Friday, July 24, 2009

True Love

I am really loving The Bike.
What's not to love, after all? It is awfully pretty, riding on it is cooler than standing or walking... or even driving in the car, and it is good for me to have this relationship. Good physically, good emotionally, and probably good spiritually.
The newest escapade is the rear rack and panniers that will make it so simple to commute to My U every day, rain or shine. I have also added a water bottle carrier, for obvious reasons.
True love: who knew it was this simple?

On the Road

Today I leave on a trip to Western lands. I'll be watching some Shakespeare, sampling some wine, and hopefully driving through some pretty country.

With lots of pictures.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009


This little building lives across the street from one of my new coffee cafes.

I love it. The architectural details--windows, doors, angles--interest me. It is empty now, but used to be a bar called Louie's.

This is the side street view.

I took these pix during one of the hot, clear, surface-of-the-sun days here in DFW this week. This building, like my little cafe, is part of a neighborhood undergoing revival: lots of restaurants and bars so far, but not too many other kinds of shops. A new natural foods market I like very much is just around the corner, as well.

It is a bike destination, as well, given that it is a little farther than I've been thus far, as well and on and over some busy car-traffic streets.

Great to see this neighborhood becoming livelier, despite the economy, because it is a mixed area for Hispanic families and young artists, kind of an eclectic mix of residents who seem to be getting along (thus far) pretty well.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

This is the mural on the interior room at Clark's Outpost, the barbecue place I wrote about previously. I went back there this weekend, on Saturday, with more friends who had not yet visited. We had a great time: great food, great service, and a surprisingly silent dinner table (because we were all shoving onion rings, smoked turkey, beef brisket, pork ribs, collard greens, jalapeno black-eyed peas, apple pie a la mode, chocolate meringue pie, and bread pudding doused with nutmeg-brandy sauce.... sigh!... into our mouths at a terrific rate).

Take the trip! (And do make reservations for any weekend night!). The drive up Route 377 is gorgeous this time of year: horses, cows, and cornfields galore!


New Dresser

On Thursday, I bought this little chest from a shop here in DFW.

I am in love with it. Obviously, it needs some work: a new handle on the third drawer, some adjustment in the lower left rear, and I do plan to paint it (come Labor Day). But it fits perfectly in this spot, it is reasonably clean prior to final repair and painting, and the drawers pull in and out smoothly.

It also has a smaller footprint than the two-level table I previously had in this space.

Wow! Does this mean my apartment is actually falling into place? Finally?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Review: Cheri

Yesterday--Sunday--I went to see the film Cheri. It was marvelous.

Directed by Stephen Frears, screenplay by Christopher Hampton from two novels by Colette, and starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates, and Rupert Friend, I have not been able to stop thinking about the film. Reviewers have been somewhat less than kind, seeing only the surface bubbles rather than the depth of character revealed by director and performers.

First of all, the film is beautifully shot. The sets, costumes, and entire look of it is gorgeous, evoking France's Belle Epoque in an absolutely authentic, meticulously researched, and stunningly replicated manner (damn, I want her bed!). For this alone, I loved it.

But there was more!

Frears is the director of The Queen, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Dirty Pretty Things, and High Fidelity, as well as one of my all-time favorite films, The Grifters. He must be brilliant with actors, given the performances he gets out of male and female performers alike. In this film, in Cheri, Michelle Pfeiffer really shows why she is a star and a fine actress--for which she's never gotten enough credit. As if "star" is completely exclusive of "actress."

The camera is unrelenting, clealy showing that Pfeiffer is 50+. And while she has taken such good care of herself that she remains radiant, she is, indeed, well within middle age.

And her lover, played by Rupert Friend, is less than half her age... in the script. Friend is actually 27, but he plays a character who ages from 19 to 25, and he is believable at that age. Friend is youthful, foxily bright-eyed and lean, stunningly gorgeous in his period clothing. He is pettish, spoiled, and sexy, surprisingly both comic and heartbreaking.

The film documents the love affair between Lea (Pfeiffer), a courtesan contemplating retirement, and Cheri, the son of her rival. In one of the first scenes, they kiss... and the love affair is on. After six years, Cheri's mother (Bates, in a brilliant character role) finds the perfect wife for Cheri, the virginal daughter of another rival; Cheri leaves Lea and marries the daughter, leaving both lovers miserable.

One of the elements I love about the film is that it doesn't attempt to justify the love of a 40-some year-old woman for a 20-some year-old boy. Hampton and Frears present scenes of the interaction and sexuality between Lea and Cheri, and that must be enough... and it is, especially when we see them with others, with Cheri's ridiculously needy, selfish wife, Lea's new young musclebound lover, Cheri's manipulative mother, and the circle of sadly aging courtesans with whom Lea passes her time.

Lea has surrounded herself with beauty and luxury: her houses, her clothing, and all the material objects she can buy. Giving up her business--not taking on any more "lovers"--means her time and bed are empty. She has no hobbies, no skills, no interests beyond her former employment... except Cheri, who is her great passion and her first, true love. Surprisingly, he engages her as she engages him emotionally, intellectually, and physically. When the lovers part for his marriage, we know it is a mistake.

When they part for reasons less easily overcome, it is unsettling in the deepest way, calling into question all our philosophy and prejudices about romantic love, sophisticated sexuality, men and women, and even, somehow, human purpose.

As in The Grifters, Frears plays on the deepest human relationships, love and fear, our vulnerabilities, and the manner in which we deceive ourselves and, simultaneously, relentlessly reveal our own truths. It seems he is fearless, and enables his actors and actresses to be equally fearless: the final shot of Pfeiffer staring at herself in her own mirror is stunning, and revealing, and terrifying.

In an age when comedy panders to 13-year-old boys' wet dreams, film in general panders to directors' limited "graphic novel" obsessions, and while romantic comedies pander to "chick lit" fantasies of boringly domesticated (and dull) Prince Charmings, Cheri suggests that salvation is located... somewhere else, somewhere less safe and far more challenging.

See it, and pay attention to the layers beneath the froth.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth Fireworks

Happy Fourth!

I love fireworks--why, I do not know, but I am awestruck by the whole event. This year, I am celebrating vicariously, thanks to YouTube.


Favorite Things: Barbecue at Clark's Outpost

Yesterday, two friends and I took the long, long trip up to Tioga to eat barbecue at Clark's
Outpost. It had been a few year since I was at Clark's, and my friends had never even heard of it, although they've lived here longer than I have.

The drive was, well, an adventure. For part of the trip we drove a county road that was graveled but unpaved (Rte 121 west): do not choose this route. Scenic, but a little unnerving. Instead, use Rte. 380 to 377, then go north.

My friends, after about 90 minutes of driving, including over 10 miles of unpaved road, were understandably hungry and crabby. Clark's storefront looks unimpressive, and pulling into the unpaved gravel parking lot, with all windows closed so the a.c. can blast against the orange pollution ozone alert and 102 degree heat, does not impress.

And then one opens the car door, steps out... and smells the barbecue cookin'.


From there we floated to the front door.

I had carefully made reservations--since it was a Friday evening--but most tables were empty. A surprise to me. I recommend ALWAYS making reservations.

The three of us sat, ate, and--damn!--enjoyed.

We ordered appetizers: onion rings and fully loaded potato skins. Both were delicious, but I especially love the rings. The coating is thick, crunchy, chewy and the rings are substantial.
To order alcohol, one must join the club, a Texas tradition of dry towns, where only members can drink legally. We ordered Shiners, naturally, and one Negro Modelo.

One friend ordered the brisket beef/smoked turkey combination plate, including the collard greens and jalapeno black-eyed peas. The other ordered the brisket/sausage combo, with potato salad and fried zucchini. I ordered the beef/pork ribs combo, with red beans and cole slaw. The plates arrive fast--always--and at first glance, it doesn't look like much food. And in fact for a regular barbecue joint, it is a smaller serving... but then one starts to eat.

The beef is so tender, beautifully smoked on-site over three days, one doesn't even need a knife to cut it. It is so delicious, so tender, that it is a work of art. The ribs--ditto. Smallish, but tasty, succulent, plump. Bones do not dominate. Eaten with the dark sauce that comes bottled in old Grolsch beer bottles: be still my heart! The sausage, from a Dallas maker, are spicy, while the turkey breast--also smoked at Clark's--is mellow and, again, so tender it can be nudged into pieces with a fork.

Usually, I ignore the sides in favor of the main course, so as not to waste time or space. In this case that would be a mistake. All of our sides were superb seconds: my red beans and cole slaw were so good, I actually ate most of them.

Each plate comes with two slices of Texas toast, an onion slab (not slice), and half of a canned cling peach.

For dessert, one friend ordered the Dutch apple pie with vanilla ice cream, while I had the bread pudding with hard sauce. I recommend the pie--crunchy, complex, and overall delicious--and not the bread pudding. I am a huge fan of b.p., but this one was soaked in brandy and nutmeg. It was absolutely tasty, but so rich and overwhelmingly alcoholic, I wa afraid to be near the open candle on our tabletop. Wow! I ate about 1/3 of the total slab, which again was not over-sized or grotesque, but too much for me.

My friends, fans of Southern cooking, Tex-Mex cooking, and Texas food, were impressed. Me, too, but I was not surprised. What I love most about Clark's is that it is not out to impress: neither the decor, the wait staff (who are friendly and efficient, but not hanging over the table, thank God!), or the prices are out to stun you. It is, simply, good food that doesn't want to be the favorite baby of foodies and wanna-be gourmands. What for?

If you love it, you can order off their website, which also shows their menu and hours. Take my advice: if you're in the area, visit. If you aren't, order something by mail. You'll be very happy.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Favorite Things: 3191 Miles Apart project

One of my favorite websites is 3191 Miles Apart, a website shared by Steph and Mav, two friends living 3191 miles apart (see?) who share photo moments online. They don't include comments or comment themselves--much--on their photos, but the pictures provide quiet, lovely images or, actually, moments of life.

They have published two books, one of mornings and one of evenings, and a poster set as well.

I find their blog inspirational, both in its object and in the pictures they share. Their photography gives me a lot of pleasure and challenges me to look differently at my own photos and picture taking.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Nostalgia: One Year Ago

One Year Ago today I was flying to London, ready to start my Oxford summer semester and my Parisian sabbatical directly after that. Sigh.

It's been a great year, but a long one. Here's a photo from Oxford, of the building at University College where my rooms were.

Given the heat and nasty air here in DFW, I'd rather be there... but then what about the bike?

Bike Trails

Now that I am a proud bike owner-rider, I have been scouting bike-friendly information.
A CUP OF JO: NYCity Bike Types
GWADZILLA: D.C. guy who rides bikes and writes philosophy about riding bikes....
ECOVELO: I love this blog for its style as well as its commitment to green living.
VELIBE: Paris's system of rent your own bikes, available all over town for short term rentals.
FAT CYCLIST: Funny guy, interesting blog.
COPENHAGEN CYCLE CHIC: Wonderful pictures, and not all "spandex" stuff, for riders lite like me.
NEW YORK TIMES: Urban cycling and the gender gap.
CHANGE YOUR LIFE. RIDE A BIKE: A great blog about people across the country riding bikes for lots of reasons.
BIKE SKIRT: Girls and bikes.
SHE RIDES A BIKE: Flagstaff, Arizona woman writes about biking and style. My kind of blog.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Main Hall

My U is built around two elements: an oval central drive and a four-story, red brick, domed hall. The class I'm teaching this summer is in this hall, on the top floor. Inside, the entry hall is open, with a dome and circular skylight.

The gallery runs in a circle around the hall, leading off to two wings.

This particular window gives a great view of both the campus and downtown Big D.

Here's a better view.

Pretty, isn't it? From here, you can really ignore the blazing heat of early evening.