January 19th, 2015 · Tags: Arts · Cities · Wi-Fi
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.
What a great destination for a ride on the bike. (It’s about two hours from Fort Worth.)
Wi-Fi Guy Pass By
I would have been disappointed had there not been dust blowing, as I blew into town. I expected to be greeted by some big ol’ tumbleweeds too, but not this time. Even better though, Archer City is one of those small towns where people who don’t know you wave to say “howdy,” anyway. Love that. Anywho … the dust blowing seemed right out of one of McMurtry’s novels or films.
Hud a.k.a. Horseman Pass By … The Last Picture Show … Custer … and arguably the best cowboy saga ever — Lonesome Dove (Pulitzer). The titles raced through my thick skull. I had forgotten that McM had also written the screenplay for arguably the most controversial “western” ever as well … But his Golden Globe and Oscar for Brokeback Mountain are on display … not that there’s anything wrong with it (to borrow a Seinfeldism). LOL. Ha … the trophies are like right there, in a case out in the open. I thought surely the awards were replicas. But the staff assured me the trophies were the real deal.
The layout of the book store is somewhat like a small community college with several buildings around downtown. There is a large collection of books on the east side of Center Street, and a smaller collection across the street in a few more store fronts. And on the north side of the great courthouse, on Main, there is another Booked Up annex or two, although closed for now. I spotted the defunct Booked Up first, and thought I had made the trip for nothing … even though I looked at the Website first.
The Archer City streets must look very similar to The Last Picture Show – lots of big storefront windows, in old brownstone retail structures, leftover from another era. Needle-less cactus thrives in a few sidewalk planters around town. (Opuntia ellisiana for those gardening along at home.) The old courthouse from 1892 seems a bit extravagant or maybe sanguine for the tiny county seat, with its massive three stories of huge sandstone blocks, assembled to honor Romanesque Revival architecture.
Inside there are random Western movie posters, saddles, artifacts, tractor seats made into clocks, and a birdhouse decorated with witty handwritten lines from “Lonesome Dove.” The staff is helpful and friendly … ready to help look up a title or direct you to the appropriate section … in the many nooks and crannies. Ha … I think it was take your daughter to work day, that day (or possibly every day), in Archer City … judging by the mother-and-daughter team managing the shop. There are various special themes here and there. A cow skull hanging near a book on The Apaches. Old wooden bench seatings from some antique picture show here and there. I couldn’t resist looking, but no, my Nolan Ryan book was not in the store. Ha … I did find a book on Picasso filed away next to a book on Diana Ross, which I thought spoke loudly of the bookstore’s funky, random persona.
Proprietor McMurtry was in Arizona. Boo. And, I looked for Wi-Fi, but that was a bust too. I was so ready to sit down and blog. But, Booked Up, I suppose, is all about the reading. Who don’t like sifting through and sampling literary treasures? 6 pings, a near perfect score for Booked Up.
Check out some of the rare, valuable titles on line at:
Hmmm … no Wi-Fi … so what am I supposed to write about. I guess my favorite McMurtry quips. First up, his son the American music legend James McMurtry. I have only seen him perform once in concert, but won’t hesitate if I ever have another chance.
James is represented well in the bookstore, by the way. Several of his CDs are for sale and there are numerous newspaper clippings on the wall. Proud Papa! Also — most interesting, there is a printout about a fellow musician — a peer of James McM — who was questioned about his association with James McM before he was authorized to play at a George W. Bush event on the Bush ranch. James is known for his pot-shots at the former president … in song. So, to say the least, I am torn. One of my favorite artists hates one of the best presidents. Oh well … I will sing the praises of James McM anytime I hear his “Choctaw Bingo” or whenever I ride over the bridge at Lake Eufala … regardless of his politics.
I digress …
Back to the singer, at that one show I attended, at Dallas’ Sons of Hermann Hall (the venue, a story in itself), I met two JMcM groupies who had traveled all over the country to attend his shows. They were from New York … I guess there are country music nuts everywhere.
My oldest McMurtry story dates back to The Last Picture Show. The film came out when I was a kid. All I knew about the movie was that it was supposed to be too racy and that’s why I couldn’t see it. So, imagine how confused I was when my boyhood pastor announced that either his mother (or perhaps his mother-in-law) was in the flick! I later learned she played the keyboards in a church scene … but … at the time I was so confused.
Hmmm … I guess this would qualify for a McM story. I loved every minute of the TV series, Lonesome Dove and still binge watch it on occasion. A few years back, I watched it again and thought “Where have I seen Newt before?” I knew Ricky Schroder played Newt and I am familiar with Schroder’s body of work before and after Lonesome Dove … but it wasn’t that.
Finally, it donned on me. I did a little Googling and just as I thought. Newt has a doppelgänger. (See below.) What do think?
Know what I sayin?
No worries …
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.
Then Houston drove 83 yards in three minutes and scored again, 34-20, Pitt. (Note to self: If someone is chasing — no gaining on me — don’t take foot off accelerator …)
Cold as ice, Houston successfully executed and recovered an on-side kick on the ensuing kickoff. After the recovery, Houston moved the ball 52 yards in six plays, eating only a buck-42 off the clock. Then Houston scored again - 34-27. Everyone who had been packing to leave stopped what they were doing. “Could it be.”
(I gotta admit. I thought Houston should have on-side kicked sooner in the game … to have time to catch up … But apparently, Houston knew what they were doing after all. Hindsight wears number 20.)
Top Bowl Comebacks
Defying all odds — again, everyone in the stadium knew it was coming — and Houston kicked and recovered a second on-side kick off the hot toe of Cougar kicker Ty Cummings.
With just under two minutes left, The Cougars marched down the field and scored a third touchdown – four plays, 57 yards — bringing them within one point. It was 33-34. Everyone realized all that Houston had to do was kick the extra point to tie the game sending it into overtime. (Does this bowl have overtime?) As the pressroom researched how man overtimes there were in the history of The Armed Forces Bowl, Houston interim mentor David Gibbs shocked everyone … again.
Interim Coaches At Houston
Houston don’t play that. Houston wanted it all. The Coo-Gs went for two and the win. None of that mamby-pamby go for the tie. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. found Deontay Greenberry in the back of the end zone, for the go ahead two points, with 54 seconds left on the clock.
Kenneth Farrow Scores In Comeback From 8 Yards Out, 31-13
Sort of jokingly, I tweeted that Houston was actually scoring too quickly …. allowing Pitt hope. That wasn’t far off. After Houston took the lead, and then kicked off “for reals,” Pitt ran several plays, and were one completion away from setting up a long, but feasible field goal opportunity. But The Panthers comeback fell short.
Gutsy Greg Ward Jr.
After a scoreless first quarter, it was mostly Pitt, who drew first blood in 15 plays, 92 yards to make it 7-0 Pitt, with 14 minutes left left in the second quarter – the longest scoring drive in this bowl’s history.
Houston showed vital signs with a touchdown with five minutes left in the half. But Pitt blocked the extra point kick.
Pitt added a second touchdown, and a field goal, and carried a 17-6 halftime lead and the momentum into the lockerroom.
In the third quarter, Pitt went ahead 24-6, moving 91 yards on 13 plays, eating up six minutes off the clock.
Five minutes into the fourth quarter, Pitt made it 31-6, after moving 62 yards in 11 plays.
James Conner led a balanced rushing attack for The Panthers, with 54 yards on 17 carries. Tyler Boyd caught eight passes for 104 yards.
For Houston, Kenneth Farrow carried 15 times for 72 yards. Ryan Jackson had three grabs for 37 yards for the Coo-Gs.
What a game! That’s seven pings for a perfect score … 6 pings for guts and 1 ping for a little New Year’s luck.
Most of us who attended thought the game was the table scraps spilled from the all-you-can eat buffets of The Peach Bowl, The Cotton Bowl, The Rose Bowl or The So-And-So Bowl. Wrongo-bongo. Right before our eyes, as time was dwindling, The Armed Forces Bowl transformed into the best of the year! Take that Cotton Bowl!
With it’s third appearance in the AFBowl, Houston recorded the third largest comeback in bowl history. (See Mike Leach, Texas Tech over Gophers, 31-point comeback in 2006 baby!)
Oh … and I said I didn’t care about the outcome. Ha … everyone was impressed by such a gutsy, tenacious win. Throwing objectivity out the window, I certainly wanted to see them rewarded for playing so gutsy.
A take away! Never quit. Never give up and walk out on your team … ever! For all of us who think that way — Houston just got a big one for us.
Ha … similarly … I had almost given up on the Wi-Fi in the press box, trying the AT&T hotspot. I think AT&T is an abbreviation for terrible hotspot these days. That connection was like time standing still … so I tried the Pressbox network. Voila! Perfect. Nice hotspot Frogs.
Flag Picked Up On This Block?
Our version of box scores:
The Wi-Fi > good.
The weather > terrible.
The turf > messed up.
Houston > No quit in ‘em.
Pitt >Fans sang throughout in drizzle
Houston > tenacious.
Pitt > Tough.
Houston’s QB > scrambler. (14 rushes, for 113 yards, 15 of 24 in the air, for 274 yards.)
Pitt > physical.
Pitt’s Chad Voytik > finished the day with 222 yards in the air, 18 of 35.
Pitt > Totally clicking, when they hit a 52-yard field goal.
Pitt> Maybe tired of weather, tried to coast.
Pitt drum major > Always wear a cowboy hat (and a clear plastic bag pancho)?
This bowl > Lots of gutsy calls, fake punts, on-side, blitzes with bone-crunching sacks … awesome. … AND we thought we were getting snubbed when assigned this bowl and overlooked by The Cotton Bowl … Hah!
Singin In The Rain
Know what I sayin?
Would you rather attend a bowl game with one big name program dominating in a blowout, or two midlevel squads duking it out? (… Squads, not the coaches or coaching assistants, the players … figuratively.)
I’ll take the latter.
Thus, once again, PingWi-Fi finds itself on the sidelines of the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl (previously known as TicketCity). Our team has had a ball during bowl season over the years … still shooting selfies and hyping the crap out of the fact that we were the very first to #tweet an entire bowl game from the press box … while others laughed at us and Twitter back then. Look at the bowls tweeting their brains out now. I digress …
So what about this ZHOD14 bowl game?
Well … first off … let’s make no mistake. The “heart of Dallas” is a 16-oz. prime rib at Bob’s Steak & Chop House. Yet, this upstart bowl on ESPN has the audacity to be titled Zaxby’s Heart Of Dallas Bowl. Zaxby’s is chicken! Would that be encroachment? How can there be a chicken bowl in Dallas? Furthermore, just whose chicken bowl is it? Raising Cane banners were tugged through the air by advertising planes overheard before game time.
And, to carry on our fine-feathered theme, my favorite chicken item of the day: when one of the game’s quarterbacks signaled to change the play at the line of scrimmage by folding his hands into his armpits, and flapped his arms up and down. I kid you not. I guess yelling “Omaha” is just too old school. This QB did the chicken dance behind center.
So why would a chicken company sponsor this bowl? I contend, it is because they are smart. (It has been years since one of my clients was the title sponsor of The Citrus Bowl, but it still impresses me how strategic these sponsorships can be.) The game aired on ESPN, which guarantees viewers and recorders for later viewing, especially during the holiday season. Then there are all of the highlight reels and updates. The print. The social media. The viral media. So, for about the cost of what TV ads cost, the sponsor can own a broadcast, many of the TV ads at the breaks, the visual branding on fences, yard markers, elevators, ramps, you name it. The two teams’ jerseys carry the brand, and there lots of on-the-field PR bullet points throughout the game — none more poignant than a time out to honor wounded warriors with a new home.
What’s it cost? Though outdated, this link gives you a picture of the dollars/value – Bowl Sponsorships
But forget dollars. The game is about the football. This writer will watch just about any game, Pop Warner on up … but the chance to get on the sidelines of a college game is an honor and extra special. Especially this hard-hitting game in which Louisiana Tech prevailed 35-18.
I won’t lie. I read a negative tweet about this matchup before the game, and it made me furious. After the game, I felt exonerated. I contend that to these two programs both had statements to make, bragging rights at risk … something to prove and they played their hearts out — on a drizzly dreary day in Dallas.
The matchup of the favored Fighting Illini of Illinois State (Big10) and the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech (Conference USA) was a value meal of nice little sub-texts.
As coach Skip Holtz was preparing his Bulldogs for battle, the coach’s father – football coaching legend and NFL commentator Lou Holtz was up in the press box sampling a Zaxby’s hot wing. Kinda cool … I mean, “great googley-moogley” this guy coached at Rudy’s alma mater!
Two key players in the game were ex-patriots, so to speak. LaTech quarterback Cody Sokol, defected from Iowa of the Big 10 for more playing time in Conference USA. Closer to home, so to speak, the game’s MVP, LaTech linebacker Houston Bates left Illinois to become the heart and soul of the Bulldogs defense — only to be pitted against his former team in the final game of his college career. Pretty poetic.
Ha … speaking of ex-patriots, I made some crack/tweet about the “traditional look” of LaTech’s uniforms resembling circa 1972 Steve Grogan (New England) on the field. To my surprise, there is a Grogan on the Bulldog’s roster. (Defensive back Lloyd Grogan … no relation.) What are the odds!?! I digress …
Bates = Sack
In time, LaTech pulled ahead in what had been a close contest, making the score read somewhat one-sided. But in actuality, this was a three-point game at the first of the fourth quarter, 31-28 LaTech.
The determining factor of this game? Defense. Ex-Tex Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz and his charges brought pressure all day, led by Bates, who recorded 4.5 sacks … another was negated after a penalty on the Bulldog defense. His 4.5 sacks and 6 tackles against his former team … a new bowl record.
Dixon Scores, Awaits Signal
Ha! I can still hear the pre-game comment from one veteran sportswriter in the press box: “Look at them. Just look at them. Louisiana Tech is taunting The Illini before the game … like they think they are going to intimidate a Big 10 school. Yah, right.”
But give lots of credit to the man Bates was tackling all day, Illini Quarterback Reilly O’Toole. One tough QB. It appeared that, after one hit, the sidelines were asking the signal caller if he was okay. Reilly shook his head to indicate “that no, he didn’t want to leave the game” … ha … or maybe it was to say “no, I have no idea where I am …” Tough! O’Toole was sacked six times total, and he was rushed all day long, but still completed 24 of 39, with one interception, one TD and 295 yards in the air.
On the other size of the ball, with much more protection, a great performance by The Bulldog’s Sokol, who went 14 of 28, for 247 yards … including an 80-yard scoring strike to LaTech’s Kenneth Dixon. Dixon finished the day with four receptions and 63 yards rushing on 13 carries and two touchdowns. Dixon also goes down as the leading rusher in Bulldog history, with 3,410 yards in three seasons. (Dixon is the only FBS player with both a run and a reception of at least 80 yards this season.) Xavier Woods added another TD for the red and blue, with a 69-yard PIC for six. Carlos Henderson had four catches for 90 yards on the day. Sokol … pretty tough too. In what might have been the most interesting play of the day — other than the chicken dance — LaKeith Walls sacked Cody Sokol, causing him to fumble. Jihad Ward returned it 19 yards for The Illini before Dixon forced a fumble and Sokol recovered for The Bulldogs.
For the Illini, Josh Ferguson led the orange and blue with 53 yards on seven carries. Receiver Mike Dudek had 50 yards on one carry, a nice reverse handoff from O’Toole. (Bet I was the only guy on the sidelines wondering if Dudek was related to rock/jazz guitarist Les Dudek who not only played with The Allman Brothers, he — like Greg Allman — was once involved with Cher … I digress.)
In summary, the game was just good football, with lots of big plays and narrow misses and makes. Two kicks hit the cross bar – one an errant extra point attempt by The Illini in the second quarter and a field goal that scored later in the game. All of this, after the game began with the opening kickoff almost spoiled as the kicker slipped on the wet turf. (Illinois also went away with only six points, when a two-point conversion attempt ended in an incomplete pass …)
My advice to you … get out and see a bowl game this year … even if it is a game for pride, rather than all the marbles.
Oh … and about the Wi-Fi … While the current Cotton Bowl Classic is played in a few days, later in AT&T Jerry World in Arlington, Texas, this game was played in the real Cotton Bowl Stadium of Dallas’ Fair Park … a storied old venue … that apparently did not upgrade the Wi-Fi in the press box back when they renovated. You should have seen me and the other writers scrambling to figure out if our laptops even had a port for a wired Internet connection. We did … we hooked up — old school — without Wi-Fi.
But the best scrambles of the day? Me getting brushed aside by a security guy so that the ESPN mobile mounted game camera jalopy didn’t run me down … and the mother of the featured twirler trying to snuff out the fire batons on the sideline after her daughter’s 15 minutes of fame. They. Just. Would. Not. Die …
Know what I sayin?
Jameill Showers, Having Launched 53-Yard Completion
ALBUQUERQUE — The 2014 Gildan New Mexico Bowl was the antithesis of the previous version. Last year — an air-it-out/shoot-em-up, between Colorado State and Mike Leach’s Washington State. This year … a much more physical, grueling, slightly conservative style of play pitting the Utah State Aggies (10-3, Mountain West Conference) vs. The Miners of UTEP (7-6, Conference USA) … Of course there is no fair comparison of an air raid and a running attack … neither style is better. Just different.
As evidence: the ’14 edition was 7-3 into the third quarter, before Utah eventually pulled ahead and recorded the win, 21-6. In the first quarter, there were 6 passes … total. Ha! That’s about the equivalent of one offensive trickplay these days.
But there were plenty of interesting story lines, despite no passing records set this day. Take for instance that Kent Myers, the starting quarterback for The U-S Aggies was the fourth to start in that position this year. Then, when Myers was shaken up, a fifth QB emerged — receiver Ronald Butler took the snaps and tallied 69 yards on two rushes.
The longest completion of the day was a first quarter 53-yard strike, as UTEP’s Jameill Showers scrambled out of the pocket avoiding pressure, finding the 6-foot-5 Ian Hamilton for a 53-yard first down, deep in Aggie territory.
Aggies Coach Matt Wells
But, the Miner’s drive stalled, and although UTEP hit paydirt first, they settled for their first of only two field goals for the day. That seemed to be the story of the day for UTEP — great efforts, but unable to finish the deal.
The Miners stayed close most of the day with a stingy defense, making an interception and forcing two fumbles, building an argument the bowl was more evenly matched than the team records indicated.
Kent Myers Keeps For Six
In size and speed, I would have to say the playing field was pretty level. If there were a differentiating factor, it might have been the resolve of the freshman Aggie quarterback. Myers was rocked all day, as he let go of a pass and also on keepers, but he just kept coming … finishing the day with 15 carries for a net of 70 yards — including a 48-yard keeper for a score. Passing, Myers was five of 12 for the day, for another 68 yards, with one interception. Myers was sacked four times. One sack led to Butler taking over as the signal caller just prior to the end of the first half.
The Utah State story — on the defensive side — was a family affair. Brothers Zach and Nick Vigil shared 16 tackles between kin at the linebacker position. The brothers rank first at the FBS level (among active brothers) with 551 career tackles. Zach is the 2014 Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year. But it was the younger brother Nick who made the highlight reel, switching to offensive and grinding out a touchdown on a three-yard run for State.
UTEP … you got to give them lots of credit. They were decidedly the underdogs, but played to win from the first snap. Penalties may have also been their undoing. But this spoke loudly to me. During one break for the cheerleaders, I heard this group of 10 or 15 Miner fans shouting and jumping up and down in their own, unsanctioned cheer.
“We believe we will win! We believe we will win!” … Simple, to the point, enthusiastic and optimistic … loved it.
It was a great game, with great game-time conditions in the mid-50s, one day after near-freezing temps. Utah State is now 4-5 in bowl action, while UTEP is 4-5 in post-season play, in its first winning season since ’05. The Miner’s last bowl victory was the Sun Bowl in 1967 over Ole Miss … just prior to Archie Manning and that ensuing dynasty, if that helps put that stat into perspective.
As it was the previous year, the Wi-Fi in the bowl game press box was great. I had a false start, prior to the game. For some reason the Wi-Fi network would not allow me to get online with the Safari Browser. For some reason, I thought to try the Chrome browser. Voila … no more issues.
PART II (Starting Point For Readers Like Judy … I digress …)
As always, the PingWi-Fi bowl coverage started before the game and ended well after, because like a fool, I was cruising around most of New Mexico in 30-40 degree conditions … tracking bowl developments, Breaking Bad sort of and sampling the Wi-Fi …
One of the first sights to cause me to over brake was a “Rude Boy” sign in a cool retail cluster off Central Avenue (The old Route 66), near one of my favorite coffee shops ever – Satellite Coffee. Some of you have guessed, I first thought “Rude Boy” was a reference to The Clash. However, it was a cookie shop, featuring the ska music and design characteristics of the British/Jamaican ska music/rude boy scene. How cool is that — a black and white checkered motif and ska music as I slammed down a rocky road cookie?
The Wi-Fi … perfect. The cookie, delicioso, although pricy, so you might say “Rudie Don’t Fail” and gets 6 pings.
Further East on Central, I had to check out a new motorcycle shop. Two things need to happen. I need to take better notes, and the great dude who runs the shop needs to work on his Web marketing. The shop doesn’t show up on Google Maps or in Google searches. Sorry … my bad … I wanted to shout out, but I can’t find you. Was it Route 66 Cycles?
Speaking of my inability to take notes … The next day, on game day, I was shooting photos near the north end zone of The New Mexico Bowl, when the P.A. announcement said something about the film industry in New Mexico; a new project in production — the sequel to “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials;” and something about one of the actors being a part of The Game of Thrones saga.
I moved down the sideline faster than some of the linebackers … seeking Game of Thrones photo opps. There was one actress who, with a lot of imagination, a few years of maturity and a different hair color, could have very remotely resembled Maisie Williams who plays the young Arya Stark on the most successful series in the history of HBO Films. It wasn’t her. And who it was, I am sure, I don’t know. (Anybody?)
New Mexico Film Project
A near brush with fame, and I came away empty handed.
I was also starstruck by the opening ceremonies, when an Osprey aircraft was featured in the customary fly over. (Some of you may recall, I just witnessed another Osprey sighting a week earlier … in the previous farm blog.)
During the 2.5-day tour, there was also that troublesome question of where to lay my pinghead in the ABQ. It was certainly a tale of two cities, so to speak. The first evening, I chose one of the hotels recommended by the bowl committee e-mails. The Cascada was handy, just off Interstate 40 and Carlisle, plus it had the city’s only indoor waterpark. Works for me. After a near-freezing, 3.5-hour ride from Wildorado, Texas, to the mountain zone ABQ, the waterpark only needed a hot tub to get my attention. Brrrrrr. But, after the weather warmed up, and I explored, I lost interest in hot water. Good thing. There didn’t seem to be anything going on in the waterpark. I hit a Starbucks and dined at the Elephant Bar in Uptown, where everything is new. Then I made an early night of it … or tried.
Around 3 a.m. I was awoken by a strange chirping. It was not the ghost of Buddy Holly & The Crickets from New Mexico’s Norman Petty studios … it was even lower-tech. The annoying tweet was a faulty smoke alarm … yes, luck of the draw, in the hallway just outside my room.
Naturally, I called the front desk “cuz I values my sleeps.” They were pretty nonchalant, and first said they couldn’t do anything about it because there “wasn’t an engineer on duty.” That led to my new favorite joke: “How many Cascada engineers does it take to change a battery?”
I suggested someone really should do it … if not for my sanity, because there is kind of a long-running taboo with hotels and faulty fire alarms, ya know? The person at the front desk reconsidered and said someone would get on it. An hour later, I was still counting chirps trying to sleep … and yes, wide awake when I placed my second call. Maybe 30 minutes later, the sound stopped and I was able to go back to sleep. The next call was going to be The Albuquerque Fire Department. That wouldn’t have gone over well with a hotel full of bowl game guests. The next day, the hotel assistant manager — perhaps somewhat reluctantly, but politely — refunded part of my out-of-pocket.
As for the Cascada Wi-Fi … I think maybe the fire alarm was vexing the Wi-Fi network. Of course I could not get online in my room, initially. That being earlier in the evening, a couple of engineers came to my room for that call … interestingly, entering through the sliding door of my room from the parking lot, rather than through the hallway door. They tweaked the hotspot, while I rebooted and soon I had spotty Wi-Fi.
Sorry Cascada. You were chosen to represent the ABQ on game day and fell short. I won’t even mention the funk throughout the hallways … because someone in housekeeping finally compensated with some sort of industrial strength air freshener, after I most politely said, “Dang, what’s that smell?” – just two pings.
The next night, I moved over to The Drury. I was shocked to learn this hotel was nearly 10 years old, but looked, felt and yes, smelled brand new. Ha … I have stayed in Drury in another city for months at a time, so I get a kick out of Drury’s marketing strategy … free meals three times a day. Dinner consists of alternating hotdogs/chicken fingers/pasta … repeat.
When I checked in, it was an hour too early for free eats, although I think a crowd was already building. So I hopped on the Triumph Thunderbird and headed south on the highway and then toured most of downtown Albuquerque, again, as the sun was about to go down and the lights were firing up. I like it … a lot.
As my personal hunger bell (still running on Central, but in the Mountain Time Zone) sounded, I turned the bike around and headed back toward Drury … when I spotted the absolute best thing about Albuquerque. No! It wasn’t “Walter” or “Jesse Pinkman” … it was a few hot air balloons lazily drifting across the sky, just a few thousand feet out of my reach. Love me some hot air spotting. I have only been to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta once … but it seems they have some flying pretty much all the time.
Nice visual finish for the ride — the balloons at sunset — and then back to the hotel.
For this DruryFest, hot dogs it was … and as is the Drury tradition, people were pretty aggressively lining up for free food. Works for me.
The Wi-Fi really worked. In my room on the top (6th) floor — getting on-line was a breeze. After a quick elevator ride down, the Wi-Fi never failed me in the lobby for the hot dog hoe down.
Great room too. Maybe they upgraded me for my extensive knowledge of their meal plan??? But anywho, I had a big room and an awesome view overlooking the Pan Am freeway and much of the city to the West, for one of the most exquisite New Mexico pastel sunsets … ever.
Oh … and get this … the hot air balloons were still hanging around, which took me to the West window. “What the heck, wonder if this thing opens?” Ha! I don’t think I was supposed to be able to do that, but I popped that sucker right open. For an instant, I though I was going to drop a free-standing window frame a few stories. That would have been one blog-worthy mishap. I didn’t … and after I gazed out at the balloons for a bit … I got a little freaked out from the height and the open air … and locked it up. It did sort of seem like I was able to touch the balloons … and it proved a bit much.
I’d rather stay at Drury “if I had my druthers.” Great Wi-Fi. The manager on duty even let me park my motorcycle on the stepping stones right outside the front door to protect from the elements. The open window was interesting — neither hurting nor helping the score. Six pings … might have been a perfect seven of seven, had it been chicken finger night.
The open window thing was the second time my life flashed before my eyes during the visit. The first was on day one. I rushed to the Old Town plaza for the bowl game pep rally, featuring all kinds of craziness with the bands, and cheerleaders, and fans, and mascots and flag corps from the two schools. Good-natured spirit and rivalry and no fights. (Did you see the brawl between BYU and Memphis? I digress …)
Well … I was watching the dance off of the mascots, and the cheerleaders tumbling through the air … and perhaps jamming a bit to the bands … kind of lost in the moment. As one band finished up and the other school’s band took over … the flag corps suddenly came alive. OH NO! … They didn’t raise the flags for much of a warning. They just whipped around. Guess who was standing just a little too close to the action, trying to take photos for the blog.
Oh man. The censors won’t allow me to tell you where the flag pole landed on my person … but I’ll just say this. Look for PingWi-Fi on an upcoming episode of America’s Funniest Videos.
Know what I sayin?
Heading north out of Fort Worth toward my two favorite playa lakes in the world, my little SUV crossover was filled with great expectations … and camping gear. The Panhandle weather was unseasonably mild and sunny. November can be a beautiful time of the year, north of “North Texas” … plush, green winter wheat everywhere, white fluffy cotton bolls exploding all over the fields and just about as much autumn color as New England has foliage … albeit the golds, reds, oranges, and yellow hues are packed into the grains of every head of maize, corn and grain sorghum from fencerow to fencerow.
My expectations included a great sunset followed by an equally stunning sunrise, the cedar- and mesquite-powered aroma of a campfire, moonlight bright enough to cast shadows and a billion stars, ever so clear and sparkly, all in their places where I had left them on the last trip.
The forecast said “lows in the 40s.” I answered, “I can do this.”
The tent was pitched on the property I like to call The Ping Wind Farm, a nickname originally referring to the tendency for blowing dust. But as of late, windfarm is no longer a discouraging word because much of the Panhandle is fenced in by monstrous wind turbines, adding silhouettes in the foregrounds of striking sunsets, lowering global emissions and raising aspirations for farm-town economies. Things are changing. Me too. Rust never sleeps. Who knows what tomorrow brings? Will I always have the same fervor for the place? Will I have access? Taking all that into consideration, it was time to go hang out on the farm. For me, it’s a ritual as vital as swimming upstream. Revisting my roots. Scuffing my boots below the topsoil to reveal rich nutrients beneath. Seeing the old things in a new way, but through more experienced eyes. Poking around in the piles of junk on the old place only to discover so many treasures of the past.
When the tent was secured, I read some weather reports and tossed handfuls of dust into the air to check the wind patterns. I dug a small fire pit and built a fire — strategically placed north of the closest crop, with a natural firebreak provided by the bare dirt banks around a dry pond. The warm weather was supposed to hold up, which probably meant winds from the southwest. I maintained the fire very cautiously to protect the extremely flammable crop nearby. And to demonstrate that vulnerability, I took my knife out and cut off one stalk, and pitched a head of sorghum into the fire. They burn quickly and as you may know, the tiny round grains will pop, like tiny kernels of popcorn. Thank God I’m a country boy.
For the casual camper on the Ping Farm, there are hundreds of new conversation pieces. Those giant windmills (mentioned above) are about 3 miles north, but the blades are visible on a clear day — at least two-thirds of the time. But every other half-second, the three blades spin down below or right at the horizon … only to pop back up above the horizon in the next blink of an eye. It’s a cool farm boy visual effect, for sure. The base of the turbines is out of sight, just rotors, slicing the sky. That’s during daylight. As the winds diminish at sunset, the rotation slows, and the “hide-and-go-seek” game the blades play also slows down in the pastel last light. Then the blades disappear all together in the night … only to be replaced by red lights blinking on each and every windmill lining the highway. Hundreds if not thousands of blinking red lights … so apropos this time of year, like Christmas decorations in the Texas sky. The windmills stretch for about 50 miles, I think, from Wildorado, Texas west to the New Mexico line.
I did not expect visitors, but — speaking of rotors — the last time I camped out on the farm, I spotted a private helicopter, or at least a small unmarked helicopter cruising low over the area farms and ranches. This time, as soon as my little fire started emitting earthy, woody, full-bodied aromas and a little smoke, I heard the telltale “WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP” of a heavy-duty military transport helicopter way, way off in the distance. Please understand that this farm is seven miles from the nearest town and probably three to five miles from the nearest neighbor. (No Wi-Fi hotspots to borrow …) There had been silence. The farm is between Amarillo and the New Mexico line … nowheresville, to borrow a term. Then I heard it coming. I could hear it, but couldn’t see it … at first. It had a rotor at the front and one at the back. What is that, a “Chinook?” Well … I saw two of those over the farm, flying due West, in flight paths running parallel, spaced out over a half-mile spread, at 15-minute intervals. First thought: “Am I busted? I thought the burn ban was lifted in the county.” Then, I thought there could be a military operation … maybe some training exercise from a base in Central Texas or New Mexico, or something … But the choppers were gone as quickly as they had appeared, never returning my waves or acknowledging the reflecting signals I flashed to them from the ground, using the sunlight and the glossy face of my iPhone. I knew I should have learned Morse Code. Regardless … very interesting …
Thank goodness, it was the wrong time of year for snakes, so I had no visitors of the rattling variety. I hoped I would get a visit from the lonely coyotes who often howl and bark at night in that part of the world. But you know what?
Some sort of low pressure system or something pulled in and the air was saturated with moisture, and the temperature dropped. Weather sites indicated the temps were in the 40s nearby, but I was down at the bottom of a hill, and in a playa lake. I guarantee you it was below 40, thus explaining a thick crusting of ice on my windshield and the thick frost on the skin of my tent. Brrrrrrr…. The coyotes had more sense than me, and were not out hunting. No prairie serenade for me. Wonder how many years they had hunted out there. The family farm has all kinds of critters and also has the remains of what was once a buffalo wallow back in the days of open prairies — migrating herds would cool themselves in the mud.
For a few hours, I braved the cold and tried to recognize a few of the more well-known constellations. On previous sojourns, I had spotted a satellite and at least one “shooting star.” Then, bam! Shooting star … met my quota.
Scanning the heavens, I saw many a passenger jet headed to some West Coast destination. Then I spotted another visitor … “a close encounter of the third kind.” Or so it seemed. It freaked me out for a little while. So few people claim to see these … why me? I watched a light that was probably 400-500 miles to the southwest moving through the sky at what must have been a high rate of speed. But so weird … it was not flying in a straight line. That’s what caught my eye. The tiny light would zig zag one direction, then the opposite, as it progressively moved further away from me. It’s erratic flight looked like the way a moth or a butterfly flits back and forth … never in a straight line. Yes … totally freaking out. “What is it?” “Am I seeing a UFO?” Then it disappeared.
I didn’t know how I would explain this to my friends, without losing all credibility. I kept analyzing and of course looking for anything more in the sky above. After watching several more jets fly over, I formed a theory. Each plane had a strobe light flashing, and alternating from each wing. From a great distance, maybe those two blinking lights appear to be one, and when they alternate, it creates the illusion of a flight path change. That’s all I could come up with. Still …
Regardless, after that I was done. I smothered the fire and crawled in the tent and read “A Song of Fire and Ice” Book III (Game of Thrones – “A Storm Of Swords,” … freezing off my arse while I read about frozen, dead, white walkers … “winter is coming” … and all that) until I just could’t take the cold any longer. Man that George R.R. Martin is lengthy … but who am I to talk? Ha. I was reading my e-book version on an iPad, and because of gloved fingers, had to turn pages by touching and dragging my nose across the screen. Ha … nice visual. It was a long night wrapped in a sleeping bag, wearing jeans, long johns, thermal sox, gloves, a coat and a wrap around my ears … and I was still cold. (The iPad and a 3G kept me up-to-date with all the important matters of Facebook and Twitter, while roughing it on the farm without Wi-Fi, I might add.)
I awoke before five, not because I am so inclined, but because I was too cold to try to sleep any longer. I did lay there for another five minutes because I am inclined to be lazy. Then I popped up, and fired up version 2.0 of the campfire. It was the greatest thing ever. I enjoyed the warmth for an hour and a half, before breaking my fast with bacon, eggs, pan-seared toast and cowboy coffee. That’s when I heard my next visitor. Actually, I heard several …. a pack of coyotes was yelping and howling a little bit, miles away. Then a lone wolf … er coyote sounded off to answer them from what must have been only a few hundred feet from my tent. I could hear it so clearly, but couldn’t see it. (I howled back, but the critter was unimpressed.) Later a few mockingbirds sang from the tall grass of the pasture. They probably sounded more like a coyote than me. The entire playa lake was submerged beneath the most dense fog I have ever seen in The Panhandle. My red tent, perched on a dirty berm of a pond was surrounded on all sides and above by a white cloud. It looked like some science fiction, “Twilight Zone” scenario, where the rest of the world was just gone, and I was marooned on what looked like an island. Nothing else existed — or so it appeared — but a white cloak and the 100-square feet around my red tent. Yes cool!
The fog lifted around 11 a.m. and I went about my business of climbing around discarded, rusty farm implements, toys, tools and such … taking photos for anyone who cares.
As I got in my vehicle to drive away, I heard one more visitor … again, overhead. This was pretty rare. An Osprey — the revolutionary fixed/non-fixed wing hybrid aircraft flew right over our farm house … er shack. Dang it … the camera was already packed. Later in the day, watching the local TV news, I was reminded that Ospreys are assembled in Amarillo, 50 miles to the east, at a Bell Helicopter facility. Probably some test flight. Well … that explains that.
Later in broad daylight, one large, furry, really healthy looking coyote crossed over the country road as I drove along toward Landergin Switch … near an old building that I have heard was a Pony Express Station. (Can anyone confirm?)
After a brief visit with family, I headed back to Fort Worth. From that drive, I have but a few things to share. Do you know the road — U.S. 287 from Amarillo to Fort Worth? My first point: Don’t do it. At least not all of it. If time permits, your car is serviced well and the sun is shining, take the back road from Claude, Texas to Estelline, Texas. Not only will you pass through Turkey, Texas, “Home of Bob Wills” you pass cool, but tiny Lake Mackenzie and some of the most interesting rock formations. It’s basically a high-speed driveby of the Palo Duro Canyon lands back there. Awesome!
In Childress I talked to a nice farmer gentleman who pulled up across from me on a fuel island of a tiny little convenience store with really nasty restrooms. But that’s not the good part. He was driving a pick up and pulling a flatbed trailer. On the back of the trailer were several heavy duty steel cages … filled with four or five recently captured feral hogs. He caught them “just south of town” and was going to sell them for 40 cents a pound. Squeal … “Them’s your pigs!” (Name the film … I digress …)
Lastly, I want to point out the oddity that is 287 through Memphis. Seen that? At some point in the town’s history, the highway evidently was widened. Rather than moving the football field, the road simply takes out one corner of the land surrounding the field. The highway passes just beside one corner of the stadium’s bleachers. I surmise that after a touchdown on the field of the Mighty Memphis Cyclones you can kick for one extra point, and also potentially cause a six-car pile up as the ball flies out into the highway … Well sort of. Pretty stubborn those athletic boosters, not budging an inch, when the road came through. Same thing at a local grain storage facility. Rather than move the building, they simply cropped off and redesigned one corner of the building. Ha … I always imagine the granary bursting … and tons and tons of corn piling into the street … and cars diving headlong into the pile … “Corn. Corn.” (Game of Thrones reference …) I digress.
Know what I sayin?
November 10th, 2014 · Tags: Satire · Sports
You meet the nicest people on motorcycles … and sometimes it leads to blogs about nothing.
Those among my inner circle of trust – ha — the 20-some-odd friends on Facebook — have already read a couple of pieces of this story. First, I posted the story of the crazed neighbor on the morning of the lunar eclipse — “The Blood Moon.” Some of you may recall that I was out early with my Nikon and tripod trying to capture a celestial selfie during the event. Ha … up early, wide awake and doing something I enjoy had made me extra positive. So, inadvertently in a great mood, I said hello to several people on the street, and “Did you see the eclipse?,” to a neighbor on the street.
She gathered up her robe or night gown ever so tightly — or whatever she sleeps in and apparently waters the grass in — and yelled at me, “Don’t come any closer!”
Not a problem, lady … I laughed and moved on, continuing down the center of the street in the dark carrying the camera and the tripod — extended to about 5 feet tall, swung over my shoulder.
So just tuck that mental image away for a second …
That was neighbors — the bad part.
Then, a few days later another neighbor restored my faith in humanity. Some older gentleman stopped me on the side of the road as I was riding out of my driveway on the smaller of my two motorbikes. “I like your Speedmaster. I used to have one just like it,” he sung out. We traded quips, shared notes and before you know it, this stranger offered me the left over maintenance manual from his old Triumph motorcycle … at least a 50-dollar item … cash money.
What a great neighbor! After he gave me the book, he invited me to go riding motorcycles some day. So hang on to that too … It’s like a tale of two neighbors.
So today, I stepped out on to the balcony cafe of PingWi-Fi world headquarters when I saw the good neighbor, not the crazed neighbor, walk by.
“Hey Gary! Do you want to go riding today?”
He said give me thirty minutes, but hah … he was ready and on his Harley in 15. I think he is always ready. I like that.
So in my usual clueless fashion, or what some might call laid-back-ish, I said let’s ride to Mineral Wells (Texas … about 45 minutes west of Fort Worth) … “You lead. I’ll follow … whatever.”
We cruised out to Mineral Wells — an excellent choice with the autumn leaves so vibrant along the way — but a little slow for my tastes. But, we were safe and there were lots of great views. We were going to lunch too and I was really looking forward to that.
So when we whizzed on by downtown MW and the historic, empty, perhaps haunted Baker Hotel in the healing waters heart of town, I assumed Gary must know of a little place at the other end of town.
We kept going. I was thinking at that point, that “Gary did hear me say food, right?”
(“Dude. In my culture we eat at least three times a day, and usually one of those is when the big hand meets the little hand at the top of dial.”)
We cruised on, west on 180 … The Palo Pinto Highway as it is known in those parts.
We crossed over The Brazos River … no food. But an awesome bridge …
We hung a left and headed south on 4, I think it was … and came to a “Y” in the road. We hung another left … and kind of out in the middle of nowhere, my one-hour friendship with Gary became suspect as we pulled into a private drive.
Man … I hope this is some hole-in-the-wall restaurant … a best-kept secret … a greasy spoon … one of those.
It wasn’t. It was a small, nondescript house with kind of an airplane-hangar/garage behind it. We parked our bikes and some guy comes out to meet us at the drive.
Gary told me “This is Larry” and I shook the guy’s hand, and immediately noticed that all of the fingers on one of his hands had been cut off at the second knuckle.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t lots of mafia movies include an airplane hangar or warehouse out in the boonies, and a guy with missing fingers?
A little bit of me was rethinking this excursion … For the second time in recent months … in a precarious situation, I just looked at the guy and said, “You’re not going to kill me … are you?.”
But the guys didn’t even pay me no mind and started raving about my big Triumph. Gary had brought me out to Harry’s just to shoot the breeze, talk motorcycles and quiz me on the specs of the 1700 cc, parallel twin … yada … yada … yada. Ha … and we migrated to the garage that was not a hangar at all, and everyone kicked back in a lawn chair … (I thought I was laid back.) … Ha … it seemed for a few minutes like maybe everyone was going to nap while Biff the wonder dog from down the street ate doggie treats from Harry’s fingers and nipped at insects in the still air.
I hated to be rude and break up the pow wow … but I was hungry. It was after 2 p.m. at this point. Harry rejected our invitation to join us for lunch, but he did show me his nice Yamaha under a cover in the back, beside his dirt bike.
Gary said, “I think I’ll take him (me) to Mary’s.” Great … more motorcycle show-and-tell with the gang, I thought.
We hopped on 3137 … I think … We cruised on, across a very dry Palo Pinto Creek Reservoir … to 919 I think … to 193, past Gordon and Mingus. (Did anyone try to ping us at Mingus … I digress …) after Gary cut through some ranch property that had a nice new sign stating “No Trespassing,” and on to Strawn, Texas.
“So this is Strawn,” I thought. Wasn’t it the town featured in the documentary about six-man football in Texas? (Six-man, not to be confused with the 12th Man in the previous blog …) Why yes it was, because the first thing that greeted us as we roared into the town of 500+ was a sign proclaiming their six-man prowess … winners of the Texas football state championship in 2003 and 2008.
Great film “6” … great fun this six-man version of gridiron … check it out.
“6″ – The Film
I think I may have written something about the film at The Dallas International Film Festival a few years back … I remember for sure that one of my former PR clients Ken Capps has a cameo in the film. I digress …
Finally, we went through the 6-man center of the universe and we parked at Mary’s. I have since been told that Mary’s is high on the list of favorite biker cafes in Texas. But this day, there are two … sort of … and several cowboys. I see why all the hoopla. Mary’s serves up a chicken fried steak in three sizes … tall, grande and venti … no wait a minute their city slicker … small, medium and large. I chose medium. Good honk! The medium chicken fried steak covered every bit of the plate except the part that was under an avalanche of mashed potatoes … and the steak extended to hang off two ends of the plate. Huge, I tell yah.
Finally we were eating and joking and talking about our neighborhood. Gary told me about a woman who lives close to him who is nice, but lives alone (I think he said) … and is “a little paranoid.”
“Wait a second … Paranoid, you say?,” I said.
“Gary. I think I have met her.”
“Whattaya mean?,” he asks.
Well, Gary, one morning I was out with my camera to see the lunar eclipse … I recalled.
He chortles … “Ha-Ha … That was you!?! She has been telling everyone in the neighborhood about some guy wondering up and down the middle of the street in the dark … with a weed eater!”
I cracked up.
So you see friends … this little blog about nothing started with what looked like a biker mob adventure, and ended in a Fort Worth, “Texas Weed Eater Massa-cree!”
When we stopped laughing, I hoped I was not too stuffed to ride back to my neighborhood. I love my neighborhood.
Know what I sayin?
Man. I don’t know who Number 12 was at Texas A&M, but they sure sell a lot of his jerseys.
I jest. The 12th Man … what a cool tradition — one of so many at this great school. One so cool it has been “rebranded” (stolen) by an NFL team. Gotta love that, Aggie Nation.
But for all the Aggie jokes I have ever heard, and all the times I have seen them on TV or on the field of my own alma mater, I had never been to College Station, Texas — despite the respect I have for them. Well, I don’t have a bucket list, but I guess I can now scratch Farmers Fight off my Aggie List.
Ha. Pretty sure The Aggies thought I was one of them when I rode the burgundy and black Triumph Thunderbird into town, sporting an unkept agricultural engineer’s growth of facial hair. What a great ride on the back roads from Fort Worth through Texas to Cleburne (new Chisolm Trail tollway) to Hillsboro, Mexia, little town, little town and on to Aggie Land. I was giddy when I saw a vintage 1960s motorcycle riding around town with a rough coat of white/cream paint and a big 12th Man dose of maroon Aggie logo on the gas tank. Pretty cool. (Note to selfie: have camera ready, always …)
Yep … as if I needed to gaze up at the huge cream and maroon water toward the welcomed me. I was in Aggie Land.
I decided on this assignment, because my team and alma mater is in a rebuilding year and not doing well (understatement) … and also, after years of requests, Texas Tech will not give me media credentials … (despite any journalism accomplishments awarded at and after my J school degree from Tech) … The Aggies did. And I had always wanted to see College Station for my own self.
Because this blog has a bit of a tradition in its own right, yes, I rode around and sampled some Wi-Fi the day before the game. I sampled at the usuals — Starbucks, Barnes & Noble (a luxury no longer afforded me in Fort Worth) Chick-Fil-A, Schlotsky’s … but hands down, my favorite Wi-Fi hotspot in College State was the press box of the storied Kyle Field. Can’t say if I sampled more pre-game croissant sandwiches or wireless Internet, sending out some tweets and updates. What history.
On Friday afternoon, I rode by, but did not sample Wi-Fi or whoops at The Dixie Chicken, wear Aggies go to dunk their class rings in a beer to christen it, and then chug … as if they need another excuse to have a cold one.
Man what a buzzing little city. Every retail business I saw was crazy busy. I bet any restaurant that uses maroon barbecue sauce could make a killing here.
One Penalty Assessed
And Wi-Fi was the only saving grace of my hotel. The wireless worked flawlessly and no one stole my motorcycle … but other than that, I highly recommend the place be dismantled and used for kindling for the next Aggie Bonfire. In the hotel’s defense, my stay was free (using accrued points) and I knew this chain was not the Taj Mahal. I expected it to be old, nothing fancy. But I expected service and a degree of hygiene … I won’t reveal the brand (ha … for their protection and my own dignity) but, I will say it is part of the Wyndham family of hotel loyalty umbrella. Because i want to live, I requested a non-smoking room. After check in I turned down the bed, I saw that my sheets were riddled with 4-5 big cigarette burns. Being analytical, I wondered if the perpetrator fell asleep with the cigarette at his thigh, or if the sheets had been rotated and the nasty burns occurred as the person fell asleep with the smoke by his chest. CSI-minds want to know. Regardless, there was proof that smoking kills. Next to the burn holes was a dead fly, taken before his time, next to the cigarette holes where he gave his last breath … and a little puddle of fly blood. Yes … How gross!
I have seen it all, so I didn’t lose it. I just called the front desk. I even volunteered to sleep on the other side of the bed, so they didn’t have to changed the bed at 10 p.m. that night. It was take care of, in my mind … Until the next day, after room service “cleaned the room” and I checked. The fly was gone, because i said a few words over it and had flushed it. But the cigarette holes were right where I had found them. Ha … I guess they taught me what happens to complainers at their hotel.
I called back. Housekeeping was gone, so the clerk brought me a sheet. I had to call her back and explain to her that a twin sheet won’t fit a king-size bed. She brought another. I had to call her back and explain to her that a fitted sheet is the one with elastic …. After four tries, they brought me sheets that I changed myself.
So, the Wyndham property received 1 ping out of a possible 7 — one ping for Wi-Fi. That’s all. Next time, I may just park in their lot, use the Wi-Fi and sleep on clean bedding in my car and consider it “an upgrade.”
On To The Game
My “hotel” was near the corner of University and Texas … so it was about a 30-minute walk to the game. With maroon madness everywhere, I decided it would be better to walk than ride a motorcycle and find a parking lot. Ha … it was quite a march, especially on the way home after the game. But on the way in toward Kyle Field, I had lots of adrenalin … and a military escort.
Along the way, I chanced upon 6-7 young woman in Naval Reserve uniforms. Although I had studied the map and knew the easiest way to the game, I was betting they knew the quickest way. I politely asked permission to come aboard their little group, and they said sure, with the warning “but we walk pretty fast.” “Dang girls … talk about double time.” They were serious … and kept pace at race walker speed … a few buildings, and then a left … then another left … then a right … and then another left. Ha … it almost seemed they were trying to lose me. But, in actuality, we just meandered through to the Quadrangle in record time. Cadets were marching. Alumni were taking photos. And this blogger just walked around trying to take in all the atmosphere.
Ha … even the port-a-potties were maroon. The only thing that wasn’t was the most huge puddle of puke I have ever seen in my life, someone had deposited near the stadium … perhaps at yell practice the night before. Let’s just say it was Warhawk color and leave it at that … I thought to myself … new Aggie phrases — “thumbs up-chuck” … and “gag ‘em!” … I digress …
In The Press Box
I paid my respects before the photo of 1957 Heisman winner John David Crow and somehow managed to avoid any Johnny Football hoopla from the more recent winner. I guess Crow was not one of the “Junction Boys,” but I assume he benefitted from legacy of the brutal Paul “Bear” Bryant conditioning program in the 100-degree heat.
Hey I was a Junction Boy too … but that was after Texas Tech acquired the riverside camp facility from A&M, deep in the Texas Hill Country on the Llano River. Had one of the best times ever, studying photography at Tech center in Junction. Class in the morning, beer and tubes on the river all afternoon … darkroom at night … I digress …
On The Sidelines
Oh, but once down on the sidelines they got me. Me and the other 100-thousand-some-odd were treated to some Johnny Magic on the big screen TVs above the stadium seating. Yes … The Wi-Fi network I had joined in the press box was still working down on the sidelines. The only problem I had was a failure when I tried to e-mail out a huge panoramic photo of the field. I don’t know if the Wi-Fi network balked, or if the e-mail provider I used blocked the hand off of the huge file.
What? You Lose A Bet?
But I would be deaf, dumb and blind if I did not notice the void in Aggie Land without Manziel. They tell me this was a quiet game. It has not been the best of seasons for A&M either, sorry to say, and that too probably helped me get a media pass. That and a great connection in College Station … a former Texas Tech guy, turned Aggie – Colin – who now is a communications executive for the city. Before he went into public information for College Station, he was a sports information pro for A&M. Before that he was dyed-in-the-wool Red Raider … For example, as the sports editor of the Texas Tech newspaper, Colin once bet the Red Raider football team would get beat, and he wagered that if the team won, they could shave Double Ts into his hair. Tech won, and the paper’s editor, Gilbert, and Colin both got flashy new do’s for a photo opp. Their photo ran on page 1, with their heads shaven, excluding the Double T shapes. Heady times … I digress.
But … yes, last Saturday The Aggies played a great game and got a win. But this was not the Aggies of 2013 … a team that surprised the SEC with some muscle formed in The Big 12 (leading many to continue the chant about overrating the SEC … ) Obviously Johnny FootballShoes were big ones to fill … and perhaps less noticeable is another void on sidelines. While Kevin Sumlin is a great, great coach and I can’t stress that enough. It seems something else is missing. Sumlin is a football mind … a proven player and coach and a nice guy. (I met and interviewed Coach Sumlin back when he and Case Keenum were bringing the Houston program back into the limelight.) That Houston team and the 2013 Aggies — in addition to Sumlin — had two other things in common. They both had great quarterbacks and they both had “the quarterback whisperer” Kliff Kingsbury. Is he the other huge piece missing from The Aggie magic? I think so … to a degree … Which proves it crazy that some Texas Tech fans are already turning on Kingsbury after his second GQ season at the helm in Lubbock … I digress …
Back to the game … given, this was not a tough SEC matchup also helped me make the sideline list. This day, The Aggies faced what turned out to be a pretty good team from the University of Louisiana-Monroe – ULM. How many of you can name their mascot without Google? The Warhawks. And while the Warhawks are not Auburn (that Aggie game is this week) … they were pretty tough — no cakewalk as you might think. ULM — from The Sun Belt Conference — has some pretty tough linebackers, bigger than those on my fave Big 12 team. And the Warhawk QB Pete Thomas proved to be quite a fighter, under duress all day … and he just kept coming, running up yards with his arms and legs … finishing with 246 yards passing. The Warhawks were a midseason non-conference break from the SEC … probably a strategic move before the Tiger Walk in Alabama.
The ULM game was made even more interesting with A&M’s own little quarterback controversy. Freshman Kyle Allen started for the “Farmers” after the early-in-the-season 5-0 sensation, Kenny Hill was benched two games for violating team regulations. (I think there might have been 59 other reasons, given the “Bama score a couple of weeks back.)
Regardless young Allen (wonder how many Aggies name their kids Kyle) was impressive, one of the most legitimate NFL prospects QBs in college football — a specimen — went 11-of-22 passes in the first half for 100 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Neither team scored a TD in the third quarter, as both teams tallied right at 300 yards offense.
In the fourth quarter, the Aggies scored a TD, while the WHawks settled for field goals. And any team will take 7s instead of 3s all day long … Allen clinched with his first touchdown pass of the game, a 39-yarder to Speedy Noil. The final ULM drive stalled, and the Aggies ran a play with just over a minute left on the board, and then ran out the clock for a 21-16 W.
Needless to say, Aggie Land gets crazier than most for any game, but I am sure this was a pretty subdued game by Aggie standards. Still … how interesting to see all of the Aggie rituals at work … The seniors in the awesome Fighting Aggie Band wearing their knee-high riding boots. The Corps. The different variations of the Whoop! sign. “Mugging down” after a score. The student body on its feet for four quarters. The entire crowd standing, locking arms over shoulders with strangers, and swaying back and forth for one cheer or fight song. (By contrast, I pictured the germ-a-phobe students back home in Fort Worth who open the door at Starbucks with their feet, so they don’t get germs from another off the door handle.)
Legendary yells — “Farmers Fight” and “T-E-A-M” and such. And oh the storied Yell Leaders as opposed to a lesser university’s cheerleaders. Dressed head to ankle in pristine white, janitor-like uniforms, with sleeves rolled up nearly to the shoulder … and farmerish maroon sneakers … These guys are quite the spectacle. Have you seen them? So bizarre, their movements and signs and choreography and yet so creative. I mean, these are time-honored techniques developed about a century ago. There is still a sense of humor dating back to the spoof of their origin, but they have honed these skills into a very serious Aggie art form.
For example, my favorite – the yell leaders, in perfect synchronicity, kneel down, touch the ground, hop up, standing on only one foot, with the other leg extended out, and they spin around with their arms out “spread eagle” while they wiggle their fingers. How fun! Aggie Yell Leaders – 7 pings … perfect score. (So glad, yet surprised the equal-rights mob has not challenged and ruined this tradition.) Gig em!
Where else in college football do the spirit leaders strut out on to the football field during the teams’ warm up and shake the hands of the officiating crew? Never seen that before. And I much appreciated one of the most honorable traditions — the Aggie Yell Leaders take a knee when any player is hurt and down on the field. I am color blind when it comes to sportsmanship.
Overall … what a great visit. School spirt and good fun, even in a bit of an off year for the Aggies. Most of all, I was just impressed with how polite the kids were. Granted, I may have been bumped into a few times, but the kids always stopped to apologize and smile and talk. Everyone was quick to answer any questions about the school, its traditions … directions … One student who works on the Kyle Field grounds crew even came over and told me I could stand closer to the field, when he saw I was shooting photos where all the other visitors were allowed to stand on the sidelines.
What a gig!
Know what I sayin?
October 29th, 2014 · Tags: Cities · Sports
For Texas Tech:
It is annoying, but more importantly, extremely damaging to our university that many “Tech fans” think that being a malcontent is normal. I just read a piece by a “journalist” attacking the hiring and decision making of Coach Kliff Kingsbury.
We’ve all seen hundreds of negative comments about Davis Webb by all the “arm-chair” coaches out there. It seems no matter what happens, many of these people are not going to be happy and they apparently “know more than KK” who spent time in the NFL and groomed two of the best college quarterbacks in history before he took over at his alma mater (where of course he helped to take our program to the next level).
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Before I finish the PingWi-Fi blogging assignment for Detroit … I can’t help it. I have to comment on the news flowing from Motor City. Thousands of residents had their water shut off for not paying they bills … for months. And can you believe the United Nations waded into the muck to point out “wrongdoing?” … “How dare a city expect people to pay for the water they use?” (I type in jest …)
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September 21st, 2014 · Tags: Cities · Sports · Wi-Fi
Well, I have done Michigan, getting my wolverine on in Ann Arbor, so for equal time, seems only right that I call on The Spartans of Michigan State (Lansing) today.
Right off the bat, I have to say that the Spartans have one of, if not the coolest logos, in college football, just this side of Marvin the Martian. Kidding, love the Spartan icon.
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