Photo Friday: Downtown Dallas

In keeping with this week’s theme, Dallas, here’s a view of downtown Dallas with the Cathedral of Guadalupe making a nice contrast against the modern glass and steel buildings.

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Waiting for the tour guide

There was little southbound traffic on the Dallas Parkway on that Saturday morning in late March. The drive from the northern suburbs towards Dallas was a breeze. I pitied those poor souls who have to battle the rush hour traffic every day.

The downtown area was almost deserted and finding a parking spot was really easy. I was happy. Spring was in the air and it was going to be a good day. The sky was an intense shade of blue, the temperature was comfortable – there was no hint yet of the blistering heat that clenches its jaws like a rabid dog that won’t let go -, the daffodils and tulips adorning public spaces were in full bloom, and the sun was still my friend.

I had signed up for a walking tour of the Arts District organized by the Dallas Center for Architecture. I was interested in the history of some of the turn-of-the-century buildings like the Belo Mansion, built in the Classical Revival style.

The tour was scheduled to start 10 am. The meeting point was the ceremonial entrance to the Dallas Museum of Art at Flora and Harwood streets, and the idea was to see and discuss the architecture of the Arts District -hailed by some as “the largest urban arts district in the U.S.” The whole nation knows that everything is bigger in Texas.

When I arrived, there was not a person in sight but I didn’t worry because it was still early.

The minutes ticked by. I was getting uneasy. It was possible that the guide might be waiting inside. The museum was still closed to the public but it was worth trying.

As soon as I opened the door, a female security guard materialized by my side. She didn’t look terribly friendly.

“Excuse me ma’am, the museum’s closed and opens at 10,” she said with a deep drawl.

“I know, I’m sorry. I’m supposed to meet a group of people and I thought they’d be inside,” I said, trying to appease her.

“ Y’all have to wait outside.” And Miss Congeniality proceeded to close the door on my face. So much for Southern hospitality.

To be on the safe side, I decided to check the other entrances. I walked round the block to the St Paul Street door but the only other people I saw was a couple across the street waiting for the historic M line trolley.

I took a moment to admire the bronze sculpture that guards the door (by one of my favourite artists, the English sculptor Henry Moore) and the colourful mural by the Mexican artist Covarrubias depicting an ancient Mexican myth.  It is called Genesis, the Gift of Life.

Since it was a few minutes past ten, the best course of action was to get back to the meeting point and hope for the best.

Still deserted.

I re-read the printout with the tour details. Gasp! I got the date wrong; the tour was scheduled for the following weekend.

Chicago street food: hot dogs

Chicago style char beef dog

Since I was stuck at Chicago airport on my way to Toronto after a series of unfortunate events too long to tell (American Airlines’ usual self plus weather in Dallas and Chicago), I wanted to eat something that was typical of the city. Keeping this post about Chicago street food in mind, I narrowed the list down to two choices: deep dish pizza and hot dogs.

The pizza pies at Pizza UNO looked old and tired and totally unappetizing. Hot dog it was. I headed to Gold Coast Dogs and ordered a Chicago style hot dog. I must admit I was somewhat hesitant when the guy asked me “Do you want everything on it?” since I wasn’t sure what “everything” entailed, so my answer came out “Yeeeeeees?”

I was handed a rather messy but enjoyable char beef dog on a poppy seed bun with chopped onions, mustard (I have it on good authority that using ketchup is sacrilegious), sliced tomato, a rather suspicious-looking emerald green relish, pickle, celery salt and sports peppers (which I removed because they were too hot for me. I’m a wuss like that.)

This is going to sound nerdy but eating a hot dog in Chicago (albeit at the airport) made me feel closer to VI Warshawski (only those who read Sarah Paretsky know what the heck I’m talking about.)

I have one question that is open to discussion: should street food still be called street food if it’s prepared and eaten elsewhere (like an airport)? Or is it  a set category?

Jimmy who?

Last weekend we were invited to attend the Jimmy Buffett Tailgate Party in Frisco. I had no clue who that guy was or what the party was for. When I asked, some people looked at me funny and said the names of his greatest hits (by then, I realised he was a singer), Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise, as if that alone would suffice.

Suffice it did not. I was still clueless and played the I’m-a-foreigner-brought-up-in-another-culture card but still I was expected to know all about parrotheads, grass skirts and coconut bras. What?

Anyway, Sean and I did a little shopping (ice for the cooler, drinks and munchies) before heading to Pizza Hut Park. We eventually found our friends. We paid $2o for parking on a grass lot quite a ways from all the action. We unloaded the cooler, food and chairs and settled down to a nice chat and quite a bit of people-watching.

The girls and I went for a walk. We saw some really hardcore Jimmy Buffett fans dressed in grass skirts and coconut bras (men and women), pirates, parrot hats, and golf carts decked out with shark fins, parrots and palm trees. Lots of drinking games and rivers of alcohol (it was 90F out there).

Lots of people camped out since Friday in their RVs. I just loved how well organised they were: tents, lounge chairs, grills or barbecues (even a few smokers too), loudspeakers, beer kegs, the whole enchilada. Everyone was having fun, singing, drinking, eating, walking around, playing games, waiting for the concert to start in the evening.

Parking in the RV area was $60 and they rented  port-a-potties for $100 a day or $5 per use.

It was an interesting experience, we had fun with our friends and I got to see a different side to the American people, a more playful, childish even, side. I’m not sure I want to do it again next year but I’m sure glad we went.