Face the Dragon

Meddle not in the affairs of the dragon; for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.

Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas, Texas

“Never laugh at live dragons.”
—- J.R.R. Tolkien

dragon

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
—-J. R. R. Tolkien

“What do you know about dragons?”
“They’re big, scaly, four-legged creatures with wings who terrorized small villages until a virgin was offered up as a sacrifice.”
His grinned again. “I do miss the virgins.”
—- Katie MacAlister, You Slay Me

“Puff, the Magic Dragon, lived by the sea, and frolicked in the Autumn Mist in a land called Honah Lee, little Jacky Paper loved that rascal Puff, and gave him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.”
—- Peter Yarrow, Puff, The Magic Dragon

“For instance, dragons are deeply revered by the Chinese. According to legend they have megapowers that include weather control and life creation. And they’re seen as kind, benevolent creatures. Funny. Every fairy tale I’d ever heard involving dragons starred daring knights trotting off to kill said dragons. Probably the real reason every time East meets West they get pissed off and throw tea in our faces.”
—- Jennifer Rardin

“The townspeople took the prince for dead
When he never returned with the dragon’s head
When with her, he stayed
She thought he’d be too afraid
But he loved her too much instead.”
—-Jess C. Scott, Piety, Dragon Poems

“Everybody knows who dragons are. They are enourmous,fierce,bloodthirsty creatures appearing in fairytales and legends primarily as accessories, functioning mainly to set of the bravery of the knights challenging them. Dragons are obscure,mysterious characters described only in broad terms, little more than foils to enhance a hero’s valor. Dragons though are much more than this. They are intelligent and educated creatures who lead entralling lives.”
—- H.G. Ciruelo Cabral

“A dragon’s heart burns fiercely, even in the face of evil.”
—- S.G. Rogers, Jon Hansen and the Dragon Clan of Yden

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
—- Neil Gaiman, Coraline

“But it is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them.”
—- Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea

“How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloudshadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.”
—- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

“I do not care what comes after; I have seen the dragons on the wind of morning.”
—- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore

“My nightly craft is winged in white, a dragon of night dark sea.
Swift born, dream bound and rudderless, her captain and crew are me.
We’ve sailed a hundred sleeping tides where no seaman’s ever been
And only my white-winged craft and I know the wonders we have seen.”
—- Anne McCaffrey, Dragonsong

Moss

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans Museum of Art

Kenneth Snelson, Verlane Tower

George Segal, Three Figures and Four Benches

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When I was a kid, living in places like the Northeast or the Midwest I became fascinated by Spanish Moss. I don’t remember when I first heard about it…. These were the days long, long before the internet, of course, and even television was only in black and white and hard to see (only three channels anyway) so I would have had to have read about it in a book or maybe seen some in a film.

The thought of a thin, filmy plant growing in the air, hanging from trees, seemed so exotic to me, like it was an alien organism growing on our own earth. I did as much research as I could – which at the time consisted of looking up articles in the various encyclopedias in the school library – and thought about what the stuff looked like in real life.

We were going to move from Kansas to Panama and would be flying out of South Carolina. This would take a long drive, three days – with stops in Memphis and Atlanta. Thinking about the trip, I realized that there would be Spanish Moss along the way. As we moved farther south I eagerly stared out of the window. Somewhere out of Memphis, little bits of fuzz began to appear here and there until once we were close to Atlanta, it was all over the place.

That evening, I walked around our hotel looking at the Spanish Moss. It was everywhere and it was as amazing as I thought. I couldn’t believe that people actually lived in the midst of such wonder and didn’t give it a second thought. The next day, in Charleston, South Carolina, I found even more – it hung thick in the trees like a living cloud, an aerial wave of plant life. I still remember the feeling of seeing the stuff, feeling it in my fingers, looking at it up close.

There is an amazing quality to the curiosity of youth… a passionate sense of wonder.

Now I live in the South and see the stuff all the time…. But when I do I still feel the echoes of those days.

Borders

There is one gap in the buildings lining Flora Street – the avenue running through the heart of the Dallas Arts District – and that is the rough top of a parking garage across from the symphony hall. I have seen teenaged skaters run off the concrete. A high rise office tower is planned for this spot (like we need another one of those) but it has been vacant for years.

The odds and ends of the property have been used for some art installations before – most notably the Zen Garden and Ice Sculptures done for the installation Transcendence.

On my last visit, riding my bike through, I saw a bunch of figures – sculptures – hanging out on the thing. Riding up for a closer look I was interested in seeing that one figure was decorated with an orange safety vest and a blue hard hat. While I was lining up a photograph the figure jumped down and I realized that it was a worker adjusting the lighting system.

Borders, by Steinunn Thorarinsdottir, Dallas Arts District, with the cube of the Wyly Theater in the background

Borders, by Steinunn Thorarinsdottir, Dallas Arts District, with the cube of the Wyly Theater in the background

Borders, in the Dallas Arts District

Borders, in the Dallas Arts District

Borders” is a sculptural exhibition by Steinunn Thorarinsdottir. The sign says that the 13 pairs of figures, made from aluminum and cast iron are from the collection of the artist. It looks like the exhibition was originally done in New York City – I don’t know if these are actually the same figures or not.

Brewery Ride

I been warped by the rain, driven by the snow
I’m drunk and dirty don’t ya know, and I’m still, willin’
Out on the road late at night, Seen my pretty Alice in every head light
Alice, Dallas Alice
—- Willin’ – by Lowell George

There was an event scheduled this Sunday that I had been really looking forward to. It was a bike ride, organized by the good folks at Bike Friendly Oak Cliff that started at the Klyde Warren Park in Downtown Dallas and went to tastings at a couple of local breweries, ending up at The Foundry/Chicken Scratch in West Dallas.

These local craft microbreweries are cropping up all over town. Dallas may be a bit behind the curve, but when it does something, it does it seriously. The Brewery Tours are very popular – you go to the place, pay a small fee, get a glass, sample beer. There is often live music, and there are always a bunch of cool people. I’ve been to Deep Ellum Brewery for their tours a few times… but this was the first one on a bicycle… with a bunch of people.

The day promised to be one of those preternaturally warm Texas Winter Weekend Afternoons – whick was perfect. My plan was to ride downtown to the park, twenty five miles or so, and then pick up the folks there. I futzed around a bit and left later than I intended, plus there was a strong wind from the south and I realized I would have to pedal hard to get there on time.

As my route passed near the Spring Valley DART station, I decided that I wanted to have fun today and riding against a deadline is not what I wanted so I hopped on the train downtown. I waited on the platform on the little rise in the pavement – knowing that was where the doors to the center car would open. These cars are tall and open – few seats – designed for wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles. There are two hooks for hanging bikes – it works pretty well.

When the train pulled in and the doors opened I saw the car was packed. There were a half-dozen bicycles (and three strollers) jammed in there. Everybody shoved back as far as they could and I squeezed in for the ride downtown.

The crowd of bicyclists grew at Klyde Warren park until it was time for everyone to haul out down Harwood street. I’m estimating about a hundred and fifty riders packed past the Art Museum and down Ross to the West End, then turning north through Victory and under I35 into the design district.

Riding along Harwood – The Nasher on the left, Dallas Museum of Art on the right

Everybody stacked their bikes up and went into the first brewery, Community Beer Company. A big, shiny new facility, it has only been open a few weeks. They were sampling a couple of beers – a Vienna Lager and a Pale Ale. Both were very good – the ale had more bite, the lager was very smooth. We milled around, talked beer, talked bikes, talked routes (especially how to get home). The Community folks were really nice, their facility looked great, and I hope they have a long and successful run in the city.

Another brewery to go, we saddled up and headed across the Trinity River on the old Continental Viaduct next to the Calatrava Bridge. The Continental span is supposed to be redone as a park – hopefully with a good bike/pedestrian path (there is a lot of controversy on this – the Trinity remains a tough cross on a bicycle).

It is a blast to ride in the city in a group of over a hundred bicycles. Scouts shoot ahead and temper the traffic at intersections so the pack can go through. It might anger a driver or two – but we were moving quickly on streets that don’t get much use on a Sunday and the cars didn’t have to wait long.

The views of a city are so cool on a bike. I still haven’t worked out a way to take pictures while riding – especially in a pack like this (it’s easy riding, but you have to pay close attention to the bikes all around you). That’s just as well, it helps me enjoy my day.

Over the river and down into West Dallas. This is a part of town that nobody dared venture into a few years ago – now it’s hip and rapidly coming into its own from The Belmont to Bishop Arts and beyond. Right at the end of the Calatrava span sits Four Corners Brewing – another craft brewery that offers tours, live music, and food trucks. They’ve been around a bit longer and offer a big selection and cool graphics. A fun place.

I had a dark porter and a red ale – both excellent.

It was cool to look around at all the bikes. There were so many different kinds of pedalled transport – from expensive carbon fiber road bikes to fixies to a Brompton folder. Most common was probably beat up old mountain bikes converted into tough urban commuters – which is exactly what I building up at home. My ancient Raleigh Technium “vintage” (there is a thin line between vintage and old/cheap/poor) bike worked great, but the roads are a bit rough in a few places (when I made it home I discovered I had broken a spoke).

After an hour or so at Four Corners everybody split up. Most folks headed back over the bridge to Fair Park and a final stop a Craft and Growler and on home – but Candy was waiting at The Foundry/Chicken Scratch, where the riders from Oak Cliff were mostly headed to get something to eat.

The jam session group that plays on Sunday were at The Foundry, so we were able to get something to eat and listen to some music before packing my bike in the trunk for the drive home.

All in all, a pretty good day.

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Outside Community Beer Company… a lot of bikes.

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Pouring beer at Community

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Arriving at the Community Beer Company, with the Dallas Skyline in the background

An Article about the ride – Craft beer scene spawns bike and bus brewery tours in North Texas

Napping in the Sculpture Garden

I usually take a two hour nap from one to four.
—-Yogi Berra

Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, outside of the New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans

Taking a nap in the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans

Taking a nap in the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans

“I do not particularly like the word ‘work.’ Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life. For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.”
—- Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

Candy Land

Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left.
—-Victor Hugo

New Orleans, Tulane Homecoming
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The thing about a carnival at night, well, it’s the smell. The smell of popping corn, of hot grease, the sweet smell of a cotton candy machine, the sour of the overexcited crowd … but over all of it the burning of ozone – thrown from the high voltage sparks of the hurling metal motors, copper coils and sparking brush gaps, overseen by the barkers and attendants and maintenance men – addict thin and covered with bad tattoos.

The yelling, the tinkling music – short old familiar tunes played over and over – the clanking machines, the screams of the children.

It’s like walking into another world, you stumble gap-mouthed, clutching your little string of cardboard tickets. Memories of carnivals past – of young couples, and getting sick on the tilt-a-whirl – because the carnival is timeless. That’s the point, isn’t it? – a cheap alternate universe. Step right up, step right up, we will sell you, if not something better, at least something a little different.

Sometimes you see one moving down the highway. The rides folded into compact nests of metal, all peeling paint and bright signs. The little buildings collapsed onto themselves, the same workers now driving the trucks – headed for the next dying mall parking lot, or vacant field on the edge of some sad town, or like this one, a special day at a university – the kids enjoying something different on the same grass they walk across every day.

A hot dog, please, and a funnel cake, and a coke and a beer, and a big cone full of cotton candy please, please please – I’ll throw the ball at the milk bottles and win a stuffed bear, or sit in the seat and get thrown in the air.

Hope all those bolts are tight.

Lizard of Death

I am the lizard king. I can do anything.
—- Jim Morrison

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

“At noon in the desert a panting lizard
waited for history, its elbows tense,
watching the curve of a particular road
as if something might happen.”
—-William Stafford