Bicycling at Dawn

“Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

My vintage Cannondale touring bike at Trammell Crow Park in the Trinity River Bottoms, Dallas, Texas

Candy had a flight to California to visit some friends and I took her to the airport early – at about 5:45 in the morning. Since I retired I have not driven more than a couple miles – except for taking folks to and from the airport – I have been using my bike for transportation. Since I was driving to Love Field to drop Candy off before dawn, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I loaded my bike and cycling stuff into the car and drove from Love Field down to Trammell Crow Park in the river bottoms (not very far at all) and waited for the sun to come up behind the crystal towers of downtown.

An HDR photo I tooke years ago of the Cow sculptures in Trammell Crow Park – (click to enlarge)

I have been to this odd park by the river many times over the decades. It’s surprisingly isolated – plus more than a little sketchy at night. At this time of the morning there was only one other car – a guy was out letting his black Labrador retriever run in the vast open space of the floodplain (you can see him and his dog in the photo with my bike above) – but nobody else.

There is a relatively new trail that runs from the park (there has been a trail from downtown to the park for years) all the way west to a new bridge over the river and then connects to the South Campion trail in Irving. This is park of the connecting piece that, when finished, will connect Dallas and Fort Worth with cycling trails.

I have ridden the Irving trails but was very interested in riding the new connector in the river bottoms. Once the sun was above the horizon, I clipped in, rode one lap around where the little park lake used to be (it has dried up completely during the current drought) and then branched out to the west. I was a little nervous about leaving the car unattended in the isolated park – it is an area where bad things could happen – but not too many hoodlums are up and about at six in the morning

It was a blast. The concrete of the trail is smooth and wide and the area is wide open. There is a vast space between the levees on each side – which is full of water during flood stage – but was very dry right now. To the south, about a mile away, giant construction machines roared away moving huge mounds of earth – in a project to build up the levees along the Trinity river.

I rode about six miles across the bridge into Irving and down the Campion trail a bit – then turned around and headed back. On my return trip, I started to see more and more cyclists coming the other way, and a couple that actually passed me (I am the world’s slowest cyclist, after all).

When I made it back to the park, I was surprised to see the parking lot – and a second, overflow lot – completely filled with cars. There were a lot of folks out on the trail – most with bikes but a few dog walkers. Plus there were two spirited games of cricket going on in the flat space of the river bottom.

I guess I didn’t have to worry about the car sitting out there by itself.

It was so much fun. As my health improves and fitness increases I want to go back and ride farther. And farther. And farther.

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Terror From the Sky by Bill Chance

“Certainly in the topsy turvy world of rock and roll, having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is quite often useful.”

― Ian Faith, Spinal Tap

Toad Corners, Dallas Arboretum

Terror From the Sky

Without any warning the night sky opens up. A huge black rectangle, taking up fully a third of the heavens, swings upwards. The world shivers in terror. Quickly a giant human hand and arm plunges down out of the black sky. You and your friends scatter.

The hand gropes with hideous speed. No hiding place is free from its flashing, powerful probes. First one of your compatriots is grabbed from behind a rock and lifted into the air. Then your other friend is caught behind a tree and he too disappears skyward. You crouch shivering in the pond but the giant hand returns and inexorably traps you in a corner. You try to leap to safety but are trapped against the cold, smooth walls. The hand closes in on one ankle and you are pulled into space through the hole in the sky itself, jiggling, dangling, upside down, held by one thin leg with irresistible force.

What has caused this horror? Where are you going? What awful fate lies beyond the top of the very world. You seem to remember it happening before, but everything is so hazy now.

This morning Craig was rushing around the house looking for his keys and he noticed that the water in the toad’s terrarium was almost dried up. There was only a thin damp layer left in the little double blue plastic dish that they kept for them to swim in. He should have at least stopped to pour a little distilled into their pond, but he was late for work… as always.

“Sorry, guys, I’ve got to run. Get through the day and I’ll take care of you when I get home.”

All day Craig felt guilty for not giving up the few seconds it would have taken to give them some water. He knew there was enough dampness left for them to survive, but still, they depended on him taking care of them. So he resolved to clean out their world when he came home from work. They were always happy with a clean cage.

So that evening, Craig went through the drill. The hardest part was catching the three toads and putting them in the portable cage so he could wash the aquarium. They didn’t like getting caught so he had to chase them around and grab them, they were pretty fast, they could jump, and once he had them, they were very squirmy and hard to hold.

Eventually (well, actually pretty quickly, Craig was getting better at catching them faster than they were getting better at getting away) K’nex, Mortimer (pronounced More-Timer), and Runaway had been grabbed and hauled over to the little portable cage with the white gravel and the lid firmly locked down.

Craig’s son helped clean the thing out. While Craig scrubbed the water dish, the three rocks, the flowerpot, and the two plastic plants, his son filled the aquarium with water from the hose. He skimmed a couple of live crickets off the water and put them in the little cage so the three toads could have a quick snack while they waited. Then Craig poured the water out and rinsed the gravel to get rid of all the toad shit and cricket carcasses.

Out went the chlorinated hose-water; in went the little bowl with distilled water along with the furniture (rocks, flowerpot, etc.). Craig made completely sure the lid was locked down tight (it has suction cups) before he put the three guys back in (Craig never could figure out how that one got out that one time, let alone how he survived unseen in the kitchen for a week).

And now the three toads were happy as larks. They hopped around, looking for crickets, or floated lazily in their little dish-pond as relaxed as can be.

It all worked out in the end. The terror is over.

Until next week.

What I learned this week, August 6, 2022

Unicycle, Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge, Dallas, Texas

The Quiet Glory of Aging into Athleticism

I wasn’t ready to be an athlete, in any capacity, as a adolescent or young adult. I am now.


Sleep
Sleep

The seven types of rest: I spent a week trying them all. Could they help end my exhaustion?

When we feel fatigued most of us focus on sleep problems. But proper relaxation takes many forms. I spent a week exploring what really works


Braindead Brewing, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

How to Wake Up Smiling: 5 Daily Habits That Made Me a More Positive Person

I’m usually a pretty happy person, but about a year ago—perhaps due to a lack of social connections and laughter—I experienced a few dark months. During those months, I spent most of my waking hours (and probably nights as well) consumed with negative thoughts.


Woman writing in a Moleskine Notebook, Wichita, Kansas

Two Writing Tips That Instantly Improve Your Everyday Writing

Do you see yourself as a writer? If not, it’s time to change that perception. Because you are a writer. In fact, everyone is. And here are two writing tips that will make your writing more effective.


Movie Poster for First Spaceship on Venus (Silent Star) – I remember the excitement of seeing this poster, even though I was probably six years old at the time.

TVs Are Too Good Now
Why does Home Alone look better than the latest Marvel fare on the most advanced displays?

I am really burned out on the overuse of CGI – this explains one reason.


They have been talking about bringing this amazing grand old hotel back for decades. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The Hotel-Spirit

Bringing back a grand American institution could transform society. What’s stopping us?


Persuation, from Twenty Heads

2 words that can help check your assumptions about people

Asking “so what?” can bring out your hidden beliefs and ideas, says career strategist Gail Tolstoi-Miller.


A New Ink

“She would be half a planet away, floating in a turquoise sea, dancing by moonlight to flamenco guitar.”
― Janet Fitch, White Oleander

I try to avoid buying stuff that isn’t necessary. I try to avoid impulse purchases. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

For a long time I’ve been looking for a certain color of fountain pen ink. Years ago, A friend gave me a sample once of Caran d’Ache Caribbean Sea. It was the color I was looking for, as close as I had seen. It’s the greenish turquoise color that a shallow, clear, tropical sea can get, from a certain angle. Here’s a photo that shows the color I was looking for:

Greenish Turquoise

Unfortunately, before I could buy a whole bottle, Caran d’Ache discontinued the ink. That was several years ago and since that time I have been looking for a replacement – and have tried a few. There are a lot of turquoise inks out there – but most tend toward the blue end of the spectrum. The closest so far were a couple of Diamine inks… Marine and Steel Blue.

The other day, I was surfing the net, looking at inks, when I discovered the Pilot had come out with three new colors of their Iroshizuku ink line. Iroshizuku inks are wonderful, and come in an amazing bottle – but are pretty damn pricey. But one of the three new inks was a greenish turquoise… that looked like exactly what I was looking for… and I couldn’t resist. A few clicks on the internet and a bottle of sui-gyoku iroshizuku ink was on the way to my house.

I like it. It’s the greenish turquoise I’ve been looking for. It still doesn’t quite have the luminosity of a tropical ocean… but I don’t think that’s possible in a dye mix that designed to be spread on paper. So I guess my quest for that-certain-color has been slaked for a little while.

I keep an ink journal with swatches and writing samples (done with a dip pen) of the inks I have in my inventory. Here’s a photo of the page with the sui-gyoku.

Iroshizuku sui-gyoku ink from my ink journal.

It Does Taste Better in a Pulp Fiction Cup

“Don’t you just love it when you come back from the bathroom and find your food waiting for you?” — Mia, Pulp Fiction

My Morning Coffee

I woke up looking forward to my morning coffee even more than I usually do (If that is possible – does a heroin addict look forward to certain fixes more?) because I would drink it in my swag Pulp Fiction coffee cup.

Most mornings I make a double strength coffee in my Aeropress , dilute it with hot water, and put it in a vacuum container (either a thermos or, as today, in a Contigo insulated cup that fits in my bicycle water bottle holder). I like that because I can pour it into a real cup a bit at a time and control the drinking temperature.

So, the question is, did it taste better in the swag cup?

Sure did, I mean this is some serious gourmet shit.

I Luv Ya Honey Bunny

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides
By the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men
Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will
Shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness
For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children
And I will strike down upon thee
With great vengeance and furious anger
Those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers
And you will know my name is the Lord
When I lay my vengeance upon thee

—-Eziekiel 25 17, Pulp Fiction

Swag from the Alamo Drafthouse Pulp Fiction Party

Tonight Candy and I had tickets to a Pulp Fiction Party at the Richardson Alamo Drafthouse.

I haven’t seen Pulp Fiction in a theater for a long, long time – it was time to see it again.

There were a few things that made this showing a “Party.” An employee came out in a bathrobe with a coffee mug before the showing and gave an enthusiastic and F-Bomb filled introduction. They had a Jackrabbit Slim twist contest – I was disappointed that no couple showed up dressed as Mia and Vincent. The winner received a genuine Bad Mother Fucker wallet.

Coolest of all, everyone received some swag – A Serious Gourmet Shit coffee mug, a pack of candy cigarettes, and a Zed Keychain (Zed’s Dead, baby). Now I have a place to keep my chopper keys.

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Solid Piece of Wood by Bill Chance

“Certainly in the topsy turvy world of rock and roll, having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is quite often useful.”

― Ian Faith, Spinal Tap

Wood grown into the fence.

Solid Piece of Wood

“This plan of yours, Shelly, is getting too damn complicated,” Mabel said as she gazed with her two friends at the maze of scribbled papers now almost covering the kitchen table.


“Uh, Shel, not only that, but where did you get this Cab? It’s delicious,” said Alice as she sipped her third glass, stared at the liquid, then took a full gulp.


“Alice, you won’t believe it, but it’s from Aldi. It’s dirt cheap but mostly drinkable. And Mabel, I know it’s complicated, but that bastard Craig is not going to get away with this and it will take a careful plan to pull it off.”


“We won’t be able to do this ourselves,” Mabel said.


“We have to keep it secret,” said Shelly. “We will put the plan in motion and people will help us without even knowing they are.”


“Hey, pour me another glass,” said Alice.”I can’t believe this is from Aldi.”


“What if it doesn’t work?” said Mabel.


“It’ll work. That rat bastard Craig is into so much stuff, stealing money, dealing drugs, lying, cheating and everything else. We know that better than anyone because he did all that and more to all three of us.”


“Hey, the bottle’s empty,” was Alice’s only answer. “How late is Aldi open?”


The rack held nine Cricket bats at one time, all held vertically. Craig had one, so there were eight left. He could feel the blood running down his leg as he stared into the dim glow from the store’s emergency lighting system. Water dripped from the suspended ceiling in a dozen spots and something electrical was buzzing. The wet floor must be shorting out some sort of extension cords because Craig felt an occasional shock from his one bare foot soaking in the damp. He tried to stand on the foot that still had an insulating shoe, but that was the leg he was cut on and he’d wince at the pain from the extra weight.

Craig had no idea who had jumped him after luring him down to this third rate sporting goods store. He ran his list of enemies through his head – drug deals gone bad, real estate scams left in tatters, plenty of women left with broken hearts and negative bank accounts – and realized it was too long to recall. He had borrowed the money to buy the failing shop, specializing in European sports equipment (no wonder it was going broke), spent a quarter of the loan, then declared bankruptcy and was ready to turn the now-worthless real estate back to the bank – pocketing the balance. Someone had called him down to the store, and he would never have come, but she sounded sexy and desperate – and Craig had always been able to deal sexy and desperate to his advantage. Instead, this.

There was a crash from the darkness off to his right and Craig held the solid chunk of British wood as firmly as he could. He couldn’t imagine what kind of game was played with this damn thing, but it was all he had. Whimpering in pain and fear, he limped off in the quietest direction he could find.


Paul walked down the sidewalk on his way home from working a double shift when he came across the shattered windows of the sporting goods store. The glass across the sidewalk looked fresh and smashed out from the inside. He knew he should have kept going, gone home to get a good night’s sleep, but he had always been curious so he stepped through the broken threshold. He immediately stumbled into the rack of Cricket bats, knocked over. Looking down, he saw there were five in a jumble on the floor. He picked one up, feeling its firm strength. He swung it a bit and liked it’s balance and heft.

He had played baseball for decades and still had the shoulder muscles and fast-twitch nerves to move a heavy piece of wood through the air at high speed and pin-point accuracy. The feeling made him smile. Paul heard a noise off to his left and, swinging the Cricket bat back and forth with both hands, strode off to find out what it was.

The Before Trilogy

“Listen, if somebody gave me the choice right now, of to never see you again or to marry you, alright, I would marry you, alright. And maybe that’s a lot of romantic bullshit, but people have gotten married for a lot less.”

— Jesse, Before Sunrise

Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas, after sunrise

1995 was not so long ago – what? twenty seven years? That may seem a long time ago to you, but it doesn’t to me.

Even in 1995 it was hard to see odd, independent, or foreign films. It was before streaming, before really diverse rental options, and sort of after the death of repertory cinema. Also, I had two small kids at this time – so I was not able to go out searching for unique cinema.

I was still watching movie review shows at the time (I have since quit, too many spoilers). I remember seeing a review, probably on Siskel and Ebert, of a movie called Before Sunrise starring July Delpy and Ethan Hawke. It sounded unique and interesting and I wanted to see it, but never was able to pull it off. It apparently was a conversation movie – sort of like My Dinner With Andre – except with a young couple meeting and spending one single night (before sunrise) in Europe walking around and talking to each other.

Over the years I read that a sequel was made… and then a sequel to the sequel.

A few days ago I noticed that there was a set of three movies on The Criterion Channel titled The Before Trilogy. It was the Before Sunrise and its two sequels – Before Sunset and Before Midnight. I’m not a big TV bingeing person, but I decided to watch the three movies one day after another. I had to skip one day because I felt like shit and couldn’t even get up the energy to watch a damn movie streaming on The Criterion Channel. I realized that the two sequels were both made exactly nine years apart from each other.

The second movie was better than the first. It was about the stripping away of a person’s facade – and the first movie was about getting around a person’s facade – although the facades were very strong with those two. The second movie was much more complicated with more at stake – mostly because the characters were nine years older and forced to be more serious and introspective and their choices were more important with more at stake.

I’m afraid that I was disappointed in the third film. It was well made – but I felt it was a re-hash of the same sort of arguments every long-term married couple has on a regular basis. Maybe an important subject – but not entertaining to watch. It could be seen as the answer to the more interesting second chapter, but again, not worth the nine years’ wait.

It’s been more than nine years now since Before Midnight was made. There has been talk of a sequel, but the three Linklater and the two stars seem to have run out of ideas.

Shame.

What I learned this week, July 29, 2022

Making the noodles disappear, Khao Noodle Shop, Dallas, Texas.

Fed gauge on inflation hits 40-year high

I’m old. I remember 1980 very well. This feels exactly like it did then – and that is not a good thing. The big difference is in 1980 I was 23 years old, had no responsibilities, and all I had to do was be able to buy a pack of ramen noodles and I could get through the day. That’s not true now.


LA opened a fancy new bridge and locals are doing their best to shut it down every night

I’ve been following the story of LA’s 6th street viaduct – at over half a billion dollars it felt a bit overpriced – but it’s a cool attempt at alternate transportation – I love the bike and pedestrian lanes and the views of downtown. There was a lot of excitement when it opened. But it has turned out to be a nightmare.

This is why we can’t have nice things.


Little Free Library near my house.

56 Delightfully Unusual Words for Everyday Things

Check it out… #4 Bumfodder – worth the read.


Men Between the Ponds
Men Between the Ponds – I think they are doing Tai Chi.

Keeping fit: how to do the right exercise for your age

The type and amount of exercise you should do changes as you age. To ensure that you are doing the right type of exercise for your age, follow this simple guide.


Continental Bridge Park, Dallas, Texas

6 Toxic Relationship Habits Most People Think Are Normal

6 Healthy Relationship Habits Most People Think Are Toxic

This is all so confusing.


El Paisano
El Paisano Restaurant along the Santa Fe Trail in Dallas. Menudo!

I Hate This

I am old. Still, I keep up, more of less. But I agree with this author – I hate when restaurants give you a QR code rather than a menu. It’s hard to order off a phone – they don’t always work (my work phone blocked QR codes, for example). Sure, use one for long lists like beer or wine, but give me a piece of paper.


The Most Important Scientific Problems Have Yet to Be Solved

Problems that appear small are large problems that are not understood.


Where the Crawdads Sing

“I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”
― Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing

When you pick a mudbug up – he’ll spread his claws out and try to look as big and as mean as he can. He still looks delicious – no matter how hard he tries.

After my bike ride I took a shower and got ready to go. Candy wanted to go see a movie – Where the Crawdads Sing. She had read the book (I hadn’t, still fighting my way through Zola’s La Terre – need to finish the sucker) and had really liked it. We don’t go to a lot of movie’s anymore and when we do we always go to the Alamo Drafthouse – except for today. Crawdads wasn’t showing at either of the two Alamo theaters on our side of the vast Metroplex, so we went to another theater near where I used to work (when I was still gainfully employed).

The theater was good – the reclining seats were very comfortable. We went to the one o’clock showing – and there were only a handful of folks there.

I actually kinda liked the movie. It had some flaws – the protagonist was a little too polished and glib to be believable as a “Marsh Girl” – I had the ending figured out a good five minutes into the film – but the acting was effective and the scenery gorgeous. It’s hard for me to judge, I’m still suffering from a Everything Everywhere All At Once hangover – every movie pales in the memory of that work of genius.

It’s kind of funny – on Tuesdays the early show was only six dollars to get in – a real bargain. But a popcorn and diet soda were more than twenty bucks.

This truly is the best of all possible worlds.