Sunday, October 24, 2010

Metroplex Reflections

* Whenever I leave Texas, I can't help feeling like I should actually be staying. It's a dreamy place, dotted with polite men who open doors with a flourish and a smile, and white-on-black night speed signs.

* Of course, I can only speak of the minuscule portion I've seen, which includes Houston, Austin and the Dallas/Arlington/Fort Worth Metroplex. Even if I had explored these cities thoroughly (which, of course, I haven't), that would constitute just 3.6% of Texas's 268,601 square miles.

* Last weekend saw my first visit to Dallas. So far, it is my favorite sprawled-out city where I don't want to live, easily beating Los Angeles and Atlanta. We had to drive at least forty five minutes to each destination, but traffic was never that bad. It appears that the sprawl is by choice rather than by necessity. Exit ramps stretch far from the ample freeways, like tentacles trying to grasp the insurmountable prairie. Ranch style buildings rest a long distance from the road. It seems that if there is one aesthetic rule that guides Dallas's inefficient urban plan, it is "don't distract from the sky". I have to admit, I find the vastness soothing.

* We visited the site of the Kennedy assassination, which appears to be the number one tourist attraction in Dallas proper. I find this morbid and strange. We stood across from the "grassy knoll" and watched as tourists snapped pictures at the X-marked spot in the middle of the road where the first shot hit JFK. They would take turns, pointing and shooting their cameras toward the infamous sixth floor window. That X is like a freakin' magnet. People just can't resist it. We saw a guy lazily wave away an oncoming pick-up truck as if he were shooing a pestering toddler. I have to wonder if any unmindful tourists have been killed by motorists in that very spot.

* As tourist attractions go, I personally prefer the Fort Worth Stockyards, a preserved "Old West" style neighborhood where they parade longhorns twice daily to maintain a sense of authenticity. We missed the cattle drive, but still had fun ogling cows and horses, wandering amongst the kitschy shops, and (my favorite) following the Texas Trail of Fame, which is just like the Hollywood Walk of Fame but refined to "honor those who have made a significant contribution to our Western way of life". Interestingly, one does not need to be a native Texan to be honored, as evidenced by this tribute to my favorite historic lady of the Midwest

The TToF has yet to recognize James Stewart, which I consider an enormous oversight. There is an open nomination process, which involves including "a description as to why the individual should be included along with a brief biography, references, family contact information and photographs." Yikes! This Trail of Fame is no joke.

* Being in the Metroplex (isn't that word stressful?) reminds me how much I miss being near a big city. Granted, Detroit's population has plummeted over the decades, but the metropolitan area is still home to four plus million sundry people. That means many restaurants and different styles of food. Statistically speaking, there are bound to be hundreds of quality eateries within a forty five minute drive of the city. Now, consider the fact that the Metroplex is home to about six and a half million people.

In short, we ate well. At length, this included Tex Mex, Chinese, Thai, Italian (prepared quite masterfully by an Armenian family), lots of little deep fried things, and prodigious amounts of beef, all of which were excellent. I simply cannot get this in my new home without driving at least two hours.

* On the way to meeting my father-in-law for happy hour on Monday, my mother-in-law pulled over by the ranch where the television show "Dallas" was filmed.

I said, "I went to a K through eight school and when I was a little kid, I remember the junior high marching band playing the 'Dallas' theme song."

She laughed, "Really? That's strange."

I started cracking up just thinking about it. Dan asked, "Wait, how does it go?" I hummed the first few bars and then he and his mother finished the tune in unison. It is an exceptionally good theme song. It more or less represents my complete image of the city, along with Larry Hagman in a cowboy hat.

The gates were closed, so we just gazed from the car windows. Dan joked, "Do you wanna get here early tomorrow for the tour before we hit the road?" Truly, I have no recollection of the TV show beyond the song, Larry Hagman and the certain feeling that Patrick Duffy was the morally and physically superior son. But it felt good to be there anyway. Staring across the expansive lawn, I noticed a slight incline along the side of the property, where the lush horizon blocked the sight of the adjacent road. All I could see beyond the grass and a couple trees was the broad, blue sky. It felt like looking at forever.

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