Die of a Sort of Creeping Common Sense

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Sculpture, Tree welded from cable, DCCCD Bill J. Priest Institute for Economic Development, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Honor thy error as a hidden intention

After a long day of not getting much done I found myself bereft of ideas. My computer has thousands of text files that I have typed up to remember things, going back twenty years, and I decided to peruse them and see if I could find something useful.

I came across this quote about a Chekhov short story by one of my favorite writers, Tobias Wolff:

There’s a wonderful story of his about a soldier who’s returning from Manchuria, dying on a troop ship, but too ignorant to realize he’s dying. He was a brute, and that comes through, but he also has a very tender side. So he dies, in this state of longing and unredeemed ignorance, and most stories would end there. But Chekhov has the burial at sea, and then he follows the body, the weighted body going down and down and down. And a shark comes up, and nudges it, and swims away. And then he moves the vision back up to the sea and the sky where just at that moment the sun is breaking through the clouds and he talks about the light dancing on the water — and I’m trying to get this right — with a sort of joy for which there is no word in the language of men. So you get this tragic thing, this man dying in complete ignorance, a man with all the goodness in his heart that was never realized, so you have that incredible focus on the individual. And then suddenly he opens it up so we can see where we fit into this and how small it is. It doesn’t diminish your feeling for the character, but it gives you a sense of the finitude of our duration here and our problems. He’s an amazing writer. I love Chekhov. I could go on all day about him.

What an amazing story review. I, too, love Chekhov, but I doubt that the story will be as good as this review.

I don’t know, maybe it’s better. A quick Google search and I found the name of the story is Gusev.

It’s readily available online. Here’s one translation:

Gusev by Anton Chekhov, translated by Constance Garnett

I’m going off to read it now – I suggest you do likewise.

Advertisements

The Opium Den of Remembrance

“In the world of the dreamer there was solitude: all the exaltations and joys came in the moment of preparation for living. They took place in solitude. But with action came anxiety, and the sense of insuperable effort made to match the dream, and with it came weariness, discouragement, and the flight into solitude again. And then in solitude, in the opium den of remembrance, the possibility of pleasure again.”
― Anaïs Nin

H&K Pump Air Compressors, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency

I had a dream last night – I rarely remember my dreams but this one I did, I still do.

There is nothing more boring than reading about someone else’s dreams. Sorry.

This was a nightmare, after all. Not a monster, murderer, or painful death kind of nightmare – I don’t have those. It was a nightmare of fighting the bureaucracy – which is what really scares me.

I graduated from college… next year it will have been forty years.

Just reading that sentence gives me the willies.

But I still have nightmares about final exams, or ones like last night’s where I go back to take some more classes. I was old, my present age – everyone else was young… well, college student age. I had a room in the dorm, and somehow, I still had a key from the old days and it worked. I had to park my car (the car I presently have) in some sort of inconvenient, dangerous, and illegal spot – half in and out of the common room at the dorm. I hauled my stuff up to my room (which was very nice, by the way) and stashed it.

Somehow, this was my old school, my old dorm, my key fit – but everything was completely different. It was better – the dorm was a tower, computers and screens were everywhere, it was glassed-in, full of light, the people were all happy and attractive. I didn’t fit in – makes no real sense – but perfect dream sense.

But then was the nightmare – I never received my schedule, official key, or, most importantly, my ID Badge. I waited in line at the front desk. In my dream I listened to the problems of everyone in front of me – mostly trivial or easily solved. When I finally arrived and told my story I was then asked an endless series of questions:

“If you don’t have your key or your badge, how did you get into your room?”
“Are you sure you belong here?”
“Did you register properly online?”
“Everything is done on the internet now, don’t you understand that?”
“Is that your car over there?”
“What made you think you could park there?”

…..

On and on… then I woke up.

What I learned this week, November, 15, 2017

10 Obscure Punctuation Marks

My favorite may be The ElRey Mark – This little two-headed exclamation point should be used when you’re cheery, but not over-the-top excited.

7elrey

I like these a lot better than emojis.


Here’s how the Northaven and White Rock Creek trails might connect

If you don’t bicycle in Dallas – you don’t realize how cool this would be. It would connect two parts of the city that are separated by an effectively unpassable barrier.

White Rock Creek Trail

Northaven Trail

White Rock Creek

The southern terminus of the Cottonwood Creek trail, where it connects with the White Rock Creek Trail. The DART train is crossing White Rock Creek over the trail. This is about where the Northaven Trail could connect – tying a lot of city together.(click to enlarge)


TOP 5 REASONS TO USE A FOUNTAIN PEN

Sheaffer Pens

Sheaffer Pens


What The Hell: Southwest To Expand Live Music On Flights


From Sichuan to Schnitzel, These Are the 8 Spiciest Dishes in Dallas


Complete Streets Come to Life in Dallas

Morning Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza.


The air became hard, it developed edges, surfaces, and corners, like space was filled with huge stiff balloons, slippery pyramids, gigantic prickly crystals, and he had to push his way through it all

From But Does It Float
Works by Aldous Massey
Title: Roadside Picnic

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 Green Fairy

After the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.
—- Oscar Wilde

On my last trip to New Orleans, for the Writing Marathon, I was able to cross a line off of my bucket list. It was a small item, maybe the smallest – nothing like going to Cambodia, or living long enough to see the Sagrada Famila finished – but an item crossed-off nonetheless.

It was, I think, Thursday, and that day we would divide up more or less according to what we wrote. A fairly large poetry group set out (I would meet up with them later in the day, crossing the Mississippi on the Algiers ferry) while I joined a smaller fiction group.

We had coffee and wrote, and then the leader suggested, “Why don’t we go get an absinthe?” Despite the flurry of absinthe bars that swept Dallas a decade ago (and just as quickly disappeared) I had never drank one. And for no real reason, I always had wanted to – placing it on my list of things to do. What better time than now and what better place than the French Quarter in New Orleans. Because of its strong French ties, absinthe had always been a thing in the city.

I think the biggest reason I wanted an absinthe is my love of gadgetry, ritual, and complex preparations. I am a chemist after all and what could be more attractive than dripping ice cold water into a solution of alcohol and essential oils just until the oils are forced out of solution (because the water is making the solvent mixture more and more polar…. Nevermind).

For those that don’t know, that is the classic way that absinthe is prepared. The (often greenish) liquid (very strong – usually well over 100 proof) is poured into a glass. A flat, slotted absinthe spoon is placed over the glass and a sugar cube is set on the spoon. The large glass reservoir of an Absinthe Fountain is filled with ice and water. Then a tap is cracked open and the water slowly dripped onto the sugar cube, where it dissolves the sugar and then falls into the absinthe. The cold water then causes the absinthe to change from clear to cloudy, a process called louche.

This releases the aromatic flavored oils and indicates the absinthe is ready to drink.

The bartender pouring the absinthe, note the clear green color.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

Dripping the iced water over the sugar cube, into the absinthe.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

The absinthe fountain, dripping cold water over the sugar into a glass of absinthe.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

The louche (cloudy liquid) forms as the water dilutes the absinthe.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

—How cool is that?!—

Now, of course, absinthe has a bad reputation – and I mean that in a good way. It was banned in the US from 1912 to 2007. Traditionally, it was the wormwood used in the drink, particularly the chemical thujone that enables the hallucinations that the drink traditionally provided. It looks like that is at best a huge exaggeration, if not a complete load of hokum. It seem it’s the liquid’s 125-175 proof alcohol, rather than some mysterious elixir, that provides the desired effects.

We walked down to a bar off of Pirate’s Alley (this is a favorite spot of mine – I stumbled across a fashion shoot there once before) right next to Faulkner House Books (William Faulkner’s old apartments). The bar is called Pirate’s Alley Café and specializes in absinthe. It seems a little touristy (sometimes the barkeep dresses like Jack Sparrow) but there was none of that early in the day in the summer (New Orleans’ offseason). I had to decide on my brand of poison, settling on Absinthe Lucid (it was relatively inexpensive, French, and green).

The barkeep went through the routine, setting up three glasses under the absinthe fountain and we were able to watch them go from clear to milky.

The only problem was that since I’m no huge fan of licorice, I assumed I wouldn’t like the absinthe and this would be a one-off bucket list thing. No luck, I really enjoyed the stuff.

Now I have to find a bar in Dallas and/or a bottle of the Green Fairy.

More information:
The Wormwood Society – America’s Premiere Absinthe Association & Information Network

“I am only sipping the second glass of that “fascinating, but subtle poison, whose ravages eat men’s heart and brain” that I have ever tasted in my life; and as I am not an American anxious for quick action, I am not surprised and disappointed that I do not drop dead upon the spot. But I can taste souls without the aid of absinthe; and besides, this is magic of absinthe! The spirit of the house has entered into it; it is an elixir, the masterpiece of an old alchemist, no common wine. And so, as I talk with the patron concerning the vanity of things, I perceive the secret of the heart of God himself; this, that everything, even the vilest thing, is so unutterably lovely that it is worthy of the devotion of a God for all eternity. What other excuse could He give man for making him? In substance, that is my answer to King Solomon.”
― Aleister Crowley, Absinthe The Green Goddess

The emerald hour–
when the poet’s pain is soothed
by a liquid jewel
held in the sacred chalice,
upon which rests
the pierced spoon,
the crystal sweetness–
Icy streams trickle down.
The darkest forest
melts into an open meadow
as waves of green seduce.
Sanity surrendered,
the soul spirals toward
the murky depths,
wherein lies
the beautiful madness–
absinthe.
—-Peggy Amond, “Rimbaud’s Poison

The Window At Molly’s

He presided, he directed, he ruled, he snarled. From his perch at the Window of Molly’s which is where I mostly saw him, he listened indulgently to the speculative thrusts of the Window Gang, paid slightly more attention to opinion derived from inside info, and gave his full ear to inside info itself. Like everything that went by the Window on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, including a variety of humanity that would have made both Goya and Picasso shriek with delight, on couldn’t be sure of the exact percentage of B.S. Monaghan alone seemed to know. People vied to be in the Window Gang, but few could stand the Chief’s tests, which to the innocent must have often seemed rough, illiberal, crude, or so deliberately provocative as to preclude any rational response.
—-Andrei Codrescu – The Passing of Jim Monaghan, New Orleans Bar Owner, from New Orleans, Mon Amour, Twenty Years of Writings from the City

The best place to write… or to sit… possibly to drink… in the French Quarter is the window at Molly’s. Take my word for it.

A machine will squirt out Molly’s frozen Irish coffee (caffeine, ice cream, alcohol – three of the four major food groups) into a plastic to-go cup and you can sit inside the window, outside the window or even mill around on the Decatur sidewalk.

Today the bar was packed with a dozen young women, obviously a bachelorette party, all wearing identical denim shorts and t-shirts emblazoned with “I LIVE TO BE DRUNK” in glitter. They handed me a phone and asked me to take their photos lined up at the bar. I arranged them and took some shots, they were particularly giggly happy with the landscape photo.

The Window at Molly’s, the street (Decatur) unusually quiet, with notebook, vintage Esterbrook pen, and Molly’s frozen Irish Coffee

There are bikes locked up all over the French Quarter, mostly to the wrought iron columns supporting the ubiquitous overhead balconies. Most of these are heavy, beater bikes – in deference to New Orleans’ rough streets, giant potholes, and flat-as-a-pancake geography. Every day, though sitting in front of me, well-locked to the pole on the sidewalk was a nice Specialized road bike – looking fast standing still, if also well-used. One day, I arrived early enough to watch the owner arrive and lock up – he was obviously a worker in a nearby bar or restaurant. That day someone else had already locked up to his pole, but he maneuvered around and managed to lock on the other side, sharing the pole. It was his spot and he was going to use it.

Specialized road bike on pole outside The Window at Molly’s. French Quarter, New Orleans.
Notice the green shelf for drinks. Sometimes the crowd on the sidewalk outside The Window grows.

One would do well, as I have done many times, to investigate a single place over time, at different times of the day. Molly’s on Market, for instance, is home in the early afternoon to a lively Window Gang consisting of a varying crew of journalists, men-about-town, women-about-town, writers of fiction and poetry, mysterious characters either larger or brighter than life, led on by Jim Monaghan, proprietaire extraordinaire, Irish wit, and provocateur. Monaghan’s extravagant personality imbues the day, but the night belongs to the tribes of the tattooed and pierced young. At night a sloshed picture gallery displays itself with sensual impertinence.

—- Andrei Codrescu, Solution: Enivrez-Vous: The Bars of New Orleans, from New Orleans, Mon Amour, Twenty Years Of Writings From The City

Bluetooth and Orange Chicken

It is the end of 1982, and I am 38 years old. One day, at noon, I notice that my bike is steering itself. Later, I am sitting on the bay, which is today occupied by the Memorial Garden, facing the Rio de la Plata. With me is Daniel Coifman, a psychotherapist friend who has spent a couple of seasons at the Esalen Institute of Big Sur, travelled several times to India and, to put it briefly, gone exploring the mysteries of consciousness. Our bicycles are leaning against each other.

I tell him that I can remember all the places that we have been: the Planetarium, the level crossing near the airport, the crossroads near the Fishermen’s Club. Also, the wind on my face, the water splashing the railings, the smell of food at the restaurants when he made a detour to avoid the two elderly people who were drinking maté… However, I do not remember the thoughts that I had. I was distracted. I didn’t know where I was. I only knew in that moment that “I am here”.

Daniel jumped up. “No, you were not distracted,” he says. “You were abstracted, but you were not absent. And believe it or not, it is exactly the opposite.”

—-The Bicycle Effect by Juan Carlos Kreimer

A couple of weeks ago, during the time I was doing nothing but work – including going in through the weekends – I took a couple hours off and met Candy at a big fund-raiser garage sale put on by a large, local church. We arrived at the very end (will have to make a note to go early next year – to get the good stuff) and, even though everything was picked-through, they still had a lot of interesting items.

I was looking at a big, old-fashioned overstuffed office chair when the announcement came out, “Only two hours to go, everything is half-off the marked price.” I bought the chair, and found a thin Bluetooth keyboard mounted in an IPad case for, well, almost nothing. I don’t own an IPad, but the keyboard popped out of the case. I pulled up my phone and confirmed that it worked with the keyboard. So I bought it.

I am always looking for an inexpensive, light, small keyboard device that I can carry with me, especially something I can carry on my bicycle. It has to be small and light… and inexpensive, so I don’t have to stress out about losing it, getting it stolen, or breaking it in a crash.

Over the years, I’ve used an Alphasmart Neo Keyboard, a cheap Android Tablet with a folding keyboard, and, most recently, a repurposed Toshiba Netbook running Lubuntu Linux.

My android tablet and portable keyboard, I stopped my bike ride on the Bridge Park over the Trinity River to get some writing done.

My Toshiba Netbook – rode my bike to a coffee shop.

The Netbook and the Tablet will still have their uses, but the Bluetooth keyboard is an extra lever of portable. I have to carry my phone anyway, so the keyboard only adds a few ounces. My big, old fingers don’t work very well hammering out a lot of text on a tiny phone screen. The keyboard makes it possible to write at least a few pages at a sitting.

The keyboard is perfect – light and small. It’s very well thought out. I am using it with the case removed from my phone so it can lean up on the slot that runs across the keyboard.

Bluetooth Keyboard and my phone.

I brought along a library book as well as my Kindle Paperwhite. The book is The Bicycle Effect – Cycling as Meditation by Juan Carlos Kreimer.

It’s a short book – less than two hundred pages – about the Zen aspects of riding a bicycle. I copied some money quotes from the book into my phone.

The book talks about destinationless riding – a Zen state of pedaling the streets without care for speed, time, distance, or direction. I am rarely able to pull that off – though I understand and crave the state. Today, I was able to leave home on my folder without care for a route or time.

My folding bike, Stock Xootr Swift – I only added the seat bag and bottle cage
(click to enlarge)

After a few miles I did notice that I was hungry so I detoured to a favorite Americanized Chinese place in an old Dairy Queen not far from where I found myself. So now I can read a little, type a little, and eat a little.

Before long I’ll be bored and ready to pedal again. Where am I going to go?

Who knows?