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April 24th, 2016 · Tags: Satire

Are you following @PingWiFi On Twitter?

April 20th, 2016 · Tags: Satire

Shell Shocked Is Not PC, Nor Is My Take On ‘Farmer/Veteran’

April 17th, 2016 · Tags: Arts · Satire

 

FarmerVeteranjpg

Day three of The 2016 Dallas International Film Festival was farmer day for PingWi-Fi.  An old friend recommended “Farmer/Veteran.”  Well, the filmmakers had me at “farmer” … or “veteran” for that matter (two of my favorite groups of people).

If you check out the link below, you will see the primary subject of the documentary – Alex.  Interesting, in the Web site photo, Alex has the same “Joe Strummer” hairstyle as the guy in the previous mentioned film “Occupy Texas” … earlier on this site.  The similarities end there.

Wow.

FarmVet is a documentary slice-of-life filmed over a span of four years, detailing the daily lives of a decorated Iraqi war veteran and his new bride as they start a farm and battle the demons of PTSD, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.  The couple have a small acreage in North Carolina that they share with a handful of goats, a brood of chickens and a cow or two — no easy task for a guy whose daily dosage of pills (prescribed meds) outnumbers his critters.

Farmer/Veteran

To say the least, the film is upsetting and extremely thought provoking … certainly a “must see” for anyone who has, or whose loved ones have, experienced war. It’s a bit controversial and probably will never see widespread distribution in theaters.  However, the film is scheduled for a Public Broadcasting Stations airing — a perfect venue — so watch for it.

Not much to say.  FarmVet is not entertaining, but it had to be made. The storytelling is well done … but the story has some ambiguity …  so it creates more questions than it answers.

I want to end on that note … the questions.  After the screening, the filmmakers Alix Blair, Jeremy Lange and D.L. Anderson did  a Q&A with the audience.  I asked one question, but bit my tongue rather than posing my second. question.  Because the film is about farm life, it graphically depicts birth and yes also the death of animals.  I almost asked if the filmmakers expected any backlash from the more overzealous of the animal-lover kingdom.

I resisted,, thinking and hoping that was just too dumb of a question … But yes … vindication.  The very next question was from a shorthaired woman in the back of the hall.  She — or at least her question — was not concerned with the mental state of this United States military veteran.  Her question was not about the wellbeing of the new family’s young children.   The question wasn’t about the hell-on-earth we call war.

You guessed it.  She was concerned about the treatment and the realistic depiction of the treatment of chickens.

I couldn’t have said it any better.  One of the filmmakers politely said, more or less, “Well.  It’s a farm.”

What’s that word … “dominion?” … Ha … the farm boy in me was a little bit disappointed there wasn’t a good neck-wringing for old time’s sake, and some artsy slo-mo footage to boot … I digress …

Hug a vet today and support Chic-fil-A:)

Know what I sayin?

PingWi-Fi Facebook … Embedded (not)

April 17th, 2016 · Tags: Uncategorized

From PingWi-Fi Facebook …

PingWi-Fi Facebook DIFF2016 Day 2

PingWi-Fi Facebook DIFF2016 Day 1

“Occupy Texas” World Premiere Takes PingWi-Fi By Surprise

April 16th, 2016 · Tags: Arts · Cities

I walked into the theater with prejudice, ready to NOT LIKE the film “Occupy Texas.”  You see, as a rule of thumb, I walk into a theater knowing as little as possible about the film … my anti-spoilage mechanism … or ASM … I digress …

So … When I heard “Occupy” was one of the films to see, I thought it might be some documentary on the Occupy Movement, of which I was not a fan.  (I visited Occupy in several cities, including the mother ship in New York on Wall Street … unimpressed.)

Occupy NY Blog

I was so pleasantly surprised … and yes, this was the world premiere of the Texas film, to boot.

 

Gene Gallereno, "Occupy Texas"

Gene Gallereno, “Occupy Texas”

“Occupy Texas” is about an overachiever, who has a setback in life, and he checks out.  He goes to NYC for the occupation, and when that fizzles out he struggles/wanders without any purpose whatsoever.

After a major shakeup in the family tree, Gene Gallerano … “Mr. (no)Occupation” is saddled with huge responsibilities back at home — Texas.

As he re-enters the real world and real family, he is overwhelmed. His family teeters on disfunction.  His coping skills are zilch.  He runs into his old flame.  The gardner doesn’t recognize him.  A carpool cougar wants to devour him. Enough spoilage.

You will love it.  Hilarious much of the time … but also, even the most hardboiled audience members teared up a time or two.  AND YES … modern day filmmakers, it is okay to have a happy ending!

 

pingx6-score

 

Break out the rating system.  “Occupy Texas” is a wonderful little boot scoot of a film.  Lots of Dallas landmarks. Again, a world premiere.  Some Texas-who’s-who in the cast members … even real Texans’ cars/trucks loaned out for the film – That’s right you’re from Texas … near perfect score … 6 pings.

Before the screening, the PingWi-Fi lens hit another red carpet ceremony.  I was very impressed with Patrick Duffy’s  sense of humor and good sportmanship as he gave some hilarious answers to questions that were even more ridiculous than something I might ask.  Duffy is tall, btw … difficult to get a shot where he is not looking down … The red carpet is pretty generous in who it considers to be journalists … (I don’t think major media outlets are shooting with iPhones this year …) I got a kick out of Duffy playing along with them … OH … I didn’t have the heart to tell him I have never seen a single episode, not a single second of his classic Texas TV Holy Grail “Dallas.” For realz.

 

DIFF2016 2 Duffy &2 sized

Shemg-Lee Huang, Livia Under, Duffy “Hotel Dallas”

 

Also on the red carpet, I shot a few puppets and their caregivers … several really interesting writers and directors … and then there were these two teenage girls.  I had no idea who they were, despite the tip sheet that remained folded in my shirt pocket. (No spoilage.)  But I shot them … Regardless of who they were, they were really interesting.  Maybe close in age, one blonde and outgoing, the other with dark hair, black dress, moody … perhaps a “goth” attitude.  Any who … as the cameras started clicking, they seemed about as nervous/shy/uncomfortable … did I saw awkward too? … as anyone I have ever seen on a red carpet.

 

Lorelei Linklater, Catherine Elvir

Lorelei Linklater, Catherine Elvir

Ha … A couple of hours later, I saw their film.  They were the two teen stars of “Occupy Texas.”  The “sisters” — Lorelei Linklater and Catherine Elvir a.k.a. – the moody “Claire” and the impressionable “Arden,” respectively.  Their red carpet performance could have been them “in character.”  I don’t know … very interesting.

WHAT? No Janine Turner on the red carpet. (I did watch “Northern Exposure” …)

 

DIF2016 2 Jeremy Lang, Alexandra Blair sized

Jeremy Lange, Alix Blair “Farmer/Veteran”

Good after party … made some new friends from the PR/journalism worlds, and saw an old friend … a former PR client … longtime Dallas communicator Ken Capps.  Ha … seeing him brought back memories of just a few film festivals years back when he had a cameo appearance in a documentary on Texas six-man football.

 

Six Man, Texas

 

Good times. Ken and a colleague were hosting filmmakers from another featured film, “Farmer/Veteran.”

Farmer/Veteran

Put your boots on and see some film at the 2016 Dallas International Film Festival!

Know what I sayin?

PingWi-Fi Gives The Lay Of ‘The Land” at #DIFF2016

April 15th, 2016 · Tags: Arts · Cities · Wi-Fi

 

DIFF2016 1 Erykah Portrait 1 sized

 

So what’s Erykah Badu done for me lately?:)

It seems she has faded a bit since she exploded on the scene as Dallas’ new “it girl” — “The Queen of Neo-Soul” a few years back, having gone triple platinum with the 1997 “Baduism” … a prodigy of Dallas’ multi-talented Booker T. Washington High School For The Performing Arts And Visual Arts …

Booker T High

(Quite a list of famous alumni there at Booker T … )

Last year it was reported Badu was researching and laying down drum tracks in Africa for an upcoming recording … a “mix tape.” I digress …

She has three children … as if that isn’t enough to keep anyone busy …

 

DIFF2016 1 Erykah & Puma sized

Erykah, Puma

She’s had her share of controversy … (you can Google that) … and she has a film out there, first seen at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Last night Badu and company came to Dallas to open the 2016 Dallas International Film Festival with the drama “The Land.”

PingWi-Fi checked out the Wi-Fi at the venue — Dallas’ new Dallas City Performing Arts Center, and hung for the red carpet and after party with actors, directors, producers and media. Good times.

 

DIFF2016 1 James Faust, Sarah Harris sized

James Faust, Sarah Harris

Dallas City Performance Hall

Interesting … DIFF Artistic Director James Faust introduced the opening film with a bit of a disclaimer … a comment that colleagues had told him it was a crazy choice of films to open a festival. I think Faust is just one of those talented, out-of-the-box kind of guys who like to shake things up a bit … Ha … no wonder. Before SMU Film School, Faust graduated from Texas Tech University (that says it all, I think) … and he did a stint on air at several Lubbock radio stations. (Of course I had to get Faust to do a quick Texas Tech “Guns Up!” pose … a much better representation than Peter Fonda’s “Guns Up!” from the red carpet a few years back … I digress.)

DIFF2016 1 Faust Gun

Guns Up! Faust, Sarah Harris

DIFF Fonda Guns Up Strip

 

“The Land” is a bit dark. The majority of the film has that gritty, low-light style of cinematography that evokes a bit of desperation in the hearts and minds of the audience. The story line … well, it’s right there with the camera-craft … The tale of inner city friends in Cleveland … who aspire to get ahead and escape the city through skateboarding of all things. Skateboarding provides too little too late and the circle of friends discover an easier way out … crime … But of course bad choices always have complications, now don’t they? The situation for these kids was pretty bleak …

 

DIFF2016 1 EZRI WALKER 2 sized

Ezri Walker, “Boobie”

 

DIFF2016 1 Jorge Lendeborg JR 4 sized

Jorge Lendeborg Jr. , “Cisco”

 

DIFF2016 1 Red Carpet 2 sized

Rafi Gavron, “Patty Cake”

The film has some pretty poignant scenes, as you would expect as friends and family of friends fall victim to a violent situation … but thankfully there are some humorous moments to balance out the funk … (funk, in a bad way). Much of the humor is at the hands of young Moises Arias (Hannah Montana) … and it would have been great to have seen Arias on the red carpet. But alas …

There are two strong women +1. … sort of. Badu is “Turquoise” a bit of a bad woman fallen in a bad world. Natalie Martinez is the good strong woman. Then there is, Linda Emond in the role of “Momma” … a bad mama drug lord who has not given up her day job — a “tree hugging” co-op grocer at the farmer’s market. (Hmmm … some thought that worked …)

Oh … other fun casting … Kim Coats — “Tig” from “Sons of Anarchy” plays a sometimes tragic, sometimes comedic short-order cook/diner owner. And “Omar” from “The Wire” — back in the day — Michael Kenneth Williams as “Pops” provides some much-needed wisdom for the young skaters.

IF you are asking, I would recommend seeing the film and doing DIFF2016, certainly. You never know who you might run into at the event. No sign of Patrick Duffy last night, maybe tonight … They say Dallas’ other favorite daughter Janine Turner may be there tonight.

Know what I sayin?

“Everybody Gotta Deviate From The Norm” :)

April 6th, 2016 · Tags: Uncategorized

… Or maybe that should be “Everybody Gotta Deviate From The Bern,” … with apologies to Rush.

 

Just finished Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Such a visionary, circa 1938. This excerpt (below) from AR’s notes as she wrote the novel seem to mirror today’s rise of lemming-like masses — those who riot in support of lawless criminals … those who fail to realize the competitiveness built into the American way is what made us the best in the world … those who want to divide up everything and give everyone a “participant ribbon” mentality … and she even “prophecized” the shallow state of social media in which the number of followers is more important than content … And on and on …

https://www.aynrand.org

During the writing of the book, Rand journaled: “The paradox of the dregs of humanity actually feeling contempt for their betters, because they are better. Quantity alone considered important—quality no longer even considered. The masses triumphant. [Real-life] example of this: the head of a “charm school,” a contemptible racket, having been attacked by a “high brow” magazine, states haughtily: “Why should I worry? Who are they? In all the years they’ve been in existence, they have only a hundred thousand circulation. I have a million customers in one year!”
Ha … why did I pick up The Fountainhead? I’ve read so many times that Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist for Rush attributes much of the band’s philosophy to Ayn Rand. Good enough for me.

Ha … This is cool.  A course outline posted by The Rand Institute, analyzing Rush/Rand doctine:

https://www.aynrand.org/~/media/pdf/teacher-resources/ant_analyzing-2112-by-rush.ashx?la=en

 

More thoughts on Objectivism:

 

Easter: Wi-Fi Knievel ‘Rolls Tide’

April 1st, 2016 · Tags: Satire · Sports

 

Ping Thunderbird sized

 

I consider myself to be fairly visually oriented, which probably explains why I take so many photographs and also stare at people, totally unaware.  It goes back to my roots.  … Watching the spinning shadow of the windmill on the farm … tracking dusty whirlwinds across the wheat fields … waving at the crop dusters that flew low over our barn on their way to the next “bombing” assignment.  Sports.  Sunsets.  Sunrises …

During the recent Easter holiday, another interesting visual from my youth came to mind — from the long school bus rides to and from school when I was a kid … over old Route 66 and the newer Interstate 40, through miles and miles of farmland, and along some pretty interesting ranch roads in the northern part of Oldham County.  Usually, the visuals from the bus were pretty similar … For miles and miles, I would watch the shadow of the school bus, running along side the yellow coach which was wrapped in a cloud of dust.  When the sun was about to go down, or just coming up, the low angle of the light source altered the shadow of the bus, distorting it.  Sometimes the bus shadow would be elongated and looked big and other times the shadow would appear compressed like a rounded off turtle shell with wheels, all depending on the sun’s angle.

But this Easter I was picturing another scene from the days on the school bus.  It was a memory of one sunny afternoon on the way home from school, the official begging of the Easter break … Spring Break.  All the young kids on the bus had attended Easter parties that day at school and had hunted eggs, and we were all carrying baskets home, filled with real, hard-boiled, dyed eggs and also chocolate rabbits and sugary hard candy easter eggs.  Of course we all treasured the chocolate and candy eggs, but could not care less about the hard-boiled eggs.  Although we were never permitted to throw trash from the windows, we figured the bio-degradable colored eggs were “a gray area.”  Acceptable school bus projectiles, or ASBPs.  Someone got the idea to throw and egg out the window, and we all joined in.  We all yelled “Cool!” when one kid tossed an egg out  to the road and it hit the soft blow dirt on the side of the road.  Instead of shattering on impact, it rolled … very fast … it rolled a little more and then split in half.  Then it continued rolling, and the cooked egg white broke away flying everywhere, and from the cloud of egg white, the hard boiled yoke was revealed as it popped out and continued to roll … a little grayish, yellow ball rolling down the road, out of sight.  We of course threw out every egg, but never duplicated that fine visual.

Ha … that rolling egg came to mind this Easter when I hit the side of the road and rolled.

Against all better judgement, I made the 20-hour motorcycle ride back to Fort Worth from Miami on Easter weekend … and at least 13 of those hours were in the pouring rain.  It was so wet.  It was cold … and because I needed to make good time, it was not the most cautious decision.

In my defense, I was asked to be in the office in Fort Worth on Monday morning after Easter, to complete paperwork for perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  I was told I would be flying to Brazil, ASAP, and that my paperwork for the required visa needed to be handled on Monday — signed, sealed, delivered.

Brazil and South America are bucket list items for me, so, rather than wait a couple of days for the storm to bypass Florida, I mounted up on the aptly named Triumph Thunderbird and rode on.  I figured this was worth the risk.

I was about as focused as I have ever been on the bike, eyes pealed … lights on bright.  Watching every car as if they were on a mission to take me out.  I knew it was very dangerous, especially with so many cars on the road — cars with drivers who apparently cared little about what happens to a motorcyclist in a rain storm.  Can you believe many automobile drivers are not smart enough to turn on their lights in a gray, overcast, thunderstorm? (Ha … who am I calling stupid? … I was the idiot on the bike … I digress …).

Surely the people who cut in front of me, or cut me off, or splashed me, or whatever did not do so intentionally or maliciously.  Not that intent or lack of malice make it any more easy to accept when they nearly kill you.  Anyway … this one black pickup truck stood out from all the other drivers, because he actually pulled over for me to pass him.  You know  — the way you are supposed to do so, to be courteous.  Everyone else did their best to delay me … in the rain.  As I passed the black truck, I noticed he had a big maroon letter “A” on the back window.  “Roll Tide!,” I thought, as I appreciated the kind, safe gesture.  As I pulled along side of him, I wondered if Alabama has a hand signal like so many colleges … you know like “Hook ‘Em Horns” for Texas … or a tomahawk chop for Florida State … or “Guns Up” for my Red Raiders.  I wondered how they “sign ‘Roll Tide’”???  Any who … as I passed, I waved and mouthed “Roll Tide” to the friendly driver.

I continued down the highway …

So I was being pretty attentive to the road and careful … Understandably, when there was a let up in the rain, I would hit the throttle and try to make up for lost time.   Well … Just after Pensacola, as I entered Alabama, the rain subsided, and I was moving at a pretty good pace.  I was smiling about the welcoming sign that proclaimed “Sweet Home Alabama.” Of course, that’s when I started watching the gas gauge, seeing the tank was getting low.  Another cloudburst was just ahead and it started to sprinkle, so I decided to pull over and fill up.  Just as I made the decision, I saw an exit and took it.  OOOOPS! It was not a straight, off-ramp exit and I realized that too late in the game.  It was a circle exit, and a tight one at that.  Yes … after hours and hours of caution, I had lost my focus, just for a second.  That’s all it took.  One slip up.  I started braking, and the bike was not slowing enough to make the tight turn.  It was pretty obvious to me that I was about to go down.  Would it be on the hard, slick, paved, steep slanted circle of an exit?  In a split second, I made a decision to try to brake all the way to the end of the pavement straight ahead of me and hope that I could keep my balance and eventually stop in the soft grass on the side of the highway.  The grass was much to soft, and I think the brakes/ABS system may have failed as well … As soon as I reached the grass, the front tire sunk and the bike slid sideways and we went down … hard.  I think the decision to shoot over to the grassy knoll was a good one.  There were cars coming behind me, but I was out of their way.

I can’t say that I wasn’t hurt, but my pride hurt most of all … How did I lose my focus?  How embarrassing.  I popped back up on my feet quickly, and reached to turn the key off on the bike … still running, laying over on its side in the mud.  The Thunderbird was not happy.

As soon as I was up, two cars stopped to check on me and to render aid.  One was a white sedan, with a young couple who looked like they were headed to Easter Sunday services.  The second Good Samaritan was .. yes … “Mr. Roll Tide” … the black pickup with its courteous driver.  They made sure I was okay, and helped me upright the bike.  It weighs more than 800 pounds, by the way.  Everything looked in order, and I had no blood flowing outside my perimeter … thanks to the leather.

In that split second as I was going down, I thought of Tony Romo and his various injuries.  I felt certain that hitting the ground on my side at about 30 m.p.h. must feel just like getting blindsided by a 350-pound defensive end … Ha … and when I hit the soggy, mushy grass … splashing … I thought, “This must be what it feels like to be body slammed in a mud wrestling match.”  It was not pretty.

I scraped the mud off of one side of my body, and inspected the bike.  No damage!  Just a lot of mud and grass wedged into the bottom of the frame and the exhaust pipes.  I fired it up and tested it … rode to the gas station — very carefully … and eventually got back on the road, letting the rain wash the mud from my leathers and helmet and glasses.  I rode another eight hours, with my wounded pride and whatever. Ha … shock is a good thing …

So … like I said, I should never have been on the road that day, but I thought the risk was worth it for at least a month in South America.  Especially since it was Easter, I had began my morning with a long prayer of thanks for the opportunity ahead of me … and thanks for grace … thanks for the salvation of a sinner such as myself … and yes, I asked for the blessing of safety on the road.  I have to think my Easter prayer was heard.  This little mishap could have been so much worse!

In summary … I wondered if my hitting the ground, and becoming separated from the bike and continuing to roll a little had looked a little like that tiny Easter egg rolling down the road from so many years before.  I am visual like that:)

I thought of Roll Tide … Ha … I had just “rolled tide” … or “rolled hide” … or whatever.  An Alabama Easter memory for the rest of my days.

Obviously, I was increasingly cautious the rest of the ride.  Just after I crossed the Mississippi River into Louisiana, the clouds began to fade.  I was bummed that the rain and pain had taken away from the awesomeness of riding a motorcycle over “The Mighty Mississip.” There was no more lightning and eventually the sky cleared off.  By the time I hit East Texas, there was some sun.  It felt about as good as anything I can remember.  And by the time I hit Fort Worth about 8 p.m. that night, I was almost dried out.

And about that upcoming, awesome work assignment in Brazil?  I was in the office Monday morning completing the paperwork — with some pretty sore ribs, but I got her done, on time.  Wednesday … I found out the assignment was cancelled.  Oh well my visa is ready for the next opportunity … and the blog is all about adventure, right?

Know what I sayin?

 

Angry Birds, Violent Felines, Catfood Surfing In Miami

March 30th, 2016 · Tags: Arts · Cities · Hotels · Wi-Fi

Once again The Dirty Gig* provided a venue to keep a tradition alive.  A couple of years back, working in the housing projects of New York City, I shared with my inner city workers the magic of the tape ball — a fun little thing I picked up from a high school coach.  Well … the tape ball resurfaced recently in Miami, with a twist.  Each day on the job, I would meticulous tear off one-inch strips of tape.  Roll the pieces up, sticky side out, and then mash together the ends of that little tube.  Picture a smashed piece of macaroni.

 

To build a tape ball you repeat that process a couple of hundred times and pack the little “tape macaronis” together.  The new twist — I made a tape ball every day for a week or so, and awarded “a game ball” to the hardest worker each day.  It sounds silly and it is.  But you know what? Each day these adult workers would tell me they were going to get that game ball!  Others would ask whether or not a game ball would be awarded that day.  Oh it works … it creates fun and healthy competition and adds a little interest to a somewhat mundane job.  Ha … I even found makeshift “wannabe tapeballs around the job, made by unskilled hands who had not perfected the sticky-side-out, rolled up step one.  (Is any of this making sense?) Any who … it was a lot of fun and a good team building exercise.

 

 

On the more mind-numbing jobs, it helps to come up with fun things for the troops.  Sometimes I “make” the crew listen to novelty songs on my iPhone. On several occasions, I have used the Spanish-language classic  “Matador” by Cadillacs Fabuloso to get the blood pumping on the job. Also, sometimes I feel the need to turn these young guys on to broader musical horizons, and they blast rap music and its abundant N Word tirades from their headphones.  I think all of the group was impressed when I shared Fort Worth’s hot and trendy Leon Bridges … a glimpse of what R&B, soul music used to be …

This time, a very obscure song came to mind.  Keep in mind, in Miami my labor team is comprised of both inner city guys, Cubans, and other Latinos from various parts of the Southern Hemisphere.  To entertain this diverse demographic group, it would take the perfect song.  Well, I don’t know what the perfect song is, so I settled on “Chicken Train.”  No.  You shouldn’t know Chicken Train, it is a deep track as they say, from a band with only one or two minor hits.  Do you remember The Ozark Mountain Daredevils and their “If You Want To Get To Heaven” tune?  They also scored with a song called “Jackie Blue.”  I loved them, but to most, even their hits are obscure.  So, no one knows “Chicken Train” … except for me and about 15 Miami guys now.

Chicken Train is a bizarre mix of mountain folk rhythms, nasal singing for humor and unusual instrumentation, with even more strange lyrics.  The best way I can describe it — this must be what happens when hillbillies take acid.  There’s guys blowing into moonshine jugs for bass rhythms, bending and playing mouth bows, tapping together spoons or sticks, strumming guitars and making hoots and hollers … while the lyricist wails about his crazy dream … “The laser beam, in my dream … I can’t get on, I can’t get off … chicken train takes the chicken away.”  … Maybe you had to be there.

But I played it for the guys a couple of times and eventually it became kind of our battle cry or running joke, each day as we attacked the job.  If a worker was perceived to be slacking off, I would  chide them with “Hey … dontchu be fallin’ off dat chicken train.”  They would laugh at me … or maybe with me … and work harder.  From time to time, I would walk by, and in their most authentic sounding hillbilly voice, one of the guys would play call-and-response … calling out “Laser Beam?” And I would answer with my best hillbilly “In My Dream.”  Yes we were bored.  Soon, most of the workers were playing the little game.  But it took a while to spread.  At first, one of the workers said he didn’t know what that music was, but he was sure it had something to do with the KKK. They all laughed and hooted and joined in acting like they were running from the KKK and yelling “Chicken Train.”  I assured the workers that was not the case.  I would wager the Ozark Mountain Devils are probably as open minded and positive and creative people as you could hope to meet.  But … the unfounded KKK comment made the joke even sillier.

See for yourself.  Here, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils unleash “Chicken Train” on a British audience:

We had lots of fun on the job, even though most of the project was so repetitive and bordering on miserable.  We were packing, cleaning and unpacking thousands and thousands of books in a library in which the air conditioning had been turned off.  Cold water and mind games go a long way, under those conditions.

We always seem to play name games to.  Some guys came into the workplace already sporting nicknames.  Other left the job with new nicknames.  There was “Slo-Mo,” “Papa Smurf,” “Captain Louie,” “La Bamba,” TC, and perhaps everyone’s favorite “Angry Bird” a.k.a. “Big Bird.”  Ha … someone nicknamed Papa Smurf because he is a crazy, friendly, outgoing character although slightly height challenged.  Great sense of humor … and very much into old school funk and R&B and Motown music.  It was a magical moment, one day, when I handed him an empty trash bag.  He took it, looked at it, and said, “What’s this?”  I quoted the old James Brown song, “Papa’s got a brand new bag …”  He loved it. I digress …

 

 

Angry Bird’s real name is Ketrick, but everyone started calling him “Angry Bird” before we learned names, because he wore a hat with the cartoon-like computer game character on it.  I didn’t know what to think of Angry Bird at first, but you know what, he ended up being one of the better workers, right up until the last day, when other laborers had been sent home.  He worked hard, most of the time.  He is smart.  But most of all, he has a great attitude.  I would rather supervise a less-capable person with a good attitude — as oppose to a seasoned veteran with a bad attitude — any day of the week.  Late in the job, I noticed a couple of other people wore Angry Bird t-shirts and stuff … Was it a trend?  Was there a sale somewhere?  Did they want to be like the good worker?

So, Angry Bird worked so hard, not getting rich but making enough to get by, with thoughts of buying a car.  He rode a bicycle to work.  And it was a good bike … very attention getting, a bright yellow stunt bike.  Perhaps too noticeable.  On Good Friday, I noticed the bike chained to a picnic table just outside our workplace, as we all loaded up to have a farewell lunch.  As we got in our cars, a somewhat sketchy guy walked across campus, with a book pack, and sat down near the bike.  I watched him closely, and I thought for a second that he was going to whip out bolt cutters and take the bike then and there.  (Another colleague saw the stranger and thought he was one of our group and actually asked him if he was ready to go have lunch …)  We all saw this guy, and said, “You don’t think he’s going to  …?” (But then I always think I am such the detective …) Surely not.

 

I guess the group consensus was that there were too many eyes around for this guy to steal the bike in broad daylight.  Well … we had a great lunch, and went our separate ways.  I headed to the airport to return a rental car.  Angry Bird and friends returned to the college.  I got a call a few minutes later … the bike was gone.  What a scumbag!  The suspect, as I recall, is about 6-1, 155 pounds, with thin, long dreadlocks, and some gray in his beard and hair.  I bet he was in his mid-40s, but looked late 50s in his gaunt face from hard living, no doubt.  So much for the job being profitable for my friend.  But, I hear there may be a plan in place to replace the bike, if the Miami Police aren’t able to find it.  That was the last day of the job and sadly, how I will remember it.

Back in Texas now, reflecting on Miami and how quickly one month flew by … just a few observations.  Miami doesn’t have streets, or so it seems.  It has lots of little freeways with everyone driving as fast as their cars will go … until the next red light.  Good luck getting on a main street from a side street. Also, this is really bizarre, but numerous times I have noticed that the locals will pick their nose in the car … or anywhere in public for that matter, unabashedly, as if it was no big thing.  Ha … I saw some of the most beautiful women and most handsome guys just go at it.  Strange … methinks.  No, not everyone … but I saw this a lot.

But, once you get them out of their cars, Miamites are as friendly and courteous as anyone you will meet.  College kids open doors for each other and for strangers.  Oh this was a poignant moment: I was in the grocery store one day buying ice for the workplace, when a little old man in front of me fumbled through his wallet, trying to find a way to pay for his groceries.  With the help of the cashier, they tried several credit or debit cards. No dice.  He didn’t have enough cash.  I honestly think it was a “senior moment” which all of us will experience some day.  He looked so helpless … and lost … and beside himself.  I reach for my wallet but the the grocery sacker stepped in first, whipped out his own wallet and paid for the old man’s groceries.  I won’t lie.  It touched my heart. Then I looked down and smiled.  The old man’s cart was filled with just cat food.  Funny.

Speaking of catfood.  Did you know it is every bit as slippery as a banana on a sidewalk in a cartoon?  It is, and I proved it.  One day at lunch, sitting outside under the trees by the college coffee shop, my napkin blew away.  I stood up and found the nearest trash can and headed that way to discard  the trash.  WHOOPS! Someone pulled the rug out from under me … or so it seemed.  … Almost busted arse again, a would-be repeat performance considering my slip on black ice in Oklahoma on a job last year.  Somehow I pulled it together and didn’t plank.  I probably looked like I was playing Twister, without the game mat … (“Left hand yellow.  Right foot green …”) It hurt .. something stretched and something pulled and of course I was mostly embarrassed … looking around immediately to see if anyone had witnessed the catfood mishap.  Ha … The less-than-empathetic college kids were all smiling and holding up score cards.  I still wasn’t sure what had happened.  At first, I thought it was cat poo on my shoe.  But as I scraped my shoe on some tree roots and a pile of leaves, I didn’t pass out from the smell.  That’s when I realized it was Tender Victims … er Tender Vittles.  In my footprint, I could barely make out the outline of a fresh tin of cat food.  I wondered if the old man had planted it???

Darned cats … at this school, feral cats are everywhere. Which came first, the catfood land minds or the cats???  And these felines are pretty brazen. They don’t give a second thought to kids walking to class, or cars parking over their favorite napping place out int the parking lot.  Well … I must have been in a good mood despite the near death-by-catfood experience, because instead of setting traps for these beasts, I decided to have some fun with them.  The next day I brought them a treat that no one could trip on.  Have you ever played with a laser pointer and a few cats?  Ha … I had them all lining up and performing tricks and doing virtual search and rescue missions with the tiny bouncing red dot … out in the dark parking lot at 6 a.m.  A little bit of me wanted to coax them into the freeway – revenge for the cat food incident.  Just kidding. I didn’t.  I mean, it’s not their fault they are kept alive by dummies, or that I seem to go all “magic carpet ride”  and bust my tail about every six months these days.

OH … I am sure you heard the hoopla about the rock concert 90 miles south of this job site.  Yes.  The Rolling Stones, the first Western rock band to play in a somewhat-more-open Cuba.  Oh to have been there, despite the age of the band.  Such historical significance.  Among the more serious conversations I had on this job was a discussion with Rafael.  He and I had “talked” music for days.  He doesn’t speak a lick of English.  I am not much better with my Spanish.  But Rafael and I shared the universal language — rock ’n’ roll.  With the help of a co-worker/translator, Rafael had told me several times how much he loves rock ’n’ roll and that he is a drummer … he especially loves classic rock and also metal.  So after those initial conversations, Rafael might come up to me and just say, “Black Sabbath!,” to which I would respond, “Si. Bueno.”  A few hours would pass and Rafael would pop out from behind a book shelf and say, “Rush!,” to which I would say, “Muy Bueno.”  Ha! We went through the hard rock annals in this fashion, one word at a time … Doobie Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Triumph, Metallica, UFO, Genesis … and on and on.  When I struck up the conversation, I would say “Alice Cooper?” in an inquisitive tone … And Rafael would smile and gesture with outstretched arms to signify “definitely.” Each conversation was about as verbose as the previous:)

Ha … we also discussed (with an interpreter) that Rafael likes the sound of vinyl (LPs) better than digital music.  This conversation came to mind as I watched the new binge-worthy Vinyl on HBO … with many music characters making cameos in the show, including the above mentioned Alice Cooper who plays a cruel joke on a recording industry schmuck … I digress …

But, after the Rolling Stones show in Cuba — a concert event that probably upstaged President Obama’s controversial trip to Cuba — the journalist in me came alive, and I “interviewed” Rafael with he help of an interpreter.  It was really interesting.  He and his family had escaped the nightmares of the Castro regime … oppressive socialism and communism and political prisoners, and torture … fleeing to Honduras and then eventually working their way to The United States.  He had no kind or good words to say about the ruthless regime, not Fidel Castro nor his brother who took over the reins of the Communist country.  You know rock ’n’ roll was banned in Cuba, right?  Perhaps one of the reasons Rafael loves it so.  He talked of violence, oppression, cruelty, injustice … He said he didn’t like Fidel or his running buddy Che Guevara, despite the liberal media creating a lovable folk hero of the revolutionary Che.  “I don’t like Che Guevara.  He said if he could blow up The United States, he would.” Rafael was very adamant on all these opinions.  So … what about Obama “breaking bread” with the Communist Castros?  Rafael had mixed emotions.  He thought the gesture was too chummy with the dictators … but hoped that Obama’s visit would have a lasting effect and make things better for the Cuban people.  Rock on Rafael!

One last angry bird note … I was traveling on the Thunderbird one night in the dark, returning from Key West, headed to Miami.  It had been an uneventful ride … mostly because the speed limit out The Keys is 45, much of the way.  Finally, I hit the free way near Miami, when something hit me.  Up from the dark to the side, something cleared my bike’s windshield by about an inch.  INCOMING!  It was fast.  I barely ducked when I felt and heard a thud to my head.  Thank goodness for helmets.  A good size bird … perhaps an angry bird gave his life to take a shot at me.  It happened so fast, I didn’t see where he landed, but I imagined him cartwheeling over my head and landing somewhere on the back of the bike.  I assumed I probably had a splotch of blood and a new feathered headdress attached to my helmet … I rode on.  No head injury whatsoever … but a little jolt to the neck … perhaps for both of us.

In the Miami month, I only went to Miami Beach and South Beach a couple of times … mostly just rode through on the bike.  It was Spring Break and so crowded.  I pulled over once to visit South Beach’s Purple Lotus kava bar.  (See numerous kava bar references throughout this blog and on my Facebook …) Purple Lotus in Del Ray Beach was my first introduction to kava a few years back, before Austin, Texas got SquareRüt.  Ironically, a couple of guys I talked to at Purple Lotus had their first kava in Texas, at SquareRüt.  The Miami Purple Lots location was nice … kinda small … lots of  bamboo and tribal masks and served some smooth elixir from Vanuatu … had Wi-Fi too, I might add.

The one day I rode over to Biscayne Bay, the line of traffic was so long, that I eventually did a U-turn and headed to the popular, but less crowed Coconut Grove area.  My one day swimming in the ocean … like a salmon, I returned to one of my favorite places in the water.  At the southernmost tip of Key West, the southernmost tip of The United States is the southernmost beach in the U.S., — Zachary Taylor Beach.  Even though it was Spring Break, the place wasn’t overcrowded.   There is a nice little place where you can swim about 40 yards off shore and climb up on some rocks and watch the small waves crash.  I dig this. Had to repeat, an experience from 2003’s Wi-Fi Guy travel blog.  But it wasn’t easy.  I was traveling on the bike and didn’t want to park it near the beach.  I rode in jeans and didn’t want to change into a swimsuit in public for obvious reasons.  So, I paid for parking at the nearby Westin Hotel … snuck into a lobby restroom and changed clothes, asked if they would let me check my bag and did, then walked to the beach.

 

Crap.  I forgot there was a small admission to the beach area.  I promised the guard I would return later with money.  I had left my valuables at the hotel, about a mile away. The park ranger looked doubting, but let me in anyway.  After the swim, I walked quickly to the hotel.  The park was about to close.  I threw on warm clothes on a very hot day, and headed out of the garage.  Crud!  The parking gate ate my debit card!  I was stuck.  The gate wouldn’t open and Spring Breakers were lining up behind me, anxious to get out of the garage.  I called the attendant and a woman came out and purged my card from the entrails of the parking kiosk … and “We’ll let it slide,” she said.  Woohoo! … free parking, free changing room … free beach.  THAT is how PingWi-Fi rolls.  But, for the record, I hopped on the road, back to Zachary Taylor Beach, money in pocket to pay for my admission.  The guard was shocked I had returned.  “It’s what people are supposed to do,” I said … and he smiled, and wouldn’t accept the money.  Thanks man! … Another great memory … my Key West tradition at that tiny beach, a little off the beaten path …

Earlier that day, on the way south to Key West … I had just hit Marathon when it started pouring on me.  I pulled over and called an old buddy to invite him to lunch.  My old friend Ray is now the skipper of a nice sailboat, and the best I can tell he is living the life of Jimmy Buffet, for a lack of a better way to describe it.  Nice visit, although it was much too short.  I might just pass this way again.

 

Know what I sayin?

  • Editor’s note: The Dirty Gig is how I refer to jobs in the disaster recovery industry, the means to an end … the way  The PingWi-Fi.com blog is funded and the reason for this jumping around the globe.

Wi-Fi Whistling Dixie

March 30th, 2016 · Tags: Cities · Satire · Sports

A Facebook post led to a fun discussion on whistling.  Who can?  Who can’t?  Is it genetic?  A learned trait?  Who’s to say?  Can you whistle?

I was a sophomore in a basketball game with a bunch of older guys out on the court. We were playing nearby Adrian. Adrian had a big guy, a great athlete. We had all played baseball against him when we were kids, although he towered over us — Dennis Brown. (Always wondered what he might have done in a football uniform if he had transferred to Vega …) We all knew each other’s names. Dennis did something in the game that really impressed me

 

When our big man, Mike, got a rebound, Dennis was down at the other end of the court and tried to trick Mike … trying to get him to throw the ball to Dennis (the other team). Dennis whistled really loud — one of those whistles that many people have to put their fingers in their mouth to do. Then he yelled, “MI-I-I-I-KE!” Mike was just about to throw the ball, when he realized what happened. He grinned ear-to-ear at the nice try … and then dribbled the ball down the court himself.

 

Before that day — ever since I was a very young child — I could whistle normally. But that day, I decided to learn to really whistle … LOUD. That summer, during wheat harvest as I drove the combine, hour after hour, I practiced and learned to whistle really loud. The whistle has served me well over the years — never needed a whistle on a string when I coached basketball. I get horses and cows to look up and turn their heads as I zoom by on the motorcycles. My kids always knew where I was in the bleachers during their baseball and basketball games, when I did my whistle to send them an approval for a great play. (I think I actually tricked someone on the other team into throwing me the ball once … but can’t say for sure.)

 

Ha … I also whistle Dixie as loud as I can when I pass rebel flags on my bike — which seem to be popping up more and more these days along roads throughout the South. (Absolutely nothing to do with race … I love the South.) If I am ever at a rock concert at which I know they are recording, I am queued up and ready to make it on to the recording:) My dogs always knew I was on to them from a few blocks away, when they escaped. … And I sometimes whistle “Charge!” at the most inopportune times:)  In summary, if you have a few extra hours on a combine, I highly recommend you add this to your repertoire:)

 

Know what I sayin?