Words, words, words

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

On our way home from dinner this evening, my wife had a break-through moment as she was able to correct my pronunciation. I failed in my attempt to describe a planned “soiree.” I try hard to speak standard English dialect whenever possible, but admit there are certain words, for whatever reason, that trip me up.

Without a doubt, “vulnerable” is my nemesis. I feel very vulnerable when I try to say “vulnerable.” For my wife, it’s “horror,” which always comes out sounding like the world’s oldest occupation title and not a movie genre. I am convinced everyone has words that give them fits. What are some of yours?

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Super Bowl XLV: Tickets

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

No, I can’t help you score tickets to the “big game,” but I was able to get my hands on these beauties. Alas, they were given away to a charitable organization.

Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

When I first moved to Dallas, I lived in the Uptown area, a trendy area filled with young, upwardly mobile professionals, upscale bars and restaurants and chic boutiques.  As a small-town guy, my neighbors’ lifestyle choices confounded me. I could not understand why they were willing to pay $5 for coffee, $10 for a burger or pay anything at all to have someone park their car for them. Indeed, valet parking may have been the most annoying traits about this sect of people.  The fact that someone was so lazy, or had such an sense of entitlement around them, they had to have someone park a car for them was maddening. And in Uptown, valet parking was everywhere, even at the local gym.

Over the next few months, as I became more acclimated with the urban lifestyle, I found the behavior of my neighbors to be amusing, but still didn’t understand it. On the one hand, they tried so hard to fit in the ultra-materialistic Dallas social scene, while on the other they tried to fake a level of cultural maturity. In one of my first blog posts ever, I observed the following:

The typical Uptown resident is somewhere between the age of 25-35 and unlike any other major city in the US, these “kids” are still attached to their parents’ umbilical chord. I love standing in my parking garage and playing “Count the Audi’s” and determining how many were bought with mommy and daddy’s money and how many were actually earned through hard work (I estimate that only 10% of Uptown residents have earned what they own.) This lack of independence is sure to affect one’s emotional maturity and their attitude towards life. Uptown residents desire to make money, present an image of success, and in engage in drunken acts of debauchery Thursday thru Saturday, but these kids lack culture. Try and stop an Uptown resident and question them about Sartre, Moliere, Botticelli, Gentileschi, or even Whitman or Ginsberg and you are bound to be faced with silence.

Looking back, I realize I was a little harsh, but I was just recently out of college and armed with hubris of a liberal arts degree. I completely misjudged residents of Uptown. While they definitely favored an opulent lifestyle, it certainly wasn’t that of J.R. Ewing, or even Jerry Jones. They also seemed to be a little more well-rounded than the cocaine and boob-job crowd of North Dallas. Yes, this group shopped at Whole Foods, listened to NPR and the read the the New Yorker, as well the Wall Street Journal.

I love Whole Foods and listen to NPR, but I still do not completely understand the mind of the young, urban professional; however after reading David Brooks’, Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, I have a better understanding of who they are trying to be.  In the Introduction, Brooks describes a group of “…highly educated folk who have one foot in the bohemian world of creativity and another foot in the bourgeois realm of ambition and worldly success.  The members of the new information age elite are bourgeois bohemians. Or, to take the first two letters of each word, they are Bobos” and he spends the next 260 pages exploring this meritocracy in-depth.

The first chapter deals with the “the rise of the educated class,” which in Brooks’ opinion opened the doors, so to speak, for a new segment of society to enter into the upper class, beginning in the 1950’s. Brooks raises some valid points in this section, but at times, it feels like reading the genealogy in the Bible–you know it’s going to help you understand the book the further you proceed, but at times it’s extremely dry.

Brooks next dives into “Consumption,” which is considerably more entertaining than the previous chapter. Here he tries to explain to his audience why certain Bobos are willing to spend $5 on a cup of coffee or why they tend to shop at places like Restoration Hardware or Whole Foods, which ties in nicely with the next chapter on business. In short, Bobo’s seek to meld elements of the counterculture of the 60’s and the business acumen of the yuppies of the 80’s. In addition to my Uptown neighbors, I immediately began to think of the founders of the technology companies in the Silicon Valley and Obama voters.

Not that all Bobo’s are Obama supporters. However, in the chapter on “Politics and Beyond,” Brooks writing about politicians that appeal to Bobo’s (in 2000, mind you) writes the following:

These politicians do not engage in the old culture war rhetoric.  They are not podium-pounding “conviction politicians” of the sort tha tthrived during the age of confrontation.  Instead, they weave together different approaches. They traingulate. They know they have to appeal to diverse groups. They seek a Third Way beyond the old categories of left and right.

This is the exact message President Obama has been preaching since his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

Brooks does an excellent job of breaking down sociological studies and keeping a subject that could become boring–very easily–fresh. Even though it is a bit dated, there are many insights in the book that are extremely relevant today–like the piece on politics I just shared. Looking back on another book I recently reviewed, the character Jonathan Franzen creates in “Walter Berglund” in Freedom embodies many of the elements of the Bobo’s Mr. Brooks describes. Indeed, after reading Bobos in Paradise, I have a better understanding of Franzen’s characters. Perhaps, I should have read Bobos first.

 

Super Bowl XLV: Downtown and Beyond

January 25, 2011 2 comments

If you followed my advice in the previous post, you have booked your flight to Love Field and a room at a hotel in the downtown/Uptown area. Even if you chose to fly into D/FW, let’s hope you heeded my advice on the hotels and are staying in Dallas proper, as opposed to some far flung place like Grapevine or Bedford. Depending on the time of day you arrive in downtown Dallas, you may begin to wonder if anyone actually lives in the city. Indeed, the City Center is almost completely commercial and keeps pretty strict business hours. After 6 p.m. on weekdays and all weekend long, downtown Dallas is a virtual ghost town, although efforts have been made in the past few years to encourage more young professionals to move into some of the restored buildings.

Let me be the first to assure you, downtown Dallas is not as desolate as it first may seem. However, even if you’re staying at the Sheraton, Westin or Fairmont, you will want to venture out of downtown. If you did not arrange for a rental, the first thing you will want to do is invest in a Super Bowl transit pass. The transportation agencies in the Metroplex have come together to offer a four-day pass for the low price of $30, which will allow you unlimited access to DART trains and buses, as well as the TRE. Even if you have a rental car, I recommend picking up this pass.

Don’t be fooled by your hotel concierge, the West End is not where Dallas goes to have fun, but there is one place in the West End you must visit before you leave.

Dallas World Aquarium – 1801 N. Griffin St.  Dallas, TX 75202

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether you’re 1 or 101, everyone loves penguins, sharks and sloths. Oh, it’s not all aquatic animals, they have big cats too. The Aquarium is easy to get around and provides hours of entertainment, regardless of the weather conditions.

Outside of the Aquarium, you will want to head North.

Uptown

View of downton from Uptown.

As soon as you cross over Woodall Rodgers leaving downtown Dallas, you are officially in Uptown, a trendy neighborhood featuring upscale shops, bars, restaurants and residences. Uptown is accessible by foot from downtown, but it’s recommended you use DART, your car or the McKinney Avenue Trolley.

To pick up the McKinney Avenue Trolley, go to St. Paul Street, directly behind the Dallas Museum of Art. This is the end (or beginning) of the trolley route. Riding is free and easy, simply hop on and the trolley will take you across Woodall Rodgers and through the heart of Uptown.  Once you’re in Uptown, you can hop off at any stop to explore Uptown on foot. The gem of Uptown has to be the West Village, located at Lemmon and McKinney Avenues. Here you can catch a movie at the Magnolia–one of the top art house theatres in the city–take in some great shopping or fine dining.

If you buy the transit pass, you can take DART to Uptown. Simply hop on any northbound train and get off at the Cityplace stop. Once you come off the platform, take the large escalator to your right up to the surface and you will come out on the back side of the West Village.

Mockingbird Station

The next stop north on the DART line is Mockingbird Station, another mixed use venue, featuring another great art-house cinema–the Angelika. There are also several different upscale shops, bars and restaurants at the Mockingbird Station stop.

If you’re a Packers fan, or simply want to watch the Pack practice, you may want to consider taking the DART rail to Mockingbird Station and walking across Central Expressway to SMU, where the NFC Champions will be holding their practices.

Knox-Henderson

In between Uptown and Mockingbird Station lies the Knox-Henderson area. Here you will find an Apple Store, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware and a slew of local boutiques that will sure be hit among the glitterati descending upon Dallas. If you want a good “people watching” location, this is it. Unfortunately, neither the McKinney Avenue Trolley nor DART rail runs to Knox-Henderson, and it’s a bit too far to travel on foot from Uptown. You will definitely need a car or a cab to get here, but can navigate the neighborhood on foot once you arrive.

Highland Park Village

Directly West of Knox-Henderson you will find Highland Park Village. Established in 1931, Highland Park Village is considered to be America’s first shopping center, but this is not your grandparents shopping center. With boutiques like Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Hermes and Tory Burch, it’s more like Rodeo Drive. While the upscale shopping may not appeal to a lot sports fans, it is a great place for men to drop their wives off while they go explore another part of the city, just don’t let them have your credit card. Mi Cocina serves up some of the best Mexican food in town and Cafe Pacific is known to be one of the favorite restaurants of former President George W. Bush.

Katy Trail

If you get tired of using your hotel’s fitness center, allow me to suggest taking a jog, walk, ride, or skate along the Katy Trail. This 3.5 mile jogging/biking trail runs from the American Airlines Center through Uptown, Knox-Henderson and through the Park Cities. It’s the closest thing to jogging in Central Park Dallas has to offer and it’s well worth the sweat.

You came to Dallas for the “big game,” but also want to take in some local culture? Never fear, next up we’ll look at the Arts District, which will show you a completely different side of Dallas.

Super Bowl XLV: Dining in Dallas

January 23, 2011 1 comment

So your coming to the D/FW Metroplex for the big game and you want to taste a little bit of the local cuisine? Not surprisingly, Tex-Mex heavily defines the local flavor and there are a ton of restaurants that offer both Tex-Mex and traditional Mexican foods, but how do you know which ones to try? Let’s start with a few of my favorites:

Mia’s Tex-Mex – 4322 Lemmon Ave., Dallas, TX 75219

A perfect place to taste some of Dallas’ best Tex-Mex and take in a little local football history. Rumor has it, this was Tom Landry’s favorite restaurant in town and, ironically, it’s the same restaurant where Jerry Jones had a “secret” meeting with Jimmy Johnson before firing Landry and hiring Johnson. On the outside, the little yellow building doesn’t look like much, but once inside, the walls are covered with signed photos of Dallas sports legends. Be sure and try the brisket tacos, you will not be disappointed. Mia’s also gave rise to the next two establishments on my list.

Taco Diner – 4011 Villanova St., Dallas, TX 75225 and 3699 McKinney Ave. Dallas, TX 75204

Mi Cocina – 77 Highland Park Village Dallas, TX 75205 and 3699 McKinney Ave. Dallas, TX 75204

Taco Diner and Mi Cocina are both offsprings of Mia’s. Both have several locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but for the purpose of this piece we will focus on the two nearest to downtown Dallas. Taco Diner focuses mainly on traditional Mexican tacos (don’t expect ground beef and crispy taco shells here), but they feature some traditional favorites as well, including fajitas. Mi Cocina has a little bit broader menu, but the recipes are almost identical to Taco Diner.

If the weather is nice, you have to go to the West Village (McKinney Ave.) location and dine on the patio. Here, Taco Diner and Mi Cocina are positioned directly across from one another and you can watch people dinning at both spots and watch the “beautiful people” of Dallas take in some shopping.

If you’re looking for a more family-friendly atmosphere,  the Mi Cocina in Highland Park Village and the Taco Diner in Preston Center (Villanova St.) are where you will want to go.You’ll still probably be able to spot a few local or national celebrities.

Chuy’s – 4544 McKinney Ave. Dallas, TX 75205

What makes Chuy’s unique is their strong reliance on green chilies, including their amazing green chilie salsa. Almost every dish features some unique sauce or item prepared with green chilies, and as such, you can expect a little bit extra flavor. As with all of the Tex-Mex restaurants covered, margaritas are the drink of choice, but they also feature a wide selection of Mexican and Texas beers that will surely bring out the flavor. Bring some extra money and take home a souvenir t-shirt with you.

Dallas offers a lot more than merely Tex-Mex food, we also offer some fine Italian restaurants as well.

Gordo’s – 8220 Westchester Dallas, TX 75225

If you’re an out-of-towner, Gordo’s might be hard for you to find, as it nestled in what appears to be a back alley of a local shopping center, but don’t let that keep you from sampling the food. Gordo’s features the best traditional Italian plates in town, at a very reasonable price. I personally recommend the shrimp scampi sauteed in lemon butter Chardonnay sauce, served over capilini. In the mood for something lighter? Try their Greek or Mediterranean Salads. Be sure and ask for a wine list, as they offer several well-priced wines to compliment every meal on the menu.

Campisi’s Egyptian Lounge5610 E. Mockingbird Ln. Dallas, TX 75206

There are several Campisi’s locations sprinkled throughout the Metroplex, but there is only one Campisi’s Egyptian Lounge and it’s the one you will want to sample. Don’t let the name fool you, Campisi’s is all about Italian cuisine. The Mockingbird location features a Tuesday night spaghetti special that is extremely popular, especially among the college kids from nearby SMU. The spaghetti is good, but my personal choice at Campisi’s is their pizza.

Snuffers – 8411 Preston Rd.  Dallas, TX 75225

What’s that you say? You’re in town for a football game and want some football food?

If hamburgers and hot dogs are what you want, check out Snuffer’s, which offers traditional American favorites served in a sports bar atmosphere. Snuffers is known for their cheedar fries. In order to get the full Snuffers experience, be sure to get them fully loaded with bacon, chives and jalapenos.

Good Eats – 3888 Oak Lawn Ave. #101  Dallas, TX 75219

If you want to taste some authentic Texas food, stroll into Good Eats. Many critics, including myself, consider their Chicken Fried Steak to be the best in town, but not everything on the menu is deep fried. In fact, I prefer many of their grilled items, including their grilled catfish, mesquite grilled  chicken and Cajun grilled chicken. As with most restaurants in town, you’ll want to begin with some chips & salsa.

You might be thinking to yourself, since this is Texas, shouldn’t their be some BBQ joints profiled? Dallas has some good BBQ restaurants, like Dickey’s and Sonny Bryan’s, but I would stop short of calling them great. If you really want some great BBQ, you will need to venture way outside the city limits into more rural areas. If that’s your thing, allow yourself about an hour and half travel time and go East on I-20. Once you enter the Piney Woods, you will discover some of the best BBQ in the world, including my personal favorite, Bodacious.

Next up, let’s take a look at the downtown and Uptown areas of Dallas, including where to go and how to get around.

Super Bowl XLV: A Visitor’s Handbook to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex

January 23, 2011 2 comments

As we inch towards Super Bowl XLV, I felt it would be nice to start a series aimed at those who may coming to the Metroplex for the “big game.” A lot of the articles I have read about Dallas have focused on the usual tourist hot spots–the Sixth Floor Museum, Southfork Ranch, the West End, etc. If those areas interest you, by all means go and enjoy, but I want to give you a guide that will provide you with a little deeper look and allow you to experience Dallas as a native.

First, let’s clear up some of the “geographic confusion.” Inevitably, you will hear people refer to the area as the Metroplex, North Texas or just Dallas. The Super Bowl will be played in Arlington; Fort Worth will host ESPN as well as other festivities and Dallas will feature the NFL Experience and tons of parties. If you want to experience the true Super Bowl experience, you will have to venture outside the Dallas city limits. Over the past few years, it’s become common to refer to the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area as “North Texas,” which is a bit inaccurate considering there are certainly areas much further north in the state. One local sports media personality  has gone so far as to label our land as the “Chicken Fried Nation,” but that too fails to adequately describe the D/FW area. Personally, I prefer the term “Metroplex”.

While we’re at it, let’s clear up some other common misconceptions. First, boots are optional, even though, in the Metroplex, they are permissible even in business formal environments.  Second, we have a lot more to offer in the way of nightlife than gentlemen clubs, as I will attempt to describe in more detail in another post in this series. Finally, you’re going to need something other than a horse to get around. The Metroplex encompasses over 9,000 square miles; D/FW airport alone is larger than the island of Manhattan. This is not a city where you can survive without a car.

With that out the way, let’s get down to business.  First, as you pack for your trip, remember to pack for changing weather conditions. It might be in the 70’s one day and the next you’ll wake up to a foot of snow, so you’ll want to prepare. If you haven’t already booked your trip, a few things to keep in mind. Consider flying into Love Field, as opposed to D/FW. More than likely this means flying with Southwest, but you avoid the hassles of heavily-congested D/FW and you’re just a few minutes from the heart of the city. Even though the Metroplex  is spread out and events will be taking place all over, Dallas is going to be your best bet for a home base. Indeed, the bulk of the posts in this series will begin with the assumption you will be lodging in Dallas during your stay.

So what makes Dallas such a great place for the Super Bowl when compared to more exotic locales like Miami and New Orleans? Everywhere else, it’s just football. Here it is a way of life. It’s not just the Cowboys we love. Yes, they have provided us with many great Super Bowl memories, but Texans, and Dallas-ites specifically, love football on all levels, whether it’s Pee Wee football, the Friday night lights of high school football, the great rivalries on the college level or, of course, the NFL.  You would be hard pressed to find another city in  America where football is ingrained more in the DNA of its citizens than Dallas.Combine that with the greatest stadium the world has ever seen and you’re in store for a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.

So, come on down. Order yourself up a skillet of sizzling fajitas, get a frozen margarita (invented here) or a cold Shiner Bock beer, and let’s start with a look at your dining options while in the Metroplex.  Just remember, when you “cross that ol’ Red River hoss, Bob Wills is still the king!”

Super Bowl XLV: A Vistor’s Handbook to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex

Part I:  Dining in Dallas

Part II:  Downtown and Beyond

What’s the Government to Do?

January 13, 2011 4 comments

In article published today on Slate, David Weigel  examines the impact the Arizona shootings will have on the upcoming legislative session. In his piece, Weigel concludes that while the tragedy ought to make the 112th Congress consider stricter gun laws and the way our country handles the mentally ill, nothing will likely change, due in part to politicians being afraid to touch these “hot button” issues and procedural roadblocks Republicans would present in the House. Weigel represents a growing voice of young, progressive, pundits, highly visible in the social-media community, asking what the Federal government will do in response to the assassination attempt of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Why are they calling on the Federal government to respond to the situation at all? Where do the government’s responsibility lie?

Obviously, since a Federal judge was killed and there was an attempt on a Congresswoman’s life, the Federal government has a responsibility to prosecute the alleged shooter to the fullest extent possible, but with a Justice Department led by Eric Holder, that does not seem very likely.

Outside of that, what exactly do we need the Federal government to do? To suggest, as Weigel does, that stricter gun laws may have prevented the massacre is anecdotal at best. Yes, it seems likely that the alleged shooter obtained his weapon legally, but Weigel’s argument assumes that the alleged shooter would not have obtained a weapon by some other means. Let’s assume for a moment he was not allowed to purchase his weapon legally and because of that gave up on his planned killing spree. It would represent one instance where a gun crime was prevented due to the lack of legal access to a gun, as opposed to the mass of gun violence committed with illegally obtained guns each year. It would be the exception to the rule. Are Arizona gun laws too lenient? I don’t know, that’s for the residents of Arizona to decide, not the Federal government.

How about mental health? Obviously, the alleged shooter had some mental issues. On a whole, the care for the mentally ill in this country could be a lot better. I think it’s great if we, as a nation, can use this tragedy as a chance to consider those who suffer from mental illness and explore ways to better treat them. But again, not a Federal issue. It’s a system best left to the states and the private sector.

In the end, it seems that the Generation Y progressives are just like their predecessors and never miss an opportunity to exploit a national tragedy to expand the size of the Federal government. Some things, it seems, will never change!