Veggie Garden

The other day I went out to eat at the Suma Veggie Cafe near my house.

While I was checking on the web I found a web page for the Veggie Garden – another similar restaurant on Arapaho Road – the same street as the Veggie Cafe. This one is only about a mile to the west. As a matter of fact, for most of the day I thought they were the same restaurant. Luckily, they have pretty much the same hours, menu, and prices, so I was still good to go.

When I first wrote my blog entry, I actually called it Veggie Garden, and it wasn’t until I posted the picture of the place that I realized my mistake. Search and replace is your friend.

Today(Sunday) I had an hour or so before the library opened so I decided to try out the other Vegetarian option.

Veggie Garden is located in another rundown strip on Arapaho road, just west of Highway 75 and the Richardson Library and City Government complex. Araphaho makes an irregular jog to the north at that point and the area is crowded with inexpensive strips that have attracted a number of diverse businesses. The economy has cut through these like a scythe, but there are a few still open. I’ve been to the Salvadorian Pupuseria, but there is a well-known Brazilian restaurant hiding out, along with I Gemelli Italian Ristorante, Olive Lebanese Fusion, Mexican (with the interesting name “Holy Frijoles”), Kasra Persian, and the Peace Pipe Hookah Lounge, with the interesting looking “House of Poets” next door (that is a place I have to check out). In a more ordinary vein, there is an excellent burger place plus the usual bunch of fast-food choices and auto-parts stores. There’s even a car wash called the “Rubber Ducky,” a coin shop, and an inline Hockey Arena.

This is what I found in one drive-through. Obviously, this is an area worth a little more exploration. I think I need to have a plan and write about it. Stick around.

Veggie Garden

Veggie Garden. The parking lot is full of a lot of very aggressive sounding parking signs.

Not surprisingly, it was very similar to the Veggie Cafe. A small buffet offering Vegetarian versions of standard Asian dishes. This one was a little more intent on duplicating the taste of meat dishes – for example some of the dishes were labeled as “chicken” or “beef” though they were made of tofu or other soy.

I like it, the service was friendly and very good (no table piled with papers, no grumpy owner). I guess, to sum up:

Advantages of Veggie Garden

  • Friendly Service
  • More ordinary tasting food
  • Closer to the library
  • Better beverage selection

Advantages of Veggie Cafe

  • Slightly more adventurous food
  • Closer to my house
  • Very slightly better prices
  • Parking is less of a hassle

The same:

  • Decor (not very good)
  • Customers (interesting and diverse)
  • General idea/concept
  • Everything else

Are two choices better than one? Why eat meat again?

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

I have been on a quest for nice writing spots around the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex.

Saturday afternoon, I pounded out some paragraphs at White Rock Coffee on Northwest Highway, one of my favorite locations, but began to suffer from caffeine overdose and hunger, so I headed West.

My destination was the newish Whole Foods at Northwest and Highway 75. This neighborhood is an old stomping ground for me, but it has changed completely in the last few decades. Five years ago, we headed down early one morning to watch them implode a giant glass office building from the parking lot of the NorthPark shopping center across the highway. I have seen some implosions in my day, but the sight of the mirrored glass rippling from the shockwaves in the dawn’s early light before tumbling down in a cloud of dust and glass shards was something to behold.

Implosion

The implosion of North Park Three

And now, like a concrete Phoenix, a massive tony development has risen from the rubble. There are a series of condominium towers surrounding a vast expanse of parking garage. There is retail scattered across the pavement on a couple levels – with the huge Whole Foods grocery store at the center.

I knew they would have wifi and something to eat, so I headed there to get a salad and tea (eleven dollars) and sit out front, enjoy the colors of the crepuscular sky over the sea of parked cars.

But on the way there, I drove behind another one of my favorite old stomping grounds, the big Northwest Highway Half-Price books. I don’t go there as much since I started reading so much on my Kindle – but it is still a great monument to bibliophilia. As I passed behind, I saw a huge section of the parking lot coned off with a large semicircular inflatable something rising up. One side of the thing was pure white and very reflective. It didn’t take much thinking to figure out what it was.

I had read that they were showing free movies in the parking lot this summer, and today must be one of the days. I checked in at Whole Foods and surfed over to the Half-Price website and found that, sure enough, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe would be showing at eight forty-five.

The timing was perfect. I finished my food, finished my writing, and moseyed across Greenville just as the movie was beginning.

I had seen it before and wasn’t a huge fan, but the price was right. Like everyone that has had kids in soccer, I carry a variety of folding chairs in my trunk, so I was prepared. There was a crowd there, not a huge crowd, but more than a few. Looking around I was the only person that actually went to the film alone.

LWW

Oh, the kids were so cute....

It was hot, but not too hot. The city put out a lot of noise, but the organisers had a powerful sound system, so we could hear the movie. Every now and then a headlight would illuminate the screen, but it went away soon enough.

I was able to get into the movie. Always up for some Tilda Swinton.

The Ice Queen

Tilda Swinton wasn't as cool as she was in Orlando, but she was the best thing in the movie.

I had a good time. Unfortunately, this is the last movie of the year on the schedule, but I bet they will do it again next summer. I think I’ll be there.

Library Book Sale

The Richardson Library had their annual big-ass book sale this weekend down in the crowded basement multi-purpose room. This used to be a massive deal to me. I would get a huge donated shopping bag at the entrance and fight my way along the long tables piled with paperbacks or heaped with hardcovers – the stacks screaming, protesting the weight. I would fill my brown paper bag until the kraft was tearing, pay my fee, and eagerly get my haul home.

Now, though, I have my Kindle. There are more books hiding in that slim slip of plastic than I can possibly read in the few remaining years I have allotted to me. I feel fairly certain that I will pass through this vale of tears with more than a few files left unopened.

Kindle

Call Me Ishmael

Still….

I almost skipped the book sale, but I went more out of nostalgia than any logical purpose – though I do know there are books that I’ve been looking for that are not out in digital format. Plus, it is sometimes nice to have a real, physical paper book – something you can give away or curl up with when your peepers are tired of pixels.

So I eschewed a shopping bag and simply pushed myself past all the enervated shoppers. Once more into the breach.

A good part of the large but cramped basement room was dominated by a handful of families that knew each other. They had a fleet of the massive baby carriers (barely smaller than the aircraft variety) that blocked entire aisles and provided a perch for their pre-reading hellions to reach out their snot-and-saliva encrusted paws and pull teetering piles of books onto the floor while giggling like giddy gibbons. Their slightly older siblings were grabbing stuff out and exclaiming wisdom like, “I only want books about dogs!” or “Are you SURE this is a childrens’ book?” while their mothers clucked loudly at each other with self-satisfaction at the precociousness and preciousness of their satan-spawn procreations.

Finally, after forever, this boiling mass of distraction and pain moved out the front and could be heard arguing over the price of their purchases in the hallway. The sound in the room was reduced to a certain low growl made up of the combined almost-inaudible grunting of the serious bargain hunters scooping up endless tomes that they had never known of until today but could simply not live without. This is a sober business. The air-conditioning, installed under a government lo-bid contract, struggled to cut the heat and miasma of used book mold-spores and bargain-hunting sweat.

So, did I buy anything? You betcha.

Hardbacks were only two dollars and paper seventy five cents. It would be a crime to let this opportunity go unheeded.

I bought a really nice hardback copy of Alice Munro‘s Open Secrets. Someone at work expressed a love of short stories yet had never read any Munro (yeah, I know…). I want to reread “The Albanian Virgin” carefully and outline it – it is the most amazingly structured piece of short fiction I’ve ever seen and I want to try and figure out how she does it.

On a whim I grabbed a paperback collection by John McPhee. This one is called Table of Contents and is a collection of his amazing short non-fiction. I can always read me some McPhee and come out of it knowing something I didn’t before.

After choosing these two light bits of bon-bon I thought for a minute and hauled out a big hunk of meat – the nine-hundred page posthumous magnum opus 2666 by Roberto Bolano. I have had my eye on this gigantic pile of translated text for a bit. For some reason I thought it would be fun to attack it as a fortress of paper rather than a cloud of bytes. Will I ever actually read it?

Probably. If I live long enough. Stick around and find out.

The parking lot had been full and I had to hike almost to the post office to get to my car. A thin older man scuttled by me, on his way in. He stopped and stared at the burden under my arm.

“Hey, I want all three of those books! I was worried they would be all picked over by now!”

He shot off towards the maelstrom of the book sale. If he had waited I would have sold him the three I had… at only a slight profit.

Suma Veggie Cafe

I remember when we first thought about moving from Mesquite to Richardson. When was that? Seven years ago? I had found this little worn-lookng neighborhood while walking the Owens and Duck Creek trails down from the YMCA at Collins and Plano roads while Nick was in a swimming club there. It wasn’t long before we were looking at specific houses. I didn’t know much of anything about this area – so I drove and walked around the place a bit.

One question I had was if it was possible/easy to walk/ride a bike from the nearest DART station at Arapaho and Central to the neighborhood. By odometer, it was what? Two point six miles? That’s a bit long for a walk, but an easy bike ride. In measuring the route, I found a little restaurant that looked intriguing along the way. A big sign proclaimed Suma Veggie Cafe. It was nestled into a little cheap strip along Arapaho road. Next door was a Subway, then a nail salon, a few mysterious doors, and then the other end held a big, brassy Texas Bar-B-Que.

Veggie

The Veggie Cafe on Arapaho in Richardson

Veggie Cafe on one end… Bar-B-Que on the other. Well, this strip had the bases covered. I figured I could walk or ride my bike home from the DART station and stop off and get something to eat halfway, take a break. Some days the Bar-B-Que would be in order, or sometimes I could get a sandwich….

But it was the Veggie Cafe that caught my eye. From the sunsetting street it seemed a bright expansive friendly place. I made a note to eat there as soon as I could.

It took seven years.

Today I puttered around the house and once my chores were at a good stopping point (they are never finished) I decided to go get something to eat at the Veggie Cafe. I have no idea why I decided to go there today, except that I’m tired of the same old stuff and am trying my best to think of something, anything new or a tiny bit different.

I checked a website and found they have a Vegan Buffet from eleven to three on Saturdays – that’s the ticket.

The place is smaller that I thought it was when viewed from the street. It is exactly half the size – the back wall is mirrored. Its décor is pretty much standard for family owned Asian restaurants in strip centers that are getting a bit long in the tooth.

One unique feature is a prime table near the front that has been given over to newspapers, a steel water-bottle, books, ledgers, cups of pens and scissors, notebooks, mail in several languages and the other usual flotsam and jetsam that a small business generates. I guess a place this small doesn’t sport an office for the paperwork – it’s odd to see it all piled up front. From reading reviews it appears there is often a grumpy owner at this spot – but he didn’t show today.

There is a huge portrait of the supreme master on the wall behind the register and a big gold smiling Buddha beside.

The buffet was fairly small, which I see as a good thing. A huge buffet, groaning under the weight of a hundred steam tables may look good, but you know that stuff has been out there a long time. I like a small selection of dishes, brought out fresh and continuously.

Veggie Cafe

The humble interior. The buffet says All Vegan (click to enlarge)

I can’t really say the place was really good but… I really enjoyed it.

What did I eat? I have no idea. There was something with tofu, something with those little corns, some cabbage in some sort of a curry sauce, a stir fry with something very tasty and completely unidentifiable, oh, and some tempura vegetables – broccoli and something else.

Would you like it? I don’t know. Probably not. The other customers were very eclectic – a young skinny pierced couple, she had bright purple hair – when I arrived they were talking to another illustrated woman who was expounding upon the evil of foie gras. There were some families, a few small groups of various cultural background, and a strange quiet frumpy older man by himself with an odd look on his face (I guess that made two of us).

I thought of the difference between an odd neighborhood place like this and a focus grouped cookie cutter chain casual dining chain. The biggest difference is in the customers – though it’s hard to put your finger on the disparity. Like the restaurant itself, the customers were all a little quiet, a little ragged, more familiar than fashionable.

I want to go back. I won’t wait seven years.

Lisa Picard is Famous

Lisa Picard is Famous

A scene from Lisa Picard is Famous. She is calling in sick because she has a callback for an Advil Commercial. She is all about the method acting.

A long time ago I walked by the television and saw a bit of a movie that caught my eye. It was a mockumentary, done by Griffin Dunne (I always think of him as the actor that ruined  After Hours) about a struggling wannabe actress named Lisa Picard. The film was Lisa Picard is Famous and I always wanted to see the rest of it.

Today it came around in my Netflix little read envelope. I wasn’t in the mood for a lighthearted romp, but I didn’t have anything else to do so I watched it.

It has its interesting points – mostly concerning the Helsenberg Uncertainty Prinicple and how it relates to documentary film-making – also how uncomfortable and awkward famous actors can look when walking through poorly-thought-out cameo appearances. Don’t ask to borrow Sandra Bullock‘s cell phone when you’re at the post office, by the way.

I did like Lisa Picard’s first big break – a starring role in a controversial racy Wheat Chex commercial. This brought out the usual Pornographic Cereal protesters and a lot of welcome publicity but in the end, the only result was a rash of unofficial websites with her head poorly photoshopped onto naked bodies and an unfortunately narrow typecasting into sexy breakfast scenes.

Most of the film was a series of embarrassing failures while her gay friend reached a comparative level of success with his excruciatingly earnest off-off-broadway one-man tighty-whitey show.

I guess what I’m saying is that the film as a whole did not have the charm of the random little snippet. I suppose that is true for a lot of one-joke mockumentary films – it’s hard to maintain the attitude for the whole shebang. Especially if the amps don’t go up to eleven.

I’m also getting a little exhausted with films proclaiming how difficult the life of an actor is. Try being a chemist sometime. Your margin for error is a lot lower and you don’t get to go to any parties.

All in all though, it wasn’t a total loss. Watching the end credits, I discovered the key grip was named Radium Cheung – what a great name! I have to write that one down and use it on a character sometime.

What I learned this week, August 26, 2011

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”


Out came this girl, dressed in a scarf and a sneeze,
she did a little dance that made me weak in the knees.
she danced just like her back had no bones.
while the band played a tune they called the Main Street Moan.
She smiled a smile the whole world could see.
and then She turned around, and looked staraight at me.
I must’ve jumped at least six feet in the air,
and when I came down, that girl wasn’t there.
Oh Sharon, what do you do to these men?
You know the same rowdy crowd that was here last night is back again.

—- David Bromberg / Oh, Sharon


You can make your own cola,

and ordinary humans have done it and it is good.


Rick Perry has never lost an election; I’ve never won one. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the world. On the other hand, I’ve long been friends with Bill Clinton and George W., and Rick Perry and I, though at times bitter adversaries, have remained friends as well. It’s not always easy to maintain friendships with politicians. To paraphrase Charles Lamb, you have to work at it like some men toil after virtue.

I have been quoted as saying that when I die, I am to be cremated, and the ashes are to be thrown in Rick Perry’s hair. Yet, simply put, Rick Perry and I are incapable of resisting each other’s charm.

——————————————

These days, of course, I would support Charlie Sheen over Obama. Obama has done for the economy what pantyhose did for foreplay. Obama has been perpetually behind the curve. If the issue of the day is jobs and the economy, Rick Perry is certainly the nuts-and-bolts kind of guy you want in there. Even though my pal and fellow Texan Paul Begala has pointed out that no self-respecting Mexican would sneak across the border for one of Rick Perry’s low-level jobs, the stats don’t entirely lie. Compared with the rest of the country, Texas is kicking major ass in terms of jobs and the economy, and Rick should get credit for that, just as Obama should get credit for saying “No comment” to the young people of the Iranian revolution.

——————————————

God talks to televangelists, football coaches, and people in mental hospitals. Why shouldn’t he talk to Rick Perry? In the spirit of Joseph Heller, I have a covenant with God. I leave him alone and he leaves me alone. If, however, I have a big problem, I ask God for the answer. He tells Rick Perry. And Rick tells me.

So would I support Rick Perry for president? Hell, yes! As the last nail that hasn’t been hammered down in this country, I agree with Rick that there are already too damn many laws, taxes, regulations, panels, committees, and bureaucrats. While Obama is busy putting the hyphen between “anal” and “retentive” Rick will be rolling up his sleeves and getting to work.

A still, small voice within keeps telling me that Rick Perry’s best day may yet be ahead of him, and so too, hopefully, will be America’s.

Kinky Friedman – Kinky for Perry


When I was younger, I used to enjoy riding roller coasters – but I can barely watch this, let alone ride the thing. It’s interesting how they have worked to increase the terror factor – the part at 2:00 where they are hanging and then drop….. That spot boasts the world’s steepest drop, 121 degrees – well beyond vertical.


Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.

—- Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (1973)


Always had a soft spot for optical illusions… this is a doozy.


“Warning: If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all that claim it? Do you read everything you’re supposed to read? Do you think every thing you’re supposed to think? Buy what you’re told to want? Get out of your apartment. Meet a member of the opposite sex. Stop the excessive shopping and masturbation. Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned.”

— Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club)

Moments of Transcendence

I have been looking for a word. Sort of a noun, sort of an adjective.

There is this goal in my mind – a something – that I want to create. Something I want to bring into being out of the pure ether. I can’t see what it is but I can feel it – feel it all the time like a burr in a sandal. If I’m going to see it, I’ll have to name it. To name it I need a word.

When I started this quest I assumed there would be a word – one single perfect word – that would mean what I had in my mind, a one-to-one correspondence between this thought and the written language… but I have come to realize after a long period of time that what I was looking for doesn’t exist. There is no one word that fits the meaning I need. I have scoured the thesauri – crossed off the whole unabridged – googled the ungoogleable and come up empty.

But I haven’t given up. The quality I want to express is still there in my mind and if there isn’t a single word that will work… well, maybe a set of words, a series of syllables, a cluster of tokens that, taken together, will deliniate the space that I’m trying to define.

You see, I want to do something and I want to define the quality of what I want to do. The word “good” is a starting point… I want to do something that is “good.” But that’s not enough – what I want to define is more than “good” – more subtle than that. As a matter of fact, “Subtle” is a quality I want to include.

So I’ve been working on this….

Let’s start with Subtle and include the other words I’ve settled on:

  • Subtle
  • Sublime
  • Provocative
  • Exquisite
  • Elegant
  • Transcendent

This is what I have so far.

Some of these seem to be incompatible.
Subtle can’t be Provocative, can it?
Elegant and Transcendent?

But what I’m looking for isn’t a synonym for these words, but an unknown space that is, maybe, bracketed by them. So two opposites can define the limits – even opposites can have aspects in common and this commonality is what I seek. What can you define by the commonality of opposites? Something as Subtle as smoke, as Provocative as a kid that doesn’t know any better, as Sublime as a symphony, as Elegant as mathematics, as Exquisite as a Monet and as Transcendent as that what is left when we are all gone.

I want to create something like that. What it is, that doesn’t matter. As long as it is like that. Everything else is a waste of time.

Do you not understand what I’m writing about? Ok, fair enough. I’ll give you an example.

This is pretty damn close: