Having Fun in Downtown Dallas: Is There a Form You Need to Fill Out For That?
Jack Floyd (I don't really know Jacquielynn personally, but I'm told that's what cool people call her) has a good column today behind The Dallas Morning News pay well today about making downtown Dallas fun.
I know. I know. Right off the top it sounds like a dreadfully dreary topic, sort of like when a new boss tells you, "People, we are going to start having fun around this place." Usually code for massive layoffs.
A side of me almost doesn't want to hear the word "fun" ever. If you have to say it, isn't it already over? But somebody's got to talk about the other F word. She's right, after all. The biggest single issue and problem with downtown Dallas is that it's no damn F.
She makes the very valid point that the city keeps buying things to make downtown more fun, and none of it works worth a damn. Decades ago they put a bunch of fun banners up along Main Street. That decidedly did not do the trick. Now it's parks. I still don't see it happening.
Floyd provides a good quote from our new mayor, Mike Rawlings, who told her: "You cannot steal an idea and just put it in place. You can't get urban vibe out of a can."
He's right. Fun does not come from the party store. But then Rawlings tells her: "We've got to have more fun downtown. And you've got to put some process and discipline around creating that fun."
Uh-oh. Red flag. There it is. Right there. The problem. Process and discipline. Do we not think we already have enough process and discipline? Do we not wonder if that might actually be the problem?
Look, I came here back when downtown Dallas actually still was fun, back before process and discipline killed the joint. The example I always think of is Sol's Turf Bar on Commerce Street, a place where Jack Ruby hung out back in the day.
It was a big messy welcoming polyglot place where anybody and everybody could get a frosty mug on a three-digit day. People were always sort of meandering halfway outside onto the sidewalk with their drinks. Sometimes a cop would come along and shoo everybody back inside. Sometimes not.
City Hall's disciplined vision of what constitutes fun downtown.
See, that's what you have to have in order to have real F. Mess. Disorganization. Informality. I think you may even need to have one or two poor persons in the mix, although it might be best to handpick them and bring them in by ambulance in the morning.
Downtown Dallas is no F because it is dominated by rich conservative scrubbing bubbles. They themselves never go downtown, because they're afraid of being exposed to non-handpicked poor persons.
Downtown needs what it used to have -- little Greek diners in basements, illegal lottery cards behind cash registers, more wig shops, more street preachers, maybe even a peep show or two. If we have to do it with process and discipline, then we should invent a process by which we can get more guys to come downtown and fleece people with three-card monte games.
Is that ever going to happen? I do not know, but I do have my doubts. I think we're still stuck with leadership that will always try to make downtown more and more like a Soviet military shopping mall mausoleum and then get pissed when the little people fail to get out there and start having their F, whatever it is they do.
What would it take to change all that? A flood of Biblical proportions? Hmm. I'm thinkin'. Could be some hope there, after all.