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.

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What I learned this week, October 24, 2014

iam1

12 DALLAS NEIGHBORHOODS, RANKED BY THEIR FOOD AND DRINK

Bishop Arts District, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Bishop Arts District, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)



Lee Harvey's

Lee Harvey’s

The Finest Dive Bars in Dallas, Mapped For Your Drinking Pleasure

Oh, man – a list of Dallas Dive Bars… and a map! I feel a bike ride coming on – planning the route in my brain.


Sheaffer Triumph Nib

Sheaffer Triumph Nib

When Buying Fountain Pens, Splurging (a Little) Is Totally Worth It

pfm


10 American Authors’ Homes Worth Visiting

Cool list… including one I think I’ll check out next week in New Orleans. Still, my favorite isn’t on the list – I love Robert E. Howard’s modest home in Cross Plains, Texas.


New outdoor concert venue debuts in downtown Dallas Friday


15 Tiny Texas Towns That Are Totally Worth The Trip


Review: “Fortress,” an Homage to Brooklyn Gone By, Opens at The Public

Lee and I saw this musical when it premiered here in Dallas at the Wyly. It’s fun to watch it work its way toward Broadway.



8 TIMES PHYSICS BROKE

What I learned this week, August 8, 2014

DO NOT CARRY CHILDREN WHILE ON SKATES

My favorite local band, Home by Hovercraft, have a new video out. The Kessler, the Corinth Street Tunnel (scary), and the White Rock Skate Center.

Home by Hovercraft, Dallas

Home by Hovercraft, Dallas

Home by Hovercraft in Deep Ellum

Home by Hovercraft in Deep Ellum

Irish dancer with Home by Hovercraft

Irish dancer with Home by Hovercraft


Car fire just north of downtown, Dallas.

Car fire just north of downtown, Dallas.

Urban Planner Patrick Kennedy Wants To Tear Down A Highway

…On whether Dallas wants to kick its car addiction:
We’re effectively subsidizing land at the edge of town. Cheaper land in order to get further away, and thus, we have to drive everywhere. When 96 percent of trips are by car, but then we’ve got 20, 25 percent of the population is below poverty, we’re then pushing people and forcing people to have cars just to participate in the local economy in a way that they can’t afford right now.


In Dallas, Turning the Page Marked Nov. 22, 1963


10 Clever and Well-Designed Camping Essentials


Bacon Burger at Smoke.

Bacon Burger at Smoke.

War in the Ukraine, Gaza, ISIS, Ebola… and now the worst of all… this:

Bacon is about to get really expensive.

I guess there is always Tactical Bacon… like, for emergencies.



What College Can’t Do


What Cartoons Can Do


The great ketchup debate: to fridge or not to fridge?


Cycling in Flip Flops

Some cycle in sneakers, some cycle in heels…and others cycle in flip flops. Well if the beach is your destination why not?

Summertime in Copenhagen. Flip flops are the preferred footwear for bicycle users and pedestrians. I’ve been wearing them for a month non-stop now… it’s going to be hard to put on normal shoes again.

Of course, your neighbourhood “avid cyclist” will probably tell you “oooh… can’t cycle in THOSE. Need some proper cycling shoes blahblahblah”


9 of the Best Cuban Sandwiches in Dallas

I’m already a big fan of Jimmy’s Food Store (even had the Cuban there) and Ten Bells (I need to write an entry on Ten Bells) in Bishop Arts. Some of these others look great too.

Cuban Sandwich from Jimmy's Food Store, Dallas, Texas

Cuban Sandwich from Jimmy’s Food Store, Dallas, Texas

Seating out on the street at Jimmy's Food Store.

Seating out on the street at Jimmy’s Food Store.

Sidewalk Entertainment at Jimmy's Food Store, Dallas, Texas

Sidewalk Entertainment at Jimmy’s Food Store, Dallas, Texas

Zoli’s New York Style

Try driving across a city when you are hungry – you will notice that there is a pizza joint on every corner. There is pizza everywhere.

Plus, the simple word pizza means something different to different people – there are so many varieties. Most people have a favorite and will defend their choice of crust – from crackerlike to deep dish – to the death. Then there are toppings – from traditional Margherita to fried eggs or squid ink. The place can vary from a corner take-out dive all the way up to a sit-down formal experience with wines to match the toppings and everything in between. A family owned local hangout to a massive international corporate chain.

Whatever you like.

I’m not a very good judge. My opinion is that pizza is like sex – when it is good, it’s great and when it is bad – it’s still pretty good.

Everyone has to have their go-to pizza joint. Ours is Cane Rosso in Deep Ellum (Pizza Napoletana with its famous “tip sag”) – I like to sit at the bar and watch the pies go into the giant wood burning dome of an oven, where they cook for only a few seconds (a close second is Urban Crust in old downtown Plano).

I stumbled across a list of 16 Iconic Pizzerias Across the Metroplex. I’ve been to about half of these (Eno’s and Mama’s are two more favorites) – and probably won’t make too much of an attempt to add more. The city is simply too spread out and there are too many good ones too close. Cane Rosso did make the grade, which is not a surprise. Campisi’s Egyption Lounge is on the list more for its history than its food, IMHO.

We were in Bishop Arts this weekend, looking for something to eat in a place that wasn’t too smoky and I remembered that Cane Rosso had opened a branch up there in the old Bee Enchilada location (shame it closed) called Zoli’s. They promised “New York Style Pizza” and that sounded good.

Here’s a useful graphic that outlines the difference in the various styles of pizza sold at the two spots. Zoli’s uses metal ovens instead of the giant domed wood-burner at Cane Rosso, plus it offers three styles – New York, Grandma, and Sicilian.

(click to enlarge)

Photo Courtesy Cane Rosso and Zoli's (click to enlarge)

Photo Courtesy Cane Rosso and Zoli’s
(click to enlarge)

Good stuff.

Zoli's, Dallas, Texas

Zoli’s, Dallas, Texas

Lunch special at Zoli's - Ceaser Salad, Slice, Knot of Garlic Bread

Lunch special at Zoli’s – Ceaser Salad, Slice, Knot of Garlic Bread

So, was Zoli’s great or was it merely good. I liked it a lot, but I was very hungry. You’ll have to go try it for yourself.

Large Selection of Wines

“I drank for some time, three or four days. I couldn’t get myself to read the want ads. The thought of sitting in front of a man behind a desk and telling him that I wanted a job, that I was qualified for a job, was too much for me. Frankly, I was horrified by life, at what a man had to do simply in order to eat, sleep, and keep himself clothed. So I stayed in bed and drank. When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn’t have you by the throat. ”
― Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Ever since I went on the Dallas Contemporary bike tour of murals I have been paying attention to where more of these are. There are a lot more than you would think.

Today, I walked past another work by the local street artists, Sour Grapes. This one was on the side of a liquor store in Oak Cliff, near Bishop Arts – at 501 W. Davis.

Street Mural by Sour Grapes, Oak Cliff, Texas (click to enlarge)

Street Mural by Sour Grapes, Oak Cliff, Texas
(click to enlarge)

“Baby,” I said, “I’m a genius but nobody knows it but me.”

She looked down at me. “Get up off the floor you damn fool and get me a drink.”
― Charles Bukowski, Factotum