The Smell of an Earlier Time Leaking Out Between the Pages

“When I open them, most of the books have the smell of an earlier time leaking out between the pages – a special odor of the knowledge and emotions that for ages have been calmly resting between the covers. Breathing it in, I glance through a few pages before returning each book to its shelf.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

The fountain in back of the Richardson Library and my commuter bike.
(click to enlarge)

Oblique Strategy: Distorting time

Richardson Library Fountain in a different time of year.

I was in a bookstore once, looking around. This was one of the big chain bookstores, two stories high, the kind that have pretty much been driven out of business by Amazon. Few people were buying, but the store was littered with folks sitting around reading stuff from the shelves.

I thought to myself, “I wish they had a place like this, like a bookstore, but instead of selling the books, they would simply let you read them.” In a flash, of course, I realized that these places did exist. I was thinking of a library.

My only problem with the library is the intense impression that there is an overload of knowledge bearing down on me, almost suffocating me. I sit at the little table, maybe with my laptop, with my pitiful little pile of books – trying to decide which to read right then, which to take home. I look around and there are the miles of shelves groaning with tomes. It intimidates me. Somewhere out there is a practically infinite amount of knowledge that I simply can’t survive without. But where is it? Which books do I need, rather than want?

So many books. So little time.

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What the Pho?

Lee bought a shirt at Bistro B.

Oblique Strategy: Revaluation (a warm feeling)

Bistro B

Everybody has their Christmas traditions. Ours is to have lunch at Bistro B. I checked my blog archives, and I wrote about Christmas at Bistro B six years ago. You can read it here. It hasn’t changed much and my 2011 description is still good:

The place, as always, was packed. We waited for a few minutes, which I enjoyed. I stood by the little altar with the burning incense spiral, the electric-powered prayer wheels, and the little shrines decorated with offerings of change. I looked around at the tables to see what other folks were ordering. There were a lot of butane portable table burners heating hot pots that were being shared by a whole family – three generations or more – packed around the big round tables. I love watching a family eat, the heads bent, concentrating on the food, with a ballet of chopsticks dancing in a circular chorus while everyone picks up their food, talks, and laughs.

Its a noisy, happy place, with an army of black-clad waiters rushing, cleanup crews pushing a big square cart, a thick crowd at the registers – some clutching inscrutable bills, but most there for take-out. Some odd genre of electronic dance music pulses… loud but barely audible over the conversations, and a phalanx of flat-screen televisions incongruously simultaneously shine out an NFL documentary. The kids reported that the restroom was, “Like a nightclub.”

We were earlier than we usually were – so the place wasn’t completely packed. The menus were new – the numbers only going up to 494. And in the last six years the restroom extravaganza has been toned down more than a bit.

As always, the Christmas-day service was a little rough. There is a new “Taco” section in the menu – Candy ordered one of those. “Oh, I’m sorry, that’s new, we haven’t learned how to cook those yet,” was the answer from the waiter. Candy ordered chicken, Nick, Lee, and I ordered Pho. The chicken arrived quickly, but no Pho. A while later, the waiter came by and asked how everything was. “No pho,” we answered. He looked flustered and our three enormous bowls of soup came out in a minute. That’s cool – usually we don’t even get what we order – a busy place with a book for a menu and 494 items – you have to chill a bit.

Spring Rolls and dipping sauce

My soup as it arrived. What mysteries await in these warm waters?

The soup after I added sprouts and other vegetables. Those little eggs were hiding down in a little nest of rice noodles. I don’t know what creature they originally came from

After our food we drove across the city for our second Christmas Tradition – to see a movie. It’s getting so that we will only see films at the Alamo Drafthouse (their no phone-no talking-no arriving late or you will be thrown out is a game-changer) and we took in I,Tonya at the Alamo in the Cedars. They have a nice bar upstairs with a killer view of downtown Dallas.

A nice way to wile away a Christmas day.

The family on the balcony at the Alamo in the Cedars, Dallas, Texas

The Ornament of a House

“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Oblique Strategy: Listen to the quiet voice

For over a decade we did nothing to our house – no improvements, no work. With two boys and their friends at home or at school and spending summers at home – there was no use. Everything was going to be destroyed, no matter how hard we tried. Our house became frighteningly outdated and worn out.

Now that both sons are more-or-less gone, we have slowly tried to fix, repair, and update our house. We have no excess money, little time, and less energy, but we do what we can.

Our master bath was outmoded, dysfunctional, and bilious. I decided that was one room that I could update on my own (more or less). I started over the last holiday break, thinking I had time off work. But I caught a nasty flu that took a long time to get over, and that set me behind. It took a terrible amount of time to finish – an embarrassing amount of time.

The counter with two embedded (seashell shaped) sinks was especially awful. It was a huge hunk of some sort of cultured stone – yellow with dark streaks and bits of shiny gold flakes embedded in it. I suppose this was in style at one time, but I am not aware of any time that it could have been. It was incredibly heavy – it took four of my son’s largest friends to haul it out.

Everyone says that the only thing to use is marble, but the counter was ninety inches long – a hunk of marble that size would cost six thousand dollars. So I decided to go with tile, always an economical choice, and with a pair of vessel sinks. We were happy with how all that turned out. We struggled with colors, trying some various schemes out and painting over them. We ended up with grays and whites – not a lot of interest. We thought we could add color with accessories.

I had the idea of printing out some of the photographs I have taken and hanging them on the walls. So I started looking through my catalog. Even though I am trying to put more live subjects into my shots, I didn’t want any people in the photos. Nobody wants anybody watching them from the walls of their bathroom.

After some thought, I remembered a series of photographs I took at sunset at the Galatyn Park Fountain here in Richardson. They were abstract and somewhat colorful and the water theme seemed to fit with a bathroom. I decided on two larger photos, 16 x 20 and one smaller one, 8 x 10.

The two larger:

Galatyn Park Fountain, Richardson, Texas


From Walking on Water

Fountain at Galatyn Park, Richardson, Texas


From A Drop

And the smaller:

Galatyn Park Fountain, Richardson, Texas


From Something I’d Never Tasted Before

I sent the files off to Posterjack for the printing, and was very happy with their work. Then I bought poster clip glass from Michaels – a lot cheaper than matting and framing, and fine for the bathroom.

While I was waiting in line at the checkout at Michaels I noticed along with some folks behind me that they had a book on display – on that rack full of impulse purchases for the people in line. It was “Fun With Fidget Spinners: 50 Super Cool Tricks & Activities .” That is an actual book. A book of things that you could do with a fidget spinner…. other than spin it. We couldn’t imagine what could be in the book. Maybe I should have bought it.

I have to do a little more work trimming and fitting the posters (they are not exactly 16 x 20), but overall, I’m happy on how it all came out.

It’s only a bathroom, and it’s our bathroom, but there is a bit of a tiny thrill to see my photographs printed out large and mounted on the wall.

The smaller photo on the wall at the end of the sinks.

The two larger posters on the large blank wall facing the sinks.

Collage #1

Stressed and strained by constant drilling of ultrasonic beams, the concrete face of the dam cracks and falls. Ten million tons of pressure build towards ultimate collapse…
—-Control Voice, The Outer Limits, Tourist Attraction [1.13]

Oblique Strategy: Use `unqualified’ people

Collage #1
(Click to Enlarge)

For a reason, I was out walking all over the neighborhood last night, really late. It was amazingly quiet. I only saw two people – one man was in his back yard, still sitting and staring at the sparking remains of a fire pit. That house usually holds large sports-watching parties, I don’t know why he alone was still out there. There was another man running laps around the track at the middle school across the street and down the block a bit. I don’t know why he was running so late – but it was a pleasant time to get in some laps – if you didn’t have to get up early.

It’s Impossible

“If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the “Fuck you” signs in the world. It’s impossible.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Shoe remains in crosswalk, Beltline Road, Richardson, Texas

Oblique Strategy: The tape is now the music

When you go around the city, on foot or especially on a pair of spoked wheels – or even when your car is stopped at a light and you look out the window – you see a lot of odd crap strewn about the road. Flotsam and jetsam – cast-off detritus, odd personal items: a shoe, a glove, an old toy, pair of headphones crushed under tires – that sort of shit.

I see this stuff, because I see stuff, and I remember it, because I remember stuff. Most of all, I wonder where the hell did it come from? Who leaves one glove in the road? Whey don’t people pick up their possessions when they drop them?

A week ago, I had a bit of an answer. I contributed to this sea of debris, this ocean of junk, this abundance of rubbish.

It all started out simply. One Saturday afternoon Candy and I wanted to go to Four Bullets, a local brewery, and grab a couple of beers. I intended to put a few miles on my bike – so she drove while I rode my bicycle.

I knew I’d want to walk around the brewery, so I didn’t want to wear my cleated cycling shoes. The pedals tear up the soles of my ordinary footwear, so I dragged an old pair of running shoes out of the depths of a closet, and rode to the brewery.

Walking around, I noticed that one shoe was sort of loose and kind of coming apart. I could see a bit of sole peeking out around the side. – I made a note to throw the pair away for good when I made it home. We were there longer than I intended and it grew dark, but I had packed a good set of lights – so no big deal.

I was riding home on the Glenville trail and crossing Beltline (a busy road that everyone in Dallas uses to get everywhere) on a green light when I felt something come loose. It was the bottom half of my shoe; it had given up the ghost and fallen off right as I crossed the road. The light wouldn’t be green for long, so I couldn’t go back and grab it – the only thing I could do was go on.

The remains of my shoe in the crosswalk at Glenville and Beltline, Richardson, Texas

The problem was that I still had about two miles to go. The rough pedal was now against my almost-bare foot and it hurt like hell. Luckily, it was mostly downhill and I could coast a lot of it.

Still, I limped around for a few days until my foot healed from its unexpected meeting with the sharp metal of the bicycle pedal.

That was pretty much a week ago. I drive past that spot, through that intersection at least twice a day, on the way to work. I ride the Glenville trail any time I’m going someplace West of my house on my bike. It’s been a week, and the piece of my shoe is still there. It’s right in the pedestrian crosswalk, at the edge of the road, where the traffic misses it.

So I have made my own contribution to the conglomeration of bizarre trash that litters our planet. I could ride out there and pick it up – but I’m curious how long it will stay there. I just stopped and took a couple of photographs.

Some women walking by the piece of running shoe – they didn’t pick it up.

This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

The Storm is 400 Miles Away

“People seemed to believe that technology had stripped hurricanes of their power to kill. No hurricane expert endorsed this view.”
― Erik Larson, Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

While 400 miles to the south, Hurricane Harvey brings terror, destruction, and death – here all it has done so far is brushed the sky with its outermost bands and made for a beautiful sunset.

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas