50 Reasons We're Thankful to Live in Dallas

Categories: Things We Like

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Justin Terveen
Thanksgiving is almost here, Dallas. What are you thankful for?

1. Despite years of dedicated efforts by the city, we've yet to screw up the Trinity River so badly that it can't eventually become something really cool.

2. Craft coffee, urban farming, urban parks, cycling -- it's like living in Portland in the '90s without having to time-travel.

3. So far, the good Baptists among us have helped beat back semi-annual efforts to place a casino downtown. There's never yet been built a casino that doesn't shout sadness and tackiness.

4. Corruption at our City Hall is pretty easy to expose and generally involves fairly small amounts of theft, so it's more entertaining than chilling.

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Refugee Writers Means an Outlet for Refugees and Awareness for the Rest of Us

Categories: Things We Like

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Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Vickery Meadow
The other day, Unfair Park chatted with filmmaker Bentley Brown about his film Faisal Goes West, the tale of a Sudanese family moving to America and settling in Dallas' Vickery Meadow neighborhood. Brown mentioned his friend who convinced him to film in Dallas (and acted as script supervisor) started Refugee Writers, a project aimed at giving these people a platform -- any possible platform -- on which to tell their stories. We chatted with that friend, Justin Banta, to hear more about the stories he tells and why he tells them, or, as he puts it, why he "facilitates" telling them.

From November through February, Banta opened his home to a group of Sudanese refugees who felt that the conflict which forced them away from their home was not being thoroughly covered or thoroughly understood in America. At each meeting, the refugees would video-chat with their relatives who were still living in conflict zones and ask them for detailed reports of what was going on -- militia attacks, deaths, bombings, food shortages, and any other ongoing atrocities. While those in Banta's apartment ate scones and sipped coffee throughout the afternoon, their far-away relatives lived under vastly different circumstances of continued suffering and fear.

"It was really difficult," Banta told Unfair Park. "I think there was a time around December, January where I needed to take a break. ... It got pretty emotional and surreal sometimes." His weekly dispatches from those Saturday meet-up sessions are posted in a section devoted to the conflict on the Refugee Writers website.


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One More List of Things to Do In Dallas Reminds: There Are Much Better Things to Do

Categories: Things We Like
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It's always fun to take out-of-towners to the Trinity River Audubon Center, which feels very ... out of town.
The librarians have landed, as today's the first day of the estimable American Library Association Midwinter Meeting at the Dallas Convention Center, so you know what that means. Good timing, then, for Reuters' freshly minted "48 hours in Dallas/Fort Worth" itinerary, which is a little better than The Official List provided by our own DCVB, which appears to have been written by an out-of-towner. (Oh, right.) Ah, yes, the Dream Cafe. It's been ages, old friend. But what's that you say? "Examine the life and legacy of JFK at the museum and spot where the presidential motorcade passed when the shooting occurred at Dealey Plaza." OK, fair enough.

All of which reminds me: Last week, after poring over the DCVB's lackluster list (Spaghetti Warehouse, really?), I received an email from one Jason L., who asked: "Would you ever consider a follow up article about what locals would recommend to see in Dallas if you were from out of town?" I seem to recall we did this once before, and if our search engine were at all functional (seriously, nothing for "jimmy's half price books baby back shak"?) I could just cut-and-paste from there.

As I mentioned then, the list changes as places come and go, but the classics always remain: The Mecca for breakfast, followed by a walk around the Arboretum or Fair Park or the Trinity River Audubon Center, lunch at the Baby Back Shak, drinks at Holland's Beer Lounge (or Ships, take your pick), and if Powell's is the West Coast mecca for used books, then, by all means, visit the Half Price Books on Northwest Highway mothership. And hello, librarians. And Saturdays usually include stops at one or more of the following: Jimmy's Food Store and next-door Spiceman's FM 1410, Titan Comics, Bishop Arts (usually for the chocolate), Dallas Farmer's Market and a walk 'round downtown. And now Spec's. Way too much Spec's. I could go on. And on. Ah, but Jason asked you to do this. Tick, tock. The librarians need something to do.

Where The DCVB's Sending All Those Librarians Due to Descend Upon Downtown Next Week

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Via.
The American Library Association Midwinter Meeting's set for January 20-24 at the Dallas Convention Center, so you know what that means: Thousands of librarians, publishers and authors will be checking out the city for a few days. Perhaps the city can find someone amongst the bunch to lead the Dallas Public Library system, for which no director's yet been chosen out of the last-we-looked stack of three finalists. Though, I do see interim director Corinne Hill's scheduled to give a talk titled "Dallas Public Library on Re-imagining the Public Library in a Post-Recession Economy." And Lisa Loeb's coming home to give the "Wrap Up Rev Up Celebration."

Anyway. Whilst tooling around the ALA's website I espied a link directing convention-goers to a day-by-day itinerary specially prepared for the confab's attendees. And since we occasionally take a look at what outsiders recommend, I thought we'd browse the insiders' look-see at the city's must-to-do's -- and by insiders, I mean a visitors bureau run by a guy who lives in Southlake. Still. Look below. But, spoiler alert: Southfork and NorthPark are on there (and the Spaghetti Warehouse!), but, so sorry, Oak Cliff. You too, Fair Park.More »

A Positive Start to 2012: A Boston Writer Loves Dallas. And, Hunt Says Greenville's Back, Baby.

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Tomorrow we'll get back to bond-package and alley-repair city council briefings and the business community's interest in fixing the DISD; meet the new year, same as the old. But here's a nice way to kick off 2012 -- with Boston Globe features editor Katie McLeod's recap of her recent visit to Dallas, where a healthy diet of low expectations created by reality and revival television led to "a hefty helping of pleasant surprises." Among them: Javier's, Bread Winners, the Arboretum (above, natch), the Meyerson ... and Cowboys Red River. McLeod apparently whiled away much of her stay in Uptown, where there exists "plentiful dining out and night life options" -- as opposed to, say, the long-walk-away downtown.
But I also toured a sprawling arboretum where I got lost in a fairy tale world of pretty pumpkins and gorgeous gourds (even the gourds were glamorous), and ventured to the symphony. I walked from downtown through uptown, and drove a few miles north of downtown to check out Southern Methodist University with its tasteful brick buildings and manicured campus. The nearby Highland Park neighborhood was jaw dropping. ... We spent much time in uptown, a strip of restaurants, bars, shopping, hotels, and condos with droves of young people. Most Eligible Dallas unfolded before my eyes. But I saw no big hair. Jeans? Yes. Boots? Yes. Dressed to the nines? Oh yes. But no big hair. I was at least in the clear in the locks department.
Alas, McLeod didn't make it to Lower Greenville, where, a year from now, she'll find that Trader Joe's first announced Thursday. Which reminds me:More »

The Brand-New, Sorta Inspiring, Slightly Overwrought, Kinda Horny Dallas CVB Promo


I just came across this brand-spanking new Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau promo -- its title, clearly, "Moon Over Dallas." First person I showed it to was The New Guy who sits next door. Said the outta-towner, "Pretty fucking great. Coulda used more of that girl in the bikini ..." You'll see what he means. She's on The Joule rooftop, incidentally. Speaking of.

I called over to the DCVB to talk to president and CEO Phillip Jones, who's out. But Dustin Clark, director of marketing and public relations, confirmed its newness: "It debuted this morning at the annual meeting." And, he says, it was made by the fine folks at YouPlusDallas, who've been doing most of the DCVB's videos in recent months.

I'll let you debate its merits. But I'll say this: The beautifully shot promo almost makes me forget there ever was a "One More Thing." Almost.

When Asked Where They'd Like to Live, Many Americans Said: "Dallas." Swear to God.

Categories: Things We Like
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I was born and raised here, like my daddy before me. Left only twice -- to attend the University of Texas at Austin in '86, then again, 10 years later, to help launch a sister paper in Los Angeles. Both times I came back as soon as I could, the second time after less than two years. Couldn't help it. Just missed Mac's Bar-B-Que too damned much, I guess.

Turns out, though, many fine Americans would like to live here -- even if the latest Census figures reveal they ain't exactly showin' up in droves. (Remember why not? "Officials' lack of investment in public schools, streets, parks and pools.") But according to the latest Harris Interactive poll, when asked, "If you could live in or near any city in the country except the one you live in or nearest to now, which city would you choose?" a whole bunch of folks responded: "Dallas."

Matter of fact, after not even making the list of Top 15 would-be destination cities last year, we're all the way up to No. 4 on the list -- behind only New York City, San Diego and Seattle. Highest we've been till now: No. 9, and that was way back in '02. And Texas is the fourth-most popular state, even if Rick Perry's still governor.

This Year's City Lights Event to Fill Five Blocks of Downtown, Beginning in Just Two Weeks

I do not look forward to the day when the boy's too old to crawl through whatever contraption the downtown Neiman Marcus installs as its Christmas window display; the last couple of years' worth of tubes and tunnels have been particularly ... magical? Sure, why not. Absolutely. And I can confirm: There will be tunnels yet again this year. "Rumor has it," says Neimans spokesperson Ginger Reeder. But, of course, we won't know what's what till the November 19 reveal, as the windows are, as ever at this time of year, under wraps.

November 19 is when Neimans, Downtown Dallas Inc., the city, Tim Headington and AT&T are hosting what appears to be a rather expansive and expensive City Lights kick-off, if this note on the city's website is any indication. Says the release, this year's event has outgrown Main Street Garden and the Neimans sidewalk and will consist of "a season-long, one-of-a-kind light installation spanning five blocks of Main Street." Excellent, seeing as how this'll be the first year Major Lt. Col. Mike and the kids are in town for the holidays since forever.

The kickoff runs from 6 to 10 p.m. and will include this year a Promenade of Lights stretching from Main Street Garden to AT&T Plaza that will include "local merchants [who] will have street vending, entertainment and activities to offer along the way." Now that, right there, that's world-class. Downtown Dallas Inc. provides the recap of years past to prep you for the near future.

Like We Need to Tell You: Fair Park Named As One of the "Great Public Spaces in America"

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From the Baltimore Sun photo archives
Talk about your good timing: Last night, Dallas City Hall sent word that the American Planning Association yesterday released its list of the Great Places in America, which is divvied into three categories -- Great Neighborhoods, Great Streets and Great Public Spaces. It's the latter with which we're concerned today, because in the midst of the State Fair of Texas, Fair Park has been named as a Great Public Space.

No need to tell locals why; it's a treasure, after all, and has been since its creation in 1886, and certainly since its George Dahl extreme makeover for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. But here's what the APA has to say about Fair Park:
Fair Park combines City Beautiful Movement planning influences with the country's largest collection of 1930s Art Deco architecture. "A wonderful place to spend a Saturday afternoon exploring ... art and architecture," says Eddie Hueston, former Fair Park executive general manager. For more than a century the park, two miles east of downtown Dallas, has been delighting millions of visitors. Attractions on its 277 acres include eight museums, six performance facilities, and a major sports stadium.
To which Mayor Mike Rawlings, former head of the Park Board, adds this in the city's heads-up: "In less than 10 years Fair Park catapulted from being on the National Trust for Historic Preservation lists as one of the 'Eleven Most Endangered Neighborhoods in America' to receiving their Honor Award for restoration. Fair Park provides an example to our city and others communities of the excellent results that can be realized when we set as a priority the preservation of our history, art and architectural treasures." Hear, hear.

Balcony Club Gets New Lease on Life

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You read it here first: The venerable Balcony Club was in danger of being adiosed out of existence as owner Tommy Stanco and the landlord were at loggerheads over rent, for starters. A piece in the paper yesterday only reiterated the previously stated: Its future deep in the heart of Lakewood was ... tenuous. At best. But moments ago we received word: Stanco and property owner Rutledge-Willingham have settled their dispute, and the doors will stay open -- for, it would appear, the next three years. At least. Long story short, says the note we just received:
Through a combination of investor participation and impressively strong sales in recent weeks, driven in part by an energetic publicity campaign, Lakewood's Balcony Club has raised the funds necessary to make a substantial payment on its back rent. With cash in hand, club owner Thomas Stanco was able to negotiate, with property owner Rutledge-Willingham, an agreement including a schedule for repayment of all rent arrears and a three-year lease with a %17 reduction in rent.

"We've still got a lot of obstacles to overcome, and need very brisk business in the next few weeks to meet the payment schedule we committed to," says Mr. Stanco, "but we think we'll be able to avoid closing, and are convinced our long-term future is very promising."
The whole release follows. More »

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