Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rain in Ragtime

Rita's Ragtime Rain Raged,
a Purgatory of Rags & Rafters

ragtime: syncopated American popular music

Was is reading Farenheit 451 at a tender age that engendered my loathing for the destruction of books? Or is it something that was engrained in a non-internet generation? I went to Half-Price Books determined to find a book worthy of mutilation and settled on a sturdy compact dictionary published in 1978. It has a hard cover and the signatures seem to be nicely sewn together. I spent part of last weekend methodically ripping out pages according to the method set down by Lisa Vollrath on her web page.

You can see my dictionary after I tore out about half the pages. It turned out just Lisa’s book and I have a stack of pages full of word definitions I can use for many projects. The book seemed to fall open naturally to the letter “R” so I dedicated the two facing pages to Hurricane Rita. I found a number of words that I tied together into sentences and gessoed out the rest. Then I started glueing, stamping, and coloring. I think it has a ways to go before it’s done.

I think I’ll call this book “word play.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Dontcha hate seeing one of these in your mailbox? I've been looking forward to this day (ha!) for over a month. I was listed as a "standby juror" on the summons; instead of reporting to the Central Jury Room at 8 a.m. I was supposed to wait until 11 o'clock, call in, and find out at that time if I was needed. I called the number and the recorded message shouted, "You Are Needed Today! Please Report By 1 p.m.!" So I headed downtown through Level Red Pollution and traffic backed up by who knows what. I had to exit at Reunion Arena and was hoping I wouldn't get caught in worse traffic amongst the busses of Beaumont evacuees (I didn't).

I parked in the County Garage, rushed across Industrial Blvd. and climbed the 50 steps to the doors of the Court Building conveniently located next door to the Jail. Winded and sweaty, I thought if Rita had only veered west, this whole neighborhood might've gone under when the levee on the Trinity River failed, and I would have been spared this ordeal. (After the hurrican passed the newspaper published a report detailing this very scenario - a possibility that had conveniently been kept from us citizens prior to the storm.) This was my first visit to the courthouse since 9-11 and the summons had warned me about bringing weapons and explosives into the building so I left them at home and passed through the checkpoint without incident. There were only a dozen or so people in the Central Jury Room and no one at the front desk. A Bailiff beckoned me into an adjoining office and told me they had fulfilled their requirement for standby jurors and I was free to go. I was happy to go, but it cost me $3.00 to park for 30 minutes (reduced rate after having my parking ticket validated), a half gallon of gas, and a day's pay. Justice doesn't come cheap these days!

Monday, September 26, 2005


The Houstonians are winging their way back although from the looks of southbound I35 yesterday it looked to be slow going through Dallas. It's one thing to see the hordes of suitcase-packed vehicles on the newscasts, quite another to see it first hand. I'm glad I was going the other direction.

I'm wondering if life will ever get back to being "normal" again. Will the TXDOT signs that ring the city's freeways ever go back to announcing "Ozone Alert - Try Ride Sharing" instead of "Shelters Full"? We got no rain from Rita and yesterday's high temperature of 102 belied the fact that there had even been a hurricane within shouting distance of the county, yet the repercussions of Katrina & Rita are sure to be felt for a long time. My neighborhood lost electricity for about an hour Saturday when gusty winds sent a tree limb crashing into a power line down the alley, but power was quickly restored thanks to the Dallas Fire Department and TXU. It only takes a few minutes without power to realize how bad the situation is for the folks southeast of us. I had to get back to work yesterday and was worried there might not be any gas but luckily I found some and at a pre-Rita price. At times like these, when I see the long lines of SUV's and 4WD's sucking down 20 or more gallons at a time, I can't help but gloat over my 38mpg vehicle.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

waiting for the big one

Were the inhabitants of Galveston blissfully oblivious of the approaching dome of water in 1900? Did they know it was a storm to end all storms as the wind picked up and the sky darkened? Until that hurricane hit, Galveston was equally as important a city as Houston. After nearly being flattened, and losing 8,000 to 12,000 dead from the hurricane, the city never recovered. Of the ten deadliest storms listed at CNN, two have hit Galveston; the big one of 1900 and another in 1915. Both of those are listed as “only” Category 4 storms.

Here’s hoping the folks of Houston fare better than their New Orleans counterparts. Many of us here have friends and family in the Houston area, and so far they seem to be getting out of the area. I’m thankful to be this far inland, away from a direct hit, though we may get flash floods and some tornados. Yesterday it felt like Saturday was an eternity away in time; today it’s rushing towards us. I don’t know if the continual coverage is a blessing or a curse.We’re obsessed with the weather. Everyone’s becoming an expert on hurricanes. Each of us specializes in a peculiar examination of minutiae of the lore of the storm.

Yesterday the weather gurus were citing Matagorda Bay, just south of Galveston, as the likeliest place for Rita to make landfall. Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle made unplanned landfall there in 1684. He was looking for the mouth of the Mississippi, but charts and maps being what they were in those days, he overshot his destination by a good 400 miles and landed instead in Texas. He wasn’t the first to make a great navigational mistake. In 1528, 156 years earlier, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca landed the remnants of his ragtag crew on Galveston Island. Cabeza de Vaca thought he was much further south and that it would be a short hike to reach a Spanish outpost. Instead it took 18 years traveling west across Texas mostly in bare feet before they met Spanish soldiers in the area of present-day El Paso. (I don’t know why all the movie reviewers thought his sojourn took place in Florida; he spent some time in Florida but his long trek was through Texas. It’s a good movie albeit confusing if you don’t know the history behind it.)

It’s uncertain whether or not La Salle knew where he was, except he knew he was lost. In 1687 he went looking for a French outpost, leaving behind a settlement called Fort St. Louis whose inhabitants disappeared from the annals of history. La Salle was finally murdered by his unhappy followers when he refused to ask directions of a native met on the northward trek. For many years the myth went that he was killed in the area now occupied by the city of Arlington, about midway between Dallas and Fort Worth, but historians more recently conclude his demise actually occurred in Navarro County, some miles southeast of the area. Sorry, Dallas, your history’s just not that interesting.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

dreaming of a rainy day

Some more practice from my art journal. I was prepping some pages with crimson and bright yellow and experimenting with ways of washing the pages. I liked these drips that were flicked from the end of the brush; they reminded me of raindrops on windowpanes. I want to learn to draw better, just to be able to sketch a few objects or identifiable landscapes. I'm really taken with Paul Madonna's All Over Coffee. I have been looking at dozens of books at Amazon trying to find one to help a rank beginner. It's probably time for a trip to the bookstore!

I was dreaming of a rainy day until I got the news this morning. The fallout from Hurricane Rita was supposed to bring some much-needed rain and cooler weather to North Texas but Rita is becomingly increasingly sinister with each passing hour. They’re saying Houston’s levees probably won’t withstand a direct hit. At least Houston’s not in a bowl below sea level like New Orleans. Galveston is already evacuating hospitals and nursing homes, the National Guard has been called, and water, supplies, and rescue personnel are being “pre-positioned” across Central Texas. People are taking this hurricane much more seriously than they normally would. I hope this will turn out to be a practice run.

If I ever decide to live along the Gulf Coast, somebody, please whack me in the head with a baseball bat.

In the meantime, these dog days drag on. We just missed the 100 degree mark yesterday but we may get there today. The calendar says the autumnal equinoxe occurs this Thursday at 5:25 pm our time. Every other day I get a catalog from Pottery Barn, which is a sure sign of fall. But these signposts are for some world I don’t live in.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

do you believe...

The gray-haired hippie waylaid me just ten feet from the vending machine. After quaffing that too-sweet Dublin Dr Pepper the other day I was craving the bite I knew I could only get from a Diet Dr Pepper. “Do you have just two minutes? I want to ask your opinion about my new bio.”

I looked at the change in my hand and jingled it a few times. This “asking my opinion” was a ploy, I knew, to cut me away from the herd, and it was sure to take more than two minutes, but I could spare five minutes, and the Dr Pepper would be my reward for the politeness.

Alas, it would not be so brief.

“Did you know there’s only one soul?” Oh, no, here we go again with the never-ending proselytizing for some all-time religion culled from endless reading of every bestseller from the last forty years. How can I distract him?

“One sole? Is that why I’m so low, cuz it’s been stomping on me?”
“There’s just one sole”
“I don’t want to talk philosophy.”
“This is not philosophy.”
“I don’t believe in that stuff”
“You don’t believe in philosophy?”
“I don’t believe in soles.”

Unfortunately, I do believe in music, and am now privy to the announcement that his new cd is Now Available at CDBaby.

Twenty minutes later I break away. I now MUST get back to my workstation. I am so distracted, I punch the button for Regular Dr Pepper instead of Diet.

“Where were you?” asks my boss.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

hooked on dp

A friend recently found a place in DeSoto that sells Dublin Dr Pepper and he was kind enough to give me a bottle of the sweet elixir. And I do mean sweet! This particular Dr Pepper comes from the Original Dr Pepper bottling plant in Dublin, Texas and they still use Imperial cane sugar, not corn syrup, to make the stuff. You can find more information on this historical Texas beverage at the TexasTwisted site or you might like the Wikipedia version of the story. You can even hear it from the horse's mouth, its own self. I drove through Dublin in May on my way to Big Bend and didn't realize the significance of the signs I saw everywhere: "Dublin Dr Pepper Available Here." I could've stopped and toured the plant, but I didn't realize it was there, and I was in a hurry to go south, to go west, to get away from civilization and into Big Bend.

I'm probably repeating myself, but I was was awestruck and amazed when I watched "In the Heat of the Night" some months back and I saw a classic tall bottle of Dr Pepper standing atop Rod Steiger's desk there in Sparta, Mississippi. That was 1967 and I wondered how much of a curiosity it was for non-Southerners to see a Dr Pepper. I don't really remember seeing Dr Pepper when I lived in the NorthWest in 1963. It wasn't until we moved to Dallas in 1964 that I learned to appreciate an ice cold Dr Pepper on a scorching August day with its beads of icy sweat rolling down that tall straight bottle.

I iced down my Dublin Dr Pepper in high anticipation of a sugar buzz and a wave of nostalgia.

It fell flat. I've been drinking Diet Dr Pepper too long, I guess. The regular stuff just doesn't have the bite I've gotten used to from artificial sweeteners. My tastes have changed. If you like your sugar straight out of the sugar bowl, though, this drink is for you.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

accidents will happen

I had an accident yesterday. My neck is stiff and my body feels it’s been dealt a few swift kicks. It’s othing serious but I’m provoked because, as is the nature of most accidents, I never saw it coming. You rarely see it coming.

Webster defines “accident” as (among other things) “an unfortunate event resulting from carelessness, unawareness, ignorance, or a combination of causes” or “an unexpected happening causing loss or injury which is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured.”

It is a misfortune, a mishap, a mischance, a collision, crash, wreck, smash-up, crack-up, pile-up, one of the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” It is odd that so many associated synonyms contain the word “up” when you will most likely be “down” on the floor from a fall, as I was.

What happened was this: I was looking up and measuring some wall anchors attached near the ceiling when someone said, “But look over here at this one,” and I obliged, stepping several feet towards the indicated spot. Suddenly the floor disappeared from beneath my feet and then I was suddenly on the floor with my legs tangled among odd bits of a broken metal fan that had given its life in its effort to throw me over its shoulder and become the best kung fu fighter ever seen in these parts.

It was the oddest sensation. Did I lose consciousness? I don’t remember stepping on the fan; I don’t remember falling; yet no time seemed to have passed between me being upright and me being prone. I was walking and then someone was saying, “Don’t get up,” while my body of its own volition struggled to become erect again. It was then I felt pain in my arms and legs. I must have hurtled headlong and skidded against the industrial-type carpet because I have rug burn the entire length of one arm and leg. I was fortunate not to have landed on concrete.

My body was hurt. My pride was hurt. I walked away afterward and told everyone to leave me alone. I became very angry because there wasn’t anyone to blame.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

approach of the equinox

Cooler weather is on the way!

...At last, at long last, just when I think I can't take the heat, the heat that hits you like a blast furnace when you crack open a door to the outside, the heat that settles on your shoulders like a weighty backpack when you walk about, the heat that reflects from the sidewalk into your shoes, there's respite in sight. The night tells me the heat is getting tired. When I leave the warehouse at the approach of midnight the air is lighter than it was last week. The heat's not strong enough to stay attached to the ground once its ally, the sun, sets. The scent of wet earth from the sprinklers is audible now - the heat can't prevent it wafting toward your nostrils and infiltrating your sinus. The thermometer in my car mechanically confirms what my senses feel; it's ten degrees cooler than it was even at 2 a.m. in previous weeks.

Do the squirrels know one of their numbers has been killed by the yellow dog that barks at their taunts as they perch just out of reach in the trees? Their behavior seems less bold; they do not perch so low now, nor do they forage openly on the ground while the dog rests sphinx-like, calculating the distance as the red rodents inch ever farther from their escape route. For now the dog-taunters recede into the branches, invisible but for the half-eaten acorns they let fall to the ground. Soon, though, they will forget, I think, and the game will once more be afoot.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

dogs will be dogs

Phoebe’s dog dream came true; she finally caught and killed a squirrel. Sunday night she was unusually hyperactive and didn’t want to come into the house as she usually does. Midnight came and went and instead of curling up on the sofa and drifting into doggie sleep, she haunted the far corner of the back yard between the oak tree and the fence. Yesterday I found she’d been out there guarding her prize, a full-grown red squirrel, apparently killed by a forceful bite to the neck. I can’t say the squirrel didn’t deserve it; they sit out there and taunt Phoebe, almost daring her to try and catch them. I wonder if there’s an inborn enmity between dogs and squirrels. If you think of squirrels as rodents, which they are, it makes a little more sense. In the animal world dogs would be hunters and squirrels would be food.

We always wonder what kind of dog Phoebe might be. The baggy folds of skin around her neck, her color, her blue-spotted tongue and rough coat speak of possible Chow or Shar-Pei heritage. I thought some kind of Bull Terrier because of the broad forehead, thick neck, cat-like paws and her stare. If you’ve stared a Pit Bull in the face you know what I mean. And her neck and shoulders are incredibly strong for a dog her size. The long muzzle, upright ears and herding motions pointed to some kind of Shepherd in her genes. She looks a lot like a Finnish Spitz although the way her ribs show is indicative of a Greyhound or Whippet. Phoebe’s definitely a “mutt”, a “mongrel”, a “mélange” of Dog DNA. She’s a “yeller” dog, the color you get when you mix all the dog colors.

No one knows Phoebe’s past. I got her from a woman who spent much of her time and money rescuing dogs and finding homes for them. She found Phoebe wandering in her wooded Fort Worth neighborhood, nearly blind with eyes caked in gunk from entropion (inverted eyelids) and so skittish and frightened it took nearly an hour to catch her. This woman had Phoebe’s medical needs attended to and she now has “permanent eyeliner,” a dark scar lining the edge of each eye where the vet tucked the lower lids. She was about a year old and had obviously been abused. She would hide under the table when taken to adoption center and I probably wouldn’t have taken her had I known the extent of her neuroses. She’s been here about three years now and remains skittish, but she is a sweet dog and has never tried to bite anyone.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

gecko on the ceiling

I seem to find one of these critters either in my house or in the building at work almost every day. I guess they like air conditioning, too. Usually I try to catch them and bring them outside but I couldn't reach this little guy.

Here's an item called "Frequency, Duration, Intensity" about working to meet your goals. It's one of those ideas that's easy to say and hard to do. First you do the thing you want to do more frequently, go from once to twice a week, and keep increasing. Then you increase the duration, or time spent; start with ten minutes, go to fifteen, twenty, etc. And be sure you are focused on the activity while you are doing it. The author suggests you "avoid distractions" and "don't multitask." Easy to say. Hard to do.

Monday, September 05, 2005


After three days off I've caught up on some lost sleep even though I've been frazzled by frustration and anger and sadness for the folks of New Orleans. End of summer is always a bit of a letdown even though it means our long hours at work will be done with. I'm just tired of work, tired of the heat, and tired of the misery I see on tv. If our work schedule was a more gradual process it might be different but once we start accelerating it's like stomping down on the gas until the needle rattles and flies off the speedometer and we can't control the vehicle, and then just as suddenly someone stomps the brake pedal and we screech down the asphalt still out of control until we spin and slide and grind to a halt in a cloud of dust. Now all we can do is sit and wait for the dust to clear and wonder if we can open the door and walk away.

It's a holiday for many people today but I'll be working. We're now on 8-hour shifts and in one week will say "goodbye" to all our freelancers and go back to our regular schedule. It's not too soon for me although I will miss the night-time nature walks around the warehouse seeing Pepe and Paco and all the other skunks and bunnies and possums.

At least I've still got squirrels to watch in the daytime. They've become very active again and drive my dog, Phoebe, crazy. They sprawl on a limb just out of reach and stare at Phoebe's frantic efforts to reach them. It seems to me there are many more pecans falling than normally do at this time of year and green acorns of all varieties are falling, too. It's at least a month too soon. We are seven inches behind in rainfall, so maybe that's why.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

the refugees still need help!

Dallas Makes a Desperate Plea for Help

Many residents have escaped the hellhole at the Superdome but I’m afraid they are still facing a long hard road towards just getting a place to sleep. Texas cities are trying but we don't know what to do.

I AM SO ANGRY! There's still no response from FEMA or other federal or state agencies for supplies to help Texas cities deal with the influx of refugees. No Coordination of resources. Bush’s Teflon buddy, Governor Rick Perry, follows in his mentor’s footsteps. He likes to talk but can’t produce results.

Excerpt from The Dallas Morning News posted at 1:30 pm Saturday
Full story Here

Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones, CEO of the local Red Cross, said the agency does not have enough cots even for those arriving at Reunion Arena, the city's primary evacuee center.

"We are certainly overwhelmed," she said. "We have no resources. If (another) city wants to open a shelter, we will pay for the food. This is an unprecedented event for our city, our state, for our nation. The focus is on keeping them safe and getting a roof over their head."

The state has also failed to make good on its promise of cots and blankets for the city's shelters, (Mayor Laura) Miller said.

"I'm amazed at the lack of help we're getting," the mayor said. "The state has done zero to help us, the governor has done zero to help us – besides coming here for a photo op."

Friday, September 02, 2005

wake for new orleans

The stronger swimmer reached the edge of the dry patch of land but the second, less proficient, was having to fight the swift, deep current to make headway. Suddenly they saw her throw up her hands, clutch wildly at the air and disappear beneath the water.

A work born of frustration: I need turn turn away from the unending stream of images before I get sucked in by the undertow.

Things will never be the same.


I'm sick from watching the destruction and hearing Dubya talking out of both sides of his mouth. It's sweltering here; it was still 91 degrees outside last night as midnight approached. It can't be much better in New Orleans, and without water... well... Somebody, please, get those people out!

I had to detour through town last night due to construction and in the nearly traffic-free area next to Love Field I saw Southwest Airlines billboard: "Just Say N'Orleans." The pun isn't funny, now.

About 3000 evacuees from the Superdome have arrived in Dallas with about 6000 more expected by nightfall and 15,000 still to come. The city's only been able to find space for about 10-12,000 people and I'm hoping other cities in the area will lend a hand. There are already tens of thousands that came here before the storm hit and were able to rent rooms in motels or hotels. It's ironic that a city who doesn't know what to do with its own homeless population should suddenly become home to such a vast number of displaced people.

Many evacuees interviewed by local reporters here say they won't go back and are already enrolling their kids in local school districts. The Dallas ISD said those kids could start attending classes on Monday, but I think someone forgot Monday is a holiday. It looks like the face of Dallas, and Texas, too, is going to change. No one expected this.