“A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.”
― The Grapes of Wrath
Monthly Archives: March 2019
I Must Spurn
“It is not for me to judge another man’s life. I must judge, I must choose, I must spurn, purely for myself. For myself, alone.”
American Bombers In the Sky
When the typewriters happen to pause (8:20 and other mythical hours), and there are no flights of American bombers in the sky, and the motor traffic’s not too heavy in Oxford Street, you can hear winter birds cheeping outside, busy at the feeders the girls have put up.
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
Asking the Wrong Questions
“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”
― Gravity’s Rainbow
Khao Noodle Shop
When I was a student in Vientiane, street food was a huge part of my daily life. There was always a woman at a stand under a tree selling different delicious foods; Kua Mee, stir-fried noodles with pork and egg, was one of them.
She would sell it on banana leaves or newspaper. I would order one and eat it with my hands while walking home.
Even after all these years traveling back to Laos, I still find it on the streets; perfectly cooked and served traditionally.
—- Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown
I was wasting some time staring at my computer when a notice came across the interwebs of a Dallas Observer review of a new Laotian Noodle restaurant in East Dallas. The article caught my eye. It said things like:
A Laotian Noodle Shop in East Dallas Is One of Texas’ Best New Restaurants
It feels irresponsible to hype a restaurant as small as Khao Noodle Shop. With just four tables and a counter, this isn’t a dining room meant to handle legions of fans, and the pint-sized kitchen isn’t meant to attract national attention. But national attention is coming, and Khao — with its modest strip-mall space in Old East Dallas, just across the street from Jimmy’s Food Store — is a new milestone in Dallas’ culinary history.
Few restaurants cultivate such an intimate connection between the food on the plate and the broader context in which it is served. Go ahead, take a bite of Khao’s Laotian noodles and snacks — and pair that bite with a side of Dallas cultural history.
I know that neighborhood (though I get hopelessly lost every time I go there… the streets are all on these crazy diagonals) – I’ve written about Jimmy’s Food Store (seven years ago!) and only a few blocks away is another set of excellent restaurants that we visited only a short time ago. The area is becoming a hotbed of Laotian food and culture. And now this Khao Noodle Shop – one of Texas’ best new places – have to give it a try.
I texted my son Nick – “Noodles!” and I drove by, picked him up, and wandered the streets (lost, as always) until we found the Khao Noodle Shop. It was full at one o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, but there were a couple spots at one of the six-tops. It is small – it looked like there were as many cooks and waiters scurrying behind a glass partition as there were customers. I had read the review and knew what to expect as the waitress handed out menus. The idea is to order a number of small bowls of noodles and shareable appetizer plates.
We were in the mood for noodles – so we ordered four bowls and only one appetizer. The food was fantastic.
Especially wonderful were the Sakoo – tapioca dumplings. They had an amazing texture – gooey, yet firm, with bits of radish inside to add some crunch.
We could have ordered a lot more. We asked the waitress what was the record for noodle bowls at a six top table. She said, “Forty or Forty One.” Nick and I and four friends? We could do forty without trying. No problem.
That sounds like a plan.
Curvewarped reflections of stars flowing across, down the full length of, round and round in meridians exact as the meridians of acupuncture. What are the stars but points in the body of God where we insert the healing needles of our terror and longing?
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
It’s funny, you buy a little plant that’s on sale – ten cents on the dollar – somewhere and think “What the hell” and put it into a bed in the backyard without much thought, maybe in one under a window. The thing is in a tiny plastic pot – it doesn’t really deserve much thought. A-and you don’t really like the thing… don’t like it at all – but still it grows. It grows and grows. It covers the window with odd-colored leaves and even more oddly colored blossoms. It grows until you forget what it was called and it doesn’t match any of the pictures in your gardening books. No wonder it was on sale.
It’s neglected and cut down and gets no water. But it still grows. Year after year it comes back. It always comes back.
Finally, this year, we decide we’ve had enough. It’s the plant, or us. Candy started… I came home from work and she had cut the plant off (again) and was trying to dig the stump and roots out. She wasn’t making much progress. I was too tired to help for very long – but I hunted around in the garage and found my sharpshooter. A sharpshooter is a kind of long and rectangular, small, but heavy shovel. It has a sharpened front edge and is used to cut underground roots – sometimes by literally throwing the thing down into a hole you’ve dug…. I was able to hack through a couple smallish ones before I had to give up.
The next day, Nick came over and between watching basketball games (for this is truly a great time of year… March Madness and all) we went out in the back yard and took turns digging and chopping with the sharpshooter, a big shovel, and a pry bar.
Finally, I decided there were some serious roots running down deep that needed more power to defeat. I brought out a small chain saw and started shoving the blade down into the spaces we dug out. That did the trick. There was one deep tap root and once the chain saw chewed through that – the whole thing came out. I lifted it up and heaved it over the fence, across the alley, and down to the creek.
No wonder the damn thing had been on sale.
Some Military Review, Or Another War
P-47S fly over in squadron box formations, four checkmarks apiece RedWhiteBlueYellow on the un-amended form of the whitish sky, squadron after squadron: it is either some military review, or another war. A plasterer is busy around the corner, smoothing over a bomb-scarred wall, plaster heaped on his hawk luscious as cream cheese, using an unfamiliar trowel inherited from a dead friend, still, these first days, digging holes like an apprentice, the shiny knife-edge not yet broken to his hand, the curl of it a bit more than his own strength could have ever brought it to … Henry was a larger bloke…. The fly, who was not dead, unfolds its wings and zooms off to fool somebody else.
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
“Civilised life, you know, is based on a huge number of illusions in which we all collaborate willingly. The trouble is we forget after a while that they are illusions and we are deeply shocked when reality is torn down around us.”
I remember in my youth, swimming in a lake somewhere (little fish kept nibbling at me). I was moving along a dock towards the sandy bit of slope they called a beach. There were some girls up on the dock and I could hear them talking. One said, “Yeah, I know he’s not good lookin’ and I don’t like him at all… but I’m going out with him anyway… he has such a nice car.”
I still remember that and, as I get older, I wonder if she might have been on to something.
Everything That Was Not Death
“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.”
― Jack London, The Call of the Wild
I saw this waiting for the streetcar to Bishop Arts district. What really sucks is that tree didn’t fall by accident, it looked like it was cut down (though it was dead and probably going to fall anyway). I guess once it fell on the meter, they were scared to move it. Somebody is not very happy.
The Trash Can Is A Treasure Trove
“For the first three months, I place each student at a table with a thousand pieces of white paper and a trash can underneath. Every day they have to sit at the table for several hours and write ideas. They put the ideas they like on the right side of the table; the ones they don’t like, they put in the trash. But we don’t throw out the trash. After three months, I only take the ideas from the trash can. I don’t even look at the ideas they liked. Because the trash can is a treasure trove of things they’re afraid to do.”
― Marina Abramović, Walk Through Walls: Becoming Marina Abramovic
I have always loved documentaries. Now in this age of streaming – documentary watching has become like drinking from a firehose.
One time, I can’t remember where… probably a college film festival in the 70’s I saw a documentary by Stan Woodward about grits. This was probably the first transformative documentary I saw – I was a different person (at least slightly) after I saw it. I wrote about this years later, many years ago, in my first blog and lamented the fact that I couldn’t find the thing anywhere and had to be satisfied with only seeing it once. A kind reader mailed me a VHS copy.
Of course, it wasn’t as good as I remembered.
Now, in this best of all possible worlds, we don’t only have documentaries… we have mockumentaries. If done well these too can be… if not transformative at least moderately entertaining. That might be all we can ask for anymore.
There is even a series of mockumentaries, “Documentary Now!“, on IFC. A new season is under way, and the latest one is brilliant. It is called “Waiting for the Artist” and is a riff (a very close one at that) on the famous work “The Artist Is Present” about the famous (and famously insane) performance artist Marina Abramović.
Somehow, they convinced Cate Blanchett to portray Marina Abramović – and she is spot on.
If you have IFC, be sure and check out “Waiting for the Artist” – it hits the perfect place between lunacy and pathos and even has a bit of a point to it.
And the ending is really, really funny.
Youtube has a copy of the original Marina Abramović documentary. Marina is even crazier than the character in the mockumentary.