Grids in the Pool

Reflecting Pool, Arts District, Dallas, Texas (Click To Enlarge)

Reflecting Pool, Arts District, Dallas, Texas
(Click To Enlarge)

Reflecting Pool, Arts District, Dallas, Texas (Click To Enlarge)

Reflecting Pool, Arts District, Dallas, Texas
(Click To Enlarge)

The shallow pool is so still that it becomes a perfect mirror, especially on a calm day. Until someone runs by, children’s little feet, stirring up the water in a series of overlapping sets of concentric ripples, mixing and refracting each other until the image blurs and breaks up. It doesn’t take long to settle down and everything is sharp again. Back to normal. Or… what is normal? surely not the clear reflection. Maybe the confusion of little feet is the normal – only through great effort by the designers, constructors, and maintainors of the vast black stone slab with its thin slip of water… is the illusion of clarity created.

Reflecting Pool, Dallas, Texas (Click To Enlarge)

Reflecting Pool, Dallas, Texas
(Click To Enlarge)

Awning stretching out from the Opera House, Arts District, Dallas, Texas (Click To Enlarge)

Awning stretching out from the Opera House, Arts District, Dallas, Texas
(Click To Enlarge)

This thing is a lot bigger… and a lot higher up in the air than it looks in the photo. During the heat of the day the gigantic aluminum louvers provide relief from the deadly Texas sun. Toward sunset, once the firey orb has descended below the level of the shade… well, it’s just plain cool to look at.

Steel Creosote and Pine

The telephone poles in your cozy little home neighborhood are festooned with flyers for garage sales, lost pets, and maybe a high school cheerleader car wash.

Telephone Pole, Deep Ellum, Texas

Telephone Pole, Deep Ellum, Texas

This, however, is Deep Ellum and the wooden poles aren’t decorated… they are armored. The solid steel coating… the Staple Mail, as it were… comes from one source. Band Flyers. Lots of Band Flyers. Decades of Band Flyers.

How long do they stay here? I guess pretty much forever. The real Renaissance of Deep Ellum happened in, say 1982 or so (when I moved to Dallas and started going down there to the Prophet Bar and Theater Gallery) so I suppose some of these are over thirty years old.

See that one staple a third of the way down? Yeah, that one. That’s from an old concert by MC900 Foot Jesus. Below it is one by Reverend Horton Heat. That old, rusty one at the bottom… New Bohemians (featuring Edie (Eatme) Brickell). There’s TimBuk3 and Mo Jo Nixon and True Believers. Don’t forget the Butthole Surfers with Grinding Teeth opening. The Loco Gringos left one behind. There’s one from The Blasters and another by Joe Christ and the Healing Faith. Of course there’s a shiny new one for Home by Hovercraft and a bunch of them from Brave Combo shows.

(yes, these are all shows that I have actually seen in Deep Ellum)

On and on. Think about it… every one of these staples (and the thousands you don’t see, they go all the way around, from knee high to ten feet in the air) represent a music show at a Deep Ellum Club sometime. That’s a lot of music. That’s a lot of memories. That’s a lot of steel hammered into creosote and pine.

Deep Ellum, Texas

Deep Ellum, Texas

Hood Ornament

I’m no expert, but I think this design was originally from a Pierce Arrow.

Not to be confused with a Peirce Arrow – which is true only when everything is false.

The first Pierce-Arrow archers were slight in frame, partly clothed, and helmeted. Later versions depict a helmet-less archer with no clothes and a little more muscle. Both versions are graceful and elegant, which is funny when you consider that a fellow sweeping the floor of the Pierce-Arrow factory was asked to be the model. After attending archery classes to add realism to the pose, Albert Gonas used his broom for the arrow.

Hood Ornament, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Hood Ornament, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

The job of a hood ornament is a tough one. You are out there, unprotected, in the wind.
You wonder what it would feel like to be the Spirit of Ecstasy – even on a Rolls, exposed, fighting the sun and the rain.

And so unappreciated.

Back in the cool days, nobody would think of buying or driving a car without a piece of iconic sculpture rising above the radiator cap. Now they are all but gone. The malfeasance of the modern world in its various manifestations is exposed in the reasons for the disappearance of the hood ornament.
Too expensive.
Too easy to steal.
Too original.
Too personal.
Too dangerous.

The same mysterious forces that saved me from being impaled on the steering wheel also saved the young engineer’s wife. Apart from a bruised upper jawbone and several loosened teeth, she was unharmed. During my first hours in Ashford Hospital all I could see in my mind was the image of us locked together face to face in these two cars, the body of her dying husband lying between us on the bonnet of my car. We looked at each other through the fractured windshields, neither able to move. Her husband’s hand, no more than a few inches from me, lay palm upwards beside the right windshield wiper. His hand had struck some rigid object as he was hurled from his seat, and the pattern of a sign formed itself as I sat there, pumped up by his dying circulation into a huge blood-blister – the triton signature of my radiator emblem.
—-J.G. Ballard, Crash

Red and Blue

Super Soul: And there goes the Challenger, being chased by the blue, blue meanies on wheels. The vicious traffic squad cars are after our lone driver, the last American hero, the electric centaur, the, the demi-god, the super driver of the golden west! Two nasty Nazi cars are close behind the beautiful lone driver. The police numbers are gettin’ closer, closer, closer to our soul hero, in his soul mobile, yeah baby! They about to strike. They gonna get him. Smash him. Rape… the last beautiful free soul on this planet.
—-Vanishing Point

Beautiful Cars, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Beautiful Cars, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Super Soul: This radio station was named Kowalski, in honour of the last American hero to whom speed means freedom of the soul. The question is not when’s he gonna stop, but who is gonna stop him.
—-Vanishing Point

Astral Flower

Astral Flower, by Jose Luis Sanchez, Dallas, Texas

Astral Flower, by Jose Luis Sanchez, Dallas, Texas

Astral Flower, by Jose Luis Sanchez

Astral Flower, by Jose Luis Sanchez

There is something special about downtown parks. The tiny bits of public green carved out of the pavement become precious jewels cast about the vast three dimensional expanse of office buildings. The few trees struggling for their share of light and water become alien creatures of wonder – flecks of forest, transplanted.

When I first moved to Dallas in the early 1980’s and was working down in the Kirby Building there was Thanksgiving Square – a carefully created triangle of grass and water in the heart of the business district. One of my favorite things was to eat lunch in the square on a sunny spring day… there was a greasy take out Chinese place in the underground – Mr. Kim’s Eggroll. This was a branch of the better known, almost infamous, Texaco Lunch Box out on Ross avenue. I won’t say the food was good… but it has good memories.

From a 1984 Newspaper Article, in The Victoria Advocate, “In Praise of the Immigrant,” by William Murchison.

My own favorite immigrant is Mr. Kim, a South Korean. He came to Dallas in the late 70’s, legally, I should point out, worked hard at a convenience store, saved most of what he earned and established an eggroll joint across the street from the courthouse. In those days I patronized him with some frequency.

But Mr. Kim wasn’t sure he couldn’t do better elsewhere. A short time later he opened the inimitable Texaco Lunch Box on Ross Avenue. The Lunch Box sells gasoline and marvelous egg rolls, whichever or both. From the start it prospered, owing partly to Mr. Kim’s ebullient, somewhat wacky, personality, partly to a quality product. Mr Kim always had a cheery smile and a few quips for his customers. To my children he commonly would hand out an extra fortune cookie, sometimes even a can of Coke.

One place wasn’t enough, so Mr Kim opened more, staffing them all, as far as I am aware, with fellow Korean immigrants. A devout Presbyterian who plasters Christian slogans on his wall, Mr. Kim also set up bible study classes for Koreans. Many were the times I’d go by the Lunch Box and ask for him, only to be told, “He’s teaching bible class.”

One of Mr. Kim’s outlets is downtown, more or less underneath Thanksgiving Square. That is where I now catch him when he isn’t teaching the bible or helping some Korean family.

I was glad to find that article – I hadn’t thought about Kim’s Eggroll for a long time and was glad to find out my memories (I remember the eccentric man and the religious tracts taped to the wall… as well as the taste of the greasy rolls and sweet sauce) were real and not some remnant of a fever dream.

Kim’s Eggroll and the Texaco Lunch Box are long gone. In addition to some legal adventures, Mr. Kim seems to have been involved in the local restaurants Wok & Roll, which I have eaten at too.

In the decades since, Thanksgiving Square is getting long in the tooth, but the city has carved out some more parks – more ambitious and more contemporary. There is the big trinity of Main Street Garden Park, Belo Garden Park, and of course, the crown jewel, Klyde Warren. There are also a handful of smaller place, some of them really nice, like Lubben Plaza… (I’m going to have to go downtown and shoot some pocket parks… aren’t I).

And there are more in the works.

One of the biggest proposed projects is Pacific Plaza Park. This would join together a number of small parks and desolate parking lots into one of the largest remaining open areas in the City’s Center. It’s been delayed and delayed and I hope they get going and get the thing built while I’m still alive.

One concern, though. Right in the middle of the proposed park, is an old, forgotten park that used to have a fountain with an old, forgotten sculpture. If you live in Dallas, you’ve driven by it a million times, and even though it’s pretty darn big you’ve never seen it. I, however, ride a bicycle, and I notice things like this.

It’s called Astral Flower, by Jose Luis Sanchez. It was placed in the Pacific Plaza “Vest Pocket Park” in 1968 by Junior League Garden Club. The tiny park was developed by the Greater Dallas Board of Realtors along with the City Parks & Recreational Department.

I hope they preserve this little bit of history. In Dallas, history is as scarce as green space downtown.

Astral Flower, by Jose Luis Sanchez (click to enlarge)

Astral Flower, by Jose Luis Sanchez
(click to enlarge)

Banjo Player

When you want genuine music – music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey, go right through you like Brandreth’s pills, ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pinfeather pimples on a picked goose – when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo!
—- Mark Twain

John Pedigo of the O's. From a photograph taken at a beer festival, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas.  (click to enlarge)

John Pedigo of the O’s. From a photograph taken at The Big Texas Beer Fest, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas.
(click to enlarge)

They think the banjo can only be happy, but that’s not true.
—-Bela Fleck


Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

There is the umbrella. The umbrella lives under the passenger bucket seat and you pull it out at dawn in the spitting rain and roaring cold wind. Your only hope is that it opens and stays more or less together while you trudge your way across the vast tarmac parking lot at your work. If it does its job, you can arrive breathless and plop down in your soulless cubicle with a few square inches of almost dry clothing.

A parasol, on the other hand, is a completely different thing. Darts of flimsy tissue paper and delicate bamboo ribs – it was not made to stand the power of a howling gale. The gentle rays of the sun are all it can deal with – and barely that. It’s a translucent bumbershoot, a portable shade canopy, standing against the day. Its name tells you that it’s for (para) the sun (sol).

But it’s not only for protection. It’s for twirling.

What better attention grabber than a pretty parasol with hand drawn artistic designs carefully chosen to compliment your tattoos? Ink and ink.

I think of the sweaty hut in some faraway land with workers carefully, quickly, hopelessly putting the things together – cutting the paper, stapling the ribs, or brushing out long-practiced patterns across the delicate field – all the same yet each one different.

And here it comes, spinning down the middle of the street.

And all eyes turn.

Chris Johnson – Patio Sessions

Enjoyed Chris Johnson – of the very popular Fort Worth band, Telegraph Canyon – doing a solo set at the Patio Sessions in the Arts District of Downtown Dallas. One of my favorites, Madison King, opened, but I have plenty of pictures of her… here, here, and here.

You were wearing all black
Face that warned of going back
Turning pages oh you grew
Testifying nothing but the truth
Walking in your righteousness
Shake em’ like you shake your fist
I loved you for getting more
Left you when the night was warm
—-Telegraph Canyon, Shake Your Fist

Chris Johnson, of Telegraph Canyon, at the Patio Sessions, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Chris Johnson, of Telegraph Canyon, at the Patio Sessions, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

The winter has shown us
All of the faults
That are hidden well beneath
Hurried shoulders and heavy feet

As sure as we stand
By the body you’ve left
The fastest of hands
And the shortest of breath
You don’t have to hide
Don’t ever have to hide
—-Telegraph Canyon, Welcome to the Night

Chris Johnson, Arts District, Dallas, Texas

Chris Johnson, Arts District, Dallas, Texas

when you’re lost and you try to find
someone with a heart beat be a friend of mine
into the woods I’ll stay with you
I found why I came but my plans fell through
—– Telegraph Canyon, Into the Woods