Donating is easy in Dallas

Every so often I like to cull my wardrobe. The advantages are manifold: the closet looks tidy, there’s more space for new purchases and somebody else can benefit from it.

When I lived in Buenos Aires, I would put my old clothes and shoes in bags and take them to our local church, where there is a special receptacle for donations. Alternatively, I would simply put them outside the front door and they would be gone in no time. Or even give them to the cleaning lady.

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But when I moved to Dallas, I had no clue what to do, where to go, who to give things to. I did a little digging and found a charitable organization called Goodwill. In a nutshell, they receive donations and sell them in their own stores, benefitting people in dire straits by selling products at affordable prices and by providing jobs.

Goodwill has collection points all over the city but they sometimes change their location and it’s not always easy to find them.

The other day I got a flyer in the mail from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They asked for donations (clothes, shoes, books, toys and the like). I had a few things to give away so I called the number on the flyer.

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An automated phone menu guided me through the process. A voice asked me to punch the ID assigned on the flyer and to confirm my address. Once I did this, the voice asked me to leave everything outside my front door by 9.30 on the date printed on the piece of paper and to identify the bags clearly.

I left home Thursday morning and by the time I returned, everything was gone. They left a form for me to fill with the monetary value of my donations so I can deduct that from our taxes. The value is so low that in our case it’s not worth the trouble.

Donations ready

This may not come as a surprise to someone who lives in the US but to me, as a foreigner, it is a totally novel way of doing things. Very organized as well, which I like. Before, I would have never dreamed of deducting donation from taxes. It doesn’t feel very charitable. But it’s part of the local culture, so I embrace it.

School zones

As an expat, I had to adapt to a new culture, to its rules and social mores. Actually, it was a conscious decision, I decided to adapt and adopt new customs in order to integrate. I know that some people prefer to stay in a close-knit group, speaking their mother tongue and not venturing much outside their comfort zone. This may work for them but is not enough for me.

school zone

One of the new –for me- aspects of living in Dallas is that of driving. One can’t practically exist without a car, especially living in the suburbs. I never owned a car in Buenos Aires because I felt it wasn’t necessary so this was a big lifestyle change.

I’ve been living and driving in Dallas for eight years now. Every so often I reflect on what is different from my hometown of Buenos Aires and school zones is one such thing.

There are signs that warn you you;’re about to enter a school zone and should reduce your speed to 20 mph only if the amber light is flashing. You can resume your speed when told to do so by another sign. Although cellphone use in the car is allowed, it is strictly prohibited in school zones. I you ask me, authorities should ban it completely. I see many idiots texting and driving at 70 mph on the highways.

A short guide to historical sites of interest in Dallas

The history of Dallas may not be long, but it certainly is interesting.

It all began when, in the mid-1800s, John Neely Bryan purchased some land from the Caddo Indians and opened a trading post along the Trinity River. He later founded a permanent settlement in the area now known as the West End Historic District. A replica of his one-room cabin can be found at the Dallas County Historical Plaza (junction of Main, Market, Elm, and Record Streets).

Replica Of John Neely Brian's cabin at Founders' Plaza
Replica Of John Neely Brian’s cabin at Founders’ Plaza

Nowadays a premier entertainment district, the West End is located in northwest downtown Dallas, north of Commerce, east of I-35E, west of Lamar and south of Woodall Rodgers Freeway. After the Texas Pacific Railroad intersected with the Texas Central Railroad in the areas, Dallas became a major distribution center. The historically preserved redbrick buildings in the West End were used as warehouses.

A short walk from the West End is the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture. It is housed in the Old Red Courthouse built in 1892 and it is a symbol of the city’s heritage. The Museum is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm. General admission is $8, children 3-16 are $5 and seniors, age 65+, and students with a valid student ID, are $6. It is located on 100 S. Houston St. and is close to the Union DART Station.

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The Old Red

Uptown is one of Dallas’ oldest neighborhoods. It boasts the best preserved collection of Victorian houses in Dallas, all built in the late nineteenth century. These elegant mansions were commissioned by wealthy businessmen and built along Maple, McKinney, Routh and Fairmont streets. The McKinney Avenue Trolley (M line) operates around Uptown and the Arts District. Some of its stops include Uptown’s four historical cemeteries.

Uptown’s contiguous historic cemeteries are Greenwood Cemetery (Protestant) opened in 1874, Cavalry Cemetery (Catholic), Temple Emanu-El Cemetery (Jewish) and Freedmen’s Memorial. Freedmen’s, with historical ties to slavery, contains the unmarked graves of thousands of African Americans.

Uptown’s limits are US 75 (Central Expressway), Blackburn Street, Turtle Creek Boulevard, Harry Hines Boulevard and Woodall Rogers Freeway.

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The Traveling Man Sculpture welcomes you to Deep Ellum

The Deep Ellum area is nowadays a hotspot for arts and entertainment near downtown Dallas. It is circumscribed by the Central Expressway, Pacific, Elm, Main, Commerce and Canton Streets. The history of the area can be traced back to 1884, when Robert S. Munger built a cotton gin factory and later others followed his example. The Grand Temple of the Black Knights of Pythias was built in Deep Ellum in 1916. It was used as as the state headquarters for the Knights and it also contained the offices of Black doctors, dentists, and lawyers. It was the first commercial building for and by African Americans in Dallas.

Located on Swiss Avenue, the Swiss Avenue Historic District is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and was designated Dallas’ first historic district in 1973. It is also recognized as a Texas Historical Site. Originally developed between 1905 and the 1920s, the area has about two hundred carefully preserved and restored homes built in diverse architectural styles ranging from Prairie and Spanish to Craftsman and Georgian.

Estate sale 5 Swiss Ave

Last but not least is the site where events occurred that changed the course of US History: Dealy Plaza (with its grassy knoll), where President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 as his motorcade was going past the former Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street. An X marks the spot where he was shot. The building now houses the Sixth Floor Museum, where films, photographs, artifacts and interpretive displays document the events that took place on November 22, 1963, the findings of the official investigations that followed, the historical legacy of the tragedy and the spot from which Harvey Lee Oswald allegedly fired his gun.

Dallas is a comparatively young city that honors its history and that of the nation.

Sources

www.oldred.org

www.dallaswestend.org

www.uptowndallas.net

www.dallasnews.com

www.sahd.org

One Trip EVERY Month Challenge: Reunion Tower, Dallas

Marianne, over at East of Malaga, came up with a new challenge. It’s called “One trip EVERY month” and it’s about sharing a trip. It can be an international trip or a local one, that place in your hometown you’ve been meaning to visit but never got round to going.

For the February challenge, I chose the Reunion Tower in Dallas, the city where I live. The Reunion Tower was built in 1978 and is part of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. There is a fine-dining restaurant at the top but, although we said we should go sometime, we never did, as well as an observation deck.

Follow the arrows to the tower
Follow the arrows to the tower

Now my sister and my nieces are in town for a visit. The other day we were driving around downtown Dallas. Actually, we were planning to go to a park and I missed my exit on the highway. I took one exit at random and made a big loop back to where we were supposed to go. We happened to drive past the Hyatt and I said “Forget the park and let’s go up the tower!”

It was an exciting experience for all of us. For them, because they’ve never been to Dallas before and for me, because it was my first visit to the Reunion Tower.

Hyatt Regency @ Reunion Tower
Hyatt Regency @ Reunion Tower

We bought our tickets ($16 for adults and $8 for 4-12 year olds) and had our handbags inspected by a security guard. Then the photographer took a group photo and gave us an Access ID. With the ID we were able to see our photo on a computer upstairs, play with the background and email it and share it on social media for free.

Downtown Dallas
Downtown Dallas

The 360 degree of downtown Dallas is spectacular. There are interactive touch screens all around it with information about landmarks, the city and so on. The girls had a great time playing with the real time cameras and my sister and I enjoyed seeing them have fun.

The Margaret Hunt Bridge over the Trinity River is behind the jail.
The Margaret Hunt Bridge over the Trinity River is behind the jail.

We went outside but the wind was bitterly cold, especially at that height (158 metres-over 500 feet.) we lasted long enough to take a couple of photos and then rushed back inside.

Way too windy and cold outside!
Way too windy and cold outside! I should have wrapped my pashmina round my neck and put gloves on.

There’s a café called Cloud Nine one level above the GeoDeck (the observation platform) and the restaurant is one more level up. It rotates every evening so all diners can enjoy the great views of the Big D.

Having visitors to entertain and show around makes me think like a tourist in my own home. I enjoy exploring where I live and finding new places to see and activities to do. The excitement of exploration also helps stave off homesickness for a while.

Looking out the window at the Cloud Nine cafe
Looking out the window at the Cloud Nine cafe
300 Reunion Boulevard East- Dallas TX 75207
Hours:
Sundays to Thursdays 10 AM-10 PM
Fridays-Saturdays 10 AM-11.30 PM

In search of Bonnie Parker in Dallas

Dallas

Dallas is best known for the Cowboys, JR Ewing and as the place where JFK was assassinated but very few people know it’s also the last resting place of Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde fame. I came across that information a while ago. I made a note of the address of the cemetery where Bonnie Parker is buried as well as loose directions to her grave and put it away.

Crown Hill Memorial Park is in an area of North Dallas, Webb Chapel, which I never have any reason to visit. Since I was meeting a friend for lunch in trendy Uptown and the cemetery was more or less in between Uptown and my home in the northern suburbs, I thought it was a good time as any to try and find Bonnie.

A trendy restaurant in Uptown Dallas
A trendy restaurant in Uptown Dallas

Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie Parker was a famous outlaw from the Great Depression era who had a partner called Clyde. Their story caught the imagination of the public, who created a romanticized image of the criminal couple. In my mind, they looked like Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, the actors who portrayed the outlaws in the 1967 film.

Bonnie met ex-con Clyde Barrow in Dallas in January 1930, where she lived with her mother and siblings. She was 19 and he was 20. They fell madly in love but their relationship was put on hold when he was sentenced to two years in prison for auto theft. After that, the couple went on a 21-month criminal spree, mainly armed robberies and murder, in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Missouri and Louisiana, in part to escape poverty and in part because of their utter contempt for authority.

Bonnie and Clyde successfully evaded many police ambushes. They were always one step ahead of the authorities until they were caught in a roadblock in Louisiana and a hail of machine gun fire put an end to their lives. This marked the beginning of an American legend.

In search of Bonnie

After lunch at Mercat Bistro (2501 N Harwood St.), I entered the cemetery’s address (9700 Webb Chapel Rd) in my phone GPS and set off. I took Harry Hines all the way down to Webb Chapel Extension. The stylish Uptown buildings soon gave way to Southwestern Medical District and, farther on, the industrial looking area behind Lovefield Airport.

The landscape changed dramatically in less than 7 miles. The neighbourhoods got progressively more rundown and rougher. The buildings looked old and low-rent, many in need of a lick of paint. The physiognomy of the people and the language on the store signs changed as well: carnicería (butcher’s) La Michoacana, taquería La Paloma, tienda (grocery store) La Tampiqueña.

Mercat French Bistro on N. Harwood Street.
Mercat French Bistro on N. Harwood Street.

The neighbourhood

Webb Chapel is a working class neighbourhood whose residents are mainly of Mexican ancestry. I started to worry I’d be mugged or have my car stolen. The newspapers are full of stories about Latin gangs and their criminal activities and, whether we like it or not, they permeate our unconscious mind and shape our view of the world. There are areas in Dallas with high crime rate, like everywhere else, but this one wasn’t necessarily one of them. However, I was out of my element; I wanted to be back in the swanky French bistro in Uptown or my safe suburban townhome.

Then I mentally slapped myself. Look at these people, I told myself: a mother pushing a pram, a granny carrying grocery bags, kids walking home from school.  They are hard-working people trying to carve out a better life for their families, not criminals. Shake off your silly prejudices, you spoilt brat. Duly chastised, I carried on my search.

The cemetery

Main mausoleum at Crown Hill Memorial Park
Main mausoleum at Crown Hill Memorial Park

Although I have no sense of direction and need a GPS to go almost anywhere, I don’t always interpret its directions well. For example when it said “slight left on Webb Chapel Road” I turned left into Lombardy Road and had to do a U turn. After a couple of unintentional detours, I finally managed to find the cemetery. I drove in and tried to find parking. The place is a big park crisscrossed with concrete paths. I wasn’t sure where to go or if it was legal to drive there, let alone park. I wasn’t comfortable with leaving the car anywhere (I didn’t want a ticket) so I drove around.

I drove past the central mausoleum, which had an Art Nouveau air to it, and some dark granite smaller contemporary ones. Cemeteries say a lot about the changes in society. I noticed that the older tombstones all had English names engraved on the dark granite and were sober and somber. The newer ones bore names and phrases in Spanish, like “Abuelita, te extrañaremos por siempre” (We will always miss you, Granny) and were decorated with gaudy flowers and ribbons, probably left over from the Día de los Muertos festivity that took place a few days earlier.

A view of the memorial park
A view of the memorial park

According to my notes, Bonnie Parker’s burial was located “to the left of the hedge.” OK. Which hedge? The one that ran around the whole place? Reading each headstone would take all day but still drove on, taking a few turns, driving very slowly, trying to read the engraved names.

Crown Hill Memorial Park is Bonnie Parker’s family burial site, this is the reason she’s buried here. But the cemetery requires non-family member to request permission in writing in order to photographs any graves. I’m not a family member and did not have a written permission.

Just like Bonnie eluded the authorities during her and Clyde’s criminal career, she also eluded me. I was not able to find her grave.

It was time to go and leave the elusive Bonnie be.  

Directions by car:

Click here for the Spanish version.