Born to Die

As I was thinking about leaving work to go home (I tend to work until I’ll too tired to do anything reliably well) I texted Candy if she needed anything from Target. She texted back that she wanted some reduced-fat graham crackers. Everything is so exciting in this – the best of all possible worlds.

I was going to stop at Target because today is when Lana Del Rey’s album dropped. I’ve been a fan for a while now and have written too much about her before. Still, I wanted the CD. I could have downloaded it from iTunes or Amazon, but… maybe I’m a bit of an old fart – but I still like to have something in my hands for my hard-earned money.

Plus, a little surfing at lunch told me that Target was selling the real, live, and solid Compact Disk for eight bucks – plus two bonus tracks. A pretty good deal. There were only two left when I got there.

So, do you want a review? How can you review music? Like always – Lana Del Rey is the kind of thing you will like if you like this kind of thing.

She is criticized for being fake – and she is. Her music is a lush laconic illusion. There isn’t much there, but there is a vision, however manufactured, and the vision is unique, entertaining and fun to listen to. In this age of the music “industry” what more can you expect? The title song starts with the words, “feet don’t fail me now.” I like that.

Christ, who knows what’s good and what isn’t in these days? I have a stack of albums that once meant a lot to me; I thought that the sounds from them were genius. I turned to these for solace during difficult times and now I can’t even listen to them anymore because they take me back to those times and I can feel the panic rising. I wish I was young and listening to Lana Del Rey – she is better if you don’t have to worry about anything. Shit, why waste time writing about something you don’t like? Life is way too short.

Here, I’ll list just a few of the WordPress blogs from the last few hours with a Lana Del Rey tag. Read ’em and make up your own mind, please, while I try to get some short story scenes pounded out, ride my exercise bike for a while, and listen to Born to Die on repeat.

Don’t listen to me, I couldn’t even find the reduced-fat graham crackers.

Oh, I do have one legitimate complaint… one of my favorite Del Rey works, Kinda Outta Luck, isn’t on the CD. Well, at any rate, here it is. For your pleasure.

 

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Santa Fe Trestle Trail

A few weeks ago, looking around I found out about a trail that I had barely heard of nearing completion in Dallas. It isn’t very long and it goes nowhere, but it looks pretty cool.

When they built the DART rail line along the Santa Fe rail right-of-way going across the Trinity River into Oak Cliff, they constructed a new rail bridge over the river. They left the old Santa Fe iron trestle next to the new concrete bridge. Right from the first, there was talk of trying to preserve the old trestle, both the iron bridgework and the wooden timbers. It was decided to build a hike/bike trail over the old trestle. The first plans were to simply build the trail where the rails used to be, but the Corps of Engineers wanted to clear away the old wooden timber piers to allow debris to wash through during flood periods. So the design was modified with new big, curving, concrete approaches to the metal bridge over the river itself. Over the last few years construction continued, cleaning up the old bridge and putting the new trail causeways into the river bottoms.

I found notice that the construction was nearing completion and although it wasn’t officially open, but the trail was walkable. Sunday I wasn’t able to get some of the things done I had planned, but as the day went on, I was running out of time, but I guessed I would have time to go down and check out the trail as the sun set.

There is parking at the Corinth DART station and the entrance to the trail is across the street. It’s a short walk through the swampy river bottoms (there was a lot of water, mud, plus flotsam and jetsam from the recent heavy rains) and then the trail begins to rise along a long, curving elevated causeway. They are still working on the landscaping, but otherwise it looks pretty much finished.

The sun was setting as I reached the bridge itself. It was pretty cool – the path is wide and smooth and there are nice benches set along the way. I enjoyed watching the DART trains going by a few feet away and there are great views of the downtown skyline contrasted with the vast open areas of the Trinity River Bottoms.

The entrance to the trail near the Corinth DART station.

A view of the Dallas Skyline from the trail. (click to enlarge)

The trestle trail going over the Trinity River.

A DART train rumbles by with the biking/hiking trail in front. (click to enlarge)

I didn’t stick around very long – this is not the part of town you want to be hanging out in after dark. As I was walking back to my car I heard some chanting in the distance. As I walked it was closer and I realized I was hearing some sort of yelling through a bullhorn. Finally, I could understand what was being yelled:

“Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Columbia Packing has got to go!”

Oh, crap, Columbia Packing. That was the place that became infamous last week when they were busted dumping pig blood into a creek that ran down to the Trinity. I did not realize I was so close to the place. It was only a block or so away and I was walking along a stand of trees that bordered the contaminated creek. There was a demonstration going on trying to shut down the plant.

I want to go back to the trail with a group of bike riders during the day once the park is completely open… it’s a cool place even if it doesn’t connect with anything else (yet) – but still, I was glad to get back to my car and get headed home.

A video of a ride across the bridge from a while back. The construction was a lot further along this weekend, and the water in the river was a lot higher.

La Desperada

A few weeks ago I read a book that I ordinarily would not have read. This isn’t surprising, I’m not the target audience for this genre of fiction. I volunteered to read and review the new book by the teacher of a fiction class I took a few years ago, Patricia (Pooks) Burroughs. It’s a historical romance novel called La Desperada.

I didn’t want to put this up until the book was available – you can buy the ebook here. Go ahead, get it… you know you want to. I guarantee that this is the sort of thing you will like if you like this sort of thing.

This is the second romance novel I’ve read. The first was a random thin paperback Harlequin I picked up maybe thirty years ago and read out of sheer curiosity. Don’t ask the title, it’s long lost in my memory, along with the plot, characters, theme… or anything at all about the book except my visceral reaction to it. I remember that I read it in a couple of hours, although I’m not a particularly fast reader. I was able to crank through it so quickly because, First – I had the feeling I knew what the next sentence, paragraph, scene, chapter, all of it – was going to be. And I was always right. Second, I could read it fast because there was nothing there.

I did not become a fan of the genre after that first taste.

So now I am faced with La Desperada and writing a review of a book in a genre that I simply don’t read. Luckily, La Desperada is a much, much better book that that old Harlequin. It is a Romance, but there is much more going on between the pages, and it is written with a lot more ambition, excitement, and skill.

I went to school in Lawrence, Kansas. On days when the weather was nice, I used to walk from my dorm across Iowa Street into an ancient cemetery for a nice quiet place to sit outside and study. Sometimes I would even lean against an old tombstone with a textbook in my lap. Over time, I read most of the stones – they were all victims of Quantrill’s raid – where in a prelude to the civil war a band of Missouri based outlaws came across and burned Lawrence, slaughtering a good many of the residents.

I’m familiar with the history and passion of those days of violence and banditry and was glad to read that the prologue of La Desperada was set in Clay County, Missouri and that the heart of the conflict was born from the evil that spread across the land in those days.

Then the real story begins in West Texas – the town of Cavendish in 1881. Civilization had a tenuous hold on that wild land. There was still a place for men like Clayton Dougherty – men representing the law though they were at best barely on the right side of it – and too often, on the wrong. The uneasy, unstable, and ultimately cataclysmic triangle of Clayton, his intelligent and virtuous but scarred brother Joel, and Joel’s wife Elizabeth is thrown into violence and death when an outlaw, Boone Coulter shows up.

Once the story gets going, Boone and Elizabeth are on the run together, trying to escape their doom fleeing through the rugged desert and mountains of far West Texas and the untamed frontier towns of New Mexico.

I’ve driven North from Van Horn, Texas, along the valley east of the Sierra Diablo and felt the silent menace of those ragged cliffs and heat blasted salt flats. It looks wild and dangerous, and is so, even from a minivan. I’ve hiked up McKittrick Canyon in the Guadalupe Mountains (which must be the location of Boone’s hidden cabin hideout) and seen the magical beauty that a little water and shade can create in the high desert. My favorite aspect of La Desperada is the effort, imagination, and attention to detail that Patricia injects into the romance to pay homage to the setting and the landscape. West Texas, for good and bad, becomes another character in the story, and that is a very good thing.

That is the skill and effort that elevates the story above the run-of-the-mill romance. There is a real story here, real danger, real complexity. The romantic storyline is intact and moves as expected, but beyond that there is plenty of meat to sink your teeth into.

My only complaint with the book was the sex scenes. They arrive periodically and predictably and I found myself simply skipping these sections. This is not due to any prudishness on my part – I’m up for a little titillation without any qualms. I simply found the sex scenes in La Desperada clichéd and, I’m afraid, simply unexciting. I don’t know if that is a requirement of the genre (Bodice Ripping in the Old West) or not. At any rate, jumping over a page now and then didn’t damage the story at all – so it was all good.

When you are writing about someone else’s work, it is usually a bad idea to opine about what you would like to see done differently. You should write about what the book is, not what it is not. In this case, however, I want to give my opinion; I can’t resist. There is a secondary character that works to move the story forward – he has a doomed relationship with the the outlaw’s sister – his name is Miguél Obregón. I found this flawed, dangerous, evil, yet honorable in his own way character to be the most interesting thing in the book. I would love to read a book written about the love story between him and the sister from his point of view.

That would be something.

Links:

Sample Chapter

Review from Book Babe

Review from Journey of a Bookseller

Fresh Fiction

Best Enchiladas Ever

Saturday and I still haven’t totally recovered from the nastiest cold that I have had in decades. There is a lot of stuff to do at home, plumbing problems mostly, but Candy and I headed across the river to a couple of Estate Sales in Kessler Park. Both were in beautiful, old brick homes that are so rare in Dallas. Kessler Park has to be the prettiest part of the city with its historic one-of-a-kind homes, steep hills and thick stands of ancient trees. We bought a bunch of crap we never knew we couldn’t live without at the second sale, which was literally across the street from the house I lived in when I first moved to Dallas, thirty years ago.

After our time spent digging through dead people’s stuff we drove down to the Bishop Arts District – my newest favorite spot in Dallas. There are a bunch of places we want to eat at down there, but the other day I had stumbled across a blog entry written about the best Enchiladas in the city and had read about a semi-fast-food place down in Bishop Arts called bee – which stood for Best Enchiladas Ever. It looked like a plan.

It looks like bee is the brainchild of Monica, of Monica’s Aca y Alla – one of the most loved eating spots around. Monica quality enchiladas with fast food speed and prices sounds really good. Now, Oak Cliff is lousy with Tacquerias and other home-style Mexican food – and I’d like to try them all – so I guess a gentrified gringo invader may be politically incorrect… but I don’t care, I just want something good to eat.

Sorry for the poor photographs - I forgot my camera and had to use my phone.

Bee is a bright and clean little place near the corner of Davis and Zang. You get a little card and fill it out before ordering from the counter, like a sandwich place. The guy at the counter recommended the two enchilada special.

Build your own – starting with tortillas.

Choices:

  • corn,
  • blue corn,
  • wheat,
  • flour,
  • or cabbage leaf wrap.

Then filling:

  • chicken tinga,
  • pork carnitas
  • beef picadillo,
  • beef brisket,
  • tilapia veracruz,
  • spinach and mushroom,
  • quinoa and tofu,
  • vegan special,
  • cheddar cheese.

Finally, you add a sauce:

  • sour cream,
  • con carne,
  • queso blanco,
  • poblano crema,
  • chipotle crema,
  • oaxaca mole,
  • ranchera,
  • tomatillo,
  • avacado verde (cold).

Folks deciding what to get and filling out their cards.

My order, two enchiladas, rice and black beans

So you mix and match. Pick your sides and then when the food is ready they have a selection of toppings and cheeses. The back side of the little menu card is full of other options… burritos, tacos, salads… but you could spend a year working through the options of the different enchilada combinations.

As promised, the food was fast, reasonable, and very good. I had forgotten my combinations by the time the order came up, but I don’t think you can go wrong with anything I did especially like the poblano crema and the vegan black beans. They have a cooler full of beer and soft drinks and a margarita machine, so I suppose you could pretty well just live there if you wanted.

We finished our lunch and walked on down to Bishop where I picked up a coffee at Espumoso, hung out, and wrote this while I sipped on a coffee. Better than crawling around on the bathroom floor fixing the pipes – though I’ll still have to do that sometime.

Link-o-rama:

What I learned this week, January 27, 2012

Did you miss(skip) the State of the Union Address? Don’t worry, John Stewart has it all for you.

You Opened With “I Killed Bin Laden”?  

“Does Rick Springfield open with ‘Jessie’s Girl’?”


Writing Tips from Coloumbia University

•Break Writing #1 – Write Every Day

•Break Writing #2 – Schedule Your Writing

•Break Writing #3 – Crappy First Drafts

•Break Writing #4 – The Last 5 Minutes

•Break Writing #5 – Resolve to Be a More Productive Writer (Happy New Year)

•Break Writing #6 – Reduce Distractions

•Break Writing #7 – Time Management for Writing

•Break Writing #8 – Time Management, Part 2

•Break Writing #9 – Writing with a Deadline

•Break Writing #10 – Binge Writing

•Break Writing #11 – Your writing environment

•Break Writing #12 – Are you writing the perfect dissertation?

•Break Writing #13 – Keeping yourself motivated

•Break Writing #14 – Making yourself accountable

•Break Writing #15 – Writing versus revising and editing

•Break Writing #16 – Stuck?

I can say with confidence that I didn’t learn anything in my college writing courses. But then, I didn’t go to Colombia.


Upcoming stuff to do:

Sunday, January 29 – Rollerderby!

Saturday, January 28 – Estate Sales

March 2-4 Bridge Opening

February 15, Dallashenge

February 18-19, Mardi Gras in the Bishop Arts

Suggestions accepted.


48 hours in Dallas, what to do.


A great method from “Developing Story Ideas” by Michael Rabiger. I don’t play CLOSAT as a game, but filling in all the items is a crackerjack method for building a story. 

CLOSAT

The Game called CLOSAT

Journal observations, your bank of ideas from which to write, will become playing cards for an instant story-making game called “CLOSAT.” To speed retrieval, tag each item in the margin with one or more of these CLOSAT categories:

  • C = description of Characters who could be used in a story.
  • L = interesting and visual Location.
  • O= curious or evocative Object.
  • S = loaded or revealing Situation.
  • A = unusual or revealing Act.
  • T = any Theme that intrigues you or that you see embodied in life.

CLOSAT Definitions and Examples

C (character) is anyone whose appearance, mannerisms, occupation, or activities suggest potential for a character in a story.

L (location) is any place that suggests a setting for something to happen.

O (object) is any that is worth recording because it is eloquent of place,time, situation, or owners. Examples:

S (situation) is a conjunction of circumstances or a predicament that puts its characters under some special pressure.

A (act) is any human deed or action that seems freighted with meaning or potential.

T (theme) is the central or dominating idea, seldom stated directly, that underlies the subject of a story and that comments on it.


There was a time when we all dreamed of flying. Now we are reduced to an addiction to watching other people flying on YouTube.


Want To Lose Weight For The New Year Of 2012 ???

1: The most simple tip to lose weight EVER is “Eat less and move more” – Common sense I know but it’s what every single weight loss plan is based on, TRUST ME !

2: Control the AMOUNT you eat at each meal time – make sure your meals are low in fat. This is not set in stone for instance you might want to also think about calories or portion control.

3: Get weighed – Measure your body, hips, thighes, chest, arms, neck……what can be measured can be managed. Always weigh-in on the same day in the same clothes on the same scales at the same time of day.

There is no point starting on a weight loss plan unless you get weighed first. This is very important. You need to be able to monitor your progress to know how well you are doing and that any changes in your lifestyle and eating are reaping the rewards or where you are making mistakes.

4 Keep a food diary – write down what you eat and what exercise you have done. Make sure you look at Calories n vs Calories out and try to ensure that Calories out is MORE than Calories in – If it helps you write down your feelings.

5.Smarter Shopping The golden rule here is to NEVER EVER go food shopping hungry. You make the decision to eat biscuits and crap food’s when you buy them in the shops, not when you take them from the cupboard. Don’t buy them in the first place.

6, Make a Goal list – write down achievable goals.



I like pens… but this is too much.

Old photographs

I just finished typing up a new short story and am about written out – so I’ll throw up three old photographs instead. I’ve been digging around in my archives and came across these – I’ve put them up before on my old journal and they are floating around the ‘net, but wanted copies here.

These were taken sometime in the mid-eighties at a parade in support of KNON radio. The Criswell Bible Institute was trying to take over their radio license (they eventually settled the matter amicably) and a parade was held to keep the Baptists at bay. The pictures were taken with a 35mm film camera (I used Tri-X Pan exclusively then) – I printed them at the time in my bathroom and scanned them about ten years later (I’ve since lost the original prints and negs).

Loco Gringos

This is a notorious local band, The Loco Gringos. They played on a stage mounted to the roof of an old hearse. Notice the driver chugging Tequilla.

Joe Christ

The guy in the sunglasses standing next to the car is Joe Christ. He performed with his band, The Healing Faith at the afterparade party in Deep Ellum. I would always run into him at all sorts of disreputable places back in the day. I’m afraid that Joe passed away a couple years ago.

La Reina de Hi-Ho Ballroom

I have always liked this picture. The girl was La Reina de Hi-Ho Ballroom, a latin dance hall in Grand Prairie. It was taken outside Dallas City  Hall at the end of the parade.

Dallashenge

A few days ago I read about the phenomenon of Manhattanhenge – the phenomenon that occurs several times a year when the rising or setting sun happens to align perfectly with the canyons of New York City. It is called Manhattanhenge in honor of Stonhenge… which is in putative alignment with its own set of heavenly circuits.

Image from New York Bridge and Tunnel Club

I really never thought about the fact that the streets of Manhattan don’t run perfectly East-West. They are aligned with the long axis of the island itself, about thirty degrees off of the meridian.

I began to think about Dallas, so I pulled up a map. The streets in downtown, the ones that run between the skyscrapers – Commerce, Main, Elm – don’t run perfectly East-West either. I don’t know what the layout is based on… probably where the deer and the antelope used to roam. Looking around the internet, I found suncalc.net, which made it easy to find the directions of sunrise and sunset at different times of the year.

According to suncalc.net in 2012 Downtown Dallas, the Sunset Stonehenge moment will be at 6:13 PM on February 15, and the Sunrise Stonehenge will be 6:53 AM on April 19th. That’s when the sun will rise/set right along the canyons of buildings along the streets downtown. I’m going to try to remember and be there to take some pictures.

One big question is where. I’m going to have to go downtown and walk around and look for good places. Commerce, Main, and Elm all have a lot of tall buildings lining the sidewalks, but it’s hard to tell where the best spot is. One problem is the Lew Sterrett Center sticks up at the west end of Downtown; the jail will block the sun.

Another problem is how to get the picture without getting run over. The streets of downtown are busy at the evening hour and I’ll have to wait for a walk signal, run out into the street, take a snap, and then get the hell out of Dodge. Looking through Google Maps I found this:

Googlemap Streetview

Maybe that pedestrian overpass would be a good spot. I’ll have to check it out and make sure it’s open to the public and that the glass is clean.

It would be cool to have a group down there taking photographs. If any of y’all are interested, get with me, and we can talk.

If the weather is bad, another Stonehenge Sunrise will come on August 23rd (6:57) and another Stonehenge Sunset will occur on October 25 (6:43).

WordPress Blogs:

Chicagohenge:

Chicago is interesting because its streets do run straight East-West. Therefore, their “henge” is on the equinox.