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Fort Worth Stock Show Is Forever; Caravan Long Gone

January 19th, 2019 · Tags: Music

Although cold/wet weather stifled the parade today, it is Stock Show in Fort Worth.  Interesting, the Martin Luther King Jr. parade is still on for Monday and the Right To Life parade went as planned yesterday. I digress …

Yesterday was day one of the 123rd edition —the oldest continuously running livestock show and rodeo … anywhere. Sadly, the 2019 event will be the very last time all these thousands of boots and beltbuckles and their high-dollar animals will amass in the iconic Will Rogers Arena.  Next year, the event goes Hollywood — or perhaps ups the ante a bit — in the huge, bright, shiny Dickies Arena still under construction nearby. (Did I hear “King George” — as his fans call the guy who ripped off Terry Stafford —will open the place?)

The Stock Show’s newfangled Web Site tells me the origin goes back to 1896 … that’s easy math … easy as 1-2-3.  Much easier than getting information from the site … Its one of those cool new designs that flash all the moving graphics … moving sections and tiny tidbits a person could want … if they are ADD and don’t want to dig deeper … YES, getting old their Ping!  But it is also so counter-intuitive to deliver information in that manner! … But, hey, everyone (excluding www.pingwi-fi.com) is doing it … so you have to remain relevant.  Whatever … I digress …  

Thank goodness for fact finders who want to know more like me, there is still wikipedia:)

Fort Worth Stock Show

Although the Stock Show isn’t my cup of tequila, there’s no doubt its Southwest notoriety was the very first thing I can remember knowing about Fort Worth, when I was a child … before moving to Fort Worth as an adult … a.k.a. Cowtown. 

Therefore, when I moved to The Fort I was so pleasantly surprised to find not only the Stock Show greatness, but so very much more … so much culture or high art or whatever … several of the best museums in the country, if not the world … great people … decent college sports … a river … even a subway of sorts when I first arrived … but … the thing that really started my obsession with Fort Worth was a very specialized niche of the overall larger Dallas/Fort Worth music scene.  Metroplex music lovers back then were the beneficiaries of what I think was Fort Worth’s Golden Age for music.

Cool bands were popping up all over Denton (music college town), Dallas (Deep Ellum scene) and yes, Fort Worth too (I’ll cite The Toadies, for example).  And during those fertile years — best of all — Fort Worth had one of the coolest, most affluent, acclaimed music venues.  Again, I would have to say — in the late ’80s it was one of the best in the nation, if not world class.

That was back when you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting Edie Brickell or one of her New Bohemians playing in clubs around the Metroplex … or Sarah Hickman … or Ten Hands … or Fever In The Funkhouse … or Brave Combo … or The Old 97s … or Tripping Daisy … the original Dixie Chicks, (not the pop imitation with Natalie Maines) … good times.

 

Caravan of Dreams is gone now.  A reputable restaurant took over the killer, multi-level space.  One thing remains the same — the transparent geodesic dome on top, filled with cacti and succulents from around the world … Back then during Caravan days … all cacti and no Wi-Fi … I digress …

Some of my Fort Worth friends weren’t “legal” back in the heyday of downtown Fort Worth’s Caravan of Dreams … or they had yet to move to town. Sorry for you.  Yes … a golden age.

Caravan of Dreams

By the way … I am blogging about Stock Show because it was all over the television news here yesterday.  I am blogging about Caravan of Dreams studio, because — as my Facebook friends can attest — I have been listening to my my obscure vinyl music recordings to truly enjoy a new set of headphones.

As obscurity goes, this may be the cream of the crop.  It’s a recording put down on tape in Logos, Nigeria, but mixed at the Caravan of Dreams studios in Fort Worth.  Back in the day, the Caravan had a very nice live music venue/bar … a theater … and a professional quality recording setup for live performance and studio recordings as well.

 

Raise your hand if you know the music and/or art of Twins Seven Seven.  I think I listened to the record once or twice when the people at the Caravan gave it to me decades ago.  So … it looks really interesting and I broke it out again to testdrive the bluetooth headset.

Slang Trance,” by Twins Seven Seven.  

This may not be my tequila too … but certainly an intriguing listen … especially if you like a combination of Western/world/African rhythm sections … With the headphones, I could pick out more congas, bongos, rattles, perhaps a tabla or two, gourds, bass lines and more modern drums, spacey synthesizers and horns than you could shake a stick at. (“‘Ever’ little tune” as my friend Gary S. used to say …)  This record is a product of the highest high-dollar nightclub in this part of Texas!?!

 

The vocals on side one of the LP are the singer’s native tongue … some Nigerian dialect. I can dig that … sort of.  Side two ventures into the English language, with some join-hands, save-the-world, peace-out, we-are-brothers kind of optimistic lyrics.  And two angelic voices in the background are singing a chanted word over and over — in call-and-response fashion … that sounds a lot like they are singing “knee, knee, knee” But it is the percussion … “You can’t give up on the percussion*.” … That makes the music. (*Silly “Game Of Thrones” reference …)

Later, I presume, Twins SS did record at Caravan of Dreams on a jazz recording with Ronald Shannon Jackson.

But here is prolly the more interesting thing about this artist … check out the wikipedia page for the late Omoba Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale-Toyeje Oyelale Osuntoki who changed his name to Twins Seven Seven for what appear to be obvious reasons:) But there’s more to the story than a tongue twister.  It’s quite a story … wait until you see why he took the name TSS … pretty incredible.

Twins Seven Seven

Caravan of Dreams was always booking and recording some of the most avant garde music or performance art.  The squawky, some-say-saxophone-genius Ornette Coleman opened the place.  William S. Burroughs recorded a spoken word record there … Famous and obscure blues artists played there. There was always something cutting edge, high-brow or eclectic going on … way ahead of the curve.  But there were lots of “fanfare-for-the-common-man” kinda things going down too.

I saw acts ranging from Americana troubadour Joe Ely to bluegrass rockers Killbilly to an Eastern European experimental jazz ensemble (Ha … yes … won the tickets to that last one …)  Although I can’t verify, one Internet source lists artists who played in the lush, acoustically superior club to include Stevie Ray Vaughan, Los Lobos, Kirk Whalum, Willie Dixon, Little Feat, Squeeze, Judas Priest, Bela Fleck, “The Todd,” Gov’t Mule, Warren Zevon, Ben Harper, Cheap Trick and more.  (Fact checkers?)

Stock Show will never be the same.  For better or worse?  We’ll see. But regardless, it will always be a part of Fort Worth … perhaps the heartbeat.  But The Caravan … 

Know what I sayin?

Looking Forward To Another Great One!

January 1st, 2019 · Tags: Uncategorized

Motel 6 Leaves Something To Be Desired … But Wi-Fi Is A Win

December 30th, 2018 · Tags: Cities · Hotels · Wi-Fi

Since the early days, I have played this game on PingWi-Fi where I see just how cheap I can be … or rather … how inexpensively I can travel.  It’s just who I am … Mr. Frugal:) … I do it to excess … just a crazy game I play.  Ha … I have lived on jerky samples at gas stations, slept down the hall from ex-cons in dubious hostels, used hotel points out the wazoo, packed many a lunch of sandwiches and carrots and water … whatever it takes.

On The Cheap At Sundance Film Festival

Now, given a recent illness and an outpouring of support and love from family and friends … I think it more important than ever before to be a good steward of my finances … especially if I get to do something fun and call it work. 

So, on the quick weekend trip to Austin and San Antonio to cover the 2018 Valero Alamo Bowl, I first imposed on family members in Austin, and then because it was a late game, I stayed at the “most affordable” motel I could find near the AlamoDome in San Antonio.

Well with my stay at Motel 6 in San Antonio, I think I outdid myself:)  A Motel 6!  Are you crazy!?!  It was pretty basic.  First off … isn’t Motel 6 the chain that has Tom say they will “leave the light on for you” in the TV ads?  Ha … I think it should be revised to “We’ll leave the incense burner stoked.” 🙂 Maybe … just a little sketch … 

Ha, the walls and some of the accents … they were ORANGE … the shade of orange that might be a warning of some sort … or maybe an attention-getting storage unit facility.

 So … how was the room? … Well, glad you asked.  You know that little move that house keepers do with the poo paper? … Also frugal, they do that ceremonial, fancy, triangle fold on a partially used roll … (Makes me crazy!)  … Rather than — you know, practicing some housecleaning hygiene — replacing the thing with a roll untouched by human hands … Ha … well at Motel 6 they didn’t replace the roll, even though the old one had about 10 squares of cleanliness remaining (so unpretentious) … and forget that triangle fold thing … There it is … kind of a “use it at your own risk” attitude.  Of course I replaced the roll and remembered to turn the roll the correct way … right ladies?

OH just another funny hotel story from Vegas

Ha … also at Motel 6, don’t get any crazy ideas about complimentary shampoo in the room either.  Motel 6 …. It is what it is.

Free breakfast … a fresh pot of coffee and all the cigarettes you carried in.  Nice.

But my Mama always told me to say something nice … Well, my vehicle was not stolen — a small victory, but a win all the same — And I think that should go down as a  “big selling feature” in my review at one of those review sites.

Then there was the bed …. oh the  bed … I will from now on call it the Motel 6 magic carpet ride!  You know that fairly recent, hip, fashionable type of bedding that is a bag-like mattress, plopped up on a flat platform of a bed frame? (I am sure there is a name for it and I am also sure I don’t know it.) Well, Motel 6 “don’t miss a thang,” and they have converted to this bedding style … However, their design has nothing to keep the mattress in place … in check … or whatever.  I sat on the bed, with my back against the wall, doing social media on my phone I am sure … and the mattress and me kind of slid and squirted out in the floor … well almost.  How fun.

Mini-bar?  Don’t even think about it.  More conscientious amenities by this hotel chain … cuts out the old temptation thing … no eating five or six $5-candy bars and downing an airline-sized bottle of whiskey:)

So how was the Wi-Fi ?… (remember Wi-Fi? … that is what I am supposed to blog about) … Well it was actually pretty good.  It worked great … much better than the microwave I had to unplug to charge my phone.  But … it also showed me something new.  Granted, I don’t get out much anymore … but this was new to me.  For the Wi-Fi hotspot at Motel 6, the splash page was co-branded with Facebook.  The guest has the option to sign in using their Facebook user name and password (perhaps not the best practice) or simply enter the code (provided by the front desk) in a smaller, less obvious window.

 

 

Yes, #IIWII … Motel 6 beat me at my own frugal game of cutting corners, had reefer madness down the hallway … the bed was entertaining in its own right and the Wi-Fi made me smile — 4 pings.

After check in, I used über with my nice, conversational Palestinian driver for just  $8.99 … to jet off to the bowl game in just a matter of minutes, where upon hopping out of the car … I was nearly mauled by a pack of rabid Iowa State kids, zipping down the sidewalk on those free Bird scooters that are taking over the word.  No blood … no foul.

Great game … a wonderful experience with my nephew and his family … conversation with photographers, great plays in close proximity … marching bands … a Mike Leach/WSU Cougars win … and free refills for my water bottle at the stadium water fountains, although plastic bottles of water were five bucks in that bowl game economy:)

Then back in my car, headed back north as fast as I could go to watch OU vs. Bama.  Gotta watch “Boomer Mules.”  Football!  #bowlseason

Know what I sayin?

 

Playing The C Card – A Media Relations Farce Of One

December 30th, 2018 · Tags: Satire · Sports

You have my word.  If I am ever invited back for a second time to speak in front of the hundreds of members of the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association, or the Dallas Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, or the Fort Worth Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, or to be on a panel at Mass Communications Week at Texas Tech University … or to address journalism students regarding new media at Texas Christian University, I promise that I will tell this story.  You have my word.

If I am ever interviewed again by The Dallas Morning News, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The San Diego News-Tribune, The San Antonio Express-News, eWeek, The Washington Times or any of another couple of dozen or so national publications and Web sites, they will hear this story.  I promise.

But first, here are a few more thoughts on the 2018 Valero Alamo Bowl … It was a tough-hitting game … There was an outrageous difference in size, comparing the Washington State University defenders to the huge, corn-fed giants of Iowa State.  Now having said that, the WSU offensive line are pretty super-sized too.  But the little guys, the skill players held their own.

 

It was one of those games that make me laugh and remember that ridiculous common cliché, that “Defense wins championships.” … To which I respond, that “in most of the games I have attended, the team with the most points on the board wins:)”  Trust me … skill players — brain over braun — are taking over football:)

Ha … the funniest thing all night, last Saturday for this late game aired on ESPN, was watching drunks having a time with the maze of metal gates to get to the ticket booths after a day of merriment on the San Antonio Riverwalk.

The worst observation … I was surprised by Iowa State — pretty good people for the most part — yet they continued booing as an injured Washington State player was down for the count on the turf … I think they just were more into booing than watching the game by that point and didn’t realize there was a man down.  Give them the benefit of a doubt, right? When play resumed, after the injured player was walked off, the booing returned to its previous pitch, so I guess that proves some people stopped for a respectful moment or two.

Thank you!

Most importantly, special thanks from PingWi-Fi.com for the complimentary tickets from Josh in the media relations department at The Valero Alamo Bowl.  I think he “worked it” hard on my behalf, trying to get PingWi-Fi full media credentials, but the higher-ups rejected my application despite Ping’s annual bowl coverage and Alamo Bowl media credentials in the past.  My seats on the first row in the Iowa State end zone were about 10 yards from THE play of the game … and the halftime interview of a boiling-mad ISU coach … ha … and also, my little great-nephew Austin both got to give high-fives to one of the two ejected Iowa State players.

But having said that …

This experience with the bowl game could have been better …

Rejection for a blogger is not rare or surprising.  True, independent bloggers have fought for respect for years, dating back to when I started this line of work back in 2003 … back when mainstream media scoffed at the rise of blogs and social media.  I will never forget sports writers at a bowl game press conference laughing, clueless,  when I questioned a young Case Keenum (University of Houston quarterback sensation, NFL star) about his social media posts … Ha … these sports journalists had not heard of Twitter back then … and now Twitter has taken over their profession.)  Most of them now string together a statistic or two, a lead and post each others tweets and call it writing an article …

It seems so counter intuitive, that the big, wealthy media outlets are given preferential treatment and free access — freebies that they don’t need, while the independent guys blazing the trail and revolutionizing media — just trying to make a living — are turned away or typically have to pay for play … at football games, concerts, film festivals … 

So, any independent blogger worth his or her salt has learned they must fight for every “column inch” of media content — playing every card in the deck/or up their sleeve to get a foot in the door, simply to do their jobs.

So … after going the traditional route and submitting my request for media credentials — a process that granted access to the three other bowls that I applied for in 2018 — The Alamo Bowl denied my request. 

 

And then … YAH! … I did it.  I played the C Card!:)

I sent an e-mail to the media relations people in San Antonio and bared my soul.  I told them this very likely will be my last opportunity to cover Mike Leach because I am in chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer (yes a bad one) with a very doubtful prognosis.

Would you believe that after some discussions, The Valero Alamo Bowl rejected my “dying request” to cover their game as a working journalist!?!

“No ‘cancer man’ … go work somewhere else” … so to speak:)

But bless his heart … this “Josh guy” (my point of contact at the bowl offices) received some pretty impassioned pleas from The Ping …

As a former 25-year PR guy, I simply could not believe the ill-advised decision! … Denying the final request of a dying man … REALLY!?! … especially knowing that I probalby should have been approved in the first place on merit (an Alamo Bowl veteran … a published sports author … a Hearst winner … a blogging pioneer named “Best Of The Web” by Forbes … yada, yada …)

I was told there were just too many requests and the sidelines would be full.

Before I gave it up, I pointed out that in EVERY bowl game I have attended — on the sidelines and in the press boxes dating back to 2008 — there are always people on the sideline who have no business being there … kids, fans, selfie takers, VIPs who are there for the buzz … lots of non-essential personnel.

How could you say “NO!” to a desperate guy just trying to make his blog better!?!

 

 

 

For the record, from my great, complimentary end zone seat, I saw and talked to a lot of people roaming the sidelines.  I had great conversations with professional photographers who made the cut … one a district judge shooting on the side … and even one of the ESPN TV cameramen who was shooting the live coverage for ESPN … great people … Interesting, the ESPN camerman said the sports network has cut back on coverage this year, reducing the number of cameras on the sidelines … AND … get this … I saw and photographed people roaming the sidelines, wearing official bowl game photographer vests … even though it was painfully obvious they barely knew how to work the amateur cameras they were carrying.  Pretty funny.

Like I said … there ain’t no quit in me, so I compromised before the game and requested that I be given permission to carry in my professional lenses and my trusty 35mm Nikon to my complimentary seat with the fans in the stands. (I knew most arenas would not allow the camera … although 60,000 people were taking selfies of the event with cell phones …)

Would you believe that the decision makers at The Valero Alamo Bowl rejected that request too … a second, more palatable attempt by a cancer dude just trying to do his job!?!

 

I negotiated further, hoping someone with some PR savvy at the bowl game would intercede.  I suggested that I contact the authorities at the Alamo Dome facility itself, and see if they would give me a waiver for the camera.

The Alamo Bowl said, okay …  they would go with the AlamoDome’s decision, and washed their hands of the matter.

The AlamoDome staffer said “YES” … yes, IF the Alamo Bowl would give me a credential of some sort to get the camera through security. Then I could sit in the stands in my assigned seat by the endzone, and I could shoot my professional camera from the front row.  Her hands were washed of the cancer guy issue too:)

Finally, I thought that common sense was coming around … 

Again, The Alamo Bowl braintrust and PR oficinados said no.  I tried to help their thought process and said that I could use any type of hybrid media credential, sit in my seat, get the photos I needed … and just not go to the press box or roam the sidelines.  (Those tasks are getting a little more difficult for me anyway …)

With all that I heard and have reported in this blog, this shocked me the most.

My new friend Josh said “No … we would have no guarantee that you wouldn’t go to the press box, or get on the sidelines.”

“No Josh,” I replied. “You do … You have my word.”

Ha …  At this point, I would have even promised to clean up any of my shedding hair that fell on the turf!:)

Would you believe that he said that my word was not good enough!?!

“Now do you want the tickets or not?”  (Tickets that I had already said yes to in writing, providing a mailing address several days prior, I might add …)  They had failed to mail the tickets, so they gave me their word the seats would be at Will Call.

Cancer guy drove the five hours to San Antonio trusting there would be tickets waiting (which there were, thankfully), despite some pretty sketching dealings … TRUST … what a concept?:)

Up until game time in my hotel room, I debated sneaking in my pro camera.  (I never said I wouldn’t … but I didn’t want to …)  Then I read the camera policy on the AlamoDome Web site.  Their policy states that cameras are permitted with up to five-inch lenses.  Hmmm … that would rule out my 10-inch sports/“birdwatching” lens … but the smaller one might get through security.  The smaller lens was about 5.5 or 6 inches.  Should I risk it?  Well … if the camera was turned away, I would be stuck with it at the gate, miles from my hotel where my car was parked and über took over.  What to do?

 

I punted and cut my losses. I took the first camera I ever used on PingWi-Fi  … a somewhat capable, but amateur little Kodak digital.  Better than nothing, I wagered …  And so now I am lamenting the shot that got away.  Washington Statue QB Gardner Flint Minshew II hurdled a defender and flipped over the goal line for a score … RIGHT in front of me … and this is what I have to show for it.  (Ha … that’s right … blame the camera 🙂

 

Thank goodness the in-house videographer got a better shot to save the day … a shot of my great-nephew which appeared on the JumboTron fancam … Note to Austin Scott … when you’re on the JumboTron and viewed by a crowd of 60,000 people … son … smile and “shake yo Wi-Fi money maker!”

Know what I sayin?

Washington State Cougars, Pirate Take ‘State vs. State Bowl’

December 30th, 2018 · Tags: Cities · Sports

 

I can barely remember The Alamodome from the first time the PingWi-Fi Blog visited. But I remember all too well the circumstances. Now, a decade later, Coach Mike Leach’s charges returned and recorded a second win in the Valero Alamo Bowl … and this time the captain was there with them to swing his sword.

Pirate Gang Rallies Around New Captain — Ruffin McNeill, Tech Wins In Alamo Bowl

You may recall, in one of the most brainless acts in college football history — Texas Tech (my school) fired and refused to pay salary owed to the most winningest, most cunning, most “do-more-with-less” coaches in its history — just prior to Tech winning The 2008 Valero Alamo Bowl. The Red Raiders won the game without The Pirate … the mad scientist … Coach Mike Leach … I digress … 

 

This time Leach and his team — The Washington State Cougars — took the stage with the full support of an enlightened administration and fervent fan base who realize their college is off the beaten path for recruiting … where winning seasons take brilliance, some luck — and the heroics of a pretty cool-headed signal caller.  (Leach has led The Cougars to five bowl games in the last six years …)

Enter the mustache … Gardner Flint Minshew II, in the State vs. State Bowl.

http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/25617766/how-gardner-minshew-mustache-took-washington-state

Gardner Minshew de-boarded the team plane in San Antonio wearing something that resembled an Elvis impersonator’s leisure attire, then went on to win The 2018 Valero Alamo Bowl, rewriting the bowl game’s records with 35 completions for 299 yards and two touchdowns against a bigger, stronger, more physical Big 12 up-and-comer Iowa State.  But … that is kind of business-as-usual for the Pac 12’s most charismatic gunslinger.  It was Minshew’s gutsy, in-ya-face, acrobatic, 7-yard touchdown run  in the middle of the second quarter that really set tone for the Cougars — establishing an early 14-0 nothing lead.  

Many argued that controversial calls also helped the outcome of the game as well with two of The Iowa State Cyclones’ best defenders shown the door at The Alamo Bowl, flagged and ejected for targeting … the second infraction separating the Cougar QB from his helmet, in a scary mustache reveal.

The up side for Cyclone State was that the ejections fired up an already vocal fan base (sitting immediately behind me) … awakening the boo birds, and The Cyclones responded on the field too … scoring 16 in the second half in a close game.  But, of course most fans think every call should go in their favor, and the replays on the stadium’s Jumbotrons were not analyzed, replayed in slow motion, etc. for our viewing.  Cyclone Nation was not happy.

So … I did what any social media kinda guy would do … I texted Facebook  friends at home — who didn’t have a “dog in the race.”  In their opinion, the calls — viewed on TV at home — seemed legit.  Who knows?  But this is certain, with all of the new politically correct rules in college football and the NFL … the referees will make mistakes as usual (understatement) … replay officials will miss the call too … and sadly, fierce tacklers now have to forget everything they have every been taught. 

Interesting … I had not seen this before.  Most football fans are aware that a player is required to sit out a play after their headgear is removed from their person … but it usually isn’t the quarterback, which would create a pretty big problem for a fast-paced offense.  Well … Mike Leach — the mad scientist and also a lawyer — is of course up on his rules, and knew he could call a time out which overrulesd the need for the QB to sit out a play.  Mike Leach has always been known as a coach who values every every snap of the ball — whether it is going for it on fourth down … or scoring when a game is already decided to continue improving his offense … So it was no surprise, with the game outcome still undecided, time running out in the fourth, he kept Minshew “minshewing” …  In true Leach form, during a run-out-the-clock possession, in which most coaches would run the ball, Leach opted for a pass play, surprising just about everyone, to seal the deal.

But don’t get me wrong.  Leach wasn’t the only mastermind at work in San Antonio the other night. The Valero Alamo Bowl was the only bowl in the country to have two Conference Coaches of the Year on both sidelines.  Both team were fighting to win the most season wins in their respective  histories.  The Cyclones fell just short.

 

Iowa State’s Coach Matt Campbell was named Big 12 Conference co-Coach of the year after winning seven of their final eight games in The Big 12. Campbell also won the Big 12 Conference “Coach of the Year” last year. Had The Cyclones taken home the Alamo Bowl hardware, the win would have tied Iowa’s State’s record for wins in a season 9, after they took third place in the Big 12.

So Coach Campbell was noticeably upset after the second of two defenders was removed from the playing field for the controversial hit on Minshew … upset, he charged the field a little and was flagged as he enthusiastically presented his case to the stripes … so upset that security guards and officers on hand all went to ready alert on my end of the stadium.

 

 

Campbell’s team had moments of brilliance — most associated with Freshman Brock Purdy, ISU’s tough, bulky quarterback hitting the tallest man on the field with an aerial …  ISU’s Hakeem Butler tallied nine catches and 192 yards, the second most in Valero Alamo Bowl history, including a flashy, elevated one-hander.  And in the meat-and-potatoes category, the Cyclones’ David Montgomery ran for 124 yards on 26 carries, resulting in one of ISU’s scores.  Purdy passed for 18 completions on 27 attempts for 315 yards, and carried 10 times for 46 tough yards.

Long story short, Cougs win, 28-26

Know what I sayin?

ServPro First Responders Bowl … Ain’t Happenin

December 27th, 2018 · Tags: Music · Satire · Sports

All roads leading to the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas seemed to be clear for a timely arrival, even through some rough neighborhoods, west of Fair Park.  I had remembered to bring my media pass and my parking pass, no easy feat for me.  The grayish blue clouds parted for a few moments, as I parked my ride and a few traces of sunlight snuck through.  For a moment, it appeared the weatherman’s prediction of rain around 6 p.m. might be insignificant for the noon kickoff. Things were looking good for the 2018 ServPro First Responders and PingWi-Fi had answered the call.

 

The old stadium was buzzing with police presence, with patrol cars parked just beyond the south endzone where the players exit the tunnel and take the field.  SWAT-like officers darted in and out of entry ramps toting nice machine guns.  Firefighters were huddled here and there.  And as I circled the perimeter dressed in black, with my black backpack so fully loaded on my back … hmmm … I might have looked a bit “iffy,” even with my media badge.

I noticed a member of the Dallas Police Department nearby when I took a seat on the Boston College bench for a few minutes during the team warmups for the BC Eagles and the Boise State Broncos (yes the guys with the blue carpet in ‘they house’:) I turned and thanked the policeman for his service, and he shook my hand.  Just a few moments later, as I raised up from the bench and walked back toward the entry ramp, I noticed a second officer talking to the first policeman, and then moving toward the same area where I had chose to store my bag.

Hmmm … interesting.  First this other officer was near me, near the 50-yard-line, and now the officer was a few feet away as I rifled through my bag and attached the long-distance lens to my Nikon.  I finished loading up for a photo shoot from the sidelines, and approached this second officer, a female member of Dallas’ finest.

“Am I under surveillance?” I asked, jokingly.

She smiled and said yes, but she didn’t think there would be any need for backup with this non-threatening, fading man.

 

This Guy? Not There!

We laughed. I threw out my customary “thank you” for her service.  I love to back The Blue.  And we shot the breeze for a while.  She told me about the process and training she went through to join the force. I told her a little about this blog.  She told me that she works a rough part of far southwest Dallas, but thank goodness, had never been in a hostage situation (that being my bizarre line of questioning).  We traded thoughts on the game, though she was not a football fan.  We stood with our hats over our hearts as a talented member of the DPD belted out a great rendition of The National Anthem, and we discussed his great voice.  I noticed the players from both teams standing respectfully during the anthem, almost as patriotic as the game a few days before in which the team members of the Army Black Knights stood saluting our flag.

The F1RST Responders Bowl (as the bowl’s organizers brand it in print) was set to be another heaping helping of patriotism and appreciation for those who give their all to keep us safe.  In two bowl games — The Armed Forces and The F1RST Responders bowls — I had the privilege to see and appreciate some Americana of the greatest magnitude.

Apparently convinced I posed no threat, the officer, “Norma,” stood on duty in her assigned position in front of the stands, and I moved on, circling around to test fire the camera, checking the light … which was definitely fading away, into a much more gray sky.  And yes, I had to tease her in parting and say, “Oh nice.  ‘Norma’ … just like Marilyn Monroe.”  She laughed a little and said, “Yes.  Just like.”

By the way, I checked for Wi-Fi down on the field of The Cotton Bowl … and it wasn’t happening either:(

The last 30 minutes on the scoreboard timer, leading up to kickoff were about the longest half hour of my life.  “Let’s get this party started.”  “Let’s light this candle,” and all those other catch phrases ran through my head … “Hurry the hell up …”

Finally, we had kickoff, and not long after, the bigger, more physical Boston College squad pounded out a quick score — a banged-up A.J. Dillon scored on a 19-yard run up the gut giving Boston College a 7-0 lead on their first possession of the game … a score and lead that would eventually be erased, becoming a mere footnote from the only bowl game ever cancelled due to weather.

The TD That Never Happened

 

Soon after the only TD, lightning was spotted in the area.  The game announcer instructed the fans to make their way to the plentiful common areas of the iconic old stadium … and wait.  And of course the teams retreated back to their dressing rooms.  The Boston College band and I set up shop under the protection of the stadium tunnel, where they took the opportunity to shoot selfies, from what would be a historical footnote kind of game.  The musicians setting down their iPhones only for a moment or two, when a loud, booming thunder and a flash of light in the distance resulted in them clapping and cheering.  Little did they know …

I was glad I had rushed around and tried to get a few shots … early …

A Pass That Never Happened

 

Near-Sack That Never Happened

 

A Pitch That Never Happened

 

Tackled In Bounds … Never Happened

 

This Sideline Huddle … Never Happened

The game had been halted with five minutes remaining in the first quarter, never to resume.

But … during the Lightning Delay, this Ping did what Ping does.  I went “’splorin.’”  After taking the opportunity to tell the bowl staff members that their mindless cigarette smoking right in front of the gated door at the top of the ramp was poisoning each and every fan, official, police officer and band member in the ramp, all the way down to the field … and that they should have the sense/courtesy to move away from the door … I went through a little glass door where some of the Boston College staff members sat with a pallet-sized stack of sports drinks, waiting.  I hopped on that elevator in the team area, went up to two, got off and took an old, empty concourse around the stadium toward the gates where fans enter the stadium.

That was a mixed bag.  Fans who had traveled for hundreds of miles were milling around, perhaps enjoying a drink, and hoping to see their team get one last win in a good season.

The game announcer had given way to someone with a sense of humor and a good spotify playlist or whatever.  The old Cotton Bowl’s bowels were churning with songs about rain.  “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival was a natural.  “It Never Rains In Southern California” (Albert Hammond) seemed a bit of a thorn in the side for the Dallas deluge.  I found The Carpenters’ “Rainy Days And Mondays Always Get Me Down” a bit gloomy for my taste — both back when it was popular and now as we lamented a game getting washed away.  I digress …

Ha … then I got all “Vegas, and stuff.”  What I mean is … in the blog’s younger days, I made a practice to attend as many electronics conventions as I could, out in Vegas.  And my rule of thumb was to just walk into the big, private parties at the nicest hotels, as if I “owned the place” or like I at least belonged there.

 

This Exec., Not There, Elevator Didnt Go Up

I remembered that party strategy as I jumped on the club elevator, and intended to ride up to the press box.  However … a regional executive who worked for the bowl game’s title sponsor, ServPro, politely started up a conversation.  I explained to him that I was a journalist covering the game, and not the photographer hired to do publicity shots of the party in the private suite upstairs during the game (ha … which he assumed).

What the heck.  I rode on up to the VIP lounge and box seats and partied with some excellent chicken fajitas for a while … laughing in my own self’s head that I was like an undercover, “double-nought” spy … or corporate spy or something.  You see, for eight of the 10 years of this blog, PingWi-Fi.com, has worked for ServPro’s biggest competitor … my “Dirty Gig” entries on this blog are not sponsored … however, I have worked two jobs … both independent blogger … but also as an employee, with another disaster recovery company funding my travel around the world.  So … I was like a coyote in the henhouse or something like that.  … It was as if I were spying on ServPro … LOL.

Well … I am a pretty unbiased journalist first and foremost.  So I didn’t use the situation to dig up any dirt on the disaster recovery specialists.  I just ate their chicken and left … then finally making to the press box.

The journalists were pretty much all gone … either to the bar, or perhaps they had given up on the chances of more football that day.

I walked around a little more … looking at the ever-gray skies.  And then decided to make a run for it.  I went to my car and drove back to Fort Worth, still hoping the lightning delay would be just that … only a delay and not a cancellation.  Hopefully, I would get to watch the remaining three quarters of the game on my telly.

As I drove and hit more and more rain … I knew it was not looking good.  I thought about the end of the F1RST Responders game … almost before it got started … ha … “Like It Never Even Happened” … hahahah … Do you know that advertising slogan?  It is the ServPro advertising slogan.

I had to get home and post my clever idea about the slogan before someone else did.  But, the hour-long drive back to Fort Worth gave all the other clever chaps on Twitter a headstart advantage.  So, although I might have been the first to think of it, before the game was actually called … A few had posted it before I did, I think.  It was not until I got back to the world headquarters of PingWi-Fi.com that I saw the news release from the bowl game management, announcing the game and its one score, were no more. (I bet I was the first to tweet a photo college with the advertising slogan superimposed in an actual game photo, with a football pass flying right over the ServPro name in the background, however …)

 

The 2018 F1RST Responders Bowl … “Like It Never Even Happened.”  What a terrible outcome for all of the men and women in Blue, Red and Orange who were to be treated to a great game and honored throughout the day for their unselfish bravery … all washed away.  All those fans who traveled so far …  Such a shame.

But you know, these cloudy things tend to have a silver lining.  I am willing to bet that the bowl game’s title sponsor probably got a thousand times more brand recognition across the country as sportswriters and bloggers and Twitter types around the world had a field day with the whole bowl that never happened thing.  Well played, my worthy competitor.

It never happened.  I know, because I was not there.

Know what I sayin?

Army Destroys Armed Forces Bowl Records, Annihilates Houston

December 26th, 2018 · Tags: Sports

 

What a spectacle of pride, dedication, competition and patriotic spirit there must be at the annual  Army/Navy Game … I’ve never been, but I am reminded of that classic as I read the final stats from the Black Knights of Army’s most recent win. 

After destroying the Houston Cougars in the 2018 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, 70-14, again and again on the stats sheet, Army broke bowl records … numerous records, many established by The Navy Midshipmen in previous years at The Armed Forces Bowl (with a few BYU and Cal records mixed in.)

161 rushing yards in the first quarter … 592 total offensive yards … 10 sacks for 71 yards … 254 yards on the ground in the first half … 

 

And Army’s own records in this bowl, from previous years fell, most notably as Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr.’s five rushing scores surpassed the previous mark set by the predecessor Army quarterback Rashaad Penny for the most rushing touchdowns scored in the Armed Forces Bowl with five in the 2017:

Army Ground War Outlasts Aztecs In Armed Forces Bowl

 

Army’s 56-point win also set the record for the largest bloodletting in Armed Forces Bowl history, and it also tied for the largest margin in an FBS bowl game.

 

But in rehashing the complete domination by The Black Knights, personal performances don’t come to mind. Sharing the sidelines with a squad whose new modernized uniforms still maintain an all-for-one mentality with their “throwback” stenciled numbers and individual jerseys simply labeled “Army” on the back, rather than players’ personal IDs. 

 

Obviously it was a terribly long day for Houston fans, as Coach Major Applewhite and his injury-riddled Cougars threw a green quarterback into the fray, as The Army unleashed the dogs of war.  Heading Houston’s sixth-in-the-nation ranked offense, Clayton Tune, a freshman, mustered two touchdowns, one running and one passing, amassing 215 yards in the air on the day.

The Army defense was relentless, with James Nachtigal setting a bowl record forcing three fumbles.

But, despite the surprising mismatch, it was a great bowl game.  Even huge proponents of today’s exciting, popular air raid offensives would appreciate the discipline … the army-drill repetition … the perfection of Army’s triple-option offensive attack as the Black Knights pounded and pounded away at Houston’s defense.  And then with the complete element of surprise, Army would launch a surface-to-air weapon of its own, with quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. going 3-for-3 and 70 yards passing, in addition to grinding out 100 yards rushing (before a third-quarter shoulder injury eventually took the QB off the front lines).

 

Any student of the game has to appreciate the throwback personality as Army breaks an offensive huddle, and the quarterback disappears, squatting down  … no, hunkering down … close to the ground, out of sight, behind a big, powerful offensive line. Army ran its perfect option again and again and again … a football machine.

The war machine converted all seven third down plays — 7-7, the highest conversion rate in the Armed Forces Bowl.

The Black Knights also were a near-perfect 8-of-9 inside the red zone, for the best red zone conversion percentage in Armed Forces Bowl history.

With the win, Army recorded the best campaign in its history, with 11 wins, in a season where the black and gold nearly knocked off Oklahoma in September, holding The Sooners to only four touchdowns in a 28-21 battle to the death in overtime.  (The Black Knights held the Heisman-flavored, high-flying OU offense scoreless in the third and fourth quarters!  … I digress …)

“It’s (The bowl game win) just a great exclamation point to what I think is a terrific season,” Army Coach Jeff Monken said. “We weren’t perfect along the way, but what a great finish.”

For PingWi-Fi.com, I think this is six or seven Armed Forces Bowls under our belt … A great bowl game — quite handy since our worldwide headquarters are also in Fort Worth — and the games over the years have featured the talents of some pretty big names … Jared Goff … Case Keenum … being two recent examples … and a pretty impressive list of coaches.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case_Keenum

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Goff

Fort Worth and traveling fans as well responded to this celebration of America in kind … a record crowd, in the neighborhood of 45,000 enjoying a game filled with military flyovers, pre-game parachuting, bagpipes, flags and multiple timeouts to salute and honor American military heroes. Of course the game enjoyed a healthy viewership on ESPN, nationally and at military installments around the globe …  Quite an experience, for any red-blooded fan of football and The United States.

 

 

 

At this very bowl, a year ago, this blogger made a new friend in the press box at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, and became friends on Facebook as well … Ha … like clockwork Facebook reminded me of the one-year friendship anniversary as I checked my phone on the sideline of the game. The new friend is one of those guys who does Facebook right.  He always has lots of funny, original posts, and throws in some well-researched humorous posts from other sources too.  He is almost a small town boy like myself, he hails from Plainview, Texas … 

So guess who the first person was that I saw in the pressbox at the 2018 Armed Forces Bowl.  Kevin Cook, you are a funny dude on Facebook and a much welcome sight this year … a year that has brought many changes for “The Ping.” 

Know what I sayin?

Vega … The ‘Circle V’ Unbroken

December 15th, 2018 · Tags: Cities · Music

 

 

When I was a young kid and then continuing on through the teen years, I was led to believe — particularly from the coaches who were so crucial in our development, body and soul — that my hometown Vega, Texas was much more special than all the other special, tiny, farm towns throughout Texas … especially in the rugged Texas Panhandle … The “Real Texas,” I like to call it.

 

 

 

There are many memories, but one stands out.  I think it was in eighth grade that Coach Hubbart told us, frankly, that he had other job offers before he accepted the position as an assistant coach in Vega, and moved his family there.  I will never forget what he said was the telltale factor in his decision process.  He said he visited the dressing rooms and also the restrooms of several of the schools he was considering.  He said the VHS restrooms were the only ones where the boys’ “stalls” were not covered in filthy, vulgar, hateful graffiti.  VHS … that’s Vega High School, not “Vega’s Hair’s Short!” as I used to jest.  I digress …

It was true …  a very quaint and unassuming, yet wonderful place, with special people.

We were taught that we were special and we knew it.  Not in a conceited way, but in a wholesome way, we bought into the mantra. As students at VHS, we were expected to behave better and hold one another accountable to a higher standard.

We did.

 

That’s not to say that we didn’t raise a little hell on the weekends too at our weekly hangout, the parking lot of The Oldham County Courthouse, as a steady flow of trucks and cars slipped by, on their way from the southern United States to the northern, giving us hints of what else there was out there … but come Monday morning, we were back in class — not skipping — listening to every word the teachers said … answering “yes sir” and “no ma’am” … 

… But also on a weekend, we might have been helping the science teacher construct his own energy-efficient house … 

… Mowing widows’ yards for free, when truth-be-told we could have used the few bucks to buy a cherry lime at Joe’s Vega Drugstore …

… And then on game day, sitting in the football stands or the basketball bleachers to support our team athletes — whether it be a 7th grade girls basketball game officiated by our own Coach Miller in a black/white striped shirt and jeans — somewhat unbiased — even though his daughter was the star point guard in the same game …

… Or following the 1973 football team in the state championship … or whatever.  … Or the 1967 squad that went as far as a B School could go in those days … Regional, but no state championship match offered.

(Of course the same was true for Vega’s 1999 Texas Girls state championship basketball team … although I didn’t get to witness that  … I only know my niece was a star 3-point specialist … 🙂

Vega supports one another.

 

There’s so much I could tell you about Vega … that would just sound like crap, if you hadn’t experienced it and witnessed that it is really a very special place … even though it just looks like a one-horse place where a few gas stations circled the big grain elevator in a burst of 1940s economic boon on Old Route 66, paving the way for little more than the evolution of the convenience stores of the future.

 

You had to have been there to see the 1960s Daydreamers  garage band belt out the hits of the day, at the sockhop inside the old basketball gym, or a dance at The Legion Hall or the high school cafeteria … Amazing to sit and think how much culture and outside influence we all gleaned from the performances of a group of farm boys and small town merchants’ sons who played for that generation.  Thanks John Paul, Johnny, Gayle, Ron and Junior!

 

Interesting that tiny Vega’s Daydreamers had such a flair for the most hip music from all over the map, back in the day … I don’t remember the band ever playing country, as one might have expected.   They were all about that rock ’n’ roll thing (beyond The Beatles) …  The San Francisco/West Coast sound — The Beau Brummels’ “Try Just A Little” and “Still In Love With You Baby” and The Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie”; Dallas’ Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs’ “Wooly Bully”; an Indiana-like version of “Hang On” Sloopy” like The McCoys’ rendition (with a young Rick Derringer);  … Neil Diamond’s “Solitaire Man” (once a rocker from Brooklyn); Stax Records staples like Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming”; Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour” (Atlantic Records); some British Invasion greats like Them’s “G-L-O-R-I-A,” or The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimmee Some Lovin” (Steve Winwood); the garage band mainstay “Wipe Out” based on any number of surf bands’ drum solos and Fender riffs … and one of my favorite’s “Not Your Steppin Stone” by Paul Revere & The Raiders, or perhaps like the more successful version by The Monkees. Magical times … so influential … so many great memories.

So although there was that rock/roll injection … Vega is all about wholesome America … and Texas … in the purest form … as demonstrated when the crowd stands at attention, hats over their hearts as the empty-saddle horse is led through the annual parade to honor townspeople who passed during the year … the temperament evidenced by the 1979 boys state champion basketball team — tagged “The Happy Days Kids” known for clean cut appearance and for helping opposing players up off the floor if they fell, yet totally destroying them on the scoreboard.

 

 

You might not have lived something like the Vega experience … If you never saw the editor of the newspaper and your own pastor get in a heated shouting match from opposite dugouts about the strategic significance of a rain delay of a Little League baseball game on a very rare, rainy summer night … if you didn’t witness farmers in pickup trucks and  a few volunteer EMTs rush to the scene when a tiny school bus was forced to pull over on the side of Old Route 66 because of an anhydrous ammonia fertilizer tank leak at the edge of town … or if you haven’t seen cowboys travel all over the county to help inoculate every single horse for free, to battle some equine outbreak … or witnessed an entire community brought to its knees over the tragic loss of a teenage football player … or seen a small-town boy wow the state competition with his oral rendition of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” … Or loved to sit in the high school auditorium, once a year, to see farmers and teachers come together to stage respectable presentations of theater classics at the PTA Plays … or witnessed rival towns and different denominations show up to support each other’s fall banquets and other church fundraisers … or my favorite … if you have never seen every person in town at sporting events … especially back when cars/pickups were still allowed to circle the football field or baseball diamond to watch the events … and honk like hell when The Vega Longhorns scored six, or The Vega Giants scored a run.

 

There wasn’t anyone in the town who didn’t get a shot of adrenaline and perhaps a tear in the eye when a maverick band teacher, Ms. Briscoe, fired up the teams and fans with her impressive, but tiny high school band’s fiery, uptempo instrumental version of “The Circle Be Unbroken.”

“I was standing by my window,

On one cold and cloudy day

When I saw that hearse come rolling

For to carry my mother away

Will the circle be unbroken

By and by, lord, by and by

There’s a better home a-waiting

In the sky, lord, in the sky”

 

“Good honk!” … to borrow an expression coined by an old Vega friend’s dad.  Ha … not being a country music fan, I never knew Johnny Cash’s “The Circle Be Unbroken” was a funeral song.  Well … regardless, it sure fired up our young men in black on the gridiron … I digress.

Well … you probably just don’t know what I am talking about.

For me and many others, Vega is a circle.  Not the “circle of trust” that Robert DeNiro initiated his future son-in-law into in “Meet The Fockers.”  In Vega, that circle is the tie that binds.  So what better name for the private family space in Vega, for the “Glass Sisters’” family get togethers on old Route 66?  They call their special place “The Circle.”

 

 

 

 

 

That’s The Circle I want to focus on.  It was the site of a recent get-together in Vega.  Ha … they even did a Hummer hay ride in the freezing cold for me.  For me?!?  For the first time in my life, I was the honored guest, and ha … it suited me well, I like to joke.  Ha … I cherished that treatment, even though truth be known, it may or may not have been a send off … due to my cancer diagnosis.  Ha … Let’s hope it can become an annual event instead …  But joking aside, this is serious stuff …  Forty years after I hit the ground running after high school graduation and bolted to bigger places, Vega welcomed me back as if I had been there all along.

 

 

I can’t believe the kindness and generosity at this point in my life.  When I was young and “chompin at the bit” I left pretty much as soon as I could.  I didn’t know what I had or for that matter what I wanted.  Someday I will return … return to the origin.  That’s a circle.

Know what I sayin?

 

Fool At The Wheel – Bilingual Tale Of Man’s Inhumanity To Motorcycles

October 28th, 2018 · Tags: Cities · Politics

 

Recently, I had a conversation with my older brother’s classmate, back in our hometown.  And despite several years difference in our ages, in conversation we learned that we both pull the same stunt.  When we want our English-speaking friends and co-workers to mistakenly think that we are bilingual, we rapid-fire recite a little poem that we were assigned to memorize decades ago in Español class … back in high school.  Ha!  It fools everyone because it sounds legit and verdad.

Magically in sync, without hesitation, she and I went into an impromptu West Texas, Tex-Mex gringo rap version of the silly verse.  It translates: “I have three friends, very strong and loyal … these are my friends, a burro and two dogs” … blah blah … nonsense, yet effective:)

Well, coincidentally, on another recent trip to Vega, Texas, for a big old class reunion — who did I run into — other than señor Thompson, the teacher who taught us the poem?  I told the mentor the story of how at least two of his students were still getting mileage out of the poem, to impress our non-Spanish-speaking friends.

And of course I had to show him the fruit of his labor, and I rattled off the poem.  “A-minus” if I don’t say so myself.  Ha … what a proud moment that must have been for the retired professor … to see that he had taught us such a valuable life skill … no seriously, I think he scored it in the win column, since we knew every line so many years later … LOL.

“yo tengo tres amigos

muy fieles y muy buenos …”

yada yada … I wonder if that is where ZZ Top got the name for their old “Tres Amigos” LP … no wait, scratch that … it was “Tres Hombres” … I digress …

That little poetry review was the weekend of one of the best free barbecues in the world — The Oldham County Roundup — and also the weekend of a great 40-year reunion of several Mighty Longhorn classes from Vega, up in the Texas Panhandle.  It also was just about the time this blogger found out there is a serious health challenge ahead of me … More on that at a later date … I digress …

 

 

But … the week in question for this tale also marked my first long ride on a motorcycle again, after having been run over and “spit out” by a “distracted driver” back on April 4, by TCU in Fort Worth.  So, this ride from Fort Worth to Vega and back was pretty much the maiden voyage of a replacement bike, a brand new 2017 Triumph Thunderbird light touring bike. Needless to say, I was protective of the bright/shiny low mileage machine, but I was doubly concerned about all the lunatics on the highway who although they may have peace/love/socialism bumperstickers on their tiny, politically correct cars … at the drop of a hat, they will endanger any and all lives on the road  … either through nonchalance, or stupidity or both.  In summary … I was not feeling good do to unknown health reasons, at that point.  I had a brand new bike that I would like to keep.  And I still had aches/pains from the previous mauling by a careless driver.

 

2014 Thunderbird

So …

After old home week, I was cruising back toward Fort Worth, making pretty good time on one of my alternative routes through Lubbock and on to Crosbyton, Benjamin and Seymour, Texas and other farm towns.  It’s U.S. 82 … the only way I can remember that number is because one of my brothers wore 82 in football … I digress …

 

There really are some awesome, panoramic views of ranches and a bit of canyonland/bluffs, interwoven with the cotton farms and wind turbines back that way …  Including the storied Four Sixes Ranch. 

Four Sixes Ranch

To that point, it had been a wonderful ride on the bike, communing with nature, without too many hate cars on the road.  If you know this road, 82, you have probably seen the huge, brand new barbecue joint, around Benjamin, I think it is.  I pulled over.  Pretty good … not like a Texas Hill Country BBQ institution … but pretty good.

 

2017 Thunderbird

Facial hair dipped in sauce, it was back on the road, and soon the sparse traffic started to pick up, obviously signaling the Metroplex was getting within range.  The road was not only more crowded, it was two-lane. Another sign we were approaching bigger populations — the drivers became much more erratic — a combination of non-caring and untrained.  The cars started doing that “lemming thing,” where they bunch up in one lane, packed in as tight as they can, no matter the speed to increase the hazard … as if “sniffing each others’ tails” will magically get them somewhere faster.  Luckily, on the bike, I was #10 in a 10-vehicle pack, so I had the option of following at a reasonable, safe distance.

You know what happened next.  Number 11 showed up, a small, beat-up, cheaper Asian make of vehicle, sporting one temporary spare tire mounted on the front and worn … driving way too fast for the situation and the car’s condition … and their dubious driving skills.  Of course they started riding my tail, as if that would nudge me closer to the other nine cars blocking my path, in the strand at least a mile ahead of us.  I was pretty polite the first four to five times I tapped the brakes, keeping an eye out, in the event that they thought that was their opportunity to go all “April 4th” over the top of me.  They of course took my safety warning as a challenge, rather than a common sense safety thing.  After the fifth or sixth love tap on the brakes and me even turning to motion for them to back off, they decided they would pass me quickly and risk the lives of me and the oncoming traffic on the two-lane as well, so that they could strategically become car #10, rather than car #11 in the 11-car traffic jam.

Kent don’t play that shit:)

I sped up, and pulled closer to the car jam, as it moved above 65-70 m.p.h., and because I knew they were idiots, I also moved over a little toward the paved shoulder of the two-lane.  IF I had to, I would pass the car in front of me on the shoulder, to protect myself … shielding me and the Triumph.

Kent is big into safety.  Kent will protect himself from people who don’t give a flip about other human lives.  Kent is licensed to do so, as is his constitutional right.

So, as the beat-up car full of derelicts of other demographic groups pulled up beside me, I “goosed” the throttle and I kind of did the “Old West Gun Smoke Thing.”  You remember how every armed civilian in the Old West would move their vest, or jacket, or shirt tail, when they thought they might be about to use their piece (as a last resort)?  Kent did that.

I won’t lie.  I assumed it would not be necessary to even touch my weapon and I didn’t.  But I was not going to get caught looking, so to speak.  I drove with one hand, and reached back to move my shirt tail and better expose the pistol holster in the back of my belt.  It was not coincidence that I did this just as the moron-mobile gave it its best shot to pass me, and failed.

Bless their liberal hearts, they seemed to be petrified and backed off finally, after logical, polite gestures had failed to penetrate  their force field of stupidy.

Magically, as if the heavens wanted to help me make my point, there was finally a break in the oncoming traffic.  Without trying much at all, the Triumph jumped into the newly open lane and flew by all of the cars still jockeying for position in the pointless scrum.  I tend to haul ass in such situations and put as much distance as possible between me and the chromosomally challenged.  I was gone!  One of the cars might have broken out of the pack, way way back behind me.  The idiots that were trying to kill me were stuck at the bottom of the food chain where they belonged.  More open road, and more casual and scenic riding for me, from then on.  Just a good, safe, comfortable pace, with no four-wheeled weapons around me.

And then …

Somewhere between the memorably named Megargel and Olney, Texas on 114, as I veered off to the southeast closer to Fort Worth, I saw a red and blue light show in the oval shaped rear-view mirrors of the Triumph.  Interesting … the limelight seemed to be focused on me.  I pulled over safely, but quickly and again, exercising common sense, I didn’t make any sudden moves.  I sat still in the saddle, hands on the handlebars and watched the Texas State Trooper pull to a stop behind me.  Compliant — as everyone should be as a peace officer approaches for goodness sake — I sat tight.  As the patrol car stopped, no doors opened.  Instead, I heard the loudspeaker of the unit, 

“Sir.  Remain still … And sir … do you have a gun?”

I remained cool, but a huge grin was probably visible to the lawman, side-to-side in my mirrors.  (We all know what happened, don’t we?)

 “Yes sir, I do have a gun in a holster in the small of my back.  And yes sir, I have a permit to carry, in my wallet.”

The trooper instructed me to remove the weapon and set it on the rear seat behind me, without turning around.  I complied, again as everyone should.  He then approached and picked up the piece and complimented me on the Kimber .45.  He said we could all relax now that that piece of business was out of the way.  And he was very polite, setting me at ease, and I said, “They called me in, didn’t they,” and I smiled and laughed … probably rolled my eyes a little.

After looking at my license and permit, he said, “Mr. Pingel, did you pull your weapon and wave it at the occupants of a car, about twenty miles back?”

“No sir.  I did not.  However, I was followed unsafely by a car, that tried to pass me in limited space, with nowhere to go, with a line of traffic in front of me.  “So,” I explained, “I didn’t know if I would have to defend myself, based on their erratic behavior, and I pulled my shirt tail up to make my weapon more readily accessible.”

He laughed.

“I didn’t think so,” he said, and he explained that the complaintants were reluctant to give a name when they called in the bogus report.  He added that,  “I guarantee you if there was anything to their story, they would be parked about 50 yards back there laughing and heckling you.”

We discussed whether or not there was any point in filing a complaint for a false police report.  Probably not worth the effort or paperwork.

He told me to be careful, shook my hand and I offered that I would be more careful of erratic cars with liberal bumper stickers, and just chill out.  And I thanked him for his service.

The trooper smiled, waved and said “Know what I sayin?”

Todo el mundo canta, y yo canto tambien.

An AirBnB Brings New Kicks … Station 66

October 8th, 2018 · Tags: Arts · Cities · Hotels · Uncategorized · Wi-Fi

Route 66

 

My story began in Vega, Texas … where “what stayed in Vega, happened in Vega,” I love to say.

In the early chapters, childhood was spent watching sports teams at the school, hours upon hours — when I wasn’t watching Fall’s fading light obscure the fast-moving shadow of a school bus, over country roads, sorghum fields and ranch-land pasture.  Dreaming of being a Vega Longhorn was all that any boy or girl could want.

Flash forward a few years, and journalism became my passion.

No accident, my story continued near Vega, on “Old Route 66” … “The Mother Road.”  When I launched the coast-to-coast “Wi-Fi Guy Blog,” back in 2003, the storied highway seemed the perfect jumping off point.  So the predecessor of The PingWi-Fi blog was launched with a press conference at The Cadillac Ranch — the world-famous monument to Route 66, Americana and the the road that goes on forever.

Moving forward further, The PingWi-Fi blog has maintained that roadtrip through 48 states, a U.S. Territory and several countries on a few continents.  I haven’t been everywhere, but “I’ve been ’round.”  And I stayed in/have written about some interesting places along the way — among the more memorable:  a trembling hotel during a New Zealand earthquake aftershock … a hostel full of recently released criminals in a half-way house situation in Salt Lake City … a rickety, no-air room above a motorcycle bar in Thailand … a few of the nicest hotels in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco … Las Vegas.  Pretty interesting, fun times. However …

However, it was back to my tiny Vega that the  PingWi-Fi blog encountered one of the most creative, comfortable, nostalgic settings … an airbnb in fact.

Station 66

There’s more history … Vega has a few miles of old Route 66 that form its spine — east & west, of course — right down the middle of town.  The hamlet is  just 13 miles from the geographic center of R66 too.   For us homegrown “Vegans,” farming will always be the soul, but the lifeblood once was Route 66 and its ability to support art deco gas stations that dotted the route.  A few empty gas stations remain — mere lifeless storage buildings now.  One rustic old station has been repurposed into the most charming little authentic Mexican restaurant called “Roosters.”  As much as I love the welded, rusted and painted bird sculpture ready to crow at the front of the cafe, Roosters is not “me primo.”

My all-time favorite is Station 66 … perhaps the best creatively designed, most interesting lodging that has every supported this pumpkin-shaped head at night.  Outside, I think this old gas station is probably a work in progress, thanks to some 1970s-era remodeling … but inside!  Station 66 is the cleanest place I have experienced, as well.  The Wi-Fi rocks.  The tallest building in Oldham County is across the street … a grain elevator … gotcha.

 

Skyline

 

The game room area is spacious, with many windows that overlook the old road, but also there are shades to block out “bustling” Vega.  Everywhere, the place is decorated with memorabilia, keepsakes, and nostalgia pieces that could probably “earn their keep” if placed over at the Milburn-Price Culture Museum.  The M-PCM is just a mile beyond the town’s  main intersection, the confluence of Old Route 66 and U.S. 385 (a border-to-border route, running north/south”) … the intersection that once earned Vega, Texas the moniker, “Crossroads Of The Nation” … albeit an ambitious slogan, to say the least.

Milburn-Price Culture Museum

Sidenote: When I was a child, my best friend’s father managed the very Phillips 66 filling station that was housed in this airbnb structure … a half-century ago.  To complete that little nostalgic twist —  through the sometimes friendly networking that can occur on Facebook — that old friend and I re-united at a class reunion the day before PingW-F hit the Station … after decades.  I wonder what my buddy Robby would think of the airbnb after all these years. Inside Station 66, there is a very nice touch where the interior design incorporates the old, original steel pipe railing that once protected the outer structure on slippery, icy, snowy Texas Panhandle winter days … like the one on which I last remember my dad filling up the pick up truck with Robby’s dad’s fuel …  I digress …

Station 66 is just fun.  It’s obvious the owner has poured their heart and soul into making a wonderful escape … a happiest place — one that whispers stories of the old highway into your ear, as you drift off at night … no doubt, dreaming of hopping in an old ragtop ’54 Chevy Corvette and heading to Hollywood to be discovered … zzzzzz.

r-a-g-t-o-p … ragtop

And then if you awake still sporting such dreams of celebrity, you may cast yourself in some bigger-than-life, make-believe Cowboy Western.  A closet inside Station 66 is stocked to the brim with everything cowboy … pearl snap western shirts, cowboy hats, bandanas … everything this wanna-be buckaroo could ask for to complete the perfect www (wild wild west) selfie.

Cowboy Up

 

Although I was solo while bunked at ST66, it fits more. Station 66 accommodates up to six guests, with one master bedroom and four beds total  … you choose bunkmates. 

And I think management tries to keep the shenanigans to a minimum for appearances’ sake, and/or the historic preservation of the place … but I might have pulled some strings while there and therefore hosted  a worldwide first on Old Route 66.

 

Despite a traditional old-home week (class reunion) and the best free barbecue in the world at The Oldham County Roundup, PingWi-Fi staged the world’s very first Rüt66 kava tasting at Station 66 … kava, a South Pacific social drink acquired from Texas’ first kava bar — SquareRüt Kava Bar, from Austin, Texas.

 

 

Ha .. the word play … Route & Rüt  … I could resist it not.  So 10-12 other long-tall Texans and I bellied away from the bar for once and gathered around a traditional wooden serving bowl, filled with the exotic, earthy traditional drink of Tonga, Vanuatu and other islands beyond Texas  … Made perfect sense to me … actually, I had been telling my buddies about kava since the first bar opened in Austin a few years back … so, we did some hard core cultural exchange that day …  starting each round with me — the kavabarkeep — teaching everyone the traditional kava toast for prosperity or whatever, “BULA!”

Ha … Little did we know the recent sory of the toast “Bula!”:

Bula Trademark

Such audacity, claiming a South Pacific word as a trademark … I digress …

Lastly, as it has been sung over campfires for a hundred years — “The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas …” So, the excellent backyard of Station 66 was put to use later … as this old cowhand stretched out under the Milky Way, flat on the back, on the patio, enjoying a sky full of stars … a Panhandle sky like no other.

Know what I sayin?