Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pez Outlaw, Catch Me If You Can.

I was Born.  #pezoutlaw 

Recently I read that if you are writing a biography, do not start it with"I was Born".

For that very reason, I did. This is not a Biography, it's The Pez Outlaw Diary. Conventional is not on the blackboard. I'm going to write it exactly the way I want. Later maybe Jeff Maysh will write the more conventional Pez Outlaw Biography. We'll all just have to see how things play out.

Pez Outlaw. Spies, Black market deals, smuggling and Bribery.

My name is Pez outlaw.
For 11 years I lived a life that was more like a fantasy than reality.
In that 11 years I earned well over 4.5 million dollars.
For over a decade I traveled the world hunting for n buying Pez.

My chief opponent in this adventure was the then president of Pez Corporation Scott McWhinnie.
SPIES, yes of course, he had his, I had mine.
People will tell you a hell of a lot if you put thousands of dollars on the table.
Just watch how quickly $10,000.00 cash, swooshes off a desk into a drawer.
It's truly is like a magic trick.

The number of times I heard you don't know me after a greedy hand took a big wadd of cash, to many.
Rules about where when etc. Some very nervous people.
All I wanted to do was give them thousands of dollars.
You'd think I wanted a finger off there hand.

Nerve racking border crossings.
Over $12,000.00 on the line at every border.
I smuggled Pez in plain sight using loopholes n the then incompetence of Pez Corporation to make it work.
My enemy was a border official who wanted to do things the way it should be not the way it really was.
My goal, float under the radar, keep a very low conservative profile within the absurd.

In the entire 10 yearsI never lost a load. How many smugglers can say that.

Find something, anything each day that makes you feel good. Even if it takes extra crayons.

To me this is the story of a very average middle class person who tried to achieve the American dream. When I was a very small child in the 1950s n 1960s there was a show on TV called The Millionaire if I remember that right. Each week a wealthy benefactor gave a million dollars to somebody n we got to watch how it changed that persons life.

My entire adult working life we scratched by paycheck to paycheck. Even though money was tight Kathy always tried to support my dreams. Most of my habits could have easily been described as collecting obsessively, possibly even hoarding. Then by accident I hit on the thing that would change our lives. PEZ.

At toy shows while collecting I noticed people selling Pez for crazy high prices. Then on a trip to Canada buying cereal boxes, I noticed at a Zellers that those very same PEZ were on the racks for sale at approximately $1.25. These were the same PEZ people were selling in the US at toy shows for up to $25.00 each. Even a crazy person can do that math, so I cleared the rack of everything I thought was any good.

What a lot of people might not know is that before I started my decade long adventure of traveling to Europe buying Pez n all the crazy adventures that went along with that is that for a bit over a year my adventures were traveling all over Canada scooping up everything I could find. Canada was the training ground for my next decade.

While all this was starting I was still employed as a Machinist, the trade I'd been working in for a bit over 2 decades. The company I worked for had been seeing hard times for a very long time, so as my adventures n independence picked up I told them to always lay me off first n that I would not apply for unemployment. In roughly 1994 I left the shop n became independent. 
I have to tell you that I was probably the worst employee ever. I actually yelled at the owner of the company once. Another time after a performance review I was told to sign the review, I told the foreman that he could shove it, that that was never gonna happen. I was a loner, I ate alone n did not hang with the other workers. I used to just do my job n stare at the windows dreaming of the life I wanted. All that said on my last day working there I shocked the hell out of the owner of the company by going into his office n thanking him for helping me take care of my family until I could do it on my own. I'm very proud of that moment.

My trips to Europe buying PEZ had already started before I left the shop. As the good stuff that was available in Canada was drying up a lady told me the story of "Kolinska". see chapter named Kolinska. This is when the decade that change my life began.

So far for reasons I'm not at liberty to discuss my story has been written to be about that decade, the decade of my trips n the adventures in Europe n around the world searching for Pez. With an emphasis on the father son story and of course the crazy.
Me, I just don't care, whatever sells. That decade is very important n very entertaining,  But I also feel that the next decade is very important. The first decade is about the rise, the adventure and yes the fall. The second decade is about the struggle, the sense of loss n failure. Then the fight, the belief in the ability of one insignificant person's ability to fight back. 
I started writing Pez Outlaw Diary in about 2005. Part therapy, part defiance, born of the belief that I could right the wrong I believe Pez Corporation perpetrated on my company and my family. Do you have any idea how lonely it is to fight something alone, when you are the only one that thinks what you are doing has a prayer in hell. I know that after the Playboy article and maybe a movie, people will think "wow lucky him". What nobody can see is the over a decade of work n believing in myself that it took to get here.

I believe that there will be a Pez Outlaw Movie. Why? Because it really is a damn good story. Then here we go again, just like that show from when I was a kid "The Millionaire" we get to watch how a benefactors interest in someone changes there life. What you won't see is the pain, struggle and a persons belief in himself that after a decades hard work got us here.

opening scenes
an 8 year old child, (1959) Pez Outlaw being dragged to, then pushed into the classroom closet at the Maple Grove Elementary school. Darkness, then the door opens revealing Pez Outlaw 10 years later in solitary confinement county jail Ohio. 
see Chapter 11. Crazy Is Easy If You Are Motivated, S...  for the rest of this story 
1994 Flight to Ljubljana. After waiting all night on benches in a small corner of the Vienna airport finally it was time to board. We walk out onto the airstrip & are directed to board Sky Kings plane. Pilot copilot & 4 seats for passengers. One of the seats occupied by the overweight male stewardess handing out sandwiches from Rubbermaid containers. This did not look good. The flight turned out to be quite similar to a ride on a scary roller coaster with the male stewardess in your lap more than his own seat. Something to do with flying over the Alps in winter in a small plane, wind currents, downdrafts & low altitudes. We drove clown cars down through the mountains after that. The single most beautiful drive you will ever take is a winter drive from Vienna to Ljubljana through the mountains. The air is crisp & clean. The scenery unmatched anywhere in all my travels. Whenever I think of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen it is that drive in winter. Though driving clown cars through serious mountains can be a harrowing experience.

see  Chapter 3. "Kolinka" PEZ Smuggler Memoirs  for the rest of this story

( Wardrobe. Me in my Trench Coat n Midnight Blue Velour Track Suit, clutching a paper towel in my left hand for security, true story. On the flight from the US to Europe I would not let the Flight Attendants take my coat as I did not trust anybody. 

 Sitting in my seat on that flight to Slovenia, I began wondering how I ended up here, sure I was about to die. The whispered word "Kolinska" that led me to that moment in time. From 1970 to 1990 I had been an accumulator of things old, from 1990 to 1994 I started doing antique n toy shows as a seller. During 1993 I started selling Pez from Canada, which led to the decade that changed my life's direction forever. )

Closing Shot.
I've always felt that when Pez Outlaw walks off into the sunset, it will be under one of these Alien Umbrellas.
Homage to Chaplin's Little Tramp. For me there are a lot of similarities between Chaplin's Little Tramp n Pez Outlaw. Both stuck there fingers in the eyes of authority. Both are charming yet wicked. Both have very big hearts.

Spies, Black market deals, smuggling and Bribery. 
10 years, Nobody could catch me.

see  Chapter 2. It Fell Off The Back Of A Truck  for the rest of the story

Gun Towers, Armed Guard Check Points, Military Equipment on Tarmacs at Airports n Hookers almost everywhere you turned. FYI the Hookers were anything but shy. Five or six on the roadside as you drove by, one out of five would be flashing you, lifting her shirt as an invite. At a roadside food-stand one Hooker was wearing, we'll call them trousers, so sheer that she might as well have been wearing nothing. Add to that the always present groups of Gypsies
n bubba you got a story. 

Ex KGB Resorts. This place was actually pretty cool in a KGB sorta way. At the center of everything was this old looking glass enclosed swimming pool with a brick changing room attached, surround by wooden cabins for rooms. Lockers the whole bit. It was the pool that was the big deal. The pool was fed by a hot sulfur spring, so you swam in hot sulfur water. Of course we tried it. It was a very unique experience & as we were lost when we found it, I could not tell you for the life of me where it was. A lot of these experiences were very unique & the last remnants of something soon gone forever.

Ex KGB Towers. At the borders of most old Eastern Block countries there were at regular intervals Guard Towers. They reminded me of water towers here but flatter & more saucer in shape with windows & a wrap around porch. These were the big ones, there were also smaller ones made of wood that reminded me of Park Ranger Towers over here. There were still a lot of cold war things standing in the early 90s.

The stories of Gypsies, Prostitutes, clandestine meetings, Bribes, smuggling in plain sight, my own version of the Wild Wests Hole In The Wall being The Raba Hotel in Gyor Hungary n how Pez Corporation would have killed to know that location. How the staff at the Raba literally guarded my privacy. How my movements resemble a covert agent more than some Redneck buying Pez. 

Notes for the book.
I didn't just drive on the sidewalk in front of Pez Austria, Linz. This happened in other places in the old eastern block + Slovenia. I can't remember exactly why josh n I did this, all I remember is that on multiple occasions it was just the easiest solution. I blame this behavior on tiny tiny cars.
I also accidentally drove through a non vehicle area of downtown Viena.
Offers from prostitutes was a daily occurrence. Exposure sometime literally to prostitution were multiple daily.

For ten years I had the unexpected pleasure of traveling to Europe & other areas of the world searching for Pez. A more noble journey would have been in search of wisdom or truth. My journey was in search of Plastic.  My lifestyle allowed me to travel roughly 10 times per year for most of 10 years. Each trip lasted 4 to 8 days. Some of the trips were more of a whirlwind affair involving many countries on the same trip. I don't miss it, especially with flying being what it is today. Though for ten years it was my life & beyond what I ever thought possible.

Everywhere I went people on the hustle with a recent jolt of freedom. Eastern Europe was to me a real contradiction. Remnants of the old oppression side by side with the new energy of a fresh batch of entrepreneurs. My timing could not have been better, the perfect marriage of an idea, the will to act on it n the environment for it to be possible.

The following are surveillance photos taken on the sly by me. For this transaction I paid Gunther Leitner for 50 boxes of 12 carded Silver Glows per box. The driver and I were then told where to meet off site by Gunther.

It Fell Off The Back Of A Truck. 

Photos are of the silver glow Pez buy. The driver was under orders from Gunther Leitner. I paid Gunther, then met the driver for delivery.

That's me on the left. These are Photos I took covertly while buying Pez.

Covert Pez photos I took. That's me on the right. Tell a friend many more to come.

The Raba Hotel in Gyor Hungary
This is the Raba Hotel in Gyor. I spent well over 6 months here if you add up all my stays over a 10 year period. I loved this place. Highly recommended if you visit Hungary. Last few years of my travels my room was in far left corner of picture. The ones with balconies.

Restaurant at the Raba Hotel. I spent a lot of time here smoking cigarettes drinking espresso & Fanta orange as a chaser. Absolutely lovely place, many fond memories. Table with thingy on it was my table.

The Elvis Cafe.
The Elvis Cafe was this really weird restaurant located at the side of the road. I used to pass this cafe every trip in Hungary. Like I said, If you take the M1 freeway you really don't see Hungary. You have to take two lane blacktops if you want to see a passenger plane sticking out of a building. This restaurant was located about midway between the Vienna Hungarian border and Gyor. I actually stopped at this cafe several times. Had espresso up in the plane and bought several T-shirts.
Elvis Cafe outside Gyor in Hungary. Picture courtesy of Rudi.

The Real Pez Truck
The real for real Pez truck. Parked at the Yellow House aka Hungarocany in Gyor. For all the trucks that have been made and sold to collectors. I never understood why someone did not make the real thing. For me this truck is an icon. This truck is also the reason I thought Gunther was disappointed after we made our first Pez buy. He had them back it up to the warehouse, so once we were done it could be loaded for transport. That buy was early days only a few thousand dollars. What am I saying? I never in 10 years bought more than could fit in a good medium size car. Five duffel bags was my limit. I used to see this truck in Hungary, Slovenia and in between. Picture courtesy of Rudi.

J√°nossomorja  was the name of the town or was it the warehouse where Gunther sent me. All you had to do was spot the smoke stack with Pez on it. then find the roads that got you there. This was the warehouse where Pez dispensers were stored. At the time it was also where candy was made and pez were carded. Like Kolinska in Slovenia. More or less the distribution hub for the old Eastern Block countries and Russia. Gunther owned that part of the world when it came to Pez.
Austria, Traun.

This is the building Where I found Gunther Leitner that day. That's my crappy little red rental car turning the corner. Unlike the photo the parking lot was empty and the main door was wide open.
Below Photo of the Ferry Boat I booked passage on with Silja Ferry Lines in Sweden. Inset is Pez Pal Mariner. 
I arrived at Silja Ferry lines & was allowed to board the ferry & go to the gift shop on board the ship. There I met this really wonderful lady who ran things named Tuula. She said we have about 60 or so Pez Pal Mariner available but you have to be on board as a passenger & at sea before I can sell you any. I told her I really needed a lot of them so she checked & said she had 2 pallets of pez pal mariner at the other port. Off I went to buy a ticket. I booked a round trip, in a Tax deductible high end room. It was a room with an exterior window, so a view of the whole trip. This room even had a shower & a TV. Until this trip the idea of being on a large boat out in the middle of a big body of water left me a little uneasy. After this trip I realized it was more like being in a small city that happened to be a boat.

She Whispered, "Kolinska" With that one word, Kolinska, a decade long Fairytale that changed my life began.

Segue from crowded Pez/toy show floor where a woman whispers Kolinka in my ear to Josh n I on the little plane to Ljubliana about to die. see  Chapter 3. "Kolinka" PEZ Smuggler Memoirs  for the rest of this story

If there ever was a Pez Outlaw Movie or Book. It would be my greatest hope that, that sequence opened either or both.


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Jeffrey James 
You can read my exclusive story "The Pez Outlaw" only in this month's Playboy, on news stands now. Steve Glew's adventures make for an outrageous tale...go grab a copy.

I love Pez for how it changed my life.

Approximately 90 trips all over Europe, 1 each to South Africa n Australia. The treasure I sought almost $5 Million Dollars and I found it.

see Chapter 1. "The Legend Of Pez Outlaw."  for the rest of the story