Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Much to my surprise I found that people in Texas actually do say this. I’d believed it was some sort of TV or movie myth but nope – they say that too, by the way – not so.

I’d also forgotten just how big Texas is. 

When you look at the map and see Dallas right next to Fort Worth even though it’s larger than all of Western Europe, you immediately think “pretty close, can get a taxi”. 

I’d booked a really funky hotel called ALOFT in Downtown Dallas (see website here) and had this notion of staying there 3 nights getting a taxi back and forth to Fort Worth. 

It took all of 5 minutes in the taxi from the airport looking at the enormous earth works called freeways in Texas before I realized that ‘right nearby’ means somewhere in the next county.  Or maybe the one after that.  This meant a radical rethink of operations.

We therefore decided to curtail our stay in Dallas by 1 day and find a hotel in Fort Worth near to the Stockyards where we intended to spend the day watching rodeos and the like.  Amazingly I found the Stockyards Hotel (see website here) right in the Stockyards and was lucky enough to book the last room for the night.

So in cheery mood we headed out to where the hotel staff had suggested was downtown only to find there actually wasn’t really one as most lived on the outskirts or in other neighbourhoods.  We did find a nice steakhouse where the waiter recommended we redirect our efforts in a different direction.

Red eye on Main Street, Dallas

So we found the Red Museum (see website here) in a historic part of town which was all about Dallas.  Skirting oil and JR, Dallas is actually not about any of that at all.  Oil wasn’t discovered here – it was further south and east. Actually there is no reason for Dallas to be here.  It was a Mr. Bryan, a British eccentric no doubt, who found in the 1830’s a ford over the Trinity River and thought that maybe a township on a nearby bluff and ferry service would be a good thing and attract people to the area – he then laid out a city in his mind and bought the land for 1 cent per acre. 

The Red Museum with one of the many downtown car parks in the foreground.  This is Dallas 'downtown'!

He was right. Sad to say Mr. Bryan ended his days in an insane asylum in Austin and is buried in an unmarked grave, curious to me as Texans love memorials and there are none of him suggesting that maybe there was a darker side to Mr. Bryan that the museum didn’t share.

Next step forward was the railroad.  Somehow the Dallas leaders managed to persuade both the east-west and north-south lines to intersect at Dallas.  An amazing feat and one which sealed the success of Dallas becoming the most important city in the south west, a position it attained by the 1870’s, less than one lifetime since Mr. Bryan’s amazing vision.

We also toured the 6th Floor Museum at the Texas Book Repository (see website here), a museum based on the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.  

The window through which the shots were fired

Fascinating to go back through all this.  On reflection JFK and Winston Churchill (who also died around this time) were probably my earliest memories of politicians with JFK undoubtedly being one of the few Americans.  My memory of the incident was when the TV interrupted my favourite programme of the week to make the announcement in England.  Solemn music followed for hours with occasional news updates.  One of the panels in the museum said Walter Kronkite interrupted his programme within an hour of the event taking place in the US.

This was probably one of the first real world events reported in almost real time.

Looking back on his brief presidential reign, it was certainly not without blemishes -- the Bay of Pigs fiasco standing front and centre.  But it had its high points too – averting nuclear war with the Soviets of course being the highest.  However I think more than anything else it left the thoughts of what might have been.  These were all played out in his inaugural address (see here) and subsequent speeches – the moon, computers and technology, racial integration, volunteering via the Peace Corps, medicare, you name it, he said it.  Had he not died it is questionable whether so many of these would actually have come into being as his majority was wafer slim at the time of his election.  I’d never given President Johnson much credit, after all it was JFK and he that escalated Vietnam into all out conflict, but it was LBJ's political ability to get things passed and of course the unfortunate timing that enabled him to have passed most of JFK’s initiatives which shaped much of how the US conducted itself for the remainder of the century.

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country".

The remainder of the day was rediscovering the joys of public transport.  Dallas has the D-Line free shuttle that circles the city so we did until we found somewhere that seemed to have a bit of life, a part called Uptown.  An old tram ran up the street that houses Uptown so we took that to the end and strolled back.

This is undoubtedly the chic, young, urban part of town and if I was a chic, young and urban Texan living in Dallas is where I would want to live.  Bars, restaurants, clubs and lots of activity made it an attractive location indeed.

We found a bar called Standard Pour which served amongst other things Dark n’Stormies made the correct way and tequila from a barrel marked ‘Aqua Vida’. 

Not a bad way to end a busy day!

No comments:

Post a Comment