A Streetcar Named Slothrop

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

Dallas Streetcar

 

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.

LBJ Central DART Train Station, looking at my book while waiting for the train.

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.

Woodall Rogers Expressway, Dallas, Texas

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 Interior of the Soul

“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

View Skyward, near the Pearl/Arts District DART station, Dallas, Texas

And what the same spot looks like from the side:

The Pearl/Arts District DART station, Dallas, Texas

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Thirty – The Omnibus

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day thirty – The Omnibus, by Arthur Quiller-Couch

Read it online here:

The Omnibus

Now we come to the last short story of the month…. I still have a massive list of stories – of course I will still read. I do try to average a short story a day and have for most of my life. That’s a lot of stories. So much to read, so little time.

I’ll still write about the ones that seem to have special meaning for me, personally, like A&P or Life After High School. I do need to put together a permanent page with links to all the short stories – weed out the ones that are no longer available online. Otherwise, that’s it ’til next June… I guess.

Today’s story Omnibus is a familiar scene to all of us that ride public transport regularly. In the story it’s a vehicle pulled by horses – but it’s all the same whether it’s this or an electric train, a diesel bus, or a jet plane. Somebody gets on in obvious emotional turmoil… everyone knows they should do something, say something, offer help… but it is rare that the connection is made.

Public places are sometimes the hardest to actually relate to the public.

The last line of the story used the term Whittingtons. I had no idea what that meant. After some research – I think it refers to Richard Whittington and the legend that grew around him – Dick Whittington and His Cat.

What I learned this week, May 16, 2014

Ink & Paper

As a small child I remember watching a linotype operator keying his machine and fascinated by his callused hands handling the hot lead slugs.


The Mystery of Go, the Ancient Game That Computers Still Can’t Win


How to Deal With Negative Press


How does George R. R. Martin do his actual writing?

Using a separate computer for writing is brilliant. I wouldn’t go back to Wordstar – I’d use Wordperfect 5.0 – the best word processing program I’ve seen.

I like his rant against auto-correct – “If I had wanted a capital, I’d have typed a capital.”


Kaiju-a-go-go: Every Godzilla Monster, from Lamest to Coolest

I can’t argue with King Ghidorah at #1, but I would have ranked Mothra higher.


Rate of US bicycle commuters rises by 60%

The only thing better than biking to work is biking to somewhere other than work.


Mesquite steering away from groundbreaking DART pact

I have no sympathy for Mesquite in this deal. I lived there, years ago, when the DART vote went down. Mesquite voted no. The reason I heard was, “If we get a train and a bus system, poor people will move here.” Wrong. Young professionals that work downtown and are looking for affordable housing will live there and take the train to work. And when the young profesionals move to other suburbs (with dense, transit-oriented development) what do you have left?


Google Street View sleuth: help us identify our cities’ biggest failings

There are plenty of bad spots in Dallas. Here’s one that I particularly abhor. It would be a very useful route to get from Downtown/Cedars to the Santa Fe Trestle Trail… if it wasn’t a death trap. It looks like there are sidewalks and stairs too – don’t be fooled, they go nowhere… fast.

LBJ/Central Station

There is art where you least expect it. There is beauty in the most mundane.

The scenes you see every day, the dreary landscape of grinding drudgery is too often not seen. Take a look.

LBJ/Central StationDART Red Line

LBJ/Central Station, providing easy access to Texas Instruments’ main campus, links nature and technology with cast stone columns with circuit board designs imbedded as insets. Built on the historic John B. Floyd farm acreage, the station also features a trellis gateway to the station platform. Station design team artist Frances Merritt-Thompson also produced the translucent panels in the overhead truss openings depicting images of the area.

DART LBJ/Central Station Frances Merritt-Thompson (click to enlarge)

DART LBJ/Central Station
Frances Merritt-Thompson
(click to enlarge)

Circuit Board Details in support columns DART LBJ/Central Station Frances Merritt-Thompson (click to enlarge)

Circuit Board Details in support columns
DART LBJ/Central Station
Frances Merritt-Thompson
(click to enlarge)

DART LBJ/Central Station Frances Merritt-Thompson (click to enlarge)

DART LBJ/Central Station
Frances Merritt-Thompson
(click to enlarge)

Other entries/photos from DART Stations:
Carrollton Collages
Plaza of the Americas, DART Station at Night
Gateway
Bike Lids
Next Stop
Dart Sunset

The Bus

I sat around in the bus station for a while but the people depressed me so I took my suitcase and went out in the rain and began walking.
—-Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Downtown Dallas at Night, (Click to Enlarge)

Downtown Dallas at Night, (Click to Enlarge)

Ride a city bus at night. Late at night. Look around. Really look around. Don’t read your book, don’t check your phone, don’t turn away.

Look at the people. Open your pores and let the pure atmosphere of despair and regret inside where it will knead your soul. Feel the exhaustion of going home from the night shift. Touch the grease spot on the window where people that can’t even find the energy to keep their heads upright fall. Breath in the ghosts of ancient alcohol and unwashed perspiration. Listen to the giggling and proud talk of the night denizens on their blowzy way home from a night of exhausted carousing. Feel their desperate intoxicated love.

Let yourself enter the mysterious world.

Later, maybe a week later, or a month, or years later, late at night – when you are at home on your prescription mattress and breathing that conditioned – carefully purified and modified – air wafting from ductwork overhead. When you have set your book down on the nightstand after a particularly satisfying chapter. When the glowing red digits indicate you have a good, restful, eight hours before you start mashing the snooze button. When the large, high definition, flat-screen television that you carefully positioned so that you can see it from your bed is showing the double-plays, strikeouts, and home runs from all over the country. When you begin to nod off and feel the dreams welling up….

the people on the late night buses are still there. You are home and so are they. They are still there. They are always there.

Airstream 2 – Old and New

“Time goes faster the more hollow it is. Lives with no meaning go straight past you, like trains that don’t stop at your station.”
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

airstream2

“The train bore me away, through the monstrous scenery of slag-heaps, chimneys, piled scrap-iron, foul canals, paths of cindery mud criss-crossed by the prints of clogs. This was March, but the weather had been horribly cold and everywhere there were mounds of blackened snow. As we moved slowly through the outskirts of the town we passed row after row of little grey slum houses running at right angles to the embankment. At the back of one of the houses a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste-pipe which ran from the sink inside and which I suppose was blocked. I had time to see everything about her—her sacking apron, her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold. She looked up as the train passed, and I was almost near enough to catch her eye. She had a round pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty-five and looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever-seen. It struck me then that we are mistaken when we say that ‘It isn’t the same for them as it would be for us,’ and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her—understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe.”
― George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier