A Hard Day’s Night

“I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?”
― John Lennon

Music at the Brewery Tour

I was worn out, innervated and wanted to watch something that didn’t take a lot of thought. Cruising through The Criterion Channel’s streaming potpourri, and chose the Beatles’ 1964 chestnut, A Hard Day’s Night.

I remember when I first saw the Beatles, in about 1963, I was six. They were at the airport in New York, on their first trip – it seemed to be a big thing back then when a band crossed the ocean… I’m not sure why. On the news, I thought they were women. It was a different time.

I did enjoy the film. First, the music, you forget how good the early Beatles were. It still sounds great today.

I saw the movie sometime… maybe a year or so after it came out. What I remembered the most was the character of Paul’s Grandfather. He steals every scene he is in. He is such a clean little old man.

But what really stands out to me is the (more or less) subtle, absurdist humor. The film is really just a bunch of Beatles songs, strung out like a string of pearls, interspersed with little funny bits. The funny bits are strange, though. Today, the film would be full of slapstick and broad humor… but here, everything is a little off.

And a lot of fun.

For example here are a couple more scenes. One, with the brilliant character actress, Anna Quayle, trying to figure out who John Lennon looks like.

Or there’s this extended scene with George Harrison – a comment on fashion and trends – still relevant today.

They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Three Punches Left by Bill Chance

Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.

—- Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

The Henge through a bus window.

Three Punches Left

Craig was working late, as he always did. His eyes were tired, achy and blurry from staring at the piles of reports he had to double-check, then type into an endless series of punch cards. The tan cardboard slowly filling long steel boxes to be sent down to the ravenous mainframe three stories down. It was dark outside and he was so worn out he was making more mistakes than correct entries. The bus wouldn’t run too much longer so he shut it all down to take the elevator down the giant steel and glass tower to catch his bus home.

As boring and tough as it was, he was grateful for his job. With gas up to a dollar thirty, the economy had collapsed across the country. Back in Kansas, he had a promotion at work, bought a new car, bought a new house, and had a new girlfriend. Then everything tanked and the company folded, He lost his job, his girlfriend left, and all he had left was debt.

The only places where you could find a job in 1981 were the big Texas cities – fueled by the flood of petrodollars. So he went to all his friends and was able to borrow twenty five dollars for gas and set out south down I35 to look for a job.

But it worked out, he found this job and a crumbling studio apartment on the Belmont Bus line which ran downtown. He had not been able to afford the payments on his car and as soon as they found him it was repossessed.

Craig stood in the darkness looking down the street at the line of buses moving along, stopping every block, getting the last of the worker drones out of the giant buildings. There it was, the Belmont Bus, route #1 – can’t miss it, on its way.

He had a sudden moment of panic – did he have any punches left on his transit card? He bought a card worth sixteen rides – he knew his wallet and pockets were otherwise empty. Sweating, he pulled out the card and breathed a deep sigh when he saw three punches left.

He looked up and saw the open door of the bus looming in front of him. He stepped on and gave the card to the driver for a punch. Then he settled in an empty seat and half dozed off, waiting for the hour-long ride home. A deep pothole lurched Craig awake and he looked out the window to gauge how long it would be until his stop. He had ridden the bus home enough to know the route by heart.

He bolted in his seat when he realized that nothing looked familiar. The area was really sketchy, with groups of young men gathered under the streetlights at every corner. They stared at the bus with faces of violent hate, and Craig was afraid they were looking at him.

When he looked up from his card and boarded the bus, it had been the wrong one. This bus must have passed the Belmont #1 and pulled up to him first.

What neighborhood was he in? What direction was he going? He knew his bus route but not the rest of the city. He walked up to the driver. At least he had two punches left on his card. He could catch a bus back downtown, then another home.

“Uhh, I think I’m on the wrong bus,” he said. “I need to get off and catch a bus the other way, back downtown.”

“Sorry, sir,” the driver replied. “This is the last route of the night. Ain’t nothin’ ‘till five in the morning.”

The next block looked deserted so he got off the bus. He stood there wondering what to do.

There was nothing except to start walking. He could go back along the bus route, follow the signs and stops to downtown, then walk along the Belmont route to get to his apartment. It might be twelve… fifteen miles – he might not make it home until dawn…. If he survived the walk and the night.

“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” Craig said and started to put one foot in front of the other.

The Pulp Tarot

“I stayed up all night playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died.”
― Steven Wright

Box Cover from Todd Alcott’s Pulp Tarot

I guess it started when I was in college. A friend of mine, a woman I had more than a little crush on, offered to do a Tarot card reading for me. Now I am not what you would call a mystical person, I don’t believe in any supernatural power of a Tarot deck (or much of anything else, really) but I have an open mind. I don’t remember any of what she said… but I do remember enjoying the reading, enjoying it a lot.

So over the many (too many) intervening decades I always had a soft spot for the Tarot cards. As I learned more about the world I came to realize that there can be power in the cards that have nothing to do with supernatural influence. There is wisdom in mythical archetypes… and a set of cards can be a tool to help draw truth out from the subconscious fog.

And then I stumbled across a book at the library – The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin. It opened me up to the idea of using a Tarot deck to generate ideas for stories or other fiction. I bought a Rider-Smith-Waite traditional deck and found that it worked surprisingly well.

In the meantime, I discovered an artist, Todd Alcott – that did work I really enjoyed. His most common work are fake pulp book covers based on music. I haven’t bought anything yet – mostly because I like all of it and can’t decide. Take a look at his Etsy Store – there is some great stuff there.

Then I discovered that he had a Kickstarter and had done a Tarot deck in his personal style – The Pulp Tarot. I wanted one, wanted it bad – but I was too late – all the copies were sold.

Card Zero from Todd Alcott’s Pulp Tarot

Then, not too long ago, I was monitoring Todd Alcott’s Instagram Page and discovered he had a second printing of his Tarot deck out. I ordered it immediately.

My deck came in the mail today. It’s pretty damn cool. It’s like having seventy-eight little paintings in a cool box.

I can see myself collecting Tarot decks – I hope not… but maybe….

What I learned this week, March 18, 2022

The camera is focused with the ground glass

What you should know about film photography today

Going back to film photography? Here’s what’s changed in the last few years.

How to stop catastrophising – an expert’s guide

A clinical psychologist suggests a three-pronged plan for tackling anxiety and approaching each day logically and positively

Design District Dallas, Texas

A Love Letter to Driving Alone

Embarking on a road trip by yourself is solo travel taken to another level.

Snails on a Beer Stein.

Ancestral dreams

We’re not the only beings that dream. What visions might sleep bring to a cell, an insect, a mollusk, an ape?

Magazine Street, New Orleans

Annie Londonderry Barely Knew How to Ride a Bike When She Set Off Around the World

The record-setting 19th-century adventure was the result of a bet.

Woman writing in a Moleskine Notebook, Wichita, Kansas

Garth Greenwell on Writing Fiction like a Poet

“I did, in a weird way, write a novel like a poem.”

What Have Two Years of ‘Two Weeks to Slow the Spread’ Taught Us?

Two years ago this week, everything changed. We had heard the threats of COVID-19 for a couple of months by then, but by the middle of March, we were in full-blown pandemic mode.

Left Lane Closed

“You’ve lived as a citizen in a great city. Five years or a hundred—what’s the difference? The laws make no distinction.

And to be sent away from it, not by a tyrant or a dishonest judge, but by Nature, who first invited you in—why is that so terrible?

Like the impresario ringing down the curtain on an actor:

“But I’ve only gotten through three acts . . . !”

Yes. This will be a drama in three acts, the length fixed by the power that directed your creation, and now directs your dissolution. Neither was yours to determine.

So make your exit with grace—the same grace shown to you.”
― Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Wounded, Nic Noblique – Dallas, Texas

Something You Don’t Care About

“I felt despair. The word’s overused and banalified now, despair, but it’s a serious word, and I’m using it seriously. For me it denotes a simple admixture — a weird yearning for death combined with a crushing sense of my own smallness and futility that presents as a fear of death. It’s maybe close to what people call dread or angst. But it’s not these things, quite. It’s more like wanting to die in order to escape the unbearable feeling of becoming aware that I’m small and weak and selfish and going without any doubt at all to die. It’s wanting to jump overboard.”

― David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

I am going to write tonight about something that you don’t care about… don’t pretend… I know you don’t. It is something that I care about – and that is a fact that I’m more than a little embarrassed and ashamed. Such trivialities.

At any rate, the City of Richardson (where I live) is in the middle of spending some taxpayer largess in executing the idea of an Active Transportation Plan. This is something that I am interested and involved in. All in all it is a good thing… a very good thing. However, it is not what I’m writing about tonight

One minor part of the plan is the putting together of an inventory of bike parking in the city. I became way too enthused about this – wasting a lot of time riding around looking for bike racks. These were then entered into an interactive map. I did win a fifty dollar gift certificate in a contest… so there is that.

But one thing really frustrated me. There is an LA Fitness – a health club/exercise place at the end of my neighborhood. Back when we had a disposable income the whole family belonged and we worked out there regularly. I have been there literally hundreds of times (though not in the last few years).

It always bothered me that the club did not have a bike rack. The gas station on the corner has a bike rack. The Mexican rotisserie chicken place across the street has a bike rack. The new Dunkin Donuts down the road has a bike rack. But this place – big and dedicated to health and exercise… did not have a bike rack. Not one in front… not one on the side where the parking is.

But the other day, I was out for a walk, trying to get some non-stressful exercise in, and strolled past the health club. This was the first time I walked to it – all the time, over the years I rode my bike (and locked it to the railing because there was no bike rack). Because I was on foot – I turned a corner I never had before and looked down the narrow alley-like space between the health club and the Korean Bar-B-Que place… and there, lo and behold was:

Bike rack hidden off to the side of the LA Fitness, Richardson, Texas

a bike rack. It has been there all this time. I never noticed it.

I don’t feel too bad – it’s really hidden, off to an obscure side and behind a pillar. I seriously doubt that there has ever been a bike locked up to this thing (though I’ll try to ride there this weekend and lock up… for no reason). But still…. I thought I was good at finding these things.

So there it is. The high point of my day. Now you all can go back to what you find interesting and important and leave my with my pitiful useless epiphanies.

Altered States

Emily’s quite content to go on with this life. She insists she’s in love with me – whatever that is. What she means is she prefers the senseless pain we inflict on each other to the pain we would otherwise inflict on ourselves. But I’m not afraid of that solitary pain. In fact, if I don’t strip myself of all this clatter and clutter and ridiculous ritual, I shall go out of my fucking mind. Does that answer your question, Arthur?

—–Eddie Jessup, Altered States

Transcendence, on the first night.

RIP William Hurt

I saw last night that the actor William Hurt had passed away. He exploded on the scene in the years right after I graduated from school – and I saw a lot of movies then.

Kiss of the Spider Woman was always special to me… and there was Body Heat, of course… The Big Chill, Gorky Park, Children of a Lesser God…. But for me, the film that I always remembered was Altered States.

A coincidence, I had it queued up; I’m not sure what it was but something made me think of it the other day. So I watched it tonight.

1980 was a different time – the movie is more than a little dated – but I think movies were better then. Altered States is flawed – but it is audacious (a Ken Russell directed visual weird-fest about primitive Mexican Hallucinogens combined with a sensory deprivation tank – what do you expect) and a lot of fun.

Re-watching it after all these years – I forgot how much of an entitled prick William Hurt’s character was. In becoming a beast – he becomes a human being. I also forgot how dead-solid sexy Blair Brown was.

Not a perfect movie – but a fun ride. A nice change from what we have now. I don’t think this could be made today – there is too much money and computer graphics for a film this gritty and strange.

And you have to love a horror film that inspired the end of A-Ha’s Take on Me.

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, The Last Banana by Bill Chance

“We’re so self-important. So arrogant. Everybody’s going to save something now. Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save the snails. And the supreme arrogance? Save the planet! Are these people kidding? Save the planet? We don’t even know how to take care of ourselves; we haven’t learned how to care for one another. We’re gonna save the fuckin’ planet? . . . And, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with the planet in the first place. The planet is fine. The people are fucked! Compared with the people, the planet is doin’ great. It’s been here over four billion years . . . The planet isn’t goin’ anywhere, folks. We are! We’re goin’ away. Pack your shit, we’re goin’ away. And we won’t leave much of a trace. Thank God for that. Nothing left. Maybe a little Styrofoam. The planet will be here, and we’ll be gone. Another failed mutation; another closed-end biological mistake.”

― George Carlin

The Last Banana

Brenda Sullivan was a beauty queen… or had been a beauty queen once… or an ex-beauty queen. She was crowned Miss Universe. There were representatives from the Moon Colony, Space Station Alpha, and the hollowed-out L2 Lagrange Asteroid. Brenda thought she could really truly claim the title of the most beautiful woman in the universe.

But she didn’t come from offworld – she represented Arkansas. Growing up on the poor side of Little Rock, she never thought she’d be able to leave the planet. But when she married Raef Sullivan they went to the L2 Lagrange Asteroid for their honeymoon.

Raef had made his fortune founding a long series of flashy companies that were very successful in being successful, even if they never seemed to make money… or much of anything else. He knew when to sell his share and to move on and his investors seemed more interested in being involved with a Raef Sullivan enterprise than in actually making any money.

At here wedding Brenda wondered what is was going to be like to be rich beyond imagination and she was happy to find out. She learned from Raef that even if you don’t have to worry about money you still can think about it. Think about it a lot.

One day, Raef called Brenda into his library, “Come look at this!”

An elaborate wooden case sat on the table in the middle of the room. Gold lettering across the lid spelled out the word, “CAVENDISH.”

“What’s in the box?” Brenda asked.

“It’s the last banana.”

“Banana? I thought the fungus destroyed all of them. I haven’t seen a banana in years.”

“I know, that why this is the last one.”

“The last?”

“Yeah, the fungus wiped out almost all of them. For a few years, there were some uninfected farms on isolated island here and there. You could buy them at obscene high prices. But the International Fairness Board ruled that wasn’t fair – and the UN bombed the remaining farms with infected soil. A month ago a single plant was found in an isolated valley on Borneo.”

“One plant?”

“Yeah, and it, of course was destroyed. But someone smuggled out a single fruit.”

“This one?”

“Of course. It’s the last banana.”

“How did you get it?”

The only reply that Raef made was rubbing his thumb and forefinger together.

“How much?”

“More than you can imagine.”

“I don’t know… I can imagine a lot.”

Raef walked over and opened the case. There, in the center, nestled in a little hollow carved out in the shape of a banana and cushioned in red velvet was… a banana. A perfectly ordinary, slightly bruised, curved yellow Cavendish banana.

“Look at it,” said Raef.

“Stare at the last banana long enough and the last banana will stare back at you,” replied Brenda. “Are you going to eat it?” she asked.

“We are going to eat it.”

“Eat the last banana and it will eat you,” Brenda replied. “When?”


“Time flies like an arrow… but fruit flies like a banana,” Brenda said.

“Should we slice it, or eat it as is… take turns?” Raef asked.

“Didn’t Freud say that sometimes a banana is just a banana?”

They lifted the banana out of the case and started to peel it from one end. They passed it back and forth, each taking a bite, taking turns, until the banana was gone.

“How was it?” asked Raef.

“Not bad. Not the best banana I’ve ever had,” said Brenda.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have eaten it. Maybe was should have grown a banana tree,” said Brenda.

“It doesn’t work that way. Bananas are… were all clones. They are not seeds. They are not fertile. That’s why they are extinct. Now they are extinct.”

Brenda looked at the peel on the table. “The last banana peel. The world will be safer now. Not so many slips.”

“Probably not. I’m sure there are ancient things in museums made from banana peels. Native headdresses and such.”

“So this one?”

“Drop it in the trash.”

And Brenda dropped it in the trash.

The Population of Phantoms Resembling Me Increases

“For I do not exist: there exist but the thousands of mirrors that reflect me. With every acquaintance I make, the population of phantoms resembling me increases. Somewhere they live, somewhere they multiply. I alone do not exist.”

― Vladimir Nabokov

Fort Worth, Texas