What I learned this week, August 7, 2015

Bikes locked up in front of Parkway, New Orleans, Louisiana

Bikes locked up in front of Parkway, New Orleans, Louisiana

The New Orleans Restaurant Bounce, After Katrina

Woman writing in a Moleskine Notebook, Wichita, Kansas

Woman writing in a Moleskine Notebook, Wichita, Kansas

Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life

Magazine Street, New Orleans

Magazine Street, New Orleans

Why Are Bicycle Sales Declining (for the 14th year)?


Top 10 Restaurants in Dallas, TX

I don’t know if these are really the “top ten” – it tends to list middle-road sandwich places – but there are some interesting choices here.

British artist Richard Long has given us his ‘Dallas Rag’

I absolutely have to go see this.

The Myth of Big, Bad Gluten

Why Eating Fresh, Just-Caught Fish May Be a Thing of the Past

Actually, this seems like a way to drive the “little guy” out of the marker – who can afford that sort of ultra-freezer?

Wind/Pinball: Two novels

Murakami baby!

One of my favorite things ever is riding in the monthly Dallas Critical Mass ride. It runs from Main Street Garden Park in Downtown Dallas to a different, usually secret, destination – the last Friday of every month. To find out more, check out the Facebook Page.

Here’s a nice video of the last one – which ended up at a party (DJ, ice cream truck, keg, tamales) in the Sheep Barn at Dallas Fair Park.

The month before, June, was epic in that the ride was caught in a massive thunderstorm and we had to take refuge under the overhang of Dallas City Hall.

Here’s a 8X speeded up version of the ride.

And, if you have the patience to sit through it, is the whole thing.

Four Bullets Brewery

Front door to Four Bullets Brewery, Richardson, Texas

Front door to Four Bullets Brewery, Richardson, Texas

For about I year I watched the progress of a new small brewery here in my own town of Richardson. It was established by two experienced home brewers that wanted to take the next step and open up their own establishment. It was called Four Bullets Brewery and has finally had its soft opening, with the official grand opening scheduled in a couple months.

It’s been open on Saturdays from noon to six with the typical tour deal – ten bucks for a glass and three beer tickets. I have been enjoying these craft beer tours for a few years now and really wanted to check out Four Bullets. The last couple weeks were too busy for me but today I was able to make a visit.

The brewery is located in a little industrial area north of downtown, near the Arapaho DART train station. It’s very close to where I live – but there is a railroad track blocking the way, so I rode north past the rail station and doubled back. It was a nice, easy ride, about three and a half miles.

I folded my Xootr Swift and locked it to a sign out in front – I should have ridden around to the back of the building, but I didn’t know.

My bike folded and locked up in front of Four Bullets.

My bike folded and locked up in front of Four Bullets.

The brewery is small – about the size of a generous garage, but it has an extensive open area out back with tables and some games. The crowd grew throughout the time I was there, until they had a very respectable bunch hanging around. A food truck sold barbeque in the back – he had his smoker located upwind and the smell made it impossible to resist.

The crowd grows in the patio in back of the Brewery.

The crowd grows in the patio in back of the Brewery.

I’m not expert on beers – but I enjoyed the three I tried. They all had the complexity and freshness you expect in a small batch craft beer. I especially liked the Oatmeal Stout – excellent and not too heavy, and the Pale Ale – very drinkable with a lot of flavor without being too hoppy. It’ll be interesting to watch Four Bullets as they go along – see if they get more adventurous with their beer varieties.

The City of Richardson looks at this industrial park as a potential little Design District – with the same kind of development – restaurants, galleries, breweries – that Dallas is working on in the area between downtown and the river. A food truck park is slated to open soon. I hope the trend continues – it would be a cool thing.

I will definitely go back, maybe try and organize a bike ride from a DART station through the east side of the city down to the brewery.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Good Review of Four Bullets

I Lost the Empty Feeling And Began To Be Happy

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Allgood Cafe Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

Allgood Cafe
Deep Ellum
Dallas, Texas

Allgood Cafe

The Return Of the Yumbo And Existential Malaise

The Yumbo

The Yumbo

In all its glory.

When I look back on the past, In some ways I feel like the same person I was when I was seven years old. In other ways, I feel like my memories are those of an alien that used to occupy my body.

For example, for the first few years after I graduated from school, I used to eat fast food all the time. I used to love Burger King. What was I thinking?

I guess in one sense I was living in a place and time without a lot of choices. I did attempt to cook at home as much as I could – but it’s not easy to vittleate for one and cheaper to simply eat out. I was traveling a lot – and always liked getting a quick break from work at lunch. That adds up to fast food. At that time there simply weren’t the healthy and local diversity of dining options that there is today. There was no smartphone internet to search for the closest Pho place or the best Big Salad on the West side.

Those times have thankfully passed and I haven’t eaten at a Burger King in over twenty years. I’m sure the last were traveling with the kids and lured into places with a big indoor Playland – my kids were connoisseurs of ballpits and plastic slides.

The other week I came across an internet article criticizing Burger King – calling it The Saddest Chain in Fast Food – documenting its precipitous slide into the lowest depths of inadequate mediocrity.

And human beings in general are calibrated in such a way that they can inherently pick up on the sort of existential malaise your typical BK is now spewing into the atmosphere.

Until I read this article I hadn’t even thought about Burger King for decades – the thousands I’ve driven past have been invisible smears of red and yellow in my peripheral vision.

Then I heard a radio ad the other day. After that I came across another version on television.

The Yumbo had returned.

A Yumbo is a bilious concoction that resembles a ham and cheese sandwich. These were popular items in the early 1970’s – I remember them and can’t believe that it was that long ago.

Actually, I never ate one back in the day (I was out of the country in the Yumbo’s heyday). What made an impression on me, something I remember vividly until today, was a magazine piece I read at the time. I’ve had to dig around the internets to find out what it was:

It was from May 1977, from the magazine The Atlantic. A short Essay by Andrew Ward called, “Yumbo.”

I have not been able to find a current copy – but that’s not important. I remember it well.

The story is a simple one. A distinguished, intellectual older man walks into a Burger King and orders a ham and cheese sandwich.
“Do you mean a Yumbo?” asks the woman behind the counter.
“A ham and cheese sandwich, please,” is his reply.
“You mean a Yumbo?” she repeats.

And they are at a standoff. She will not sell him a sandwich until he utters or confirms the word, “Yumbo.” He refuses to do so – out of some desire to retain the small amount of dignity the modern world might allow him to posses.

The man leaves the establishment hamandcheese-less as well as Yumbo-less… hungry. It is a sad tale of the coarseness of modern life and the helplessness of trying to defend against the onslaught of the uncivilized horde.

So now, after somewhere around forty years, the Yumbo is back. I had to give it a shot.

So as I was driving home through the desolate stretches of some north Texas upscale suburb I asked the little woman inside my phone for the nearest Burger King. She offered me a choice of destinations and I selected one that I had no idea actually existed until the little pin showed up on that map spread across that tiny screen.

I confidently walked in, breathed deep the thick miasma of existential malaise and ordered, “A ham and cheese meal, please.”

The manager simply said, “What size?”

He didn’t make me say “Yumbo.”

I was disappointed.

A Yumbo meal spewing existential malaise into the atmosphere

A Yumbo meal spewing existential malaise into the atmosphere

The Nights Will Flame With Fire

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
― Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Pizza Oven at Cane Rosso Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

Pizza Oven at Cane Rosso
Deep Ellum
Dallas, Texas

Sugaring the Beignets

“Sometimes life is merely a matter of coffee and whatever intimacy a cup of coffee affords.”
― Richard Brautigan

Everyone I talk to about New Orleans says they went to Cafe du Monde for chicory coffee and beignets. That’s fine if you want to do the touristy thing, I suppose – but there is better coffee and there are much better beignets.

My favorite is the New Orleans Coffee and Beignet Company, in Uptown, off St. Charles, about halfway to Tulane. You’ll never eat beignets on Decatur again.

Take the streetcar.

New Orleans Beignet Company

New Orleans Beignet Company

Hamburger Fries & Drink


I see so many cars parked around a big corporate fast food place – so many queued up at the window, waiting for their flavorless extruded hunk of scientifically engineered food-like substance. So much substance with so little sustenance. Offset printed plastic focus-group tested graphics, tied in with billion-dollar commercial campaigns carefully crafted to make you jump at the sight of their logo like baby birds at a squirming worm.

Meanwhile so many family owned greasy spoons go wanting with their hand-painted cracked stucco signs. The food might not be better, it might even be greasier, but at least it is real.