Column in Deep Ellum Art Park

I wanna tell you about Texas Radio and the Big Beat
Comes out of the Virginia swamps
Cool and slow with plenty of precision
With a back beat narrow and hard to master
—-Jim Morrison, Texas Radio and the Big Beat

Deep Ellum Art Park, Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum Art Park, Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum Art Park, Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum Art Park, Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum Art Park, Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum Art Park, Dallas, Texas

The Control of Nature

“The industries were there because of the river. They had come for its navigational convenience and its fresh water. They would not, and could not, linger beside a tidal creek. For nature to take its course was simply unthinkable. The Sixth World War would do less damage to southern Louisiana. Nature, in this place, had become an enemy of the state.”
—-The Control of Nature, Atchafalaya, John McPhee

Levee strengthening, New Orleans, Louisiana

Levee strengthening, New Orleans, Louisiana

“The Unites States Congress, in its deliberations, decided that ‘the distribution of flow and sediment in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers is now in desirable proportions and should be so maintained.’ The Corps was thereby ordered to preserve 1950. In perpetuity, at Old River, thirty per cent of the latitude flow was to pass to the Atchafalaya.”
—-The Control of Nature, Atchafalaya, John McPhee

New Orelans, Louisiana

New Orelans, Louisiana

A Bowler Hat in the Cedars

One featured stop in the DART to Art Rail & Ride that a friend of mine organized a few weeks ago was the Bowler Hat sculpture in the Cedars – just across I30 south of downtown Dallas. I had originally planned to swing by there during my Stop and Shoot the Roses ride earlier – but had to cut it due to length of ride.

Bowler Hat Sculpture in the Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Bowler Hat Sculpture in the Cedars, Dallas, Texas

The Bowler Hat was originally commissioned by British upscale furniture purveyor, Timothy Oulton, to grace his new store being opened in Dallas.

Local artist Keith Turman built the thing. He and Keith Scherbarth used a 3d scanner on a real bowler hat to get the shape and curves just right. Then his team set to work with steel, wood, fiberglass, and foam, building up, carving down, shaping, and smoothing until, after six months of sweat, he had a twenty-foot wide, ten foot tall hat.

Unfortunately, like the dancing frogs decades ago, the hat fell victim to Dallas’ draconian sign ordinance and it was never able to make it to the top of the furniture store.

The hat sat unloved and unknown in a warehouse for a long time. Finally, not long before it was slated for destruction, Doug Caudill, owner of the studio the hat was built in, suggested that the hat be donated to the Cedars Community as a piece of public art. Structural Studio provided a very visible location, KNK Concrete Express provided the foundation, and Tony Collins Art built the metal stand the hat sits on.

And now, thanks to many people from an upscale British furniture store to a Texas concrete company – and many in between, there is a cool piece of public art along I30 south of downtown Dallas. Pull off to look at it though, that curve is a doozy.

Message in a Bottle – Shazam!

This weekend I was spending the day wandering around the city on my bicycle. I started out by riding to the DART station with the intention of getting on the first train and riding it until I felt like getting off.

As can happen on days like that, later in the afternoon I found my self wanting to take a little rest. I was riding through Oak Cliff, a little west and a little south of the Bishop Arts District, and spotted a tiny bit of shade graced by a collection of round concrete picnic tables with benches next to a Christian School.

It looked inviting – to sit, polish off a water bottle and listen to some music on headphones. So I swerved off the street and rode the sidewalk under the trees.

The only thing that was there was a wine bottle sticking up on one of the tables. I assumed someone had been there before me – probably the night before – and used the spot for a little public intoxication. Not liking litter – I went over to fetch the bottle so I could find a trash can somewhere.

As I approached the bottle I realized I was wrong. It wasn’t a cheap empty. Someone had replaced the label with a handwritten sign that said “Message In A Bottle,” with a lightning bolt and a couple of stars. There was a missive wadded up in the neck of the bottle. It was wet and torn, but I extracted it and carefully unfolded it on the concrete top of the picnic table.

The message was a Xeroxed mysterious crazy rant ending with Shazam! and a crude picture of Andy Kaufman.

The message bottle on the shady picnic table.

The message bottle on the shady picnic table.

Message in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle

Here’s what the message said:

You are Now! Yes. Is this real? This moment, that you have chosen to co-create? I know not. What I do know is that everything in your life has led you to this exact moment in space and time. Yes your fantastic being of molecular vibrations slipping into the NOW. You, co-creating the awakening of your inner Shazam-Samurai! You, catapulting your nitro-burnin’, fuel-injected, Hootenany, Howlin’ Wolf, Love dance into the future of NOW! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Shazam!

Now, what was so odd about all this is that I had seen that exact same message before. I had photographed it and written a blog entry. Over a year ago, I came across another exact copy of this glued to a boarded-up window in Deep Ellum. I wrote about it here: Text on the Streets.

Stuck on a plywood-covered window. Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Stuck on a plywood-covered window. Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

So there is someone that for at least over a year has been going around Dallas putting out these little nutjob manifestos. I found two about six miles apart. I did a search on the text and found nothing (other than my own blog entry).

I carefully folded and rolled the worn paper and stuck it back in the bottle. Now I want to keep my eyes open – see if I find it again.

Secret Mural

How can a mural be secret? Isn’t public viewing part of the very essence of a mural?

I like to think I know a lot about the various murals painted around Dallas. I see a lot of them when I ride around on my bicycle (there is no better way to see a city), I take photos of them, and put them on my blog. Sometimes I feel that it’s cheating – a cheap way to get an entry up – but if you decide to post something every day, it’s necessary to find something to post when you are too tired, busy, or beat down to work on something more substantial or entertaining.

Richard, a friend of mine, spoke of a “secret mural” he knew about that I didn’t. I wondered if he was right; if there was a mural that I had never seen. I knew the general area that he was referring to – and it was a swath of space I had traversed many times. I thought that I had covered all wall paintings in that stretch – but I know how wrong I usually am.

My friend organized a ride, sort of a sequel to the Stop and Photograph The Roses ride I helped out with a while back. I had originally had his stops on my ride, but had to cut them out. I have learned that organized rides, especially ones with planned stops, can get too long very easily. I felt bad about cutting these out and was looking forward to his ride.

He promised we would stop at the “secret mural” on the way back.

Unfortunately, it was a bit of a scorcher of a day and I became overheated and dehydrated. I bailed and took the train home. I know that feeling and knew it was time to give up before something bad happened. But I missed the secret mural – which the rest of the group visited.

He put a photo of the mural on his facebook and… he was right, I had never seen this one and had no idea where it was.

But he also put some photos of other riders at the mural site up on facebook, and I began to look at them closely. I identified the Bank of America Plaza tower (the tallest building in Dallas) in the background, and by its orientation was able to determine that the secret mural was on a forty five degree angle from the tower.

That still left a lot of country to cover. However, looking at the shots more closely, I noticed a giant Texas flag that I recognized in the photo. By taking the angle of this flag and triangulating it with the skyscraper I was able to pinpoint the location. Then by using Google Maps Street View and a distinctive pattern of windows on a building down the street…. in five minutes I had it.

The mural even shows up on Google Maps.

I was surprised because this is a road that I have ridden many times and never noticed the mural off to the side, behind a liquor store.

So today I rode down to get some shots to prove I was there. It’s not the nicest of places, so I took my photographs quickly. As I was packing up a homeless alcoholic-looking man said, “Hey, I saw you clear across town.”
“Where was that?”
“Over on Lamar, by the beer store,” he said. He was right, I had been there earlier to look at another mural I had spotted from a train.
“Lamar isn’t across town,” I said, “I came all the way from Richardson.”
“On that thing?” the man said.

My Xootr Swift bicycle next to the Secret Mural, Dallas, Texas

My Xootr Swift bicycle next to the Secret Mural, Dallas, Texas

The Secret Mural, Dallas, Texas

The Secret Mural, Dallas, Texas