This is a long piece. First let me give you the TLDR version for those that don’t like heavy articles. What an amazing weekend! Who would think that spending one full day in the West Virginia town of Logan County would feel like a lifetime? I spoke, I shot, I drove, I flew, I made friends, and I loved it all. That is the “To long didn’t read” version. But if you want more, then please read on.
When I arrived back at the port authority Sunday after the trip, it was around 10pm or so. To give you an idea of how long my commute was, we left West Virgina at 7:30am. My first thought upon arriving in NYC was: “Man, there are so many damn people here.” I wasn’t in the city limits a full 10 minutes before I already wanted to pound the crap out of some crack head because of the way he was talking to his little girl. That was my second thought: “What happens if I get up and slap the crap out of this jerk.” Well, I’m not in prison, so it should be clear that I didn’t act on my desires. I feel terribly sorry for this little girl. Odds are that she will learn from him and grow up to behave just like that piece of trash. It is a vicious cycle.
In contrast, during my time in West Virginia, all I saw when it came to parenting were folks that are raising children who believe in the Lord, respect humanity, and respect each other. A far cry from seeing a crackhead saying: “I told you not to talk! Don’t you make me give you something on your hind side that you won’t want to talk about! You make me sick.” I’m certain things are not perfect in West Virginia. Like anywhere else in the world I’m sure they have their fair share of problems. However, I didn’t see anything remotely close to that crackhead’s behavior while I was down there.
That’s enough of that nonsense though. I bet you are wondering what in blazes was Angel Rodriguez, a Puertorican man from the Bronx, doing in West Virginia? Hell, I’d ask the same thing! When Team Ninja boss man, Wayne Dupree, invited me to come to the town of Logan, my first question was, “Do they allow Puertorican people in West Virginia? Especially a city boy, one that grew up in the South Bronx?” Perhaps that is some of my ignorance on display? You can’t blame me though, one learns from their experiences in life. My experiences have led me to the conclusion that there are places in America, where people like me, should not go. I learned that while serving in the U.S. Air Force, Wichita Falls, Texas. I was not welcome in a bar over there, and a tattoo shop. The good ole boys there made it very clear that I should move on. So, knowing my limitations, I chose to take their advice and I spent the remainder of my time on base, or at the local mall. I can fight, but I’m not a fool!
Naturally, I thought I’d have the same type of experience coming out to a town so deep into West Virginia that it nearly borders Kentucky. Man, I saw the movie “Deliverance,” and I lived through Wichita Falls; I don’t like to push my luck. Those country boys don’t like people like me. I don’t want to get my ass kicked man. Dupree encouraged me to go, and I agreed to the trip with very strong reservations. I thought about pulling out until the very last minute. As the date came closer, I continued to question my decision. In addition, the thought of over 10 hours (ended up being more like 15hrs, btw) on the road didn’t appeal to me either.
As the days continued to pass, I noticed that others from the group had to bow out of the trip due to personal matters, this made my participation that much more important, the boss, and the people are counting on me! I knew I had to go, but I was very nervous. Why would these guys want to hear me speak? Who the heck am I? What right do I have? Why should I come into their town, walk into their special event, and speak? Who the hell am I that they should listen to a word I have to say? Self-doubt was beginning to set in.
Well, my friends, I have never in my entire adult life been more wrong than I was on this line of thinking. After over four hours on the road, I met Wayne Dupree and Jackie Wellfonder in person for the first time. We all “knew” each other seeing as though we have done online shows, and had many conversations. However, this was the first time we met in the flesh. I expected Wayne would be taller, but he’s just like me!
Then the second leg of the journey began. By the way, Dupree hyped up this deep-fried chicken restaurant (is that racist of him) and when we got the food there, well, let’s say that this TV food critic was not impressed.
Dupree has lost all clout when it comes to the selection of fried chicken. He needs to come with me to Sylvia’s in Harlem. We’ll show him some real deal deep-fried chicken! #noracial I digress, so we drove for six hours, deep into the heart of West Virginia. During this long drive, we saw amazing scenery that every American, and visitor should see. “This is God’s country,” said Wayne Dupree. Indeed, my brother, indeed.
Once we arrived, we checked into our nice suites and met some members from the Sons of the Second. Shaun, Mike and Junebug joined us for dinner. They agreed to go for Mexican food, so that’s where we went. The first surprise I received was that I saw Mexican dudes here! Holy crap, what the hell are Mexicans doing in West Virginia? The second surprise came moments after being introduced to the team, Shaun looks over at me, and he says, “Look, I’m not one to hold back and keep quiet. I’m not racist or anything, but are we eating Mexican food because of Angel?” That’s when I fell in heterosexual man love with this guy.
That really set the tone for the evening. We all discussed politics, some of our personal life stories and experiences, and we joked around a hell of a lot. After such a long trip, we had a blast having dinner with these guys. Thanks for treating Mike.
The town itself was very small, but what it lacks in physical size it makes up for in good, wholesome, hospitality and charm. Everyone knows each other. They all have each other’s back. In contrast, the building across the street from me, has as many, or more inhabitants than the entire town, and I couldn’t name one single soul. How sad is that? I can’t imagine what life would be like knowing everyone around you. I can’t even begin to fathom that concept. In addition to that, more than one person said to me, “Here, if you get a flat tire, or your car breaks down, you know that the person who finds you, or stops, will be trying to help you. Whereas in other places, they would probably just rob and kill you.” That’s not to say that bad things can’t happen there, like everywhere else, things can happen, but it is less likely.
During the event at the airport, it was absolutely amazing to see so many veterans, patriots, and God loving Americans in one place at the same time. People that are like minded are very rare in NYC, so for me this was a welcomed experience. Perhaps Sean Hannity has the right idea in bailing from here. I’ve considered it for a long time, and I have just added yet another potential location to go to when me and my wife finally make a move. I never experienced this kind of warmth and kindness from people that don’t know me, simply for being a proud American! Over here, the Air Force jacket I’m wearing, and my MIA/POW hat means nothing. To these people, it means that we are part of the same brotherhood, the ones who defend this country. Everyone whom I made eye contact with greeted me.
Team Ninja, represented by myself, Jackie Wellfonder, and the boss man himself, Wayne Dupree, were speakers at this event. This was my very first speech at an event of this nature. I feel that it could have gone much better, but all things considered I think I did a good job. Wayne and Jackie are more experienced, and as expected they did us all proud. I was the baby of the group in terms of speaking. The audience seemed to enjoy my speech, and a few people came up to me and shook my hand after I was done. I feel that I could have done much better.
However, pretty much like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. I will continue to speak at events, and share my views. In time, I’ll become better. I have the benefit of being a musician and poet, which has put me in front of large crowds many times over. Not to mention that I have been on network television on more than one occasion. Being in front of crowds doesn’t get easier, but at least it’s something I’ve done before. This is another format of expression, and like music, poetry, TV, and acting, I’ll master this as well. The main difference is that at these events, I’ll be speaking for the United States of America!
During the picnic, I took part in many activities. Let me tell you about three major experiences I shared with my new friends here. But, first, let me take a selfie! I’m just kidding. Actually, I hate that stupid saying. I do want to tell you about this amazing sandwich I had though. When eating, it was recommended that I try a bologna sandwich with a special Texas style sauce. So that is what I ate, and let me tell you, that was the biggest piece of bologna I have ever had. This was a simple, yet extremely delicious treat.
As the day continued, another treat that we had was flying in a helicopter. That was something else, you get in this small dome looking helo, and before you even realize it, you are airborne looking down at the earth from above. We did a couple of laps on that thing. Left, right, up, and down! We flew all over the town of Logan. You can see the entire town from up there. It is totally surreal. You guys must check out our friends at MARPAT aviation! My buddy Mike Holbrook has a huey there.
I thought it was there for historical purposes, but it actually flies! Wayne Dupree said that I was smiling cheek to cheek in the helo, that I looked like a happy kid the whole time. This was definitely a lot of fun though, so can you blame me?
There was even more though, I got to drive a large-size Atv too! Now that was a rush, it’s different when you are in the driver’s seat! You wanna talk about a big, cool-aid smile? You should have seen me here! I’m not sure my passengers were as happy as I was, I don’t drive often, but I was having a blast zooming down the hills of Logan County Airport on that ride! What a rush!
Oh, but our friends, the “sons of the second” were not quite done with us just yet. My main man Holbrook asked me, “Angel; you wanna make some noise? We have a range in the back of the airport.” Uh, was there a doubt to be had? Hell yeah I wanna make some noise y’all! I’m from NYC. We don’t have access to the awesome toys you guys do! Wait, is it offensive that I refer to a .308 or a .338 as a toy? Hah, I’m just kidding, call them whatever you want. As long as you are not going around shooting people with them, well, you are okay in my book.
Man, that was the most fun ever. I was spot on too, hitting target after target. All that you heard was a loud boom echoing through the mountainside, followed by a plink, the sound of my rounds hitting the metal targets. This was followed by praise and laughter from my buddies, “Angel, woh, you are a son of the second!” I have to admit that I was very surprised at how accurate I was. I’ll attribute that to the awesome firepower that these boys have, rather than some innate shooting ability.
That was a blast, (literally) and just another example of how generous these folks in West Virginia are. Anyone who knows a thing or two about guns knows that ammo is not cheap, and these guys let me, Dupree, and a few other folks blast off quite a few rounds. For that I am extremely grateful, as I mentioned before, we don’t have access to these firearms here in NYC.
I hadn’t realized it, but the only speakers at this event, besides the amazing MC Shaun Adkins, and some musical performers, were Team Ninja members. That is a great honor, and I am proud that for my first speaking engagement of this nature, I could be a part of such a great event.
The ride back was very long, for me, it was a two-part trip that ended up totaling nearly 14 hours door to door. For such a short stay, it was extremely grueling. I think that next year if invited again, I’ll fly down. Although by doing that I’ll miss out on Wayne Dupree singing one of his musical renditions.
I’ll have to consider that more deeply. We’ll be back in West Virginia sooner than later. We have been invited for a cookout event.
Stay tuned for that and more from Team Ninja and WAAR Radio. Below is the song that I read as poetry for the folks at Patriot’s day! It’s called Warriors Anthem, and it is dedicated to America!
I’m a Bronx Raised Puerto Rican who dances in pink tights! Please do take note of the date on a post, over the years my views have evolved and they continue to do so. It’s all about growth and progress. Peace.