You Insolent Demon, How Blind You Are!

You insolent demon, how blind you are! You may think I’m small, but I can grow easily enough. You may think I’m unarmed, but I could pull the moon down from the sky with my two hands. Don’t worry, old Sun WuKong will sock you one.
—- Sun WuKong, The Monkey King

I love noodles! Because of that, I was excited when, about a year ago, I read of the opening of a new place in Deep Ellum – The Monkey King Noodle Company.

Restaurant review: Monkey King Noodle Co. is a Chinese noodle soup lover’s paradise

All Hail The Monkey King

There had been this two-story taco joint on Main Street. I don’t think I had ever actually eaten there – but it was colorful and smelled delicious and I was unhappy when I saw it closed down. But it wasn’t long before construction started up. When I found out it was going to be a noodle spot – greatness.

Monkey King promised fresh hand-pulled noodles and authentic Chinese street food recipies. That sounded right up my alley – but I was never able to work out a visit. They were closed every time I stopped by.

Finally I was riding my bike down Main and saw someone out cleaning at Monkey King. I checked my phone and saw they would be opening at six – which was a half hour or so away. I rode on down to The Cold Beer Company and had a Temptress, then came back a few minutes after six.

The line was already halfway down the block but I had time so I locked up my bike and joined the queue. The guy in front of me said he lived nearby and was a huge fan of the Soup Dumplings – but since this was my first time there I went ahead and ordered the top of the menu, The Spicy Beef Noodle Soup.

And it was good. The hand thrown noodles are thick, chewy, and… well, perfect. The broth was as spicy as promised and the hunks of beef surprisingly hearty.

The small Monkey King building has a scary steel spiral staircase up to a patio on the roof. I really enjoyed chatting with the folks up there, eating our food while the sun set behind the crystal spires of downtown.

Now I have to go back and try those Soup Dumplings.

Monkey King Noodle Company, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas With cool covered patio on the roof.

Monkey King Noodle Company, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas
With cool covered patio on the roof.

Spicy Beef Noodles from Monkey King Noodle Company

Spicy Beef Noodles from Monkey King Noodle Company

Beauty Is In The Eye

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.
—-Kinky Friedman

Deep Ellum, then and now.

I am old enough and have lived in Dallas long enough to have seen Deep Ellum rise, fall, and now rise again. When I first moved here in 1981 it was an urban industrial wasteland – known only for cheap space for marginal businesses.

Yet, even then, the neighborhood had a long and famous history. The music from the 1920’s, lead by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, Texas Bill Day and Bessie Smith paved the way for modern jazz, blues, and rock and roll as much as any other place. But in 1969 a giant elevated freeway choked off the urban oxygen and the vibrant area fell into decay.

Then in the 1980’s fueled by cheap funky space and the punk revolution in music Deep Ellum regained its reputation as a spawning ground for music and nightlife. I was there for that – and it was something.

But again, the city zoning laws, rising crime, and the fact that the wealthy edge of the city was vomiting out over the cotton fields over an hour north threw Deep Ellum back into disrespect and disrepair.

Now, though, the population is moving back in and Deep Ellum is coming back with a vengeance. This time it is different, the rebirth is fueled by people actually living in and around the area. This time it feels like it might last.

The last Friday of the month is Dallas Critical Mass. I always enjoy these, a lot, even though it took all my will power to get my stuff together and catch a train downtown – work wore me out so much, the siren song of the couch was almost irresistible. This is a rare sweet spot in Dallas weather – and a big group showed up in the park for the ride. One of the fun things about the Critical Mass Ride is that nobody knows where it is going. This month we wound around downtown, then headed out Main Street through Deep Ellum.

When we crossed Exposition the bicyclists were clumping up in a big group right in the middle of the street, and I realized we had reached our destination. It was the Cold Beer Company – a new bar/restaurant/place to hang out on the edge of Deep Ellum.

I realized that I had seen this little building before, and had even photographed it and posted a blog entry. It was once the rundown and abandoned spot that used to hold Vern’s Kitchen until it closed in 2009. I liked the place, even with the broken windows and graffiti, but didn’t think that Deep Ellum would grow enough to resurrect a business on such a wayward spot.

I was wrong. We stayed at the Cold Beer Company for a couple of cold beers (Peticolas Velvet Hammer to be exact) and I pronounce the location to be back and back for the better. The room is small, but they have done a great job with their patio and garden areas. They even have a cool custom bike rack out in front.

The building that would become The Cold Beer Company, in March of 2013

The building that would become The Cold Beer Company, in March of 2013

The Cold Beer Company today... from about the same angle.

The Cold Beer Company today… from about the same angle.

Be Content With Silence

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
― Ansel Adams

Silence Antoine-Augustin Préault Dallas Museum of Art

Silence
Antoine-Augustin Préault
Dallas Museum of Art

Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas, Texas

(label text)

Antoine-Augustin Préault
French, 1809-1879

Silence
c. 1842
Patinated plaster
Anonymous gift and General Acquisition Fund, 2014.10

French sculptor Antoine-Augustin Préault created eerie contrasts of shadow and light in this composition featuring merely a face and a hand. Linear drapery enshrouds the androgynous figure’s face, drawing attention to its gaunt features, half-closed eyes, and skeletal hand. A finger lifted to the lips is a gesture commonly found in ancient funerary sculptures that glorified the dead. Portraiture or reliefs bearing images of the deceased performing this gesture were intended to conjure pleasant memories, but Silence, with its brutal evocation of frailty and death, breaks from the well-established canon.

Préault designed Silence for Jacob Roblès’ tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, which is the city’s largest and most famous burial ground. The medallion’s compositional elements combine to convey a somber nature perfect for the purpose of a tomb. Its superb round, dark hardwood frame with a deep ogee, or S-shaped molding, enhances the sculpture’s dimensionality and melancholy theme.

“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?”
― Lawrence Durrell, Justine

When the Pretty Women Walk Over My Grave

“It’s not what I’d want for at my funeral. When I die, I just want them to plant me somewhere warm. And then when the pretty women walk over my grave I would grab their ankles, like in that movie.”
― Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Funerary Figure (tau-tau) Dallas Museum of Art Dallas, Texas

Funerary Figure (tau-tau)
Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas, Texas

Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas, Texas

(label text)
Funerary figure (tau-tau)
Indonesia: South Sluawesi, Sa’dan Toraja People
19th century or earlier
Wood
The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc. 1980.2 McD

The Toraja carve tau-tau, smaller than life-size funerary figures, to commemorate the deceased when a high-ranking funeral is held. Only members of the highest-ranking aristocracy are permitted to have permanent tau-tau. This unusually small funerary figure appears to be archaic in style and probably predates even the oldest effigies seen beside Toraja tombs today.

The bun or hair knot at the back of the head of this tau-tau indicates that it represents a female. Her mouth is open and may remind one of The Scream, a modern painting by Edvard Munch. The expression is not precisely understood, but it may have been meant to capture bearing of an authoritative aristocratic woman accustomed during her lifetime to public speaking and giving orders, as this tau-tau appears to be doing

Cortex of the Brain as a Mosaic of Tiny on/off Elements

“Like his master I. P. Pavlov before him, he imagines the cortex of the brain as a mosaic of tiny on/off elements. Some are always in bright excitation, others darkly inhibited. The contours, bright and dark, keep changing. But each point is allowed only the two states: waking or sleep. One or zero.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Irving Arts Center, Irving, Texas

Mosaic, Irving Arts Center, Irving, Texas

Mosaic, Irving Arts Center, Irving, Texas

In college, I took Art History – mostly in a hopeless, vain attempt to meet women. I really fell into it, though. I think I learned more useful knowledge in that course than in any other. The problem is, I came to the class, in a dark, quiet dungeon under a Fake Romanesque stone building – the darkness only pierced by the beam of the slide projector, the silence only broken by the instructor’s drone – after four hours of advanced organic chemistry laboratory. Sometimes I would forget to remove my goggles and would frighten the other students.

The difficulty was making that left-right brain switch during a quick hike across campus. I remember looking at some Byzantine Mosaics from Ravenna and trying to understand and appreciate the art… but all I could think was, “I wonder what dyes they used to get that blue?”

Mosaic, Irving Arts Center, Irving, Texas

Mosaic, Irving Arts Center, Irving, Texas

The mural at the Irving Arts Center pays tribute to some of the best-known icons of the city. You can see the TRE Train, The Las Colinas Mustangs, and the long-imploded Texas Stadium (now replaced with Jerry’s Death Star).

“She may know a little, may think of herself, face and body, as ‘pretty’…but he could never tell her all the rest, how many other living things, birds, nights smelling of grass and rain, sunlit moments of simple peace, also gather in what she is to him.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Birds, Eyeballs, and the Second Mouse

“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”
― Willie Nelson

Mural, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Mural, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

It is late in the day – later than I thought – too late… though I have no idea what it is too late for. I am on my bicycle and worn out – long since dropped down into my emergency gear so I can get home alive. Everyone else has given up and I should be waiting on my train, but I am anxious and can’t help finding some murals and taking some pictures.

Close to our bows, strange forms in the water darted hither and thither before us; while thick in our rear flew the inscrutable sea-ravens. And every morning, perched on our stays, rows of these birds were seen; and spite of our hootings, for a long time obstinately clung to the hemp, as though they deemed our ship some drifting, uninhabited craft; a thing appointed to desolation, and therefore fit roosting-place for their homeless selves. And heaved and heaved, still unrestingly heaved the black sea, as if its vast tides were a conscience; and the great mundane soul were in anguish and remorse for the long sin and suffering it had bred.
—-Moby Dick

Detal, Mural, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Detal, Mural, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

The reality is in this head. Mine. I’m the projector at the planetarium, all the closed little universe visible in the circle of that stage is coming out of my mouth, eyes, and sometimes other orifices also.
–Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

Valuable Things Are Never Easy To Understand

“I am the twentieth century. I am the ragtime and the tango; sans-serif, clean geometry. I am the virgin’s-hair whip and the cunningly detailed shackles of decadent passion. I am every lonely railway station in every capital of Europe. I am the Street, the fanciless buildings of government. the cafe-dansant, the clockwork figure, the jazz saxophone, the tourist-lady’s hairpiece, the fairy’s rubber breasts, the travelling clock which always tells the wrong time and chimes in different keys. I am the dead palm tree, the Negro’s dancing pumps, the dried fountain after tourist season. I am all the appurtenances of night.”
― Thomas Pynchon, V.

I was waiting with my bicycle at the Galatyn Park DART train station for some friends to arrive when I noticed patterns, codes obviously, cut into the steel of the railing by the station artist, Jim Cinquemani.

Galatyn Park DART Station, Richardson, Texas

Galatyn Park DART Station, Richardson, Texas

The first one was easy. That’s Morse Code. I don’t know it by heart, but I know how it works. It spells out the name of the place, Galatyn Park.

Galatyn Station, DART, Richardson Texas

Galatyn Station, DART, Richardson Texas

So I confidently dove in to the puzzle of the second missive. It’s obviously some sort of Teletype Code. Since I already knew what it probably said, I thought it would be easy. A seven bit code (ASCII is usually seven bits) – but what is that one bit that is always on? And the message is twenty-six characters long… There are so many different codes, with strange encoding patterns and a lot of mysterious control codes.

I’m old enough to have worked with paper tape – back when kilobytes of information were all we had to work with. This looks like computer paper tape – but it might be an even older technology.

I never was able to figure it out. I’ll work on it awhile – and then maybe email the sculptor and see if he will tell me.

Finally, the last two codes:

Fence at Galatyn Park Sation.

Fence at Galatyn Park Sation.

Galatyn Park DART Station - with car passing behind.

Galatyn Park DART Station – with car passing behind.

These are obviously analog output. Maybe voice recordings? No way to decode – but they do look cool.

“It’s been a prevalent notion. Fallen sparks. Fragments of vessels broken at the Creation. And someday, somehow, before the end, a gathering back to home. A messenger from the Kingdom, arriving at the last moment. But I tell you there is no such message, no such home — only the millions of last moments . . . nothing more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow