Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Doing Dallas

I'm getting excited about the upcoming TESOL convention in Dallas, TX so I'm reviewing all my old stereotypes of the city so I can look around and get some idea of how they compare to reality, while I'm there. There's really only one thing I want to see - the grassy knoll - but I know that the city has a wide variety; I'll only be there for a couple of days, so I'll forgive myself if I don't get out to see it all.

Recently I relocated to Lubbock, TX, so I find myself flying into Dallas frequently, and I'm rapidly learning more about the place. It's huge, when you come at it from above; the plane cruises in over miles and miles of lakes, roads, houses, people, buildings. It stretches all the way to Oklahoma in the north, Waco to the south, and to the west is Fort Worth and yet more suburbs so that it stretches perhaps farthest to the west. They call it the Metroplex here, and generally people are more fond of Fort Worth than Dallas, but you practically can't get anywhere east, without going through it, and that's like all driving in Texas, it takes a while, might as well enjoy it.

When they made that television show I think the idea was to associate the name "Dallas" with ostentatious, arrogant wealth, the kind that makes ordinary people gloat when bad things come to very rich people. I can tell you that it would be hard to have a town as enormous as Dallas not have a good share of that kind of wealth, but I'm also sure that there's a lot more to the place, it being as huge as it is. My favorite story about the place is of the Fort Worth newspaper owner, a millionaire himself, who, when going to Dallas, always packed a sack lunch, because he didn't want to contribute to the city's economy. So there's no question that its bustling attitude has produced a few enemies over the years. I'd like to see what this means on a practical level; to some degree, it's the capital of the Texas empire, though I suppose a lot of the oilmen, like the Bushes, called Houston home. And Houston to some degree is even worse, at least in terms of "sprawling" or "bustling" or "ostentatious." It's hard for me to even get a handle on the place.

It's kind of like California in the sense that, at first, you think San Francisco is just a big city, maybe number 18 in the nation, you can handle that, it's not too huge. But you get out there and find out, it's surrounded by dozens more, and some of them like Oakland and San Jose are also right up there, and it takes you hours to drive through the place, and pretty soon you're taking a huge breath when you finally do make it out of the place. Dallas is the same. Fort Worth is also enormous; though Lubbock is in the top hundred in the nation, it's not even in the top ten of Texas, and there are at least three or four in the Metroplex alone that are larger.

One thing I like about the place, though, is that it's developed its own brand of music. Austin is in on this, if not the center of it, but so-called 'red-dirt' encompasses all kinds of Texas music, mostly country, and it's got its own style, a kind of authentic country very distinct from Nashville country, earthy, unapologetic. Its artists are original and many live in Dallas or Austin, and play the circuit, and have plenty of work. Whole radio stations are devoted to "red dirt"...and there's enough of it that these stations don't have to play anything else. Right now, as the world comes to Austin for the famous SXSW (South by Southwest) festival, I'm sure people are hearing plenty of it, though I'm new to the area, and am not totally familiar even with SXSW. Last I noticed, it had added an educational-technology aspect to its conference, so that people even as I write are listening to talks on the state of the art in ed-tech and tech in general; this I'm sure is to help Austin develop its computer industry (it claims to be the main competitor to the Silicon Valley in innovation and tech developments). SXSW started out as merely a music festival, only a few days; now it's music, film, and computer, and more I'm sure, and it's well over nine days. And these people, they invite everyone down to sunny Austin, which I'm sure is nice in mid-March, and they check out computer innovations and then go straight out to Austin, where it's like that other show, Austin City Limits, all night every night, and they have a grand old time. You can't argue with that.

I'm not sure if Dallas will have much red-dirt, or a night life anywhere comparable to Austin's; I'm not much of a night-lifer anyway, though I'm kind of taken by this red-dirt stuff. It's my adopted state, so my perspective has changed, and now I'm thinking of tipping a cowboy hat, and saying Howdy y'all, welcome to Texas!

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