Short Story Of the Day – The Economy (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”
― Oscar Wilde

Virtual money flowing across the surface of the sculpture.
Fountainhead
Charles Long
Northpark Center
Dallas, Texas


 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#65) Two Thirds of the way! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


 

The Economy

Monday, I was coming out of the tunnel on to New Jersey 75 when I saw this guy standing on the little triangle of dad grass between the Abdulla Gas Station and Hamburger house and the exit for the crosstown feeder. He was wearing an Armani suit, Donna Pliner shoes (don’t even ask me how I knew that), and a two hundred dollar haircut. He was holding a torn piece of cardboard that said, “WILL TRADE STOCKS FOR FOOD.” I got a good hard look at him before the light turned and I had to go – my kid had forgotten his skates and I had to get them to the rink.

On Tuesday he was still there and on Wednesday I decided to stop at Abdulla for a cheeseburger and hummus – and I took him some falafel and a pita. I handed him the food and he took it, stared me in the eye, and without hesitation said, “HGBindustries.”

“What?” I said.

“HG-B,” was his only reply.

He sat down and began to eat – didn’t say another word to me. Well, I had a little cash my old aunt left me sitting in a savings account, not a lot, but some. So I went online and bought a few shares of HGB. I really didn’t want to; Wikipedia said its biggest seller was a line of rubber duck bathtub toys.

“Not a lot of future in that,” I said to myself.

But the guy with the sign seemed sure of himself, so what the hell. And the stock was cheap. I didn’t used to drive by there very often, but I changed my route some and started to go by the guy almost every day. He was always there, except for federal holidays. And you wouldn’t believe it, but my HGB stock started to go up. So, this last month, Freddy down at work actually paid me back the money I had lent him for his daughter’s nose job.

I never thought I’d see that cash again, but old Freddy was so pitiful, talking about how his daughter would never find a man and leave his house with that big ol’ shnozz of hers. Well, she looked fine to me, but I loaned him the money anyway, mostly to shut him up.

And then, by God, he paid me back. I wasn’t ready for that, you know; so I had to do something with the cash, and I figured I’d drive down to Abdulla’s and spring for another Falafel Pita. I felt generous, so I added a large grape soda, crushed ice. When I walked across the parking lot to the stock picker and his sign I was surprised to see a line. There were four people standing there, waiting to talk to the man, each one holding a bag of food.

I sidled up to the guy at the back, he had a brown bag with a spreading grease stain.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“He’s on break.”

The guy was sitting on his sign in the ditch, smoking a cigarette. Up close, he looked pretty ragged; his suit looked like crap – that Italian Wool isn’t designed to take in that much sun. He’d picked up an old Styrofoam cooler from somewhere; it looked like it had a bite out of one corner. After a half hour, he climbed out of the ditch and began taking food from the first person in line, dropping it in the cooler and whispering in his ear.

It didn’t take long to get to me. Nobody seemed interested in conversation. I handed him the pita and drink and he crammed them into the cooler with the other stuff. Nobody else was left around so he didn’t whisper.

“HGB,” he said.

“Crap, that’s a ripoff, that’s what you said last time.”

“Falafel gets you HGB.”

“But I bought you a drink. Grape!” I pleaded.

He shot me a look like he’d found me stuck to the bottom of his Pliners (which were starting to come apart at the seams, I noticed) slapped the lid on the cooler and started off with his sign under his arm. Well, that pissed me off, now I’m back on my old route; don’t ever want to drive by there again.

And wouldn’t you know it, those Rubber Ducks turned out to have some sort of water-soluble waste oil in them, it caused hallucinations in the short term and nasty hives later on … it was on Cable news and everything. Now that stock is in the toilet and I’m not going to get to go on my cruise this year. Now I need some investment counseling… you know there’s this guy on television, he’s dressed as an Indian, on the Spanish channel … it says his advice is always good, the first call is free…

 

Short Story Of the Day – The Iceberg (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“The old endless chain of love, tolerance, indifference, aversion and disgust”
― Samuel Beckett

(click to enlarge) “The Icebergs” by Fredrick Church, Dallas Museum of Art

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#54) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


The Iceberg

MODERN AMERICAN ARTS DIGEST —– AUGUST 13, 1996
ELMORE SPENCER – AN ARTIST WATERS HIS ROOTS
———————————————————-

Elmore Spencer has climbed the mountain of the art world. From a child prodigy that startled adults with his sketching skills at the age of six to a celebrated student of the Paris art schools to a meteoric rise to the jet-setting toast of the New York Art Society, Spencer has had it all.

Instrumental in founding the “New Realism” school, he then rejected this return to “Painting that looks like something” and veered off into innovative artistic experiments that challenged the border between art and observer, maintaining his success and popularity through it all.

Now, he struggles with a return to his roots, to maintain the connection with his audience that has been robbed by his decades of success. The conflict of the avant-garde and the traditional, realistic and symbolic, is at the heart of what Spencer is up to.

“It’s been a long road, but I’ve been lucky,” Spencer said in a recent interview, “To others its looks like a climb, a rise, but it’s a spiral, the further I go, the more times I return to the same place.”

His newest work is a sculpture, a pair of lovers – hyper-realistic. They sit on a bench in the darkest corner of a room with a film playing against a screen, they are only visible during a portion of the film, illuminated by a flame on the screen. They are locked in a kiss, an embrace, his hand is slipped inside her shirt, hers rests on his thighs. Most visitors think the couple is real, the museum received dozens of complaints.

Another sculpture is a mechanical museum guard. He stands inside the room. On those days the film is turned off. Infrared proximity sensors pick up any patron that enters the room, the ersatz guard then plays a recording, “I don’t know, they’re supposed to turn this film on.”

Other sculptures are occasionally placed in the room – such as an ersatz murder victim with a knife protruding from his back. These are obviously intended to shock or annoy. On certain days the room is empty, leading to a scene where patrons in the know walk around examining each other, trying to determine what is real and what isn’t.

Spencer often spends the day in his own installation, sitting on a bench with his famous sketchpad, drawing the observers. This has been so successful, he has taken to walking around the museum sketching patrons looking at art.

“As artists we live for the people that look at our work, really. We rarely think about them, or study them, or try to incorporate their lives into the art itself. I want to change that…….”

———————————————————-

“Shelby, Shelby!”

She turned from the painting, a huge panel covering most of the wall, hand painted with extreme skill to look like a blow-up of an article from an art magazine, to see her husband standing there.

“What do you want?”

“It’s time to leave.”

“I’m not finished reading this.”

“What the hell?”

“It’s by Spencer, My Life, it’s called. I haven’t decided what it means yet.” Shelby felt anger welling up in her throat. She’s known Jim, her husband, since they were children and they had argued many times over the years, but nothing like lately. There was a fight coming on, mean and nasty, with no resolution. She could feel the heat rising, like a hot nut right under her sternum.

“Come on!” Jim said, placing his hand on her arm, “We have things to do.”

Shelby wanted to explode, but the Kooning museum was not the place to have a knock-down, drag-out, so she walked stiffly in silence, stewing. They passed toward the entrance until they reached an area dominated by a huge landscape painting; the most famous work in the museum. It was a scene of icebergs, a giant white slope, under a brown and purple sky. The ice in the foreground was littered with debris, a shattered mast, a glacier torn boulder. The ice rose in craggy veined cliffs pierced by a surprising emerald green frozen tunnel. The calm sea was disturbed only by circular waves radiating out from some unseen event.

She could not stand it any more, she was so furious. Shelby pulled away and sat quickly down on a circular bench in front of the painting. Jim sat down beside her, staring wide-eyed. Pulling in her anger, she started to speak.

“Jim I…”

“Excuse me, folks,” said a man they hadn’t noticed. He was gray-haired, wearing old jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. He was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, a large sketchpad resting on his knees. “Do you mind sitting there for a while, I’d like to draw the two of you. If you don’t mind.”

Jim stammered, “Well, we have…”

“Sure, go right ahead,” Shelby interrupted.

“Alright then, umm. turn toward each other a little, now look at me…. Fine, why don’t you hold her hand a little…. That’s right.”

He started drawing right away. Working with colored pencils and some charcoal and a bit of an eraser. Jim and Shelby felt nervous; the fight, their day quickly forgotten.

“Ummm… try to relax, why don’t you tell me a story. Tell me about when you first met.”

“Well,” Jim started. Shelby was surprised that he spoke up so soon. She was getting ready to talk, but he beat her to it.

“We met in junior high school, seventh grade, we were both thirteen. She sat if front of me in
English class. I remember, I loved her from the first moment I saw her. I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Our teacher was old, he would lean on a podium and lecture us all class long. The room was too small, our desks were crammed together, her seat backed right up against my desk. All I would do is sit there and stare at Shelby’s hair. Her blonde hair. Sometimes she’d wear it down and it would fall in cascades right in front of me. Sometimes she’d wear it up, like a golden seashell, a yellow spiral. Sometimes in one ponytail, sometimes two, it didn’t matter. That was my favorite hour of every day, to sit in that hot crowded room and look at Shelby’s hair. I felt like I could do this forever, for the rest of my life.”

Shelby and Jim sat there then and talked. They talked of old times, when they were young and when they started dating. They talked of old friends. They talked of their first apartment, of their first house, of the cars they had bought together, of the meals they had cooked, of the vacations they had taken. They talked until the artist finished. He put his pencils back into a little wooden case.

“Done.”

“Well, can we see it?” they asked together.

“See it? You can have it.”

“Really?”

“Really”

He handed them the paper and thanked them simply. The artist walked around the corner and was gone.

The drawing had the iceberg painting in the background. Carefully done in colored pencil it was amazingly detailed and accurate. He must have been working on it for hours. The painting, or, rather the drawing of the painting faded in an oval spot near the center. He drew only around the edges, leaving a blank spot, waiting as he drew for someone to come along and fill it.

Shelby and Jim filled the oval. She gasped as she saw it, it was a life-like drawing, done in pencil and charcoal, cross-hatch and shades of gray, only a hint of color added. Detailed. It was realistic except that they both were drawn naked.

The lower right corner had a quickly scribbled “ES.”

Over a dozen people surrounded them watching the famous artist work, but Jim and Shelby had not even noticed. Embarrassed by the gathering crowd pointing to details on the sketch, they rolled up the drawing, and headed out to their parked car. They held hands as they walked, Shelby leaned her head on Jim’s shoulder as he drove.

They spent a lot of money to have the print professionally framed and mounted. Never really comfortable with the nudity, they couldn’t hang it in their living room. The framer recognized the signature, told them it would bring a lot of money at a sale and recommended a gallery. Jim and Shelby couldn’t sell it, though, it meant too much to them. They did hang it, in their bedroom, next to the closet.

For many decades, it was the last thing they saw at night when they went to sleep, the first thing in the morning when they woke up.

Short Story Of the Day – An Absolute Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“The old endless chain of love, tolerance, indifference, aversion and disgust”
― Samuel Beckett

Spring Creek, Garland, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#53) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


An Absolute Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex

Paul came out of the second hand store looking around for his car and stumbled over a woman sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk.

“Hey watch where you’re going!” she looked up at Paul.

She was very thin with stringy blondish hair wearing a ragged pair of jeans and a yellow t-shirt. Her dirty feet had worn leather sandals. Paul noticed the book she was reading – a garish orange cover and the title, “An Absolute Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex.”

“I stole this book you know,” she said. She stood up quickly in a smooth sort of unfolding motion, like she had raised herself off of sitting cross-legged on concrete many many times before.

“Yeah, stole it from this store here, they can see me sittin’ here reading it but they won’t say anything.”

“Paperback books are only a quarter,” was all Paul could think of to say.

“That’s not the point… hey, dude, where did you get that scar?”

“Paul’s my name, it’s from a knifefight.”

“Looks pretty fresh, you know, still sort of purplish,” she stepped forward and brazenly ran her fingers across Paul’s face, carefully tracing the line of the cut across his temple, cheek and jaw.

“Sally,” she finally said.

“Hey,” Sally continued, ” you got any beer or anything? I am sure thirsty.”

“Well,” Paul hesitated, his mind was suddenly cloudy and he felt like he was being pulled forward by a violent wind – or maybe pushed across a rough broken ground by forces unseen, a rushing storm or maybe even a tilting of the earth itself.

“Well, nothing… we could go buy something,” Paul said.

“You got a car?”

“Right here,” he said. They were standing right in front of his Chrysler.

“Great, let’s rock,” she said, “Hey, mind if we bring along a friend of mine, he’s a blast.”

Sally grabbed Paul’s forearm and pulled him around the corner of the thrift store. They fought their way through the random piles of old boxes and discarded merchandise that littered the lot, hidden from the street and parking lot by a sun-grayed wooden fence. The flotsam and jetsam of the thrift trade ended up here – the material too broken or filthy to even have worth in the lowest level of the civilized marketplace.

“Beaumont! Beaumont!” Sally yelled as the worked their way around the back of the thrift store and began pushing against the mat of tall thick dead dried weeds that divided the commercial strip from some rusty trash-strewn railroad tracks beyond. After a dozen cries and fifty feet of walking one particularly thick spherical leafless bush began trembling, then shaking as a shape began separating itself from the dead bush. The shape crawled a few feet and then stood up.

It was a tall man, skinny in the same way as Sally, topped with a greying beard and shock of matted dark hair spewing from underneath a plastic farm-implement cap worn backwards. The eyes between the beard and cap were live, blue, and darting. The man wore all denim, old jeans tucking into ragged cowboy boots, and a denim jacket with yellow lettering, “Big Bambu” and a green marijuana leaf over one pocket.

“Hey Beau, this is Sam, he’s got some cash and a car – wants to go get something to drink.”

“Well, then sir, I’m greatly pleased to meet you,” said Beau, ” his beard almost seemed to crack as it moved stiffly aside to adapt to a growing smile underneath, “an answer to our prayers.”

Beau pulled a plastic shopping bag stuffed full of shadowy items out from under the weedy bush and the three walked back around to Paul’s car.

“That’s quite a knife scar you’ve got there,”Beau said, “Looks awful fresh. Be sure and keep that sucker clean, wash it every day, or it’ll get swole up and never heal right – leave a nasty scar forever. Look at mine, here.”

Beau pulled the neck of his jacket aside and showed Paul an ugly puckered wound that slashed from Beau’s ear down across his neck until it disappeared under the jacket. Paul could see Beau wore no shirt under the denim jacket.

They piled into Paul’s car, Sally in front next to him and Beau stretched out in the back.

There was a shabby liquor store at the end of the block.

“How much cash you got on ya,” asked Sally.

“It looks like they take credit cards,” Paul said, pointing to a decal on the door, “I’ll use that.”

“Even better,” said Sally.

They bought a case of beer, some plastic bottles of vodka, a couple boxes of wine, and three giant bags of Funyuns.

Sally directed Paul out of the neighborhood maze and onto the frontage road of the interstate highway.

“Should I get onto the freeway?”

“No, stay here on the side road.”

“Here, pull in back here,” Sally indicated a dirt branch that led to a hidden spot behind an overgrown tangle – a bit of forgotten landscaping gone wild.

“This is our place,” said Sally, expectant, with a little bit of what sounded like pride leaking out with the words,”It’s pretty comfortable, the bridge keeps the rain out, and nobody, I mean nobody ever comes down here.”

It turned out to be a long day, a longer night, and an even longer morning, because morning always comes. The sun always comes up and it reaches everywhere, even into a pile of smoky, filthy rags under an interstate bridge.

Paul woke up naked and crusted with dried vomit. He remembered nothing from after he walked into the camp. His brain felt like it was swollen to twice its usual size and still stuck in the same head. The pressure felt like it would separate his skull along some jagged line, exploding his brain in sweet relief. Every nerve in his body was firing and the light pouring in from the end of the bridge was toxic.

His elbows and knees were scraped bloody and his tongue felt torn on the underside, like it had been half pulled out. He scrabbled around for his clothes, keys, and wallet and found nothing except a filthy pair of green shorts and an old jacket, a nasty stain coursed across the front.

He put those on and slid down the concrete slope back to his car. He wasn’t really surprised when he found the Chrysler missing.

Paul sat and cried for over an hour. He could not figure out how to get home. He considered hitchhiking but couldn’t imagine anyone stopping for a horrible apparition like himself.

Then Paul realized that the creek at the bottom of the interchange was the same system that coursed through his apartment complex. There were a couple branches but he thought he could follow the way, make the correct turns. He limped down into the stale slow-flowing water, the mud feeling good on his feet, but stinging his wounded knees and elbows. He noted the direction the water was flowing, turned into it and began trudging upstream.

It took him most of the day and his feet were cut and bloody from broken glass hidden in the mud at the bottom. He was seen only by a few children from the shelter of an organized pea-gravelled playground, telling their daycare sitters about the “funny man” that went running by.

Paul reached his door, dug the spare key out of the flowerpot… and was home. The hot shower wasn’t enough to get the smell out of his hair, his skin – the night had diffused through his whole body and was oozing out his pores.

He ate some aspirin, drank some apple juice, and burrowed naked into the deepest corner of his bed. There he tossed and turned and tried to fall asleep until that day slowly melted into dreams and nightmares and a stink he alone could smell and could never seem to completely wash out.

A Funeral Procession of the Dead

“What you see on the freeway is just what there is,
a funeral procession of the dead,
the greatest horror of our time in motion.
I’ll see you there tomorrow!”
Charles Bukowski, Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way

High Five Interchange, Dallas, Texas

A Fight on Royal Street

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day One, Monday, July 10, 2017

As we sit in a group listening to speakers outline the upcoming week – I find myself sitting next to a big window looking out across Royal Street. It is the usual narrow French Quarter lane – two stories – balconies above. I should pay better attention to the speakers but my eyes are drawn by the parade of sweating tourists moving by on the sidewalks. Some of them look into the window at all of us sitting there – confused looks, “What are these people doing in there?”

As I glance across the street I see an old man struggling to lean a bicycle against the wrought iron post supporting an overhead balcony. He had a red milk carton full of crap strapped to his bike – a sign of a serious bicycling homeless person. After he managed to lean the bike, he turned, stretched out, curled up, and went to asleep on the sidewalk. The tourist parade continued unabated. They would point at him as they passed.

It is almost like his location is marked on their tourist maps – “Unconscious Drunken Man with Bicycle.”

A few minutes later another odd man with another bike walks up and starts talking to him, “Hey! You’re sleeping on Royal Street! Do you need an ambulance?”

In a split second this disintegrated into shouted curses, “Fuck you!”, “No! Fuck YOU!” – over and over. I didn’t look up because I was writing the start of this thing here. But I heard a clattering and crashing – the two were now fighting.

(This all happened after I had already started on this subject or I would have written about something else.)

When I write I feel a need to explore the thin membrane between the comfortable everyday world we move in and the unimaginable terror of the chaos that rules on the other side.

This drunken bicycle guy lives right on the membrane, stretching it thin – crucified on the border between the tourists of the French Quarter and the trackless void beyond.

When I looked up, everyone had moved on.

I guess now they will have to change all the tourist maps.

I am at Austin Street Shelter

I was walking through downtown Dallas with a group of folks doing a photo walk – everybody with their cameras dangling, strolling, shooting – when on a bench in Main Street Garden Park I saw a tattered spiral notebook. I picked it up and saw that it was full of writing.

There wasn’t much time, everyone else was moving on – so all I could do is skim through. It was full of nice handwriting – page after page of misery and despair set down in cursive. I briefly thought of taking it with me so I could read it completely – maybe learn something.

But I didn’t. That didn’t seem right – the owner might come back for it. So I snapped a quick photo of the first page and set it back on the bench, exactly where it was.

First page of notebook found in Main Street Garden Park, Dallas, Texas

First page of notebook found in Main Street Garden Park, Dallas, Texas

Full Sized Version of the Photo on Flickr

9/22/2015
6:00 PM
I am at Austin Street Shelter, I’ve been here since March 23 with a couple of detours. They say it will be at least 6 more months before I get an apt. I hope this works out. I’m tired. I’m old.I need a place to call my own. I’m not interested in any relationship with men ever again. I’m thinking I might buy a trailer. I’m gonna start saving all I can…

Occupy New Orleans

While we were lost in Downtown New Orleans trying to find a place to park before the Tulane homecoming game we wandered by a little park, Duncan Plaza, across from City Hall. A good part of the open grassy area was covered by a motley encampment of multicolored nylon tents. My first reaction was to think this was where the city had allowed the homeless to gather. After a few seconds of thought I figured out what this was. I said, “Hey, this is Occupy New Orleans.” Then we were past and I found a parking lot nearby.

After the tailgate party and the game we walked back to the car as the sun set. This time we went right by Duncan Plaza and I asked Candy and Lee to wait at the corner while I loped over a little grassy rise to see what was up.

The Occupiers has set up what looked like a lending library in a park gazebo and beyond a few men listened to some guy yelling into a small public address system.

I guess this was a library the occupiers had set up for the education of the masses. I didn't have time to read anythin.

I like the one guy's cart with a portable sound system on it.

There didn’t seem to be very many folks there. Even though it was early Saturday evening I didn’t see enough people to fill a tenth of the tents. I guess without television cameras, press, or anybody watching at all the enthusiasm waned. I would have liked to have stayed at least long enough to try and understand what the guy was yelling about, but it was getting late and Candy and Lee were waiting on the sidewalk. I snapped a couple photos and left. As I was walking some guy asked me if he could take my picture with his camera phone.

We walked to the car and left. The Saints were playing the Indianapolis Colts the next day at the Superdome and a line of RVs and chartered buses were filing into the downtown parking lots. They disgorged thousands of fans wearing the familiar gold and black of Saints fans – walking into the restaurants that shovel out New Orleans’ famous cuisine. The sound was swelling from the jazz clubs as we drove the darkening streets out through the Garden District to meet up with some of Lee’s friends for dinner.

Cottonwood Trail

I remember in the mid eighties when the White Rock Creek trail was built here in Dallas. The city was installing a new massive water line along the creek and they decided to construct a concrete trail along the top of the pipe. This was a new idea at the time – the trail was too narrow and poorly designed in many parts – but it was wonderful. I lived near the lake and after work I would ride my bike to the lake, around it on the White Rock Lake Trail, then up and back on the creek trail – a total of about twenty five miles – almost every day.

I was young and in good shape and the ride was a blast. I still remember the thrill of flying across the city without the worry of being hit broadside by a pickup truck. I loved riding after work because I could speed past the packed up and stopped rush-hour commuters on their crowded freeways. It was the best of times.

Since then I’ve been an advocate for hike and bike trails – and the city has come a long way. Now, I’m more of a spectator than anything else… but I do what I can.

For years I have been following the building of the Cottonwood Trail – a hike and bike trail that runs from Richardson down under the High Five Interchange at Highway 75 and LBJ 635, then south through Hamilton Park until it connects up with the White Rock Creek Trail. This is an important connector trail, enabling bicycle commuters to pierce a large part of the DFW metroplex by connecting long existing trails through areas of heavy traffic that are otherwise impassible by bicycle or on foot.

I attended a lot of meetings when the High Five was being constructed, because it was affecting the commute to work of thousands of employees at my work site. During the presentations of the enormous, expensive, and complicated plans for ramps, frontage roads, and levels of access I noticed a thin green line snaking down along the creekbed in the maps and diagrams. The legend said the green line was a “hike and bike” trail.

In true government fashion, when I would ask about the green line, they would stare at the diagram and say, “I have no idea what that is, we’ll check it out and get back to you.” I never heard from anyone. I had to wait years until the thing was finished and then park my car and walk down there.

Sure enough, beneath the massive construction, there was a hike and bike trail. A beautiful trail, wide, landscaped, lit, and carefully designed and built to all the newest specifications. There was only one problem with this trail. It went nowhere. It dead ended at each end of the massive interchange – truly a road to nowhere. They weren’t able to get the cities that bordered the interchange to commit to connect up with the trail.

For years this strip of pavement was the best homeless shelter you could imagine. I would visit it every now and then and the number of tents, campfires, and piles of sleeping bags near the broken-out lighting fixtures in the shelter underneath the ramps grew and grew.

Finally, the wheels of progress turned and after half a decade or so the trail began to reach out from either end of the High Five. Videos – Going South, and Going North.  I checked up on the progress, encouraged that the trail finally gave a safe bicycle route to the campus where I work.

There was one piece missing, though. The final little bit that connected the trail with the White Rock Creek Trail (the main spine of the trail system that runs through this part of Dallas – the one I enjoyed so much a quarter century ago) was missing. They were taking forever to finish the thing.

Now it is done. And today I had a couple hours to pack up my bicycle and try to ride along the thing.

I packed my crappy old bicycle into the trunk of my car and drove down to the Forest Lane DART station to hop on the final part of the trail. I bought this bike used for ninety dollars almost twenty years ago, so it’s not surprising that I’m having some trouble with it.

The engine, of course, is the worst. It’s old, worn out, and generally gone to shit, but I’m stuck with that. Otherwise, the seat is breaking apart and the derailleurs don’t shift very well any more. I did some work on the front shift levers, moving the adjustment knob to try and get the shifting to improve, but it didn’t seem to help.

I hopped on and headed off. The heat is a little less toxic than it has been, though it is still horribly dry here. Right away I was having trouble. It was a struggle to pedal and my legs were aching and my breathing a chore. I was beginning to feel a little spark of panic – it wasn’t supposed to be this hard.

Then I realized that I had been turning the wrong adjustment knob when I was working on the front derailleur. I had been tightening the front brake by mistake, and it was dragging the bike to a stop.

Fixing that helped a lot – though for the rest of the day I was panicked and tired.

At any rate, I had a good time. The little bit of trail seemed anti-climatic after all the years of anticipation, but that’s that. I wish the thing was there when I was riding all those years ago… or, really, I wish that I could ride like that again.

Old End

This is where the Cottonwood Trail ended the last time I rode it. This is in Hamilton Park, just south of the High Five Interchange.

Now

Here is the same spot now. Those "Trail Subject to Flooding" signs are everywhere, though I can't imagine a drop of water right now.

A little farther.

A little farther down the trail, where it crosses under Forest Lane. One reason the construction took so long is that there was a lot of work involved in this road crossing and the creek bridge.

Forest Lane DART station

The entry to the trail at the Forest Lane DART station.

Bicycle Lockers

Cool looking bicycle lockers at the DART station.

Creek Bridge

The bridge over Cottonwood Creek. Another "Trail Subject to Flooding" sign. Wishful thinking. I don't know where the trickle of water still in the creek comes from.

Rest Area

The trail runs through some thick woods between the train line and the creek south of Forest Lane. There is a nice rest area built there. This homeless guy was sitting in the rest area, reading and writing in his notebook. We talked about the weather and I helped him find a lost sock.

White Rock Creek

The southern terminus of the Cottonwood Creek trail, where it connects with the White Rock Creek Trail. The DART train is crossing White Rock Creek over the trail.