Black As Night Sweet As Sin

“Black as night, sweet as sin.”
Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

My coffee thermos.

Everybody gripes about Internet Ads and the little windows that pop up when you’re trying to find out who won the game last night.We are all bothered about lack of privacy in the online world. However, sometimes, you do find something interesting. When Firefox opens, a thing called Pocket throws up a bunch of article links that, I assume, some supercomputer somewhere examines your history and suggests especially for you. This is disturbing, yes, but sometimes these links can be interesting.

One the other day caught my eye. It was a semi-scolarly article about Coffee Naps. It talked about how caffeine competes with adenosine for receptors in your brain and if you take a twenty-minute nap right after you drink a cup of Joe – the receptors “open up” and allow the caffeine to work better. The upstart of this is that caffeine and a nap together is better than caffeine or a nap without the other.

So when I hit “publish” on this blog entry, I’m going to get my coffee (made in my Aeropress, of course) sip it down, and take a nap. Then get back up and go for a bike ride.

This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

Opposites DO Attract: Coffee Naps, The Bulletproof Power Nap, Explained

Coffee Nap: Can Caffeine Before a Nap Boost Energy Levels?

I Tried a “Coffee Nap” Every Morning For a Week and It Changed My Life

A coffee nap? I tried it. Here’s how it went for me.

Science Says ‘Coffee Naps’ Are Better Than Non-Caffeinated Ones

How to Take a Coffee (Power) Nap The Right Way

A productivity expert says coffee naps — ‘nappuccinos’ — changed his life. Here’s how.

How to Take the Perfect Coffee Nap



You Will Be An Ocean Too

“Here is a good message from the ocean: You will be an ocean too if you let every river, every rain, every flood and every stream flow to you freely!”
Mehmet Murat ildan



I have written about it before.

All my life I have wanted to live on a creek lot. I remember living in East Dallas and riding my bike along the hilly lanes east of White Rock Lake (back then I was young and thin and fit and I welcomed hills – now I’m afraid of them) and spotted homes along streams – some with little patios down among the trees perched out over the water. They would have a grill, some seats, and I imagined knots of people at sunset enjoying the setting – always wanted that sort of thing.

My wish finally came true, sort of, when we bought our house in Richardson. Technically it is a creek lot – but the creek (which emerges from the flood control ponds in Huffhines Park at the end of our block and runs a short distance beyond where I live to join with Duck Creek) has been manmade wrestled into an arrow-straight path. It’s really more of a ditch lot.

On most days it’s barely an algae and trash encrusted trickle. There are a lot of ducks and turtles (both the friendly box and the prehistoric snappers) with a nighttime cohort of opossums, bobcats, coyotes and an occasional beaver. There are a few trees – but the number is limited by the Corps of Engineers to insure proper flow. They only allow new plantings when an old tree dies. It’s a sleepy stretch, mostly useful to the local kids and cats, feeding and stalking, respectively, the ducks.

That changes with frightening rapidity when a big Texas thunderstorm strikes. The water rises and moves in a symphony of wet muscular gravity.

Last night one hit, hit hard. The ground was already saturated, the flood control ponds already overflowing when the sky dropped six inches of water in a couple hours.

I opened the garage door and looked out through a forest of honey globs of water caterwauling off the roof into the dark. Illuminated only by staccato bolts of lightning like a galvanic Gene Krupa, the bellowing water stilled by the strobing arcs into impossible waves rising above the creek banks and beyond. The usual quiet night lit up by blue thunder. The gleaming fury as millions of gallons of deafening water scream by is frightening and intoxicating. I watched from my house – afraid to get any closer.

This morning I walked around the strip of creek, grass, and trees. The highest water level was marked by a line of twigs and plastic water bottles. In several places the delimitation moved up over the bike trail and almost kissed the alley that runs behind the houses. By then the creek was down to its usual level, having dropped as fast as it rose, with only a little more water flowing by than usual.

The flow was a dozen feet below the level of the detritus line – which was in turn only a couple feet below the level of the houses (though it would take a lot – a lot – more water to raise the flood up that last bit).

I hope.

I did think of those little patios perched in the winding creek lots of East Dallas. I always liked them – but I’m sure they are all gone now.

My folding bike on a bridge over Huffhines Creek.

A line of detritus showing how high the creek had risen the day before.

I wrote that four years ago, but the creek continues to rise with every powerful thunderstorm. On my daily bike ride I stopped on the bridge over Huffhines creek and took a shot of the line of trash that marks yesterday’s high water mark. I’ve seen it quite a bit higher than this.

Not all that spectacular, but imagine what it looks like with all that water roaring down that little space behind my house. The amazing thing is how fast it rises, minutes is all it takes.

Now, I need to get a before and after shot – harder to do than you would think. Especially to do safely.

Is That A Light In the Sky Or Just A Spark In My Heart

We’re dying to be invaded and put the blame on something concrete

Waiting for the ufos.. waiting for the ufos
We are waiting for the ufos we know that they’re there

We’re just a joke they sometimes crack, they’ll get away with anything
The government is holding back, they won’t say a word
Now is that a light in sky or just a spark in my heart?
—-Graham Parker, Waiting for the UFOs

Bike riders waiting for the moon to rise, Trinity River Bottoms, Dallas, Texas
Click to Open

I took this picture, a thirty second timed exposure, on this month’s Full Moon Ride along the Trinity Skyline Trail near downtown Dallas.

The white Calatrava bridge is the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge.

The red lights to the left, reflected in the pond (there wasn’t much water – Dallas in late August is very dry) are the other bike riders waiting for the full moon to rise. The white streak to the right is the smeared-out headlight of a bike rider coming around the trail to where I was.

One thing I didn’t notice – click on the image to view it full size – is that there is a subtle slightly curved line across the sky… with a series of evenly spaced dots caused by a blinking light in the long exposure.

Is it a UFO? Of course not. The extremely busy DFW airport is only a few miles to the left of the photo – it’s an airplane circling to land. Still, I never noticed it when I took the photo… it could be anything… now preserved in pixels.

We’re just waiting for the ufos – dying to be invaded.

one more song from the same album – always loved this one.

We Ran As If To Meet the Moon

“We ran as if to meet the moon.”
― Robert Frost

Moon rising over the skyline of Downtown Dallas.

The Full Moon rising over downtown Dallas. The white streaks at the bottom are the other riders in the Full Moon Ride leaving. Thirty second exposure. Need to work – should have used a higher ISO – the long exposure caused the moon to smear. Next time. — at the Trinity Skyline Trail.

One of my favorite local bike rides is the Full Moon ride. Every month a friend of mine organizes a ride through the Trinity River Bottoms near downtown Dallas at sunset on the night of the full moon. I lug my camera along and try and get interesting photographs – still a lot to learn.

Best Banh Mi In A Garland Parking Lot

A while back, I read an article from the Dallas Observer called, “Two of Texas’ Best Vietnamese Sandwich Shops Share a Garland Parking Lot.” It told the story of Quoc Bao Bakery and Saigon Deli.

From the story:

Two of the best banh mi shops in the region — arguably two of the best banh mi shops in the United States — make their homes in Garland, where they stare each other down across a shared parking lot. Just one suburban stretch of asphalt apart, Quoc Bao Bakery and Saigon Deli compete for the title of best banh mi in metro Dallas.

But I wanted to know: Which one is better?

The answer is not so simple, of course. Quoc Bao and Saigon Deli are equally great but for different reasons, and any diner’s preference will depend on taste. It all boils down to the fundamental question which professors in Dijon-stained tweed jackets ask on the first day of Sandwich Philosophy 101: Which is more important to the sandwich, really great bread or really great filling?

A quick check of the map confirmed what I had already suspected – the aforementioned parking lot was at Jupiter and Walnut – three miles of residential streets including two miles of dedicated bike lanes. Perfect bicycle riding distance.

Now I am already a fan of banh mi and already have two go-to spots. One is the branch of Lee’s Sandwiches in Cali Saigon at Jupiter and Beltline – a half-mile from my house. The other is the Nammi Food truck (which now has a brick-n-mortar location in the Dallas Farmer’s Market). But hey, how am I going to turn down “The Best?”

So I rigged my folding bike for hot summer riding (the temperature was flirting with triple digits) which means I filled a half-gallon Nalgene bottle with ice and water, enclosed it in an insulated cooler that fit it tightly, and clipped it to the crossrack on the back of the bike.

Despite the heat, the ride down wasn’t unpleasant at all. I had been tracking all my rides with a phone app and keeping my average miles on a spreadsheet I devised. However, recently, I have been studying a short book The Bicycle Effect: Cycling as Meditation by Juan Carlos Kreimer. It has me thinking more and more of cycling as a mindfulness exercise as well as a means of transportation. I have embraced being the world’s slowest cyclist and putting aside goals of distance and speed – other than the obvious need to make sure it is possible to get where I want to go.

I chose Saigon Deli for my first visit, for no particular reason. Will have to go for the bread at Quoc Bao Bakery next time.

Banh Mi sandwich, Mango Smoothie, and Bicycle Helmet at Saigon Deli, Garland, Texas

Sandwich Menu at Saigon Deli, Garland, Texas

The store was bright, cheery, and clean. I ordered a #1 combination sandwich ($3.50) and a Mango Smoothie (also $3.50). It was very good. Best in the world? Best in Garland? Best in the parking lot?

We’ll see. It was worth the bike ride in the heat though, and that’s all that’s important.

Bicycle Second Line

Bicycle Second Line New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line
New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle 'Second Line New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle ‘Second Line
New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line, Pausing on Rampart Street New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line, Pausing on Rampart Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

In New Orleans for Tulane’s graduation last week… when I rode past the terminus of Bayou Saint John on my way to City Park and the Parkway Tavern I saw a Xeroxed poster on a telephone pole. Bike Easy, an organization that promotes cycling in New Orleans, was having a bicycle second line on Sunday.

What a great idea.

For those of you not familiar with New Orleans’ traditions, a second line is a special type of parade, unique to the city. The origins of the term is that the main participants in a parade, followed by a brass band are the “main line” or “first line”. The informal group that forms, following the band, is the second line.

The second line parade has taken on a life of its own and has become a hallowed tradition of the city.

The comedian Hannibal Buress did this bit on Jimmy Fallon’s show that explains the second line and how it works.

So, when Sunday rolled around I begged out of my other obligations and set off on my bike across the city from the Garden District to Bayou Saint John. This was the third day I had ridden this way (after going to City Park and Parkway, then to the Bayou Boogaloo) and I finally had the route pretty well figured out.

I arrived early and hung around talking to a few folks as the crowd grew and grew. I was wondering how they would work the band (walking would be too slow… you can’t play a trombone and ride a bike) and that was answered by the arrival of a truck pulling a trailer.

Everything took longer than anticipated so the ride didn’t get started on time, but that didn’t matter. The crowd had swelled to around six hundred cyclists of all types and abilities. I talked to a few folks that had bought new bikes and were going on their first rides and, of course, there were plenty of strong cyclists too.

Compared to, say, a Critical Mass ride in Dallas there were a lot more cruiser/commuter/comfort bikes and a lot fewer road bikes and fixies. That’s not surprising considering the rough roads, shorter distances, and general relaxed attitude in the Big Easy compared to my city.

Everyone piled into the street and the parade was off.

Waiting behind the band at a stop on the Bicycle Second Line. New Orleans, Louisiana

Waiting behind the band at a stop on the Bicycle Second Line.
New Orleans, Louisiana

I’m not actually sure of the entire route we rode – I think it was Desaix Avenue to St. Bernard and Rampart Street. There we took a break in Louis Armstrong Park for water and hot dogs before we rode down Esplanade to Decatur and through the French Quarter. We wound through the Central Business District and then out Canal back to the start. The route was an easy eleven miles or so, but caught some of the most interesting parts of the city.

Bicycle second line parade, downtown, Poydras Street. New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle second line parade, downtown, Poydras Street.
New Orleans, Louisiana

Six hundred bicyclists of varying speeds and abilities can stretch out for a long way. The ride had a motorcycle police escort that would blare down the opposite side of the street – all sirens and lights – to get ahead of the parade and block the streets. It was a complex, rolling dance of motorcycle cops, helped by volunteers on bikes that would help block smaller residential streets.

It was an operation that could only be done in New Orleans. It was obvious that the police knew how to organize and escort a parade – that they had done this many times before. We shut down traffic on some large and vital arteries, but again, New Orleans is used to this and everyone smiled and waved.

I fought my way through the crowd to ride near the front. I wanted to hear the band. We would stop at strategic places to allow the straggling riders to catch up and that was a great time. People clapped and danced along to the music. The band was really good – and had the stamina to keep playing the whole time.

The best thing about a bicycle second line is that when the parade pauses to let the slower riders catch up - you can dance in the streets.  New Orleans, Louisiana

The best thing about a bicycle second line is that when the parade pauses to let the slower riders catch up – you can dance in the streets.
New Orleans, Louisiana

Going down Decatur through the French Quarter, I noticed a ride volunteer standing in the middle of the street. The flow of bicycles was splitting on either side of her. I wondered what she was doing there until I went by. She was standing astride the biggest pothole I had ever seen. A bike wheel would plunge down there and disappear forever. You have to think of everything with a ride like this. Another tricky obstacle was the streetcar tracks on and around Canal. These ran parallel to the ride – and would swallow an uncareful wheel.

As we headed out of the Cetnral Business District a guy riding next to me shouted out with glee and enthusiasm, “We’re shuttin’ down Canal!”

The ride ended back where it started with everyone dispersing, either to the Bayoo Boogaloo or off into the neighborhoods. I checked my phone and my folks were getting together at the Columns Hotel, so I borrowed a bike map and planned another route across the city.

Bicycle Second Line New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line
New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line
New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line
New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycle Second Line
New Orleans, Louisiana