2-4-03, 12:00 PM -

Here I sit on a Boeing 757, awaiting takeoff. "Takeoff?" you may ask. "A honky says what?" you may also ask, but I refer you to Wil Wheaton.


It turns out I've been omitting a bit of information in recent letters, notably that for desired personnel reasons, the completion of my tracking needed to take place in Texas. I omitted this because the trip really needed to be purely business, and I wouldn't really have time for much visiting. Hope no one's pissed. And if you are, tough cheese.

Truth is, the past week's work proceeded so quickly & efficiently that I was able to take a small bit of leisure time between sessions. Two hours of this leisure time was spent subjecting my friends deanpence & Gustavson to the Star Wars Holiday Special. Just a week prior, I ran my pal Paul through the same gauntlet.

I don't know why I feel the need to evangelize That Which Must Never Be Seen Sayeth George Lucas. It's probably the same morbid fascination that makes people watch snuff films. Just the idea that such a thing exists is enough to change my perspective on reality. Either that or I'm trying to get rid of all my friends. It may work yet.

This time through Texas didn't have the holiday feel about it that November's trip did, and I got a chance to reevaluate my relationship with the ol' home state. The thing is, I really like Fort Worth. I do. A year ago, such a statement would've given me cold chills, for to like it would have been to decrease the thrust of our NYC liftoff. But I find that one can like a place without wanting to live there. I have that relationship with San Francisco, Washington DC, New Mexico, and now I have it with Fort Worth.

The cool thing about Fort Worth is its artistic nooks & crannies (have you ever seen a nook without a cranny?). On the surface, you see the Cowtown & Big Oil image, which of course is there in spades. That & call centers. Oy. But downtown and just to the west in the Cultural District, you will find a bevy of hole-in-the-wall artist hangouts & very fine cultural offerings. I knew this before, of course, but I find myself partaking of more of these benefits when I'm only in town for a few days like a bloody tourist.

So to help my friendly workaday Texans rediscover what they've got and maybe provide a to-do list for those who may find themselves visiting the Metroplex anytime soon, I now present...

the matthew show's Fort Worth Artiste Cranny & Cool Shit Guide:

1. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Newly redesigned, this is a hell of a building. Unlike its neighbor the Kimbell Art Museum, the Modern has a homey, hangout feel to it, more like a really nice college student center than an art museum. Sitting on the lawn beside the reflecting pool which surrounds half of the museum, it's impossible not to relax and almost believe it's your backyard. If your backyard had a bigass art museum in it. Admission's free, & the exhibited work runs usual crap-to-excellent gamut of most modern art museums. Don't forget to make some noise inside the big metal tower out front. The echo's quite groovy.

2. The Four Star Coffee Bar. A short walk from the Modern, this is about the most comfy coffee house you'll find anywhere. Scheduled and unscheduled musicians can be found here regularly, and the clientele is ultra laid-back. Which is strange, considering everyone's knocking back prodigious amounts of caffiene. There's a Reading Room for those seeking quiet, and on temperate days the patio is a great place to solve the world's problems with your friends, even if no one ever listens to you, the bastards.

3. Joe y Nona's. On the northern edge of both downtown and the Cultural District, this little Italian restaurant holds forth with dishes that give New York eateries some serious competition. I myself had the Chicken Rollatini, and had my mama been there, I'd have slapped her. Come on, surely you've heard the expression. Anyone? Bueller?

4. The Wreck Room. Not far from the Four Star is this rather comfortable rock club, which usually has good sound and listenable bands. Fort Worth needs more of both, of course. Careful of the bathrooms, however. What is it with club bathrooms?

5. The Ridglea Theater. On the very western edge of the Cultural District lies a classy old movie theater that is as cool a music venue as anyone could ask for. My memories of playing there years ago are all quite fond, partly because every band gets a bigass cool slide show presentation behind them on the big screen. The Ridglea's bathrooms are quite nice, as are the various lounging areas throughout the theater. Music can be hit-or-miss (it is Fort Worth, you know), but you can always just hang out & feel art deco-ish. Which is easier for some of us than others.

6. The Trinity Railway Express. If you must go to Dallas (the horror...), it's worth rigging your schedule so that you can hop the only passenger rail line between D and FW. Get on board at the historic Texas & Pacific Rail Station downtown and enjoy the view as you tootle through seldom-seen parts of northern Tarrant and Dallas Counties. If you're lucky enough to get on one of the newer trains, take a seat on the upstairs level for better sightseeing. Once you arrive at Dallas' Union Station, the DART rail & bus system can take you...well, just a few places, really, but they're getting a little better. Stupid Dallas. However...

7. Lakewood. I know, it's not in Fort Worth, but this is one of the only parts of Dallas worth looking at. The coolest old houses you ever saw, plus groovy little shops & the classic old Lakewood Theater, very like the Ridglea but more film-centric. Bars out the wazoo, too (here's their listing of AA groups). Take the #19 DART bus from Union Station to get there (though I'm not sure of their new routes, so check the website first). Back to FW:

8. The Old Bedford School. Exactly what it sounds like, the old schoolhouse is part museum and part performance space. The auditorium's acoustics are impeccable, and the acts are always fun, mostly folkish/Irish/eclecticish. The audience vibe is very friendly & communal, and you get tasty refreshments at intermission. It's like church. If church were fun.

9. The Jefferson Freedom Cafe. After-hours Unitarian church clubs are nothing new, but Jefferson's been around longer than most. Acoustic singer/songwritery stuff for the most part, but with a better ratio of good to bad than most venues of that ilk.

10. The Black Dog Tavern. Downtown's most personable bar, and a fine place to catch jazz on Sunday nights. Not a yuppie in sight. Damned good jukebox, too, which is rare.

11. Fred's Cafe. Good eats, good atmosphere, and occasional shows out on the makeshift junkyard-revival patio. They use non-infected meat as well.

12. Heritage Park and the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. Still the best place to unwind with the flora in Fort Worth. Don't forget to feed the koi. Or the squirrels, the greedy little sumbitches. They'll tug on your leg if you forget. Why, I seen 'em stab a man in the face and take his wallet.



There. Now don't say I never said anything useful. And you might take a look at this Danish guy's Fort Worth vacation pictures for the heck of it.

3:40 PM -

Flying over Lake Michigan now, though you only catch glimpses through the thick carpet of fog. It must be snowing, because the clouds look really heavy (yes, I realize how unscientific that is, now bugger off). If I didn't know better, I would think we were flying over an Antarctic snow field, with irregular drifts & humps dotting the landscape. Ooo, cool, we've reached a break, and you can see the clouds dumping snow onto the land below (I knew those clouds looked funny).

I suppose the day may come when my wonderment at flying through the air ceases, but I doubt it. My mind flips through the pages of history too much, pondering the view from up here. What would Ben Franklin make of this sight? Or Leonardo da Vinci? The idea of living your whole life not knowing what the Earth looks like from above is rather fascinating to me. No wonder people wrote twee poesy about birds & ancient gods. I could almost forgive Lord Byron. But I won't.

Actually, flight is much better when you can't see the wing out of your window. Sometimes the nearness of the wing juxtaposed with the clouds far below can trigger a bit of alarm in my head. But then, I'm a weird fuck.

Upon leaving Chicago (my connecting city), I caught a really good view of downtown and the Sears Tower. A bit sinister, that. In fact, we were climbing through the clouds as we passed, and the brightness above the cloudline made the darkness below in the city look rather Mordor-like. Tower or Barad-dur, indeed.

The fact that flight was in its infancy when my grandparents were born makes me hopeful about the future of spaceflight, which was just over ten years old at my birth. Will I see the Earth from space? Obviously these thoughts are jogged somewhat by the Columbia disaster this weekend. And no, I didn't find any landing gear in my parents' backyard.

In fact, I had only gone to bed two hours earlier that morning after a wine-fueled, post-session game of Risk. I nearly won twice, missing victory the first time because I got too greedy and the second time because I wasn't greedy enough. As deanpence (the victor) noted, the lesson learned here is that strategy must be determined based on the situation at hand. But what fun is that? I want my silver bullet, by gar.

6:00 PM -

We are now descending over the snow-encrusted, irregularly-parceled lands of upstate New York. What really struck me about flying into Chicago is how perfectly gridded it is. I mean straight lines as far as the eye can see in every direction. I suppose it's because they have no land masses to build around, flat as Illinois is. Hell, even Texas has hills once in a while. Weird.

Either it got dark really quickly, or I just wasn't paying attention. Highways and cities at night still look rather otherworldly to me from the air, as if they're glowing from some internal fire within the Earth. Rivulets of light trickling through narrow veins, grids of glowing energy connected by streaming photons, flowing like magma.

And Manhattan: The huge transistor center of it all, sending and controlling the energies of its satellites, with bright messenger particles lifting off all around it to transmit its power. Those aren't people down there, they're alien energy beings, all up to some great purpose.

But I'll land soon, and step into a dusty cab, which will take me through clogged highways to an old, rickety house on a dingy street, and I'll wonder: Am I a part of that awesome machine I just witnessed from far above? It's hard to say. But I'm back in the thick of it, regardless.

Nice as it is to be beyond the reach of Master Control, I have some need of its energy right now. I feel good, tracking's done, & now I must mix. Plug me in, New York.



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the matthew show