We did not know in advance that the big Christmas parade was taking place today. 350,000 people attended.
My favorite float was probably the Star Wars float. It was just cool to see so many stormtroopers. It was weird to have them right behind Spongebob, though. The local culture was reflected in the other groups, e.g. Blond women in cowboy hats and mini skirts, Hispanic women in Mayan garb
Checked out the Grassy Knoll and book depository where Kennedy was shot. Most tourist traps are sites of historic achievements. I had never been to a site of an assassination. One guy was following me around trying to get me to give him money for an impromptu tour. He kept talking about 'the head shot' and 'the throat shot'. I found it tasteless.
The Dallas Museum of Art turned out to be one of the best museums (musea) I've been to - extensive collections of everything: art and artifacts from all continents and periods, organized by material, theme, region, etc.
One exhibit was the furniture of Charles Rohlfs. His wife was a mystery novelist and she often had her characters looking at evidence through microscopes. So she would know what she was talking about, she and Charles bought a microscope. Charles became interested in the structure of cellulose, the hydrocarbon that wood is. He took the shape of cellulose and replicated it in some of his pieces. The striking thing is that was in the 1880s and 90s. When I started reading the description and saw the furniture I assumed it was from the 50s or 60s.
I was walking from the museum, wondering where to go. I tried taking the light rail they have there but all of the ticket machines I tried were broken. My feet were starting to get tired and suddenly a trolley rolled up alongside me and the driver beckoned me aboard. The trolley was old and wooden (and real, running along rails) and it felt like something out of Harry Potter. The most remarkable thing was that it was free. The restaurants along McKinney avenue pay 5 cents for each rider that takes the trolley - cheap for them, but it brings business to that neighborhood
The restaurants we went to were okay, but not exceptional. One problem was the beer. Another was the bread. The craft beer culture that seems to be all over the east coast and northwest does not seem to have yet permeated Texas. Not only is beer bad in Texas, bread is as well. I an say with confidence that I have not had good bread in The South. There does not seem to be a culture of or an appreciation of good cheese either - all fermented things are out
Food generally like what I had in Iowa - flavored with salt and fat and gravy and ketchup. I miss food that has internal flavor: herbs and garlic that soaks in
Hard to find a bar that does not have lots of TVs. I want a bar with no TVs, but settle for one with only 10 or so
Texas is not exactly southern, the way Tennessee is, and is not exactly western, the way the Mountain states are.
One difference between southern culture and Texan culture seems to be that I frequently experienced people in Georgia pretending to be less intelligent than they were, particularly women. They would even, after making some error, say, "That's just so southern of me!" or "What do you expect from a southern girl!" I never heard that kind of thing in Texas - not that Texans are any different in intelligence, but there's so much pride here that they don't belittle themselves like that.
In one conversation, a local claimed that "just as Atlanta is trying to be the New York of the south, Dallas wants to be the Chicago of the south." Apparently Dallas recently lost a bid to host a major event, and the bid went to Chicago because Dallas didn't have enough local culture and amenities. I don't know if that's true, but the local government seems to be putting a lot of money in museums, parks, etc.
Overall, I was impressed by Dallas, and think I could enjoy living here - if the opportunity arose.
One fascinating thing about Dallas is the history of La Reunion, a utopian community of European artists and writers trying to make an ideal society on the American frontier.
The voting record of Dallas is also far more progressive than I had assumed. The city went for Kerry in 2004.
"Dollars, Taxes" is an apt nickname with sales tax at 8.25%
So far, the food has been expensive, and it feels like I'm paying the same prices or higher than what I pay for the same things in New York City.
Dallas violent crime rate is 2.29 times the national average
New York City violent crime rate is 0.49 the national average, meaning you're tice as likely to be murdered OUTSIDE New York City than inside it.
Of course in New York you're ten thousand times more likely to accidentally step in a puddle of urine.
Here, you can buy beer and wine at the 7-eleven, but not liquor. Unfortunately, the beer was all variations on yelow pilsner: Bud, Modelo, etc.
The only ale available was Bud American Ale, which made me conclude that Conservatives Drink Lager and Liberals Drink Ale.
Shiner Bock is weak, unexceptional beer (although I imagine it redeems itself in the north Texas summer).
But the Shiner Brewery, begun by Kosmos Spoetzl, is 100 years old in 2009 so I got a sixer of Shiner Bohemian Black Lager, and I must say it's quite good.
Being in the state of Texas makes me want to evoke the spirit of Ross Perot: "T'aint worth more'n a wink from a dime-store hooker"
Dallas, Day 1
I hate flying. In center seat in back of plan, so lots of waiting and 3 & 1/2 hours with my arms at my sides. My knees start to hurt, and I'm not even a tall person.
My iPod is now a necessity when flying. I download This American Life episodes and zone away.
AirTran has XM Radio which is sometimes even better except whenever the pilot or attendants have something to say it gets broadcast through the same headphone jacks and is unpleasantly loud.
Cab driver friendly. I remember getting ripped off by a cabbie in San Antonio ten years ago and now hold a grudge against all taxi drivers in Texas. But I should give that up.
Hotel Magnolia very nice, not what I was expecting to see here.
Room small but tastefully decorated. I have my netbook, an Eee pc that I got for $300 (10.5 hour battery, 2.5 lbs or so, very tiny).
It's much easier to travel with than my old laptop, my HP workhorse that only had one problem in three years until I dropped it recently and now it has a variety of ailments.
I wanted to plug the netbook into the ginormous TV in the room so as to have a bigger screen - I even brought a VGA cable.
But I can't get the TV to acknowledge any input other than the cable.
I flip channels. I don't like the new digital TV. With regular tv you just hit the up button until you see something you like.
Now you have to wait about 2 seconds for each channel to get digested. Channel surfing is now like riding a bicycle through deep gravel.
Went to a restaurant around the corner, Iron Cactus. Good margaritas, although very sweet and quite expensive.
I should have gotten some of the relatively authentic Tex-Mex food that I can't get up north, but I get a steak withe broccoli and mashed potatoes - good but not special. The winner was the tortilla soup I had first. The broth was thick, more like jambalaya than chicken soup.
The complimentary salsa was better than just about anything I've had from a jar in New York.
Our waiter looks familiar and I can't figure it out until the end: he looks and acts just like the actor Elijah Wood (Frodo in Lord of the Rings) except about a foot and a half taller and with red hair - so nothing like Elijah Wood, except the face was nearly identical.
Everyone is remarkably polite and friendly. It makes me feel like a jerk.
I feel almost like the character Dexter from the show of the same name. He is supposed to be a well-meaning sociopath who has a completely flat emotional affect, but has learned to mimic the emotional reactions of his fellow humans.
A TV show is being shot across the street - lots of spotlights and guys carrying racks of things back and forth.
It's a pilot for ABC called "The Deep End". It's supposed to be set in L.A. but they're shooting it in Dallas for some reason.
It's supposed to snow tomorrow and the irony is not lost on anyone.