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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2002 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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mad dog weed, skull cap, dong quai
march 9, 2002

My friend Dave and I got together for lunch this past Wednesday.

We hadn't seen each other for a couple months, because of the holidays.

Since our last get together, Dave has also started to work from home, like I do, so we agreed to meet at his house, which I had never seen.

Dave lives south of Trinity River, in one of the older sections of Dallas, Oak Cliff.

Oak Cliff is probably the gentlest section of Dallas. Narrow, intimate roads, old-growth shade trees everywhere, modest shops and restaurants, most of them owned by couples or families, rather than corporations. It's the section of Dallas that most has a neighborhood feel. You actually see people on the sidewalks, on their way to work, or lunch, or to visit a friend.

(It stands in contrast to Plano, to the north of Dallas, where all the rich live. Plano frequently scores at the top of the lists of 'most livable' suburbs in America, but I don't know why. There's been a persistent high incidence of heroin addiction among the school kids, and even though all the streets are four or five lanes wide, you're still stalled in traffic gridlock everywhere you go, no matter what time of day, one of those situations where you see the distant red light fifty car tops ahead of you lower to green, but no cars move forward in your lane, then raise to red again, because you have so many cars pouring out of the intervening Star Bucks and Florida Tan parking lots. For a million dollars in Plano you get a tract home designed according to a CEO's conception of a castle, meaning a huge brick house with huge white rooms built, because of the high property prices in Plano, on a lot just large enough to blow your nose on it, the castles so crowded together you can talk to your neighbor by both of you opening a side window, just like in the tenements. Many of the million dollar homes don't have a driveway, because the lot is all house, so everyone parks their Bentleys and Jaguars in the street. Nobody steals the cars, even though they are on the street, because everyone's rich already, probably the best protection against burglary, except sometimes the school kids do, for their heroin habits. But hey.)

As I suspected I would, I got lost on the way over to Dave's home, but nonetheless arrived at high noon, the time we agreed we would meet. For future get togethers, to arrive on time, all I have to remember to do is leave my home at 11:15, and stop at one gasoline station for directions.

His home, like the rest on his street, is set way back on his lot, giving him a lot of privacy.

I pulled up by his garage, and got my camera out from under my driver's seat (I wanted to take a picture of his home for this Lately), just as he banged out the back door.

I didn't know what his home would look like, but it was absolutely charming. It was built in the nineteen-twenties. He and his wife have lived in it since the late seventies. Where Dave lives is now designated as an Historic District, meaning you can't paint your house without permission.

He brought me into the kitchen, which was like walking into a small, slightly eccentric shop, the type filled with a thousand unrelated items. All the rooms were that way, giving a warm, slightly tunnelish feel to the experience of walking through the house. It was absolutely fascinating. Everywhere I walked, there was something to see, lying on the wooden floors, stacked against the walls, or propped on the below-ceiling ledges that ran around the rooms. He showed me his wife's fabric room, samples and sections of fabric piled everywhere to five foot heights (Dave's wife creates beautiful custom quilts, which are sold around the country. At the time of my visit, his wife was in Virginia. Her mother had just recently passed away. If you pray, please pray for her).

We talked for a while, and I met his dog, then we got in my car and headed towards the recently renovated Bishop Arts District located a few blocks away. (Oak Cliff was for years ignored by most of the Dallas investment community because it was considered a high crime area, but a few years ago, as often happens now in American inner cities, gays moved into the neighborhoods, possibly because of the real estate bargains and the beautiful architecture of the homes, almost impossible to duplicate these days, and brought back the district.)

The section of Oak Cliff he took me to for lunch was a quiet, tree-filled area of narrow streets, one-story buildings and blue sky that had the feel of small-town America. We decided to go to Chan Thai, one of his favorite restaurants.

We both received a complimentary bowl of soup to start. I have no idea what it was. It was orange and slightly oily, in a good sense, with chunks of chicken and diced vegetables, and a broth reminiscent of the oceans, maybe clam or oyster. It was delicious.

For my entree, I chose Spicy Basil Leaves. When I first looked at the one-page menu, which listed not only each dish's name but also its ingredients, I noticed, with some alarm, that all the dishes consisted of vegetables only, no meat. I love vegetables, but I love meat, too. Dave pointed to the typing near the top, which indicated each dish could be served with chicken, beef or pork, or, for two dollars extra, jumbo shrimp. I chose pork.

My choice arrived in an oval platter, the spicy entrée itself to the right, a huge snowball of white rice to the left. Dave demonstrated how, with a fork, you could rake the rice onto the entrée, mixing it together. It was quite good. But what was especially good was the dipping sauce served with the spring roll. It was yellow and orange, with, again, a sheen of oil. The sauce had a wonderfully complex, unfamiliar flavor to it.

"What is this?"

"It's fish sauce."

While we ate, the subject got around to death. He mentioned an article he read about an elderly man, recently widowed, who spent most of his time now on cruise ships, to be able to dance with women, and talk to them. He had no interest in bedding them, he just missed female company, though he still longed for his wife. In the article, the man said he had gotten into the habit of shaving one of his legs. "It makes me feel like she's still here."

After we finished our meal we went back outside, so I could smoke. We started walking past the different shops and restaurants, looking in the windows. I stopped at one establishment, Ifs, Ands, & Butts. It specializes in "Fine tobaccos and unusual sodas".

It was a trip. The store has about fifty different root beers, from all over the world, a wide variety of birch beers, cream sodas and ginger ales, and oddball soft drinks like Moxie, in addition to an impressive array of tobacco products.

They have a deal where you can get a 'Root Beer Six-Pack' for twelve dollars. The proprietor gives you a white six-pack case, and you fill it with whatever root beers you want.

Since Mary likes having the occasional root beer on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I selected the following bottles:

SPRECHER ROOT BEER SODA, made in Milwaukee

PIRATE'S KEG ROOT BEER, out of Rochester, New York

BUNDABERG ROOT BEER, "Naturally brewed from sarsaparilla root to our genuine old recipe", which is imported from Australia

FROSTIE ROOT BEER, which has a red and white drawing of Santa's smiling face on the front, out of Temple, Texas

DAD'S CLASSIC DRAFT ROOT BEER ("caffeine free"), made in Atlanta, Georgia

RAT BASTARD ROOT BEER ("Makes you feel like something you're not. Spread your lips and ingest"), which comes to us from "a factory somewhere in Los Angeles, California. Ask your real dad how to find our site…we don't have a phone or even a pager anymore." Root beer with attitude. The ingredients paragraph starts off, "All this stuff made it through the hole," then lists over a dozen bizarre ingredients, including mad dog weed, skull cap, African capsicua, shitake, dong quai, and a bunch of other stuff. The bottle cap is black with criss-crossed white bones.

For myself, I bought two dark bottles of birch beer, Boylan's Original Birch Beer ("Locally loved") and Boylan's Creamy Red Birch Beer ("Philly style").

The store's a lot of fun. It's located at 408 North Bishop, Dallas. It receives the SENTENCE Stamp of Approval. Their website is here.

I occasionally receive e-mails from people asking if I would agree to link to their website. The requests are usually from writers just starting a site, often just starting a career. I almost always agree to give them a link. I remember what it's like when you're just starting out, and nobody knows you're there. (Incidentally, I much prefer people who request a link, to people who put an entry in my guestbook which consists solely of a link to their own, often unrelated, site. I want people who write in my guestbook to be able to include a link to their own site, which is why I chose the program I did, which allows guests to enter a link, but the guestbook is obviously meant for comments about this site, and not just for a billboard about another site. What I'm talking about are the guestbook entries all webmasters get, where the only comment is something along the lines of, "If you're in the market for low-cost loans, please visit blah blah blah at [their link]". Those sorts of guestbook entries are routinely removed by me, and the resulting empty space swabbed with isopropyl alcohol).

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from someone who asked if I would consider a link to a site he had just created for his writings, which were mostly parodies of horror stories (I'm not going to identify him by name, because I have no interest in embarrassing him, just discussing his behavior). I took a look at his site, which was rather small. It included a brief excerpt from an unpublished novel he'd written, which treated the living dead theme in a humorous way. I told him I'd be happy to exchange links, and wrote this about his site:

"[Author's Name] has started a new website at [Website URL] that features a brief excerpt from his novel [Title], as well as information about himself. [Title] is a satire of the living dead genre, but done respectfully, with its own share of chills. [Author's Name] is currently at work on several serious horror novels, as well as another satire, on the exorcism series."

Clearly, something nice, meant to interest my visitors in checking out his site.

Once the link was up, I sent him the URL for it, and asked for a reciprocal link. He e-mailed back that actually, he hadn't planned on including links on his site. In other words, it's all right if I pass my visitors on to his site, but he doesn't want to pass his visitors on to my site. Since he was just starting out, I told him that was fine, that if he did eventually include a links page I'd like to be included on it.

A week or so after that, he wrote me again to say he had changed his mind, he would have a links page after all, and SENTENCE would be one of the links.

Monday, he e-mailed me to say my link was up on his site.

Here's how he described my site on the link:

"Obscure author's huge site."

Well, at least he thought I had a huge site, but since I'm obscure, I wonder if it really matters. It's hard to see anything complimentary in the remark, harder still to see how anyone could have thought it complimentary when they wrote it, and then posted it.

Now of course, if he has a piece on his site reviewing my writings he has every right to refer to me as obscure, but when people exchange links, there's usually an expectation that each person will say something complimentary about the other's site, or else what's the point in reciprocating links in the first place?

Plus, in this case, he was the one who approached me, for a favor.

I didn't like his behavior, so I wrote him back thanking him for the link, telling him I had rewritten my link to his site, to match his link to my site. His link on SENTENCE was changed to:

"Obscure author's little site."

I never heard a peep back from him.

I've since removed the link entirely.

I just wanted to make a point with him about netiquette.

A lot of strange things happen in Texas, maybe it's just the size of the state, all those prairies that roll away like ocean towards the distant horizon.

One of those crimes that have to make you stop and wonder just how depraved humans can get was uncovered this past Wednesday.

Chante Mallard, a twenty-five year old nurse's aide, was driving home high on alcohol and Ecstasy, when she struck a homeless man.

The force of the impact broke both the man's legs, and propelled him over the hood of her car, his head crashing through her windshield.

Mallard kept driving with the man sprawled over her front hood, and even though the man, his face through her windshield, just above her steering wheel, kept begging her to help him, to call an ambulance.

Once she got home with the man on her hood, she parked in her garage, left him on her hood, and went inside, to bed.

Over the course of the next several days, the man, still wedged in her windshield, and unable to extricate himself because of his broken legs, called weakly for help, slowly bleeding to death, starting to go into shock.

Mallard went about her normal business during those days, going out to her garage every once in a while to check on him, but refused to call an ambulance, or use her skills as a nurse's aide to stop his bleeding. She told police, however, that she did apologize to him several times for hitting him.

After the man died, Mallard called some friends of hers, and they put his body in the trunk of their car. The body was dumped in Cobb Park.

The accident itself occurred in October of last year. The police, working on tips, finally tracked the body back to Mallard, and arrested her this past Wednesday. Richard Alpert, a Tarrant County assistant district attorney, said "Maybe we've just redefined inhumanity here."

An autopsy has established that the homeless man Mallard hit and let die, Gregory Glen Biggs, did not die from his car crash injuries. He suffered no internal injuries. He died because of loss of blood, and going into shock.

Mallard has an attorney, of course. He criticized Mallard's arrest for murder. "This was simply a case of failure to stop and render aid."

I love the 'simply'.

Biggs' mother has a different view. "How could she just leave him like that to die? Drugs and alcohol wear off…why didn't she get him some help?"

All of us have dreams, and often they can become quite elaborate over the years of imagining them. Two guys in Chicago, Luke and Sandy, started fantasizing in 2000 about running a restaurant together. They began writing down ideas about how their imaginary restaurant would be run, what meals they'd serve, how it would be decorated, etc. "We sort of feel like two children building a mighty fortress from couch pillows."

The notes they've taken over the years detailing the ideal restaurant they would own has since evolved into a website, The Making of a Restaurant, which is the Link of the Week.

Will the restaurant ever be a reality? "We have no idea whether this enterprise will ever pass from the imaginary to the real, from the ridiculous to the sublime. Check back in five years."

I admire them. They have a dream. I'm always suspicious of people who don't have a dream. Why are you here?

Dave in his incredible kitchen. Click here to see the full image.