“Artists use frauds to make human beings seem more wonderful than they really are. Dancers show us human beings who move much more gracefully than human beings really move. Films and books and plays show us people talking much more entertainingly than people really talk, make paltry human enterprises seem important. Singers and musicians show us human beings making sounds far more lovely than human beings really make. Architects give us temples in which something marvelous is obviously going on. Actually, practically nothing is going on.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons
“Rockabye Baby, in the treetop
Dont you know a treetop
is no safe place to rock?
And who put you up there,
and your cradle too?
I think someone down here
has got it in for you!”
― Shel Silverstein
I decided to ride up to CityLine, about a five mile ride from my house. It’s a huge new development in the long-vacant space of the old Huffhines family farm. At first I was a bit disappointed in the development but as it has matured and mellowed out I am beginning to really like the place. There are sculptures of all sizes and styles scattered throughout – I sat near this one and enjoyed a water bottle before riding back home.
“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup”
― Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings
Here’s what’s in my journal – so you don’t have to strain to read it:
Monday – August 15th 2022
7:20 Staycation Coffee
Woke up at six – not sure why, but slept well and felt good. Maybe lack of television (I’m embarking on my reading plan – finished “Desperate Characters” last night – read in 2 days) – have to try that more. Read a chapter (1) of “Mobius Dick” in the backyard before dawn – then left home on my bike at about six thirty when the sun came up. Nice ride here – went by way of Spring Valley – 4 miles – I wanted to see what Staycation was like at seven on a workday – a little disappointed – only one other customer – bought single-origin drip – an Ethiopian blend – pretty good…
Let Me Sip.
I took this photo with my phone and posted it to ‘Gram/Facebook and someone asked about my pens – both the one you can see and the other three in the case. Here’s my reply:
I don’t usually carry nice/expensive pens on my bike – the one you see is one of my favorites, though it is inexpensive. It is a ten dollar Jinhao 159 with a custom Goulet Pens #6 nib. The pen cost under ten dollars (the nib was about fifteen, I think) and I have had people ask, “Is that a Montblanc?” The other pens are a Platinum Preppy, a Hero 616 Parker “51” clone, and, I guess the best, a vintage touchdown-filling Sheaffer inlaid nib pen.
I wrote some more, rode home (by a longer route to get 12 miles in) and the day was still only beginning.
“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now
Every morning I have been making a thermos of coffee and taking it with me on a bike ride – stopping after a few miles in a shady spot to drink my hot beverage. But today I left my Aeropress and bean grinder on the shelf and rode four miles to The Coolest Coffee Shop in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex for a large drip. The Staycation coffee was good – a bit darker of a roast than I usually choose, but better (much) than a Starbucks. They advertise Single Origin Coffee for market price – and I want to go try that out – but it was very busy today – a mother with three kids in front of me took ten minutes to choose their pastries – and the woman behind the counter looked relieved when I said, “Large drip, please.”
I was tempted by the cool air conditioning inside – it hit one hundred and seven today – but I went ahead and plopped down at the end of a big picnic table outside. I had brought a journal (I have a blue dotted book I use exclusively for cycling notes) and a selection of fountain pens – so I sat down to sip my coffee and write a couple of pages.
It reminded me of a time more than two decades ago when I would drop Lee off for two hours of art lessons and then go to Starbucks (no local gourmet coffee then) and write while I listened to the folks around me talk. On Saturday mornings in Starbucks there were a lot of people confessing their sins of Friday night.
Outside at Staycation is filled with young mothers and their children – so no juicy gossip. The women next to me were talking about books – I need to bring my Kindle to Staycation and read a bit – that would be nice.
The mercury was rising and I wanted to get another eight miles in so I didn’t stay too long. It was nice, though. I need to go back and try some single origin.
“After being bombarded endlessly by road-safety propaganda it was almost a relief to find myself in an actual accident.”
― J.G. Ballard, Crash
I futzed and dutzed around today and didn’t get out for my daily bike ride until the brutal heat of the afternoon. It wasn’t too bad, though, I took some ice and water and at least on a bike you make your own breeze.
I found the bike trail blocked at Larkspur and Plano roads. Someone had hit a protective bollard, bending it more than a bit, and knocked the stop sign/street sign over. There was broken glass everywhere, though the car(s) involved were long towed away. I cut through a church parking lot and rode some residential streets to avoid the broken glass and bent steel.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.”
—–Shakespeare, Henry V, Act-III, Scene-I
There are a lot of brick walls in my part of town (inner-ring suburb) dividing the houses and yards from the every-mile streets – dividing the neighborhood from the outside world.
If you look at these walls, especially at places where streets dead-end into the surrounding road – you will see an odd variation in the types of bricks used. People don’t stop. Cars veer out of control. Then it is time to repair the wall – and exact matches of brick are impossible to find.
On a bike ride I came across an intact breaching – waiting for a work crew to come out in the summer heat and mortar new almost-matching bricks back into the breach.
It’s impossible not to look through the hole – sometimes it’s surprising what’s on the other side.
“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell.”
― Richard P. Feynman
Jesus! I almost completely forgot!
It was six forty today and I was puttering around the house doing six-forty PM sorts of things when I remembered that over a week ago I had bought a movie ticket for a seven o’clock movie tonight.
An email had arrived touting a “Secret Screening” at the Alamo Drafthouse Richardson. That is where, for a discount ticket of six bucks, you get to see a movie – probably a genre movie from decades past – but you don’t know what movie you are going to see until it starts. I know that sounds nuts – but it is the sort of thing I can’t resist. When I checked the seating – although it was almost two weeks out – there were only single seats left, the others had already sold out. So I bought a ticket and proceeded to forget about it until six forty tonight.
Luckily, the Alamo isn’t very far away (remember – that theater chain won’t let you in after the movie starts) and I through some pants on and jumped in my car. It has been eleven days since I retired and this is the first time I’ve been in my car (I have ridden with other folks) since I stopped working. All other trips have been by bike – and I would have ridden to the Alamo if I had remembered earlier. Luckily, it started right up and shook the summer dust off and made it to the theater with a few minutes to spare. I need to get over being a boomer and learn a decent, reliable system of reminders for my phone.
I ordered a Temptress and sad back to see what movie we were going to be treated to.
It was a film called Prime Cut from 1972. When the name was announced, I didn’t think I had seen it, but when the guy came out and started to talk about it I realized that I had seen it, when it was released, but had not thought about it for, maybe, forty years. Let’s see, in 1972 I was in Nicaragua, so I would have seen it a year later – so I saw it in 1973 – forty-nine years ago. I remembered little bits about it – it was set in Kansas City, my old stomping grounds – and although KC is actually in Missouri, the film takes place in rural Kansas – though it isn’t a very good representation (there is a scene with a combine – a very good scene – an homage to North by Northwest – but the combine does something that combines can’t do – and believe me, I used to drive one of the damn things).
It’s a mob movie set in the wheat fields, a ton of violence and nudity, completely politically incorrect, a movie that could never be made today. It was of its time – a true genre film but with a strange, dark sense of humor. A lot of black comedy in the film.
One thing unusual for a movie of this type is that all three main characters are played by actors that won academy awards (four in total). The anti-hero is played by Lee Marvin, the bad guy by Gene Hackman, and Sissy Spacek – in her first speaking movie roll (four years before Carrie).
The crowd was into it – it’s the kind of people that will pack a theater to see a movie when they don’t know what it will be. They laughed at the anachronisms and sick humor and cheered the ending and again after the credits.
So I guess I had better check the calendar and buy tickets for next month’s Secret Screening. They teased us and said that since it was the 90th Secret Screening it would be a film from the 90’s – not much of a clue.
“I love the smell of book ink in the morning.”
― Umberto Eco
Day two of the rest of my life. I didn’t get up as early as I liked – but I did pack up my bike and hit the road by 8 AM. Today I decided simply to loop around through the square mile of the Duck Creek Neighborhood – and get my five miles in that way.
I stopped five miles in and grabbed a table under the trees in Huffhines Park (not far at all from where I live). After my ride yesterday I added a pair of Bluetooth earbuds, a notebook, reading glasses, and a Kaweco Sport fountain pen – so I could sit, listen to music, drink my thermos of coffee, and write a bit.
It was so nice. A large group was playing cricket in the outfield of the softball diamond. I remembered when I was at a meeting with the Richardson Park Department at the Huffhines Recreational Center (right across the little pond from where I sat today) I recommended the city put in a proper cricket pitch on some vacant parkland across Plano road. They looked at me like I had lost my mind – but I stand by my idea.
I watched a large bug climbing the tree next to me. Huge, black, full of odd angles and jagged bits (I guess to make him look unappealing to predators) he used his surprisingly delicate legs to find his way up the rough park towards the distant leaves.
The squirrels chattered by, one hauling a half of an Osage Orange fruit up a tree.
There is a constant parade of walkers – most with dogs – going by on the jogging trail. A mother with her young daughter strolled by – the daughter was blind, feeling ahead with her white-tipped cane, but with confident strides holding her mother’s hand.
And I finished my coffee – I let the song come to an end and packed it all up. I put in another five miles – I need to drink my coffee sooner – it gave me a burst of energy, I felt faster and the pavement rolled by easier.
“Every Rejection, Every Disappointment Has Led You Here To This Moment”
— Alpha Waymond, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Partly out of desire… but mostly out of necessity (we are down to one working car) I have been riding the five mile commute to my work on my bike every day. The mornings are OK – except I have to get up twenty minutes before dawn so I’m riding before it gets too hot – the rising sun slowly burning away the morning fog. The afternoon commute is already too hot, though – here in Texas it’s already in the mid to high nineties most days.
There was a movie I’ve been wanting to see – Everything Everywhere All at Once. It was showing at the Alamo Drafthouse here in Richardson at 6:15. My commute is five miles, it’s three or so miles to the theater, and four and a half home from there. Easy riding – except for the heavy rush hour traffic around downtown Richardson and coming off Highway 75. So I sneaked out of work a few minutes early and rode up to the Alamo.
It was hot and I was sweating like a stuck pig. A bit embarrassing, but I arrived a bit early so I bought a cold beer (Lakewood Temptress on tap) and sat in a dark booth in the back of the cool bar until the movie was announced… I was able to cool and dry off enough to at least be almost presentable.
The movie is getting a lot of hype —- and it deserves every bit of it… and more. It is not a perfect film – it is way too ambitious for that – and when the filmmakers have a chance to go for it… the do that and more.
I can’t really explain the plot. It’s the story of a middle aged Chinese woman named Evelyn (played by the incredibly talented Michelle Yeoh) and her immigrant family (with a very American lesbian daughter) that lives in a tiny apartment over their failing laundromat. They are straining with family drama and friction and are about to undergo an IRS audit. At that point Evelyn discovers that there is an infinite multiverse made up of all the different realities that each person has created with every decision they make. Not only that, but there is an evil creature named Jobu Tupaki that is jumping through the multiverse, destroying everything. Jobu makes Thanos look like a piker. Evelyn, this failing version of Evelyn, this worst of all possible Evelyns, is the only person that can stop this.
She is torn between saving all the universes and trying to complete her IRS audit. Things get strange after that.
This is not a sufficient explanation of the plot or an adequate description of what the movie feels like – those things are impossible. You have to see it to believe it.
Boiled down – it’s the eternal struggle between the googly eye and the everything bagel (really). You have to see it to understand.
Just see it.
I want to see it again. It is so complex, layered, with so many references and symbols – one viewing is not enough (maybe a hundred wouldn’t be enough). Plus, it is a movie with a heart – a giant beating, sometimes bloody heart. It’s really funny too.
Oh, see it in a theater. I can’t imagine watching it for the first time at home, alone.
It was dark when the movie was over, but I have good lights, the traffic had died down, and my ride home was uneventful (and maybe a little fun).
I slept like a stone – dreaming of people with hot dog fingers and sentient stones.
“Every time I hear a political speech or I read those of our leaders, I am horrified at having, for years, heard nothing which sounded human. It is always the same words telling the same lies. And the fact that men accept this, that the people’s anger has not destroyed these hollow clowns, strikes me as proof that men attribute no importance to the way they are governed; that they gamble—yes, gamble—with a whole part of their life and their so called “vital interest.”
― Albert Camus, Notebooks 1935-1942
Last weekend I made some coffee, grabbed my notebook and pens, and took off on my bicycle to find a place to write up my three pages – I have been scribbling the morning pages from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. This last Saturday, a week later, I wanted to do the same thing. My son wanted to go to this new coffee shop Staycation – here in downtown Richardson and he offered to ride along with me. Sounds like a good idea. Nice morning ride – we left at 7:30 so we would get there before it opened. It turned out to be a hair over three miles – and very pleasant because there is no traffic at that hour of a Saturday and the air was still cool enough.
Staycation is a great coffee shop. The owner, Nichole Gregory, took a 1940’s cottage left in the middle of downtown Richardson and modified it into a very pleasant and comfortable place to grab a cup of Joe. I can’t recommend it higher.
But don’t take my word for it:
After we had our coffee, Nick rode home – but I still wanted to put a few more miles in and I still wanted to stop and write (Yes, I could have written in the coffee shop – but I wanted to try something else). So I went up the Central Trail, then down the Collins Bike Lane, to the Duck Creek Extension trail across Arapaho. Thinking about a place to stop and write (there are a lot of benches… but surprisingly few tables), I remembered about a concrete bench that was stuck incongruously in the middle of a traffic circle at American Parkway and Presidential Drive – I ride my bike past there every now and then when trying to build up mileage. It’s a light commercial area – and would be deserted on a Saturday so I decided to go there… and it worked well.
I wrote my pages – packed up and wandered around the ‘hood until I had my ten miles for the day. Made it home before eleven AM – a good start to the day.