Bodacious Bar-B-Q

When our kids were little we had a little popup tent camping trailer. It was pretty cool – we would keep it loaded with all the stuff we would need for the weekend. All we would have to do is buy some food and head out to one of the wide selection of Texas State Parks within a few hours drive of the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex. It was worth it even for a single night – we could go to a soccer game on Saturday morning and be in the woods for Saturday night. It was a good thing… until the trailer was stolen from in back of our house… but that’s another story.

One of the places we would go was Tyler State Park – outside of the eponymous East Texas City. It was a large park – held a lot of people in a whole series of camping areas around a resplendent sylvan lake. When we drove to and from we would pass a Bar-B-Q restaurant off the exit from Interstate 20. It always looked delicious and the associated smoke smelled even more so. But in keeping with the whole camping thing we never visited.

That was many years ago but I remember it.

On our last trip to New Orleans (for Lee’s Tulane Graduation) we left early in the morning, but not too early. We would be going past Tyler right at lunch time – and I decided to finally try out Bodacious Bar-B-Q.

There are four major types of Bar-B-Que – Kansas City, Memphis, Carolina, and Texas. Bodacious is, of course, Texas. Texas BBQ is actually a dry, slow cook – with most sauce added after.

The food was great, of course. The place was exactly like you would expect – a little dusty, a little cluttered, a lot of local workers on their lunch hour.

And then it was time to get back on the road.

Bodacious Bar-B-Q Tyler, Texas

Bodacious Bar-B-Q
Tyler, Texas

bodacious4

bodacious2

bodacious3

The sculptor carves because he must

Barbara Hepworth
Sea Form (Atlantic)
Bronze, 1965

Dallas Museum of Art, Sculpture Garden
Dallas, Texas

Sea Form (Atlantic) Barbara Hepworth (click to enlarge)

Sea Form (Atlantic)
Barbara Hepworth
(click to enlarge)

“The sculptor carves because he must. He needs the concrete form of stone and wood for the expression of his idea and experience, and when the idea forms the material is found at once. [...]
I have always preferred direct carving to modelling because I like the resistance of the hard material and feel happier working that way. Carving is more adapted to the expression of the accumulative idea of experience and clay to the visual attitude. An idea for carving must be clearly formed before starting and sustained during the long process of working; also, there are all the beauties of several hundreds of different stones and woods, and the idea must be in harmony with the qualities of each one carved; that harmony comes with the discovery of the most direct way of carving each material according to its nature.”
—- ‘Barbara Hepworth – “the Sculptor carves because he must”‘, The Studio, London, vol. 104, December 1932

“I have always been interested in oval or ovoid shapes. The first carvings were simple realistic oval forms of the human head or of a bird. Gradually my interest grew in more abstract values – the weight, poise, and curvature of the ovoid as a basic form. The carving and piercing of such a form seems to open up an infinite variety of continuous curves in the third dimension, changing in accordance with the contours of the original ovoid and with the degree of penetration of the material. Here is sufficient field for exploration to last a lifetime.”
“Before I can start carving the idea must be almost complete. I say ‘almost’ because the really important thing seems to be the sculptor’s ability to let his intuition guide him over the gap between conception and realization without compromising the integrity of the original idea; the point being that the material has vitality – it resists and makes demands.”

“I have gained very great inspiration from Cornish land- and sea-scape, the horizontal line of the sea and the quality of light and colour which reminds me of the Mediterranean light and colour which so excites one’s sense of form; and first and last there is the human figure which in the country becomes a free and moving part of a greater whole. This relationship between figure and landscape is vitally important to me. I cannot feel it in a city.”
—-Barbara Hepworth ‘Approach to Sculpture’, The Studio, London, vol. 132, no. 643, October 1946

The Return of the Dancing Frogs

Even though it was over thirty years ago, I remember the first time I walked into Tango like it was yesterday. I had been living in Dallas for a couple years – living just off Lower Greenville in the Turtle Dove apartments behind the Granada Theater. Farther down the street, in Lowest Greenville, Shannon Wynne built a new nightclub.

It was a huge converted bank building – and it was something else. There was the big main room with a balcony all around – a great place for live music. There was a terrible restaurant in an unbelievably loud room off the balcony. The walls were lined with televisions, all screaming nasty early 80′s rock videos. Then, down a back stairway, was my favorite spot – the Aquarium Bar. This was an elevated dance floor – sort of like a big, rectangular boxing ring, that filled all but a narrow strip around the edge of the room. All night extremely loud dance music would boom from speakers only a couple feet over your head – while the lights spun and flashed. Behind some sort of glass wall costumed dancers would sometimes perform in fish suits… I think.

You had to be there.

I think the wildest night I was there was one concert – Brave Combo opened up for Joe “KING” Carrasco and the Crowns, with Johnny Reno and the Sax Maniacs playing backup. Believe it or not – the last set was filmed (badly) and is still available on blurry Youtube.

(If you have time to watch this video – check out the interviews – a young Mike Rhyner at 5:55 and a very, very young Lisa Loeb at 11:10)

The place was fantastic, but it lost money hand over fist and closed after little more than a year. The bank building was torn down and a Taco Cabana Mexican Fast Food restaurant went up in that spot.

But what most people remember Tango for was the frogs on the roof. While the bank building was being renovated Bob Daddy-O Wade was commissioned to make a half-dozen giant frogs to be placed on the roof. Dallas (at that time, especially) had no sense of humor and the city decided, in its infinite bureaucratic wisdom, that the frogs (two dancing, one each playing the guitar, saxophone, trumpet and maracas) were in violation of the city sign ordinance and had to come down.

The court battle made the national news:

New York Times Article on Tango’s Frogs - DALLAS SIGN PANEL BANS 6 GIANT PERFORMING FROGS

and after much hullabaloo they were exonerated and allowed to stay. Not long after that, the place went belly-up and the frogs were sold off.

Three went to the roof of a mega-gas-station south of Dallas. I used to see them down there whenever I drove to Austin and meant to stop and get some pictures (for old times’ sake) but never pulled it off. The other three (guitar, sax, and maracas) went to Chuy’s Mexican restaurant in Austin – then on to the Chuy’s in Nashville, where they still are.

Googlemaps Street View of Nashville – there are the frogs!

So now, after all these years, I read in the paper that the three frogs (the dancing pair and the trumpet player) have returned to town and have been placed on top of the Taco Cabana at the same spot were Tango used to sit. They even seemed to get permission from the city first.

I had to see this. I rode my bike down to the DART station – took the train to the underground CityPlace station and rode the extreme escalators up to the surface. It was a short bike ride on to Lower Greenville where, as clear as could be, were the three frogs up on the roof.

They had hired a talented local mural painter, Stylle Read, to repaint the frogs and bring them back to their state of glory, then mounted them up on the roof.

A lot of people were stopping and taking pictures of the frogs. Talking to them, I was the only person old enough to have actually been in Tango when it was open (most had never seen or heard of the frogs, a few had seen them at the gas station).

It’s sort of a silly thing, but I feel good that they have come home.

Dancing frogs on the roof of Taco Cabana

Dancing frogs on the roof of Taco Cabana

Artists' Signatures - Bob Wade, and Stylle Read

Artists’ Signatures – Bob Wade, and Stylle Read

Dancing Frogs and a 5 Dollar Chicken Fajita Bowl.

Dancing Frogs and a 5 Dollar Chicken Fajita Bowl.

Frog Playing Trumpet.

Frog Playing Trumpet.

They're Back!

They’re Back!

Stevenson

Tony Cragg
Stevenson, Bronze, 1939

Tony Cragg, Stevenson, Dallas Museum of Art (click to enlarge)

Tony Cragg, Stevenson, Dallas Museum of Art
(click to enlarge)

I’ve been a big fan of Tony Cragg ever since I visited his exhibition at the Nasher. It made me happy to discover this fantastic bronze in the garden of the Dallas Museum of Art.

Construction Project at the Bayou Boogaloo

While in New Orleans for Lee’s Tulane Graduation I rode my bicycle to Bayou St. John for the Bayou Boogaloo. There is always a festival going on in The Big Easy and they are always fun. This was a particularly good one.

I bought a beer and found a shady spot on the shore of the Bayou. I sat there chatting with the locals about cycling, music, and aging hippies. We watched the watercraft plying the waves. It was a beautiful day.

A small group of people arrived on the far shore (not very far away) towing something on a trailer. They proceeded to extract a large, homemade barge consisting of a wooden platform with plastic barrels strapped underneath for floatation. We wondered how they were going to launch the ungainly contraption.

The guy had it going on. He directed his motley crew with efficiency and before you could swallow your gumbo they flipped it neatly into the water – using ropes to control the weight.

Then the guy proceeded to start hauling out prefabricated railings, benches, and an umbrella – screwing everything into place with a portable drill. It was an efficient and impressive display of carpentry. He soon had his own portable floating party barge, right in the middle of the bayou.

“Get that guy’s name,” one of the folks sitting next to me said between gulps of Abita Amber and bites of muffuletta. “I need a new deck and that’s the best carpenter I’ve seen in New Orleans.”

As I watched he extracted a full-blown steel anchor and dropped it into the mud at the bottom of the bayou.

The barge arrives and is flipped

The barge arrives and is flipped

over into the Bayou St. John.

over into the Bayou St. John.

Pretty bare bones at this point - but it floats.

Pretty bare bones at this point – but it floats.

Adding benches and railings.

Adding benches and railings.

Dropping Anchor.

Dropping Anchor.

Laissez les bons temps rouler

Laissez les bons temps rouler

Bike Riding in the Big Easy

My Xootr Swift folding bike on the bike route over Interstate 10 in New Orleans. Downtown and the Superdome are in the background.

My Xootr Swift folding bike on the bike route over Interstate 10 in New Orleans. Downtown and the Superdome are in the background.

We had a trip to New Orleans planned for Tulane Graduation. Lee actually graduated in December, and didn’t plan on walking, but we wanted to go anyway… sort of a closure.

This was the first out of town trip that we had taken since I had bought my folding Xootr Swift bike. One of the reasons I wanted the folder was to be able to take it along, collapsed in the trunk, and pull it out for a ride whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Lee’s friends had arranged a party for the graduates and parents at Parkway Bakery and Tavern. A few years ago I had seen a television show that claimed Parkway had the best Shrimp Po’ Boy sandwiches in New Orleans. That’s a pretty salty claim – but I have eaten there before and can’t really argue (though Domilise’s is close). No way am I going to miss a meal at Parkway, and I wanted to ride my bike. As early as I could rustle my rusty bones out of our guesthouse in the Garden District I walked to the car, unfolded my Xootr from the trunk, and set out across the city.

I had no real idea of a where I was going, but used my phone and the Bicycle Route little green lines on Google Maps and was able to find my way. One good thing is the way the Crescent City is laid out, as confusing as it can be, all the roads seem to run to Parkway’s ‘hood.

I have been going to New Orleans for decades, and I think this was the first day of really, really nice weather I’ve ever seen. I had ridden my commuter bike around Tulane in December, but the wind was howling cold spitting rain.

New Orleans has been working hard on making its streets more bike friendly and they have succeeded. There are bike lanes and recommended streets. There aren’t a lot of dedicated trails, except in a few key choke points – like crossing Interstate 10.

There is no comparison to Dallas (which is well known as the worst city for cycling). First, let’s face it, the city of New Orleans itself isn’t really very big – it’s only four miles or so from the river to Lake Pontchartrain – as opposed to the hundred miles from Mesquite to Benbrook.

New Orleans is hell to drive in – which, ironically, makes it easy to ride a bike in. The streets are narrow and choked which slows and “calms” the traffic. I could ride across town as fast as I can drive. In Dallas it’s not unusual to come across cars going a mile a minute – which is rolling death if you aren’t wrapped in a steel carapace.

The one downside to riding there are the cracked pavement and the potholes. I had to keep my eyes open and those tiny wheels on the folder transmit every shock right to my spine. I learned quickly to stay off the side streets and use the lanes on the larger thoroughfares – the pavement had been better repaired.

But, other than that – it was a blast.

I became lost less often than I had predicted (only once) and arrived at Parkway an hour early. That gave me time for a quick ride around City Park and along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. City Park is beautiful and huge (though people tell me it is a shadow of its pre-Katrina glory) and Pontchartrain feels like an ocean shore.

My Xootr Swift along the shore Lake Pontchartrain, New Orlean, Louisiana. You can see the Pontchartrain causeway on the horizon.

My Xootr Swift along the shore Lake Pontchartrain, New Orlean, Louisiana. You can see the Pontchartrain causeway on the horizon.

I didn’t have time to waste so I kept pedaling and still made it to Parkway before the festivities. I locked the bike out front until Candy and Lee arrived in the car – then all I had to do was fold it back up into the trunk.

Another advantage of the ride – that Shrimp Po’-Boy sure tasted extra good.

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

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

The Sweepers

The Sweepers
Wang Shugang
Cast Iron (2012)
Crow Collection of Asian Art
Dallas, Texas

The Sweepers Wang Shugang Cast Iron (2012) Crow Collection of Asian Art

The Sweepers
Wang Shugang
Cast Iron (2012)
Crow Collection of Asian Art

The Sweepers Wang Shugang Cast Iron (2012) Crow Collection of Asian Art

The Sweepers
Wang Shugang
Cast Iron (2012)
Crow Collection of Asian Art

The Sweepers Wang Shugang Cast Iron (2012) Crow Collection of Asian Art

The Sweepers
Wang Shugang
Cast Iron (2012)
Crow Collection of Asian Art

Faile in Exposition Park

Mural by Faile, Exposition Park area, Dallas, Texas

Mural by Faile, Exposition Park area, Dallas, Texas
(Click to Enlarge)

The mural was decorated by non-hazardous waste drums.

The mural was decorated by non-hazardous waste drums.

As I was setting up the route for the Stop and Photograph the Roses bike ride I made a point to have the ride go by a couple of murals in the no-man’s land of Exposition Park between Fair Park, Deep Ellum, and the Farmer’s Market. One was a Marilyn Monroe by Frank Campagna and the other was a work by a pair of Brooklyn artists that go by the name Faile.

I had seen their mural work in Trinity Groves last year on the Dallas Contemporary bike ride. They had been commissioned to do this one on the other side of the city.

It’s interesting because it is a completely different style and feel from what I had seen before. This is a very realistic scene of a cowgirl and her pony taking a nap. I really like it.
Someone on the ride pointed out that the woman’s mask is sitting on the ground beside her horse.

FAILE mural at Trinity Groves.

FAILE mural at Trinity Groves.

FAILE uses the year 1986 in their work - the year of the Challenger Disaster.

FAILE uses the year 1986 in their work – the year of the Challenger Disaster.