Saturday, April 28, 2018

Dallas: streetcars, community bicycle rides, crisp cider, a container for grief

Got myself this morning to the streetcar that connects downtown. In fact, I found convenient parking as the streetcar waited. However, it took 20 minutes to lock my car – the remote was probably low on batteries and you can’t know if it’s working unless you’re far enough away and you can’t have the keys on you to know if it’s locked. Madness. So I watched the streetcar depart as I wrestled with extracting the manual key from the fob. No easy feat.

As I walked away waiting for the next car, I called the rental roadside assistance and was told I could take the car back to the airport – a harrowing 45 minutes away – for a new car. So, I just asked that my complaint be registered. Thankfully, the ride downtown was easy and gave me a sense of the broad neighborhood, the wide gap with a river separating the downtown and the monstrosity of road snaking around the city. The driver was friendly and knowledgeable, offering that the connector is not widely used. It’s easy and free, but I think Texans, like the rest of us, prefer their cars.

The ride ended near Union Station and I walked 2 blocks to the JFK Museum. Seemed like a quintessential thing to do, although a bartender at the cider company, a Dallas native,  said he’d never been. I waited in line to buy a ticket from a sweet cashier who called me – and everyone else – sugar with a southern charm. I waited in line for a timed visit, was handed headphones and a small tablet, then took the elevator to the sixth floor, joining dozens of others to understand and relive the trauma of 55 years ago. Our bratty neighbor ran to the driveway after we had returned home from the grocery to tell us. Even he was shaken.

The exhibit wound through a full floor of the book repository, weaving among displays about the culture, turbulence, politics, idealism, Cold War and nuclear scares of the era. I wondered what we had learned, just as I had recently while visiting the May 4th Museum at Kent State University. We seem to repeat ourselves.

The counter culture and idealism of the times interested me more than a blow by blow of that fatal day; maybe because I had lived it. The AP wire tape caught my attention, but not more than the area from which Oswald shot. As I approached – the corner is kept as it was, littered with boxes and encased in plexiglass, but you can peer out the adjacent windows onto the road and grassy knoll– I felt chilled, the sinister energy of that day present. I couldn’t shake it, so avoided the conspiracy and forensic information areas. It was almost too much information. I needed some way to release the grief.

I quietly exited, walked up a flight to a higher view than Oswald’s where I could take a photo, then visited the shop to purchase a book, Dallas 1963, which purports to explain the crucible of Dallas that contributed to Kennedy’s assassination. Texas conservatives wanted to contain the spread of liberalism, which they felt was undermining America. I asked the cashier what he had heard about this book, the store had tens of books on Kennedy (minute-by-minute accounts, those by everyone who was ever there, conspiracy theory, ballistics, etc), making it difficult to choose. He said this was not among his favorites because it was one-sided. I assumed he meant it placed Dallas in a negative light. I went back, relooked, and felt none met my criteria of local flavor, except for this. I have a habit of picking up a book about the locale when I travel. I am still reading the 500-pager I bought about the Alamo several years ago. I found the paperback version, $10 cheaper and lighter for air travel, and a postcard of a Kennedy campaign poster.

I left, sobered.

My next-planned stop wasn’t so high minded. I wanted to buy some colorful Mexican tiles for the kitchen I’d just repainted with a rustic faux finish. Google maps said it was about a mile away, but neglected to tell me the walk included expressway. After a mile-and-a-half of wandering, I decided to head back toward the streetcar, visit Union Station and return to Bishop Arts and the official tour of the home the happy couple, whose wedding I was in Dallas to attend, is building. But, first, I paused at the Philip Johnson-designed Kennedy tribute that asks viewers to enter this container of peace and silence. The 1970s stark structure is in need of repair and a funding campaign is underway.  I left that bit of grief and was in need of a pit stop. I always feel safe and innocuous in big-city hotels, so wandered into the Hilton Garden Inn. After, I walked fast so I could whip through the terminal, one of my favorite kind of places to visit in new cities. Public transportation is the leveling factor and train/bus stations have so much life and character. Not true in Dallas, where Union Terminal was redone some decades ago in such a blah, uninviting style, it was empty.

The ride back was uneventful, I picked up my car and drove to the new house. Parked in front were the wedding party in a black stretch limo and a large black charter bus filled with wedding guests. I reconnected with old friends and visited the stunning house, again. I was met at the door by my new friend Carlos, who lives in the neigborhood, has been helping with the construction, and gave me a sneak peek yesterday. I told him I’d rushed back and was starving. He hadn’t eaten either, so after the showing, we headed up the street to Tribal, an organic, juice-and-rice-bowl sort of place with mismatched woods, steel stools and white wash. I ordered the kale, brown rice, pesto and fermented veggie bowl. He ordered the same as a sandwich. I also had the chai, a very gingery, not-sweet concoction with almond milk. I am picky about my chai; I want it spicy and not sweet. This fit the bill.

We parted ways and I walked to the variety of local shops, encountering a mass of kids and bicycles. The local public school had encouraged kids to ride their bikes all week culminating in an entourage excursion with police escorts, a celebration along two closed streets, a musician using the back of a pickup as a stage and a local restaurant providing mini root-beer floats. There were kids, parents, teachers, shoppers, diners … truly an eclectic community event, one I would like to emulate at home.

After visiting some boutiques and buying local soap and chapstick for my daughters, I rounded the corner and impulsively stopped at the cider company. I ordered a flight of four: guava aged in oak, strawberry rhubarb, blood orange and cran-blackberry. Tasty, sour (which I liked) and crisp like wine. When I asked the tender why ciders are so popular, he replied they weren’t in Texas, but with so many people gluten free, they’re a good alternative to beer. A young man at the bar visiting from Albany, NY was sampling a cider based on a recommendation from a whiskey bar in Ft. Worth, which he said felt more like the old Texas. I am missing that dose as Dallas is modern, congested, filled with concrete, more construction and vegetation similar to home. However, my airbandb neighborhood is comprised of neat, small ranches, working-class Latino-Americans and  breath of fresh air.

My sweater disappears as I head back to the car in 80-degree, wonderful sun, finding a charming, colorful house that must belong to an artist, meet a very tall red, metal man, cross through the bustling neighborhood I visited yesterday, and collect my vehicle. I make one stop at a discount store … because, you never know, deals here may be different than at home. Not so much, except I picked up a sheer shawl the exact color of my dress for the wedding for $5. I’d passed on one at home from TJ Maxx for $15.

After lazing in the late-day sun and calling home, I opt to skip heading back out for dinner (though my host graciously messaged me a couple of taco options), finish the guac, ceviche and handmade tortillas from yesterday atop greens, down a couple of Estrella Jaliscos, and try to watch a movie in Spanish. I give up, put on the Manchurian Candidate, map tomorrow’s adventure and fall asleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment