In Its Own Way

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Leo Tolstoy , Anna Karenina

Huffhines Creek, Richardson, Texas

There is always someone like the duckling in the lower left corner. In unknown danger, not in with the group, crossing upstream, almost alone. Is it you? Really? Are you sure?

One Of Those Manifold Alternatives Open To Us

“We have annexed the future into the present, as merely one of those manifold alternatives open to us. Options multiply around us, and we live in an almost infantile world where any demand, any possibility, whether for life-styles, travel, sexual roles and identities, can be satisfied instantly.”
J.G. Ballard, Crash

Wrecked Car waiting for the decision – scrap or repair

For me, the most amazing aspect of a car crash – even the simplest fender bender – is the sound. The sharp snap of breaking safety glass, the thud of impact, the groaning of thick bending metal. Behind it all is the sound of entropy increasing, of the inevitable disaster that lies behind the veneer of our day to day lives. The reality forced upon us that there is no going back… time only runs one way.

Spider Update

“But how can you walk away from something and still come back to it?”
“Easy,” said the cat. “Think of somebody walking around the world. You start out walking away from something and end up coming back to it.”
“Small world,” said Coraline.
“It’s big enough for her,” said the cat. “Spider’s webs only have to be large enough to catch flies.”
Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Trinity River Levee
Dallas, Texas

Only two days ago I wrote about the spider that lives in the driver’s side rear view mirror on my car.

He has been there every morning. Today, watching his behavior closely, I realized what he is doing.

When I came to my car he was nowhere to be seen, but his web was stretched out from the mirror capsule to the door. It was oval, complex, symmetrical, and beautiful shining gossamer in the rising sun.

As I drove down the road, suddenly he emerged, fighting the wind, moving over his web as best as he could.

Why didn’t he stay put? Why did he come out of the safety of the mirror housing to flap around in the speeding air?

I watched him (as best as I could… I had to drive) and suddenly realized what he was doing – what he was doing every morning out there.

He was eating his web. First, he gathered all the disparate strands into one, thick, sturdy rope and once that was accomplished, he devoured the strand surprisingly quickly. Only then did he return to the safety of the mirror housing.

I wasn’t sure if I saw it right, so I looked up “Do spiders eat their old webs?” on the internet. Sure enough, they do.

From Indiana Public Media:

Look around many homes and businesses today, and you’ll see recycling bins full of paper, metal cans, and plastic.

In a world of limited resources, it makes sense to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. That’s why humans aren’t the first to try to conserve natural resources by recycling. Spiders have their own program to recycle valuable protein.

Tangled Prey

The spiders we’re talking about are the orb-weavers, the ones that make those rounded, intricate webs you see shimmering between branches in a garden or forest. To increase their chances of capturing prey, orb-weavers’ webs are often located in high traffic areas. This makes damage to the web more likely, either when a scrumptious morsel gets tangled in it or when a bumbling human gets hung up for a few seconds!

Some orb-weavers remake their webs every day, whether it’s damaged or not. Since spider’s silk is made of protein, all this web-weaving requires considerable amounts of protein. What if a nice, protein-rich insect doesn’t get trapped in the web every day? What’s a hungry orb-weaver to do?

Recycling

That’s where the spider’s genius for recycling comes in. When the orb-weaver takes apart an old web, it actually eats the silk. The protein from the old silk is never wasted, from the spider’s digestive system, it goes to the silk glands to be made into a new web. Even if a spider misses a few meals, it can still go on spinning webs. This is thanks to the efficient recycling program that lets spiders conserve protein by eating old webs.

You learn something new every day.

Make the World A Better Looking Place

“Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.”
Banksy, Wall and Piece

Fabrication Yard, Dallas, Texas

The odor of drying alkyd is overpowering. Almost as strong as the smell of burning weed.

Spider In the Darkness

“If there is a God he’s a great loathsome spider in the darkness.”
John Fowles, The Collector

Louise Bourgeois, Spider

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans Museum of Art

spide_w
(Click for full size version on Flickr)

There is a spider living inside the driver’s side rear view mirror on my car. It’s a modern, streamlined plastic capsule that holds, in addition to the mirror, the mechanism for remote adjusting of the view, so there’s plenty of room. Since the mirror moves, there’s a gap around it, so the spider can easily slip in and out. It is pretty much ideal for a spider to live in.

When I say he lives there, I mean he spends the day there. At night he spins a web between the mirror and my driver’s side window. He must catch plenty to eat, because when I first noticed him, he was a tiny little arachnid-ette but now he’s a big fat Shelob-ish thing. I don’t see the spider every day, but it isn’t rare.

You see, the problem is, being a spider, he hasn’t figured out the whole car thing. I notice the spider when I drive to work – he is next to my face, after all, on the other side of the glass but right there. I guess some days, maybe the days I’m running late to work (usually) he takes down his insect-trap and retreats inside the mirror assembly before I come out and start the car. But if I’m early or he’s late he gets caught out there, on his web, while I drive down the road. These are residential streets so I don’t go much faster than forty – but that’s a lot of wind for a spider in a web. He swings and flails and hangs on for dear life.

Does a spider feel pain? Does a spider get dizzy? He must not because he was caught in a certain configuration this morning such that he started to spin in the wind hanging on a strand of web behind the mirror. When I say spin I mean spin. Like a tiny top on a string round and round extremely fast. A little pea sized arachnid blur – his legs held together, disappearing with the speed. But when I came to a stop sign he calmly set about his business of tidying up his web until I took off again – then he spun some more.

That’s the funny thing, during my ragged commute he alternates between swinging or spinning wildly in the wind when I’m moving to working his web remnants at stop signs or red lights. He has a mysterious spider purpose in arranging what’s left of his nightly web. I don’t know why he can’t simply let it go… he’s going to make a new one each night anyway. At any rate – usually about halfway to my work – I’ll stop for a minute and he’ll calmly move up the web and disappear behind the mirror to do spider things the rest of the day.

I don’t know what to do. I can’t really rescue him – and I’m a little afraid of him. But one day soon I won’t be going to work, but will have to drive somewhere on the highway. There’s a difference in the spider world between a forty mile per hour wind and one going, say, eighty.

Look At Your Waiter’s Face. He knows.

“Look at your waiter’s face. He knows. It’s another reason to be polite to your waiter: he could save your life with a raised eyebrow or a sigh.”
Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

 

One of the last Sears stores closed in a giant parking lot (that used to be a mall, a long time ago) a few blocks from my house. This creates a vacuum sitting on top of a vast sea of tarmac. The local chatter is full of re-zoning talk. The first step is to change the zoning to allow restaurants with drive-thru service (really? That isn’t allowed in Texas Suburbia?) and everyone on the neighborhood interwebs is excited about the proposed chain restaurants that will start to fill the area (truth be told, one of them is something I’ll enjoy having in easy bicycle range). At first I was a bit aggravated – who wants more chain restaurants? We need locally owned, original (ethnic) food, not more giant corporate chains.

But after thinking a bit, I withdraw my objection. There are plenty, and I mean plenty (and by plenty I mean more than you could eat at in a lifetime) locally owned, original (ethnic) food in my ‘hood. If you are not from here you think of Texas as a giant redneck bastion of right-wing evil. But Texas in general and my suburb in particular (especially my side [the poor side] of said inner-ring suburb) is surprisingly diverse. I boast, with only a little hyperbolic exaggeration, that I can eat the cuisine of any country you name within walking distance of my house.

There is a life cycle of a restaurant building. It may start out as a chain, staked upfront by distant investment bankers, built to careful specifications developed with focus groups and people with MBA’s that would never eat fast food in their real lives. These chains last… maybe a decade, then they either go broke or move to somewhere more shiny and modern. That’s when the locals, usually immigrants take over. The best eating in the country is in one of the constellation of family-owned eating places in the shells of ex-fast food establishments that now serving up noodle soup, or tacos, or chicken on spits, or baklava and shwarma, or mysterious lumps in delicious sauce from a wok fired red-hot over a vertical jet engine cooker… or something like that. You know what I mean. Every city is like this.

So, when I moved in there was a chain Pizza Buffet called Mr. Gatti’s down on the corner of Belt Line and Jupiter. Well, a few years ago it closed down. It actually moved to a really nice, new location (with beer!) a mile away – which went under after a year. A string of low-quality pizza places tried to make a go of it in the building. The first one, obviously under-funded, tried to save money by painting out all but the first letters on the sign and going by the moniker, Mr. G Pizza. It didn’t last very long.

Over the next couple of years the place went through several iterations, some only lasting weeks. Whenever I see a restaurant open and close that quickly, I wonder if some sort of an investment scam is going on. At any rate, I lost track of the place and never thought of it. I drove by that corner a lot, but the traffic is bad there and I tended to look at the other cars instead. Then one day, not too long ago, I went through there as a passenger and was able to spot a new sign at that location. It said:

Di-an-gi Pho-Burgers-Tacos

New restaurant at Belt Line and Jupiter, Richardson, Texas.

Di-an-gi Facebook Page

Pho… Burgers… and Tacos! I have never heard of this combination before. There are a lot of burger joints in my neighborhood, gobs of tacos (one of the last Taco Bueno locations is right next door), and God only knows how many Pho-slinging establishments… but this one is All Three!

I had to go and try it out. Despite the threat of rain, I saddled up my bicycle and headed down. Unfortunately, although the location is not far from my house, it is difficult to access by bike – I had to do some sidewalk riding to get there.

And it was very good – better than I expected. Very clean and well-arranged. Very friendly and attentive service. I was glad to see there were a healthy smattering of customers – hopefully it will remain in business for more than a while. I know I’ll be back.

So, the big question is what did I order? This time, for some reason, I had the hamburger. It was freshly made and served with an excellent and unusual spicy sauce on the side.

Next time… Pho. And then Tacos.

We Ourselves Flash And Yearn

“Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn”
John Berryman, The Dream Songs

Hall Arts Plaza, Dallas, Texas

I have never completely recovered from the time when I realized that the cotton in the aspirin bottle was not necessary and you did not have to replace it after you extracted your tablet – a belief that, as a child, I structured my entire world around.