Right Round Like a Record, Baby

All I know is that to me
You look like you’re having fun
Open up your lovin’ arms
Watch out here I come
You spin me right round, baby
Right round like a record, baby
Right round round round
—-Dead or Alive, You Spin Me Round

Carnival, Tulane Campus, New Orleans

Oblique Strategy: What wouldn’t you do?

I remember getting sick at a carnival. The rides can’t be designed to do anything but make you sick, really. The fear doesn’t come, like it does in a huge roller coaster at a big theme park, from the stretching of the bounds of physics. The fear comes from the rickety old equipment, dripping grease, and the dirty meth addict running the ride. You assume he put the thing together, did the safety checks.

The smell of a small carnival – popcorn, rancid grease, and ozone. The sound of the rides, the screaming of kids, the pops of the rifles shooting at paper targets.

It is all a relic of a bygone age. A carnival – I think it’s a predecessor to the video game, without the score. The lights, the sounds, the movement… everything just slightly surreal. I’m surprised that there are any left.

I think I need to try and track one down.

There Was Something About Clowns That Was Worse Than Zombies

“There was something about clowns that was worse than zombies. (Or maybe something that was the same. When you see a zombie, you want to laugh at first. When you see a clown, most people get a little nervous. There’s the pallor and the cakey mortician-style makeup, the shuffling and the untidy hair. But clowns were probably malicious, and they moved fast on those little bicycles and in those little crammed cars. Zombies weren’t much of anything. They didn’t carry musical instruments and they didn’t care whether or not you laughed at them. You always knew what zombies wanted.”
― Kelly Link, The Living Dead

Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

Klyde Warren Park,
Dallas, Texas

Bicycle Brewery Tour

“Good people drink good beer.”
—-Hunter S Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Back in February I went on a bike ride organized by Bike Friendly Oak Cliff that went from Klyde Warren Park to a couple of local breweries. It was a blast and a lot of fun and I was really looking forward to the second edition which was scheduled for last Saturday. This one, The Craft and Growler Bicycle Brewery Tour was more ambitious – five scheduled stops across the city.

I had a few doubts when I woke up Saturday morning. After my nighttime ride the night before to the video production on the Omni Hotel and the fireworks on Reunion Tower a powerful cold front had blown through North Texas. There was rain predicted and a cold spitting wind was cutting across the land. Still, I didn’t want to wimp out so I packed my rain gear onto my commuter bike and set out.

“right’ i said. ‘but first, we need the car. and after that, the cocaine. and then the tape recorder, for special music, and some acapulco shirts.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I have been enjoying the idea of riding completely carless – leaving my garage on my bicycle alone. Since the city is too large for my weak biking skills and so much interesting riding is in distant neighborhoods I utilize the DART train. The Arapaho Station is two miles from my house – which is a nice test ride… if my bike is having mechanical problems I’ll know it before I get too far from home.

The last few rides I have made the mistake of being a minute late – seeing the train pull out as I’m buying my ticket. One minute tardy turns into twenty minutes late as I have to wait for the next train. I didn’t want this to happen again so I rode hard into the wind and caught the early train. Because of this, I arrived at Main Street Garden Park an hour ahead of time… I was the first one there.

For a few minutes I wondered if nobody would show… it was cold, windy and sprinkling. But soon enough, some folks I knew came riding up and then, more and more. By the starting time there were… I would guess close to a hundred riders.

“Turn the goddam music up! My heart feels like an alligator!”
― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

At Main Street Garden Park

At Main Street Garden Park

At Main Street Garden Park

At Main Street Garden Park

At Main Street Garden Park

At Main Street Garden Park

We set out on the familiar route down Main through Deep Ellum then along Exhibition to the Fair Park area and Craft and Growler.

If you don’t know, a growler is a container – usually glass – that holds fresh keg beer. It’s a great way to buy local brews. Craft and Growler (I’ll write an entry on this place soon – it deserves its own) has thirty taps with mostly local brews – specially adapted for growler filling, though they will also sell you a glass or a flight of samples. It’s a great place.

I have bought a stainless steel vacuum growler – especially for bicycling. It will keep liquid cold (or hot) for a day or so and is nice and strong. I have already used it to carry ice water for bike rides on hot days. I found an old bag that used to carry an ancient Colorado Tape Backup (250 Megabytes!) and hooked it up like a pannier – the growler and two plastic glasses fit inside perfectly. At Craft and Growler I bought a glass and a growler full of The Chosen One toasted Coconut Ale from 903 Brewers in Sherman… and the day was on.

“We can’t stop here, this is bat country!”
― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Bicycles outside Craft and Growler, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas

Bicycles outside Craft and Growler, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas

After a lot of fun at Craft and Growler, everyone piled back on their bikes and rode the short distance to the Deep Ellum Brewing Company. They were having their Saturday tour, which is always a blast. I had forgotten how good their Double Brown Stout was.

There are so many things in life – things that you are really looking forward to with great, anxious expectation. It always turns out to be a disappointment. Nothing is ever as good as you think it is going to be. Except good craft beer.

It is even better.

“Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives… and to the “good life”, whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman

Live Music at Deep Ellum Brewing Company

Live Music at Deep Ellum Brewing Company

The crowd at Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Dallas, Texas

The crowd at Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Dallas, Texas

“The highways are crowded with people who drive as if their sole purpose in getting behind the wheel is to avenge every wrong done them by man, beast or fate. The only thing that keeps them in line is their fear of death, jail and lawsuits.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, Hell’s Angels

Then, it was decided that it would be a good idea for everyone to get something to eat, so we rode to Klyde Warren park and the food trucks there. After food, we kept riding on down to the design district and Community Beer Company.

Tour at Community Beer Company

Tour at Community Beer Company

The tour there was interesting. One of their big fermentation vats was going strong – a vent hose ran into a drum of liquid which was bubbling and foaming like crazy. The power of yeast…. Community has a Mosaic IPA – one of the best of the local IPAs. It was recommended to me by a Community brewmaster at the Alamo Draft House movie party, and he wasn’t wrong.

It was time to move on and the brave souls that were still going rode off across the Trinity River on the Commerce Street Bridge to Four Corners Brewery in West Dallas.

“I was not proud of what I had learned but I never doubted that it was worth knowing.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary

My commuter bike outside Four Corners Brewery

My commuter bike outside Four Corners Brewery

Outside Four Corners Brewery

Outside Four Corners Brewery

Leaving Four Corners Brewery, with downtown Dallas, and the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge in the background.

Leaving Four Corners Brewery, with downtown Dallas, and the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge in the background.

I love their branding, which is based on the Loteria, the Mexican Bingo Game. I had a Red’s Roja… and it was good.

“We must ride this strange torpedo out until the end.”
—-Hunter S Thompson

By now it was getting late in the day, but we had been lucky with the weather. Cold and windy, but nothing other than sprinkles. A lot of folks had given up and I was getting tired, but I wanted to get to the sixth, and last, stop. It was a vacant storefront a block down from the Texas Theater on Jefferson Street. It will be a small brewpub – to be called The Small Brewpub. I’m really enthusiastic about the renaissance of Oak Cliff – the most beautiful and interesting part of the city – and wanted to support a new business in this area.

Small Brewpub, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas

Small Brewpub, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas

breweryride12

Looking forward to an opening. I’ll keep y’all informed.

“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”
—-Hunter S Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

People that go on bike rides like this are a very diverse bunch… but everybody gets along. The nice thing is that everyone has something in common – bicycles and, today, beer. It makes it easy to talk to complete strangers like they were your best friends. By the end of this ride, of course, all the folk were especially friendly, relaxed, and in a good mood. Five brewery stops will do that.

“Jesus! Did I SAY that? Or just think it? Was I talking? Did they hear me? I glanced over at my attorney, but he seemed oblivious…”
― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Now it was time to go home. The sun was setting and, finally, the storm blew in and the skies opened up.

I have always wanted a Gore-Tex rain jacket but can’t afford one. One day last winter, though, I found a nice Eddie Bauer Gore-Tex shell at Goodwill for six dollars. It had a hole burned in the front – it must have been a real outdoorsman because the hole was right where you hold your campfire-heated Sierra Cup – and we sewed a patch over the spot. It looks like hell – but I guarantee that Gore-Tex stuff is a lifesaver when you have to ride a bike across Dallas in the dark, in cold and pouring rain. It’s amazing how it can be wet on the outside, yet dry and toasty on the inside even when you are sweating up a steep hill.

A month ago, I was able to figure out how to install a set of fenders on my new commuter bike. I was glad about that – it protected me from water thrown up from the street. Sure, I was wet from the rain – but there is a big difference between the water that comes down from the sky and the water that comes up from below.

We rode across the Jefferson Street Viaduct. Screaming down the steep back side in the storm was a surreal, fun, and slightly scary adventure. I turned off at the Union Station and caught the DART train back to Richardson.

I had the car to myself as the train worked its way through downtown. I felt ridiculous – an old fat man, soaking wet, sitting there at night holding a bicycle which I hung from one of the bike hooks in the roof of the car. I am, after all, the least cool person on the planet. The car was quiet and empty, until we reached the Arts District Station, where a huge crowd going home from the Texas State Fair was waiting.

I sat watching them fighting through the doors of the train like a crowd of desperate, rabid lemmings afraid the sea will dry up before they get to the cliff edge. I will never forget the near-panicked looks in their eyes. It’s a commuter train! Chill! You’ll get home!

An extended family crowded in around me, the mother shared my bench (I would have given up my seat, but I was sort of trapped back there between the crowd and my hanging bike). We talked about the fair and about my bicycle. I don’t want to be too critical – they were very nice people and I have no reason to criticize them. …but they had bought six VitaMix machines. They piled the big cardboard cases carrying the powerful blenders in the aisle. A low end VitaMix costs what? About four hundred dollars? They had at least two and a half thousand dollars of kitchen equipment on that train.

They complimented me on my bike riding and said, “That’s why we bought the VitaMix machines – to try and get healthy.”

So I felt a little better about myself – there are places in life more ridiculous than mine.

I was able to fight my way off the train at Arapaho Station, zipped my jacket tight, turned my lights on, and rode the last two miles through heavy rain in the pitch dark night. It was magnificent.

It was about eleven thirty when I made it home. I had been out riding the train, my bike, and sampling beer for thirteen and a half hours.

A good day.

“Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run, but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Between the Folds

The second floor of the Crow Collection of Asian Art is separated into two galleries. These are connected by a glassed-in passageway that stretches above the fountains and stairs below. For the last few years this passage was filled with hundreds of tiny origami cranes made by schoolchildren and hung in a folded paper cloud. I really liked this and was not happy to find that it was taken down. I have no idea if they are going to repeat the installation.

Origami Cranes at the Crow Collection of Asian Art

I wanted to ride my recumbent for some exercise but didn’t have much time. So I looked around the web for a video to watch… one that offered some interest but that wasn’t too long. Documentaries sort of meet this requirement so I found one on streaming Netflix called Between the Folds. It was a PBS film about Origami.

Other than the cranes in the Crow – and the time when Lee was about six and sent me out for a book on paper-folding – I never have thought about Origami, but the documentary was fascinating. There were artistic paper folders – from some that used thousands of folds to construct realistic sculptures to one guy that was trying to make the best work of art he could with only one fold. There were mathematicians interested in using the intersecting art and science of creased paper planes to illuminate secrets of the universe.

One of these guys, to be honest, grated on my nerves a little. He is Erik Demane and he is a second generation professor at MIT. He has that self-serving shit-eating grin that all those home-schooled, MIT genius grant winning, got my Ph.D. at twenty guys always have – or at least what they show on their PBS documentaries. He said something that really got under my skin. He talked about how he only did things that “Are Fun.” “If something isn’t fun it doesn’t interest me.”

That bugs me because I always feel that activities that are important are never “fun.” If in doubt between two courses of activities, the one that is “less fun” is always the correct one to choose. I’m not talking about relaxation or amusement or recreation – but neither was he. He was saying that he chose his life’s work based on what was “fun.” To me, that’s a waste of his rather tremendous potential.

But I can’t really be aggravated at the guy. After all he is a professor at MIT, amazing all the incoming freshman girls with his abilities to fold paper. I bet he plays the ukulele at cocktail parties. He has a good beard.

But most of all, I’m serious now, he posts one of his classes online. I have always wanted to take a math course at MIT and now I can. That looks like fun. I only wish I could find the time from all the other, important stuff I have to do.

Here's some origami I did. I'm working on a story and I decided to origami my draft. The design is called, "This is a bunch of crap."