Out at sea a single clarinet begins to play, a droll melody joined in on after a few bars by guitars and mandolins. Birds huddle bright-eyed on the beach. Katje’s heart lightens, a little, at the sound.
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”
― Elmore Leonard, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing
“The English are kind of weird when it comes to the way things taste, Mom. They aren’t like us. It might be the climate. They go for things we would never dream of. Sometimes it is enough to turn your stomach, boy. The other day I had had one of these things they call ‘wine jellies.’ That’s their idea of candy, Mom! Figure out a way to feed some to that Hitler ‘n’ I betcha the war’d be over tomorrow!” Now once again he finds himself checking out these ruddy gelatin objects, nodding, he hopes amiably, at Mrs. Quoad. They have the names of different wines written on them in bas-relief.
“Just a touch of menthol too,” Mrs. Quoad popping one into her mouth. “Delicious.”
Slothrop finally chooses one that says Lafitte Rothschild and stuffs it on into his kisser. “Oh yeah. Yeah. Mmm. It’s great.”
“If you really want something peculiar try the Bernkastler Doktor. Oh! Aren’t you the one who brought me those lovely American slimy elm things, maple-tasting with a touch of sassafras—”
“Slippery elm. Jeepers I’m sorry, I ran out yesterday.”
Darlene comes in with a steaming pot and three cups on a tray. “What’s that?” Slothrop a little quickly, here.
“You don’t really want to know, Tyrone.”
“Quite right,” after the first sip, wishing she’d used more lime juice or something to kill the basic taste, which is ghastly-bitter. These people are really insane. No sugar, natch. He reaches in the candy bowl, comes up with a black, ribbed licorice drop. It looks safe. But just as he’s biting in, Darlene gives him, and it, a peculiar look, great timing this girl, sez, “Oh, I thought we got rid of all those—” a blithe, Gilbert & Sullivan ingenue’s thewse—“years ago,” at which point Slothrop is encountering this dribbling liquid center, which tastes like mayonnaise and orange peels.
“You’ve taken the last of my Marmalade Surprises!” cries Mrs. Quoad, having now with conjuror’s speed produced an egg-shaped confection of pastel green, studded all over with lavender nonpareils. “Just for that I shan’t let you have any of these marvelous rhubarb creams.” Into her mouth it goes, the whole thing.
—Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (The Disgusting English Candy Drill)
Sodas from RocketFizz, Deep Ellum, Texas
“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
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
― Pablo Picasso
Kettle Art is a gallery in Deep Ellum and is known for its unflagging support of local artists. Every February those artists get a shot at returning the favor. The gallery distributes about two hundred identical nine by twelve inch boards to be converted into works of art. They go on sale at seven PM for fifty dollars apiece, and all of the proceeds go toward the gallery (they return the favor a week later with their For the Love of Artists event). The thing is that there are two hundred or so pieces, but three hundred or so folks show up and many buy several works – some up to ten. That’s why they call it a “competitive shopping event.” They open the doors at seven PM sharp and everyone rushes in.
The paintings are numbered and you take the numbers up front and reserve your painting – if nobody else has gotten to it first. Then you pay, then you pick up.
I don’t have a lot of money, but I can come up with fifty dollars. I used to go an hour early so I could get a spot near the front of the line… and get the painting I wanted. I don’t do that any more – now I go an hour and a half early.
The event is at seven and I wanted to get there at five thirty. It takes an hour or so to get downtown on the train, especially since I have to change from the Red line to the Green to get from downtown to Deep Ellum… plus fifteen minutes to get to the train station – I left home right at four fifteen.
Everything went as planned until I got off the train at the Arts District station downtown. On the weekends the trains don’t run very often and the next Green train wouldn’t be there for a half hour. That would not do. My eyes fell on the electric scooters lined up on the sidewalk. I’ve ridden the scooters before (read about an adventure here) so out came my phone and I unlocked one and five minutes and a buck ninety later I was in Deep Ellum. The only problem was that the road I took was rough and the little wheels on the scooter didn’t help that – but I made it in one piece.
Arriving right on time, ninety minutes early, I was fourth in line. The fun thing is that the same people go early every year, so we had a lot to talk about. Mostly, though, we talked about strategy. You see, the line starts immediately at the reserve table, so the question is whether to rush to the table or walk around and look for the painting you really want – at the risk of someone else getting it.
I always stress out about this, stress too much. One year I went on a bike ride and arrived dehydrated and the stress got to me and I wrote down the wrong number – getting a random painting. It was OK – but not the style I wanted… and the artist saw me with it and said, “I can’t believe it sold so fast.” I lied and said, “Oh I wanted it right from the start!”
This year I looked in the window and could clearly see the first paintings with their numbers. I realized that I really liked four of the first five and would be happy with any of those. Talking to the people in line (we all traded our favorites and agreed not to buy each others) they suggested a great strategy. It involved buying two paintings. I would rush to the table and buy a painting I like right away (Painting #1, as a matter of fact) and then I had one that I liked locked up. After that, I could leisurely walk around, writing down any others that looked good and buy one of those later. Many would be bought, but some should still be left.
That was the ticket. I’d spend an extra fifty dollars, but get two paintings… and have fun, with no pressure, because I was guaranteed of at least one that I liked and would probably get two.
The line behind me stretched most of the way around the block… and then the door flew open and I rushed in, went right to the table (I was third, the people in line before me were there first) and bought painting #1.
In this photo you can see a painting by Richard Ross – I bought one of his in 2016.
Happy with my choice, I wandered around looking at all the art, writing down the numbers of about two dozen works that I particularly liked. Then I joined the long line waiting for a painting. When I reached the front, I was surprised at how man numbers I had written down were still available. I chose a colorful Day of the Dead skull that I knew Candy would like.
It was painted by David Pech. Candy really liked it.
Once I had both my paintings picked up it was getting late, though there were still people arriving and buying art. Looking at the board where they crossed numbers off when the paintings were taken I noticed that there were still a couple that I had written down as particularly liking that were not purchased yet. So I guess I don’t really need to go ninety minutes early next year. But I think I will. I’ll definitely save up a hundred and buy two paintings. That strategy is the ticket.
I should have brought a backpack because I couldn’t ride a scooter with two paintings in my hands. So I had to wait thirty minutes for the next train.
“Danger’s over, Banana Breakfast is saved.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow