Unappeased Yearning To Return.

“The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.”
― Milan Kundera, Ignorance

After riding around in the increasingly inclement weather Saturday at the Cedars Open Studio Tour and Ride I was sore in the morning. Riding in the rain always wears me out… I’m not sure why. On Sunday was another bike ride – one I have been looking forward to. It was time for the 2014 Dallas Tweed Ride. The idea is to dress up in nostalgic dress – as best as possible and go out on vintage bicycles – if you have one.

I was one of the brave few that rode in the Tweed Ride last year. It was bitter cold – though still a lot of fun. I have a tweedy beret and a Goodwill jacket that I can wear with slacks and a tie – not historically accurate or as good looking as most others, but at least I can put forth a little effort dressing up. I put together my clothing and thought about my bike. I do have a semi-vintage road bike, but Nick has taken it over and installed clipless pedals so I can’t use it. I decided to take my folder – not vintage at all, but at least it’s efficient.

Thinking about the route I decided to drive down and park in the familiar lot on the west side of the Continental Bridge Park. I knew the ride would start downtown and end at the Turner House in Oak Cliff. I picked that spot because I new the ride back to my car would be mostly downhill.

I rode across the bridge park and through downtown to Dealy Plaza, where everyone was gathering for the ride. The weather was beautiful – it seemed almost impossible after the cold rain which had been falling the night before. If anything, it was a little warm… at least in the sun and out of the wind. I’m not good at counting numbers in a group like this, but I would guess about a hundred. That’s a pretty good group of people wearing odd costumes and wheeling around on outdated means of transport.

I knew a lot of folks from other bike rides – although some were surprisingly hard to recognize. We gathered up and rode up Main Street through downtown, then turned south and rode to Dallas Heritage Village. I remembered riding there once before for a Jazz Age Sunday Social. We stopped for some photos around the gazebo.

The Dallas Tweed Ride 2014 Posing in Dallas Heritage Village gazebo Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

The Dallas Tweed Ride 2014
Posing in Dallas Heritage Village gazebo
Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Dallas Tweed Ride 2014

Dallas Tweed Ride 2014

Dallas Tweed Ride 2014

Dallas Tweed Ride 2014

We rode back through downtown and then across the Trinity River on the Houston Viaduct. Then came the long uphill ride from the river to Bishop Arts and on up 8th Street to the Turner House. I’m afraid that this stretch pretty much wore me out and I was happy and exhausted to reach our destination.

There was a lot of fun – food, beer, (and water), games and great people. I brought my camera, of course, and will put up a few photos – though I didn’t take as many as I intended. I wanted to hang out without the stress of shooting too many pictures. There were a lot of other folks, better than me, taking pictures – you can see some on the Facebook Page and also, the Dallas Observer Photographer was there and put up a page of shots.

Dallas Tweed Ride

Dallas Tweed Ride

Dallas Tweed Ride 2014

Dallas Tweed Ride 2014

Once the sun began to set everyone started to take off home and I rode by myself – as I had planned, coasting down Edgefield to West Dallas and then Commerce Street into the river bottoms and back to my car. I had a fun time, though I was inexplicably bothered by how hard it was for me to make it up that long uphill. I also wished I had a vintage bike to ride and better clothes. I guess that’s to be expected this time of year – and fodder for upcoming resolutions.

The Glint Of Light On Broken Glass

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
― Anton Chekhov

Saturday was the annual Cedars Open Studios Tour and Bike Friendly Cedars had organized a bike ride to the various studios and galleries. I had been looking forward to this for months and was concerned as the day approached that there was a prediction of violent thunderstorms. Still, I was up for giving it a shot.

As a compromise, I did drive down in my car instead of taking the train – that way I had a refuge and means of transport if the weather turned really bad. I also took my commuter bike instead of my folder – the big tires, weatherproof cargo box, and fenders are designed to get through any weather. I parked at Lee Harvey’s, dragged my bike out of the back, and pedaled down to the Bowler Hat to meet up with the other folks.

We gathered together and rode off, touring a large number of artists, their spaces, and their work. It was a big variety, from ceramics, jewelry and paintings to gigantic sculptures and architectural works. Everybody was very friendly and there was even a good bit of food and drink set out too.

The weather held out until the middle of the afternoon when it turned cold and rainy. I bailed on the bike tour and hid out under the awning at Lee Harvey’s for a bit. It helped that there was an excellent band, Shoot Low Sheriff, finishing out a set. Clay Stinnett – the artist that painted the work I bought at For the Love of Kettle – was there showing off some paintings.

About that time the sun was setting and the heavens really opened up. I wanted to go to the finale of the evening at Bowman Hot Glass, so I unpacked my rain gear and headed out.

Despite the weather, there was a big crowd at Bowman. A lot of the folks I had seen here and there during the day also ended up at Bowman. I bought a glass Christmas Ornament and carefully packed it into an extra pannier that I brought along.

The highlight was the molten glass Christmas tree. A large structure of wood and iron was brought out and placed in the rain, surrounded by a safety zone demarcated by yellow police tape. A sound system boomed out an appropriate accompaniment. Two women dressed as glow-in-the-dark angels came out and garnished the structure with rolls of paper tape. Then a man in a silver heat suit and a torch lumbered from the building and set the paper and wood on fire.

The glass furnaces inside the building were opened and the bright orange glow bathed the cold and wet crowd outside. Then three glassblowers began grabbing giant blogs of glowing glass on the ends of long blowpipes, carrying them out to the tree, and dribbling the thick liquid all over the tree. In an intricate and dangerous hot dance they took turns running out with their molten burdens, holding them over the tree, then returning for another load.

The hot glass ignited all the remaining unburned wood, flooding the entire sculpture with flame. After a number of trips, the iron armature within was completely covered with strands of glass. It really did end up looking like a Christmas tree – festooned with a thick layer of crystal icicles.

Finally, they finished and everyone cheered. I packed my bike up and set out in the rain and dark to ride the few blocks to my car. I was very grateful for my fenders and Gore-Tex rain gear.

As I pedaled out I took one last look at the tree. Unfortunately, the falling rain was too much of a thermal shock and it shattered most of the glass tree – but it was incredible watching its creation.

Christmas tree made of fire and glass, Bowman Hot Glass, Dallas, Texas

Christmas tree made of fire and glass, Bowman Hot Glass, Dallas, Texas

Outside, For A While Anyway

“They had laughed. They had leaned on each other and laughed until the tears had come, while everything else–the cold, and where he’d go in it–was outside, for a while anyway.”
― Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

One of my favorite new places in Dallas is the Cold Beer Company. It’s on the far east side of Deep Ellum, and has been built as the rebirth of an interesting old building. It’s in a good location, has nice outdoor seating, and, of course, a good selection of cold beer.

I rode my bike there and noticed the brick patio entrance. Right in the middle of the paving was a single brick marked “Lawrence, Kansas.” I asked the waitress about that and she said one of the owners went to Kansas University, my alma mater.

“And he likes to talk about it,” she said.

So when he came out of the back I asked him about KU and the waitress was right – he liked to talk about it. He seemed a little sheepish about the brick. “They weren’t supposed to put it right there in the middle.” I’m not sure I believed him.

We talked about Lawrence and the Kansas winters. When I would look around, the waitress and bartender would roll their eyes.

I think they had heard it all before – many times before.

Paving brick in front of the Cold Beer Company Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Paving brick in front of the Cold Beer Company
Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Patio in front of the Cold Beer Company, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Patio in front of the Cold Beer Company,
Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

My Xootr Swift folding bike in the cool bike rack in front of the Cold Beer Company Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

My Xootr Swift folding bike in the cool bike rack in front of the Cold Beer Company
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

This is Water

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet
an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says
“Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a
bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes
“What the hell is water?”
—-David Foster Wallace, from the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address

The other day I stumbled across a blog entry that posed the question, “What Book has the Most Page-for-Page Wisdom?” I had read most of the links on the page – but one that I was not familiar with caught my eye. This is Water, by David Foster Wallace.

It’s a short work, actually a transcription of a commencement address, and readily available in book form or online.

There are a lot of good ideas here, but I want to look at one piece of text – a description of the hell everyone’s life can become if we give in.

By way of example, let’s say it’s an average day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging job, and you work hard for nine or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired, and you’re stressed out, and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for a couple of hours and then hit the rack early because you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there’s no food at home — you haven’t had time to shop this week, because of your challenging job — and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It’s the end of the workday, and the traffic’s very bad, so getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping, and the store’s hideously, fluorescently lit, and infused with soul-killing Muzak or corporate pop, and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be, but you can’t just get in and quickly out: You have to wander all over the huge, overlit store’s crowded aisles to find the stuff you want, and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts, and of course there are also the glacially slow old people and the spacey people and the ADHD kids who all block the aisle and you have to grit your teeth and try to be polite as you ask them to let you by, and eventually, finally, you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough checkout lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day-rush, so the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating, but you can’t take your fury out on the frantic lady working the register.

Anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and pay for your food, and wait to get your check or card authenticated by a machine, and then get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death, and then you have to take your creepy flimsy plastic bags of groceries in your cart through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and try to load the bags in your car in such a way that everything doesn’t fall out of the bags and roll around in the trunk on the way home, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive rush-hour traffic, etcetera, etcetera.

—–David Foster Wallace, This is Water

The excellent piece goes on to explain how important it is to not let this sort of thing get to you, to realize that we are all in the same boat, that we need to look at life in a non-selfish way and go with it – or else we will go mad.

All good advice and interesting thought provoking… but I want to present an alternative. Find out about this shit and simply don’t do it… or rather, figure out something else.

For example, I know all too well the hell of exhausted grocery shopping. So I decided not to do it.

My goal for this year… and probably for next year too, is to never drive my car to the grocery store. My commuter bike has room for a pair of big, cheap panniers I found at Wal-Mart of all places. With those and a backpack I can carry a goodly bit of groceries – enough to get by for a few days.

This has transformed my grocery shopping from a gas-fueled frustration fest into a series of fun little mini-adventures, complete with fresh air and a little exercise.

It helps that I have five grocery choices within easy cycling distance from my house. I define that as less than, say three miles… and no killer streets.

First is the Super Target – good for general shopping. They have bike racks sort of hidden in little alcoves near the entryways. This is the closest place to the hell described in Wallace’s speech. But, somehow, when you have ridden a bicycle to a store, it’s impossible to be overly frustrated at the inevitable delays. You simply feel too silly.

Bike racks tucked away at the Super Target store.

Bike racks tucked away at the Super Target store.

Then there is the Fiesta Mart – a Hispanic slanted grocery store. It’s the farthest away – maybe two miles – but a nice route, mostly bike trail. It has a beat-up but serviceable bike rack around by the propane cylinders.

My commuter bike, with panniers, waiting at the Fiesta Mark bike rack.

My commuter bike, with panniers, waiting at the Fiesta Mart bike rack.

Those are the only two groceries with bike racks near where I live. No big problem – they all have cart racks, which can be locked to as well as a dedicated rack. In the other direction – in Garland, actually – is the Saigon Market Mall – a big, cool Asian Market – good for noodles, fresh vegetables, and fish.

Then, very close to where I live is an Aldi – great for staples like milk and eggs. It’s nice to buy milk there since it is uphill from my house and I can ride up there light and coast home heavy.

Finally, there is an India Bazaar in the same center. Great place for rice, beans, and, especially spices. Their spice aisle is a wonder – I love to stand there and simply smell.

Locked up on the cart rack in front of the India Bazaar

Locked up on the cart rack in front of the India Bazaar

I know that the Wallace speech deals with much larger and more subtle issues than how to get your groceries. But in this tough world we need all the weapons we can muster and being able to roll out of the garage on a cheap, used, crappy bicycle instead of a smoke spewing SUV makes life a little bit easier to bear. For everybody.

Let’s Talk of Graves, of Worms, and Epitaphs

“Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let’s choose executors and talk of wills”
― William Shakespeare, Richard II

We lost about half the ride at Lee Harvey's - but here's the rest at the Santa Fe Trestle Trail. (click for a larger, better version on Flickr)

We lost about half the ride at Lee Harvey’s – but here’s the rest at the Santa Fe Trestle Trail.
(click for a larger, better version on Flickr)

A week ago I went along on an organized bike ride that, in the spirit of upcoming Halloween, explored three of Dallas’ historical cemeteries. I left the house and rode to the DART station, taking the train downtown. This was the last week of the giant State Fair of Texas and the trains were packed with last-minute fairgoers, but I made it without any problem. I rode from the West End Station down to the Continental Bridge Park and met up with about twenty folks there.

We rode down into the Trinity River Bottoms and followed the new paved bike trail and some gravel roads to the Santa Fe Trestle Trail. Then we headed up Corinth and into South Dallas. Working our way through the neighborhoods we arrived at our first stop, Oakland Cemetery.

This was a very peaceful and interesting place. It’s one of the oldest cemeteries in the city and is full of locally famous folks – the names on the tombstones are reflected in many familiar street names. One feature is that when they constructed the cemetery they left the native trees – making it one of the few first-growth forest spots in the city. There are a number of unique sub-species of trees found only there.

We rode around without stopping – I plan on going back soon for some photography there.

Leaving Oakland Cemetery we went a few blocks up a side street and stopped at an ordinary small rental property. It was the house where Ray Charles lived for a few years in the 1950s – while he was making some of his most famous music. I had no idea there was any connection between Ray Charles and the city of Dallas – the house is not marked or preserved in any way. The local blues scene was influential on his musical growth and style at the time. He was traveling a lot – but became a regular performer at local clubs like Woodman Hall and the Arandas Club.

Ray Charles' rental home. Dallas, Texas

Ray Charles’ rental home.
Dallas, Texas

We rode back on side streets into The Cedars where we stopped for lunch and a beer at Lee Harvey’s – which appeared as we turned the corner like an oasis in the desert.

The day was getting long and I thought about heading home, but I was convinced to ride back across the river to another historical cemetery, Oak Cliff Cemetery. It was another interesting and beautiful spot – but the sun was starting to set so we headed off to our last destination, Western Heights Cemetery.

I was getting tired and started to fall behind the main group. A strong cyclist stayed back with me and we became separated from everybody else. It was dark when we made it to Western Heights. We waited for a bit – but the others never made it.

Historical Marker at Western Heights Cemetery Dallas, Texas

Historical Marker at Western Heights Cemetery
Dallas, Texas

The most famous person buried in Western Heights is Clyde Barrow. A few years back I visited Bonnie Parker’s grave, north of Love Field. Her family insisted on her being buried far away from her infamous partner – there has been some interest in having them moved together over the years, but nothing has come of it.

Bonnie Parker's Gravesite

Bonnie Parker’s Gravesite

We clambered over the fence to take a look at the grave of Clyde and his brother Buck.

Grave of Clyde Barrow and his brother, Buck.

Grave of Clyde Barrow and his brother, Buck.

It was getting late and I was a long way from home, so I took off, riding back to the Trinity River, over the Continental Bridge and catching a train at the American Airlines Center back to Richardson. We had ridden a little over thirty miles, which is a long way in the city, especially for me. There is nothing better than a fun and exhausting day.

The Middle of the Perceptual World

This new quantum mechanics promised to explain all of chemistry. And though I felt an exuberance at this, I felt a certain threat, too. “Chemistry,” wrote Crookes, “will be established upon an entirely new basis…. We shall be set free from the need for experiment, knowing a priori what the result of each and every experiment must be.” I was not sure I liked the sound of this. Did this mean that chemists of the future (if they existed) would never actually need to handle a chemical; might never see the colors of vanadium salts, never smell a hydrogen selenide, never admire the form of a crystal; might live in a colorless, scentless, mathematical world? This, for me, seemed and awful prospect, for I, at least, needed to smell and touch and feel, to place myself, my senses, in the middle of the perceptual world.
—-Oliver Sacks, Uncle Tungsten

20 Elements Joel Shapiro Northpark Center Dallas, Texas

20 Elements
Joel Shapiro
Northpark Center
Dallas, Texas