Bat On A Skyscraper

“The baby bat

Screamed out in fright,

‘Turn on the dark,

I’m afraid of the light.”

― Shel Silverstein

AT&T Plaza, 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.

I’m not afraid of bats.

I remember in college, in biology class, we went on a field trip to a bat cave in the Ozark Mountains. At sundown we sat in the entrance while several million bats flew past – a solid stream of bats. It was really cool.

And here was one single bat clinging to the side of the AT&T headquarters building in downtown Dallas. It was out of place – I hope it was alright… only lost and waiting out the night.

What Is There To Be Gained

“I don’t understand why we must do things in this world, why we must have friends and aspirations, hopes and dreams. Wouldn’t it be better to retreat to a faraway corner of the world, where all its noise and complications would be heard no more? Then we could renounce culture and ambitions; we would lose everything and gain nothing; for what is there to be gained from this world?”
― Emil Cioran, On the Heights of Despair

AT&T Plaza, 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.

Flash Fiction of the Day, A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf

“I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.”

― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Nasher Sculpture Center Dallas, Texas

We all wake up in the middle of the night or maybe even five minutes before the alarm goes off and hear them walking around. Hear who? I don’t know.

A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf

Flash Fiction of the Day, Father and Son by Flavia Company, Translated By Kate Whittemore

“His mother, long dead, always told him: your father will outlive us all, but not before he makes us suffer as much as he wants to, and more..”

― Flavia Company, Father and Son

(click to enlarge) Sculpture by Jason Mehl, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

One of the things in my life that I am ashamed of is that my Spanish is so bad. After all, I lived a few of my formative years in Spanish speaking countries – you would think I would be fluent. There is no excuse for that, but there are a few explanations (people have difficulty understanding the difference between excuse and explanation – it is a critical distinction).

  • When people realized I was North American, they didn’t want to speak Spanish with me – they wanted to practice their English. And if I just shut up – I could pass for a shy speechless native teenager.
  • English is so important to me, I have trouble switching into other languages.
  • Nicaraguan Spanish is significantly different (especially in slang) than the Mexican Spanish I hear every day in Texas
  • Most important – I am lazy

Most people in my high school were completely fluent in both languages. It was fascinating to listen to them switch back and forth. When discussing something concrete – like giving directions or instructions – they would use English. However, if there were emotions involved, or relationships, or food – then Spanish was the language of choice. For example, there were a dozen different terms that translated as “girlfriend” in English (like the myriad Inuit words for snow) and I was always using the wrong one – to my constant embarrassment.

The difference between literature written in Spanish and English is fascinating. The most obvious one is the success of “magic realism” – which works in Spanish (and even in translation) but feels odd and disjointed in English.

Today’s story is a translation – both languages are at the link. It’s an interesting comparison.

Father and Son by Flavia Company, Translated By Kate Whittemore

Nadryv

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Conjoined, Roxy Paine

My “difficult book club” read Book 4 (7 chapters) of The Brothers Karamazov this week and are meeting to discuss the section on ZOOM tonight. I am really enjoying the book – reading a long/and or difficult book in a group is definitely the way to do it. Plus the weekly schedule (not too bad – a couple hours of reading at most) breaks the chore up into palatable pieces. Looking at 800 pages is really daunting, but looking at 70 pages a week is easy peasy.

The chapter headings for this week’s section feature the word “Strain” – as in  “Strain in the Drawing Room” or “Strain in the Cottage.” The word “Strain” occurs in the text a lot also. This word seemed odd in context and more than a little out of place.   We are reading the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation of the book. Other translations use the word “Laceration” instead of “Strain.”

It didn’t take much research to discover that the original Russian word used by Dostoyevsky was the word NADYR (pronounced nud-RIF) – which shows up in various lists of Russian words that do not have an English equivalent.

Its surface meaning is “tear” or “rip” but it has a deeper significance as a strong emotional experience. Or something like that. Looking online – everyone in English is dancing around some meaning there – it obviously was very important to Dostoyevsky and critical to the meaning of this novel.

I found this little Youtube Video that seems to make the most sense.

So, at least in her interpretation Nadyr is the emotional state of intentionally inflicting pain on oneself – putatively for the purpose of being able to feel something. In the context of the events of the chapter, that makes perfect sense. Several characters make heartbreaking choices that extinguish the hope of happiness for themselves and others, for seemingly trivial reasons – pride, mostly… maybe tradition, maybe the idea of simply giving in to fate. It’s terrifying. Especially when you think about it – you realize how often people do this. The Russians are lucky I guess, they have a word.

The rest of us are still flailing around in the dark.

I read Dostoyevsky when I was young – I didn’t pay much attention and didn’t get much out of it. That was a mistake.

Flash Fiction of the day, Different Shades of Yellow by Teddy Kimathi

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Sunflower

A friend called me one Saturday morning to tell me there were fields of Sunflowers blooming, vast, beside the Interstate on the way to Austin. I drove down there to take photographs. It was amazingly beautiful, the miles of yellow faces looking into the sun.

Today’s story reminded me of that day and these photographs.

Different Shades of Yellow by Teddy Kimathi


Sunflower
Sunflower

Flash Fiction of the day, Invisible Ones by A. C. Spahn

“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.”
― Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

Rest Area
The trail runs through some thick woods between the train line and the creek south of Forest Lane. There is a nice rest area built there. This homeless guy was sitting in the rest area, reading and writing in his notebook. We talked about the weather and I helped him find a lost sock.

Invisible Ones by A. C. Spahn

Flash Fiction of the day, Dump Refrigerator by Gabrielle Griffis

“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

― Jerome K. Jerome

Employees/Artists from Orr-Reed Wrecking. Her T-Shirt says, “Show Us Your Junk,” which is their motto.

Years ago, I had a big chest-type deepfreeze freezer in the garage (I guess I still do). People from my background often have these – the generational memory of The Depression, dust bowl, and mass hunger leads to a deep desire to store enough food to get by for an unreasonable time.

At any rate, this freezer was full, mostly beef. I had stumbled across a good deal on half a steer and a lot of it was there, frozen, waiting on my hunger. I was out of town on a long trip and while I was gone someone accidentally unplugged the cord on the deep freeze. I’m not sure how long it thawed out, but it was summertime, and it was way, way too long. It was beyond disgusting.

I thought and thought about what to do. I ended up digging a big hole in my backyard, pulled the freezer out there and tipped the contents into the hole. I covered it up, and used a hazmat mask to clean out the inside of the freezer.

It actually worked. I’ll bet to this day the grass grows really green in one spot in that backyard.

Today’s story is about a man that does this sort of thing for a living, and for redemption.

Dump Refrigerator by Gabrielle Griffis

A Couple of Movies

“- Colonel Kane: Maybe we’re just fish out of water.

– Col. Richard Fell: What was that?

– Colonel Kane: I just think about sickness, cancer in children, earthquakes, war, painful death. Death, just death. If these things are just part of our natural environment why do we think of them as evil? Why do they horrify us so? Unless we were meant for someplace else.”

—-The Ninth Configuration

Dallas Arboretum

I had a very busy and stressful week at work and it kept going until late Friday. It left me enervated and exhausted. There are things that I need to do and things that I want to do but I wasn’t up for anything. To unwind and decompress I decided to sit my lazy ass down in the living room and watch a random movie or two from the Criterion Channel.

For no particular reason I picked a film from 1980 (though it felt very sixties-ish) the directorial debut by the author of the Exorcist, William Peter Blatty – The Ninth Configuration, starring Stacy Keach and a pile of character actors from the time.

My reading group is plowing through The Brothers Karamazov (and I am really enjoying it). As I’m sure you know, one of the themes of TBK is the question of the existence of God and, if he doesn’t exist, what is the basis for morality, if there is one. Very heavy stuff. It turns out that is the theme of The Ninth Configuration also – musings on God and Morality and Sin and Redemption. It’s the same themes, but instead of 19th century Czarist Russia the story is set in a castle in the Pacific Northwest that has been converted into an asylum for soldiers left insane by their experiences in the Vietnam War. Plus one patient – an astronaut that went raving crazy with fear on the verge of his flight to the moon.

It is a movie of its time – it doesn’t age all that well – but it is an interesting work of genius. It starts out silly and clunky – I was on the verge of giving up – but around the halfway point it veers off into new territory. There are revelations and surprises and a really crackerjack bar fight.

When it was over I made the mistake of clicking around the Criterion Channel menus and ended up watching a second film – the 1922 silent version of Nosferatu. I have, of course, seen the imagery from the movie – but had never sat through the film itself. It was fun to see the original vampire film. Count Orlof (Dracula, really, the names were changed due to the fact they never obtained rights to Bram Stoker’s story) is what a vampire would really be like – terrifying, yet strangely sad and pitiful. Vampires have become cool and sexy – that doesn’t make much sense to me. The undead should be shabby and wretched, like in Nosferatu, even if they are terrible and incredibly dangerous.

So it too, if dated, was fun to watch.

Flash Fiction of the day, In the Rain by Steven Barthelme

“I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying.”

― Charlie Chaplin

The view from my son Lee’s apartment – New Orleans, Louisiana

Since I enjoyed yesterday’s story by Frederick Barthelme and the day before’s story by Donald Barthelme, I thought I’d link to one by the third brother, Steven.

It’s about a man that loses his wife, then his cat goes missing in a rain storm. One of them make it back.

In the Rain by Steven Barthelme