I lived in Dallas for many years. Its geography makes it a good place for data centers. Aside from making money, I am not seeing that Dallas has much going for it. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Dallas. Dallas is OK for most things but it excels at nothing.
I say nothing. But it does seem to excel at pretentious.
Dallas does not give a flying duck’s fart for “the arts”. But we want you to think we do. And we want you to think we are Euro cool. So we were a little embarrassed when visitors asked for directions to our “arts” district. The Mesquite Rodeo is what everyone thought was our arts district.
Except for the pretentious. We had to have an arts district so we can throw around words like “world class” when talking about Dallas. The pretentious convinced us rubes that it was in our interest to have an arts district so we could be Euro cool. Hey. Everyone knows its worth any price to look Euro cool.
The district was set aside on the edge of downtown Dallas. Downtown Dallas is perpetually on the edge of death. Not uncommon I guess. But move a business to downtown Dallas, and you will have huge tax breaks and get to sleep with your choice of any three city council members. You also get a parade. When your business inevitably fails, people wonder how you lasted so long.
I have worked in downtown Dallas. Not really a hustle and bustle during the day but there are people. By sunset its deserted. Deserted and dangerous. Like a scifi movie, the homeless zombies emerge at night to sleep and pee is the darkened nooks and crannies of its glass buildings.
A computer hardware failure caused many on our support team to stay on site one night. IBM said we had a four hour wait at best before they returned the equipment to us. Then we could begin our work. So we did what anyone in that situation does. Ordered food and put it on the boss’s tab. As the time dragged by, our boss opened his desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of tequila.
I’m not big on tequila shots. Especially when I might get drunk, open my mouth and out would spill obvious truths about management. Truths the must not be uttered.
Tequila or Tab. Any other options? Who would I have to sleep with to get a cold beer?
Tom had an answer. Tom worked in another support group. His work would start when ours was done. Tom was tall, yuppie and (not to get all homoerotic here) handsome. He was also mute. Or so everyone thought. You never heard him say 3 words. You had the impression that he was a Dallas Euro cool wannabe. But you were never sure. Tom was also pinky white.
I was more than a little surprised when he suggested that we go to the Oyster Bar. Now rumor was that the picture of the hot chick on his desk was his girlfriend. So I was reasonably sure this was not a date. But what the hell is the Oyster Bar?
Evidently, there is one business open in downtown Dallas after sunset. The Oyster Bar has been there since like the 1950s. That passes for historic landmark in Dallas. So I agree to go swill a few beers with Tom at the Oyster Bar.
Back to the homoerotic. For just one second. If we were a couple, Tom would be the woman. And it would obviously be up to me to fend off the homeless zombie muggers. Which I guess as homoerotic goes, it is the role I would prefer. About 3 blocks later we enter the Dallas landmark Oyster Bar.
I know I am in the minority on this. Given a choice of any five bars in Dallas, I would choose the Oyster Bar. Would I take my life in my hands and drive into downtown Dallas to visit the Oyster Bar? Oh hell naw. But given my options at the time on a surprise gay date with Tom, this is the bar I would choose.
Dark. Darker than dark. Smoke so thick you had to cut your way through it. And really, really dark. Which is perfect on your first surprise gay date. (I’m beginning to wonder if the hot chick in the photo is Tom’s sister at this point.) Having skipped gay dating etiquette class, I let Tom pull out his own barstool. And ordered myself a beer.
This was one bar where looking like a hippie freak was the norm. O People My People. The yuppie was the freak. At last, I am the cute one.
I guess I should remember what I talked about on my first surprise gay date. But I don’t. I think we broke up after this date because he never called. I’ll say one thing surprise gay dating has going for it. Your date can match you beer for beer. And the yuppie did.
If it was a contest to see whose bladder can hold the most, I would lose. Beer and Tab. I was ready to scope out the pisser. The barkeep tells me to go up the stairs, turn right and go up the steep stairs.
This is where I remember the carpet. Dark red I think with a black pattern. Hip in its day. Sticky as flypaper today. Despite the carpet and thick smoke holding me back, I make it up the first stairs. At the top, I find light. And a pool table. And 30 black faces staring at the white boy.
My first thought was that I am glad that men don’t go to the pisser together on surprise gay dates like the women do. Before I could have a second thought, a black woman with cleavage a mile deep falls up against me. Telling me it was her birthday. For the price of one dollar, I could have a kiss. Cash only. Payment is to be pinned to her dress. The little bit if dress she was wearing. Business looked good because she had about 30 bucks pinned to her.
A night of firsts. My first surprise gay date. My first black hooker. Also kinda surprised that I get to first base with the black hooker before I get there with my date. Even if i had to pay a buck to get there.
Speaking of firsts, the bladder is threatening to cut loose and I can no longer be diverted from my mission to find a pisser. I look around but see no stairs. So I ask. As it turns out, the ladder leaning against the wall is the second flight of “stairs”. No exaggeration. It was a ladder. At the top was the door. No landing. A door literally at the top of a ladder.
The first thing you think is liability. The second is “if these drunk bitches can do this I can too”. And I did. Before buttoning up I pull out two dollars. One in the shirt pocket. One for the hooker.
Black women love long hair on white guys. They love to touch it. Sall good by me. I got me a kiss and a dance with the birthday hooker before returning to my surprise gay date.
Speaking of which, Tom had to pee too. I told him the directions were accurate. Up the stairs, turn right and up the steep stairs. He asked what all the noise was. I said there was a pool table up there but he would find the pisser.
Evil. Just evil. Sending my yuppie date up there with no heads up. But I did give him the dollar in my shirt pocket.
I remember talking with an old white hooker while my date was powdering his nose. She looked hard. As in hard life. Too many years of booze and cigarettes. Too many hours spent wearing chandelier ear rings and crossing her legs in short skirts on a bar stool.
Just as I was making time with the white hooker, Tom comes flying down the stairs saying “We’ve got to go. We’ve got to go.” and out the door he went. I thought it would be impossible for Tom to look even whiter. I was wrong. Guess the mystery of who pays for the beer on a surprise gay date is solved. I pay. Wonder if gays put out on their first surprise gay dates.
Evidently not. Or if I did score with Tom, it was not earthshaking. Because I know we went back to work but nothing else stands out about the evening.
Wonder if I was supposed to send flowers.
The Oyster Bar was the perfect dive. Not that I had much choice. I would vote for it if there was a “best place to take your first surprise gay date” category. Its my idea of an arts district.
The first building in the new Dallas arts district was the Museum of Fine Art. You would see the humor in that if you had been to the museum. Their famous permanent collection is “African Art”. Which means some sticks and broken pots that are said to be really old and really important.
Now broken pots and sticks are fine as far as broken pots and sticks go. But its not enough to fill an entire museum and damn sure not enough to draw a huge crowd. I mean, I have seen the sticks and broken pots but would never walk across the street to see them a second time. Sloop’z got culture that way.
I forget who paid for the building. Seems to me that it was funded with bonds. Typical Dallas building. Faux stone facade hung on steel. Nothing offensive. Nothing to tell friends about. Nothing too big. Its what you’d expect in Dallas.
The big problem was that it was empty. Especially the central atrium. We needed a trip to the art store and get us some art.
Now in Dallas we want to say we support the arts without actually having to look at it or pay for it. It turns out real art is expensive. And we have a whole new building that is supposed to be filled with it. Especially that bigo atrium. We can close off the other doors and pretend they hold exhibits that are temporarily closed. But there is no getting around that empty atrium. And sticks and broken pots ain’t gonna work.
My idea of spreading a bunch of baby poo on canvases was rejected. The bigger the canvas, the better the art was. Though my idea was not embraced, the concept was.
Modern Art! Brilliant. You can buy shitloads of that crap for very little money. Get some art critic drunk and have him bless it as art. Throw in some Christian bashing and gay porn. Viola! We gots ourselves a fine arts museum!
Have you ever had a space in a room that needed something tall in it to balance out the room? So you obviously buy a fake ficus tree and it does the trick. When you walk in the room, the ficus is not what you see. You see a fully furnished room that does not feel like something is missing.
That atrium needed one big ass fake ficus. But no art critic could ever be bribed enough to bless that as art. The solution is to find some nobody “artist” and commission him to make you some art that is in your skimpy budget. Nobody artists want to be independent and temperamental but when they get really hungry and hardup for meth money, you can pretty much put whatever conditions you want on their commissioned “art”.
The condition here was big. Really big. Big enough to fill that huge atrium. And if it does not fill the atrium, we need a story about how the emptiness of the atrium is actually part of the art. If someone thinks the atrium looks empty, we can shake out heads and declare that they don’t “get it”.
The plan worked. Kinda. The “piece” turned out to be a big red stake and a rope. Not the entire stake. It looks like it is hammered into the floor. And the huge rope wraps around the stake and drapes to the ceiling of the atrium. Not sure how many drunk art critics we had to bribe to get the stake and rope officially declared as “art”. The important thing is that we did find one.
But I think in order to get the blessing, the critic said to put a few obscenely expensive “Italian” furniture groupings around the floor. So we could sit and look at the stake and rope. I mean the art. We could sit and admire the art.
Now obscenely expensive Italian furniture is ugly. People only like it because they paid a shitload of money for ugly. The thing is, you can buy ugly furniture that looks exactly like the expensive shit at Ikea. Tell people you paid a shitload of money for it and you have the same reaction as the real stuff. And Ikea is pack flat furniture. Ships UPS. Get a man in to assemble it, throw in some fake ficus plants and we gots art!
At this pace it will take decades to fill our building. Another idea. Find some rich old fool that has lots of art and is at death’s door. Send the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders over to give him a lap dance and maybe we can get his art for free. As plans go, I’ve heard worse.
But what old rich guy at death’s door can we target?
Emery Reeves! He has tons of art that looks like real art. If anyone dare look at our stake and rope, then claim the emperor has no clothes, we can point to the real art to prove we are Euro cool.
The fly in the ointment is that we were not the first to think of this plan. Real museums want Emery’s art too. And the old coot kicked the bucket and left it to his wife Wendy. Dammit. Rumor is that Wendy would not be swayed to give away Emery’s art by scantily clad cheerleaders with bigo knockers.
What to do. What to do.
As luck would have it, Wendy is going to go ahead and give away Emery’s art. The art would be awarded to the city that feeds her enormous ego the best.
Now its perfectly legit for a museum to outbid another museum with money for art. But its bad form to accept free art with tons of conditions attached. The winner is the museum that accepts the most conditions.
Nobody said Dallas was ethical. We need a shitload of free art to fill that empty building. Let’s promise ole Wendy the moon and nab that prize. And we did. Wendy said she would give the art to Dallas IF they build a copy of her villa onto the museum. The art rooms are to reproduce her villa EXACTLY. No changes. Wendy would allow one piece of her art to be moved to the front of the room on special occasions. But even that had a time limit.
No other museum would accept such conditions even for free art. Further, every museum expected other museums to abide by this rule. Dallas balked. Dallas got Wendy’s art. Pissed off every other museum. But we were now in the art business.
Uh oh. The money thing again. Here we are with this huge mortgage on our building. We need art to fill it. But the free art we got has to be put in new rooms built onto the building we can’t afford.
What if we charge a second admission fee to see Wendy’s art. One fee to see the red stake and rope. A second to see Wendy’s fake villa. That’ll work.
Broken pots and sticks. Check. Bigo stake and rope accentuated by Ikea furniture and faux ficus trees. Check. Hijacked art. Check. So far so good. But its a stretch to call that an arts district. We need another building. Empty or full. A district needs at least two buildings.
We tried the museum thing but can’t seem to find art we can afford to fill it. Maybe a symphony center. Maybe a bigo symphony center. Maybe a bigo symphony center that screams Ikea. Make it all modern. Yeah. Modern crap is cheap to build. Glass and concrete screams art. If we get a famous architect to bless it with his name, we’d be really Euro cool.
Every architect must laugh their butts off at clients like Dallas. Design them a concrete box with some glass here and there. Call it art and defy them not to agree. Up the price enough and everyone will think its art.
We chose i. m. pei to design our concrete box. And he did not disappoint. The cost proves its art. Hang the canopy on a wench and we can claim it matters in the acoustics of a concrete box. We are going to out cool the Euro cools. We have the invoice to prove it.
Good plan. Problem is we are broke. At one time we could build ten concrete boxes but then that whole oil thing went bust. Now we can’t get our cheap ass Euro cool wannabes fund a junior high science fair.
Let’s see. We can convince the commoners in Dallas to fund part of it. Sell bonds. Charge fees. Auction off naming rights for the building and we just might make it. If we still fall short, we can name the canopy after a donor. The driveway could be named after those that can’t afford the canopy. Dallas is full of pretentious people that will give up the money if they think they are buying immortality with the bronze plaque over the urinal that bears their name. That has to prove I am Euro cool. The urinal proves it.
OK. The urinal part is a joke. But not the rest of it. And the urinal part would be true if not for me opening my mouth.
Opening my mouth at the wrong time.
A dear friend asked me to be her date to a symphony center fund raising gala. She was between husbands. I owned a tux that fit. Free booze. A chance for her to prove that she could wear her new money like a pretentious second generation Dallasite. Winners all around.
I think the flaw in the evening was the free booze. Which forced me to ask what it would cost for me to get a urinal with my name on it in that concrete box.
The cream of the Dallas society is very sensitive to anything that reminds them that they are only a few years into money. Not generations into it. Daddy is at home playing poker with the roughnecks and swilling Pabst beer. They are appalled that Daddy prefers a slice of hot pound cake over cream brulee. Cream brulee has a little grave over vowels. Its clearly Euro cool.
Since the veneer is so thin, jokes about their desperation to build a monument to their vanity are not welcomed. It quickly made the rounds. Probably got my date’s name removed from most of the Dallas guest lists.
Not that she complained about it. Like me, she would be more at ease in the Oyster Bar.