December 29, 2005

Things I Sometimes Miss About Dallas

This is probably going to be a pretty short list.

I feel bad running down Dallas all the time. For some people it's home. And some people really love it. And it's not the worst place on earth, by any means.

But it's not a place I could ever drum up much affection for. I tried, believe me. I lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for 11 years. You can't say I didn't give it a chance.

For all I bash it, though, there are some aspects of life there I get a little sentimental about. Now that my boyfriend's moving here, my only connection to it will be that my parents and brother are still there. I figure that makes this as good a time as any to remember the positives:

1. Samuel C. Jackson's Super Bowl party

You remember Samuel C. Jackson? He threw the best parties. He had a little house out in Garland and we'd head out there for Labor Day or Fourth of July, lugging a cooler of cheap beer (hey, that's all anybody else was bringing), some chips and dip, and maybe a bottle of wine for SCJ as a thank-you.

But the Super Bowl parties were the big ones. Samuel C. Jackson worked as a waiter at various upscale--really upscale--restaurants in the area. He could assemble a pretty diverse crowd that way, and this was his genius: He knew who'd get along together. The guy was a master host.

You know how some parties, everyone segregates into cliques of 3-4 people? And there's no mixing or mingling among cliques? At all? Samuel C. Jackson's parties weren't like this. He could get the technical writer talking to the sommelier talking to the housewife talking to the tattoo artist . . . he knew which people would get on with each other, regardless of class or background.

One Labor Day we ended up talking to some fellow from Quebec part of the night. Now, if you'd told me beforehand that I'd be talking to some guy from Quebec that night, I'd probably have snorted, then launched into my Celine Dion impression. But it was actually a very pleasant conversation. We refrained from saying "Ha ha, Quebec," and he refrained from saying "Ha ha, Texas."

Samuel C. Jackson also made the best Jello shots you ever had. He did each tray of them a little differently from the others, and every time we'd start on a new tray of them, he'd explain what he'd done with this particular batch:

"So that last tray, I used up the rest of the Citron, 'cause I think that blends really nice with the lime, right, so you get these little fuckers that don't taste strong, but they are. So it's kind of a stealth buzz. But these guys . . . these guys are grape and cherry, I think--is it cherry or strawberry, Mac?--yeah, cherry, with Everclear. So watch out, because I put a fuckload of booze in there. Might burn a little going down."

To most people, Jello shots are Jello shots. To Samuel C. Jackson, they were an art.

Yes. I will definitely miss the Super Bowl party this year.

2. Driving faster than 35 miles per hour.

I really hope this one is mostly self-explanatory.

Dallas people drive super-fast and super-stupid. Nearly every person in Dallas thinks he or she is a good driver. Nearly every one of them is wrong--spectacularly wrong.

I've probably added years to my life just by not driving the Dallas freeways anymore, but driving is no longer as fun, either. I even kind of miss the Mixmaster.

Wait. No. I don't.

3. Two airports.

Now I don't even have ONE airport. I gotta drive 50 miles to El Paso to get on a plane.

4. KRNB, one-oh-five-DOT-seven, and WRR, classical 101.

If want classical music now I have to listen to the NPR station. And (1) they play mostly terrible short pieces and (2) they talk endlessly and very, very slowly after each one. It's not worth it. I basically never listen to classical anymore.

Plus, WRR would broadcast the Dallas city council meetings every Wednesday afternoon. This was fun to listen to in the way that listening to something that makes you want to scream can be kind of fun, in a cathartic way.

As for KRNB, I can get two hip-hop stations where I live now, which is a bonus, but I have no more classic soul/R & B. I miss 105.7 in the worst way.

5. "More restaurants per capita . . . ."

This is one of those annoying little facts that every person in Dallas can recite in his sleep. It's said to shut you up when you complain about all the chain restaurants, and Dallas is awash in chain restaurants.

Luckily it is also awash in every other kind of restaurant. Russian, Greek, Lebanese, Ethiopian, Indian, Italian, French, Thai, Vietnamese, Jewish, Moroccan, German, Polish, Japanese--you can find something to eat there; you just can't use the restaurant reviews in the Dallas Morning News to find it. For some reason that stupid fucking paper, which I do NOT miss, would only really give thumbs-up to expensive nouvelle cuisine restaurants. Thank you, Dallas Morning News, for breaking the news that The Mansion on Turtle Creek serves flawless food. I actually already knew that, but I wasn't looking to drop $200 over brunch, you class-obsessed little poseurs.

I miss this place and this place particularly.

6. St. Thomas Aquinas and All Saints parishes.

I was baptized in the first but wound up mostly attending the second (it was closer to where I lived). St. Thomas Aquinas is worth looking at if you're into old-school church architecture, though it's not actually that terribly old; I believe it was originally built in the 1950s. The priest there gives the best homilies and the choir is fabulous, if you're into that sort of thing, which I am.

As for All Saints, I loved its stained glass mural, which you can just barely make out at the top center of its web page. I WISH I could find a larger image of it, because it has to be seen to be believed. It's attempting to show, I think, that Jesus loves everyone, people of all cultures--but that attempt goes a little . . . I mean, it's kind of . . . look, one of these days I'll have to see if I have an old bulletin lying around that I can scan the image from for you.

For right now, all I can tell you is that some of the people Jesus loves include a fellow down at the left whom I immediately nicknamed "Bob from Accounting," and a hazy group of space aliens in the upper right. Yes, ALIENS. Close Encounters of the Third Kind sorts of aliens. I don't think the artist was trying to depict aliens--I think they were meant to suggest people so far in the background that you can't see them properly--but they happen to look exactly like aliens. Peace be with you, whichever galaxy you hail from.

The whole decorating scheme at All Saints is 1970s: Orange velour-covered pews. Naugahyde kneelers (these are very comfy!). I loved it. It's kitschy in the extreme.

So that's what all I miss. On the other hand, I have sunshine every day here. I can see stars at night. I can see mountains. I can enjoy a daytime sky of blazing bright blue dotted with ridiculous puffy clouds and a nighttime sky of intense indigo dotted with constellations. I can shiver in briskly cold breezes every night. All this AND tamales. My cup runneth over.

No. I'm not too broken up about leaving Dallas.

Posted by Ilyka at December 29, 2005 02:21 PM in navel gazing

You sound like me on the subject of Miami. What do I miss about Miami?

1. Real Cuban food, not four-generations-removed-from-Cuba Tampa-style Cuban food. (One word to describe Tampa-style Cuban food: mayonnaise. On everything. Abomination.) Also, Cuban coffee shops on just about every block which consist of a window with a counter on which rests a big orange water cooler and a pile of conical paper cups, and which is staffed by a middle-aged woman, and is usually surrounded by a group of older Cuban men smoking cigars and drinking tiny cup after tiny cup of Cuban coffee, which is like espresso concentrate that is more than half sugar.

2. Real bagels made fresh by real Jews in a real Jewish deli with Israeli newspapers in Hebrew on shelves and items like "chicken fat sandwiches" on the menu. I don't know if Einstein Brothers is owned by real Jews, but it's a chain, and there aren't any notices for shul or any Hassidic men wearing long black robes and earlocks under wide-brimmed black hats sipping coffee in the corner so it's not a real Jewish deli.

And that's all.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 29, 2005 04:54 PM

I'm also a Dallas transplant (now in New Orleans) who was baptized at St. Thomas. I miss Kathleen's Art Cafe, Half Price Bookstore on Northwest Highway, the Texas State Fair and Chumley's (which is long gone). I also miss driving in Dallas -- in high school when I'd get upset with my parents I'd pop a mix tape in the tape deck of my beat up car, roll the windows down and drive. Oh, and I also miss the awesome thunderstorms.

Posted by: kitty at December 29, 2005 05:11 PM

Oh, you HAD to say "real Jewish deli."

I used to be down the street from this. It was run by surly Russian Jews* and, yeah--the pro-Israel posters everywhere, the Hebrew papers, the shul notices . . . all that and delicious dirt-cheap breakfast specials and bagels and spreads made on the premises . . . they made it so easy to say "Fuck Einstein Brothers."

*I'm not trying to be insulting, but they WERE surly, and if my limited experience is any guide, that's more a Russian thing than a Jew thing besides. Who cared?--If the food's good I can overlook any attitude problem.

Posted by: ilyka at December 29, 2005 05:15 PM

Kitty, I'm missing Half Price Books myself. And the thunderstorms--great fun to watch, mucho miserable to be stuck out in. Dallas was the only place I ever lived where I read or saw news reports of people actually being HIT by lightning. I'm a huge chicken when it comes to that.

Posted by: ilyka at December 29, 2005 05:18 PM

ilyka - wanted to let you know have added you to my blogroll (Babbling Brooks)

Posted by: Sharon Ferguson at December 30, 2005 04:01 AM

I too miss the thunderstorms in Dallas. And Lower Greenville. And the fact that I knew all the roads downtown to cut through traffic. And, I'm sorry, I miss El Chico margaritas. Mediocre place, GREAT drinks.

Posted by: Helen at December 30, 2005 05:43 AM

Get an XM or Sirius satellite radio, and enjoy, if not all the classical you could want, at least a load more than NPR will give you.

Posted by: Sigivald at December 30, 2005 04:07 PM

Oh, Sigivald, my mind knows you're right but the wallet says "No."

My father's car has satellite radio on board. Of course, all he does with it is listen to 60s stations, you know, TO ANNOY ME, but he did show me one day all the various other stuff that's available and it was mind-blowing. I would LOVE to have satellite radio.


Posted by: ilyka at December 30, 2005 04:29 PM
And the fact that I knew all the roads downtown to cut through traffic.

Did you ever cut through Oak Cliff to avoid problems on I-30? I got really good at that. And I loved the bridges that take you into downtown from there.

Posted by: ilyka at December 30, 2005 04:30 PM
Dallas was the only place I ever lived where I read or saw news reports of people actually being HIT by lightning.

Then you won't want to ever come to Florida. It's the lightning capitol of the US. People getting hit by lightning don't even make the front page of the paper, and I've had lightning hit buildings and trees as I've driven past them, and once lightning took out my network card when it hit the cable modem -- through my window -- as I was lying on the couch in the other room.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 30, 2005 08:38 PM

My last house was IN Oak Cliff! Fantastic little 1920's number. If you could ignore the disproportion of gangsters to yuppies taking over houses of gangsters being shipped to Mesquite, it was a great neighborhood! And you could get your tires fixed for $10, as long as you paid cash!

Posted by: Helen at December 31, 2005 01:56 AM