Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, Always Smile by Fandango

One of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. One of the Colosseum in Rome. One of a unnamed boulevard in New York City.

—-Fandango, Always Smile

Travelers
Deborah Masters
Audubon Park, New Orleans
(click to enlarge)

 

When you look back there are very few things you regret doing – especially compared to the universe of things you regret not doing.

Read it here:

 Always Smile by Fandango

from This, That, and The Other

Short Story Of the Day, The Island at Noon by Julio Cortazar

The island was visible for a few minutes, but the air was always so clean, and it was outlined by the sea with such a minute cruelty that the smallest details were implacably adjusted to the memory of the preceding flight: the green spot of the headland to the north, the lead-grey houses, the nets drying on the sand. When the nets weren’t there, Marini felt as if he had been robbed, insulted.

—-Julio Cortazar, The Island at Noon

Reflecting pool, Art District, Dallas, Texas

I have flown in airplanes often for well over a half-century. But still, even now, I act like a curious little kid in that I like to sit in a window seat and stare out at the land passing beneath. I always wonder exactly where we are. When we cross the center of the country  I look at the shape of lakes, try and memorize them, so I can look them up on maps. I look for well-known rivers, and highways. If we go over the Rockies I look for familiar peaks. When we cross the ocean, like the protagonist of today’s story, I look for islands – again, memorizing their shape.

My favorite thing is to spot someplace I have been before, that I recognize, and that I enjoy seeing from a new, unique, angle. It makes me happy.

Read today’s story here:

The Island at Noon, by Julio Cortazar

from Electric Literature

Morning Has Broken

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
—-Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) (born Steven Demetre Georgiou), Morning Has Broken

Sunrise, Boston, Massachusetts

I was way too tired. We had finished work the day before (a long, tough week) and treated ourselves to dinner at an Italian Restaurant in the North End (Ristorante Limoncello) some pastry (Modern Pastry shop, Mike’s was too crowded – line was down the street) and a drink at the end of the hockey game (The Black Rose). Then, when I settled down in my hotel room I discovered that HBO GO was on the TV complimentary and, against my better judgement, I watched the episode of Game of Thrones I had missed because I was flying the previous Sunday. It was getting too hard to avoid spoilers.

My flight was scheduled for eight (though, due to mechanical problems it didn’t actually leave until ten) so that meant I had to get up at five, which meant only a couple hours of sleep. I was woozy in the morning, but was treated to a glorious sunrise painting the buildings of downtown Boston a bright crimson.

Glimpse the Joyous Isles

“Three or four times only in my youth did I glimpse the Joyous Isles, before they were lost to fogs, depressions, cold fronts, ill winds, and contrary tides… I mistook them for adulthood. Assuming they were a fixed feature in my life’s voyage, I neglected to record their latitude, their longitude, their approach. Young ruddy fool. What wouldn’t I give now for a never-changing map of the ever-constant ineffable? To possess, as it were, an atlas of clouds.”
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Rotterdam Express Container Ship New Orleans, Louisiana

Rotterdam Express
Container Ship
New Orleans, Louisiana

Today’s technology – the amount of useless information available at your fingertips is breathtaking. Take this ship I watched sail up the Mississippi – there are a number of websites which will tell me where the ship is at any time. Right now The Rotterdam Express is underway in the North Sea off the coast near Dunkirk.

I might check in from time to time, imagine the adventure.

Bodacious Bar-B-Q

When our kids were little we had a little popup tent camping trailer. It was pretty cool – we would keep it loaded with all the stuff we would need for the weekend. All we would have to do is buy some food and head out to one of the wide selection of Texas State Parks within a few hours drive of the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex. It was worth it even for a single night – we could go to a soccer game on Saturday morning and be in the woods for Saturday night. It was a good thing… until the trailer was stolen from in back of our house… but that’s another story.

One of the places we would go was Tyler State Park – outside of the eponymous East Texas City. It was a large park – held a lot of people in a whole series of camping areas around a resplendent sylvan lake. When we drove to and from we would pass a Bar-B-Q restaurant off the exit from Interstate 20. It always looked delicious and the associated smoke smelled even more so. But in keeping with the whole camping thing we never visited.

That was many years ago but I remember it.

On our last trip to New Orleans (for Lee’s Tulane Graduation) we left early in the morning, but not too early. We would be going past Tyler right at lunch time – and I decided to finally try out Bodacious Bar-B-Q.

There are four major types of Bar-B-Que – Kansas City, Memphis, Carolina, and Texas. Bodacious is, of course, Texas. Texas BBQ is actually a dry, slow cook – with most sauce added after.

The food was great, of course. The place was exactly like you would expect – a little dusty, a little cluttered, a lot of local workers on their lunch hour.

And then it was time to get back on the road.

Bodacious Bar-B-Q Tyler, Texas

Bodacious Bar-B-Q
Tyler, Texas

bodacious4

bodacious2

bodacious3

Dat Dog and Freret

If you have the open mind, patience, and spirit of exploration there are few things as fun as watching a city bloom. It doesn’t happen everywhere, all at once, but springs from many tiny seeds – all over the place – especially where you least expect it.

All these cool places spring up. I’ve been watching it here in Dallas for years. Sometimes it’s in a spot where I remember fast times from long ago and sadly watched fade until a miraculous Renaissance appears – places like Deep Ellum or Lower Greenville. Or maybe its an area that has never been hip – or at least has been forgotten for generations – like Bishop Arts, or The Cedars. It may be an area conceived in high places and supported by big money like the Dallas Arts District or Uptown. Or it may be someplace bootstraping itself up out of a blasted industrial wasteland like Trinity Groves or the Design District.

Use your internet connection and your feet and your bicycle and get to know these places… before they are too hip and unaffordable. It’s a roller coaster ride and you need to get off before the crash… but in the meantime – it can be a fun ride.

All cities go through ups and downs – but nowhere has higher ups or lower downs than New Orleans. It, more than anywhere else is a city of unique neighborhoods – every one worth exploring, learning, and immersing.

One little new stretch of entertaining street is near where my son lives – it’s a district called Freret.

From an article on Gadling.com:

Freret began as a commercial area for people who were left out of New Orleans’ most powerful social groups: the French Creoles, who governed old society, and the wealthy “English” traders and business owners, who dominated the CBD and built their homes in the Garden District. Instead, the neighborhood, named for brothers William and James Freret, became a refuge for Italian and Jewish residents, who shared the commercial district.

But population shifts took place in the 1950s, driving middle class residents to the suburbs, and by the 1980s, when bakery owner Bill Long was shot and killed in the doorway of his store, Freret was disintegrating.

Help came in 2001 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation adopted Freret Street under its Main Street program. Yet, the neighborhood took a body blow from Katrina, whose damage can still be seen, and its comeback never seemed farther away.

But seven years after the storm, Freret is a symbol of the New New Orleans, where a handful of business pioneers and long time stall warts provided the nucleus for its growth to take place. Bars, restaurants, businesses, and a monthly fair have popped up in a few short years, and the sounds of construction resonate as cars and pedestrians ply the bumpy street between Tulane and Loyola Universities.

Lee was working and I needed to find some place to eat… and I had seen on Thrillist that a hot dog place called Dat Dog was listed as one of the “Coolest Restaurants in Town.” So I rode my bike down there.

It is a special, cool little stretch of street – it stands out in variety and quality even in a city as full of options like New Orleans. Restaurants, bars, specialty shops – even a couple of small theater spaces… Every night there was a young, hip crowd spilling out onto the sidewalks… and even filling overhead balconies with mirth and conversation.

Unfortunately, I had to settle for an excellent hot dog (local spicy dog, with bacon and sauerkraut – next time I need to be more adventurous on the toppings) before it was time to head back. But if you are looking to get out of the French Quarter (and you should be) Freret might be a place to look for.

Dat Dog, Freret Street, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

Dat Dog, Freret Street, New Orleans
(click to enlarge)

Freret Street, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

Freret Street, New Orleans
(click to enlarge)

Freret Street, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

Freret Street, New Orleans
(click to enlarge)

FEMA Trailers

Thank You Uncle Sam

Thank You Uncle Sam, FEMA trailers, Opelousas, Louisiana

Thank You Uncle Sam, FEMA trailers, Opelousas, Louisiana

I was driving to New Orleans, moving down Interstate 49, south of Alexandria. My plan was to get on Interstate 10 in Lafayette and then go east over the Atchafalaya to Baton Rouge and on into New Orleans.

But I decided to take a look at my GPS and saw the I10 highway marked in a solid bright red line all the way from Lafayette to Baton Rouge.

If you have never driven that stretch – and you will remember it if you did – that’s an almost twenty mile long bridge high up in the air over the most desolate scary swamp, the Atchafalaya River Basin, that you will ever see. It is not the place you want to spend a few hours stuck in bumper to bumper traffic as the sun sets.

My GPS showed an alternate, older route – US190 splitting off east at Opelousas and going through a more northern section of swamp to Baton Rouge. The GPS showed that route as yellow and green. As I approached the turnoff a sign promised “Alternate Route.” That was all the encouragement I needed and I drove that way.

It was a good choice. Under normal conditions it would have been slower than the uninterrupted expanse of fast concrete belonging to the I10 bridge – but today it wasn’t jammed with stopped vehicles. I only had to wait through the shorter delays caused by stoplights, fish camps, sugarcane factories, bait shops, fireworks stands, fried fish restaurants, local casinos… and the other flotsam and jetsam of the Louisiana backlands.

One thing that did catch my eye was a huge field, just east of Opalousas filled with thousands of mouldering empty portable housing units. FEMA trailers.

There were once hundreds of thousands of these left over after Katrina. Cheaply made, even by government standards, spewing formaldehyde vapors, leaking and harboring black mold – they were a controversial response to the disaster – sometimes welcomed, often maligned.

But here they still are, eight years later. Come on down and buy one, they are for sale, pennies on the dollar. What a bargain.

FEMA Trailers (click to enlarge)

FEMA Trailers
(click to enlarge)