After all this time in Texas, I finally went up to Dallas. The fates conspired. If you think that’s just a figure of speech, read on…the coincidences abound.
I first saw an ad for the Chihuly show at the Dallas Arboretum in an inflight magazine this past summer. For once there was something useful in there, supplementing the usual ads for Cosmetic Surgeons, Churrascarias, and “It’s Just Lunch”, none of which appeal to me. I wasn’t certain the show was worth the looooonnng drive, though, so I put off deciding. (Ok, having done it – the drive isn’t THAT long, it just seemed that way to me.) Then about a month ago I was moping about missing Florence and the Machine at ACL this year, and went on their website just to see if there were ANY other TX engagements around the same time, and lo! I learned that Florence and the Machine had a concert coming up in Dallas on September 30th. The chance to see her and Chihuly in one fell swoop was too great to pass up.
Indeed, even on the way there, all signs pointed to Florence.
I was really hoping to stay somewhere more interesting than a Hampton Inn or some such, and set about looking into other options. After asking some Dallas natives which neighborhoods to avoid or seek out, I found a great B&B near Oak Lawn (near Uptown) – the Daisy Polk Inn. The last night this year they were offering their “low season” rate? September 30th. Seemed like a sign.
The Daisy Polk Inn was originally the home of none other than Daisy Polk, and you can read her story here (under “Information” – “The Daisy’s Story”). She was a pistol, ahead of her time.
The building was designed in the “High Arts & Crafts style” and they’ve maintained period furnishings and décor…everything down to the music playing in the background. It’s a little jewel.
When I originally saw that the concert was on the edges of Fair Park, I got nerdily excited to go visit the buildings there, since most date from the World’s Centennial Exposition in 1936 and include some prime examples of Deco and WPA architecture and murals. (I’ll dedicate a separate post to those soon.) What I didn’t know until a week or two before going is that Fair Park would be rather busy hosting the State Fair the weekend of the concert. Oops. The only State Fair I’ve ever been to before was in Alaska, but seeing pig races and skeptically eyeing bizarre fried foods seemed as good a way as any to spend the afternoon, so I committed to the Fair as well. Highlights below.
This sign about Boris the wonder boar was literally 5-6 feet away from the next sign shown below. Irony is cruel.
If you’re wondering what cannot be fried, the answer is…nothing. Everything is fair game.
Though I was surprised by the “Vegan” cuisine available!
I imagine it didn’t have as many takers as this doughnut bun hamburger, but there’s no accounting for taste.
And I never figured out how you get an entire Picnic on that stick.
My last stop was to the Midway to watch people win gigantron stuffed animals and hang upside down in the air.
I spent a while craning my neck up to see the Texas Star Ferris Wheel – gives even the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island a run for its money.
Anyway…back to Florence. If you’re a fan, you already know she is luminous and incredibly talented. Here is a photo of the stage/set. The backdrop was very art deco-esque, and each panel also served as a screen for different images throughout. This was one of my favorites – a Tiffany stained-glass window effect. Much nicer than the giant close-ups of her tonsils they opted for at times.
Thank you, Peter Hutchins on Flickr – I heeded the “no photos or videos” signs and didn’t even bring my camera into the venue. Which is why the best shot I have to offer of the night is this dodgy one from my cell phone.
Florence wore a glamorous, frilly gown but was barefoot. She sang, she posed, she frolicked, she told the crowd to do silly things and everyone obeyed in a semi-trance. She hopped off-stage and raced along the middle ring of the pavilion during one song, coming within 5 feet of my seat, and probably sending the security guard who was darting after her into minor cardiac arrest. What I didn’t know is that she is also fetchingly down-to-earth when chatting to the crowd between songs. She told us about going to the State Fair earlier in the afternoon (I was there too, Florence!) and buying one of those cheesy airbrushed souvenir shirts with her pianist, and how the opening band members went on the rides, but she did not, because she is afraid of rides. She busted out a thrift shop find from earlier in the day – a small plywood gravestone that said “Rock of Ages – Welch”, and joked that she must one day return to Dallas since this was the place she found her final resting marker. She was having a day of coincidences, too, it seems. I thought it was a glorious show, worth every minute of the rainy drive to Dallas.
I didn’t have much special planned for Monday, having mentally categorized it as filler time after the Florence show and before the Chihuly show. I had a lovely breakfast at the inn, then went to the Greenwood Cemetery and went for a stroll. On the way I saw this interesting point-counterpoint of old vs. new Dallas buildings in Uptown.
The cemetery named all its streets after virtues – Peace, Charity, Justice, Hope, Love, etc. This was the best intersection there. I’m going to keep it in mind to temper my usual romantic cynicism.
I took the old streetcar downtown to the Arts District just to wander about, even though museums were closed. Rosie was worth it. When’s the last time you rode in a public transport conveyance with plush red velveteen seats? It was like a classic movie palace, on rails.
She has a good story too, she started out in Porto (love that city) and then went to San Francisco (really love that city) and then finally came to Dallas (having more charitable thoughts about that city than I ever thought possible, given all the complaints I’ve heard about it from people who’ve moved away).
After that I drove down to the Bishop Arts District, only to find that Monday is a day of rest for the vast majority of the shopkeepers.
There was some cool art sprinkled about the neighborhood, though.
The vintage store I was hoping to visit there, Lola’s Everyday Vintage, was not open on that particular day. Kind of disappointing. Though I did stumble into a Greek cafe with exceptional falafel, and might have convinced the chef to study abroad with my company. Always an ambassador.
This next bit will seem unrelated…but it’s not. I tend to disconnect when I travel, it’s part of the fun of exploring and finding the unexpected. I like crinkly paper maps that I can fold every which way, not GPS programs. I like to wander…though I recognize it’s much easier to do that on foot in European cities than in a car-centric culture like Dallas. That said, I consulted my trusty smartphone twice during my stay, and both times it led me to a place I would otherwise never have known existed…and thus missed out on.
The first find, when I queried sandwich places near my B&B on Sunday, was the Highland Park Soda Fountain, an establishment celebrating its centennial this year.
The grilled cheese was about as good as you get at Nau’s Enfield Drug in Austin (that is to say, pretty marginal), but the old photos and advertisements lining the walls and the great historical ambiance more than make up for that. It’s a nostalgic destination more than a culinary one. And I never would have known it was there without the Google.
The second find came about when Lola’s was closed, and I queried “vintage stores in Dallas” for other options. Google gave me a list of 6 or 7, and I decided to visit fabulous Dolly Python on Haskell, since one Yelp review compared it favorably to Uncommon Objects.
I found an amazing cashmere cardigan with incredibly detailed beadwork, in really good shape, for just $32 – way less than most pieces in there. When I was waiting to pay, one of the guys who works there came out from a corner telling a co-worker the story of how Florence found the headstone and such, and I said – “Oh, you were at the concert last night? Wasn’t that a great story?” and he said – “Yes, it was so great that she mentioned our name! That’s why you came, right? People have being showing up all day.” Well, no, actually, I thought she kind of mumbled the store’s name, and I didn’t properly hear it, and I remember being disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to go check out the place since I hadn’t heard what she said at all. But hey – one Google later, I go to a random vintage store with good Yelp reviews, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s the SAME ONE Florence shopped in yesterday. So – see? – coincidences around every turn.
The final coincidence came when I was buying my Chihuly exhibit ticket – the Arboretum had been doing special evening showings on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays throughout the summer months, and they decided to add Monday evenings to the roster starting in October. And what day was I there visiting? October 1st! (If you don’t know who Chihuly is, and you’ve no idea why the idea of his exhibit was near enough to tempt me to Dallas, I’ll do a separate post on the show soon as well.)
Seriously, some Dallas stars aligned for me this time around, folks, and I am ever grateful. I might even go back at some point in the NEXT 8 years.