These Villains Creep

These villains creep - Deep Ellum, Texas

These villains creep – Deep Ellum, Texas

“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”
― Anaïs Nin

In this brave new world, this best of all possible worlds, I take the Internet to be the entire of all existence. I think that a reflection of everything is in the internet, somewhere. Obviously, I will never be able to prove myself wrong – but sometimes I can’t find what I’m looking for.

For example, I photographed this sticker stuck in Deep Ellum. It says, “These Villains Creep – TVC.” But I can’t find what this means.

The closest possibility that I could find is that it is a subversive ad for a local print shop – TVC One. But that doesn’t feel right.

Oh well, thank goodness for small mysteries.

Serious Pizza

Cook throwing dough at Serious Pizza, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Cook throwing dough at Serious Pizza, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

A while back I went on a photowalk with some other folks in Deep Ellum. It was sponsored by a national organization and there was a contest. I wasn’t really interested in entering and didn’t think about it – I was there for the fun.

As we walked around I stepped into Serious Pizza. There was a woman from the Photowalk already standing there, looking at the guy spinning pizza dough. I stood shoulder to shoulder to her as she raised her camera and clicked. About a minute later, I took the above shot.

I’m notoriously slow at processing my photographs and the other woman had hers up first. It was amazing how similar our photos came out, even though they were taken a minute apart (I think it was different dough, for example). She entered hers in the contest, and won first place nationally.

Which is cool with me, she did take her photo first and had it posted first. It is a nice shot – especially with the guy’s tattoo.

I love Deep Ellum, always have. I’ve been living in Dallas long enough now to see the area go up and down several times. I did a search on my laptop for the term “Deep Ellum” and found some entries from my old journal from back in the day.

This one is from an entry called “Monkeys in Space.” I wrote it in 2000, sixteen years ago. It refers to an event that happened fifteen years before that – in the mid eighties – thirty years of Deep Ellum.

The mid-eightes in Dallas were a time of alternative music and gritty nightclubs popping up in the nascent Deep Ellum district. Most of my life, I’ve felt out of step with the times, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind. For a little while in the mid-eighties, while I was in my late twenties, I guess I could be considered to have been fashionable. The Deep Ellum nightclubs were starting and I was among the first people to hang out in the old Video Bar, the original Club Clearview, Theater Gallery, and the Prophet Bar.

Like all the clubs, the Prophet Bar was a converted old brick industrial space. It had two rooms, a front bar with live music and a back room with a suspect kitchen. It was known for watered down drinks, hot music, and walls covered with wild surrealistic murals painted on commission by local artists.

One evening we were at the Prophet Bar for some live music but had arrived early and were sitting around the front room with a smattering of folks all sipping drinks and eyeing the fashions and the figures. They had a jukebox and I had a fistfull of quarters.

The selections were populated by the alternative hits of the day, Siouxie and the Banshees, Teardrop Explodes… but among these familiar tunes were a few songs that even I hadn’t heard of. Wild sounding bands with ridiculous song titles. The one I remember was a band called Monkeys in Space with a song on the jukebox that I can’t recall except that it was a sexually explicit title.

I said to my friend, “I’ve never heard of that band before. Look at that. I wonder what kind of music that could be?”

Of course I couldn’t resist. Thinking how cool and hip I was to play a song nobody had heard of I plunked down my coins and pushed the proper numbers and letters on the buttons – then walked back to the table with the whole bar looking at me.

The bastards that ran the club had thought up a pretty good joke. In the slot that they had earmarked for Monkeys in Space they actually put a copy of Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree, by Tony Orlando and Dawn. It’s hard to describe the horror of that song… that opening hook, those lyrics booming out in that place with the black clad clientele and colorful murals.

I curled up like a sprayed bug.

That incident always stuck in my head. Decades later, I was able to use the Tony Orlando and Dawn song for my own nefarious purposes.

But that’s a story for another day.

Getting a Ross

“Sergeant Spearman, you are positively glutinous with self-approbation. You might as well speak out.”

—-Alfred Hitchcock, Frenzy

For several years now, each February or so, I have travelled down to the Kettle Art Gallery in Deep Ellum for their For the Love of Kettle affair. This is a “competitive shopping event” where two hundred or so works of art, all 8×11, are displayed on the walls. About three hundred people are unleashed through the opening doors at once and grab the paintings they want. If you desire something by a particular artist, you have to be quick, decisive, and efficient. I wrote about it three years ago – you can read about it here.

One of the artists that I have always wanted to get at the show was Richard Ross. He is a very well-known local artist, with a distinctive personal style. His murals are found on walls in Deep Ellum and other spots.

Richard Ross mural in the Deep Ellum Art Park (detail)

Richard Ross mural in the Deep Ellum Art Park (detail)

Richard Ross Column Deep Ellum Art Park, Dallas, Texas (Click to Enlarge)

Richard Ross Column
Deep Ellum Art Park, Dallas, Texas
(Click to Enlarge)

In the years past, I was always too late to get a Ross, even though he usually donated a handful of works to the show. I always wait in line for an hour before the opening (I’m usually fifth in line or so) but I get overexcited and confused and fail to grab the good work fast (it’s OK, everything at the show is cool – I probably should buy something at random). His stuff always sells immediately and I took too much time (around thirty seconds) making up my mind. By the time I made it to the table with my list of numbers his were gone. This year I was extra quick and decisive – at my turn only two of his three were purchased. So I bought his Tethered to an Upside Down Giant.

Tethered to an Upside Down Giant by Richard Ross

Tethered to an Upside Down Giant
by Richard Ross

I like the little drawing on the back of my painting.

I like the little drawing on the back of my painting.

Now, months later, I saw that the Kettle Arts Gallery was having a show, Hireath, of paintings by Richard Ross and Jessie Sierra Hernandez. The opening was on Thursday night, which is really tough for me. I’m exhausted at the end of each work day, but I try to do what I can – life is too short. I finished up at work and caught the DART train downtown. I fortified myself with a cold wheat beer at Braindead Brewing and walked across Main Street to Kettle Art.

Dry Hopped Wheat beer from Braindead Brewing in Deep Ellum

Dry Hopped Wheat beer from Braindead Brewing in Deep Ellum

The show was positively glutinous. Kettle Art is such a crackerjack place.

I talked to Richard Ross for a minute, he said the characters in his painting are “Keyholes” – I suppose that is a term that can represent a limited view into their souls.

From the Internet: The “keyhole” figures represent the locked inner conscience we have in our public appearance. Basically the “keyhole” says that there’s more inside than just the facade, and it’s protected. Some of these figures will appear two faced to show more complexity in the character.

Richard Ross and some of his work, Kettle Art Gallery

Richard Ross and some of his work, Kettle Art Gallery

I shuffled around the gallery several times, ogling the art. I am usually good with my lifelong poverty, except when I’m visiting art galleries. I have this fantasy where I strut around with a big douchebag expression on my face braying, “I’ll take this… and this… and this.” Alas, it is not to be.

In addition to the paintings in his familiar style he also had some interesting early works and some smaller paintings.

The little ones were really nice – the ink lines gave them a strong graphical emphasis.

But what I really liked was a series of 12 medium-sized artworks, arranged in a grid. These were framed by random smears of painted color – precious views into a hidden world or a different dimension. They shared the strong lines of the small works, but the extra bit of size allowed them additional layers of complexity. Each one told a little bizarre story. Actually each one tells hundreds of little stories – different for every person that sees them.

Does this make sense? I’m afraid you’ll have to go down there and see for yourself (the show is open until September 17). I wished I could slide out the cash and buy the lot of those mediums – display them on my humble wall like they were at the gallery.

I didn’t stay long – it had been a long day and I was fading fast. It was a short walk through the dark to the train station and the ride back home.

I Think I’m Ready Now

With a taste of your lips
I’m on a ride
You’re toxic I’m slipping under
With a taste of a poison paradise
I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic

Intoxicate me now
With your lovin’ now
I think I’m ready now

I think I’m ready now
—-Toxic, Britney Spears

Last Saturday I went on a fun bike ride – a fundraiser for the Santa Fe Trail that runs from White Rock Lake to Deep Ellum and Fair Park (my favorite Dallas trail). We ended up at a new place, The Goat Ranch which was fun.

At the end of the festivities, instead of riding straight back to White Rock, I rode into the thick crowd at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival. I had been there the evening before to buy a little monster head in a box (this was my seventh – will have to write about that soon), but thought I’d check it out for a few minutes and see what was going on in the crowded melee of a Saturday Afternoon.

I locked up my bike and hobbled in on my SPD cleated cycling shoes along Murray Street until I saw a woman setting up with a guitar and a small Fender amp on a little busking stage at Murray and Commerce. There was a table with a chair available so I decided to sit and listen.

Alexandra Tayara and her Fender amp

Alexandra Tayara and her Fender amp

Her name was Alexandra Tayara and she was very good. Surprisingly good.

Her first song was the chestnut “House of the Rising Sun.” I’m not sure if she knew the significance of singing that song in that spot. This was the heart of Deep Ellum, of course, and I could almost feel the ghost of Leadbelly wandering those very streets with Blind Lemon Jefferson and singing “House of the Rising Sun.”

She went on to sing some original tunes (really liked “Hurt Boy” – you can get a copy from her website) along with some covers.

My favorite was an emotional bluesy version from that master of emotional bluesy songs – Britney Spears. I had heard people say that “Toxic” was a very good song, but until that Saturday, I didn’t understand it.

I wasn’t the only one that was affected. The crowd grew on the sidestreet as members of the thick throng parading by on Commerce were pulled in by the sound. A guy sitting next to me kept shouting out – his girl would walk over and admonish him but he would reply, “I can’t help it.”

Alexandra Tayara

Alexandra Tayara

She did a few more songs and then finished up. She was going to perform on a larger stage at seven that eveing. I would have enjoyed hearing her again, but I had a lot of work to finish, so I unlocked my bike and began the pedal home.

It Was Red And All My Life Was In It

“When I was out on the battlements it was cool and I could hardly hear them. I sat there quietly. I don’t know how long I sat. Then I turned round and saw the sky. It was red and all my life was in it.”
― Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum
Dallas, Texas