THOSE WHO SPEND any time in Mountain View have seen the "Idea Farm" truck parked around. I myself have passed it numerous times, figuring we'd write about it eventually.
It was Ric Hulett who forced my hand.
"Yesterday morning (Oct. 10)," he wrote, "the 'Idea Farm' guy was parked on Highway 237, just west of El Camino Real. Perhaps unwisely, his signs read 'F**K MVPD.' Later that morning (my wife reports), no fewer than four MVPD cars were paying him a visit. His vehicle is no longer there.
"Can you find out what happened?"
Well, why not? The owner of that truck has piqued the curiosity of just about everybody at one point or another. So we called Mountain View police, and found out that the incident was minor: He was told to move for parking illegally. As staff writer [Web Link Kelsey Mesher reported] on Oct. 16:
==I The "Idea Farm" truck — the ubiquitous vehicle parked around Mountain View featuring large spray-painted messages on billboards — apparently hit a snag last weekend after a sign maligning the Mountain View Police Department drew unwelcome attention.==
==I The sign, seen last Saturday morning, read "MVPD" with a certain four-letter word in front of it (or rather an F, two asterisks and a K). Because of the sign, authorities decided to stop by and visit the owner, said police spokesman Steve McCoy.==
==I "He had parked his vehicle on (Highway) 237 near Grant," McCoy said. When authorities saw the sign, he said, they contacted the California Highway Patrol.==
==I "They said that it was illegal for him to park there," McCoy said, adding that eventually the Idea Farm truck owner agreed to move because the authorities threatened to tow it away.==
So far so good. What I didn't expect was the interest the story would generate. As of this writing, nearly 60 people have commented on "the Idea Farm guy," as he is almost universally known (this turns out to be more accurate than you might have realized). Some said he's a traffic hazard, some a disgrace, and a few claimed to have seen racist signs on his truck. Others said they applaud his independence, eccentricity and general kookiness, and saw him as harmless local color.
No one claimed to understand his message, though nearly everyone agreed he had a right to make it.
Inspired by all the talk, I got in touch with the Idea Farm guy, asking a few questions about the man and his mission. What, for example, is his name?
"Wo Of Ideafarm is my legal name. I would prefer that my name appear as 'Wo'O Ideafarm.'"
I asked if that's what his mother calls him.
"No. My name change was traumatic for my brothers and parents, of whom my mother is still alive. She calls me by the name that she gave me at birth. Although I am supposed to be addressed as Wo'O, where you accent the O and raise the pitch, I gave up trying to get people to do this. When face to face, I introduce myself as Wo, and am known as Wo by my friends."
Wo'O is 55, has two grown daughters, and is well educated (he said he has a master's degree in economics, and an "all but dissertation," i.e. five years of study, in the Ph.D. program in economics at the University of Chicago). He said he is driven by "Events in my personal life (which) led me to commit my life to work for positive change."
"In 1992, I lost everything and everyone that I cared about," he said, "and I became furious and determined to fix the problem. Today, my fury burns just as strongly. The only difference is that now I have a plan."
That plan can be hard to pin down, despite the many summarizations he gives in person and on his Web site, [Web Link www.ideafarm.com]. His most frequently stated mission is to "connect people wholesomely," though as some have pointed out, that idea seems to be in conflict with his message to Mountain View police.
In general, however, his writings indicate an open, extroverted and well-spoken person who welcomes visitors — just call (650) 804-1311, for example, for a recorded message on where to meet him for dinner next Sunday. Or you can sign a pledge on his Web site that begins, "I pledge to be good news for all who come into contact with me ..."
In an e-mail, Wo'O told me that "My Rx for restoring prosperity in the United States is to get millions of people to (1) sign the pledge and (2) start having dinner together weekly in a nonreligious, inclusive, no-agenda, no-solicitation venue. If we do that, we will become able to discern and then execute all of the other things that we need to do, such as address global warming and health care."
And what about his message to the Mountain View Police Department?
According to his Web site, which has a [Web Link whole page dedicated to the subject], "This page is not intended to discourage or disrespect the sworn officers of the Mountain View Police Department. The MVPD is one of the most professional and competent law enforcement agencies in the Republic of California. ..."
For those wanting more Wo'O, a nearly 10-minute [Web Link interview with him] is easily found on YouTube.