This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

“How dare you laugh,” Mr. Thomas said. “It was my house. My house.”

“I’m sorry,” the driver said, making heroic efforts, but when he remembered
the sudden check to his lorry, the crash of bricks falling, he became
convulsed again. One moment the house had stood there with such dignity
between the bomb sites like a man in a top hat, and then, bang, crash, there
wasn’t anything left—not anything. He said, “I’m sorry. I can’t help it, Mr.
Thomas. There’s nothing personal, but you got to admit it’s funny.”
—-Graham Greene, The Destructors

Destroyed V-Bike, Arts District, Dallas, Texas

I found this destroyed V-Bike when I was taking a photo of the mural called “The Storm” on the Ace Parking Garage at 717 Leonard Street for yesterday’s blog entry. If you look in the lower right portion of the photo of the mural you can see the bike, sort of – gives a sense of scale.

The full mural (previous photo center bottom) – Ace Parking, Dallas, “The Storm” Art Mural on Ace Parking Garage at 717 Leonard Street

If you live in Dallas, you are used to seeing bike share bikes broken all over the place. This one was in particularly bad shape – it looks like it was torn apart by a T-Rex. I assume it was run over – hopefully nobody was riding it at the time.

I have wanted to write about the saga – the rise and fall – of the bike sharing movement in Dallas, but it is/was too complex/bizarre/exciting/sad and kept changing – writing about it was like nailing jelly to a tree.

This Texas Monthly Article is as good a summary as you will read. In short, four or five companies jumped on the Dallas dockless bike share bandwagon and tried to stake out territory by putting thousands upon thousands of bikes out on the streets and sidewalks. They were everywhere. Then, there was a predictable crash and now you rarely see a rideable bike – except a lot of homeless have hacksawed the locks off and are riding them for free. Where the bikes failed they were replaced by electric scooters – which seem to be more practical for a few reasons.

I have mixed feelings – of course I loved the idea of the dockless bikes, freedom and anarchy and all that, even though I couldn’t imagine actually riding one (I have one of my personal bikes with me almost all the time in Dallas). The highly regulated bike share in New Orleans seems to work very well (though that is a tourist city – something completely different). And I do find the scooters useful.

So I’ll just be sad at the torn up bikes. Especially the V-Bikes – they were assembled locally and have some interesting innovations – single front fork blade and chainstay, enclosed shaft drive, and no-flat tires for example. They did have one fatal flaw though – the seats weren’t adjustable and I am too tall and couldn’t ever ride one.

Two V-Bike share bikes flanking my vintage Cannondale at Mockingbird DART station, Dallas, Texas

Shaft drive on a V-Bike bike share bike.

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How Can I Be Substantial

“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole.”
― C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul

Target Rack

A Kind Of Library

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges

Recycled Books
Denton, Texas

Everyone has their own addictions. One key to a happy and successful life is to choose your addictions wisely, and manage them well.

One of my addictions, one that I am managing, is owning books – especially used books. The depth of my addiction was when we lived in Mesquite – our house had a long, L-shaped hallway that was unusually wide. It was wide enough for me to cover the walls with bookshelves and then fill those with books – mostly bought on clearance from Half-Price. You can only read so many books – you only have a limited time on this earth (and so much of it is wasted at work and such) and your reading speed is finite. You can, especially if you buy used, own a practically unlimited number. I know this sounds nuts – but that is how an addict thinks.

When we moved, the movers went ape-shit over the books. “We have never seen so many books before,” they complained and said it would cost us more than their estimate to move us. So, here, in Richardson I limit myself to two full-sized bookcases and one small one (which holds exclusively writing books). If I get a new book, I get rid of an old book. Now the fact that I have… probably a score of bookcases-worth of tomes stored electronically in my Kindle… that doesn’t count, even though I doubt I will live long enough to read a fraction of them.

Kindle

Call Me Ishmael

Jeff Koterba color carton for 7/21/09
“Mars”

So now, I’m remodeling my room (once a formal dining room, then, for years basically a disco and LAN party room set up by Lee – now I have inherited it) with a new desk and a compact sound system. I was trying to figure out where to put the “bookshelf speakers” and decided that they should go on a bookshelf. So I had to remove a few tomes and went ahead and cleared out some space for some new purchases I have been contemplating… and then had a few cardboard boxes full of old books (it’s surprising how much weight and space books take up once liberated from their shelves).

I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t throw books in the trash. Odd thing really… but I can’t. Usually we cart old books to Half-Price, though we don’t really get any money for them (especially when you figure most of them were bought there from the Clearance racks). Then I remembered something I always see riding my bike around.

I’m sure you’ve seen these too – the Little Free Libraries. They are… if not everywhere, at least a lot of places. People build a sturdy little glass-faced box in their front yards, accessible from the public thoroughfare for people to “take a book or leave a book.” There are five near my house with another baker’s dozen within cycling range. What a cool idea!

Dallas, in its infinite wisdom, proposed regulating these, until they realized that was nuts. Reading these stories I love one quote. Apparently the whole brouhaha was started by one person asshat repeatedly calling to bitch about his neighbor’s library until the city stall jumped on it.

“Well, for all you kids listening at home, if anyone ever tells you one person can’t make a difference,” said East Dallas’ Philip Kingston, “remember one jerk using 311 in District 10 caused us all to waste our time here and caused the loss of hundreds of staff hours.”

So, today, I set out on my usual bike ride. Because of the torrents of rain over the last few days I rode my commuter/cargo bike – it is as heavy as a tank, but has fenders that make standing water and mud less of a pain. I have a set of Bushwhacker Omaha folding grocery panniers which make quick trips for food easy (I have six grocery stores with a two mile bike ride of my house). Once I put up the groceries I refilled the panniers with surplus books and headed out to a few close by Little Free Libraries.

I delivered a few books to each one – picking books that normal people might like.

I’m especially proud of the fact that I didn’t take any books (though I did look). Is that selfish of me? I’m feeding someone else’s addiction while I’m dealing with mine.

The sculpture in the outdoor reading area at the library.

The Job Is Not the Work

“The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed.

Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can.

The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it’s a job.

Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.

I call the process of doing your art ‘the work.’ It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin.

The job is not the work.”
― Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Mural Artist at work, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

The Finished Mural, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

The Head Is Fully Protected

“Until the notion of Helmet-Assisted Life catches on with more people, you may be seen as a threat if you wear a helmet during moments of intimacy. Yet it might also be true that relaxed intimacy cannot occur unless the head is fully protected.”
― Ben Marcus, Notable American Women

Local Hub Bicycle Company, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Local Hub

Sweat Up the Hills and Coast Down Them

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Fullmoon Bicycle Ride, Dallas, Texas

The line of bicycles behind me, heading down the Trinity Skyline Trail, heading for a certain spot and waiting for the moon to rise.

Cycling Through a Blast Furnace

“Just as the Mediterranean separated France from the country Algiers, so did the Mississippi separate New Orleans proper from Algiers Point. The neighborhood had a strange mix. It looked seedier and more laid-back all at the same time. Many artists lived on the peninsula, with greenery everywhere and the most beautiful and exotic plants. The French influence was heavy in Algiers, as if the air above the water had carried as much ambience as it could across to the little neighborhood. There were more dilapidated buildings in the community, but Jackson and Buddy passed homes with completely manicured properties, too, and wild ferns growing out of baskets on the porches, as if they were a part of the architecture. Many of the buildings had rich, ornamental detail, wood trim hand-carved by craftsmen and artisans years ago. The community almost had the look of an ailing beach town on some forgotten coast.”
― Hunter Murphy, Imogene in New Orleans

Every year during the New Orleans Writing Marathon I make a point of crossing the Mississippi River on the Algiers Ferry. This year a group of poets decided to walk through the French Quarter and make the crossing. I’m no poet, but the rules aren’t too strict, so I tagged along.

I love riding the Ferry, though I have done it more than a few times. The Algiers Ferry moves cars, pedestrians, and cyclists from the dock at the foot of Canal Street across to the town of Algiers on the West Bank. Even though you are going from the Eastern half United States to the West, due to the twisting river the boat actually goes sort of in another direction. There is something about crossing the Mississippi, though I always think of the ferry as the spot where John Goodman’s character committed suicide in the series Treme. If you’ve ever seen the film Déjà Vu this is the ferry the terrorists attack.

The day was incredibly hot and humid and we maneuvered our route to the ferry to use as much shade as possible. The trip across is two dollars, cash only, no change – I always take a stack of ones and quarters with me when I go to New Orleans for the ferry and the streetcar.

Saint Louis Cathedral from across the Mississippi River at Algiers Point

Two women and a dog In the middle of the river on the Algiers Ferry.

On the Algiers side we went to a trio of spots to write. First was breakfast at Tout de Suite Cafe, which was very good. Right next door was the excellent cafe/coffee shop Two Birds, One Stone – they had a back room full of pinball machines and big tables, a perfect place to write. The young owners were very accommodating to our group – I want to visit again and recommend you do too. I wrote snippets of text at both, then we walked on to Congregation Coffee Roasters for a third stop. I decided to churn out a poem, since that was what everybody else was doing.

Rented Furniture

A worshipped monolith
made of translucent plastic
red and stained
a machine of fire and water

A cylinder, a totem
raised on a dias of wood
life that needs washing
escape and revelation

We didn’t make the payments
and they took the furniture
when we were gone
and returned to find
an empty room, with
only a bong on a wooden
wire spool table

It was still fairly early, but some of the others had to get back to do a radio broadcast – everybody piled back on the ferry for the trip back.I was distracted by two bike share rental bikes at the ferry terminal and, checking the map on my phone, discovered there was a bike trail on the top of the river levee on the Algiers side – so I opened the app on my phone and unlocked a bike – deciding to go for a ride.

New Orleans Bike Share Bike

The New Orleans bike share bikes are built like a tank, and as heavy as one – but the city is flat so that doesn’t cause too much of a problem. It took me a minute to find the control and downshift so I could climb onto the Levee and the swept handlebars took some getting used to. But soon enough I had it all in control and was moving down the smooth levee trail.

I rode south (or more exactly, downriver – the Mississippi curves) for a few miles, down past the Naval station. It was fun – the view of the river and giant ships and barges on one side – the picturesque streets of Algiers on the other. The path sort of petered out and I rode back, past the ferry station and upriver to the giant double bridge… the Crescent City Connector. That was about seven miles and about all I felt up to, so I rode back to the ferry and parked my rented bike.

It was a lot of fun, but there was one problem. It was so hot. It was like riding through a blast furnace. There was no breeze at all – no cooling relief coming off of the river. The top of the Levee is very exposed, not a bit of shade. The burning sun, the boiling air, and the famous New Orleans summer humidity made for a sweaty, exhausting ride.

I was so worn out that when I made it back across the river I was lazy and took a streetcar through the French Quarter (still had a dollar bill and a quarter) back to where we were meeting. A long day, a hot day, but a nice time.

Can’t wait to go back.