“There is some of the same fitness in a man’s building his own house that there is in a bird’s building its own nest. Who knows but if men constructed their dwellings with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and families simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be universally developed, as birds universally sing when they are so engaged? But alas! we do like cowbirds and cuckoos, which lay their eggs in nests which other birds have built, and cheer no traveler with their chattering and unmusical notes. Shall we forever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter?”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Awakening, Part of the Traveling Man series of sculptures, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas
“This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.”
― Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan
“Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
“TO BE A TOURIST is to escape accountability. Errors and failings don’t cling to you the way they do back home. You’re able to drift across continents and languages, suspending the operation of sound thought. Tourism is the march of stupidity. You’re expected to be stupid.
― Don DeLillo, The Names
Tourists reflected in a metal bird. Travelling Man Sculpture, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas
“Though I am not naturally honest, I am sometimes so by chance.”
― William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale
Dallas Theater Center Wyly Theater Dallas, Texas
A couple weeks ago, I received an email notification of tickets being on sale for Shakespear’s The Winter’s Tale at the Wyly in the Dallas Arts District. I am always up for a play at the Wyly so I clicked in. They were almost all gone, but I found two seats together for a Sunday Matinee performance. When I checked out, I discovered that the play was free… better still.
I was wrong. Between the “pay what you can” dates (essentially being able to attend a final dress rehearsal) and other special performances I am able to go a few times a year without breaking the bank.
This free performance was put on by The Public Works and was a mix of professional and volunteer actors. I knew nothing about it and The Winter’s Tale was one of the few Shakespeare plays I’ve never seen. So I was excited. It turns out that my son would be up for the weekend, so we decided that he and I would take the DART train downtown, go to the play, and meet up with Candy afterward.
The play was fun. The trained actors were easy to spot – but they were good enough to carry the night (or afternoon). The play had music added – music of every imaginable genre and style – from hoe-down country, to a Mariachi Band, to a New Orleans Second Line, and more. The only performance that seemed a bit too out there was a number by the Dallas Maverick Dancers in their cheerleader outfits. That was a bit strange – but still entertaining.
I had never been to the Wyly for a matinee. At the end of a play, the outer curtains are raised, exposing the outer wall of the Borg-like metal cube. At night this is no big deal, but in the afternoon the sun streamed in, making the top of the building seem to float in the sky.
Nick and I walked outside and started to walk to Deep Ellum, where we would meet Candy. It was about a mile and a half – doable, but a long walk in the heat.
But, there on the corner, was two Lime rental electric scooters. After the lunacy of the invasion of the rental bikes, Dallas has now picked up on the dockless scooter craze – they are all over downtown and Deep Ellum – at certain times there are more people on scooters than in cars.
Nick and I grinned, loaded the apps on our phones and unlocked the scooters. Being a Millenial, he was quicker at this and shot off down Ross. When mine beeped and lit up I thought, “Better go into this parking lot here and practice for a minute.” To the best of my memory I have never been on a scooter in my life – let alone an electric one. But my son was already moving away and I decided, what the hell, and hopped on, kicked twice and pressed the GO button.
We sped down Ross (the scooters go… what? maybe 15 miles per hour, but it feels really fast) and the light was green with no traffic so we turned down Good Latimer towards Deep Ellum. It was a blast. At the end of the block was a big red light and beyond that were the busy lanes of the Highway 75 frontage and the DART train tracks.
And I realized I had no idea how to stop the scooter.
“How do I stop?!” I yelled, while I flailed around.
“On the left!” shouted Nick.
I remembered seeing scooters with brakes in the rear and fished around with my back foot – nothing. Meanwhile, I tried steering back and forth, then dragging a foot. I was slowing, but not fast enough. As I went by, Nick reached out and grabbed me, causing me to skid off the road into the grassy area bordering the train tracks. I stopped and didn’t fall, though it was plenty scary.
I looked at the scooter and, sure enough, there was a brake lever on the left handlebar. I had been so engrossed and then so panicked, I never saw it.
The rest of the ride was easy – a hand brake is a really good idea. We dropped our scooters in front of Braindead and before we were through the door someone else rented them and sped off. We ate at Monkey King and then stopped off at Armoury D.E. (one of my favorite spots – great craft cocktails) and The Anvil Pub. It was only a block or two of walking, but Nick kept renting scooters and going around the block. He thought it was great. They only cost a couple bucks for a short trip.
I never could figure out why I would ride a rental bike in Dallas – I have my own bikes (though I enjoyed riding one in New Orleans) but those scooters are another thing. They are actually a replacement for walking. If you have more than a couple blocks (but less than a couple miles) to cover, especially in the heat, they are a great option.
If I was to ride one on a regular basis, say on a commute to work, I would definitely wear a helmet (when you rent one, you agree to wear a helmet, but I’ve never seen anyone actually with head protection).
This is a brave new world, that has such people in it.
“Exit, pursued by a bear.”
― William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
—-The Beatles, Blackbird
Bird, Scavenging along an Interstate Highway in Texas
A lot of people wax enthusiastic about Buc-ee’s. These are giant, giant convenience stores, now mostly set along Interstate Highways in Texas as immense gas stations.
Most people rave about their clean bathrooms. In 2012 the New Braunfels Buc-ee’s won the Cintas Best Restroom Contest. When I was in college, a long, long, time ago, I ran a gas station in the middle of nowhere (sadly, it’s long closed now) during the summers and vacations. I would open up the small bathrooms ’round back at closing and hose them down good. That seems enough for me.
A typical Buc-ee’s has 60 gas pumps, 80 soda fountains, and 31 cash registers. You order your food from tablet-equipped kiosks and your selection is cooked (probably microwaved) to order. When I worked at that gas station in the 70’s I had two pop machines and a couple of shelving units full of candy, but … well, I mostly sold a lot (and I mean a lot) of cold beer.
There was one guy that would stop by every day, purchase a longneck bottle of Dr. Pepper out of the machine and a small bag of beer nuts. He would pour the sugar-coated nuts into the bottle of Dr. Pepper – some would always foam out. After selling him these for a few years I decided to try the concoction myself.
It wasn’t as good as I had hoped.
So, finally, after hearing so much about Buc-ee’s and seeing the beaver shirts – even eating a bag of beaver nuggets that someone gave me, I decided to stop at a Buc-ee’s and see what the hoopla was about. I don’t remember where I was coming from but I pulled off the interstate and parked along the grassy border (full of people letting their dogs shit) and walked in.
I was not impressed. It was huge… but simply more of the same. The restrooms were clean, I’ll give them that. I bought a fountain drink, and the ice was cold – so no complaints there. But it seemed to be so big and so tacky that it went beyond amusing to obnoxious. Actually, it was worse than that – it was boring.
When I walked out to my car the villainous bird in the photo was giving me the evil eye. He was hopping around looking for dropped Beaver Nuggets or any other misplaced sugary snack.