Pointed Blasphemously at Heaven

“This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.”
― Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan

Waggoner Mansion in Decatur, Texas

There is an abandoned palace in Decatur, Texas – The Waggoner Mansion, also called El Castile, is a sixteen room mansion built in 1883 by the Waggoner Family. The Reata Ranch House in the movie “Giant” is inspired by this building.

But now it stands, abandoned and rotting… and beautiful still.

Black Butterfly

“Hundreds of butterflies flitted in and out of sight like short-lived punctuation marks in a stream of consciousness without beginning or end.”
― Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

Black Butterfly
John T. Scott, Aluminum, 1996
Poydras Street, New Orleans

In the City of New Orleans there is a fantastic arrangement of sculpture along Poydras Street. Walking down and back from my son’s apartment to the Running of the Bulls I took photos of a few of them that I’ll share with you.

“Black Butterfly” is an abstract aluminum sculpture completed four years after John T. Scott was awarded the MacArthur Genius Award. Scott’s work frequently displayed themes related to African-American life, particularly the rich Afro-Caribbean culture and musical heritage of New Orleans. See this sculpture on Poydras Street at O’Keefe.

Memories Warm You Up

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Decatur, Texas

I remember when I was a little kid loving the Texaco commercials on TV. The TV was small, full of static (with rabbit ears and bits of foil on top), and only black and white – but it had an amazing effect on my tiny self. “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star.” I barely can remember my PIN number now but I remember that jingle from more than a half-century ago. I would bug my father to buy some gas from Texaco, but he never would. He said it was more expensive than his brand (not sure what it was, but I do remember getting a big green inflatable dinosaur from Sinclair). Now, of course, it seems silly to get excited over a stupid commercial, but I was only a little kid. What did I know?

The True Lives Of Other People

“The lesson? To respond to the unexpected and hurtful behavior of others with something more than a wipe of the glasses, to see it as a chance to expand our understanding, even if, as Proust warns is, ‘when we discover the true lives of other people, the real world beneath the world of appearance, we get as many surprises as on visiting a house of plain exterior which is full of hidden treasures, torture-chambers or skeletons.”
― Alain de Botton, How Proust Can Change Your Life

McKinney, Texas

Eighter From Decatur

“But we must come to realise that every word is perfect, including those we scratch out. As my pen moves across this page the whole world writes. All of human history combines at this mere moment now to produce in the flow of this hand a single dot: Who are you and I, dear friends, to contradict the whole past of the universe? Let us then in our wisdom say yes to the flow of the pen.”
― Luke Rhinehart, The Dice Man

Decatur, Texas

Legend has it that a local, Will Cooper, was credited with the phrase, “Eighter From Decatur.” Will played dice with his sweetheart Ada by his side. He would roll the dice and yell “Ada from Decatur, county seat of Wise,” for luck. The expression was spread by the travelling home guard and Army regulars. The phrase eventually turned into “Eighter From Decatur,” when a hard eight roll of the dice was needed.

Decatur, Texas

Hard Eight…. That reminds me of one of my favorite movies – I’ll bet you haven’t even seen it – I’ll make that bet – it’s better odds than a hard eight.

Stay Open, Forever

“Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.”
― George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone

“It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Zahir

Opening & Closing
Fritz Bultman
Bronze, 1975
Poydras Street, New Orleans

Looking at the photo I took, I had a hard time making sure I had the title and sculptor right. Photos online looked so different. I realized that the sculpture looks completely different from various angles.

Now I need to go back. I need to go back, walk around the sculpture, and look at it from all sides. Shame it’s in the middle of a street – I’ll have to risk it.

Everything Conceals Something Else

“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”
― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Downtown Dallas

Made of Earth and Rain

“At night I dream that you and I are two plants
that grew together, roots entwined,
and that you know the earth and the rain like my mouth,
since we are made of earth and rain.”
― Pablo Neruda, Regalo de un Poeta

Petrified Wood Gas Station,
Decatur, Texas

Short Story of the Day – “Driven Snow” by Nancy M. Michael

“Life is a bucket of shit with a barbed wire handle.”
― Jim Thompson

Crepe Myrtle trunk in the snow

I read a lot of short stories. I read A LOT of short stories. In most cases I read pretty much a short story a day. I like to read them, I don’t have much time for long novels, and I like to write them.I have learned that it is best that I read what I am writing.

Over time, I have spent months where I review and online short story each day –

Short Story Months:
Day One 2013

Day One 2015

Day One 2017

Instead of doing an entire month, I think I’ll put up stories I enjoy one at a time.

There is a fantastic independent publishing house, Akashic Books. From their website:

Akashic Books is a Brooklyn-based independent company dedicated to publishing urban literary fiction and political nonfiction by authors who are either ignored by the mainstream, or who have no interest in working within the ever-consolidating ranks of the major corporate publishers.

In particular, I enjoy their Noir series – each book consisting of a group of savage short stories based in a particular city. I have written about their Noir books based on the two cities I am most familiar with: Dallas Noir and New Orleans Noir.

They have a tasty extensive list of short and flash fiction available online.

Today I have a free online short story put out by Akashic Books. It’s a warped little romantic tale about how a relationship handles a snowstorm on I70 in Colorado. The flash fiction piece is a lot of fun – though it seems to have one obvious little error (Isn’t it nights in WHITE satin?).

Driven Snow by Nancy M. Michael – Loveland Pass, Colorado

Like the city-themed Noir books, fiction, especially thrillers or horror, is always more fun when it is set somewhere that you are familiar with. I am somewhat familiar with I70 through the mountains, Loveland Pass and Ski Basin, the scenic route off the Interstate to A Basin, and the feeling of snow whiteout conditions.

I remember jockeying down that stretch of highway in a blinding blizzard with a tiny Datsun jockying with a string of monstrous snowplows going 80 miles an hour inches off my bumper and looking bigger than the surrounding Rocky Mountains.

Whew! just the memory makes me feel frozen and sweaty at the same time.

So take a few minutes to go read the story and while you are there – check out Akashic Books and their other offerings. They deserve our support.

Cycling Through a Blast Furnace

“Just as the Mediterranean separated France from the country Algiers, so did the Mississippi separate New Orleans proper from Algiers Point. The neighborhood had a strange mix. It looked seedier and more laid-back all at the same time. Many artists lived on the peninsula, with greenery everywhere and the most beautiful and exotic plants. The French influence was heavy in Algiers, as if the air above the water had carried as much ambience as it could across to the little neighborhood. There were more dilapidated buildings in the community, but Jackson and Buddy passed homes with completely manicured properties, too, and wild ferns growing out of baskets on the porches, as if they were a part of the architecture. Many of the buildings had rich, ornamental detail, wood trim hand-carved by craftsmen and artisans years ago. The community almost had the look of an ailing beach town on some forgotten coast.”
― Hunter Murphy, Imogene in New Orleans

Every year during the New Orleans Writing Marathon I make a point of crossing the Mississippi River on the Algiers Ferry. This year a group of poets decided to walk through the French Quarter and make the crossing. I’m no poet, but the rules aren’t too strict, so I tagged along.

I love riding the Ferry, though I have done it more than a few times. The Algiers Ferry moves cars, pedestrians, and cyclists from the dock at the foot of Canal Street across to the town of Algiers on the West Bank. Even though you are going from the Eastern half United States to the West, due to the twisting river the boat actually goes sort of in another direction. There is something about crossing the Mississippi, though I always think of the ferry as the spot where John Goodman’s character committed suicide in the series Treme. If you’ve ever seen the film Déjà Vu this is the ferry the terrorists attack.

The day was incredibly hot and humid and we maneuvered our route to the ferry to use as much shade as possible. The trip across is two dollars, cash only, no change – I always take a stack of ones and quarters with me when I go to New Orleans for the ferry and the streetcar.

Saint Louis Cathedral from across the Mississippi River at Algiers Point

Two women and a dog In the middle of the river on the Algiers Ferry.

On the Algiers side we went to a trio of spots to write. First was breakfast at Tout de Suite Cafe, which was very good. Right next door was the excellent cafe/coffee shop Two Birds, One Stone – they had a back room full of pinball machines and big tables, a perfect place to write. The young owners were very accommodating to our group – I want to visit again and recommend you do too. I wrote snippets of text at both, then we walked on to Congregation Coffee Roasters for a third stop. I decided to churn out a poem, since that was what everybody else was doing.

Rented Furniture

A worshipped monolith
made of translucent plastic
red and stained
a machine of fire and water

A cylinder, a totem
raised on a dias of wood
life that needs washing
escape and revelation

We didn’t make the payments
and they took the furniture
when we were gone
and returned to find
an empty room, with
only a bong on a wooden
wire spool table

It was still fairly early, but some of the others had to get back to do a radio broadcast – everybody piled back on the ferry for the trip back.I was distracted by two bike share rental bikes at the ferry terminal and, checking the map on my phone, discovered there was a bike trail on the top of the river levee on the Algiers side – so I opened the app on my phone and unlocked a bike – deciding to go for a ride.

New Orleans Bike Share Bike

The New Orleans bike share bikes are built like a tank, and as heavy as one – but the city is flat so that doesn’t cause too much of a problem. It took me a minute to find the control and downshift so I could climb onto the Levee and the swept handlebars took some getting used to. But soon enough I had it all in control and was moving down the smooth levee trail.

I rode south (or more exactly, downriver – the Mississippi curves) for a few miles, down past the Naval station. It was fun – the view of the river and giant ships and barges on one side – the picturesque streets of Algiers on the other. The path sort of petered out and I rode back, past the ferry station and upriver to the giant double bridge… the Crescent City Connector. That was about seven miles and about all I felt up to, so I rode back to the ferry and parked my rented bike.

It was a lot of fun, but there was one problem. It was so hot. It was like riding through a blast furnace. There was no breeze at all – no cooling relief coming off of the river. The top of the Levee is very exposed, not a bit of shade. The burning sun, the boiling air, and the famous New Orleans summer humidity made for a sweaty, exhausting ride.

I was so worn out that when I made it back across the river I was lazy and took a streetcar through the French Quarter (still had a dollar bill and a quarter) back to where we were meeting. A long day, a hot day, but a nice time.

Can’t wait to go back.