That Time of Year Again

Trinity River in the Fall, December, three years ago
Dallas, Texas

“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
― Stephen King, ‘Salem’s Lot

Riding my bicycle to the Dallas Farmer’s Market from the DART train station for September’s Critical Mass bike ride I felt a sensation as the breeze blew by me. For a minute, I was confused, “What is this?” I knew I had felt it before, but I didn’t remember it right away. Then, it popped into my mind.

I was cold.

It has been so long, I didn’t remember what it felt like to be cold.

Now this is the end of September/beginning of October… in Texas that’s really the tail end of summer, so it shouldn’t… I shouldn’t be cold. But it has been raining for days, that cold fall rain, leaving the air, if not frigid, at least comfortably cool.

Nothing to worry about, the Texas sun will fight through the cloud remnants and warm things up a time or two before the fall really arrives.

Bluetooth Keyboard and iPhone – another portable way to write stuff.

I’m struggling to get all my vacation time taken before the rapidly approaching end of the year – so I took a few hours off and came downtown a bit early. In my eternal quest for a method of writing that I can carry on my bicycle, I’m using this Bluetooth keyboard – torn out of an iPad case that I bought at a church rummage sale for six bucks. It has a slot that I can drop my phone in and I use an app called Compo to type into. Once I’m done I’ll email what I write to myself.

Fall Colors, November, three years ago
University of Texas at Dallas
Richardson, Texas
(click to enlarge)

The Sky Explodes

“A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.”
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

I had signed up (paid ahead of time online) for a bike ride at six this evening, starting and ending at the Four Corners Brewery in West Dallas. It was a guided ride with two beer tickets for well-earned refreshment at the end. My original idea was to ride to the DART station, take the train downtown, and then ride across the Continental Bridge Park to the brewery. But as I prepared to leave I noticed a sudden violence in the sky – a gathering of thunderstorms as the daily Texas humid head collided with some early cooler air floating down from up north.

I didn’t want to get caught in a sudden deluge without my car as refuge, so I folded my Xootr Swift and plopped it into the trunk – then drove down to the brewery.

Because of this, I arrived a bit early and was able to hop over to the bridge park and get some photographs of the evening clouds building behind the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and the downtown Dallas skyline.

Downtown Dallas and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge from the Continental Bridge Park (click to enlarge)

Downtown Dallas and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge from the Continental Bridge Park
(click to enlarge)

A good group gathered for the ride. I didn’t know anybody – which was cool, there rides are always a fun way to find new folks. Everybody talked about the gathering storm – dark clouds were building to the West and to the North. We all agreed to risk the rain and took off. We rode across the Continental Bridge into downtown, through the infamous Triple Underpass and then back across the river on the Jefferson Viaduct Bridge.

At that point the group continued on to Bishop Arts, but I was a bit out of breath and the clouds were really threatening so I decided to turn off on my own. I rode back north and then hopped the levee down into the Trinity River Bottom trails. I stopped to drink some iced water from my bag, eat an orange, and catch my breath.

At that point the sky exploded. I sped off, took shelter under the Interstate 30 Bridge, and ate another orange. When the deluge cleared a bit I rode on to the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge (yes, the one in the photo above) and again took shelter from the storm. The relatively dry area under the bridge was populated with some families and a group of fishermen that had been caught by the rain.

As we waited, I heard a loud roar and suddenly a full-blown Airboat came careening up the
Trinity, going fast through the falling water – pilot and passenger hunched forward against the stinging rain. It was an odd sight – the first powered craft I’ve ever seen on that stretch of the river.

After a bit, I gave up waiting for the rain to end (once you are soaked, you can’t get any wetter) and headed out. The hardest part was getting through the Trinity Groves parking lot – the water was a foot deep there.

As luck would have it, I arrived back at the exact time as the rest of the riders that I had split away from a few miles to the south. The folks that had decided to stay behind and wait – through either a lack of courage or an excess of good sense (or both) – cheered everyone as they rode up, soaked to the skin.

The beer was very good, by the way, and well earned.

Cloud Explodes

“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

After riding around the city I sat on the platform at the Union Station DART train stop, waiting for the Red train to take me back to Richardson. It was late in the day (I had not brought my lights and had to get home before dark) and the sun was low in the sky. A late afternoon thunderstorm began to explode upward, the rising hot air spreading skyward, fanning out in a semi-circle that covered the sun. Still, the light filtered through, glowing like a fireball over the reflective ridge of the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Rising cloud over the Hyatt, downtown Dallas, Texas

Rising cloud over the Hyatt, downtown Dallas, Texas

It was a brief image, an ephemeral phenomenon – the water vapor boiling away as I watched. And then my train arrived.

“To make myself understood and to diminish the distance between us, I called out: “I am an evening cloud too.” They stopped still, evidently taking a good look at me. Then they stretched towards me their fine, transparent, rosy wings. That is how evening clouds greet each other. They had recognized me.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Stories of God: A New Translation

A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.

“Just for the record, the weather today is calm and sunny, but the air is full of bullshit.”

― Chuck Palahniuk, Diary

I have a bit of a bike ride planned for later on this afternoon, but as I drove to the library to return a book due today I saw a huge thunderstorm building in the west. We’ll see. At least this time I had my camera in my car.

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

-Mark Twain

I love the rain. I want the feeling of it on my face.

-Katherine Mansfield

I spent yesterday afternoon rebuilding the bottom bracket on my mountain bike. When I went out to test it, the sky opened up before I could get to the end of the block. At least there was a nice evening rainbow.

A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.

-Marcel Proust

Smells like a hayloft

I live in Texas. It’s always hot in the summer. It’s always hot and dry.

This year it’s been ridiculous. The other day I walked out into my front yard to circle around and take my car to work. A smell immediately hit me. You know how a smell can take you back decades, conjure up a memory so strong and still so mysterious you have to stand there, head hung, eyes closed, straining to relax enough so that the memory can flood back and you can figure out what it was. I was successful. It was a memory from my childhood, brought back by the odor of my front yard.

My yard smelled like a hayloft. The dead desiccated lawn, brown and brittle, smelled exactly like hay.

So this morning, I woke, and something was odd. I had to work today, but because it was Saturday I was in no serious hurry to get down there. I tossed and turned trying to figure out what was different, trying to catch at some torn cobwebby remnants of dreams as a possible clue as to what was going on.

Candy was already up. She shouted out from the front door, “Bill, guess what, it’s raining.”

I couldn’t believe it. It has been so long, I didn’t think it would ever rain again. Years ago, when a long drought broke, I walked out into it. I wrote:

 The temperature dropped twenty degrees in minutes, and a great howling wind picked up. The rain blew sideways in great clouds, picking up standing water from the ground. Fast flashes of lightning like a strobe light; so close the thunder came on immediately, like giant timbers snapped by a monster hand. A loud clicking started up and I saw pea-sized hail dancing around in the water.

The wind slowed a bit, the hail stopped and it was too much for me to resist. …I strode out quickly into the downpour. I could have picked up a rain suit or even an umbrella but I decided to go ahead and get wet.

It felt wonderful. I had to stop walking and wipe off my … glasses every now and then, but other than that the rain was comfortable and cool – a great change. The grass out back was soaking the stuff up as fast as it fell – the giant cracks in the clay softening, the dead grass coming loose, the footing flexible and yielding but not yet muddy.

—- from September 12, 2000

A week ago I thought about walking out into the rain when the drought broke, but today I decided to sleep in a bit after all. By the time I dragged myself up, made coffee and oatmeal, dressed, and walked to my car it was over. The yard didn’t smell like a hayloft – it smelt like seaweed.

It’s not over; tomorrow it will be back up over the century mark. It’s not the end, but maybe the beginning of the end.