Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Economy Falls by Helen Tookey

“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Dallas Arboretum

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, August 11, 1997:

Antero Basecamp

The sun has set where we are camped. Set early because of the giant shadow of Boulder Mountain (13,528′).

But over my left shoulder is the huge triangular mass of Mount Antero. It’s still bright with the evening sun. It is barren, rocky, dun colored. The surface looks like speckled gravel, but I know these are huge car-sized boulders, not little rocks. Distance, height, perspective can be very confusing in the mountains.

From where I sit I look straight up a V-shaped channel – with two rounded mountain shoulders on either side. The channel is bare; I can see the violence of rock slides down its steep trough. The two shoulders have trees – they end right about at the highest treeline. The evergreens up there struggle. I see lots of brown dead sentinels; a lot of gray dead wood on the ground.

Above the shoulders the peak ridge itself cuts into the sky. The pointed main peak flanked by two rounded subpeaks. It is a world of steep rock, now turning orange as the invisible sun sets. The sky above is still blue- the deep purple blue of high altitudes (we’re camped at about 11,000 feet – we have over 3,000 more to go). Little clouds boil past; impossibly fast, impossibly close.

Tomorrow morning we will attempt to scale the subpeak on the right, after following the jeep road, the old mining road as far as we can. Sitting here, I don’t see how it will be possible. It is so high, so far, so rocky. I can see the scree slope which stopped me the last time. I’m now two years older, in no better shape. What makes me want to throw myself on that awful rock again?

And today’s flash fiction:

Economy Falls by Helen Tookey

from The Interpreter’s House

Helen Tookey Twitter

Battlestar Galactica Through the Years

“To live meaningful lives we must die, and not return. The one human flaw that you spend your lifetimes distressing over mortality, it’s the one thing that makes you whole.”
—- Number Six, Battlestar Galactica

(click to enlarge) Mural, Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

I’ve been looking for things to watch on my television that I can put on while I ride my spin bike. Something loud and entertaining, something with some quality but not too much, something to make the time go by. I think I’ll re-watch Battlestar Galactica – the 2004 series. It’s streaming on TUBI – for free, with commercials.

I’ve seen it before. A couple of years after it came out, I binge watched it on NETFLIX.

This was when NETFLIX was cool – when they would send you disks in the mail. Your membership would get you three disks and I would order the next three episodes. There was a thrill when those red envelopes appeared in the mailbox and a sense of closure when you sealed them and sent them back.

It was a great way to binge-watch a series. There was a rhythm… three episodes a week or so. It kept you from staying up all night streaming show after show – yet you didn’t have to wait very long either. It was the best.

Now, I watched the original, hokey TV show too. It had its own rhythm – one episode every Sunday night. 1978 – the year I was out of college. I was working in a small city in central Kansas and didn’t really know anybody. I rented the top floor of an old house.

It had been used as a rooming house over the years and my apartment had two bathrooms. One small one had a stand-up shower, which I used every morning. But the other bathroom had a huge, cast-iron, claw-footed bathtub. I used it like an early hot tub.

I had a small black and white television. I’d prop it on the toilet tank, cook a frozen pizza, and fill the tub with hot water. I’d watch Battlestar Galactica from the tub and eat pizza, manipulating the tiny taps with my toes to keep the water hot.

I know it’s hard to believe, but there was a lot of hype about that show. It was only a couple years after Star Wars and space opera special effects were all the rage – even on a tiny black and white portable tube set. It didn’t take long for the gloss to wear off, especially once it became obvious that they were re-using all the special effects shots over and over.

Still, it was a ritual. I’m not sure how many weeks I kept my bath-pizza-television habit going, but it was not the worst time.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Speed Dating by Anna Lindwasser

“New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous.

But there is one thing about it – once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.”

― John Steinbeck, America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction

Skater, French Quarter, New Orleans

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, June 11, 1997:

Fire Extinguishers

It was almost twelve years ago, I had only been working here for a couple months. I had only thirty minutes for lunch and I had only found one place I could get to and eat in half an hour. It was a little hole-in-the wall Chinese food joint down on Jupiter across from E Systems – the Egg Roll Inn. A handful of tables, twelve lunch specials in plastic letters on a board behind the counter, steam tables of prepared food, foam tricompartment plates and plastic dinnerware, little plastic packets of soy sauce, duck sauce, and hot mustard. Every city has hundreds of these places, not really very good, but cheap and fast.

I had received my allotted lumps of lunch special and steamed rice, divided by a soggy eggroll, when someone stuck their head in the swinging door, “Anyone in here drive a blue Ford?” he asked.


“I do,” expecting to be told my lights were on, it was an overcast day.

“Your car’s on fire,” was the reply.

I ran out to find the front end pretty much engulfed. For some reason, the thought of calling the Fire Department never occurred to me. I guess I didn’t imagine that there was someone who would come put out my fire for free. The owner of the restaurant said he had an extinguisher and I went in to get it. The fire looked bad, but it was mostly burning hoses and belts and wasn’t hard to put out.

I returned the extinguisher and then had a moment that was actually worse than the fire itself. I was a bit shook up and sweaty from battling the flames, my vehicle a blackened hulk out in the parking lot, everyone was staring at me (most had walked out to watch the free entertainment) but there on the table was my untouched Moo Goo Gai Pan (today’s watery special). I decided to gather up as much dignity as possible, ate my lunch, then walked back to where I work. It was a calm day and on the entire walk I could look up and see a slowly dispersing column of black smoke from my incinerated car. It was embarrassing and sad.

After that was an unpleasant week of phone calls; trying to get the title straightened out (I was woefully negligent in paperwork those days) so I could get a scrap dealer to take my car, I had to pay the owner for recharging his extinguisher, and had to make arrangements for getting to and from work until I could buy another car (I ended up buying a Renault Alliance – I can sure pick’em can’t I?). The money from the scrap dealer – minus the cost of the fire extinguisher – left we with enough money to buy two compact disks from the record store.

Not a horrible experience, but one annoying and humiliating enough to sink below the radar screen of memory. At least until the physical experience of firing off a cloud of dry powder brought it back. I was so embarrassed I never went back to the Egg Roll Inn. It’s still there, I doubt they’ll remember me after twelve years. I wonder if they have a vegetarian stir-fry? I don’t miss the food but maybe it would be worth a three dollar plate of limp broccoli to exorcise some demons.

And today’s flash fiction:

Speed Dating by Anna Lindwasser

from (mac)ro(mic)

Anna Lindwasser Twitter

Anna Lindwasser Homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Dinner by Xueyi Zhou

“Do you know what breakfast cereal is made of? It’s made of all those little curly wooden shavings you find in pencil sharpeners!”

― Roald Dahl

The soup after I added sprouts and other vegetables. Those little eggs were hiding down in a little nest of rice noodles. I don’t know what creature they originally came from

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, Friday, November 01, 1996:

Dreams of frustration and stupid mistakes

In surfing the web, I’ve come some people who record their dreams. I’ve never thought much about dreams, so I thought that maybe I was missing something. So for the last couple of weeks I’ve been writing down as much about my dreams as possible. Now I realize why I don’t do this. Looking at your dreams should help you find subtle things about you and your personality, open up your mind to thinking about aspects that you hadn’t examined. My dreams were as subtle as a sledgehammer. For example the last two:

In my dream I went to a baseball game with some friends of mine, three of us sat in one section while one friend and I sat in another section. My section had no view of the playing field at all, the actual game was around a corner, all we could see was the crowd itself. I spent the entire dream walking around trying to find a place where I could actually see the game, but was not successful.

In another dream I was supposed to drive to Massachusetts to visit someone. But before I left, a guy (I remembered who he was, I haven’t seen him in years) convinced me to fly to Pittsburgh (I’ve never been there) with him, the idea was that I could drive to Massachusetts from there. Most of the dream consisted of us driving around Pittsburgh lost, I remember he offered to take me out to eat, he tried to pay with a coupon the waiter refused to take, and we didn’t have enough money to pay for dinner. The dream ended with him leaving me in Pittsburgh, and I realized that my car was still in Dallas, and I had no way of getting to Massachusetts, which is where I wanted to go in the first place.

Dreams of frustration and stupid mistakes.

And today’s flash fiction:

Dinner by Xueyi Zhou

from Pithead Chapel

Xueyi Zhou Twitter

Xueyi Zhou Homepage

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Old Man by Bill Chance

The older you get the stronger the wind gets-and it’s always in your face.

—-Jack Nicklaus

Nasher Sculpture Center Dallas, Texas

Old Man

“Any sugar for this here tea?”
Umm, that thing there, it’s already sweetened ,” Sam said.
“Where’s the ice, I think I need some ice”
There on the coke machine

The old man, very thin, shaking, held his flimsy yellow paper cup, now half-full of the bitter old tea that they serve from big sweating metal cylinders with black plastic taps on the bottom, looked at the coke machine, levers lined up, the little grated tray held a few old ice cubes spilled by the last customer. The old man poked at these tentatively, like someone who grew up in an age when restaurants had waitresses that actually brought your iced tea to the table.

“They don’t give you any scoop.”
Umm, see that thing right there in the middle?” Sam pointed at the curved piece of plastic..
“This?”
Hold your cup under it, press this lever, and the ice’ll come out.”

Sam had been standing next to the drinks, pumping catsup out of a recessed bulk container and mixing it with Tabasco in little white paper cups. As he stood back with his red plastic tray Sam watched the old man as the ice came out in an unexpected tumble, that startling fast-food ice bin rumble, Clankity-Clank. The old man jerked, collapsing his drink cup, ice and tea squirting out. The girl came out from behind the counter and helped him get things straightened out.

Sam sat down at a booth. It was late, almost three, the day at work had been awful, full of disasters, he hadn’t been able to sneak out for lunch until the middle of the afternoon. Desperate for a few quiet moments Sam had gone for fast food fish, hoping the place would be mostly empty this late. As Sam started to eat, the old man shuffled over and settled in slowly in the next booth. He sat down on the other side, facing straight at Sam.

“McDonalds has fish sandwiches now.” he advised.
Uh-huh.”
“Mebee I shoulda gone over there, fish sandwiches, ninety nine cents.
Really.”

Sam remembered noticing a big sign in the entrance to this fast-food chain fish joint that promised a hefty senior citizen discount. It made an impression on him because he noticed it would be only thirteen years before he would be eligible.

It was obvious that the old man wasn’t here so much to eat some fried fish as to talk to somebody. In small towns even today, most restaurants have long counters where you can go get coffee, maybe a cinnamon roll, and sit and the major activity is to for everyone to simply talk to each other.

“I can’t eat this hard crust on this fish.”
Uh-huh.”
“I went down to the VA hospital to get some new glasses and some teeth. They bought me some glasses but I can’t see with ’em, I can see better with these.”


Sam took a good look – the old man was wearing an enormous pair of those cheap plastic reading glasses they sell at dollar stores.


“But they won’t give me no teeth. I’ve gone down to there over and over, the doctor said I was too thin, filled out this form….. they still won’t give me no teeth. The VA sent me these papers, hundred pages long, my sister…. but still they won’t give me no teeth and that’s what it said, right there.”

“You know, I really like tomatoes. Sliced tomatoes.”
“I really like eaten’ me up a big plate o’ sliced tomatoes ‘n scrambled eggs.”
“That’s what I had this morning, tomatoes ‘n scrambled eggs.”
“It they’d serve that here, it’d be…..

As he talked he became more and more garrulous. Also, more and more incoherent. He would be obviously jumping around in time, his stories would go on for awhile, then lose themselves in a long pause, only to start up somewhere else, related, but different. It was apparent that Sam didn’t actually have to speak to keep this conversation going, only look up from his food every few minutes and nod a little.

“Did you get bread? They don’t give you no bread here. I like some bread with my meal. I really like bread.”
“I went and got coffee… Eight-five cents!”

Sam wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be low, or high.

“At the Waffle House they’ll let you sit there and get coffee and some eggs.”
“Then they’ll keep comin’ over and warmin’ it up and let you sit there all day.”
“….. and they would wash that cup, that spoon, a couple of plates, wash them, pick them up, only charge five cents.”
“I was there in Houston this morning.”

Sam was sure the old man had walked up to the restaurant. Although he said “this morning” Sam have the feeling he hasn’t been in Houston for a decade.

Sam finished his food and had to get back to work. Actually, he would have liked to talk to the old man, get his story, but he was too far gone to be able to have a real conversation. By now the old man was simply complaining about random things that are too expensive. Also, it was uncomfortable for Sam to talk with a stranger like that, he had the uneasy sensation of looking into his own future. The day had been too stressful already to have to deal with that.

Sam mumbled something incoherent and dumped the remnants of his meal, plastic plate, paper cups, bits of fried something, through the swinging door on the trash bin. He didn’t make eye contact with the old man as he walked past and went out to his his car.

Sam said to himself, “Maybe I’ll set my alarm for a little earlier tomorrow. That way I can get up and make some scrambled eggs and tomatoes for breakfast.”

Northaven Trail Pedestrian Bridge

“Likewise—now don’t laugh—cars and trucks should view the bike lanes as if they are sacrosanct. A driver would never think of riding up on a sidewalk. Most drivers, anyway. Hell, there are strollers and little old ladies up there! It would be unthinkable, except in action movies. A driver would get a serious fine or maybe even get locked up. Everyone around would wonder who that asshole was. Well, bike lanes should be treated the same way. You wouldn’t park your car or pull over for a stop on the sidewalk, would you? Well then, don’t park in the bike lanes either—that forces cyclists into traffic where poor little meat puppets don’t stand a chance.”
― David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries

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

I have not been out riding my bike nearly enough – not enough miles and not enough riding with people. So when I read that some folks were riding from the Forrest Lane DART station over to the end of the Northaven Trail for the groundbreaking of the planned bridge over Highway 75 I thought I’d go. I did cheat and drive down to the station with my bike in the back of my car – so it was going to be a short ride.

A city like Dallas has a lot of bike trails and dedicated lanes – but a lot of them were put in as recreational opportunities – for the neighborhood to walk their dogs or get in a few miles of exercise – not as transportation corridors. That lead to what I call “choke points” – barriers to car-less transportation. The most common are highways, which can be impossible to cross without a car.

And the worst of these highways is 75, which slashes Dallas in half north to south.

Highway 75 at Sunset (click to enlarge)

The Northaven trail is a fairly new trail that runs through north Dallas all the way from 75 in the east almost to Love Field in the west. On the other side of 75 is the White Rock creek trail, which connects through miles of East Dallas trails – but it isolated by the highway.

For the last few years, work has been going on to connect these two with a bridge over the highway. Finally, funding has been established, a design has been finished and approved, and work is about to start. Two years from now, we should have our bridge.

And today was the groundbreaking ceremony. The mayor of Dallas was there, Dallas county officials, City Council Members, Park Board Members and more – they all wanted their turn to pontificate about how hard they have been working and how much credit they deserve. It went on for way too long for anyone in the audience – but that’s fine – if their egos and political careers need some service, so be it, as long as we get our bridge.

Groundbreaking ceremony at the Northaven Trail Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge.

I had a good time. I was able to meet a good number of friends that I had not talked to since before COVID. That was nice.

And best of all, I learned a new route back under Highway 75 that joins up with the White Rock Creek Trail, Cottonwood Trail, and Forest Lane DART station where I parked my car. There is a little known footpath through a tunnel under the highway. You have to ride on a sidewalk along the frontage road for a few hundred feet, but it’s a good way to get across. Not the best looking path, but it works.

Bike/Pedestrian path under Highway 75, Dallas, Texas

So why do we need the bridge? A path like this doesn’t give any opportunities for politicians to shovel sand.

What I learned this week, May 7, 2021

Pomodoro
My Pomodoro timer, Moleskine, and Ivory Pilot Prera fountain pen.

For decades now, I have refused to use ballpoint pens except in rare cases (multiple carbons… that’s about it). I do always have ink on my fingers, but I’ll never go back.

How the Ballpoint Pen Killed Cursive

I wouldn’t have noticed the difference if it weren’t for my affection for unusual pens, which brought me to my first good fountain pen. A lifetime writing with the ballpoint and minor variations on the concept (gel pens, rollerballs) left me unprepared for how completely different a fountain pen would feel. Its thin ink immediately leaves a mark on paper with even the slightest, pressure-free touch to the surface. My writing suddenly grew extra lines, appearing between what used to be separate pen strokes. My hand, trained by the ballpoint, expected that lessening the pressure from the pen was enough to stop writing, but I found I had to lift it clear off the paper entirely. Once I started to adjust to this change, however, it felt like a godsend; a less-firm press on the page also meant less strain on my hand.

Sheaffer Snorkel snorkel extended – waiting for new ink

I Need to Explain to You Just How Dire America’s Pokémon Card Crisis Is

When they were little guys, back in the day, my kids were among the first Pokemon fans. Whenever they had a few bucks they would have us take them to a little tobacco shop near our house in Mesquite and buy packs of cards.

Lee actually had an original Charizard – but he ruined it by dragging it across a concrete floor – scratching it irrevocably.

According to this article – that thing might be worth 300 grand now.


Lignite Mining Mural Fair Park Dallas, Texas

Whatever happened to Six Sigma?

A large part of my working life – almost half a century – has been tied up with Six Sigma.


Your cotton tote is pretty much the worst replacement for a plastic bag

Once I was asked to write an article on how you should use a ceramic coffee cup instead of a Styrofoam one. The research I did was really eye-opening. By most measures the Styrofoam cup is the most environmentally friendly option. For example, think about how much energy is used to make a ceramic cup – that clay is heated to thousands of degrees – the cup is actually semi-melted a couple times. And as far as reuse – think about how much water and/or energy is used to wash the thing.

It’s not as simple as you think.


Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market Waco, Texas

No Fate but What We Make

Interesting and thoughtful.


33 Smart Habits That Will Train Other People to Treat You With Respect

Most of these are small, subtle changes in behavior, but they can have a big impact on how much other people respect you.


from Sightings, by Mai-Thu Perret, 2016, Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas

Why Some People Get Burned Out and Others Don’t

Short Story of the Day, Sleep by Haruki Murakami

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Sleep
Sleep

I dove in and am reading through Maruki Murakami’s 1Q84 for my Difficult Reading Book Club read.

Here’s a longish short story that we traded around at our last meeting.

Sleep by Haruki Murakami

and from my old online journal:

The Daily Epiphany

Saturday, December 25, 1999

Rending of wrapping

I think I was more excited about Christmas this year than the kids were. Seeing Nick and Lee and knowing how special Christmas is to children makes me so happy. I can still remember almost every Christmas when I was a kid. My sons are so appreciative too; they are spoiled, of course, but they enjoy everything so much and never complain about what they don’t get.

Another nice thing is that the kids are older now and they stuff they get – mostly video games and computer software – doesn’t take a lot of assembly. That makes it a lot easier on Santa; no staying up all night putting together basketball goals or stuff like that.

I woke up about five and couldn’t go back to sleep. I went out in the living room and set the camcorder up on a tripod aimed at the base of the tree and the pile of boxes arranged there. I read the paper, ate some breakfast, and waited for the little ones to get up. They started to stir and I ran out to the living room and started the camcorder going but they fell back asleep.

Finally, about seven thirty (that’s fairly late for my kids) they started to sit up and rub their eyes.
I asked Nick, “Are you getting up?”
“No, I’m tired, let me go back to sleep,” he said groggily and grumpily.
“Nicholas, what day is today?” I asked.
That made him mad at first.
“How do I know what day it… wait… wait….”
Then his face lit up and he snapped fully awake as his sleepy mind realized exactly what day it was.
“Lee! Lee! let’s go, let’s go!” Nick yelled at his groggy brother.
I dashed out ahead of them so I could watch the annual shredding of paper, the squealing and laughing and oohs and aaahs and looks of joy and amazement.

I was worried that we hadn’t bought enough stuff for the kids. As they get older and their toys get more expensive the volume of crap inevitably gets smaller. I shouldn’t have worried, they were beyond thrilled.

DRBC

“If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there’s salvation in life. Even if you can’t get together with that person.”
― Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

Recycled Books Denton, Texas

In January through March of 2019 (that feels like a different age) I went every Wednesday after work clear across town to a bookstore called The Wild Detectives in Oak Cliff. I had stumbled into a reading group there that tackled long, difficult books called The Difficult Reading Book Club. We finished our book, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, then had a celebration. For various reasons I skipped the next book (a set of three tomes by Virginia Woolf – though I wasn’t afraid – who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf) and then COVID hit.

For a year we didn’t do any reading, but finally momentum built and for a couple months we did a weekly Zoom meeting read of The Brother’s Karamazov. I actually liked not having to make the long trip after work and a reading group is particularly suited for remote computerized interaction.

And today we had our kickoff meeting for our latest difficult (and long) challenge – 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I’ve been avoiding spoilers for the novel, but did learn some useful facts from this meeting.

Murakami is known for including music in his works – and there is, of course, a Spotify Playlist associated with the book (actually a handful of them).

an interesting article:

A Feminist Critique of Murakami Novels, With Murakami Himself

I’m excited – another journey, a challenge, and an opportunity to learn something.

Time to read a bit before I go to bed.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Heresy by Heather Pearson

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”

― Leonardo da Vinci

I wonder what this guy was thinking… “Wow, there are too many people here! I give up!” or, more likely, “Hey! Quit staring at my penis!”

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, Sunday, January 10, 1999:

DMA

On the road to Grandma’s house today, I suggested we go to the Dallas Museum of Art with the kids sometime. Candy replied, “Why not right now.”

We were approaching the crystal mountains of downtown and that was an excellent idea. We used the cell phone to tell the relatives we’d be a couple hours late and took the next freeway exit. I suffered a brain freeze and put a bunch of money in a meter (they are free on Sundays – and plainly marked) and we were there.

The kids liked the art. Lee, especially asked a bunch of questions.
“How do they get pieces of paper that big?”
“Most are painted on canvas.”
“What’s that?”
“A heavy cloth.”
“But if they paint on cloth, why doesn’t it get all scrunched up and wrinkly?”
“They make a frame and stretch the canvas across it, hold it tight with a bunch of little nails.”
“What?”

Both kids predictably liked the older, realistic, landscape paintings. Lee wasn’t impressed with the post-1975 gallery.
“Those look like a bunch of smooshes. I could do that. ‘cept I don’t have those bright colors.”

Nick liked the Egyptian stuff the best (though the Dallas museum doesn’t have the best collection). He was fascinated with the mummies.

They both enjoyed one modern video presentation. A dual screen suspended in the center of a huge dark room, roaring soundtrack. I liked it too.

Their favorite part, though, was the hours they spent in the Gateway Gallery doing the Drop-In Art. Big tables covered with piles of paper, clear plastic, glue, scissors, and markers. The children were supposed to produce a “winter scene.”

Most parents helped their kids and produced realistic looking scenes of ice skaters. We let Nick and Lee rock and roll on their own and they produced some bizarre looking polar landscapes.
“I’ve never seen orange and purple polar bears,” said one of the instructors.

I thought they were pretty good.

And today’s flash fiction:

Heresy by Heather Pearson

from Reflex Press

Heather Pearson Twitter

The Grantidote