What I learned this week, January, 9, 2021

Margaret McDermott Bridge

The arches of a second Calatrava designed bridge rise in the river bottoms. Margaret McDermott Bridge, Dallas, Texas

After all these years, the bicycle/pedestrian bridge over the Trinity River here in Dallas is being fixed and will open at the end of the year. I’m happy about this – but what an incompetent shitshow it has been. For 125 million dollars you should be able to put in a hell of a bike bridge.


Bicycle Drag Races
Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge
Dallas, Texas

Strava Heatmap

As I’ve mentioned before, now that I’ve switched to Strava to track my bike rides, I am fascinated with the Strava Heatmap. If you don’t know – the Heatmap is where Strava collects information from everyone using its service and presents the runners, bikers, watersports, and/or skiers aggregate routes on a map.  Here’s the heatmap (running and biking) of the area around my house. The bright yellow horizontal line is the bike trail behind my house. Across the street is the oval where people run the track next to Apollo middle school (this disappears if you click on Biking alone). To the Northwest, along Plano Street up to Arapaho, then diagonally along the creek to Collins, is a new bike trail the city just finished. There are only a few folks using it now – and there is only a thin purple line on the heat map. I intend to ride it with my Strava as much as I can and want to see how the line becomes brighter over time.

The Heatmap is international and I like looking for odd or surprising things.

For example, can you guess what This Odd Shape represents. I was able to, even though I’ve never been there.


Acedia

I love discovering new words. Here is one, Acedia – that, unfortunately, is very useful right now.

 


Decluttering Is Hard—But There’s One 2-Minute Way to Make it Easier

One of my goals for the year is to up my decluttering game. I need all the help I can get.


The 7 types of rest that every person needs


Really Great Writing Prompts

I found this collection of writing prompts from Poets & Writers Magazine. They are more sophisticated than the usual ones. There are three weekly (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) but their archive goes way back. Cool.

Writing in my Moleskine Journal outside the Mojo Lounge, Decatur Street, French Quarter, New Orleans

If you like visual writing prompts, take a look at this collection of links to museum art collections. Be careful, though – this can be a rabbit hole waste of time.

 


Pulp

Here’s a collection (from archive.org) of Pulp magazine, books, all sorts of stuff. Again, beware, it can be a rabbit hole. Also, rather spectacularly politically incorrect (which can be a good thing, IMHO).

Pulp Cover

Gratuitous Pulp Paperback Cover


Dance Mashups

I have found that watching these YouTube videos of dance mashups – uptempo songs with bits of dance from movies or filmed folks – makes the time on my exercise bike go by quickly (that and POV videos of people riding in beautiful places). I have a big TV right in front of my spin bike. It’s embarrassing when someone catches me watching these – but what the hell.

Here’s some examples:

Safety Dance? I actually liked this song back in the 80’s. Yeesh! Still, the remix has a good beat.

Flash Fiction of the day, Different Shades of Yellow by Teddy Kimathi

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Sunflower

A friend called me one Saturday morning to tell me there were fields of Sunflowers blooming, vast, beside the Interstate on the way to Austin. I drove down there to take photographs. It was amazingly beautiful, the miles of yellow faces looking into the sun.

Today’s story reminded me of that day and these photographs.

Different Shades of Yellow by Teddy Kimathi


Sunflower
Sunflower

Flash Fiction of the day, Invisible Ones by A. C. Spahn

“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.”
― Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

Rest Area
The trail runs through some thick woods between the train line and the creek south of Forest Lane. There is a nice rest area built there. This homeless guy was sitting in the rest area, reading and writing in his notebook. We talked about the weather and I helped him find a lost sock.

Invisible Ones by A. C. Spahn

Flash Fiction of the day, Dump Refrigerator by Gabrielle Griffis

“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

― Jerome K. Jerome

Employees/Artists from Orr-Reed Wrecking. Her T-Shirt says, “Show Us Your Junk,” which is their motto.

Years ago, I had a big chest-type deepfreeze freezer in the garage (I guess I still do). People from my background often have these – the generational memory of The Depression, dust bowl, and mass hunger leads to a deep desire to store enough food to get by for an unreasonable time.

At any rate, this freezer was full, mostly beef. I had stumbled across a good deal on half a steer and a lot of it was there, frozen, waiting on my hunger. I was out of town on a long trip and while I was gone someone accidentally unplugged the cord on the deep freeze. I’m not sure how long it thawed out, but it was summertime, and it was way, way too long. It was beyond disgusting.

I thought and thought about what to do. I ended up digging a big hole in my backyard, pulled the freezer out there and tipped the contents into the hole. I covered it up, and used a hazmat mask to clean out the inside of the freezer.

It actually worked. I’ll bet to this day the grass grows really green in one spot in that backyard.

Today’s story is about a man that does this sort of thing for a living, and for redemption.

Dump Refrigerator by Gabrielle Griffis

Flash Fiction of the day, In the Rain by Steven Barthelme

“I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying.”

― Charlie Chaplin

The view from my son Lee’s apartment – New Orleans, Louisiana

Since I enjoyed yesterday’s story by Frederick Barthelme and the day before’s story by Donald Barthelme, I thought I’d link to one by the third brother, Steven.

It’s about a man that loses his wife, then his cat goes missing in a rain storm. One of them make it back.

In the Rain by Steven Barthelme

Flash Fiction of the day, Driver by Frederick Barthelme

“The car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete in the urban compound.”
― Marshall McLuhan

Invasion Car Show Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

My son bought a car online, unseen. He filled out a form and a truck with a trailer drove up out front and dropped it off. I like that. I never liked dealing with car salesman.

I have never been a car person – to me a car is a box… I get in the box, manipulate some levers and a wheel, push some pedals… for a short time or a long time. Then I get out and I’m somewhere else – hopefully somewhere that I preferred to the place I used to be at when I got in the box.

That’s what a car is to me.

So I value reliability, gas mileage, and low cost. That’s pretty much it. It’s not surprising that I’m like that now, a spent old worn out man, but I was always like that. I always wanted a reliable, low cost, high mileage car.

One time when I was in my mid-twenties I went to buy a car. It was in a small city. The salesman kept taking me to hot souped-up crappy cars. There was a custom Mustang II Cobra, like the one Charlie’s Angels drove.  He couldn’t believe I didn’t like that car. I finally found one that I was halfway interested in. We sat in the car and turned the key and it wouldn’t start. It ground and groaned but wouldn’t turn over for more than a couple seconds.

“So do you like the car?” he asked.

“It won’t start.”

“Well, it’s been sitting here for a long time.”

“Do you really think I’m going to buy a car that won’t start?”

I left.

Since I enjoyed yesterday’s story by Donald Barthelme, I thought I’d link to one by his brother, Frederick. It has a skeptical car salesman in it.

Driver by Frederick Barthelme

Flash Fiction of the day, The School from Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme

“He is mad about being small when you were big, but no, that’s not it, he is mad about being helpless when you were powerful, but no, not that either, he is mad about being contingent when you were necessary, not quite it… he is insane because when he loved you, you didn’t notice.”
― Donald Barthelme

The historic Renner School House, in Dallas Heritage Village, with the skyscrapers of downtown rearing up in the background.

Donald Barthelme is one of my favorite authors. He was a pioneer in the nontraditional school of short-short fiction – eschewing traditional plot structures and styles. I actually came to reading Donald Barthelme from reading about his brothers, Frederick and Steven – both also respected writers. I came across them by reading an article that they wrote about their gambling addiction. It was a fascinating and sad story –  two accomplished, intelligent writers caught in a disastrous downward spiral in the gambling barges of southern Mississippi. Really something. So there are three authors, all worth seeking out – both for fiction and non.

I remember when I was a kid growing up – moving from school to school (I went to twelve schools, more or less, in twelve years) sometimes we would have animals or plants in the classroom for the children’s edification. I don’t remember very many specifics except for a nice big bull snake in Mr. Clinkingbeard’s seventh grade class. I remember it because I had no fear of snakes and would handle it whenever I could. Once it bit me on the hand pretty good (nonpoisonous – though it hurt) and once it crawled past my neck and under my shirt. I grabbed the end of its tail and pulled it out. Unlike today’s story, though, it never died (well, as long as we were in the class).

The story has a really nice structure. The first paragraph reads like a memoir. It starts out small, pedestrian, ordinary, and begins to get bigger and stranger and more poignant as it goes along until it springs out of the form and becomes something completely different. I really like that – will make a note and add that structure to my list of writing hints – maybe do a story or two like that.

The School from Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme

You’ll have to read the story to the end to figure out why this is related:

 

Flash Fiction of the day, The Skins by Tyler Barton

“The only truth is music.”
― Jack Kerouac

Back Tattoo in a street band.

I have a lot to do – but I’m tired and I have an Echo Dot hooked up to a soundbar next to my bed and Spotify. I lie in bed and think of classic albums. I say out loud, “Alexa, play Dark Side of the Moon,” or “Alexa play Goodbye to the Yellow Brick Road,” or “Alexa play The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” or ….

Today we have a music related flash fiction:

The Skins by Tyler Barton

 

Flash Fiction of the day, Draw a Line by Susan Moon

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”
― Margaret Mead

Beltline and Plano, Richardson, Texas

I want something different

Something, if not unique… uniqueish

And, as always, I don’t have much time here on the evening of the apocalypse

Draw a Line by Susan Moon

 

Flash Fiction (Microfiction) of the day, The Exotic Weapons Dealer by Philip Purser-Hallard

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower

M41 Walker Bulldog Liberty Park Plano, Texas

A very long day… very busy. I did some stuff that I haven’t done for a while – and that was a good thing (I’ll write about it soon) – but the stress is so high I couldn’t really enjoy myself. Then it was off to work – so busy, even on a weekend.

So, all I have time today is to read a bit of Microfiction…

It does have some with and interesting ideas in a small space.

Microfiction: The Exotic Weapons Dealer by Philip Purser-Hallard