Great Seated Cardinal

“Man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that great gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Grand Inquisitor

Great Seated Cardinal (Grande Cardinal Seduto), Giacomo Manzù, 1983, Bronze, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans

A detail photograph of Another cool sculpture from the Besthoff Sculpture Garden in New Orleans.

Tomorrow, I go back to work. In this weirdest and worst of all possible years I haven’t been off because of COVID – I am considered “essential.” As a matter of fact, up until two weeks ago I have been very busy at work – under plenty of pressure. Then, it let up a bit and I had a big backlog of PTO hours I had to take so, along with the Thanksgiving Holiday, I was off for two whole weeks. I haven’t done that on purpose for a long time (I was off for two weeks last year, but I was in the emergency room for a few days and recuperating until I felt strong enough to make it back home – so that doesn’t really count as vacation).

It feels odd – so wish me luck. I can’t remember any of my myriad passwords – so there will be some calls right off the bat.

11 Acute Unequal Angles

“In the various arts, and above all in that of writing, the shortest distance between two points, even if close to each other, has never been and never will be, nor is it now, what is known as a straight line, never, never, to put it strongly and emphatically in response to any doubts, to silence them once and for all.”

― Jose Saramago

11 Acute Unequal Angles, Bernar Venet, 2016, Cor-ten steel, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans

11 Acute Unequal Angles, Bernar Venet, 2016, Cor-ten steel, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans

Non-Utilitarian Use of Materials

Sculptures are rare. It’s not as if you walk down pavements dodging sculptures, do you? Sculpture is a rare use of materials. We’re in the industrial north here, where billions of tons of material are being used to make cars, pottery, books, textiles, chemicals – but how many kilos of sculpture are made today? The non-utilitarian use of material is important.

—–Tony Cragg

Runner, Tony Cragg, The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans
Runner, Tony Cragg, The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans

I have always been a fan of the sculptor Tony Cragg.

Especially his work, Stevenson, in the Dallas Museum of Art.

Tony Cragg, Stevenson, Dallas Museum of Art (click to enlarge)

… Oh, and the sculpture I discovered along the street in Dallas.

Tony Cragg’s “Line of Thought” Dallas, Texas
Tony Cragg’s “Line of Thought” Dallas, Texas

… Or the fantastic exhibition at the DMA when I was in need of uplift.

Exhibition of Cragg sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art

I was very happy to find his work, Runner, a large work in polished stainless steel, along the walkway in the new expansion of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in New Orleans.

It was like stumbling across an old friend.

The Only Certainty

“My peak? Would I even have one? I hardly had had anything you could call a life. A few ripples. some rises and falls. But that’s it. Almost nothing. Nothing born of nothing. I’d loved and been loved, but I had nothing to show. It was a singularly plain, featureless landscape. I felt like I was in a video game. A surrogate Pacman, crunching blindly through a labyrinth of dotted lines. The only certainty was my death.”
― Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

Speed of Grace, from “Cities of the Men”
Robert Longo
Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans

The Grand Inquisitor

“In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, Make us your slaves, but feed us.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Grand Inquisitor

Reading Dostoevsky in the French Quarter, New Orleans

For the last month or so my Wild Detectives Difficult Reads Book Club (DRBC) has been digging through Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. It was originally scheduled for the beginning of the year, with a weekly meeting at the book store – but was cancelled due to the quarantine. Finally, we started back up with Zoom meetings every Wednesday evening, instead of meeting in person. It actually works pretty well.

I made sure I could call into the Zoom meeting from my son’s apartment when I was on my New Orleans trip last week. He is working remotely and is something of a gamer – he had dedicated panel lights and an expensive headset with fancy microphone and the meeting worked really well from his place – I need to up my Zoom game from home now. In particular, everyone said my voice was very clear.

“You sound like a DJ, and you look like one too,” one woman said.

“Look like a DJ?” I replied, “Everyone has always said I have a face for radio.”

But before the meeting I had to get my weekly chunk of reading done (we are about a third of the way through). We had made it up to The Grand Inquisitor chapter (which sort of stands on its own) – the heart of the book and arguably is one of the most famous and influential works of literature ever written. It is also a dense and difficult read.

It was a beautiful day. I took my Kindle, walked down through the French Quarter and picked out a bench along the Mississippi to sit down and work my way through the (e-ink) pages.

The French Quarter is known for a lot of things – but it isn’t really known for a place to hang out and read Russian Literature (though a lot of literature has been written there). For me, however, it was perfect.

And I don’t care what you think… the bars are closed for Covid anyway.

Trail on the West Bank Levee

“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

My Xootr Folding bike on the West Bank Levee Trail

My son lives in a high-rise in downtown New Orleans. He works two blocks away. He doesn’t need a car and has gone without one for several years now.

One reason I drove there was he needed to send a painting back to Dallas, one that barely fit in the back of my Toyota Matrix… I was hoping there would be room back there alongside my Xootr Swift folding bike (there was – no problem).

Lee had to exchange an expensive video game controller at Best Buy and the closest store to where he lived was in Gretna, across the Mississippi on the West Bank. That’s a fifty dollar Uber round-trip so we decided to take my car over there. We could then eat lunch in Gretna after a long run (for him) and bike ride (for me).

I knew there was a nice trail along the top of the Levee from Gretna on past Algiers point. I had ridden the trail two years earlier, during a Writer’s Marathon. That day I had ridden across the river on the Ferry with a group of poets and we wrote poetry in a succession of restaurants and coffee spots in Algiers.

On the way back, I spotted a blue rental bike at the Algiers Point Ferry station – rented it – and rode back and forth along the levee. The only problem was that was July and it was unbelievably hot. I wrote that it was like cycling through a blast furnace.

New Orleans Bike Share Bike along the levee on the West Bank from two years ago.

This was November, though, and the weather was perfect. It was a blast. I cycled down to Algiers point and stopped to take a photo of my folding bike with the river and New Orleans in the background (see top of the entry).

While I was stopped, Lee ran by. We agreed that he would run a bit more then turn around and I’d ride a couple miles to the end of the train and also turn around. That would put us back at the car at about the same time.

My son, Lee running along the West Bank Levee Trail, Algiers Point, New Orleans

The problem was that when I reached what I thought was the end of the trail I discovered a strip of fresh asphalt stretching into the distance. This was brand new trail – and judging by the oil and marking flags it had been laid down less that a week ago.

And that is irresistible to me. Although I knew I should turn around or I would leave Lee waiting at the car (I had the keys) I kept going. And going. And going. I didn’t get to the end before I felt guilty and turned around – but I was close… maybe four more miles. I justified myself by saying, “I know he’s waiting – but over the last almost three decades I have had to wait on him a minute or two.” I ended up riding about fifteen miles – which is a good distance on the inefficient folding bike.

He was hungry and frustrated when I got there – but the restaurant had half-price burgers and cold beer and soon everything was right with the world.

Hard Rock New Orleans Ruins

“The Earth is God’s pinball machine and each quake, tidal wave, flash flood and volcanic eruption is the result of a TILT that occurs when God, cheating, tries to win free games.”

― Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Ruins of the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans, over a year after the collapse.

I left my son’s apartment on Poydras Street, downtown New Orleans, and walked to Canal Street on Rampart Street (don’t ask me what direction – the compass is all screwed up in New Orleans – for example the West Bank is actually East of downtown – although it is connected to the Western Half of the United States) I walked up on to the ruins of the Hard Rock Hotel collapse.

It happened over a year ago – a disaster that took the lives of three construction workers – two bodies remained in the wreckage for ten months. It is a giant eyesore right in the heart of the city – a terrible reminder of the fragility of life. I didn’t realize when I read about it that the actual collapse of the steel superstructure was so high up in the air – sitting on top of eight stories or so of concrete floors.

The Google Maps Street View from Canal still shows it pre-collapse.

I walked past on my way to the French Quarter. The locals ignored the now-all-too-familiar sight while tourists gestured and offered up theories and speculation.


“America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans.

Everywhere else is Cleveland.”

― Tennessee Williams

Paddlewheeler – idled by the virus on the riverfront, New Orleans

After a lot of driving through Texas and Louisiana I’m home again. Working on some writing and some photography.

New Orleans was odd – because of the pandemic – down in the quarter the ratio of crazy street people to visitors was a lot higher than usual. A lot of places are closed. A lot of places that I have loved over the years are no more.

But it is still New Orleans.

A line of paddlewheelers and other tourist transport ships are lined up, empty, unused, along the Mississippi riverfront. It’s sad to see.

I hope they are all moving and crowded again, soon.

From two years ago – Natchez Paddlewheel, New Orleans

On the Balcony

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief,

That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.

Be not her maid, since she is envious;

Her vestal livery is but sick and green

And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.

It is my lady, O, it is my love!

Oh, that she knew she were!”

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Manor House Balcony, downtown Dallas, Texas

I haven’t been anywhere except for work for a long time. I’m sure you all know how frustrating that is.

Last weekend I went on a photowalk (with masks and proper social distancing) with some folks to AT&T Plaza in downtown Dallas. We used to do that all the time, it was an attempt to return to normal… as much as possible. I did enjoy myself.

Now I am going to try and kick it up a notch – go on a road trip. A big gulf coast triangle of driving – Dallas-Houston-New Orleans-Dallas. I’m not sure how much digital access I’ll have, so I’m going to pre-post some blog entries with photos I took on the photowalk to publish while I’m gone.

See y’all on the back side.