“It’s going to be another hot one”, I heard the Dallas Texas weather announcer say. “Fantastic”, was the first thought that went through my head. Coming from Vancouver’s perpetual wet gloom just the day before I was excited to have escaped to a sunnier climate. I felt a buzz of expectation course through my veins as I jumped out of bed and threw the black-out curtains of my hotel room open.
Sure enough, at 6:30 A.M the morning sun was up and the cerulean sky over the East Texas desert was broken only by a few popcorn clouds far off in the distance. “The daily temperatures”, according to the announcer “were going to be ‘in the hundreds” , a map graphic of the enormous state showed a fiery range between 105 and 112 degrees Fahrenheit in red letters. “Nice”, I whispered in gratitude to the travel gods who’d pulled me south. Canadians or others from the northern latitudes may feel confronted by the heat of the day. Unless you can quickly acclimate to these temperatures it can be ‘Mad Dogs and Englishman Hot’ to the uninitiated.
Dallas, as I’ve found in my short time here, is a place of preconceived notion and misconception for the newcomer ‘Texas Virgin’. I’ve always known that cities don’t create their own mythologies. That task is left for troubadours and story tellers to weave into the dreams of the people who live in these places. After that, certain attitudes and notions stick as people go about their business.
To begin with, Dallas was a place of wild frontier, a place of primordial beauty and famous battles between opposing forces who fought for control of this complex country. Today the battle lines have shifted towards an economy of numerous industries and a demographic in reverse. The American Dream as it has been uniquely interpreted in Texas, was at first based on large scale cattle ranching, blue sky freedom and the discovery of oil, lots and lots of oil. It was ‘Cowboy Country’, famous for endless ranging plains, long horned Spanish cattle and sight of wooden oil rigs across the horizon, the ubiquitous architectural Eiffel Towers of the west.
Today’s Dallas and it’s people have proudly retained much of their ‘Western Culture’, cowboy boots and wide white stetson hats are not uncommon. The average person you’ll meet is direct and friendly. Coming from Vancouver Canada as I do, it’s refreshing to have so many people concerned about whether I’m having a good day or not. There is a noticeable satisfied self assuredness to folks attitudes here, the waitresses and managers are no more or less confident. The stereotype of the ‘Tough Texan’ who ‘Stands Tall’ and ‘Talks Straight’ is tempered by the natural grace and easy smiles that come so naturally to these people.
Dallas Fort Worth is a massive airport hub for several of America’s largest airlines, United, US Air, Continental and South West. Flights are fed out of Dallas to regional routes and feeder lines like Charlotte North Carolina, Los Angelas and Phoenix Arizona. Tourism in Texas comes primarily from the surrounding southern states. Canadians and others are rare birds this far south and east of the tourist hot spots of California and New Mexico.
People coming to Dallas are from Texas’ hinterlands and far flung rural and agrarian communities to enjoy the many available amenities such as the Dallas Zoo, Six Flags Over America Amusement Park and the many art galleries, theaters, the public and private museums that have grown into world class institutions on the rise of the growth of the petroleum industry.
Lets get one thing out of the way. JR, the fictitious oil magnate and the 1980’s hit daytime soap opera ‘Dallas’ are pure fantasy. It is a fact however that Dallas is the center of the petroleum industry universe and most of the worlds largest petro-industires are headquartered or have financial and historical interests of some description here. Long before there were Arabian billionaire sheiks there were roughneck Texan oilmen and entrepreneurial wildcatters who’d fanned out across the globe’s undiscovered places to seek new resources for the benefit of personal and national economies everywhere.
So, whats a Canadian traveler doing in this desert frying pan where so few Canadian travelers will ever willingly visit apart from being stranded here on a temporary stop over? Good question ! I have written in the past that make a point of traveling to places that are either ‘between the cracks’ or have ‘fallen between the cracks’ of mainstream tourism.
I consider myself a traveler, first and foremost, as such I feel compelled not to follow the touristic crowd. Seriously, once there was a $1000 dollar a night ‘zen retreat’ on the peak of Machu Pichu I would never consider going to any place that was so overrun with mainstream tourists…..ever again. Here in the crowded ‘Heart of Texas’ and ‘Bosom of Southern Hospitality’ I can feel completely alone, without the usual banal accoutrements of the guide book tourist industry and immerse myself in the unique local culture, strange isn’t it? Thats the beauty and the talent of finding these travel gems in the midst of where most people would never consider looking.
(to be cont’d)