Saturday, April 26, 2014

On roller derby girls, hot dog costumes, photo bloggers and macaws

Sometimes my job is serendipitously fun. Covering the second day of Norman Music Festival was such a day.

Honestly, I hate writing stories on large festivals like Norman Music Festival because the story relies totally on man-on-the-street interviews. These types of interviews are usually awful and boring, and only occasionally really spectacular — if you're lucky.

The makings of a perfect night at work.

I started wandering Main Street around 7:20 Friday night. The first contact I made was with a musician standing on the street performing, beer in hand. I waited as a random photographer took her and her bandmates pictures, before asking if I could visit with her. I asked her why she came out for the festival and she just stared at me. Told me she probably wasn't a good person to interview. I tried a few other approaches — asked what she wants the audience to get out of her music, why she likes the festival — and same thing: Blank stares. This is the kind of awful I'm talking about that is typical for this type of coverage. You'd think I asked this girl the meaning of life, how she responded to my questions. Undoubtedly, she was either stoned or drunk!

I moved on, continuing up the street, scribbling notes on my observations — mostly on the types of people I was seeing: old, young, conservative, cowboy, punk, gothic, hippie, hipster. I crossed the street and started heading back down. As I got to one of the corners, a group of roller derby girls stopped me to give me a flier. They consented to an interview and we had a good few minutes of exchange, talking about how they come to the fair every year to skate around, interact with fans and if they're lucky, recruit.

I left them and soon found the infamous "Hot Dog Man" my coworker had told me about. In a full-fledged hot-dog costume, the man was barking chili dogs for The Diner. His name was Geo. He told me people asked him what his selling — "What do you think, man?" — and a few even asked how big his wiener was. I laughed and laughed with him, and of course, asked him a few questions about the festival. Surprisingly, the man-sized hot dog did have some interesting things to say.

After making my way to the corner, I crossed back over and up, keeping my eye out for more people who were both interesting looking but hopefully articulate. I saw the photographer I had seen taking the drunk musician's photo earlier. I stopped to ask if I could visit with her. She was happy to oblige, told me she was a photo blogger for the blog she had created called People in the Trenches, a blog meant to celebrate humanity in Norman and the Oklahoma City metro. We joked about the fun we were both having people watching when, I kid you not, a man walked by on the sidewalk with a blue and gold macaw on his shoulder.

The blogger, Tanya, yelled at him to stop so she could get a photo. Almost instantly people wandering by stopped to ogle the strange situation. The bird owner, Willie, passed around his bird, Jack, to let the strangers hold him and get photos. Willie said he bought the bird for $500 from a pawn shop over the summer in honor of his late father who used to own tropical birds. The two often go out together, including to bar patios. An old man standing by was completely fascinated, and kept mentioning to me how he works with cattle and knows a good veterinarian for the bird. The old man, who was coincidentally missing teeth, asked for my card and my pen so he could get Willie's number. I handed him my card and pen, assuming he would just ask for Willie's number. Instead, he tried to hand Willie the card and pen. Willie was holding Jack on his hand at this point and stumbled, searching for a way to hold all three objects at once. Before I knew it, Jack had climbed up onto my arm. I quickly handed Tanya my phone so she could snap a few photos.

I handed the bird back to Willie and asked him a few more questions before moving on to the newsroom. I was back to my desk by 7:50 p.m. Thirty minutes for the making of a perfectly serendipitous story. And thank God — I couldn't handle one more awful man-on-the-street festival interview!

Willie, the bird owner, let's strangers pet his macaw, Jack.

Jack the Macaw.

And Jack awkwardly perched on my arm...definitely wasn't expecting him to just crawl up on me.


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