“If there is a life force operating in Nature, still there is nothing so analogous in a bureaucracy. Nothing so mystical. It all comes down, as it must, to the desires of individual men.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
“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
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.
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.
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.
Displaced Person’s Song
If you see a train this evening,
Far away, against the sky,
Lie down in your woolen blanket,
Sleep and let the train go by.
Trains have called us, every midnight,
From a thousand miles away,
Trains that pass through empty cities,
Trains that have no place to stay.
No one drives the locomotive,
No one tends the staring light,
Trains have never needed riders,
Trains belong to bitter night.
Railway stations stand deserted,
Rights-of-way lie clear and cold,
What we left them, trains inherit,
Trains go on, and we grow old.
Let them cry like cheated lovers,
Let their cries find only wind,
Trains are meant for night and ruin,
And we are meant for song and sin.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
I enjoyed the initial meeting of the group that was to read Gravity’s Rainbow. My only problem was the distance. The drive, on a Wednesday evening, from my work, across town, fighting traffic all the way and back – was no fun at all. It made me doubt my commitment. Plus, one of my goals for the year was to reduce my (for me) already low driving mileage. A there-and-back-again trip across town every week would add to (maybe double) my driving.
But after thinking about it and then a good consultation of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit website I realized that I could leave from the LBJ/Central DART train station near my work, ride downtown on the Red line, and then after walking a couple short blocks, ride the new Dallas Streetcar across the Trinity River Bottoms to Bishop Arts – only a couple more blocks to my destination – The Wild Detectives.
So that’s what I did – I filled my book bag with my tabbed copy of Gravity’s Rainbow and my copy of Zak Smith’s Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow (for reference and grins) and headed for the station.
The ride was enjoyable – or at least better than fighting the million other cars that are going somewhere at the same time as I was. Something about sitting in a train, relaxed, looking out the window at the miles of cars sitting still, on freeway and cross streets, all the white lights lines up on the left and the red ones on the right.
The streetcar is pretty cool. It crosses the river where there are no overhead power lines, so it is the first streetcar to rely on batteries to bridge an unelectrified stretch.
The trip isn’t fast – it took an hour each way… mostly spent waiting on a train or streetcar. The walks at each end or between stations weren’t bad at all, though.
Oh, and the discussion was enjoyable and cool. And someone brought banana bread.
“The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”
― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
The yellow streak in the time exposure above is the streetcar going by. Invisible.
“Matilda said, “Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable…”
― Roald Dahl, Matilda
“The park was the heart of the city. He had come to the city – and with a knowing in his blood – he had established himself at the heart of it. Everyday he looked at the heart of it; every day; he was so stunned and awed and overwhelmed that just to think about it made him sweat. There was something, in the center of the park, that he had discovered. It was a mystery although it was in a glass case for everybody to see and there was a typewritten card over it telling all about it. But there was something the card couldn’t say and what it couldn’t say was inside him. He could not show the mystery to just anybody; but he had to show it to somebody. Who he had to show it to was a special person. This person could not be from the city but he didn’t know why. He knew he would know him when he saw him and that he would have to see him soon or the nerve inside him would grow so big that he would be forced to steal a car or rob a bank or jump out of a dark alley onto a woman.”
― Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood
“It’s better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you’re not. It’s a sign of your worth sometimes, if you’re hated by the right people.”
― Bette Davis
I have always had a soft spot for streetcars – especially both the famous New Orleans version and the unknown Dallas version – The McKinney Avenue Trolleys. I’ve written about the trolley line before – and its individual cars – The Green Dragon, Petunia, Rosie, and Matilda.
The trolley line has expanded and has become very popular since the opening of Klyde Warren Park.
Last week, after I finished a tour of the underground tunnels beneath downtown, I walked over to Klyde Warren for a Food Truck lunch then decided to catch the streetcar for a ride to the turntable next to the CityPlace DART station.
I was lucky in that the car that I caught was Betty – a new car that I had never ridden before. Life if made of tiny thrills.