We Have To Be Greater Than What We Suffer

“No matter how buried it gets, or lost you feel, you must promise me, that you will hold on to hope and keep it alive. We have to be greater than what we suffer. My wish for you is to become hope. People need that.”
Gwen Stacy, Spiderman

Spiderman Piñata, Kidd Springs Park, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas

 

Spiderman Piñata, Kidd Springs Park, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas

Until the Neck Vertebra Begin To Crack

“While serving one of his countless sentences of imprisonment, he was given ex-wrestler Paul as cell companion. Paul was at that time a dock worker; he was in jail for having, during a strike riot, remembered his professional past and applied the grip known as a double Nelson to a policeman. This grip consisted in passing one’s arms through the opponent’s arm­pits from behind, locking one’s hands behind his neck, and pressing his head down until the neck vertebra began to crack. In the ring this had always brought him considerable applause, but he had learned to his regret that in the class struggle the double Nelson was not done.”
Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon

Luchadores, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas

I Don’t Understand How It Subtracts

“I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”
Richard P. Feynman

Mural by Sour Grapes Crew (detail) Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas (taken from Dallas Streetcar window)

Lower Pantograph

“My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know that it exists.”
― Nikola Tesla

Signs at one end (downtown) of the Dallas Streetcar

 

I am always looking for “found poetry” – especially on posted signs – these are messages that make sense to the person putting them up – and maybe to the intended viewer – but are utter, strange nonsense (poetry) to the average passer by.

Waiting for the streetcar, I saw the sign “Lower Pantograph Before Departing Stop.Poetry.

It isn’t hard to figure that one out, though. To me, a pantograph is a simple mechanical device consisting of linked rods used to enlarge drawings by hand.

Pantograph Animation

But it has an alternate meaning (at least one). It’s the device on the top of a streetcar used to connect to the overhead wires.

Transport Pantograph

But what does “lower pantograph” mean?

Well, the Dallas Streetcar has one unique property. One mile of its journey is across the Houston Viaduct, which has a historical designation. That means they could not install poles and overhead wires along that stretch of track. The streetcar uses internal batteries for that stretch, charging them with overhead wires the rest of the journey. Therefore, the “Lower Pantograph Before Leaving Stop” and “End Of Wire” warning signs to remind the operator that the vehicle was about have to go on battery power.

I still think it’s poetry.

View from the high point of the Jefferson Viaduct Cycletrack, Trinity River, Dallas, Texas.
The closest bridge is the Houston Viaduct, where the Dallas Streetcar runs. I took this photo in 2012, the whole area looks different now – I’ll have to ride my bike down there the next sunny day and take an updated shot.

Beer and Batuman

“I found myself remembering the day in kindergarten when the teachers showed us Dumbo, and I realized for the first time that all the kids in the class, even the bullies, rooted for Dumbo, against Dumbo’s tormentors. Invariably they laughed and cheered, both when Dumbo succeeded and when bad things happened to his enemies. But they’re you, I thought to myself. How did they not know? They didn’t know. It was astounding, an astounding truth. Everyone thought they were Dumbo.”
― Elif Batuman, The Idiot

The Idiot, by Elif Batuman

Oblique Strategy: You are an engineer

In my struggle to live life outwardly, I spotted an event on Facebook that looked interesting. There was going to be a Book Club discussion at The Wild Detectives in Bishop Arts. I love that place – named after a Roberto Bolaño novel – it has a carefully curated collection of books, coffee and beer. What else do you need? On the weekends, they turn the wifi off – so people will be forced to talk to each other.

What could be better than to meet in a place like that and talk about a book?

The selected tome was The Idiot by Elif Batuman. The book is a bildungsroman about a ninteen-year-old woman attending her first year at Harvard.

I only had a little over a week before the meeting so I set up a spreadsheet with the number of pages per day I had to read. I have a terrible confession to make. I had a nice heavy hardback copy and the Kindle version. I never picked up the physical book. The new Paperwhite is simply too good.

I’m sorry.

The book was very interesting. Terribly well-written, it was unique in that the protagonist, Selin, was the most passive main character I have ever read in a novel. She drifts along, only slightly buffeted by life. Reading about her, I had the image of a person sliding down a featureless sheet of ice, silently observing the scenery go by (in very great and subtle detail).

So my feelings on the novel were mixed. It was interesting in that this woman’s life in her freshman year was incredibly different than mine (in a bildungsroman you can’t help but compare the protagonists experiences to your own) – for example: sex, drugs, and rock and roll make no significant appearance in her life at all.

One interesting aspect of the novel is that it takes place at the very beginning of the internet age: Selin is confused at first by this email thing – until she embraces it and has the most significant relationship with a slow email conversation with someone she met in Russian class.

The Wild Detectives is way across town from my ‘hood and I fought through the traffic after work, arriving early enough for a preliminary beer (Texas Ale Project‘s Fire Ant Funeral – if you are interested).

I really enjoyed the discussion. We started talking about the cover (I never even noticed there was a rock on the cover). Talking about the email, someone brought up that it was like letter writing in the time of classic Russian Novels (like Dostoevsky’s own version of The Idiot) people would write letters to each other, the distance and time separating the two adding a surreal aspect to a relationship.

A very nice way to wile away an evening.

The next novel we will discuss is The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet. I bought a hardback copy at the bookstore – I’ll avoid temptation and not buy the Kindle version. We won’t meet until January, so I won’t need a spreadsheet to egg on the pages.

What I learned this week, August 5, 2017

Speaking of Bike Lanes…

Someone took the future into their own hands and installed a bandit bike lane on a street in Oak Cliff. Complete with barriers and paint – it was done for a couple hundred dollars and in a few hours – not over the years and tens of thousands of dollars the city requires.

Of course it was deemed “illegal” and immediately removed.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.



 
 
Sometimes there are no words for the pernicious vastness of human stupidity.
 

Not a shot! Anti-vax movement prompts Brooklynites to withhold inoculations from their pets, vets say

 

A Clinton Hill–based veterinarian said she has heard clients suggest the inoculations could give their pups autism, however, echoing the argument of those who oppose vaccinating kids. But even if pooches were susceptible to the condition, their owners probably wouldn’t notice, according to the doctor.

“I had a client concerned about an autistic child who didn’t want to vaccinate the dog for the same reason,” said Dr. Stephanie Liff of Clinton Hill’s Pure Paws Veterinary Care. “We’ve never diagnosed autism in a dog. I don’t think you could.”

My son’s dog, Champ


On the Road with Cirque du Soleil: Brompton is the Star of the Show

I have always loved Cirque du Soleil – now I like it even a little more. Run away to the circus on a Folding Bike!

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I was surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.


More New Yorkers Opting for Life in the Bike Lane

Biking has become part of New York’s commuting culture as the city expands bike routes and Citi Bikes become ubiquitous. There are more than 450,000 daily bike trips.


I found these articles on the word’s worst smelling stuff fascinating. Then again, it is what I do for a living.

Things I Won’t Work With: Thioacetone

But today’s compound makes no noise and leaves no wreckage. It merely stinks. But it does so relentlessly and unbearably. It makes innocent downwind pedestrians stagger, clutch their stomachs, and flee in terror. It reeks to a degree that makes people suspect evil supernatural forces. It is thioacetone.

The Dangerous Stink of the World’s Smelliest Chemical

“During early experiments, a stopper jumped from a bottle of residues, and, although replaced at once, resulted in an immediate complaint of nausea and sickness from colleagues working in a building two hundred yards away.”


The amazing ways the function keys F1 to F12 can save you a ton of time


When I Replaced Soviet Workers in the U.S. Embassy

If this seemed like overkill, I quickly learned that it wasn’t. Over the course of my time at the embassy, all kinds of strange episodes occurred. One Saturday, while I was on a sightseeing trip to Leningrad, a Russian stranger sidled up to me and murmured, “So, how’s everything at the embassy?” (A classic K.G.B. move, a diplomat later told me, to “let you know they’re watching.”) Another time, a new Russian friend — a pianist at the Moscow Conservatory, whom I’d met by chance in the Metro — referred to plans I had for the following weekend, although I hadn’t yet told him about them. Even more ominously, after I tipsily confessed to a fellow American that I’d had a girlfriend in college, a pretty Russian woman started showing up at embassy parties and chatting flirtatiously with me. Was she a K.G.B. agent, sent to seduce me just as Violetta Seina seduced Clayton Lonetree? Or was I just imagining things? It was impossible to know for sure.


Here’s another short film for your enjoyment – this one also stars Natalie Dormer.

Oak Cliff Bicycle Tour de Taqueria – Fall Edition

In North Texas there are two slivers of time each year – one in the spring and one in the fall – where the weather is passable for outdoor activities. The rest of the time the air is cold and wet or – especially – deadly hot. Right now, in mid-October, is one of those salad times.

Last spring – April – Bike Friendly Oak Cliff sponsored a bicycle tour of taquerias in their part of the city. I went, wrote about it, and had a good time. Now, as part of their Cyclesomatic October, a celebration of the nice weather, they were sponsoring a second helping of tour de taqueria.

On Saturday I rode in a bike ride where we toured a number of breweries. Luckily, I was careful to not imbibe too much, yet stay hydrated, so I felt good enough to venture forth on two wheels and pedals for a second day in a row.

I had been having trouble riding lately and thought it was due to bad hay fever or the ravages of age, but this morning I did some routine maintenance on my road bike and discovered a simple fault I should have noticed (the front tire off-center and rubbing on the fork) and didn’t. I fixed it, adjusted and lubricated everything and was set to go. It made all the difference.

However, the maintenance work took up a couple hours and set me, as usual, behind schedule, so instead of taking the train to Oak Cliff I loaded up my car and drove down. One nice thing about driving with a bike is that you don’t have to park close – which helped out in Bishop Arts on a nice Sunday Afternoon.

The tour started out at The Wild Detectives – one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a combination bookstore, coffee house, and craft beer dispensary – what can be better than that? An establishment dedicated to reading material, roasted Arabica beans, and fresh suds on tap… I’m glad it’s a long way from where I live or I would be there all the time.

The Taco ride starts at The Wild Detectives in the Bishop Arts District.

The Taco ride starts at The Wild Detectives in the Bishop Arts District.

Last time, the taco tour had five stops and a huge crowd. This go-round we only had three taquerias scheduled and a more manageable group – and I was happy for this.

Our first stop was El Taxqueño Taqueria at 207 W. Suffolk Ave – a nice restaurant with indoor seating and a patio. It’s right off Interstate 35 going south of the city – pretty handy. The owners were very welcoming and bike-friendly – I’ll definitely be back.

First Stop - El Taxqueño Taqueria

First Stop – El Taxqueño Taqueria

Then we headed west to Los Torres Taqueria at Clarandon and Edgefield. It’s a popular spot that has won best Taco Joint from D Magazine the last two years. It’s reputation is well deserved.

Los Torres Taqueria

Los Torres Taqueria

After Los Torres we headed north on a long downhill run on Edgefield until we crossed Interstate 30, then turned East to the rapidly developing West Dallas neighborhood off the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

We stopped at La Gaviota Taqueria off the Interstate next to the huge postal service station there. I had never seen this place or known it was there, but it too was worth the effort to find and ride there.

La Gaviota Taqueria

La Gaviota Taqueria

Now it was time to head back to The Wild Detectives and we had to earn back the downhill coasting. There are some steep heart-wrenching hills in Kessler Park, and we earned our daily tacos fighting up them.

A great time. Next week is another bike ride in in Oak Cliff – the Stevie Ray Vaughn Memorial Ride. Be there or be square.