Who are all those people shopping at the downtown Neiman Marcus. . .

If only they had a sign! At least on the parking garage behind.

If only they had a sign! At least on the parking garage behind.

. . . and why isn’t it pronounced “ ī ” as in “ice” as any self-respecting “ei” word would be?

The summer is almost over, and I have only two accomplishments to show for it. A glorious trip to Scandinavia and St. Petersburg, Russia, and an arthroscopic invasion of my right hip. Which is more important (if either is ultimately important) I can’t say.

All of those people shopping at the downtown Neiman Marcus aren’t, that’s who they are. Most people in the Dallas area wouldn’t know the store from the Dollar Store on Maple Avenue if it didn’t have a sign. That’s NM’s problem!—they don’t have a sign! If they’d put up a sign, they’d have more business.

I walk past NM on the average, I’d guess, six times a week. I use the NM parking garage across Commerce Street from the store three nights a week. It’s cheap. $2 overnight. No meter-feeding (Dallas is insanely vigilant about parking tickets). That is, I use the parking lot on Commerce Street when my hip doesn’t allow me to take the train downtown.

Taking the train comprises a walk across the new Parkland Hospital employee parking lot to the DART station, a ten-minute ride, and a four-block walk to the Merc on Main. A total of about half an hour—ten minutes longer than it takes to drive, and there’s no parking hassle at the end of the trip.

A friend who has lived in Farmers Branch (the first suburb north of the city) for 25 years told me not too long ago he’d never been to downtown Dallas. He’s been to basketball and hockey games at the American Airlines center, but it’s possible to get there without setting foot in downtown.

I don’t think St. Petersburg ever did much to destroy itself in the form of renewing its urb. They’ve had a couple of pretty disastrous wars that destroyed big chunks of the city, but I didn’t see much evidence that they’ve willfully gone into the center of the city and torn down old buildings in order to make room for ugly new ones. Perhaps they have and I didn’t notice those places.

Dallas, on the other hand, is fixing to tear down the oldest building in downtown (for all I know, in the entire city) to widen a street. That kind of self-mutilation is endemic to Dallas. As it is to almost every other American city. You know, urban flight (a self-delusional term for racism) and all of that demographic mumbo-jumbo. Urban renewal. Destroy the heart of the city to make a few hundred billion dollars for a couple of “developers.” I’ve written about it before.

Klyde Warren Park - renew or rebuild?

Klyde Warren Park – renew or rebuild?

Everyone knows the process.  White flight, urban decay. Urban renewal, decimation of the city. Suburban growth. Freeways. Freeways. Freeways. Homelessness. Homelessness. Homelessness. Billionaires. Billionaires. Billionaires. Tear down a few more buildings. Gentrify. Gentrify. Gentrify. So predictable.

You know what you can’t do with your own body? Stop suburban flight or renew the urb. There’s this suburban flight going on from the day we’re born, I think. I’m not going to press this metaphor because it’s too obvious, and I don’t have the poetic skill to make it anything other than ridiculous. The metaphor has been around for at least 3,000 years. “Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth. . .” (1)

You can have all the arthroscopic surgeries you want, and you can’t renew the urb of your own body. Can’t be done. You can work out at the gym three times a week from the time you’re 20 until you’re 80, and you are not stopping the process.

Neiman’s stayed in downtown until it was—quite literally—the only retail store left. How could it leave? It WAS Dallas, Dallas WAS Neiman’s. Shall I carry the figure to its (il)logical conclusion? Neiman’s was (is) in some way if not the soul of Dallas, at least an image for the soul of Dallas.

Now it’s having a facelift (literally, there’s a sign that says so). And a little cluster of retail stores and restaurants and such is growing up around it. And more than a few of the old empty buildings (both retail and high-rise) are being refurbished, completely gutted and rebuilt and made into new businesses and  apartments. Thousands of people (with their thousands of dogs) are moving back to downtown. Not the kind of people who were pushed out when old downtown was obliterated, mind you. Not the poor, the tired, the humble masses who huddled in the rooming houses and inner-city apartments.

The urb is, once again, being renewed. And I love it. I want to live there.

Neiman’s can have a facelift. Dallas can build the Klyde Warren Park. My hip can be fixed (at least temporarily).

But it’s that soul, or the image of that soul that won’t let my mind rest. Dallas can’t be renewed. It can be rebuilt, but it won’t be the same city. Renewal is not the process. Remaking is, finding a new soul is.

Do I need to push this metaphor to its limit? A human body cannot be renewed OR rebuilt. To say nothing of a human soul.

Damn! I wish that had worked out.
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(1) Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, KJV.  Hebrew Scriptures and Urban Renewal

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

Towne Square Apartments; Employee Parking Lot; DART line rail (with yellow train); New Parkland Hospital. Can the urb be renewed?

Towne Square Apartments; Employee Parking Lot; DART line rail (with yellow train); New Parkland Hospital. Can the urb be renewed?

 

“One Hour to Madness and Joy”

The distant spire between two buildings: The old Mercantile Bank Tower. Now a sort of "second home." Taken from Klyde Warren park on a January day.

The distant spire between two buildings: The old Mercantile Bank Tower. Now a sort of “second home.” Taken from Klyde Warren park on a January day.

I said I’d never write anything serious here. But life happens.

That doesn’t mean what follows is serious. It simply means what follows is not intended to be particularly funny. It’s meant to be joyful. I’m so unaccustomed to joy—real joy, not happiness or fun, but real joy—I don’t have a clue how to write about it or what pictures to upload to capture its essence.

The style of ottoman I'd been trying to find for years is not my most important find at the Merc on Main.

The style of ottoman I’d been trying to find for years is not my most important find at the Merc on Main.

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But bear with me. I’m going to find a way if it kills me (There! That was my version of a joke—no one ever gets my jokes, I think). Sort of like my mother saying, “If you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don’t come running to me” (didn’t everyone’s mother say that?).

Here are some pictures that I would never in a million years (well, that’s a bit of hyperbole we all understand completely, isn’t it?) would have taken before about this time last year (let’s say March 14 is the anniversary). Are they joyful? Yes. On more levels than I can say. Are they simply ordinary pictures of a city that is not thought of particularly as a beautiful place—Dallas? Yes. Joy, like beauty, is in the eye of the subject. Since I can’t write about my joy, my observations of some scenes others may not find beautiful will have to do.

If these pictures are not your cup of tea, scroll down to the bottom and see what Walt Whitman says about joy. Surely you will approve of his description.

In case you haven’t figured it out, let me say that my joy arises not so much from what I’ve seen in the last year as from not being alone when I took these pictures.

A metaphor? This block was a parking lot - for the federal court building across the street which has sorrowful memories for me. Now -- a playful fountain.

A metaphor? This block was a parking lot – for the federal court building across the street which has sorrowful memories for me. Now — a playful fountain.

Early on Sundays, a "morning bun" and coffee.

Early on Sundays, a “morning bun” and coffee.

 

The strangely beautiful "Harrow" by Joe Lubben in another park built by the Belo family. Who would have known Dallas had such exuberance?

The strangely beautiful “Harrow” by Joe Lubben in another park built by the Belo family. Who would have known Dallas had such exuberance?

We agreed: no Christmas exchange.

We agreed: no Christmas exchange.
But when you find the mixing bowl with a handle the cook needs, what can you do?

But when you find the mixing bowl with a handle the cook needs, what can you do?

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[A correction (I had too much trouble posting the pictures to fiddle with them): The park itself is called Lubben Plaza.  The sculpture is called Harrow; it’s by Linnea Glatt of Dallas.]

Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.
22. “One Hour to Madness and Joy”

ONE hour to madness and joy!
O furious! O confine me not!
(What is this that frees me so in storms?
What do my shouts amid lightnings and raging winds mean?)
. . . .
O something unprov’d! something in a trance!
O madness amorous! O trembling!
O to escape utterly from others’ anchors and holds!
To drive free! to love free! to dash reckless and dangerous!
To court destruction with taunts—with invitations!
To ascend—to leap to the heavens of the love indicated to me!
To rise thither with my inebriate Soul!
To be lost, if it must be so!
To feed the remainder of life with one hour of fulness and freedom!
With one brief hour of madness and joy.
(The entire poem is here.)

The alleged background image.

Here it is.

Second childhood?

Second childhood?