Somewhere in Houston, there is a little old man, from some Third World country, running around the city in my underwear!`
Ha … that is how I will always remember my final day at The Hilton Garden Inn near George Bush International Airport. Someone lifted my stuff! Despite several calls and visits to the front desk to inform them that I was going to be gone for only a day, and then would return on Sunday to check out, someone jumped the gun. The housekeeping crew snatched up a few belongings that I left behind — sunscreen, toiletries, food in the fridge and a fresh pair of skivvies for the motorcycle ride back to Fort Worth.
Ha! … I felt so violated:)
What a weird way to end the relationship with my hotel … my “home sweet home” while The Dirty Gig kept me in Houston for three months, as my colleagues and I were engaged to clean up flooding at a computer factory.
I won’t lie. It had been a stormy relationship between the hotel and me prior to my boxers getting filched. For 90 days I had thought long and hard about just how fair or unfair it might be to critique the hotel during an unusually long stay.
Every hotel has its shortcomings, and if a guest is there for an extended stay, stuff is gonna happen. In that scenario, you will see more things than an overnight guest. That’s to be expected. On the other hand, during a long visit, the guest should see the hotel at their best too. There are many more opportunities to get it right. Or you would think. So maybe it is fair … Here’s what I saw:
First off, the Wi-Fi … The various hotspots worked great around the hotel — the lobby, my room, the laundry, the back of the kitchen and near the pool. One minor thing. For ninety days, I had to retype my user name and password to get on … once every 24 hours. The worst part of that, the hotspot would false start and sputter and misfire, for about 30 minutes, before allowing me to sign back in. It was like I knew my time was up, but the hotspot hadn’t realized it yet …. leaving me and my laptop in limbo. Pretty inconvenient
Solely based on the Wi-Fi, Hilton Garden Inn would have scored 6 pings on the 1-7 scale. However, those were my favorite undies, so … payback … 5 pings.
More observations …
Ups & Downs
There were two elevators … but one was out of commission, for more than a week, a couple of times. Ha … I think it was out for three or four days before someone hung a computer-generated “Out Of Order” sign on it. Hmmm … the elevators seemed a bit funky too. I had to wonder if recent flooding might have left some waste water down in the shafts.
Rise & Shine
I have run up some hotel points in my day, and I learned long ago that pranksters or red-eye travelers often set the room alarm clocks for some weird waking hours. I always check and turn the alarm off, you know, with the advent of the iPhone and its alarm capabilities … Well, strangley, a few weeks into my stay, one morning at 3:30 a.m., the alarm clock sounded off. Well … I am no detective but pretty sure that points the finger at the cleaning crew. I remedied this by unplugging the alarm clock and hiding it. Yes … they did find it and plugged it back in a couple of times, as if to show me whose territory it was. Finally, they succumbed and left the clock over behind the inn table … or is that end table(?).
Wash ’n’ Wear
Funny thing about hotel guests … when they put their clothes in the washing machine and pump the machine full of quarters, they kind of expect/assume the dryer beside the washer also works. Or you would think someone would make one of those fancy computer-generated signs to signify the dryer is kaput. Ha! Where’s a guy to dry his undies, assuming no one has taken them yet? … Well, this happened to me. I had a load of clean, soaking clothes and only eight hours before I needed to wear them to work. Yes, I thought the hotel should help me out, since I had trusted their equipment for half the job. Plus, this part of Houston was not a great place for visiting laundromats late in the evening. So … I went to the front desk and they agreed to let me dry my clothes in the commercial dryer where they dry the hotel towels that don’t get stolen. It was kind of cool. A member of the housekeeping staff hadn’t gone home for the day, yet, and she led me and an armful of wet clothes through the restaurant, through the back of the kitchen and to the laundry. I am sure there were no health code violations as I carried my things through the food preparation area:) Well … I loaded the bigboy dryer, and started a second load in the public washing machine. No, I didn’t get that okayed with the housekeeping lady. And it was quite upsetting to her … You see, she was due to go home, unbeknownst to me and now my second load would need to dry, and make her stay later. Well … “Ms. Smiley” … I hope I got you some overtime pay. Sorry that my hygiene inconvenienced you so. She barked at me to be there when the clothes were dry. I set the timer on my iPhone accordingly, under her watchful eye … her one good eye.
You’ve Got Mail
So when you receive a letter or a package at a hotel, they let you know right? Well … “that may be how some hotels do it …,” said the woman at the HGI front desk. That’s the response the first time I complained that I had mail waiting for me, two or three days, without any notice. After the second or third time this happened, and I complained again at the front desk, one of the clerks pointed to her computer screen and said, “Yes, you have mail.” Thanks. How very customer-oriented and helpful of you. Ha … “Any chance you might pass along a heads up to me … you know before i come searching?” She assured me that there should have been a light turned on my room phone. She was right. There should have been. No light ever flickered in the slightest from the landline during my three months in that hotel. Ha! They even told me they sent a technician who had fixed the faulty phone. Next time I was expecting a FedEX and went to the front desk. There it sat. Mums the word from the front desk. They did offer to send maintenance to look at the telephone light again. I passed.
Creature Of Habit
Every day for 90 days, I drove to the hotel during my lunch break to grab a bite and turn on the telly. For about the first 60 days, the housekeeping crew would clean all other rooms on my floor — possibly every other room in the hotel — and then knock at my door during lunch. At first, diplomatically, I explained to them that I am in the room every day, from noon until 1 p.m., and that they should consider cleaning the room before 12, or after 1. This did not sink in for many more weeks. About the time I went home, the maids seemed to have figured out the drill. NO! I don’t expect housekeeping to know everyone’s coming and going … by my goodness … after a couple of weeks you would think the pattern was pretty clear … especially with me barking at them after the novelty of the thing had warn off.
Oh What A Tangled Web
I have grown my hair in the past and donated it to Locks Of Love. I am considering that again. So, as the scruffy mane gets longer, conditioner is very, very important to me. Again, I will have to say the housekeepers are just not very observant at the HGI. You see … I had my own shampoo, but relied on the house-brand conditioner. That was the only bottle of their stuff I was using. Pretty easy to inventory the situation. SO … every day the maid would leave more shampoo and more lotion that I was not using … but leave none of the conditioner that I was using — the only thing I was using. I tried different clues — leaving the spent conditioner bottles in the floor. I put a sign on the the little toiletries tray, with handprinted C-O-N-D-I-T-I-O-N-E-R written on a napkin. I toyed with the idea of leaving them floating in the toilet for emphasis … but that would just be mean. Each day the mountainous stack of free shampoo and lotion grew, like some stone pyramid of the antiquities. Never was there ample conditioner … and this after I visited their cleaning carts numerous times and carried off handfuls of the stuff. Is there anything really difficult about paying attention to the guest’s needs if you are working in the hotel industry? Kind of a basic, right? You know … the reason you have a job? This went on for the duration of my stay. (Yes I am too darn stubborn to just go buy a bottle for my own self … It had become the principle of the thing.)
One of my other least favorite games is hotel room trashcan chess. The game involves me moving the white trash can 20 spaces closer to the door, resting it by the refrigerator where I use the damn thing. As a counter strategy in this game, each day the maid would move the trash can 20 paces back toward the hotel room’s work desk. Yes this game went on for the duration as well. I thought about explaining to the staff my reason for moving the trash can … “Because I want it there.” But, given their record for attention to my wants and needs, I figured why bother. The chess matched continued until one player went home. I considered creating a “landing pad,” outlining the trash can space with duct tape affixed to the carpet in a circle … but after the conditioner sign failed miserably, I thought “why bother?”.
The Card Is Key
In general, I like the idea of hotel rooms using electronic cards to open the hotel room doors. But, as with any electronic device, there is always the chance for something going haywire. Funny thing about keycards for hotel doors — they have a sixth sense. They quit functioning from time to time — usually, according to hotel staff — it is because the guest places the key in their wallet near debit cards and the like, and the magnetic strips effect one another. Well … maybe so … but the weird thing is that the key always quits working when you approach the door with an armload of several grocery bags. Any other time, the key works stupendously.
Guard The Silver
With all of the other lack of attention to detail in the hotel, it was impressive to note that the room service types kept an eagle eye on wine glasses for the hotel and the restaurant. Because I am quirky — but don’t drink alcohol — I use wine glasses when I drink water, or juice or milk. This did not sit well with the person cleaning my room. Not only did the cleaner take back a wine glass I was using, from the hotel’s stem collection, the cleaner also took a fancy little glass that I purchased from some retail establishment. Not a big deal, but WHY!?! I would come “home” at lunch, run out the maid from my room, ask for conditioner, and then retrieve my glassware from the hallway … over and over … However … as if the total opposite end of the spectrum were represented … when other guests finished room-service meals and left their trays in the hallway … Well, it seems that housekeeping was okay with that. I counted three days running before anyone hauled off one quite-ripe glass of what appeared to be ceviche, reeking in the hallway. Ha … it brought to mind my buddy who has actually eaten leftovers left behind in hotels — “hallway buffet” he calls it — perhaps this dish was even too rich for his palate. I digress …
Who Don’t Like Oreos?
I cannot prove it, but I am pretty sure someone was also eating some of the much-treasured red velvet Oreos I had stashed on the cabinet above my refrigerator. I thought about soaking some of them in some cleaning product as a joke — maybe the hundreds of bottles of shampoo I wasn’t using … but I didn’t … because you know, I would forget and be the one who ate the soap-laced Oreo. On the topic of cookies, I did like that point about the HGI … each day they baked and offered up fresh cookies in the lobby. Some days I got there before they were all gone.
Hand Me A Tissue Tito
The last thought … with all of the details overlooked by the cleaning staff, why in the world is the Kleenex box so important? Have you noticed this? Hotels think the Kleenex is so important that rather than replacing an empty box or allowing a box to run low, they stuff replacement tissues into the old box. Now that’s one big idea in the cutting expenses column! Check this out if you do an extended stay at a hotel. Notice that sometimes, the Kleenex popping out of the box in your bathroom are a different color than the tissue deeper in the box. Someone is stuffing the box. So that leads me to question, “Is the same person who scrubs the toilet of multiple rooms handling clean tissue and stuffing them into re-used Kleenex boxes?” I mean … how many pennies does it save to re-stuff Kleenex boxes!?! I bet the same accountant who said “Put a fancy folded edge on the old toilet paper roll, even though there iare only eight squares of TP left on the roll,” also came up with the idea of pinching pennies with Kleenex reloads. Ha … I have seen the Kleenex reload cost-cutting measure at many hotels, in defense of HGI … my most recent home away from home. Ha … I pull out the old box when it is empty and smash it, forcing the housekeeper to replace the box and everything. I deserve Kleenex unsoiled by human hand. You do too.
Know what I sayin?
Rendering, not Facebook Live:)
I posted this on PingWi-Fi after giving Starbucks time to respond and hopefully to remedy the situation.
In Starbucks across the entire United States I have seen many a satisfied customer fall asleep over a good book. I think most people find that funny but somewhat sociably acceptable. Ha … I refer to it as “the fine art of public sleeping” — or the FAOPS.
That’s quite a different story than a homeless person nestling under a covering of yesterday’s newspapers in a comfortable chair, dressed in soiled, sweaty clothes, escaping the light of day … with his worldly belongings parked all around him on dirty little carts.
No doubt I could be more sensitive to the plight of the homeless, even though I have worked at shelters and given away many a cold drink or cash at a busy, cosmopolitan intersection. Lord knows, everyone could be more sensitive to these people! But I also think we can logically agree that there are places designated to assist and protect people who have been cast into or have chosen a life on the streets.
So … Is it wrong of me to prefer to enjoy a beverage while I work at Starbucks without sharing space with or even being accosted by a homeless person?
It might appear so, at least at one Starbucks. Recently, in Houston, at the Starbucks located at 1151 Uptown Park Blvd, there was an unkept gentleman asleep for more than an hour, hiding his upper torso under a newspaper. Who knows what might have be going on under there? As I sat across from him, I saw several customers first consider sitting nearby, assess the situation and leave. I was not comfortable with the situation either, and I discussed it with the barista at the bar, discretely, after the man finally awoke and went to sit outside — leaving his grimy little carts parked strategically to maintain his place in the comfortable chairs, by the way. Squatting, I suppose you would say.
I got the impression the barista felt sympathy for the man, which is admirable … and she went as far as to defend him, telling me he was not asleep. (I had just watched him sleep and snort and give me angry looks for my making noise … for about an hour … ) So … it was also upsetting that she chose to defend a person who was scaring away customers, and to insult a paying customer … a customer who happens to be a travel journalist who has written in and favorably about hundreds of Starbucks, dating back to my Wi-Fi Guy Blog in 2003 (Best of The Web, Forbes). I digress …
I am an expert on snoring, and this dude was sawing a mighty log.
But oh well … I forgot about the incident, until my next visit to the store.
Not only had the ill-advised barista been somewhat dismissive to my concerns, she apparently shared my comments with the man who had been camping out in the store. It would seem she may have embellished as well … On this latter visit, as I sat in a chair, writing a blog, the guy walked in and stood over me for a minute to get my attention, towering over me until I pulled out my earbuds. (I hate it when anyone makes me pull out the plugs that are kicking out the jams …) Then, for the next 10 minutes “the dude” insulted me, challenged me, ridiculed me, accused me and tried to get me angry … presumably angry enough to fight. He said he was told by the barista that I “didn’t like the way he looked.” He in turn, said he was not keen on my appearance.
On he pressed, so I told him straight out that, yes, I had complained that he was sleeping in the chair and driving away other customers.
He continued to harp on his notion that I was singling him out unjustly for his appearance. I continued to hear him out, the more belligerent he got. It was slightly comical, slightly alarming in these violent times. One of us could have a gun … or maybe both of us. Who knows what his mental state might be and what might have caused him to reject polite society? I avoided a more harsh confrontation (or at least attempted to) with humor as he told me I looked like “a neo-Nazi.” (I assure you that I do not.)
I attempted to “disarm” him by telling him that I was just jealous of his gray pontytail, since I had cut mine off a couple of years ago. Ha … he stated that he clearly remembered not wearing a ponytail on the day of the incident. (I should take better notes on the fashion trends of hobos.)
Like I said, he berated me for about 10 minutes and finally he tired of it when he saw I wouldn’t take the bait. (By the way, I am more than capable of and well prepared to defend myself in such a situation … see foreshadowing above … This incident could have been much worse, if I’d allowed.)
So … regardless of my insensitivity … THERE IS NO excuse for a barista disclosing information — shared in confidence — and provoking a third party … potentially causing a fight between “customers” in the coffee shop. I understand the barista is young and inexperienced in many situations … Again, I salute her for caring about the needy … But, there was no excuse for this blunder. I trust Starbucks will address this type of situation — with all its employees, in addition to the barista who made the mistake — to better equip its employees … providing a clearcut policy regarding transients … and training employees to defuse situations rather than add to the volatility.
Thank you in advance for your time, consideration and attention given to this matter and the potential ramifications regarding customer safety.
In summary, it took me a while but I found a better Starbucks in Houston anyway. And I never visited the one on Upton Park Blvd., again … ever.
Know what I sayin?
“That’s right, ‘I AM’ from Texas,” to misquote a lyric from AggieLand’s Lyle Lovett … but even though I am from Texas, sorry to say I don’t like very much country music. But, there have been a few moments when country music has struck a chord … I remember several of my buddies and I made exceptions for Merle’s “Silver Wings,” Freddie’s “Easy Lovin,” Pure Prairie League’s “Tears,” Kenny doing Mel’s “Ruby,’ and all them “drangin songs” by Gary Stewart. That’s my kinda country. And of course there’s that Outlaw Country thing …
But today, the artist I want to talk about for a minute falls into that last sub-genre. There was this one recording by the late Texas outlaw Rusty Weir … Do you remember Rusty? Yes, I Iove and still have Rusty’s “Black Hat Saloon.” Only recently did I learn he wrote “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance.” Apologies. I always thought that was a Jerry Jeff Walker original. I was wrong.
But when I think of Rusty Weir, the recording that comes to mind most is not one of his hits, it’s an old Lone Star Beer commercial in which Rusty is singing about the “Turkey Trot in old Cuero.” I have Googled until I got finger cramps looking for the old clip. No luck. Do you know it? (Hopefully, it was Rusty …)
Well … ever since I heard that song in the TV ad — probably back before I was old enough to drink longnecks — I have wanted to visit Ol’ Cuero.
Last week was yet another mixture of sunscreen, a Triumph motorcycle, Texas music, Texas history and Wi-Fi blogging as this wanderer completed what may now be known among Wi-Fi/motorcycle circles as … or maybe it won’t … as “The Ping Triangle.” (See PingWF logo … I digress). That’s what I am now calling the 80-mile jaunt from Victoria to Cuero and to “Remember Goliad.” What a nice little Texas history ride.
First stop Victoria. After all, it is “The Crossroads of South Texas” (and Vega is The Crossroads Of The Nation … I digress …)
I spent the night in my hotel of choice as of late, a Hilton Garden Inn, right off the loop on the northwest end of Victoria.
Hilton Gardens Inn has great Wi-Fi, with the only downfall being that you have to log back in every 24 hours. Not a problem for a one night stand, but upstream in Houston, I have logged on about 95 times now at my other HGI. Both HGIs have pretty good baked cookies every afternoon. Whereas the Houston HGI serves too-sweet “lemonade” and also melon water, the Victoria HGI served up cucumber water … a first for me … interesting … its like a salad you can slurp. Do hostesses with the mostestes serve cucumber water with cucumber sandwiches? Regardless – 5 pings
(I was going to deduct a point from Hilton Garden Inn Victoria for the low-lives blockading one side of the pool and chain smoking in the public area … but I later found out they were hotel crashers … not HGI’s fault … much.)
Before the hotel, my first stop in Victoria was merely for the air conditioning and a cold beverage. The first place I spotted near downtown on US 59 Business was a chicken joint called Moo-Moo’s. What’s up with chicken and cows these day, huh? Well, I popped in Moo-Moo’s and downed a Dr. Pepper, but unfortunately had recently eaten. The aroma of the fried chicken almost prompted me to eat again any way. Smelled wonderful … but over eating fried food in Texas heat … not a good idea. I skipped and then revisited a day later on Sunday. NO! Moo-Moo’s chicken was closed on Sunday. What is it with chicken joints and Sunday? By the way, I think that is about three chicken joint blogs in a row here on PingWi-Fi … I digress. No Wi-Fi at Moo-Moo’s … no score.
The big score in Victoria was Ventura’s Tamales. The locals tell me the place has “gone a bit commercial” now that they have plates and new digs and everything … alluding to a simpler time and a more “rustic” building. Regardless, I ate it up and I am not a big tamale lover. I had my usual enchiladas, but also a tamale on the plate. Get this … Ventura’s smothers the tamale in sauce just like the enchiladas. I had not seen that before, but what do I know? It worked.
Ventura’s smothers a mean tamale. Sadly, no Wi-Fi, but hell, they just recently got plates. You can’t have it all … 6 pings.
Next up … back to the triangle … I got an early start to Ol’ Cuero before the heat set in. It’s a pretty straight shot, with little to blog about … mostly farm land northwest on 87.. I love that, but it’s not very exciting. Then, I pulled the Thunderbird off the main road in Cuero and saw some treasures — so many old, cool two- and three-story mansions. Very nice.
And yes, I rode the bike along the route where the turkeys actually compete for fun and prizes. The Turkey Trot is now called TurkeyFest, but they say it gets bigger and bigger each year … despite the fact the same turkeys are featured every year … at least the same names. And the name of the hometown favorite turkey? Ruby! Love it. And there is quite a hoopla for the winner, upon which the titled is bestowed: ”The Traveling Turkey Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph,” (yes Triumph … I digress.)
The old downtown looked like a great potential backdrop for a period film … or a turkey race. Very cool. But I cruised on.
On to Goliad … Why did I think that was a famous line from Texas history? I must have been thinking of some other war … But Goliad saw its share and “Remember Goliad” is a runner-up as famous slogans go from the Texas Revolution, helping to inspire the Texans who won the Battle of San Jacinto … you can read all of that (see link) … The Goliad story culminating in the infamous massacre/execution of 300-400 Texans by Santa Anna’s forces, after the Texans surrendered, out of provisions and ammunition.
Despite the heat, I roamed around the fortress grounds at The Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahía and saw the stone walls where the firing squad massacre took place … sweltering and watching other tourists “re-enact the battle” with their cell phones and Pokemon Go creatures. Ha … I think that is what they were doing, as I was climbing around the old gun turrets. Pointer … stay inside the fort and read all of the historical accounts on the wall. Sure, you can read the information on line, but the best-kept secret is that the air conditioning vents in the tourist center are in the floor right below the plaques. You read, you get cooled. I like incentive-based learning …
Also … checked out the old mission between Goliad and The Presidio, adjacent to Goliad State Park – the Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga. Pretty scenic … wish I had carried the Nikon. I suppose shots from the iPhone will suffice.
Goliad State Park
Earlier in the day, on the square in Goliad I spotted a little coffee shop out of the corner of my squinty eye. There was a sign that said coffee. Needed it. Got it. And what a cool cafe — Mattie’s Bakery & Cafe — with an upstairs complete with a shower in the bathroom (I looked to make sure no one was in it before proceeding) and an awesome view of the old Second Empire style courthouse. The cafe touts on Facebook their recent addition of a very cool and colorful saltillo tile stairway … and I agree it is pretty fancy … But not so decorative that I didn’t almost fall down it … missing the first step on the way out, still in my riding shades. There was Wi-Fi, but the waitress didn’t know the password. I assume it was just for the staff. Regardless, the coconut pie — both the meringue and the whipped cream varieties — were delicioso!
Get me Wi-Fi and a better highlighting of the artful stairway and it could be a perfect score. Two of the best wedges of coconut pie on the entire triangulated journey, and a room with a view … 6 pings.
And back to Victoria and Houston …
Know what I sayin?
July 23rd, 2016 · Tags: Satire
July 19th, 2016 · Tags: Cities · Wi-Fi
Last week was The Chicken Ranch blog. This week the blog zeros in on a different kind of chicken joint. Have you checked out PDQ? Several Houston locations were my first exposure to the franchise, although I see there is at least one in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metromess.
I didn’t have time to stop at PDQ during recents jaunts to Katy, Cinco Ranch and Sugar Land … then I noticed a location on Louetta, off of 249 in extreme “North Houston” … very near my current “Dirty Gig.”
So, right off the bat, I checked and yes, PDQ has Wi-Fi PurDy Quick and free. For dietary sustenance, I shelled out 10 bucks for a combo meal … After the first favorable impression, the chicken chain “blinded me with science” with their multi-drink dispenser kiosk machine thing — which seems like a really good concept. However, all the flaves I craved were sold out, and all of the crap drinks were available. So of course, you could drink free refills until the cows come home … if you like diet rootbeer, strawberry soda and off brand teas. I wanted the Real Thang, baby.
On the other hand, the chicken tenders were excellent (certainly rivaling the Mon. through Sat. Chick-Fil-A) but the zucchini fries were served old and cold. Bummer … I was excited about some fried zuke.
So, PDQ was clever enough to draw me in … And I was inquisitive enough to ask “What does PDQ mean?”
People Dedicated To Quality … or so their signage says. That’s the best they could do!?! For fun, we tried to come up with some better ’breves, but failed miserably.
What kind of a play on words is that. Ha … do you remember AFROS — America’s Finest Receivers On Saturday? Now that’s an acronym for yah … (yes I am ready for college football) … I digress …
What else could PDQ mean? I mean abbreviations with the letter “Q” are tough. (It’s not an acronym, btw. Acronyms, technically, can be pronounced as words, like SCUBA or NATO or NASA … as any word nerd can tell you …) I digress …)
- Pings Don’t Quit
- Pudding Doesn’t Quiver
- Ping Declared Quirky
- Pullover at Dairy Queen
- Ping’s Downright Quirky
- Provide Desert Quench
- Panza & Don Quixote
- Pass Da Quinine
- Pocketknives Destroy Quilts
- Pachouli Deodorizes Quietly
- Ping Digresses Quickly
- Posing Difficult Questions
Anywho … PDQ, brainchild of the Outback Steakhouse folks — earned points for Wi-Fi but lacked zuke followthrough — 4 pings.
Moving on, we checked out the Starbucks across the parking lot. What is it with Starbucks in greater Houston? In most cities you can pretty much guess where the green mermaid will be setting up shop, or hiding among the rocks … or whatever. Typically, you see a nice retail area, and Starbucks is there … a given … Not so much in Houston. I would say the coffeeshops are few and far between for a city of this scope. I mean, maybe Houstonians are anti-big-coffee chain??? But if so, where is the local player/homegrown cafe they patronize? I haven’t found it.
Still looking … hmmm … just found a Starbucks near Rice with potential. More on that and some other Starbucks news in a later blog.
Know what I sayin?
With this new fad, now that records … or albums … or vinyl have become back en vogue, I don’t feel as silly for still carrying around a few crates of music from back in the day. But man … I wish I had my old 45s too. For the younger audience, 45s were the small records … the singles … the hit songs and an extra song on the back … a couple of songs sold separately from the record albums or LPs.
My friends and I used to play Led Zeppelin’s “Over The Hills And Far Away” over and over trying to figure out the lyric. I think the line is “Darlin, darlin, take a walk with me … you’ve got so much …” We were convinced Robert Plant was asking the darling lady to do something else … I digress.
Lots of other singles come to mind … but perhaps none conjure memories like one of my ZZ Top 45s. There were extenuating circumstances. Every summer, this friend of the family came to town to visit. She was my older sister’s friend … and hot … and had a great personality and looked mature for her teen years … but best of all, she really liked this same ZZ Top song. So we would wait for it to play on the radio, and turn it up, singing along, trying to mimic Billy Gibbons’ cool bluesy lines.
“How, how, how …” “Hmm, hmm, hmm …” “Have mercy!”
Ha … at that point in my development, she could probably match Billy’s low, gravelly voice better than I … I digress.
I had to have it and so I bought the single at the first opportunity, in order to play it over and over on a very mediocre little record player.
Do you remember “La Grange?” For additional points, what was the flip side of the record?
Ha! Side B was the song “Just Got Paid.” I think the only reason I remember that is because I thought it was fun to play “Just Got Paid” with the record player set on 78 speed. Ha … “That little ol’ band from Texas” could really crank out that chord progression with a little more rpm. I digress …
Debbie was not impressed …
Anywho … the song “La Grange” has always been a favorite and a subject of fascination, given its topic — a seedy part of Texas lore about a house outside La Grange. (ha … think “rhymes with lore” …)
So … all this is to set up a blog about a recent motorcycle ride between Houston and Austin for the Fourth of July, which put me smack dab in the red light district of Texas Rock History … such history … I had no choice but to stop and shoot a selfie, and cruise around.
“Rumor spreadin’ around, in that Texas town
‘Bout that shack outside La Grange
And you know what I’m talkin’ about
Just let me know if you wanna go
To that home out on the range
They gotta lotta nice girls out there.”
As I was riding and humming the song, I saw a sign promoting another establishment … a coffee house with a sign out on the highway touting wireless Internet.
It said, “They gotta lotta nice Wi-Fi there …” or maybe I made that part up …
Timing is everything. The more famous of the two establishments is said to have closed many years before and the Wi-Fi coffee house was closed on Sunday.
But for the sake of a blog, and hopeful that I could also use their network to send an e-mail or two, I whipped off the road and got off the bike by the courthouse on the quaint town square, and tried to log on at Latte On The Square. Of course I checked in on Facebook as well.
By the way, in the hundreds and hundreds of places where I have checked in on Facebook, I think Latte On The Square is the first to “like” the check in (which I noticed later.) Gratitude!
But darn the luck. The coffee shop’s hotspot was up and running, but password protected. No free ride, so to speak.
“I can do this,” I thought, trying to fool myself, or pretending to be a hacker. Surely the password is something memorable and La Grange specific.”
I started typing … 78 speed … spitting out words and phrases, hoping to get on.
Of course I tried, “Z-Z-T-O-P.” (That’s what I would have made it.) I tried “Tres Hombres,” … strike two. I tried “beard,” and I tried “Frank Beard,” (ironically the name of the only ZZ Top band member without a beard.)
I continued with “La Grange, chicken ranch, have mercy, home out on the range” … and “the air is fine,” and the one I considered to be my finest work “They gotta latte nice girls there.”
Side note … all of this was going on about the same time Led Zeppelin was being sued in court, accused of plagiarizing a band called Spirit (yes, we know them) in the all-time FM classic of classics “Stairway To Heaven.” And also interesting, ZZ Top was sued over the blues intro to La Grange, so strongly influenced by John Lee Hooker’s version of “Boogie Children.”
But anyway … Wi-Fi out on the range was not to be. Not even a close shave with rock destiny. This day in La Grange, I did not get lucky. On to Austin …
Know what I sayin?
How far must I ride to get a win out of my alma mater Texas Tech in the College World Series? In 2014, I rode the new Triumph over from Columbia, Mo., not such a big deal, just 315 miles. This year, I caught the first game of the school’s second ever visit to the College World Series after a 652-mile stretch from Fort Worth. Well … Tech finally got a win over #1 Florida, right AFTER I headed back to Texas. As I write this, both Texas Tech and the purple horde of Texas Christian University have been eliminated from the CWS … but oh my, what a game the two Texas teams put on for my hot sweltering visit to TD Ameritrade Ballpark!
If you have been following the series, you may agree that Texas Tech blew it in two of their losses and likely should have made it to the finals … Oh well … first Tech served up a nice fat juicy pitch over the plate for TCU’s designated hitter, giving up a three-run homer and the lead, rather than walking him and coasting to a win, with a 9th inning lead. Later in the losers bracket, The Red Raiders committed fatal errors and mental mistakes against upstart Coastal Carolina (the guys who beat TCU twice in a row to advance to meet Arizona in the finals).
So about the one game I saw, TTU vs. TCU at 2 p.m. … in temps that reached well over 100 on the field …
Funny start. I asked the attendant at Will Call for my electronic ticket. They instructed me to walk to any gate and show my ID and the computerized system would print a ticket. I looked at one gate up the sweltering stairway, and then I saw a second gate in the shade with an elevator. Aboard the elevator I went. When it opened, I was in the ballpark (camera and all … which they tried to prevent during my last CWS …) … without an actual ticket. “Was that how it was supposed to work?” It didn’t seem right. So I found another ticket person and asked if I could get a paper ticket. Ha … they quizzed me for five minutes before they accepted that I was not a terrorist or a crook, and simply found a glitch in their system. I mean … I was being honest and trying to do the right thing … and they were so skeptical. No one hurt … but interesting.
So about the game …
They say “luck rewards the prepared mind” or something like that. TCU must really, really be prepared. I jest. Hats off to them. The Frogs’ Luken Baker stepped up big time to hit a huge homer, snatching a win from Texas Tech. Why did the Red Raiders pitch to the designated hitter when there was room on base for him? … I don’t know. Hindsight and all that.
How about Luken Baker’s name. I had not heard or seen it before the series … although I am sure he must already be a legend. That name has got to be a play off of “Willie and Waylon and the boys,” does it not (Luchenbach)? And wow … this kid or at least his mugshot on the Jumbotron is a smiling, baby-faced kid … but in stature he is like any any of several menacing characters off of Game Of Thrones. I think one of the sportscasters referred to him as a “man child.” Well … back to the Game of Thrones reference, I admit it …. I tried to get the chant started every time “Luchenbach” went to bat, “Hold The Door!” “Hold The Door!” “Hold The Door!” You do watch GOT, right? Ask someone … its a comical reference:)
Talk about clutch hitting … LB won the game for TCU with a big homer, just a foot or two inside the left field foul pole. I was sitting just left of the plate, when the ball exploded off the bat and I watched it and watched it and watched it … I thought surely it was going to go foul. It did not. My first reaction … stunned, I looked at the flag pole to see the wind direction. The entire game prior to this, the wind had been blowing strong, right to left. During that at bat, the wind had changed slightly … blowing the flag straight toward the field of play.
Maybe God is a Frog fan?
While the competition on the field was incredible, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the less-than-stellar behavior in the stands. First, I think everyone in my section was annoyed by the Texas Tech fan who repeatedly yelled after bad calls made by the umpire. Have you ever seen an umpire change a call or correct his vision after a fan yelled? But what really chapped me was the antics of one of the Frog faithful. After a huge double, Tech Centerfielder re-injured a hamstring as he went in hard to second base. For a minute or two, it looked like the injured player would leave the game, as he lay on the ground. Very gutsy — Tanner Gardner who was pretty much tied with Luken Baker in this game for heroics, limped around and then jogged and stayed in the game. (Have you ever pulled or torn a hammy? … Oh my!)
During the brief hammy stretch, that is when the TCU guy yelled, “Will you get on with it you morons!” … This at a time when most of the crowd was quiet, out of respect to an injured athlete, which is the custom … like everywhere. So it just echoed through the park. Ha … well played Frog. I digress …
Don’t ever tell me Texas Tech has the worse fans.
Before the game, I didn’t get to sample any Wi-Fi, however I was drawn in to an AT&T kiosk on the concourse, near right field. I hoped it was a misting station, but the attendant insisted I stop in to charge my iPhone. “But I have several bars, don’t need a charge.” She insisted and assured me that later, I would need that phone to call my Über driver.
“Oh this chick’s good!” … I thought, as I was reminded of how my sister insists her cell phone reads her mind and gives her ads based on her thoughts … I digress.
How did this AT&T charging station lady — who by the way in her own words was “rocking the Aunt Jemima” look — know that I had just taken my first ever Über ride to the stadium? Well I had because, tragically, after the 10-hour ride to Omaha, the day before, my bike broke down in downtown Omaha … which is another story.
When I got to Omaha, I circled the ball park area, passed The Old Market and rode by the edge of Omaha’s Happy Hollow (which I of course call “Hippie Hollow”) and back to downtown on the side streets, as I got my bearings. I whipped into a sketchy looking convenience store for a bottle of water and a look at my GPS. Hmmm … as I dismounted, I noticed the cable down near the clutch was frayed. “That ain’t good.” I slugged down a bottle of H2Omaha and reproached. I planned to take ‘er easy and ride my bike to the hotel for closer inspection. One pull of the clutch — the very next pull — and the cable snapped. How crazy … or blessed by the good Lord … is that to have ridden 650 miles of often times barren road and not break down until I was at my destination. I felt the protection, for sure.
But … but as I looked around, I felt less safes as I noticed for the first time that the very cool city of Omaha also has an underbelly. And that’s where I was parked, by no choice of my own. Numerous women, wanting crack or money or me … or a combination of the three approached me. I was at their corner and the sun would soon be going down. Did I mention it was Saturday evening and all the motorcycle shops were closed? I contacted a friend with Omaha connections and asked strangers about mechanics and towing services.
I pushed the bike to the other side of the parking lot away from the ladies of the night and was planted there Googling and thinking when a guy came out of the convenience store and offered to help me, after the cashier asked him if he knew of a motorcycle repair. Good fortune.
So this young, maybe somewhat scruffy guy offered to give me a ride anywhere I wanted to go … and added that he knew of an auto shop and a parts store a few blocks away. Against my better judgement, I climbed in his car and we rode away, as I wondered if the “ladies” were now rummaging through the saddlebags of my wounded bike. My trust in humanity was strengthened by my choice to legally conceal, I must confess … but I am all about people trusting people. And what the heck … what blog doesn’t need a little adventure?
Me and the good Samaritan made small talk, and he told me his dad wouldn’t forgive him if he had left a biker stranded. (Thanks for raising this boy properly, I thought …) “What does your dad do? Does he ride?” Ha … The dude told me his dad is in The Hells Angels, and he asked if I was affiliated with a motorcycle club. I thought: “No, but I once rode an elevator with three or four Hells Angels after the funeral of their murdered leader … does that count … it’s in one of the blogs?” … Actually, I said, “No, I just ride,” as I responded, thinking “Did he think I rode with a bunch of unshaven computer nerds?” More small talk, and the young man informed me that he no longer rode, but that he was hooked up with a youth group called The Aryan Nation. Ha … life on the road. Well … I ain’t gonna judge. He drove me to several shops with not luck and even offered to take me to the clubhouse. And most importantly, he and the ladies were not in cahoots. I declined the clubhouse invite, thanked him profusely, and called a tow truck. But stereotypes aside … nice guy.
The next day at the hotel, I was up at sunrise calling and searching for more options. I found a motorcycle parts store that would custom make a clutch cable. I limped the bike the 10 miles to the shop … Shifting on low r.p.m., without a clutch. No big deal except for starting the big heavy bike in gear … Soon I was out of the neighborhoods and the troublesome red lights and on to the freeway … when I encountered yet another Omaha guy wanting to be friends.
This guy rode up beside me in the next lane and started doing all kinds of strange hand gestures and arms motions.
I immediately recognized he was trying to play highway Charades:) I mean … I had just realized one of my saddlebags was open and flapping, so I knew he wasn’t trying to point that out to me. I was already driving with one hand and holding the saddlebag closed with the other … As he pulled along side me and crossed his arms over his chest (as he drove) and grabbed his shoulders. Ah … I see … He was serious about charades! I guessed he was trying to gesture “you’re parachute is open.” No not that, he kept gesturing. Was he saying his parachute would not open??? Very confusing. He pointed back to the highway behind me. “I’m going the wrong way?” Well how could he know where I was going? Finally, he ran out of gestures and I ran out of guesses, so I pulled over. HA! “Your jacket flew out of your saddle bag when you entered the highway.” OH! … It was just a freebie jacket from a college bowl game covered by the PingWi-Fi Blog, but a good one … waterproof. I had carried it for years. But, reluctantly, I needed to get the bike fixed and rode on.
It was when I parked at the motorcycle shop that I first learned they didn’t have a shop or a mechanic … Just a cranky old fart who sold me the cable and reluctantly loaned me a few basic tools … as he offered both some good advice and also some wrong instructions on how to install the cable. I made it work, crawling around the bike in the hot parking lot on the black asphalt, as various bikers smoked cigs nearby. I hopped on the bike … and yes … I backtracked and snatched up my riding jacket from the side of the road … Thanks friendly Omaha guy! I headed back to Texas, my trip cut short by the chance of more motorcycles troubles. It seemed prudent to head on home.
Oh … back to the Jemima phone charger lady and Über. YES! Just as Texas Tech’s luck ran out in game one, and the temperature soared … my phone went dead, just as Jemima predicted. I returned and charged up and called for my second ever Über — and called a new BFF in Omaha — Isidor … an excellent driver AND a walking, talking, driving, baseball statistics encyclopedia … or rather wikipedia. He could recite entire rosters of major league teams throughout the years and knew lots about the College World Series … and he was a gambling man.
When he asked my opinion on the upcoming NBA final game, I predicted that LeBron James would indeed win a world championship for his hometown Cleveland. The driver agreed and placed a bet at a stop light via his phone. I guess sometimes the luck is on my side …
What a trip! The entire ride to Omaha was characterized by decent temperatures, in spite of the heat wave of late. As I rode north on I-35, most of the way, there were clouds to the West, on my left and clear skies to the East, to my right … with a cool breeze between along the long road.
On the ride back to Texas, the weather was overcast as I left Omaha, but then got pretty warm through the “Endless Toll Road” that they call Kansas. The cars behaved for the most part, and as I hit Oklahoma I saw one of the best sunsets ever, with sherbet orange/pink clouds and massive wind turbines in the distance. A few miles later, as I hit the southern border of Oklahoma, the sun had faded and revealed a giant, red, full moon … with lots of scattered fluffy clouds moving around the big red ball … pretty scenic and truly relaxing after some of the more stressful points of the trip. By 1 a.m., I was back in Fort Worth in my own bed … a bed I have missed for two months, as I continue to work in Houston. Yes … what a trip!
Know what I sayin?