote themselves in the process as we ran into problems and tried to mold it into something useful like a reliable trivia database.

Zbeckabee & BX
I heard you are a sort of riverman. Is there any one river in particular you spend a lot of time on?
When you spend time on the river, how does it impact you?
When traveling, do the rivers in the region effect your choices of places to go or things to do when there?

I was born in Arlington and I have lived a number of different places up and down the river, but never very far from it. Fairfax, Loudoun and Northumberland counties in Virginia, and Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland, they all border the Potomac. It's funny, I'm not happy this far away from it like I am now. When I talk about going down to the river, I have a house in Northumberland County which is near the mouth of the Potomac where it enters the Chesapeake Bay. I feel calm and centered down there and bored and agitated up here, so it affects my well being somehow, but it's something I can't explain.

Nature can play a big part in one's contentment. What type of wildlife do you see at your river house?

Its a small community of mostly vacation homes although there are a few year-round residents. Its surrounded by farm and woodland. We have a lot of deer, rabbits, squirrels, foxes and wild turkeys, and all sorts of waterfowl, seagulls, ducks, geese, swans, cranes and eagles. The one and only time in my life Ive ever seen a bald eagle with a white head was just a few years ago down there. It was a rather unexpected emotional moment, and one I dont think a great many Americans actually get to experience. Then theres the crabs, oysters and fish, which I could happily spend the rest of my life in quiet pursuit of.

Zbeckabee & BX
What types of music do you like, who are your favorite musicians?
Which musician has had the greatest impact on you and why?

I like different kinds of music, but I'm most partial to folk music. I can listen to that pretty much across the board as long as it doesn't get too ethnic for too long. I don't want an hour of old-timey Appalachian hillbilly twanging or frantic Israeli folk dancing. I like a number of singer/songwriters, favorites are James Keelaghan, the late Stan Rogers, brother Garnet Rogers, and Dave Mallett.

I grew up with the British Invasion, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks, but I'm not a big fan of it. I know all the songs because the radio was always on. I liked Procul Harum, Vanilla Fudge, Cream, the Doors, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Bob Seger, the Band, and later on Aerosmith. I also grew up with a few of the 60s folk groups, the Kingston Trio, Limeliters, Peter, Paul & Mary, because my dad was a huge Kingston Trio fan, but he also liked Eddy Arnold, Frank Sinatra, Herb Alpert, and those guys, so I know all the standards from that period as well. My older sister liked Joni Mitchell, Buffy St Marie and Joan Baez. I'd "miss the school bus" a lot on Wednesdays (I was a lazy student and it broke up the week) and listen to everyone else's records. Artists who snuck into my early record collection to feed my need for folk music were the likes of John Denver, Tom Rush, Arlo Guthrie and Leonard Cohen.

Early mid '80s I discovered there was folk music being played on the radio in the Washington area, a mix of contemporary groups and singer/songwriters with the old 60's stuff I was familiar with and I found there really were people playing and singing music that I love. I'd have to say Stan Rogers probably had the greatest impact on me. It's hard to tell where he would have gone because he died so young, in 1983 at the age of 33, but he could sure write a good song.

Then again, you'll find some strange things in my music collection, especially with the mp3's on my computer. I like a lot of the 50's doo-wop. As a kid I remember them being played on the radio as "golden gassers." I like some Broadway tunes, though I often find an entire musical to be tedious, the one exception being Les Miserables. I can sit through that one over and over. I enjoy some classical music, Strauss waltzes, and some opera pieces. I think I could like opera a whole lot better if I knew what they were saying. It's the same with musicals, I suppose, the filler music that carries the story along doesn't usually appeal to me, but the arias will, even in a foreign language, so some operatic pieces do find their way into my favorite songs, like Nessun Dorma. I think that's gorgeous.

You'd probably think my favorite instrument was the guitar, but it's not. It's a toss up between the piano and the violin. I play neither and I can't sing, but that doesn't stop me from wailing when I'm in the car alone, with the windows rolled up so I don't get a ticket for noise pollution or disturbing the peace. You will never see me auditioning for America's Got Talent and I'm far too old for American Idol. Speaking of which, I love David Cook's voice. And Susan Boyle. Whew. I learned long ago never judge a book by it's cover, it's still nice to see the rest of the world figuring that out. Don't get me started talking about music, I'll talk you to death.

Any memory that you'd like to share from a live concert or show?

When my son started school, I was always afraid the teacher would ask the kids to share a song they knew, and mine would bust out with some bawdy sea shanty. We went to see Garnet Rogers one time at the Barns at Wolftrap and he did one of Stans song on the violin and wanted the audience to sing the lyrics. It was Northwest Passage, which has an easy chorus but is a bit tough for people to remember the verses. Everyone was looking around at this 7 year old kid sitting beside me who knew all the words. I guess I played it a lot (sheepish grin.)

Your grandchildren have come over for the day and they have won the coin toss and get to plan the activities. How will you all be spending your day?

They like to be outdoors and we almost always take a walk down the dirt road when they come to visit. Then we hunt monsters in the field, armed with long sticks. On one visit, Joey, the oldest and I collected about ten different kinds of mushrooms. When we're down at the river, we go swimming, take the paddle boat out, crab off the pier and generally make a lot of noise.

Do any of them share your love of music?

My son does. He took orchestra in school, played violin. He also plays guitar and mandolin, and noodles around a bit on keyboards. Kaela, my granddaughter likes to sing. Her favorite song right now is My Girl. They all three like movies with songs in them, like Lion King. Joey and I can sing the theme to Arthur. I dont know yet if any of them are actually musically inclined but if they are, there are plenty of instruments to get their hands on, and both parents would encourage them to do so.
A couple of weeks ago, they were visiting and I showed them that silly guy on American Idol singing Pants on the Ground. Then just yesterday, they were over and Kaela was singing and went into Pants on the ground, pants on the ground, looking like a fool with your pants on the ground, and I busted out laughing. How she remembered that after seeing it once is beyond me.

How would your oldest grandchild describe you?

I'm closest to Joey, maybe just because he was first and I got to spend more time with him while he was little. He's six now. I think he'd say I'm his confidant. If he stays over he sleeps in my room and we talk most of the night, about everything, school, friends, church, his mom and dad, brother and sister, what he likes to do, what he doesn't like. It's the best part of a visit for me. I hope he'll always feel comfortable enough to talk to me about anything.

Well, I won't ask you to tell us his deepest, darkest secrets, but did Joey happen to mention what he'd like to do when he grows up?

Ill have to ask him. Other than being a super hero, monster slayer and dinosaur hunter, I dont know.

NASA has contacted you and would like you to contribute to their Earth Time Capsule. What one earth item would you include that you feel best typifies mankind and why?

Unfortunately, I think it's the plastic water bottle. Billions of them, and they will all be here long after mankind has been forgotten. It's a pessimistic view but we're such a convenience-driven, use it and throw it away society. Maybe thousands of years from now, people will be mining our dumps for something more valuable to them than gold, recyclable plastic.

It sounds like you're a bit into the "green." What do you do, in your own life, to help the environment? It sounds like you're a bit into the "green." What do you do, in your own life, to help the environment?

I tend to reuse things like plastic bowls, glass jars and grocery bags at least once before tossing them out. I dont buy bottled water, although I understand why people do if their regular water supply doesnt taste good. I dont like the water at the house on the river, it ruins coffee and I cant even swallow it brushing my teeth, so Ill fill up empty plastic orange juice bottles and cart a supply down there for drinking. I try to fix things when possible, rather than throw it away and get a new one. Most anything I can find another use for Ill hang on to. I reuse packing materials in my eBaying, boxes, bubble wrap, padded envelopes, all that gets reused. I separate household garbage for recycling, newspaper, glass, aluminum, cardboard and recyclable plastic. Once you develop a system, it doesnt take much time and its amazing how little actually goes into the dump. We have one of those waste collection areas nearby, so I can just cart it up there and toss it in the proper containers. I know its difficult to recycle in many living situations, but it really doesnt take much effort to do a little something, like paper-bagging newspapers and finding the nearest place to take them. Most grocery stores have a bin for used plastic bags, so take them back next time you go, instead of putting them in the garbage. Every little bit helps. Oh, and keep an eye out for those Adopt-A-Highway signs and slow down when you see us out there bagging trash. Someone

Thanks much to McGruff and Zbeckabee for all their work getting this interview completed.

Edited by Pagiedamon (Mon Dec 31 2012 12:51 PM)

#516979 - Mon Mar 15 2010 09:40 AM Re: McGruff Interview
agony Offline


Registered: Sat Mar 29 2003
Posts: 15978
Loc: Western Canada
Glad to see another Stan Rogers fan. I only saw him in concert once, at the Royal Ontario Museum of all places, when he was touring for the "Northwest Passage" album. Did you ever get a chance to see him live?

#516980 - Mon Mar 15 2010 09:41 PM Re: McGruff Interview
McGruff Offline
Star Poster

Registered: Mon Apr 03 2000
Posts: 10832
Loc: Northumberland VirginiaUSA
Unfortunately, I discovered him only to learn he had died a few months earlier. I stumbled across Fogarty's Cove in a record store, wrote to his mom and ordered the rest. Of course it's easier now with the internet to find the work of obscure artists, but you lose the thrill of finding that really great old LP in the record bin of some junk store. I've seen Garnet live many times. He's fascinating to watch whether he's playing guitar or violin.

#516981 - Tue Mar 16 2010 12:04 PM Re: McGruff Interview
Pagiedamon Offline

Registered: Sun Jun 15 2008
Posts: 2592
Loc: North Carolina USA
This was the interview I'd been waiting for! The mysterious McGruff unmasked (sort of).

#516982 - Sun Mar 28 2010 05:00 PM Re: McGruff Interview
Jakeroo Offline

Registered: Sat Aug 30 2008
Posts: 2064
Loc: Alberta Canada
oh my. This is the first interview that actually made my eyes well up. I "could" contribute that to being in a higher than normal emotional state lately, but, being the personification a "true Libran", somehow I DON'T think that's the reason ~

Lovely interview. Thank you to all involved, especially Mr Mc"Gruff" (a misnomer if I've ever heard one).
Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense
- Gertrude Stein


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