What I learned this week, August 8, 2014

DO NOT CARRY CHILDREN WHILE ON SKATES

My favorite local band, Home by Hovercraft, have a new video out. The Kessler, the Corinth Street Tunnel (scary), and the White Rock Skate Center.

Home by Hovercraft, Dallas

Home by Hovercraft, Dallas

Home by Hovercraft in Deep Ellum

Home by Hovercraft in Deep Ellum

Irish dancer with Home by Hovercraft

Irish dancer with Home by Hovercraft


Car fire just north of downtown, Dallas.

Car fire just north of downtown, Dallas.

Urban Planner Patrick Kennedy Wants To Tear Down A Highway

…On whether Dallas wants to kick its car addiction:
We’re effectively subsidizing land at the edge of town. Cheaper land in order to get further away, and thus, we have to drive everywhere. When 96 percent of trips are by car, but then we’ve got 20, 25 percent of the population is below poverty, we’re then pushing people and forcing people to have cars just to participate in the local economy in a way that they can’t afford right now.


In Dallas, Turning the Page Marked Nov. 22, 1963


10 Clever and Well-Designed Camping Essentials


Bacon Burger at Smoke.

Bacon Burger at Smoke.

War in the Ukraine, Gaza, ISIS, Ebola… and now the worst of all… this:

Bacon is about to get really expensive.

I guess there is always Tactical Bacon… like, for emergencies.



What College Can’t Do


What Cartoons Can Do


The great ketchup debate: to fridge or not to fridge?


Cycling in Flip Flops

Some cycle in sneakers, some cycle in heels…and others cycle in flip flops. Well if the beach is your destination why not?

Summertime in Copenhagen. Flip flops are the preferred footwear for bicycle users and pedestrians. I’ve been wearing them for a month non-stop now… it’s going to be hard to put on normal shoes again.

Of course, your neighbourhood “avid cyclist” will probably tell you “oooh… can’t cycle in THOSE. Need some proper cycling shoes blahblahblah”


9 of the Best Cuban Sandwiches in Dallas

I’m already a big fan of Jimmy’s Food Store (even had the Cuban there) and Ten Bells (I need to write an entry on Ten Bells) in Bishop Arts. Some of these others look great too.

Cuban Sandwich from Jimmy's Food Store, Dallas, Texas

Cuban Sandwich from Jimmy’s Food Store, Dallas, Texas

Seating out on the street at Jimmy's Food Store.

Seating out on the street at Jimmy’s Food Store.

Sidewalk Entertainment at Jimmy's Food Store, Dallas, Texas

Sidewalk Entertainment at Jimmy’s Food Store, Dallas, Texas

Buried House, Nasher XChange, Entry Five of Ten

Previously in the Nasher XChange series:

  1. Flock in Space, Nasher XChange, Entry One of Ten
  2. X , Nasher XChange, Entry Two of Ten
  3. Fountainhead , Nasher XChange, Entry Three of Ten
  4. Moore to the Point, Nasher XChange, Entry Four of Ten

Lara Almarcegui
Buried House
2226 Exeter Ave.
Oak Cliff Gardens

I began to feel old, out of shape, and drained as I worked my way north from Paul Quinn College to the third and final Nasher XChange exhibition on my bike ride through South Dallas. It was only a 12.5 mile ride – but these were tough miles. The last half of the route was hilly, the road was rough, and I had to stop every block, fighting my way through the traffic.

But once I rode up to Lara Almarcegui’s Buried House, I realized that here, more than any of the other sites, really begged to be seen by bicycle. I simply can’t imagine what it would be like to drive up to the now-vacant lot in an SUV, step out for a minute or two, then pile back in and drive home. It wouldn’t be the same… you would miss the point.

The work is meaningless without experiencing the surrounding neighborhood.

It is a tough part of town. The streets and sidewalks are in bad repair, cracked and heaving. Trash pickup is spotty at best. The modest homes are a varied melange – a torn up shack here, a burned hulk there, but there are also well-cared, decorated homes that are obviously a great source of pride to an unassuming owner.

And there were plenty of other vacant lots – most littered with junk and sprinkled with empty bottles.

You don’t see the details from a car… but you do from a tired, slow-moving bicycle.

Ironically, this is the second blog entry this February where I found myself taking a photo of a vacant lot. The other one, Arcady, was in the most tony enclave of Highland Park. That neighborhood is the polar opposite of the rugged Oak Cliff Gardens district where Buried House is located.

Destruction, renewal, the inevitable ultimate victory of chaos and entropy… rich and poor, our fate is already written.

After I left the site I had a a short ride on neighborhood streets until I reached the DART Kiest Station and after a short wait, caught the Blue Line downtown, where I switched to the Red line to Richardson and home.

Lara Almarcegui Buried House

Lara Almarcegui
Buried House

From the Nasher Website:

Buried House
2226 Exeter Ave.
Oak Cliff Gardens

The buried remains of a house offer an opportunity for reflection on the transition
and rebirth of one of Dallas’s oldest neighborhoods: Oak Cliff Gardens.
Almarcegui’s project for Nasher XChange, entitled Buried House, involves working with Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity on a house in Southeast Dallas already slated for demolition. After the demolition is finished, the artist will bury the house’s remains on the property, creating a sort of memorial site that nonetheless retains the building’s actual substance and provides a “free space” for reflection on the neighborhood’s past, present and future.

Almarcegui is working in Oak Cliff Gardens, a neighborhood in East Oak Cliff, with a history almost as old as Dallas itself. Near the site of the first stop for stagecoaches headed out of Dallas for Central Texas, the area surrounding the intersection at Lancaster and Ann Arbor roads became the small town of Lisbon, which was in turn annexed by the city in 1929.

Today, Oak Cliff Gardens is a neighborhood in transition. Many derelict, often vacant, homes will undergo renovations, thanks to the help of organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. These “wastelands” in the neighborhood embody a significant historical moment of possibility when anything might happen. Almarcegui hopes to draw attention to this area and make people in Dallas aware of its rich and varied character, before it is changed forever.

From Google Maps Streetview - what the house looked like before the demolition.

From Google Maps Streetview – what the house looked like before the demolition.

buried3

Lara Almarcegui Buried House

Lara Almarcegui
Buried House

Label Text:

Lara Almarcegui
Buried House, 2013
Demolished and buried house

Born in Spain and based in The Netherlands, Lara Almarcegui brings attention to places most people pass without noticing, such as derelict, abandoned buildings and seemingly vacant plots of land.
Working in environments and places in the midst of transformation, Almarcegui researches and documents them, developing unconventional and creative ways of drawing attention to them. As her contribution to Nasher XChange, Almarceguui has worked with Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity to locate a house already slated for demolition. After the demolition, she buried the house’s remains on the property. As the artist has explained, “This project is a sculptural work that is about the construction that used to stand, the history of the house and how it was erected. However it’s not just about the house, but about the past of the terrain and the future of the terrain. It is a work about construction and urban development.”

Large Selection of Wines

“I drank for some time, three or four days. I couldn’t get myself to read the want ads. The thought of sitting in front of a man behind a desk and telling him that I wanted a job, that I was qualified for a job, was too much for me. Frankly, I was horrified by life, at what a man had to do simply in order to eat, sleep, and keep himself clothed. So I stayed in bed and drank. When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn’t have you by the throat. ”
― Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Ever since I went on the Dallas Contemporary bike tour of murals I have been paying attention to where more of these are. There are a lot more than you would think.

Today, I walked past another work by the local street artists, Sour Grapes. This one was on the side of a liquor store in Oak Cliff, near Bishop Arts – at 501 W. Davis.

Street Mural by Sour Grapes, Oak Cliff, Texas (click to enlarge)

Street Mural by Sour Grapes, Oak Cliff, Texas
(click to enlarge)

“Baby,” I said, “I’m a genius but nobody knows it but me.”

She looked down at me. “Get up off the floor you damn fool and get me a drink.”
― Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Dallas Tweed Ride

Today was an event I was looking forward to, the Dallas 2013 Tweed Ride.

I had what was, I guess, the bare minimum – a tweed jacket from Goodwill and a tweed cap a friend had found on Amazon. So I was ready, if only minimally so.

The ride was originally scheduled for a week ago, but had to be postponed because of the ice storm. The weather was impossible that day, but it was pretty cold today – low forties, overcast, foggy, with a wicked north wind screaming in like a wave of icy razor blades. The last tweed ride – two years ago – was on a preternaturally warm day and had a huge turnout. Today looked like the opposite. I had to think hard about whether I wanted to go. It was nasty outside and the house was warm. I had plenty to do at home.

I futzed and dutzed and prepared as best I could. I decided to ride my commuter bike, and strap on as much crap as I thought I needed onto it. One pannier was packed with my camera and tripod and the other one I filled with two vacuum bottles of hot coffee. I also filled a small flask with some rum, just in case.

Though it wasn’t authentic, I wore a modern thermal vest under my jacket – hoping to keep my core warm.

And I set out to ride my bike to the DART station. As I turned north into the wind, at the end of my block, I decided to turn around and go home. I was out of breath – since the ice storm I’ve been hanging around and am not used to riding… I felt ridiculous in my silly getup. But most of all, the cutting cold wind made riding simply too miserable.

But then I thought about how decisions about giving up go down. The problem is; the pain, the uncomfortable cold, and the icy wind are all too obvious negatives… while the positives of actually braving the elements were out there in the uncertain future, and not for sure. How do you judge the merit of something that you don’t actually do? If you give in to the immediately uncomfortable and reject the possible future… you won’t get out of bed in the morning.

So I sucked it up and pedaled on. As I rode toward the train station, I noticed the clouds breaking up to the north and by the time I reached it the sun was actually breaking through the clouds, and the vicious wind began to break. I bought my pass and the transit gods sent a train in at the exact second I arrived on the platform (that is rare – I’m usually cursed and get to see my train leaving as I pull up – and have to wait).

The ride started by the Grassy Knoll at Dealey Plaza in Downtown Dallas, behind the famous wooden fence. I had thought that the interest in the assassination site would die down after the recent fiftieth anniversary, but there was a huge crowd of tourists wandering around… looking askance at the small crowd of people wearing odd clothing, standing around with a motley collection of bicycles, and shivering.

The crowd wasn’t huge – the cold and the postponement had taken its toll – but there was enough. We set out and rode through downtown, looping past Klyde Warren Park for photographs, and then down Main Street – past the Dallas Eye – and across the Jefferson Viaduct Cycletrack into Oak Cliff.

About two weeks ago, some folks and I had spent a few hours sweeping the track clean. Unfortunately, the ice storm had forced the city to sand the bridge heavily and the traffic had pushed a lot of sand and rock into the bicycle lanes – making our work worthless and the track difficult and dangerous. I took my time crossing – I didn’t want to ride fast through that slippery gravel, but the sun was still out and the view was really nice.

We rode into Oak Cliff, through Bishop Arts and on to the Turner House, where there were refreshments and photographs. We couldn’t stay too long – it was a long way from home, so I rode back across the river and caught the train downtown.

The temperature dropped after the sun went down and the ride home from the station was very cold… but bearable.

Tweed is warmer than you think.

The Tweed Ride posing in Klyde Warren Park

The Tweed Ride posing in Klyde Warren Park
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Dallas Observer Article and Photos of the ride

Charming Portraits of People With Their Bicycles at the Dallas Tweed Ride

Sweeping the Cycletrack

There are a lot of cycling events in Dallas, this time of year… even though the weather is extremely iffy. It can be freezing, wet, windy, or even hot – but at least it won’t be toxic, like the days of summer.

There were three things bicycle-wise I wanted to do on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but I didn’t commit to them (in this day and age, lack of commitment is a “maybe” on a facebook event) because my son Lee was in for the holidays from New Orleans (my other son was in New York with some friends) and I wanted to be free to spend some time with him.

What was I thinking? He has better things to do than to hang out with me.

The first event was an eleven o’clock sweeping at the cycletrack that runs over the Jefferson Street Viaduct.

In its never ending quest to climb out of the basement of the worst city for cycling in the US – one thing that Dallas did was establish a two-way cycle track across the Trinity River on the Jefferson Street bridge. I think it is semi-temporary and the route will move to the Houston Street bridge once the trolley route has been constructed there – but that will be years into the future.

The route is a lot of fun – one of my favorite rides in the city. When you think of cycling infrastructure that is used for transportation rather than recreation you begin to think in terms of “choke points” – place where you can’t cross easily or safely on a bicycle. Classic choke points are highways, rail lines, and rivers. A huge one in Dallas is the Trinity River and its river bottoms – it divides the metroplex in half and makes it impossible to commute the short distance downtown from Oak Cliff. Routes are opening up – such as the Santa Fe Trestle crossing, but they suffer from lack of connections on each end.

The Jefferson Viaduct Cycletrack was a godsend. It runs right from the heart of Oak Cliff into the center of downtown and is a great commuting route with a killer view from the top of the bridge.

View from the high point of the Jefferson Viaduct Cycletrack, Trinity River, Dallas, Texas

View from the high point of the Jefferson Viaduct Cycletrack, Trinity River, Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

The problem was that the city didn’t do a very good job of cleaning the track and it has been collecting a lot of junk, rocks, and dirt… and especially that bane of delicate bicycle tires, broken glass.

So on Saturday, local bicyclists banded together and a group was organized to sweep the entire mile and a half length. I wanted to go but didn’t realize until the last minute that I was able to work it into my schedule. I loaded up my car, dug out an old push broom from the garage and drove out. I have been trying to reduce the amount of driving I do (and have been more successful than I imagined) but today the timing was too tight so I cheated and drove. I parked in the old semi-abandoned parking garage (the place where I took the photos of Reunion Arena with fireworks after the Omni Hotel light show), walked out, and started sweeping.

Working in several crews spread out we swept the whole length in a little over an hour and a half. It was surprisingly fun, though my back reminded me of it the next day.

Sweeping on the Jefferson Street Cycletrack, Dallas, Texas

Sweeping on the Jefferson Street Cycletrack, Dallas, Texas

Sweeping on the Jefferson Street Cycletrack, Dallas, Texas

Sweeping on the Jefferson Street Cycletrack, Dallas, Texas

Sweeping in the other direction, towards Oak Cliff

Sweeping in the other direction, towards Oak Cliff