HOW I RUINED SCOTT'S VACATION
On the day Pitbull was to touch down in Kodiak, Josh and I drove out to the venue: the Nemetz Gazebo, a tiny structure on a patch of Coast Guard land. We arrived early, and local police were still barricading the road. We had no credentials. If we wanted to get through, I'd have to somehow explain my role in the event, and there was no easy way to do that; I don't remember quite what I said, but it came off like a bluff: "I'm the guy, uh, from the Internet, who made Pitbull come here." They let me through anyway, probably because I had the air of a harmless dimwit.
An impressive modular stage had been erected near the gazebo. A few dozen people were already milling around: local Walmart employees, Walmart execs and PR, performers for the event, and some early-bird locals. Stagehands were working to secure little inflatable palm trees, which kept blowing over. The lawn was a drenched sponge, and my tennis shoes soaked to the socks with every step. The air was once again thick with gnats, all determined to make ugly love to my beard and eyeballs.
I ran into a Walmart PR rep I'd spoken with on the phone a week before. Like the Fuel folks, she assumed I was there to be an asshole: "Everything positive, right?" she pleaded. "Fun, community . . . ?"
We headed for the gazebo. Inside, the Kodiak media were preparing for the press conference. Due to fog, Pitbull's plane was running a little late, so HJ and I chatted with the good people from the Kodiak Daily Mirror — the smallest five-day-a-week paper in the nation, so they say — and Kodiak Public Radio. We wandered outside for a few minutes to joke around with a dude from the aforementioned Walmart Asset Protection crew. He told us tales of America's toughest Walmarts — places with built-in police kiosks in the parking lots and full CSI crime labs on the premises.
Back inside I met Scott, the manager of the Kodiak Walmart. He's an old-school professional with a razor-sharp crew cut and matching mustache. I know I dumped this Pitbull mess in a lot of people's laps, but Scott is the one guy I genuinely felt bad for: I straight-up ruined the guy's month. I heard he was on vacation when this whole thing broke, and he got called back in to clean it up. It's his first year on the job; he and his wife arrived in Kodiak on New Year's Day, having transferred from a store in Kentucky. He just wants to run his Walmart, and now some bozo brings a rap star to town and the boys upstairs are breathing down his neck. He was handling the situation gracefully, but he was pretty close to his last nerve. HJ put it best: "Scott is going to be having Pitbull nightmares for years."
Whispers of Pitbull's imminent arrival stirred. A Walmart PR woman asked all non-media visitors (counting HJ, a total of four people) to move to the back of the room. The gazebo was the size of a modest studio apartment; the back of the room was not appreciably distant from the front of the room.