Don’t Forget to Dig Your Toes In

Today I was feeling very nostalgic.  Actually, it began last night, as I took Chester out for a walk – he’s my (almost) 2 year old Basset Hound.  I love living in the middle of a big city, but I sometimes miss the countryside.  I grew up there.

Needless to say, in the middle of Dallas, one is not often very inclined to walk barefoot anywhere.  I saw a particularly inviting patch of emerald green grass outside the loft while walking Chester this morning/early afternoon.  I had slipped on some flip flops to quickly take him out.  After examining the spot to ensure it was free of detritus, I slid my foot out and let it make contact with the grass.  I smiled instinctively, and dug my toes in – it was cool, nearly cold, to the touch, and felt wet.  It wasn’t, though, and I was glad of that.

It reminded me of the endless grass growing up, and the way I’d walk barefoot outside as a kid.  Yeah, I was that country, I guess you could say.  I miss it.  It was a nice feeling, so I snapped a pic.  Now I have something to remind of that feeling…

Incidentally, while I am classically Euro-white, and perhaps prone to haunting the house with my whiteness, the hipstamatic effect enhanced it. ;-P

Chucks & Grime – South Dallas February 2011

Picture post…

This photo was taken during shoots for a photography book I’m working on, celebrating my neighborhood south of downtown Dallas, the Cedars.

It’s a brilliant, gorgeous spring day in Dallas – even though it’s only February 15th.

Partly Cloudy
74°F
Current: Partly Cloudy
Wind: S at 17 mph
Humidity: 46%

I hope this isn’t one of the weather teasers we usually get.  A little over a week ago we had the “ice storm of the century” followed by 6 inches of snow – now it’s 75 degrees.   ¡Bienvenidos a Tejas!

Draw A Map to Get Lost

Amazing night – which was good, because today was overall rather boring.  I had an appointment to meet a local artist, the awesome Patricia Rodriguez, at South Side on Lamar for an event called UNDERGROUND – hosted by ArtLoveMagic.  I biked it the few blocks to the event, around 8:45pm.  Wow, what an extravaganza!

The gallery and floor below were teeming with people, and art was everywhere the eye could turn.  Live music filled the cavernous space, and I was in love.  I want to try & be in the event next year.  Over 50 local artists (many of them up-and-coming or “unknown”) displaying their work, and creating new work live!  Live bands all night, body painting, alcohol, and magic.  Great time.  I was only able to stay about 45 minutes, since I was there to pick up the wife’s VD gift.

I’ll preface with this:  The wife loves Yoko Ono.  She owns a first edition copy of Ono’s seminal book of conceptual art “instructions,” titled Grapefruit.

I ordered a custom Yoko/Grapefruit inspired wooden keepsake box from Ms. Rodriguez – she paints these tea/jewelry/keepsake boxes by hand, embellishes them with extras, etc.  They’re really great.  The wife LOVED it!  (Yes, I gave it to her early – neither of us could wait)  Here are some pics:

I selected some passages from Grapefruit, and requested they be put on the box.  In case the pictures make it hard to read, the passage on top reads:

buy many dream boxes
ask your wife to select one
dream together

On the front it reads:  draw a map to get lost

30 Days – Day 11 – Something People Compliment Me On

If you’re following this blog, you know I’m participating in the ‘30 Days of Truth‘ project I’ve seen on other blogs.  It’s helping me commit to posting every single day, since I’m also taking part in The Daily Post project.

Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on

People have often complimented me on my humor and/or wit.  I guess I am pretty quick with a snappy quip.  Is that a talent?  Perhaps it is; although I’m not sure I’ve put it to the best use over the years.  Like many things, I can’t force it – guess that’s why I probably wouldn’t want to be a comedy writer or comedian (the pressure). 

I’ve also gotten compliments on my art and photography (fyi, I did not take the photo above – click on it to see more tilt shift images).  I have had no formal art or photography training.  I’ve drawn since I was about 2 years old, and I guess I had a natural affinity for photography from a fairly young age.  I used to carry those Fun Saver cameras with me everywhere.

I actually would like to take a digital photography class – something non-credit where I could learn tips & tricks to better my craft.  But I’ve been told I have a good eye for things.  That makes me feel pretty good.  🙂  And I’ve learned some interesting digital processing techniques through friends and just messing around with various programs and websites such as Photoshop, GIMP, Pixlr, etc.  I’ve also learned some cool tricks from the wife.  She took digital photography and editing classes in college. 

I got into painting last year.  I really took to it after my first piece.  I decided I’d like to try something on canvas.  For many years, though I was pretty adept at drawing, painting intimidated me.  I was afraid to try it.  Mind you, I am no Picaso, but I think I have been able to successfully translate my inspiration and vision onto the canvas.  My work leans toward pop art, with major inspriations/themes running the gambit from Mexican cultural and/or religious iconography, fantasy art, rockabilly, vintage, retro, and so forth.  Although I’m atheist, I must confess I have a sweet spot for Mexican Catholic iconography – the Virgin of Guadalupe is a personal favorite. 

I’ve been photographing a lot outdoors lately.  I moved to a loft in South Dallas the weekend of Halloween, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously somewhere.  I love my neighborhood.  I feel very at home, and I’m discovering more about this part of the city every day.  I’d never ventured down here much at all – it was verboten, as it’s “that part of town” that nobody from the North Side ever goes to.  I’m glad they don’t – that saves it as the treasure it is.  Although some development and services on the whole are badly needed for the residents of South Dallas, many of whom are among the poorest in the entire city.  Anyway, I’m working on a photography book about my neighborhood.  I’ve gotten what I think are some pretty great shots, and while there’s a lot of information online and in books about South Dallas as a whole, including Oak Cliff, I am fairly certain there’s yet to be a book (and certainly a photography book) about The Cedars (my neighborhood). 

Here’s a shot I thought I’d share:

South Dallas Story – Pt. 2

Pretty good Saturday, I’d say.  So far anyway.  It was 73 degrees and sunny in Dallas, but unfortunately I didn’t get out to enjoy it as much as I’d have liked.  I was going to set off on foot around the neighborhood to get some shots for a photography book I’m working on, but decided the light was too direct at 2:00pm.  I settled on 4:30-ish.  As I went out, though, I caught my photographer neighbor (see a prior post), and we got to talking, as we’re prone to do.  Interesting dude.  We ended up talking for like an hour, until we were interrupted by the wifey peeking out of the blinds (she’d just gotten up from a day of slumber, and we were standing in front of our door) and a woman from our building’s property management company.

But, I did manage to work on some new paintings (almost done), and edit some of the shots I got last weekend.  What the hell – I’ll share one of them below.

I’m really excited about this project.  It’s a coffee table style photography book about Cedars (aka The Cedars), my neighborhood in South Dallas.  I have no ETA on it at all, but hopefully sometime sooner than later.  This year for sure.  Of course, this is in addition to two poetry book projects currently underway.  Ugh, I really need to stop procrastinating on those and get with it.

In total contrast to today’s weather, here’s a time-lapse video of snow (a relative rarity in the Sun Belt-Buckle that is DFW) falling on Cedars Station, our local DART train station.

I do want to get in some rainy shots, maybe some snowy/icy shots if we get anything good this winter, and some sunny shots.  Watch this blog for more as the project moves forward.

My neighbor is a world-class photographer, and does it for a living, so I must admit it’s sort of intimidating.  He’s also in his early 20s (8 years younger than me) so that makes it somewhat even more intimidating.  It’s also inspiring though.  I’ve never claimed to be the best artist, writer, or photographer, but I’m just doing what I love.  I don’t have all the training and latest tips, but I do have the passion, and I think I do a pretty good job.

Okay,  enough blogging (for now) – time to work on more art, and then watch ‘True Grit’ with the wifey.

South Dallas Story – pt. 1

Disclaimer: The photos contained in this post, unless otherwise noted, were not taken by me, and have been located on the internet.

For those of you who don’t know me IRL, I recently moved to a neighborhood of South Dallas called the Cedars.  It’s just in the shadow of downtown Dallas, technically part of South Dallas, but close enough in to call it downtown and not be lying.

It’s at the northern edge of arguably the most ‘hood’ part of Dallas – the South and South East portions.  But, due perhaps to its proximity to downtown Dallas, it’s what I like to call “the white people’s hood.”  Decades of blight and decay abound, but it’s not as “bad” as some other neighborhoods, even within the same zip code as us.  The further south one travels from the Cedars, the more blighted the terrain becomes.

Drug dealing and prostitution are not at all uncommon, even in broad daylight.  A block away from our loft is an actual $7 a night flophouse – the infamous Bunkhaus.

Vacant lots polkadot our immediate neighborhood and the surrounding environs, with grassy lots where grand old homes once stood.  It’s fairly obvious in most cases that the lots have been empty for years – makes me wonder how many.  Decades even?

We live in a converted loft that used to be part of reputed mob associate and Lee Harvey Oswald murderer Jack Ruby‘s ‘Silver Spur Nightclub.’

Jack Ruby

The NuGrape Bottling Plant at left, the red building was a hotel and the Silver Spur, and the old Ervay Theater at far right

In the past couple of months living here, I have fallen hopelessly in love with this somewhat-forgotten, underrated part of the city, for all the reasons I listed in the beginning of this post.  I love it for its grittiness, its reality, its urban appeal.  Like me, it’s an underdog, something of a loner, and often misunderstood.

The district has gone from being one of Dallas’ earliest wealthy enclaves – and the center of the city’s Jewish population; to an industrial blighted area rife with poverty, crime, and urban decay; to a quiet, slow reemergence as an affordable artist/loft neighborhood.

More to come, as I continue to explore this vibrant, amazing part of my city.  I’m so inspired I’m even planning a photography book project.

Downtown Dallas from an empty lot in the Cedars