Confession. I never got over the disappointment of the Dallas Mavericks allowing Steve Nash to slip through their fingers to free agency, reminiscent of how the mop-headed point guard eluded so many star-studded defenses during his all-star career. Arguably the best soccer player to ever quarterback an NBA team … Nash revolutionized the point guard position. And then he was gone.
But, before he left, he also helped to introduce a young European to America. When Nash came to Dallas, the Mavs had one legitimate star in Michael Finley. As Finley peaked, he and Nash helped to groom a future superstar — teaching him American culture, the language, the game and the positive side of the NFL lifestyle. The Mavs had discovered and signed a tall, skinny, foreigner with a big smile, a “Scooby Doo Shaggy” look with a German accent and the work ethic to match.
Together, those three came so close to basketball history for Dallas, but it was not to be.
Finley went on to the San Antonio Spurs, finally getting his ring, before finishing in green … as a Celtic. (Finley is on The Mavs coaching staff today.) Nash continued to shine for years with the Phoenix Suns but captured no gold (He announced his retirement at 41 — Dirk’s number — in March … sadly as a member of the evil Lakers.)
The young German … Dirk Nowitzki became the franchise, perfecting his fade away jumper and became the soul of The Dallas Mavs, after all those years, propelling a perennial mediocre team to the world championship. The 13-time NBA all-star and world champion is number seven and rising on the all-time scoring list … and yet Dirk is the consummate team player.
The Mavs who won it all in 2011 did not resemble those scrappy teams of Dallas past. The entire team, the brand, the look, the attitude and the notoriety were all super-sized and supercharged by a young, gregarious, outspoken — even bratty — basketball loving, referree-bashing, player-wanna-be in billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban.
Three of those giants of the game were in Big D last night on the red carpet of the Dallas International Film Festival 2015. Also, two of the guys who helped to steer Mark Cubans’ dreams to reality, were also on the red rug … as if to complete some fantasy all-star 2-3 zone lineup. Coaching legends, father and son, Don and Donnie Nelson also posed for photos, did interviews and provided the backgrounds for many a selfie.
All of this good basketball karma converged on Dallas to help promote one film — “Nowitzki. The Perfect Shot.” Already a hit in Dirk’s Fatherland, the Dallas start for the film was it’s U.S. premiere. In the film — an almost prequel to the Der Dunk’s NBA career — Director Sebastian Dehnhardt showcases the years that led up to the NBA and more precisely, the precision, unorthodox mentoring of coach/German/physicist Holger Geschwindner.
All this is to say … PingWi-Fi couldn’t pass up the chance to fire off a few questions about Dirk’s buddy Steve Nash and The Mavs at the event in Dallas. (I mean, even Jordan Spieth is trying to get on Dirk’s scorecard …) I shared the one German word in my repertoire with Dirk — ha, a profanity — and although unimpressed … he laughed and talked to me anyway:)
One of the first events I covered in a blog was a film festival. It had Wi-Fi, so I knew I was on to something. There have been a few since. Film festivals never disappoint. … So fun to shoot photographs of and interact with the experts who create the most poignant, artsy and entertaining works …
There was Sundance a few times … yes … that film festival is so Hollywood although it bills itself as Indy … Redford, Ben Bratt, Keanu, Snoop (when he was a dog and not a lion), Dillon & his entourage, Tilda Swinton, Wyclef Jean, Penn without Teller, even Jackie The Jokeman, etc., etc. Lots of star power, and you never know who you will see in the huge line at the only Starbucks in Park City.
Perhaps my favorite film blog moment was at SXSW Film, going deep with Matthew McConaughey and asking if he would follow up his “We Are Marshall” role by replacing Texas quarterback legend and assistant coach Major Applewhite, after a scandal broke. SXSW is always so interesting … but my goodness … having to contend with all those wannabe hipsters vexes me …
But … Most of my film festival hours have been spent in Big D. It is close. It is so accessible and easy to move around. The festival has changed names, but it continues to grow. It’s become an annual PingWi-Fi tradition.
“Batkid Begins” … hmmm … has perhaps the most powerful synapsis … but I don’t know if I can do popcorn to such a difficult topic. Of course, after seeing the fun team representing at the DIFF 15 red carpet, I also added “7 Chinese Brothers” to my film wish list this year.
Capps, Michael Cohn, Joseph Semense, Heather Born
You never know who you will see or meet at the red carpet events. Last night I ran into an old client. Everyone in Dallas/Fort Worth PR knows Ken Capps, who previously headed up the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport communications team, back when I was leading their PR agency team. Ha … Ken popped up at the festival a few years ago on the big screen, with a cameo in a great little documentary about Texas 6-man football. Last night the PR veteran was hosting the filmmakers representing both “Sacrifice” and The University of Texas film school. Yes … of course, Ken squeezed in some Hook ‘Em Horns gang signs into the event. (Well take this Ken … I got “Easy Rider” Peter Fonda to gesture the Texas Tech “Guns Up!” a few years back … I digress …)
I LOVE to shoot these things. Typically there are unannounced stars here and there. Sometimes stars say the darnedest things. Country singer/songwriter legend Jerry Jeff Walker “Mr. Bojangles” — at the Dallas festival — revealed to me in an interview that he has beautiful legs:)
For a news person or photographer the festival can be a few hours of getting into the craft of photo making, or journalism … and then (for me anyway) several hours of mad dashing around the Internet trying to figure out who all the people are – particularly the behind-the-camera-types on the carpet.
Jake Kuykendall, Seana Flanagan – “7 Chinese Brothers”
i must say, some of the talents and directors obviously do the red carpet out of duty … and sometimes it shows. Then other seem to just come alive and liven up the place and enjoy. Last night, I was taken by the fun interaction between Production Designer Jake Kuykendall and Producer Seana Flanagan as they laughed their way around the photo/interview gauntlet. (And now their images are blowing up my Facebook page …)
Lately, I have been shooting more and interviewing less. Who knows how long this mood will last. So I only threw out a few questions, but instead listened to the other interviews. Impressed. I heard the producer of “She’s The Best Thing In It” and some others specifically compliment the interviewing skills of two high school journalists covering the event — Katherine and Lexi from Dallas’ prestigious Hockaday. Good job.
Red Carpet Preparation, Alain Choquart “Ladygrey”
The red carpet events continue throughout the festival, running April 9 -19. Get out and see some films … and check the Wi-Fi at the various theaters for me. Typically the photo opps begin at 6 p.m., and just about anyone can get close enough to take a few selfies, although there is a roped-off area for the professionals … and The Ping.
It was my nice, kindly gentleman uncle, on my father’s side of the family, who first introduced me to Luby’s cafeteria on one of my first trips to the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex.
“Sorry sir. Thanks for lunch … but Luby’s just isn’t Furr’s,” (I thought to myself).
Ha … that was more than 30 years ago.
Just prior to that Luby’s lunch in Arlington, Texas, so many years ago, I did a stint working at Furr’s headquarters one cold Christmas vacation between semesters at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. I remember several things from that temp job. The boss, Bryan, was super nice. The break room had all the canned soup I cared to eat. My hair was short and spiky as was the fashion of the day, and the product in my hair would freeze as I shoveled snow in the circle driveway, before the boss let me warm up and add up cash register receipts at a desk inside. And I remember that my friend Mark helped me get the job as his temporary replacement, and I never had to mention my connections with the once family-owned company to land the position.
Furr’s — a Lubbock and Texas Panhandle institution for both supermarkets and restaurants — has long since been bought by outside investors. But for decades it was a proud family-owned-and-operated success story.
Even so … I had never really thought about covering Furr’s on the PingWi-Fi blog until a recent visit to Moore, Okla. (I was working in Moore just a few weeks back prior to recent tornadoes …) There isn’t a lot there, tornado or no tornado … so when I saw a Furr’s Buffet, I thought “what the heck.” I’m always looking for another restaurant or coffee shop or pie kitchen to feature on the blog.
Many things have changed at Furr’s. This particular location in Moore was a buffet, rather than the old cafeteria with a line, a choice of meats, servers with white dresses and WHAT!?! No strawberry pie. I was in shock.
Other things had not changed … after all those years, there still was no Wi-Fi at the Furr’s location.
Hardly recognized the place. Did I mention there was NO STRAWBERRY PIE!?!
Even before being on assignment in Oklahoma, I had been thinking about Furr’s and here is why. Think back with me a few months.
About the same time that terrorists and murderers struck at the satire magazine in Paris — during the time when the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie had us all typing our first French — I stumbled upon a link detailing the family genealogy on my mom’s side … The Pieratt side … the French side.
Wow … I think my dad used to tease my mom about her French blood, commenting that Pieratt must have meant pirate.
I followed the links and learned that my siblings and I are direct descendants of a gentleman who fought in The American Revolution. Young Valentin Pieratt was a cannonier who crossed the pond to fight against The British with the young French aristocrat The Marquis de Lafayette. As you know, Lafayette was named a general in the American cause by our Continental Congress in 1777. (I had no idea our family roots were so deep. Our German side of the family didn’t arrive until the late 1800s …)
This seemed pertinent, because as mentioned above, there were a couple of weeks when The United States (except for our President) had felt more close to the French than in many years. Typically we hear nothing but jokes about The French and their anemic response to threats against their country. This time — and so sorry it took such a bloody event — Americans were showing full solidarity with the French, just like the rest of the civilized world. And yes, thousands of Americans died in the fight to liberate France during WWII and I think Frenchmen all know and appreciate that. “If it had not been for us, they would be speaking German right now,” being the old catch phrase.
But it was cool to see a family connection, but also to read a reminder that France had our back, from the very beginning as we broke away from The British Empire. I hope current world events only serve to make us close allies again.
What could be more important than both of our countries placing such high value on the freedom of speech? I digress …
As I continued to read the genealogy, I was more and more impressed with the body of work assembled by this relative — an amateur or hobbyist genealogist. I felt like I had “met” two very interesting family members via the Internet research. The French-American patriot and the second … the guy tracing the family tree . The family tree guy was my mother’s cousin, and I found out he lives really close. So I hopped on the scooter recently and motored across the Metroplex to meet him.
Have you ever met someone who just makes you feel like such an underachiever? Ha … it happens a lot, over in my little world … I digress. My “Cousin Sydney” is 94 and has been successfully married more than 70 years. That may be his biggest success …. but there are plenty more impressive and interesting details.
He and I shared a cold Dr. Pepper in his office — a converted bedroom in his home filled with several computer monitors for genealogy research and book compilation … a fine gun collection … a huge collection of service medals, Asian decorative swords, Little League baseball photos of children, photos of planes he had flown and photos of buildings he had designed.
This hit home most. Like my grandfather, Sydney at one time drove a truck (during his college education at Texas Tech) for the family business — Furr’s Supermarkets and Furr’s Cafeterias. But while my grandfather “Dude” was happy to drive his Mack truck for Furr’s for more than 25 years, Sydney earned a degree in architecture. (Oh … more family history … Sydney and my family have a relative who was Chairman of the Board of Regents at Texas Tech … I just learned that recently … I knew Mr. Furr was a big businessman around Lubbock. I didn’t know he was the head honcho at Tech … So, my kids are related to not only a former Chairman of the Board of Regents, but also the chancellor as well. Guns Up Red Raiders!)
Anywho … My new family guy Sydney studied architecture and joined The United States Air Force because of that whole WWII breaking out thing. More cool stuff … At one time Sydney was the only architect in the entire Air Force and is proud to have designed some significant Air Force buildings … so he not only has stories about flying bi-plane fighters, and landing on tiny frozen Alaskan lakes … and being chased by an Alaskan bear … but he also represented The USAF in NATO base planning in Europe … oversaw construction of missile silos, etc., etc. In short, Sydney is the man.
“So what do you do Kent?”
“Well … uh … sir … I write first-person accounts of which coffee shops have wireless Internet.” … Ha … see my point? My only other story that might even remotely interest this relative … I had once met and become great friends — even went out once on a first-name basis date after class drinking beer in the Texas Hill Country — with a pretty young woman in my photography class at the Texas Tech Center at Junction. Funny thing … when I asked her last name, it was Pieratt … same as my mother’s maiden name. Her father was also an amateur genealogist and verified that we were in fact related, but there was ample space between our two branches of the family tree … still … we didn’t date after that. I digress …
But that is what we journalism majors do, we observe, and we write about the people who do all the important stuff.
And I hope it is okay to share one more Sydney story … perhaps the one of which he is most proud. His best, he said. When he was fairly new to The Air Force, he and his buddies were put on a train to Denver to start training. Near Denver, the train stopped and then backed up a bit. When it stopped again, there was one young woman sitting on a bench … all of the sudden faced with an audience of dozens and dozens of young airmen all staring at her from the train and I am sure, all of them trying to get her attention. Sydney was smitten. But, soon that train pulled out, so to speak. No introductions.
Weeks, if not months passed, and then one day on the very first time the young airmen were permitted to leave their base, Sydney and a buddy went to downtown Denver and popped inside a retail store. He saw an older woman in the store, talking with a young customer … he thought.
The younger woman was the sales clerk’s daughter. When she turned around, Sydney saw it was in fact the young woman from the train station.
He asked permission to give her a call. The rest is family history.
I met her too — the love of his life … this very interesting couple, all due to a very chance meeting so long ago. Nice people!
Amazing, the way people drive between Fort Worth, Texas and Shreveport, La. I suppose if you are going to drive that far to lose money in a smoky casino, you better get there ASAP, right?:) As for me, I kept it pretty much within the legal limits, as I headed out to make money in Cajun Country … At least, on the third leg of my four trips between those two cities on the latest installment of The Dirty Gig.
This time, the gig is to build huge plastic tents — or “containments” — around many large computer cabinets at a manufacturing plant … as well as setting drying equipment inside the plastic to remove condensation. Sounds simple. Did I mention there were three rooms of computer cabinets, the largest cabinet being 66 feet long, 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide? Thats a lot of bytes. When the drying is done, we also have to cut down the plastic, roll it up and dispose of it … Ha … out of boredom on The Dirty Gig, often times we coin terms for the more mundane tasks we have to do. (I think there was an entire list of silly terms on the book repository job in the cave in Columbia last year.) This job, one term stands out. At first, we called the process, the “filet.” We used “filet” to refer to a long plastic strip cut out of the tents, our blades carving around, avoiding all the tape and adhesive spray … trying to salvage one strip of pristine plastic that could be used again in another containment. After a few days, as we became more and more jaded, we changed the name … Ha … are you familiar with the term “bris” from Jewish tradition? (Amazing the things you can pick up from Seinfeld. You just never know where these things will come in handy.)
Anywho … it what we do.
After hours, away from the factory, the other thing I do is seek out wireless Internet. The first hotspot I found in Shreveport was a good one — where I stay — at the Hampton Inn. As I was saying … good Wi-Fi there although a little cumbersome having to sign in — name and room number — EVERY time I got on line, with three devices in my Wi-Fi arsenal. I mean, it is not like I was going to leave room 321 to trick them. But I should have. You see, there was something “special” about 321. Most hotel rooms “save the planet” by offering you a chance to sleep on dirty sheets and use your hotel towels more than once … Ha … who thought of that PR spin? … Convincing guests they are doing the right thing for the planet, so that the hotel can keep housekeeping/operating expenses down. I tip my cap to you, oh great spinmeister … I digress … So back to room 321. That unit of The Hampton Inn was equipped with a bathroom sink that didn’t dispense water. How clever. Think of the swelling water reservoirs. Ha … I jest, but, no there was no water from the sink when I moved in. But hey, I can cut people a little slack. I stopped at the front desk and asked that a plumber fix the faucets while I was at the factory sucking water from computers.
It didn’t happen.
I complained again — fairly politely, at least by my standards. The best response I got from the front desk was “you could move to another room.” (Or another hotel was my thought … ) Should I go back and tell the person that at most hotels, when there is a problem with a room the management A) fixes it or B) bends over backwards and packs your stuff for you and moves it for you? No such offers at The Hampton. I stuck with my guns and said, I didn’t want to move. (I have 2.5 suitcases of work clothes, safety helmets, tools, computers, camera, etc. … kind of a hassle. (“An ‘lode’ knows I ti’ed.”) I wanted the problem fixed. I mean, was I at the hotel for their convenience, or perhaps vice versa?
After several visits to the front desk, with no better results, I took action. OH, the power of Twitter, and more specifically, a well-chosen #hashtag. (If you don’t fully understand hashtags, e-mail me and I will make a believer out of you …) I tweeted that #HamptonInn in Shreveport took little interest in the fact that I was having to wash my hands, toothbrush and dishes under the faucet of my bathtub. Ha! I also included the hashtag #travel … so just about every person in the entire travel industry, all over the planet, on Twitter had access to the “funny” little story. I got a direct message tweeted from the Hampton corporate social media people within an hour or so. I gave a few specifics, although by this time, I thought they might just track down the Shreveport Hampton on their own, and ask about the one room in the hotel that didn’t have a functioning bathroom sink. Anywho … the social media folks tracked it down, and a few days later … magically … there was in fact a plumber gifted enough to make water run in the Hampton sink. Oh, I forgot to mention, the first person at the front desk told me there was an issue with the city’s water. Yep. They threw the city of Shreveport under the bus. Finally … after a week of being unable to shave in front of a mirror … I too had running water.
Good Wi-Fi for the most part at The Hampton Inn … one of the best breakfast service people ever … clean room … but the visit spoiled by poor plumbing and more so by lackadaisical front desk types. Thanks to the social media team, you saved face and at least scored 2 pings.
Next up … Cheesecake Bistro by Copelands. Question which came first, this place, The Cheesecake Factory or the hot blonde who works at The CCF on Big Bang Theory? I don’t know. But I know Shreveport’s Cheesecake Bistro doesn’t have Wi-Fi … hard to believe in a very hot little retail “boardwalk,” just off the banks of the muddy Red River … with so many tourists and shoppers … just doesn’t seem kosher. Which reminds me … if you are othodox and you order a salad at Cheesecake Bistro … it might still be served with bacon. (What? You mean bacon is pork?) Once again, Shreveport has not impressed me with its customer service or attention to detail. My friend was not happy about his order, but this time I was lucky. My seared tuna was excellent … almost worth the 30-minute wait. Ha … this meal just started off wrong and never got back on the track. As my friend asked a few questions about the menu when we first sat down, the waiter actually pulled another chair over and sat down, like he was tired of waiting. Have you ever seen that before? … Ha! Then he sneezed. Sounds pretty special, huh?
Have to wonder if they merely scraped the bacon from my friend’s salad, but maybe not. No Wi-Fi … the evening saved only by the nice tuna entree and a very nice bartender who took over for the sneezing waiter … BTW … I was sick too … and of course C-Bistro was out of chicken soup – 3 pings
With only a few days left in the Dirty Gig Shreveport edition, our entourage moved over to The Residence Inn … yes, the day after I finally got my running water at The Hampton. The Residence Inn, as you probably know, is much more like home away from home — has an oven, big-boy fridge … ha … even running water. RI also has great free Wi-Fi … but I suppose if you just get a kick out of shopping online, you can also choose a pay-plan for Wi-Fi at Residence. Do people fall for that? The free-fi seemed more than sufficient, although, I never gave it the old Netflix test … since the rooms have AMC and it was Walking Dead season finale week.
I love to cook — home or on the road — so Residence Inn satisfied that need and the ever-important Wi-Fi craving as well … and I think the person from housekeeping who cleaned up my mess was about as nice a person as I have met in that position — 6 pings.
To Cork Or Not To Cork
Near the end of The Dirty Gig, one of the clients mentioned there was a wine festival in downtown Shreveport … and at first blush my buddy and I were all in. However, I vetoed with all that was within me, when I learned the tickets were $85 … I mean … I don’t even drink alcohol, and I don’t think I could have imbibed $85 worth of bottled water, even on a hot/humid day. In retrospect, it might have been really fun to watch people falling all over each other, because I bet you a dollar, they all tried to drink their money’s worth at $85 a pop. Had I known in advance, I would have gone through the PR channels with my media pass and probably been kinder/gentler with Cork. I heard it was a blast. Looked like an impressive list of wines poured … my favorite from afar, based solely on brand equity, star power — the Francis Ford Coppola red. (Aren’t wine labels and names so fun?)
However … as my buddy and I drove around downtown looking for Cork we found Cambodia … or rather a Cambodian culture festival called the 8th Annual Aseana Spring Festival, on a side street in an arts district. The place had caught my eye earlier, because of the terraced, Asian-garden layout of the park. So glad we stopped. This, my friends, must have been Shreveport at its best. There were about 30 booths set up, with sights, sounds and smells from many different cultures … I sampled Philippine cuisine, tried Thai, chatted with a Pacific Islander group about kava … and enjoyed an Asian dance step or two. Favorite part of the day … after people had been walking around for an hour or so, the entertainment started. With all the crowd noise, very few people heard the announcement that a young Asian-American woman was going to sing The National Anthem. Pretty sure I was the first one up on my feet. And it was so cool to see the crowd gradually realize what the woman was singing … and like watching fans at a baseball stadium, you could just see the “wave” of patriotism as people stood up. I should have mentioned first … many of the people in the crowd probably were first- or second-generation immigrants to America and they seemed to LOVE it. Everywhere there were different colors, creeds and cultures represented. Multi-ethnicity families … a melting pot. These people obviously had not forgotten their backgrounds nor their own cultures … but they had assimilated happily into American culture … you could see it on their faces … And they seemed to appreciate and embrace their new country … the way it is supposed to be. God Bless America!
Ha … and I thought I had a bizarre sense of humor. I turned my back for only a second and my non-pork-lover friend took a particular interest in a small hog, roasting and rotating on a spit in one of the islander booths. Ha … he posted then removed from his Facebook page a “porky” … rather, a selfie photo with the rotisserie ham … my friend, holding his hands up in the photo, gesturing, like he was trying to talk to the pig or joking around with it. So funny, Rony!
Last thought on the festival … were there “plants” in the crowd, or is the Asian community in Shreveport just that nice? My buddy and I were joined at our table by a couple and some children. The woman was a Philippine native, who grew up in Japan, and her husband was an American-born member of The U.S. Air Force. They chatted with us for a couple of hours, recommending the best neighborhoods for great architecture (Fairview, Southern Highlands, Kings Road area) … taking photos of us with the traditional dancers … recommending foods to try … and their children played smart phone games with us. After we left, I wondered if nice people sat by all the “touristy” looking people and made conversation and recommended that we buy and eat more … probably not. Seemed legit.
Add Wi-Fi and the event would be perfect. But, we say 7 pings regardless … The weather was perfect … a few clouds, a slight, occasional cool breeze, with temperatures in the upper 70s. A most perfect evening … great food, good conversation and the people watching! Wonder if I will run into any of my new Asian Shreveport friends at Starbucks on Line Avenue.
We saw lots and lots of cool old buildings in and around downtown … many seemed just ripe for the pickin … if you could get them up to code. Two of the most interesting architecturally/historically significant buildings we photographed were “caddy corner” to each other. A grand monster of a building — the Scottish Rite temple and across the street, sadly, the fading-fast B’Nai Zion Temple. The latter, adorned with awesome stain glass, somewhat still in tact … featuring Torah icons such as The Ark of The Covenant, The Star of David, and I presume, the horn that brought down the walls of Jericho. (I so wanted to see an icon featuring “a jawbone of an ass” from the Samson story … I digress …)
My buddy and I also shunned pork several times at our favorite new BBQ in Shreveport – Podnuhs. Well … I guess I didn’t do my part on the shunning … because I enjoyed the ribs over and over at this joint. Podnuhs isn’t exactly a “hole in the wall” BBQ joint, but the taste is authentic, with a good selection of meats for every palate and/or belief system, with lots of side entrees served in a buffet-type line.
I highly recommend the ribs, corn on the cob, the collard greens and a cup of banana pudding. No Wi-Fi though, but lots of napkins as needed – 5 pings.
On the final day in town, I found myself at Starbucks, as I often do — any city, any time. The one on Line Avenue in Shreveport is great. The Wi-Fi provided by AT&T has only kicked me off once (no make that twice … as I continued to blog) … an annoying habit that seems to happen all too often at Bux these days … I digress … My green tea frap tasted wonderful, just as it always does at any cafe under the green mermaid emblem … and of course the people watching was awesome … This must be the most upscale section of Shreveport … the kind of place in which I don’t belong, but I hang out anyway. But what’s this!?! Does Louisiana have “open carry.” (Google say it do …) Minutes after I began blogging at Bux, I noticed a man and woman dressed in nice professional attire, accessorized with what looked to be a .45 caliber and perhaps a 9 mm pistol, respectively. For the record, I also noticed their holsters were adorned with some sort of badge … maybe detectives … Starbucks CSI? Who knows … Then another gentleman strutted on in wearing basketball shorts, work boots, a t-shirt and a gimmee cap — sporting a belted holster with what looked to be a big ol 357 magnum. Maybe he was undercover, swamp style. Who knows?
Lastly … oh the timing. I just found out that a touring act I have been wanting to see is playing Shreveport … naturally, the night after I am scheduled to leave. I would have given just about anything to see the Tedeschi Trucks Band at The Strand Theater! (The old theater was another architectural gem downtown.)
Are you familiar? She — Susan Tedeschi — has about as hot a sultry voice and guitar talent as you will find … and her husband — Derek Trucks — rubs elbows on compilation projects with the likes of Eric Clapton (Eric, who turned 80 the day this blog was written …) AND … Trucks is southern rock royalty — the son of one of The Allman Brothers Band. How cool. Any of you attended a concert in this great looking venue?
Oh get this … Primus — nuts that they are — are playing The Strand in May. But, alas, I am headed back to Fort Worth tomorrow. Who knows … Maybe a Primus road trip!?!
When I reviewed the 2014 Triumph Thunderbird a few months back on the ride from Fort Worth to Columbia, Mo., one of my criticism was about the bike’s stealth. It hardly makes any noise, and anyone can tell you “loud pipes save lives” for motorcyclists.
But the silence has grown on me. It’s golden. It is nice to be able to listen to music on the bike with tiny earbuds and no need for speakers that blast the neighborhood. But I doubt quiet bikes will be trending any time soon. It is so much fun to let your presence be known …
And yet, the other day I was enjoying a little hole-in-the-wall mystique of Medicine Park, Okla., after a two-hour ride over from Sulphur, Okla. when the place was invaded by loud bikes. As much as I love bikes, and the people who ride them, it definitely changed the atmosphere of the place. Just sayin …
What a cool place. Almost every building in town – retail, public, residences – incorporates the plentiful, homegrown cobblestones into their construction – red granite cobblestones, unique to the Wichita Mountains. Quite photogenic. Rustic. Vintage. Pity it was winter, albeit a very nice day … there is a great swimming hole in the middle of town, at one of the river’s widest points. The same river that made the cobblestones. Medicine Creek, that pours into Lake Lawtonka.
Overlooking the river at the aptly named Riverside Cafe, I took the advice of my waitress, an accountant from Puerto Rico also working two jobs, and had the catfish, corn on the cobblestone … er … cob and fried okra. Nice.
But no Wi-Fi!?!
When I asked around, pretty much everyone agreed the coffee shop in the heart of town had the only Wi-Fi … but alas they were closed. And their hotspot required a passcode.
So I strolled around and played tourist. I met one of the nicest guys ever in the little mountain bike shop who told me all about the place, the best trails for riding, the mountain, the busy season … etc. Oh, and he mentioned the coffee shop for Wi-Fi. A couple of young ladies over at The Old Plantation restaurant said that kids from Texas crossed over the border to swim in the river, especially those from Wichita Falls, Texas … which had been suffering from a drought. The ladies said the coffee shop was good for Wi-Fi …
There is a cool outdoor stage near the post office, adorned with several posters promoting music festivals for rock, country and other genres. I bet the place is crazy during the busy season.
I had never been to Medicine Park before, although I had been close. Had I only known …
Years ago, one of my favorite camping buddies and I had camped at the nearby Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge — a buffalo reserve boasting 500 head. Ha … after several shared substances and/or adult beverages around the camp fire … pretty sure a buffalo really walked through our camp. I digress …
More motorcycle stuff. Also within striking range of Medicine Park is Mount Scott, rising 2,464 feet, where I encountered beauty, tourists, some laid back bikers on cruisers and revenge of the crotch rockets … You know, the really obnoxious guys on bikes who zip in and out of track doing 120+ mph or so … endangering everyone around them. A rocket pack was in line just two vehicles behind me on the descent of Mount Scott, the slow … almost treacherous, looping road around and down the mountain … I could hear their impatience grow at every curve with the howling of their engines, as I enjoyed the scenic, relaxed and yes silent cruise down the mountain on my bike. Finally one of the punks whipped around two cars and then me and almost hit an oncoming car head-on on the very narrow two-lane. His buddies either had more sense or just didn’t see their chance to pass. He waited for them at the bottom of the hill. I waved, smiling when we got to the bottom. I had wisdom they did not – the knowledge that they could have left the mountain one minute sooner or five minutes later and not had to deal with the mellow likes of me, leading the parade down the hill.
That morning, I hit several Oklahoma towns which I had heard of, but never seen. Durant and Duncan, Okla., seemed nice enough. I spotted a sign promoting downtown Duncan and took it (the exit, not the sign). Downtown had “nostalgic movie set” written all over it … As I passed the old theater, I spotted someone sitting at a table in what looked like a funky little coffee shop. I pulled the Thunderbird over, figuratively speaking, and went in. Did I mention it was Sunday? This coffee shop — The Merchant — and the adjoining theater also served as a church for a congregation of believers, and I had crashed their pre-worship rituals — testing the mikes, tuning the guitars, practicing vocal duets, etc. Most of the people didn’t pay me any mind …. except for one young gentleman, about 15. He was polite and inquisitive … and I shared with him that I had pulled over because I saw the coffee shop … and he said welcome, and fired up some nice brew … and said it was on The Lord’s House. Praise the Lord … they had Wi-Fi.
I appreciated the offer for free coffee but dropped some coin in the jar anyway. What a cool little surprise …. Several others in the congregation eventually warmed up too and invited this leather-clad stranger to join them. However, not that it is wrong, I detected a slight theological difference in their beliefs, and I knew I would stand out. I hate to be a deterrence. Plus, I had not reached my destination yet. So, I rode on.
Earlier that same morning, the Oklahoma countryside was covered in fog. I had to slow down to about 50 m.p.h. to see, although luckily I had the Sunday morning backroad to myself. Only a few miles out, I encountered an empty shell of a building on the side of the road. It had to be an old basketball gym. I couldn’t resist, and explored. In it’s current state, the building could serve as a great set for an episode of The Walking Dead. Among the junk – a child-size stuffed rabbit toy … some old computers … furniture pushed into a circle around the remnants of a recent campfire. Hmmm … it smelled as if I was not alone. The essence of skunk was nearby, so I didn’t linger. Just a quick look … enough to remind me of the glory days of basketball so long ago. If not for the skunk, I am sure I could have smelled the popcorn …
Late that day, I returned to the Chickasaw cultural center that is Sulphur, Okla., and went to the white man’s cultural center — McDonalds. Mickey D’s in Sulphur has about the best Wi-Fi in the tiny town. And lo and behold, as I slurped a strawberry, chocolate, vanilla shake, I heard another motorcycle pull up. Not too quiet. Not too loud. This bike was just right … a black Harley Davidson with a biker-ish couple on board. Later, I saw them park their french fries at a table near me. Ha! I knew the guy. It was Jeff, a new friend I had met on “The Dirty Gig” in Sulphur. We exchanged pleasantries … and a french fry (when he wasn’t looking). I accepted his invite to join on their ride, and after our Happy Meals, we cruised back to the highway, over to Ardmore, Okla., and a scenic overlook of Turner Falls. What a great end to a great day, as the sun dipped, taking the temperature down with it. Nice guy. I now have a tradition, I suppose. I have ridden with two clients from “The Dirty Gig.” Both guys had names pronounced the same — Jeff and Geoff. I guess I will ride with anyone named Jeff … no matter how they spell it.
Remember the scenes in old westerns in which the “Indians” refused to be photographed because they believed the camera might steal their souls? Well, me and my Nikon don’t subscribe to that theory … and yet …
Bad medicine happens. Gravity finally claimed my D7000 the other day after having carried the thing all over the world. And the last photo I shot? A quick little portrait of my new friend Uriah from the Chickasaw Nation. Ha … I jest that there is any connection, just coincidence. Uriah was one of the first tribesmen I saw when I first visited the awesome Chickasaw Cultural Center near Sulphur, Okla. It was a couple of weeks later that I snapped a shot … right place, wrong time.
Ha … “Uriah.” What kind of a name is that for a Native American, anyway? A very cool one, I think. My new friend and I discussed the name, and yes, his parents were fans (like me) of an old progressive, English hard rock band, back in the day (Uriah Heep). I am trying to think of an Indian joke with Heap Big something … I digress. But anyway, I have always liked Native American names and those stories about Native Americans being named after the first thing their mother sees, after birthing a child. Ha … I think my favorite is Kicking Bird. (Yes, that is my favorite “Indian name,” followed closely by Crazy Cat off the politically incorrect “F Troop” western comedy.) What a great mental picture …. Kicking Bird. From where do I know the name Kicking Bird … hmmm? Oh yes, a character in “Dances With Wolves.” But the real Kicking Bird was a Kiowa chief in the 1870s — a fierce warrior but also an advocate of peace, they say. Ha … there is a movie theater in Edmond, Okla. called The Kicking Bird. Love it. I digress …
I first saw Uriah when he and other members of the tribe performed a Chickasaw stomp dance on stage one Saturday at the cultural center — my first week in town. The stomp featured about a dozen dancers, many wearing percussion rattles made of turtle shells or old metal cans, affixed to their legs. The dancers all joined hands, weaving in and out on stage to simulate the movements of a huge winding snake, chasing its prey … another person playing the unlucky role of a tasty wabbit.
Then a couple of weeks later, after the stomp dance, Uriah and I met on my second visit, when yes, he commented on my Nikon, then graciously allowed me to fire off a shot while we discussed the center as he told me of his appreciation of and connection to his tribal heritage.
I am not sure that Uriah caught my subtle attempt at humor when I told him it was the best stomp dance I had ever seen (because it was my first). Oh well … corny humor. Whattayagonna do?
Have you seen this cultural center near Sulphur? … Center!?! … Ha! It’s an entire complex. Theaters, exhibit hall, fountains, sky bridge, authentic village, restaurant, art, etc., etc., only about two years old, with world-class architectural design. So impressed — both with the multi, multi-million dollar facility and the $3 cup of buffalo chili. Delicious.
It’s a “scene you should make with your little ones” – to quote The Cowsills’ “Indian Lake.”
You really oughtta see this place. Did I already say that? I particular enjoyed the exhibit displaying the history of the dugout canoe, perfected by several indigenous peoples, including the Chickasaw tribe in their wet homelands of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, before relocation to Oklahoma via the “Trail of Tears.”
You don’t have to be in town long before it is apparent the tribe has spared no expense throughout the community. Many years ago, Sulphur’s claim to fame was the healing properties of the waters here and accordingly, the Artesian Hotel attracted and housed visitors from afar. It burned. Now the Chickasaw have resurrected the hotel and added a nice casino … if you’re into that kind of thing.
Just around the corner from the casino are multiple retail shops, including Bedré.
Bedré is both a cafe and the only Native American-owned line of gourmet chocolates. And yes, Kelly, Bedré offers the best Wi-Fi hotspot in town … although to our chagrin, we have seen very few people in the cafe … I suppose everyone else is busy at the casino, putting their coin into Chickasaw coffers. Kudos to the tribe for investing coin back into the community.
The second best hotspot for Wi-Fi is probably the McDonalds at the other end of town. I have used that network several times, while sipping a custom-made vanilla, chocolate and strawberry shake, thanks to another new friend. Just up the road from McDonald is my hotel – the first Super 8 I have tried … I think. The hotel is certainly no frills, but has decent Wi-Fi. I was a little hesitant to stay there, but the place has been recently refurbished, so not bad at all. Two of the most popular restaurants in town are just across the parking lot — a Chinese buffet and a Mexican restaurant – New China and Abuelitas, respectively.
Across the street from the Artesian is another multi-million dollar facility, the visitor center with high-tech kiosks, gifts, and a very friendly and informative staff. All around the casino, chocolate bar and visitor center there is a Wi-Fi network compliments of the tribe.Very impressive … and just a couple of hours away from Dallas/Fort Worth.
I think of it as a go-to place in a small town, if there is no Bluebell ice cream at the supermarket. But it is so much more. Great hamburgers … generous fries … and a decent selection of necessity-type groceries and a few odds/ins mixed in … on the counter tops and at the end caps above and surrounding the ice cream freezers.
(Sort of like a modern, refrigerated version of Fort Worth’s Kincaids hamburgers/groceries institution without the history.)
And in a really small town, say like Sulphur, Okla., Braum’s “got community.” … Maybe even its own language, as I reflect on learning a colloquialism there. My first hearing this new phrase came about after a young cowboy asked his toddler son what he wanted to eat.
“Whatta you want, Poo Poo?” Before “Poo Poo” answered, the cowboy said he needed to visit the men’s room before he ate. Then he changed his mind, and said he would “make ketchup first.” Make ketchup first? This got my curiosity up. I stood to go watch him make ketchup, but he changed his mind again and said he would take “Poo Poo” to the restroom, before he made ketchup … you know, kind of loudly updating everyone in the cafe. (Dang it … how do you make ketchup?) By this time, the mom interceded and said she would in fact make ketchup while “Diddy” and “Poo Poo” went to the bathroom. (I am easily amused.) I soon learned “make ketchup” meant to serve it up in those little paper containers from the condiments reservoir. I will never know why the kid was called “Poo Poo.”
BUT despite all the great people watching … and with all this frozen goodness and all the after-church traffic, I am sad to report the Braum’s in Sulphur, Okla., has no Wi-Fi.
Typically, in cases such as this is when I filch Wi-Fi from a neighboring cafe. But … no such signal available this day. So, today for my I own amusement, I had to rely on other means — the people.
To my rescue and as if for my personal amusement, came the loud conversation of a family at the booth behind me. I first took notice of them as a woman loudly proclaimed that her cat is the most persnickety feline on the planet … or at least here in the county seat of Murray County … some 29 miles from the Chickasaw Nation headquarters in Ada, Okla., 29 miles as the crow flies. (How else would the crow get there? I digress …)
This funny lady was relating the antics of her rescued cat. Why so persnickety? Well …. the word on the street is that her cat will only eat one brand of cat food.
Just in time, before I opened my mouth and butted in, one of the men in her party laughed and informed her that the cat will eat any food, eventually. She didn’t seem to be a woman accustomed to waiting around. So she buys only the one brand.
There was more. This cat with the discriminating tastes also will not drink tap water from its cat bowl. “The only way the cat will drink is from the fishbowl.”
Ha … nice visual …
The same guy at the other table beat me to the punchline again, “Do you have to keep adding ‘fish flavor’ to the mix?”
The cat-lover explained that it did not seem to matter if the fish bowl was populated or not. However, she had returned home once, only to find “Mister Beta” lying motionless on the floor, “drowned in air” near a mostly empty fish bowl.
Several suggested it could be an aversion to chlorine …
Then the Wild Kingdom anecdotes came to an abrupt end, with a blast from above “NUMBER 8-14 PLEASE,” rattled the glass in the little cafe.
The ice cream maid from behind the counter, with her all-powerful microphone attached to the side of her face looked like Madonna back when microphone headpieces were new cool technology … virgin territory … so proud of her new high-tech capalities and cranking it up to its full potential … in a pretty empty eatery.
I was just about to say, “Hey, we’re not deaf” when I looked around and noticed a couple of local fellas signing “Please pass the salt,” at the next booth over.
I digress …
The staff at Braum’s is pretty nice. Cheyenne could talk binge-watching “Game of Thrones” all day. Ha … another worker seemed intrigued that I asked if they sold gum, among all the other groceries. They don’t …
Then the animal tales continued one booth away ….
Yah, they did find a limp Mister Beta that one time. “But usually, we just use the fishbowl to water the cat. That always makes my niece anxious when she comes over to care for the animals when I am out of town. ”
She told several more rescued animal stories … and I picked up bits and pieces. Including this Kibbles & Bit … err … tid bit: “I could only see the dog’s head. It moved, so I knew it was attached to some kind of body that was alive …” Elementary. She may be a pet detective.
Anywho … Braum’s bombs for Wi-Fi, but the people are really nice … But now that cat lady, she’s what we call a hoot in these parts. She and her friends saved the day — 3 pings.
There are wine stores, and there are wine cellars.
There are bookstores, and there is Booked Up.
Like some quaint, dark, quiet tasting room, Booked Up is filled with racks and racks of aged, premium, rare and limited edition treasures … lots and lots of old books … classics and not-classics. Something for every palate. Booked Up began more than 30 years ago in Washington, D.C. before moving to … well … almost the middle of nowhere.
Have you been there? Moreover, have you been to Archer City? The town has been on that list of cool small Texas places circulating on Facebook as of late, largely I am sure, because it is the boyhood home of Pulitzer-winning, Oscar-toting, Larry McMurtry and the location of his bookstore(s). Booked Up is slightly off the beaten path in the not-so-thriving not-so-Metropolis rural heartland, about 25 miles southwest of Wichita Falls? You know Archer City … that Texas Town where Cybil Shepherd first caught everyone’s attention with her diving prowess in The Last Picture Show. That Archer City.
It’s no stress to cover a football game with no vested interest … The outcome didn’t matter for me at the cold and drizzly Jan 2 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth. My school had packed up for the winter. Jan. 2 bowl … no great expectations either …
Then a funny thing happened. The Houston Cougars, who barely mustered six points in the other three hours of play, realized they had The Pittsburgh Panthers right where they wanted them. At the first of the fourth, it was 31-6 Pitt. All that would change. Houston scored for the first time in more than 10 minutes – a touchdown and then kicked to Pitt.
Quick Pittch Wall
The score was 31-13 with 6:48 left in the game.
As is the custom, Pitt went into eat-the-clock mode and made little happen on offense after that – other than a field goal. 34-13, Pitt.