“When someone seeks,” said Siddhartha, “then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.”
― Herman Hesse, Siddhartha
“The lake of my mind, unbroken by oars, heaves placidly and soon sinks into an oily somnolence.’ That will be useful.”
― Virginia Woolf, The Waves
When our kids were little, we had a popup camper and would go camping almost every weekend, in addition to longer trips a couple times every year. Texas has some really nice state parks – a varied assortment arranged in a ring around the Dallas Metroplex and we could choose our direction and type of park.
One of our favorites was Fairfield Lake State Park located a few hours south of Dallas, right off of I45. It was a heavily wooded lake and was a very, very picturesque and uncrowded spot. The lake had a power plant at one end (which didn’t interfere with the camping – it was only visible if you hiked around the lake a bit from the camping spots) and I understood that the main reason for the lake was cooling for the plant, which ran on locally mined coal. The warm water was supposed to be very good for fishing – and the woods were full of wildlife (you had to be very careful driving at night to avoid hitting deer).
We haven’t been there in a long, long time.
So today I saw an article in the newspaper. Over the decades, the coal has been given up and the power plant closed. And now the entire lake is for sale (apparently the state only leases the land for the state park).
From the article:
Property features include:
- Recreational lake, estimated to be 50 feet at its deepest point, good for fishing, water skiing, boating activities, and swimming
- Mature hardwood forest with array of wildlife including whitetail deer, armadillos, river otters, beavers, squirrels, foxes, bobcats, songbirds and bald eagles
- Pristine lake water with a thriving trophy bass population as well as catfish, bluegill and sunfish
- 10 acres of wetland ecosystems
- 8+ miles of highway grade blacktop two lane roads and bridges
- Three concrete boat ramps with truck and trailer parking
- Combination of underground and above-ground power throughout the property
- Massive 4,350-foot earth-fill dam with Low Hazard classification from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Blake Hortenstine, Broker/Partner of Hortenstine Ranch Company, says in a statement that “a water asset of this magnitude is virtually impossible to find anywhere in the lower 48 states, and combined with the land development possibilities and amenities, is the only offering of its kind.”
I have this fantasy of buying the property. I would, of course, allow the state to continue leasing the park for a dollar a year in perpetuity. I’m not sure what I would (other than build a nice weekend house) do with the rest. It might be a good place for an eco-friendly development….
It is a fantasy. I only need one hundred and ten million dollars or so…
I checked the archives of my old blog and found a record of a trip we made down there over Thanksgiving in 1996 – a quarter of a century ago.
Wednesday, November 27, 1996
Beer bait liquor and gas
I spent the first half of the day packing – I made a list of stuff to put together – I couldn’t have done anything without the list.
Baseball gloves and ball one basketball one soccer ball one football one box of toys one box of kids books kids tapes to listen to
Black cloth covered loose-leaf notebook. Small spiral bound notebook. Pens
Boombox Headphones CD's (two little carriers full)
Clothing, and cold weather gear
Long johns Sweat suits (2) Gloves Knit hat Sleeping bag
Shampoo Shaving cream Razor Deoderant Ibubrofin Nose drops
Candy worked until one – we had planned to hit the road quickly and get to the campsite about 4PM.
We left town on time but ran into a huge traffic jam north of Corsicana. This is the same traffic jam were caught in a year ago. Because of construction the interstate narrows to one land each way for 11 miles. On most days it is no problem but this was the day before Thanksgiving. The hundreds of thousands of people going to Aunt Sara’s house for turkey and fixin’s clogged the highway.
On a one lane road – no one can get through faster than the people before them. Slowly the traffic backs up farther and farther until it is stopped for twenty miles. It is so much more frustrating to be stuck in stopped traffic for hours out in the middle of the country than it is in city rush hour. We crept along. I sat there staring at a sign that said:
Beer Bait Liquor Gas
We’ve got it all!
I have this image of hordes of rednecks hauling ass in their pickups around central Texas eating some greasy burgers from Bennies out of paper bags trying to decide if they’re too drunk to fish.
Finally we reached Corsicana, the kids needed to go to the bathroom so we pulled into a McDonalds- with playland. Soon after the traffic broke up and we made good time on into Fairfield. It was well after sunset and I didn’t want to mess with cooking in the dark after we set up camp so we bought some fast food in town. Our first two meals on our camping trip were Chicken McNuggets and Taco Bell Bean Burritos.
As we were driving the last few miles down the pitch black park access road the kids discovered reflectors – attached to signposts, shining back red yellow orange at us as we moved along. One sign had the silhouette of a deer on it. Nick, of course, asked what it meant. As soon as we had explained it to him a large buck with a full set of antlers bounded out into our headlights. We stared as he marched out into the center of the road, then accelerated into a gallop as he disappeared into the dark woods. The deer was beautiful and ghostly – bleached white by the glare of our headlights.
We reached Fairfield State Park and I set up the popup in site #99. This wasn’t the one we had intended to get, but it was a large site, and turned out to be fine. I started a campfire and we sat around it for awhile, then it was time to go to sleep.
The night was cold, Candy, Nick, and the giant killer dog slept at one end of the popup under an electric blanket while Lee and I huddled at the other. Lee would roll out from under the covers and get cold and wake up. Then he would curl up in a little ball next to me until he warmed up – turned into a hot little BB next to me under the covers.
Thursday, November 28, 1996
A cold, rainy day
It was cold when I woke up so I dragged myself down to the public restrooms for that most decadent of camping luxuries – a hot shower. We have been to many state parks and other campgrounds but Fairfield State Park is our favorite. Candy says it is the trees and the deer, but for me it is the showers. This park was built before the days of energy conservation and the water comes out scalding and steaming.
The morning was fine – cold, cloudy, but bearable. I set up our large tent next to the popup for the kids to play in. The kids rode their bigwheels, clattering and chattering along the park road, to a playground. The made a huge fuss along the way. Lee and I found cattails by the water, the kids called them corny dogs. Lee likes to play the “hot dog man,” pretending to sell sticks from under the popup’s wings – he’ll tell you what your stick/hotdog has- mustard, ketchup – he tells me mine has hot sauce. With the cattails he now sold corny dogs.
Around noon it started to rain – a cold drizzle which put a damper on everything. I overheard some campers talking, the Cowboys beat the Redskins. I didn’t even try to get the game on the radio. Camping – even in the faux wilderness of a state park – I don’t miss such trivialities as sports on TV.
A kid and his teenage sister came over from a campsite across the road and played with Nick and Lee all evening. Lots of raucous fun. I cooked chicken with tomato sauce in my medium Dutch oven and baked some corn in the small one. That was our Thanksgiving dinner. Not too bad, not at all. The only problem was the cold rain, it especially bothered Candy.
We ran the heater in the popup so it wasn’t cold sleeping. The ceramic heater with its fan is noisy in the quiet of the woods, but with the load sound of rain on the roof all night, the heater wasn’t noticeable.
We turned on the radio to get a weather forecast. It said thunderstorms tomorrow and Saturday. It that’s right and it’s raining again tomorrow we’ll give it up and go home. I can deal with the rain, but for Candy being cooped up with two wild kids and a wet smelly dog in the little popup is no fun at all.
Friday, November 29, 1996
We give up
Woke up in the popup, it was warm, we’d run the heater all night. The rest of the world was a cold, wet sea of mud. It had rained hard all night, was still raining, with no sign of letting up. So we decided to bail, to get the hell out of Dodge, to make like a tree and leave, to make like a hockey player and get the puck out of there. Better luck next year.
Packing up was no fun. The tent was soaked, it rained particularly hard while I was gathering everything up. We managed to wrestle everything into the van, the rooftop carrier, and the popup itself. I even managed to pack the firewood we hadn’t burned. So off we went, back home, two days early, but no worse for wear.
Drove back home through the backwoods. The best sign going north was for Bubba’s Bar-B-Q in Ennis.
You Never “Sausage” a Place
“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
From my old web-site – from 2003 or so.
Since my porcine companion, Portobello Poblano, (we call him “Porto” for short) and I had a grand day of adventure planned, we decided to have a hearty lunch at the restaurant in our hotel, the Akimbo Arms. Porto had the fried chicken and cream gravy which is too greasy for me, so I ordered the fruit plate.
The mangoes, strawberries, and plums were wonderful. The melon balls, green, yellow, and fleshy orange were passable, cool yet a tad slimy. I was horrified to discover there were no grapes on my plate (and they are in the prime season now!).
I complained to our waitress, a stoic, statuesque woman, until I was literally blue in the face. Finally she left to fetch a bunch.
Where is she? She is the slowest waitress I have ever seen! It is as if she is made of stone!
The young man aged before our eyes. The day darkened, he changed. His painting, though, became developed in color and enveloped in light. This is art. The artist grows old but the years of experience are preserved in the bright colors on his canvas.
We are approaching the heart of the Mythos.
The Dallas “Sacred Can”
A mural, a memorial to the creators of it all.
The Rhinos were being overrun by their mortal enemies, the Hephalumps. Their horrible Hephalump claws were penetrating the inner perimeter defences. It would be only a matter of minutes until the Hephalumps were dancing their victory jig over the corpses of the enemy. Soon it would all be wails, horror, the grinding of horns into aphrodisiacal teas.
The only recourse available to the heroic, if dim-witted, Rhino commander was to call in an air strike on his own position. On his command the orange-flamed lead finned death screamed from the green afternoon sky.
The only victor on the field of battle today would be the angel of death and her minions of buzzing flies and conqueror worms.
We came to a door.
A door, a door to where?
Electric Frankenstein (“Takes on Texas!”)
Pump ‘N Ethyl
The Murderers (on tour) (all ages)
Visa and MasterCard Accepted
We had credit cards, so we went in.
The yuppies were advancing on the Mythos. Buiding their condominiums, their gated communities.
In self-defence, the denizens built this moat. Lined its walls with the most effective totems in their arsenal.
The spiked foot
The burning bathtub. (Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans).
The crazy old man.
That’ll hold them yuppies, keep the barbarians at the gate.
We were now past the paintings and the only remaining clue to the mystery that was the Mythos were the Cylinder Mounuments. These were everywhere, lined up, these wooden shafts. The local denizens decorate these poles with metal and paper. They are studded with small strips of steel, hammered in or shot through by spring loaded guns. Starnge cryptic messages are sometimes attached, extolling the virtues of various mysterious meetings, shindigs.
What strange ceremonies lead to the decorating of these poles? What goes on in these promised parties?
We came around the corner and there it was. Up high, next to a drawing of the king’s head and crown. The roundear king’s grubby hand reached up towards the words. Small print, yet legible, the words, the words. We had walked so far and braved so many dangers to find these words, this phrase.
But what did they mean?
This is a place that in which you are in a joint of pleasure and pain. A possible everlasting joy of never reaching the end.
Ah was watchin’ mah TeeVee when this voice comes on and says that it was time to activate the ‘Mergency Broadcast System. The voice said it was only a drill, but I decided not to take any chances. I ‘membered that there was this place where the street goes under the railroad tracks, an underpass, I ‘membered that there was one of them yeller ‘n black deals, fallout shelter signs. So me ‘n Ol’ Paint, we walked down to the spot. Ol’ Paint is too old for me to ride ‘er, so we both walked.
Ah saw what I thought were rooskie planes flyin’ overhead so we giddyuped under those tracks as fast as we could. Ol’ Paint ‘n I huddled ‘gether in that there underpass, which smelled o’ wino piss somthin’ awful, I’m not afeared to tell ya, fer what seemed like hours and hours. We heared what we thought was the end of the world, this terrible rumblin’ and shakin’ and what not. We were plum scared, we was, I’m not afeared to tell ya.
Turned out out it was only a fast frieght out o’ Beaumont, carryin’ imported machine tool parts and tank cars of acrylic monomers ‘cross that bridge over our heads, but we didn’t know any o’ that, not at the time anyhow. So we were sorely relieved when that policeman told us nothin’ was goin’ on and rousted us otta there. He told us to move along and we went out the other end from the one we come in on.
And there he was. Painted up on the pillar ‘tween the two roads, one goin’ in, the other out. The darm Cactus Cat-Dog Angel, painted up there, pretty as real life. And twice as scary too. As relieved to find out the world wasn’t endin’ in a nucular holocaust, that Cactus Cat-Dog Angel shore gave us the willies, chillin’ right up our backbones.
We’d both heard the stories. ‘Bout the Cactus Cat-Dog Angel showin’ that day out in Abeline, ’bout how the sun had turned red and the wind blew hot, and all the birds flew off, squakin, in fear. Folks don’t talk ’bout much mor’n that, they’s too skeered. In Fort Stockton, ‘n Monahans, ‘n Tulia too, all those towns where nobodys got nowhere to go ‘cept out into the open land with the sagebrush and mesquite when the scary things come.
Since that day, Ol’ Paint ‘n I go down to those tracks and check on that ol Cactus Cat-Dog Angel, makin’ sure he ain’t up to nothin’ bad. Sometimes I leave a little beef jerkey, or a half a plug of chewin’ ‘baccy there by the wall, Ol’ Paint ‘l leave a hank of fresh hay or a piece o’ salt lick. Just to be sure.
Don’t hurt nothin’ to stay on the good side. Y’all know what I mean?
The Giant showed up out of the blue. Pulling his wheeled cart he tore through the parking lots, grabbing cars left and right.
He chose carefully, not the most expensive or most exotic vehicles. He picked certain ones because he liked their colors.
The police were overmatched, they were forced to call out the big guns, the army and Toho studios.
But as the tanks were assembled, as the planes took to the air, the Giant decided to leave, as suddenly as he arrived.
“I think I hear my Mommy calling!” were his only cryptic words as he left.
At the edge, we found the artists working on the Mythos itself. A young man, painting. Extending the wonder, the art, the legends on and on, into the darkness.
Porto and I climbed up through the crack, hammering steel pegs into the rough rock as we went. We used our trusty sisal ropes to pull our bicyles and other provisions up after us.
We were afraid the Mythos would be extinct on the surface, but as our eyes became used to the sunlight we spotted a sign that indicated we would have a clear view ahead.
One look at the wall, with its Atlas and winged globe, fantastic preacher, and purple eye creature, showed us that the Mythos was alive and well in these here parts.
We were now at the end, the last door. Set behind one of the mysterious metal encrusted cylinder monuments was the nondescript entrance. As Porto and I were examining the portal, a dirty man shuffled up to us on the street.
“Cain’t y’all read! It says there to Leave yer rad’ators outside!”
Properly warned, we leaned our radiators up against the monument, pulled open the door, and passed through.
She was handsome, he was beautiful. They were in love. They were doomed.
The dark slick night, red hotel sign blinking vacancy, reflected in wet asphalt of the parking lot. He sat in his car outside room 15, idling the engine. A cold, hard mist continued to fall.
On the dash was an empty bottle of Jonny Walker Red, on the seat beside him was a loaded 38. She was inside the room, excited, expecting romance.
“Sorry, honey, not tonight” he said to nobody in particular as he backed out into the night.
Porto and I were worried that we would be lost in this savage land. The symbols and streets were mazelike and confusing, promising unknown pleasure or death around each blind corner.
Luckily, the denizens of this place had provided a map, applied with cunning dexterity and accuracy to an side wall. My companion and I stopped for a pull on our refreshment flasks and discovered the map.
As a matter of fact, I practically leaned my bicycle upon the very lines before I was able to decipher the ‘glyphs and determine its meaning.
Lady luck and her elusive lover, Good Fortune, have both smiled upon us this very day.
A crack a creavase.
Tremendous hideous strength.
Sound of rumbling, steel and rubber thunder.
Through the crack of light
giant luminous buildings, floating on air
and green green cash
Down here the lost wander
sleeping unseen in the open
smells of filth, smells of alcohol
Shanty smells, in the clear, yet dark
Climb, climb if you dare
If you can
Don’t forget us
Thought we know you will.
We’ll forget you too.
There is no way that I can put down in this humble notebook all the wonders that Porto and I saw, heard, and smelt on our perilous journey through the Mythos.
At the end though, as we were returning to the paddle boat, was a surprise for me. A very personal surprise.
Totally by accident (dare I say it – by Chance?) we met up with Betsy, a woman I was in love with a long, long time ago. It was a youthful, torrid affair, but I was soon put off by her sometimes coldness, and the terrific differences in our backgrounds. So I grew proud, and resentful, and then came that one terrible, regretful night, when I drank too much cheap wine, and said things that should have been left unsaid.
We have drifted far across over these years, but meeting her again brought the memories back. Her regal air, that precious spit curl on the side of her head, those firm naked breasts.
Betsy and I will meet again next week. What will happen? I don’t know. I’m wiser now, I can see clearly what I gave up for pride long, long ago.
Here in the Mythos, the tales and stories of the real world filter in. But they become distorted, warped by the peculiar needs and desires of the people here into lessons for their own place and time.
“The little engine that could” is a mural in honor of the little steam train that almost made it over the mountains, bringing toys for the deserving girls and boys. He almost made it but needed help from Arcturus, the eagle, and Wilbur, the strongman of the mountains.
But when the engine reached the city on the other side, he didn’t mention Arturus or Wilbur and took all the credit for himself. He was hailed a hero; songs, books, and films were made in his honor. Parents would tell the fable to their children in a pitiful and futile attempt to spur the kids on to a purposeful and brave life.
At night though, the engine would hear the caw, caw, of high and distant eagles. When he rolled past the woods, it seemed that someone would throw mudballs and faint curses from the deepest forest.
It wasn’t long before the little engine was replaced by diesel-electrics. He was left to rust on a siding, croaking out his tale to any unfortunate passersby. His story lives on, but he is known now by the few that know him as a pitiful old loser, whining away on lost glories.
“I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.”
― Marcel Duchamp
“When I did The Great Escape, I kept thinking, ‘If they were making a movie of my life, that’s what they’d call it—the great escape.'”
Every year, more than 400,000 crabs are bled for the miraculous medical substance that flows through their bodies—now pharmaceutical companies are finally committing to an alternative that doesn’t harm animals.
Are you struggling to maintain a work/life balance right now? Here’s how to switch off and reclaim your evening.
People with a high degree of narcissism get promoted faster, new research shows. Why?
Your job doesn’t have to represent the most prestigious use of your potential. It just needs to be rewarding.
Downing up to three cups of coffee daily is associated with lower risks for stroke and death from cardiovascular disease, as well as death from all causes, suggests research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in France last week.
Naturally fermented foods are getting a lot of attention from health experts these days because they may help strengthen your gut microbiome—the 100 trillion or so bacteria and microorganisms that live in your digestive tract. Researchers are beginning to link these tiny creatures to all sorts of health conditions from obesity to neurodegenerative diseases.
I have been going to businesses in that building on Greenville Avenue since… maybe 1979 or so. I remember the old Filling Station – mostly for having a hot, fresh, fried mushroom and onion ring platter called “Nuts and Bolts.” The article is a little old – it was a Schlotzsky’s (one of my favorite fast-food sandwich places – its round fare resembles a New Orleans Muffaletta) for a few years – now that is gone. I’ll waiting to see what’s next… hopefully not a wrecking ball.
I never realized it was a historical hangout of Bonnie & Clyde.
“That’s what people do when they find a special place that wild and full of life, they trample it to death.”
― Carl Hiaasen, Flush
I have taken to riding my Cannondale vintage touring bike at sunset. The killer Texas sun is down, the heat is bearable, the wind dies, and it is in general – a nice time to be outside. I ride about an hour, about ten miles. I’m trying to do this every evening. I have a new, nice bike light I bought with a gift certificate I won in a local contest – so I don’t have a problem if I stay out a little longer in the dark.
Yesterday I had just crossed Plano and Arapaho roads and was angling down into the creek bottom on the new Duck Creek Trail extension. I try to ride this little bit as much as I can with my Strava on to help make the new trail (which I really like) show up brighter on the Strava heatmap. One of the cool things about riding at this time of day is I get to see some urban wildlife – mostly bunnies – but a few coyotes, a beaver or two, snakes…. Bobcats are out there, though I haven’t seen one yet.
I looked across the creek and saw a red fox looking at me. As I approached he turned and ran into a copse of trees farther back from the creek. It was so cool to see a fox in the middle of the city like that.
My son bought a GoPro Hero 7 Black and didn’t like it so he loaned it to me. I had it on my handlebars and hoped that the fox would show up in the footage. Unfortunately, he was off to the side on the wide-angle lens and only visible as a little dot. Shame.
“She didn’t need to understand the meaning of life; it was enough to find someone who did, and then fall asleep in his arms and sleep as a child sleeps, knowing that someone stronger than you is protecting you from all evil and all danger”
― Paulo Coelho, Brida
“When you want to know how things really work, study them when they’re coming apart.”
― William Gibson, Zero History
One reason I was so excited about the final opening of the bike/pedestrian lanes on the Margaret McDermott Bridge is the long, sad, awful story of its construction.
To make a long story short, to save a little money, the city skipped some engineering testing on some elements of the bridge – which had been greatly modified to save money already. Once the thing was finished, several cable anchors cracked in the high winds that are common in Texas. There was an orgy of blame and recrimination and I really thought that the bike part of the bridge would never open.
Finally, the city decided to pony up seven million dollars or so for repairs and try to claw that money back later.
So when I crossed that bridge for the first time I took a look at the cable anchors to see what was done. There wasn’t much that was all that obvious.
Here’s a photo of the original cable anchors:
So it looks like the rod connecting the cable to the bridge is a bit thicker. The big difference seems to be the addition of cable dampers – which are (I guess) the funny looking barbell-looking things mounted to the cables right above the anchors.
They look kind of cool – but it’s hard to believe that these little things are keeping a two hundred million dollar bridge from falling down.