Eat it Off

“The minute you land in New Orleans, something wet and dark leaps on you and starts humping you like a swamp dog in heat, and the only way to get that aspect of New Orleans off you is to eat it off. That means beignets and crayfish bisque and jambalaya, it means shrimp remoulade, pecan pie, and red beans with rice, it means elegant pompano au papillote, funky file z’herbes, and raw oysters by the dozen, it means grillades for breakfast, a po’ boy with chowchow at bedtime, and tubs of gumbo in between. It is not unusual for a visitor to the city to gain fifteen pounds in a week–yet the alternative is a whole lot worse. If you don’t eat day and night, if you don’t constantly funnel the indigenous flavors into your bloodstream, then the mystery beast will go right on humping you, and you will feel its sordid presence rubbing against you long after you have left town. In fact, like any sex offender, it can leave permanent psychological scars.”
― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

When you are on vacation in a city with as varied and variable opportunities as New Orleans there is always a struggle between new experiences and going with what you have known and enjoyed in the past. A balance between the two is best.

I drove from Dallas to New Orleans to stay with my son and attend the 2018 New Orleans Writing Marathon. He lives in a downtown high rise and parking is horribly expensive, so I stashed my car a couple miles away on a side street in the Lower Garden District. It sat there untouched for a week. I took my Xootr Swift folding bike out of the back to ride back to his place on Poydras.

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I’m always surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folds down. I’m able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

It was hot and I was thirsty and I was hungry so I decided on a stop at one of my favorite and familiar places in the Big EasyThe Avenue Pub.

My folding bike locked up outside of the Avenue Pub in New Orleans

The big black thing on the back of my bike is a Bushwhacker Omaha grocery pannier mounted on a Xootr Crossrack. Very ugly and even more handy.

The beer selection at The Avenue Pub is second to none. It was a hot day and I wanted something cold and lighter and selected an excellent French Saison – Cuvée des Jonquilles from The Baron and Baileux brewery. Really nice on a summer afternoon.

They have a good kitchen in the bar and I ordered something I had before, and will certainly have again – Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade. Delicious.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade

New Orleans is actually a good city to ride bikes around in. It’s flat and the ancient streets slow the traffic down. Once I finished it only took me seven minutes to ride from The Avenue Pub to my son’s place.

I don’t think I could have driven it in that time.

Advertisements

Ceaseless Play Of Light

Dot’s Hop House, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

“The crystal trees among them were hung with glass-like trellises of moss. The air was markedly cooler, as if everything was sheathed in ice, but a ceaseless play of light poured through the canopy overhead. The process of crystallization was more advanced. The fences along the road were so encrusted that they formed a continuous palisade, a white frost at least six inches thick on either side of the palings. The few houses between the trees glistened like wedding cakes, white roofs and chimneys transformed into exotic miniarets and baroque domes. On a law of green glass spurs, a child’s tricycle gleamed like a Faberge gem, the wheels starred into brilliant jasper crowns.”
― J.G. Ballard, The Crystal World

Dot’s Hop House, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Beer and Batuman

“I found myself remembering the day in kindergarten when the teachers showed us Dumbo, and I realized for the first time that all the kids in the class, even the bullies, rooted for Dumbo, against Dumbo’s tormentors. Invariably they laughed and cheered, both when Dumbo succeeded and when bad things happened to his enemies. But they’re you, I thought to myself. How did they not know? They didn’t know. It was astounding, an astounding truth. Everyone thought they were Dumbo.”
― Elif Batuman, The Idiot

The Idiot, by Elif Batuman

Oblique Strategy: You are an engineer

In my struggle to live life outwardly, I spotted an event on Facebook that looked interesting. There was going to be a Book Club discussion at The Wild Detectives in Bishop Arts. I love that place – named after a Roberto Bolaño novel – it has a carefully curated collection of books, coffee and beer. What else do you need? On the weekends, they turn the wifi off – so people will be forced to talk to each other.

What could be better than to meet in a place like that and talk about a book?

The selected tome was The Idiot by Elif Batuman. The book is a bildungsroman about a ninteen-year-old woman attending her first year at Harvard.

I only had a little over a week before the meeting so I set up a spreadsheet with the number of pages per day I had to read. I have a terrible confession to make. I had a nice heavy hardback copy and the Kindle version. I never picked up the physical book. The new Paperwhite is simply too good.

I’m sorry.

The book was very interesting. Terribly well-written, it was unique in that the protagonist, Selin, was the most passive main character I have ever read in a novel. She drifts along, only slightly buffeted by life. Reading about her, I had the image of a person sliding down a featureless sheet of ice, silently observing the scenery go by (in very great and subtle detail).

So my feelings on the novel were mixed. It was interesting in that this woman’s life in her freshman year was incredibly different than mine (in a bildungsroman you can’t help but compare the protagonists experiences to your own) – for example: sex, drugs, and rock and roll make no significant appearance in her life at all.

One interesting aspect of the novel is that it takes place at the very beginning of the internet age: Selin is confused at first by this email thing – until she embraces it and has the most significant relationship with a slow email conversation with someone she met in Russian class.

The Wild Detectives is way across town from my ‘hood and I fought through the traffic after work, arriving early enough for a preliminary beer (Texas Ale Project‘s Fire Ant Funeral – if you are interested).

I really enjoyed the discussion. We started talking about the cover (I never even noticed there was a rock on the cover). Talking about the email, someone brought up that it was like letter writing in the time of classic Russian Novels (like Dostoevsky’s own version of The Idiot) people would write letters to each other, the distance and time separating the two adding a surreal aspect to a relationship.

A very nice way to wile away an evening.

The next novel we will discuss is The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet. I bought a hardback copy at the bookstore – I’ll avoid temptation and not buy the Kindle version. We won’t meet until January, so I won’t need a spreadsheet to egg on the pages.

Old Fashions

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”
—- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Four Corners Brewery
The Cedars
Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities

A young millennial couple – they live in Uptown, of course. Took an Uber to where I was ( I rode the train and then walked… should have brought my bike).

They seem nice enough.

When I was their age, we were into patched jeans. You would buy a pair of jeans and then sandpaper them until they had the proper holes. The patches were cut from old pairs of jeans and had to be hand-stitched, with big crude looping sutures in a contrasting color of heavy thread, usually yellow. I guess it was all a throw-back… and homage to our simpler ancestors, who lived in a simpler time. Iron-on patches were, of course, no good. I couldn’t sew worth beans, and my stitching was wildly uneven… which was perfect.

I Lift My Gaze

All of a sudden, as if a surgical hand of destiny had operated on a long-standing blindness with immediate and sensational results, I lift my gaze from my anonymous life to the clear recognition of how I live. And I see that everything I’ve done, thought or been is a species of delusion or madness. I’m amazed by what I managed not to see. I marvel at all that I was and that I now see I’m not.
—-Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Convert a melodic element into a rhythmic element

I sit there with my camera ready to raise and shoot… waiting for the woman to take another sip of beer. Sitting there waiting with my weapon in my hand, ready to raise and shoot, like a big game hunter… or more like a little kid with a BB gun waiting on a sparrow to land within range.