Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Chicken Man

A typical shift is 12 hours, but it's not unusual to drive 14, 16, 18 hours or more, especially if you only do it a couple times a week. This may sound pretty rough, but there's practically no limit to what you can do given enough coffee and Red Bull (a beverage I discovered out of necessity but would hardly recommend) .


Generally speaking, I have no problem driving for long periods. In fact, there's something about driving a cab--the rhythm of the city, lots of activity, people coming and going. In fact, I find it relaxing. No problem.


But once I cash in at around 3 a.m. and head home on the Southeast Expressway, that's when the hallucinations kick in. Every light pole, every shadow, every piece of wastepaper blowing across the road suddenly becomes a deer jumping in front of my car, a truck about to sideswipe me or some other obstacle that I need to swerve around. My vision gets gauzy along the along the periphery. The first few times I drove for long periods, the experiences driving home were so harrowing that by the time I arrived I was soaked in sweat and couldn't get to sleep.


Over time I've trained myself to ignore the leaping animals, the corpses and the darting sprites. I learned to drive in a gauzy violet fog. The biggest challenge was trying to determine which trucks about to sideswipe me were real, and which ones were the figment of my imagination. So far, so good.


Reality, however, has a way of messing with you in a way your imagination cannot touch. Take the other night.


It started snowing by early evening. Just a few flakes at first, drifting lazily across the windshield. The forecasts had predicted this, saying it would pick up quickly by midnight, and fall at a rate of three inches an hour. The television news had announced all this a kind of hyperventilated excitement one might expect for a nuclear holocaust or the rapture. "Buy batteries and stock up on potable water," the buxom weather girl said cheerily.


By midnight, it was coming down hard. The windshield wipers could not keep up with the pace of accumulation, and every two or three stoplights I had to get out of the cab to scrape clean the wiper blades by hand. The plows had yet to emerge in force, so the streets were a mess--slushy and rutted. The work was dwindling, so I decided to quit early.

I cashed out at 1:30 a.m., and soon after was on the Southeast Expressway, carefully making my way home. Four lanes of highway had disappeared under three inches of fresh snow. Finding a lane was pure guesswork. In addition to the clumps of frozen muck, puddles and patches of ice, were the usual assortment of morons: drivers crawling along at five miles per hour in the left lane with their emergency flashers on, buttholes in Cadillac Escalades going 80 mph, and passive-aggressive weenies lining up alongside each other to create a rolling roadblock, all moving at one-quarter speed.

By the time I caught up to a phalanx of snowplows blocking the width of the freeway, my frustration and exhaustion had built up to the point that I ceased caring for my own life. I just wanted to get home. I saw an opening, and squeezed between two of the plows. I could practically hear the plow driver cursing at me, but I was free. Ahead of me was a seemingly endless stretch of pristine highway--four lanes of snow-covered Interstate to myself. With the lane markers obliterated it looked like a giant, white runway. I could spin out and gently ricochet down the road like bumper bowling.


I was happy.


Then, far ahead, I saw trouble. Flashing lights. Police action, I thought. Heads up.


The visibility was pretty bad, so I couldn't tell exactly what was going on. The flashing lights, however, weren't cops. They were too irregular, not stroboscopic, and mixed in with different colors--yellows, whites and reds--not the standard blue and red. They were also moving, not stopped as if at an accident. As I drew closer, I realized it was an advertisement of some sort.

It was an electronic sign attached to a truck, the kind in which the message scrolls across like the old news ticker in Times Square. But there was something else about this truck. The box itself was illuminated. In fact, the walls of the box weren't solid, but clear. It was a glass cube on wheels. Inside the cube was a room. It was a reading room with a deck chair, a table and a lamp. Fluorescent lights along the edge of the ceiling illuminated the room. And there was a man. At first, the man appeared in silhouette. He was squeegeeing the windows in long, vertical sweeps. the whole thing looked like a diorama from a natural history museum, a really weird museum. What the hell was this?


It had to be an advertisement. But for what? And why? And why at night on a desolate highway in the middle of a raging snowstorm?


The flashing lights announced the time: 2:28 a.m., the ad scrolled across: REMEMBER THE CHICKEN MAN. THE CHICKEN MAN IS COMING. The man inside the box put away the squeegee. He sat in the deck chair and opened up a laptop, like he was checking his email or updating his Face Book page. He seemed oblivious to the weather and peril surrounding him. I trailed the truck for a time, staring in disbelief at the spectacle.

This was nuts, and continuing to follow this truck in the dead of night in the middle of a blizzard was equally nuts. I needed to get home, so I pulled out to pass the truck, moving carefully. The man inside, an older guy pushing 50, dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, ignored me. He was just doing his thing. As I rolled past the cab, I saw stenciled on the door "The Chicken Man--Boston" and a phone number (which I subsequently forgot).


By the time I got home, the episode seemed so unbelievable, so surreal that I had to find out what it was. I searched on the internet for "The Chicken Man" and Boston. All I got back were references to Frank Perdue, Bruce Springsteen's song "Atlantic City" and former Red Sox slugger Wade Boggs (whose locker room nickname was the "chicken man.") I told my wife about it the next morning. She didn't believe me. "You were hallucinating again, weren't you?" she said, advising me to quit driving such long hours.


"But I didn't imagine it!" I insisted.

"Uh huh."

Determined to get to the bottom of this, I asked the other drivers if they had seen the truck. One driver said he hadn't seen the Chicken Man, but he did see an IKEA truck with glass box containing a living room set with two people lounging around. Another driver remembered a truck advertising some travel agent hauling around a beach scene with some bikini-clad young girls inside. A subsequent web search revealed that trucks hauling constructed scenes are part of a vanguard in "mobile advertising" and named firms such as GoMobile Advertising in the Pacific Northwest and Minnesota Mobile Billboards tout such 3-D displays among those specializing in the service.


Finally, another driver told me, yes, he too had seen the Chicken Man. He remembered the room and saw the guy squeegeeing the windows. But he didn't give it much thought. After all, this was Boston, a lot of crazy things happen.

But I wasn't crazy. And I still want to know, who the hell is the Chicken Man?

79 comments:

  1. This is what I've found

    www.universalhub.com/node/22226

    Seems that he didn't like the turnpike toll hikes.

    Or the one word Chickenman is Gregory Riley who seems to have the support of the dropkick murphys.

    www.dropkickmurphys.com/chickenman

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  2. Wonderful description of the mental drift.
    I don't know about the chicken man, but I do recall the bikini girls with their beachball in Copley, and another time in Allston on cold winter nights.
    I again saw the vehicle, or one identical, last Tuesday behind the Park Plaza adorned with "Brown" banners, but with no one inside.

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  3. My advice (speaking as a veteran here) is don't drive a cab in a snowstorm. The tension isn't worth it and the business sucks anyway. Wait a couple of hours after it stops to let them clear the roads. Btw, I once had Frank Purdue in my cab. And, yes, he did look like a chicken but I told him he looked like Ed Koch (who also looked like a chicken).
    I enjoy your writing and I'm adding you to my blogroll.

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  4. Business sucks in a snow storm? What reality do you live in? Snow storms can be the busiest most profitable times to drive in Boston.

    I'll give you tense yes but.. unprofitable.. not on planet Earth.

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  5. I saw this truck this morning on the pike...WTF?
    I googled "The Chicken Man, Boston" and it came up with this? What is this truck. I think I saw the truck on it's way "home" as no person was in the back of the truck, the yellow lounge chair was empty. Noone knows what this truck is? What it is for?

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  6. 1-800-CHICKEN

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7384632@N02/2900595160/

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  7. he is a wholesale distributor of meats(strangely not chicken though) , he is located in the back of our building in newton. quite a character.

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  8. Still trying to get info on who, what, & why someone would be driving around in a lounge chair in the back of a truck. Could it be some type of office, or maybe a therapists chair.

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  9. I saw the truck today on D street in Southie
    what is his gig

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  10. Just saw The Chicken Man truck, was curious, searched the internet, and landed here. Love the article! I wonder what the deal is with that truck really? Funny stuff.

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  11. I posted the last comment, forgot to say where I saw it...it was in central Connecticut!

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  12. I just saw the chicken man truck parked in midtown NYC! Sadly, the lounge chair was empty.

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  13. I just saw the Chicken Man truck in NYC. I took a photo.

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  14. Just saw it in upstate NY!

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  15. I just saw it this morning on 84 in CT near Bristol

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  16. saw it on 684 south this morning near bedford

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  17. Chicken man was just in White Plains, NY, he stopped and actually got out and went to CVS, the chicken man flew the coop! then he came back with what looked like shaving cream and a water.

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  18. I saw the Chicken Man on 684 this morning. I was trying to figure out what it was about when I found this site. Glad I am not the only one who saw this or I would have been worried :)

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  19. I just saw the Chicken Man as well on Route 4 East in NJ. Not much for advertising if not a one of us can figure out what it's about or find it online. Oh well.

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  20. I saw this guy on 684 this morning in Westchester. Almost crashed trying to take a photo with my cell phone to send to my buddies. The guy was lounging in the back of the truck. He looked dead. Certainly made the drive to work more interesting.

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  21. I saw the Chicken Man hanging around in his see-through truck around 5:45 yesterday morning in Newton at Galen Street... It was so early in the morning, I, too, thought I was hallucinating!

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  22. I saw the truck on 84 in Danbury CT on Thursday August 19 at about 8:20am. The Chicken Man was sleeping in his custom lounge chair and the spectacle was backing up traffic. Bizarre and a hazard all a the same time.

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  23. jim says

    Chicken man went to the movies in Danbury on the 21st. Truck was park, back was open so I hopped up and had a look around. Cool photo of Michael Jackson hanging on the back wall. Holy cow, what the hellis this thing. IT IS REAL

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  24. Chicken man truck was parked at Peach Lake in North Salem for a couple of weeks, but no Chicken Man

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  25. I know the chicken man. He could be Hollywood's next big man. Think
    Tommy Boy, Uncle Buck, Mall Cop with a touch of John Daly. He roams the highways and byways from Boston to NY. There are many stories. He recently
    went to Rome. Too expensive to take the glass truck so he took the eternal city by segway. He only had two accidents. In one he took out a 70 year old man. In the second a 12 year old girl took him down..... Feathers all over the Forum. He is easiest to spot when wearing his trademark hat......two chickens
    swirling via springs.

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  26. The Chicken Man truck was parked in the Stew Leonard's parking lot last night around 6:30 in Danbury, CT

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  27. The Chicken Man is spotted many times at the Apple Store in Chestnut Hill, MA. He owns a slaughterhouse of some sorts.

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  28. I saw the chicken man truck today, about 6 pm EST on masspike, took exit 26.. there was no chicken, like other said, just an empty yellow chair. There was something on it, like a big puffy brown cushion on it...

    http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash2/hs307.ash2/58729_538020949832_29103231_31591343_2493685_n.jpg

    Says "http://www.617chicken.com/" on it but got an error..
    Visitors, we are sorry, however, this site is experiencing difficulties at this time. Please return later.

    Webmaster, please contact us by email at support@lunarpages.com or via Lunarpages Helpdesk at http://support.lunarpages.com. Thank you for choosing Lunarpages (http://www.lunarpages.com).

    2010 © Lunarpages Web Hosting

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  29. Visted Boston on Sept 14th and saw this crazy truck on the highway as we left the airport. Wild...it was daylight and I thought I was seeing things...couldn't imagine coming across it at night in a snow storm!

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  30. I've seen the truck parked in the back of a building on California St. in Newton next to the McDonalds at least 10 different times. Also seen the car driving around 10 times in all different parts of eastern MA.

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  31. Saw it yesterday downtown at State and Congress. Just a dude in the back of the truck.

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  32. Saw the Chicken man on I 84 near Danbury. Who is this guy? He's a marketing genius, but with no way to actually buy something from him. Kind of moronic

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  33. Where oh where is the Chicken Man? Better yet, who is the Chicken Man? Well, I know the ubiquitous Chicken Man...he is an enterprising, fearless, risk-taking, ambitious, soul man. He is the creator of "Mobile I", the chicken-mobile. He designed it, he engineered it, he produced it and he accessorized it. He is a visionary and world-wide traveler. He is unique, gregarious, and generous. He is a free spirit blazing his own path through life. No one sells chickens like the chicken man. He is P.T. Barnum and W.C. Fields reincarnated. He is an enigma. I have seen photos of him with politicians and Martha Stewart. Chicken Man, looking forward to seeing you tomorrow night somewhere in Cambridge.

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  34. Saw the truck November 5th on Mass. Ave with an empty living room set up behind the glass. Older man driving the truck.
    The website www.617chicken.com was written on the truck, but that website does not exist.
    Seems like a waste advertising a website that doesn't exist.

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  35. I just saw this truck on State street in Boston, right next to Gov't Center. The interior looked different than the only pictures I can find online...it looked like some sort of office or living room, with a man in a suit sitting in a small chair, and a giant rotisserie hanging in the middle. That's it! And I thought it said "The Chicken Box"

    I'm late at work now because I just spent 30 minutes obsessively researching this thing...to no avail

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  36. WTF...What The Feathers! I saw the truck last night parked outside of Macy's at the Natick Mall. It was exactly as everyone here described...no chicken man inside though. He must like to shop!

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  37. My second sighting of The Chicken Man occurred today, Nov. 17th at the corner of Mt. Auburn St. and Common St.

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  38. I too have seen The Chicken Man. It was parked outside Beth Israel Deaconess Med. Ctr but was sans chicken!

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  39. I saw him today in Concord, Ma outside of starbucks...

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  40. I saw the Chicken Man today on I-84 East in Manchester, CT

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  41. Saw him tonight parked out front of the Baseball Tavern

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  42. The Chicken Man was at Boston College last night.

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  43. Saw him this morning going through the intersection of Watertown St. and Crafts St. in Newton, not too far from California St., where he's been spotted quite a few times. I need to know more! Maybe I'll stake out the California St. locale.

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  44. He was just on Wellesley College's campus about 5 minutes ago.

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  45. IT WAS SO COOOOL
    PLEASE COME AGAIN

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  46. apparently wellesley's campus police was chasing it down

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  47. I saw him last night at around 9:00pm at the chestnut hill mall carpark.

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  48. I just saw the Chicken Man glass cube truck on Moody St in Waltham @4:20. I know this since the time was illuminated on the back of the truck. The neon lights were on and a phone number with the words Chicken Man were scrolling. A plastic lounge chair was inside the glass cube but no one was on it. Probably stopped to pick up his pizza. Anyways I should be cooking a birthday dinner but instead I'm online trying to find out what this chicken man truck is all about. Strangest thing I've see in awhile.

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  49. I just saw the Chicken Man and the truck leaving a parking lot in front of a store in NH. The truck is pretty far out there as well as the man driving it!

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  50. Saw the Chicken Man today on the Pike headed west. He was chilling in the back and gave me a big smile!

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  51. I have seen the Chicken Man truck many times parked outside St. Ignatius Church right next to Boston College. No joke, this man is a daily Mass-going Catholic. My friend who works as a lifeguard at the recreation complex at BC, who has also seen the Chicken Man at St. Ignatius, tells me that he often comes and takes a few jumps off the high dive and then leaves.

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  52. Christmas is nearing and once again I'm going to meet up with the Chicken Man for some din din this Tuesday night somewhere in Belmont. The Chicken Man is becoming an icon in Boston.

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  53. My husband just spotted him traveling south on I-95 (just south of 140 in Foxboro). The back of the truck was full of live chickens that he was feeding. The ticker on the truck read "Santa is coming".

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  54. We just saw him too. There was a guy in there with his seat and a bunch of chickens! We did get the number and tried calling it but there was no answer. After a long while, an answering machine picked up and said one word, which I couldn't understand. Then directions to leave a message... (We were about 10 miles north of Foxboro and it was 8:00pm)
    If anyone wants to try, the number on this truck was 718-244-2536. CRAZY!! haha

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  55. We saw a 3d ad or whatever it was at 1:45am on December 19 2010, with a guy lounging on a chaisse chair, looking at hid ipad. He took our picture after we took his.

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  56. Chicken Man made it to Newport RI later this evening, he was sighted at approx midnight on Thames Street!! BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKKK

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  57. Was at the Natick Collection tonight, saw Chicken guy with the chicken hat in Pearl Vision.

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  58. ChickenMan was at Target in Framingham around 9:45pm tonight.

    the message on his ticker was something about a 'Sibling Rivalry'

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  59. The Chicken Man truck is in Belmont Center tonight. Live chickens in the back, and someone in the driver's seat talking on a cell phone. The lounge chair was empty. Sign read "5 days until Christmas"

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  60. Has anyone asked him why he does this?

    Is he just a lunatic?

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  61. Just saw him today on Market Street in Brighton on my way to work. He was parked across from that church at the corner of Market and Sparhawk Streets. Nobody in the back. He drove away as I was trying to snap a picture...but I still got him.

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  62. i see him all the fricking time in cambridge, watertown, and waltham. once he was parked outside my boyfriends work and we walked around the truck a couple times, hoping to see him and ask him but no one was in there. i want info so freakin badly.

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  63. My daughter and I saw him on Centre St in Newton Center. Really strange but oddly intriguing. 617chicken looks like an abandoned attempt at a webseite. Most links are broken. But what is his gig. I cant find anything on the web either.

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  64. we saw him parked at the framingham movie theatre tonight

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  65. So I have two sightings to report. The first was about a month ago. He was not in his truck, but behind me on line at the post office. I noticed his hat with the bobble head chickens, and that he seemed blissfully unaware of the fact that he was the tenth person on line at the post office at 5:45 on a Friday. Had I not been bitterly lamenting being ninth in that same line, I might have inquired about his hat.

    Then, today, I saw him go by in his truck at 4:00 on Route 16 between 95 and the Mass Pike. He was using some sort of electronic device with that hat of his on. When I tried to investigate online, I ended up here, and felt compelled to update other bewildered Bostonians. Keep hunting that elusive chicken! We will "crack" this mystery!

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  66. I see him getting gas at the station on Comm Ave near BC a lot. I saw him filling up a week or so ago and it looked like someone had smashed in one of his back windows.

    People, please don't mess with the Chicken Man.

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  67. Saw him yesterday in Watertown Square - the electronic banner said something about "best steaks" - the back of truck was fairly sparse, just a black leather office chair

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  68. He was parked in front on Trader Joe's on Boylston in Boston today. Seemed like he was rearranging the furnishings - back window is still damaged.

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  69. I'm so glad I found this info! I see the chicken man's truck every morning when I get my coffee at McDonald's on California Street in Newton. I've seen him many times around Watertown and have always wondered the purpose of the truck. The back has that yellow chair in it, but there's also some cardboard boxes and something hanging from the ceiling. I'll try to get pics and post them to flickr.

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  70. I saw him in West Newton the other day by the movie theater! I thought I had lost my mind and was so glad my boyfriend caught a glimpse of him before the chicken man drove away. He was sitting reading a paper. What is up with that?

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  71. So i know the low down on the chicken man. He's usually around newton and he sells wholesale chicken. His name is Chris Bock, I kid you not. Here's his twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/NYCChickenMan

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  72. Saw him Friday night on 84 heading west from the MA border.

    That sign is incredibly annoying on the highway. When it scrolls around, it's somewhat hypnotic and disorienting, like when it scrolls one way, I felt a little like the car was spinning the other way, if that makes sense. Luckily I didn't steer to "correct" it.

    Is that sign even legal? I thought only emergency vehicles can have flashing red or blue lights.

    I've seen rolling sign trucks before, but those are usually just rolling billboards, not animated signs. I don't think I've ever seen an animated LED sign like that.

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  73. Just saw the chicken man driving down comm ave heading in the direction away from BC at 12am. Same ad about 617chicken.

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  74. Apparently just seen in Newton again. Maybe he lives there... All i know is this guy has been seen in multiple places throughout the north east coast every month since January 2010.

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  75. Saw him in East Watertown on evening of November 3. Parked on Mt Auburn St. with no one inside.

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  76. He is always in Wellesley on Cedar Street, for years parked outside the Ardmore Apartments. We liked the recent display of Hello Kitty balloons in the back. He has many fans here in Wellesley, usually among the younger set!

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  77. I met him two years ago, at his notorious lair--next door to McDonald's on California St., Newton.
    Printed on the truck's side is a website for inquiries. However, since he was there, I inquired directly. But he wasn't giving up any information. Instead, he demanded answers from me! I found him to be surly and rude.

    Then I saw him at Home Depot in Watertown a year later. He had parked in the fire lane at the entrance, which I thought was discourteous. So I sat on the bench and waited to see how long he'd take and what he was buying.

    He took about 10 minutes longer (don't know since when) and came out with a shop vac....maybe since we'd had a lot of rain lately and there'd been extensive flooding.

    WE'VE GOT OUR EYES ON YOU, CHICKEN MAN!

    If you're going to make yourself conspicuous, you should behave yourself and obey regulations.

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  78. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  79. I worked for the Chicken Man back in the 90's when he was in NYC. Really!

    None of this surprises me...he was cuckoo back then too.
    Pardon the pun.

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