Thursday, July 21, 2022

October 1-5

Tom Landry's Fedora
I headed to my brother Joe’s house in Arlington early Saturday morning on Rt. 380 out of Brownfield. Turning southeast on Rt 84 you’re greeted by more desert, ranches, wells and hundreds and hundreds of windmills. Given that Texas has traditionally been ground zero for fossil fuel production in the U.S. and is very conservative all these windmills were quite the sight to behold. Being of the progressive persuasion I’ve had a certain image of Texas in my head that made me think the place was crazy scary—from the gun laws to anti-abortion bounty hunters—and of course they’re all goddamn Cowboy fans. But, away from all the outside noise, these windmills and my experience at the ranch, where I found common ground with guys who hunt doves, let’s just say my views about the Lone Star State might be amenable to change.   

At Sweetwater I turned east on Rt 20, and passed over the hundredth meridian just before Abilene. The hundredth meridian is more or less a straight vertical line that bisects North America and separates the desert west from the precipitous east. Eighty percent of the U.S. population lives east of the hundredth meridian, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Lincoln, Fargo and all the way up to Winnipeg and beyond straddle the hundredth meridian. 

Though there is a downward trend because of climate change, Abilene has traditionally received twenty to twenty-five inches of rain per year, whereas Dallas is thirty-five to forty, which was evident in the greenery along the road toward Arlington. It should be noted as I left west Texas and went through Abilene toward Arlington there were no tumbleweeds or decomposing carcasses in the road, just a lot of traffic. And as you got to that big city Rt 20 changed to 30 and for a stretch it was designated as the Tom Landry Freeway, with murals and images of his trademark fedora embedded in the overpasses. I guess they have their priorities here in Dallas.

Turning off the highway, I went right by AT&T Stadium to get to my brother’s house in Arlington where he and his lovely wife Michelle proceeded to treat me like a king. Over the next few days we ate a lot of good food, watched the Bills/Ravens game, did a tour of AT&T Stadium (Jerry Jones gets $43 per head), visited The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (the location where Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK) played pickleball and did some pretty intense walking. I also got to visit with my nephews and their sweet wives and girlfriends. 

Upon my late afternoon arrival I took a quick shower and then we went to this giant entertainment plaza called “Texas Live,” which butted up against Globe Life Field where the MLB Rangers play. It was all beautiful, clean, and Texas big. We got a beer waiting for my nephew and his wife and then were going to get a bite to eat. Of the many restaurants in the plaza at “Texas Live” we chose Troy's Steakhouse—as in Troy Aikman, the colorless color man and the despised quarterback in two of the Bills Super Bowl losses—a try. 

Though it didn’t seem crowded at all, the hostess told us it would be an hour wait. My sister-in-law Michelle gave her our name, but we decided it was too long a wait and instead went to this place called “Bobby V’s.” Before we even got to the car Michelle was getting texts from Troy’s that our table was ready. It’s just the kind of efficiency you might expect from a quarterback who threw 161 TD’s and 141 Interceptions—remember that when he’s needling Matthew Stafford to take better care of the football. And, ask yourself this—how does this colorless pretty boy get in the Hall of Fame with such mediocre numbers?

We had a nice dinner at Bobby V’s and then went to see this country guy Jack Ingram at the Levitt Pavilion for free. He had a good rockin 'country sound and he named dropped Miranda Lambert as a writing partner, but then he played this song called, “Barbie Doll.” The 1999 tune profiles a strong independent woman who has little use for men beyond what they can do for her materially. For this transgression she deemed a pretty thing devoid of reason and, you guessed it—a “Barbie Doll.” I looked around to see if anyone was hearing the same thing as me and my elitist east coast ears, but people were singing along, even some women. Walking back to the car after the show, questioning myself like I might be out of step, my nephew turned to me and said, “That’s the most misogynistic thing I ever heard.”  

On Sunday we did a pre-Bills game walk in Joe and Michelle’s neighborhood. This walk through their yet to be completed subdivision was marked by many very diverse and friendly people. Much to my surprise on this beautiful warm Texas morning not one of them was packing heat, wearing red hats or carrying signs that addressed any kind of reproductive issues. They all just smiled at us and said hello. 

At the wedding in Montrose a few weeks before, Joe and the rest of the Texas Kane's were absolutely giddy about the weather in Arlington where the temps had been hovering at hundred for months but now were in the seventies. I suppose this kind of relief is like those early days of April in Buffalo when the thermometer hits sixty and you can feel winter subside and spring coming.

After our walk we enjoyed a Bills 23-20 comeback victory over the Ravens on the road, dispelling the knock against them that they couldn’t win one score games. Michelle made pasta with delicious homemade meatballs and then we went for a second “short walk” which was like five miles. I was sweating my ass off and my legs were sore the next day.

On Monday, Joe took some time off and we went for a visit to AT&T Stadium where the Cowboys played. As mentioned earlier this two-hour tour was $43 per head but that wasn’t the only overpriced thing. In the pro-shop t-shirts were like $49 and jerseys were like $200. 

I must admit, however, that the three-million square feet of the stadium with its two monumental arches, 292 feet above the playing field that weigh 3,255 tons, along with that huge jumbotron, were pretty cool. Also, when the stadium was built 2007 Arlington residents agreed to pick up the tab for half of the $650 stadium. But when all was said and done it cost $1.2 billion which Cowboys owner Jerry Jones paid for the shortfall out of his own pocket.  

I saw a feature during a game on CBS highlighting the world class art in the stadium. While there were some impressive murals, much of what was passed off as art was really just your standard, how do we make this concourse not look so much like a concourse and was underwhelming. I guess it’s nice but not the Guggenheim by any stretch of the imagination.

Also, much was made of the private elevator Cowboys owner Jerry Jones uses to get up to his box in the stadium from where he watches the games. The box itself is at the fifty yard line just above the lower bowl and is located on the side of the field where the tip of the Cowboys star logo is pointed. I mean, good for Jerry turning his hundred-fifty million dollar investment into an eight-billion dollar juggernaut, but it’s just football. 

But the tour guide turned it into something more than it was, at least to me: And here is where the great overlord enters the structure and is lifted to his throne from which he captains the great organization marked by the blue star…He fails to mention how funny it’s going to be when the Cowboys go 13-4 and are eliminated in the first round of the playoffs at AT&T Stadium by the barely .500 shitty NFC South Champ . . . again.

RJ, my L.A. friend and west coast star of this blog tells a great Jerry Jones story. 

Several years ago he and his girlfriend Karen went on an intercontinental trip to Africa. Of course, when you’re in Africa you’re required to go on safari. To not do so would be like going to Arlington and not shelling out $43 for the tour of AT&T Stadium. 

So, RJ and Karen are headed back to their lodgings after a long day on the savanna in Zimbabwe—I’m not really sure it’s Zimbabwe, but play along—and as they bump along a dirt road in a modified open air Range Rover, all hot, sweaty and tired, a question RJ has been wondering about comes to mind. Now the guide who has been pointing out the sights all day long doesn’t speak any English, so for RJ to ask his question he has to go through the driver who has been interpreting for the guide.

 In his research about the people of the area RJ read that the warriors had this incredible awareness and an innate ability to sense danger. Even from a deep sleep these warriors could get into position to defend themselves and their people within a matter of seconds. The driver passes the question along to the guide and he gives an affirmative shake of his head and states that area warriors are indeed prepared for any and all threats even from a dead sleep in a matter of seconds.

After the driver informs RJ of this there are a few moments pass before the guide begins speaking again. When he is done the driver asks RJ if it’s okay for the guide to ask him a question. A little confused, RJ tells the driver, of course. He communicates to the guide that it’s okay to proceed with his question. 

Right away the guide raises his voice and begins to gesticulate with his hands. He pounds his feet and looks up at the sky. He shakes his head aggressively and then pounds his fist into his hand. By the time he finishes speaking both RJ and Karen are filled baffled anticipation. After a moment of silence, bracing for the worst, RJ asks, “What’s going on? What’s his question?” 

The driver pulls to the side of the road, puts the Range Rover into park and turns toward RJ and Karen. He pauses for a moment and starts to speak but stops. He apologizes and says, “I want to get this right.” He thinks for a few seconds, squints his eyes and then says, “He wants to know . . . he wants to know . . . how the fuck did Jerry Jones become the general manager of the Cowboys?”

The last part of the tour included a walk through the players and the cheerleaders locker rooms. There was a pair of jeans in Dak Prescott's locker and when no one was looking I rifled through the pockets, but came up empty—not even a stick of gum. 

I wasn’t so lucky in the cheerleaders locker room. I sat down at one of the changing stations while the tour guide went through cheerleader history or something and a female employee instantly came up to me and made me get up. She said the lockers were made of materials that were imported from Asia or somethin and were very expensive. I complied of course and thought what an odd job to have—cheerleader locker police.

We had a nice dinner of leftovers and went on a walk.

X marks the spot

On Tuesday while both Joe and Michelle worked I went to the “Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas proper. This is the site from which Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy. But it was closed, which was weird. I still parked and walked over to the “grassy knoll,” and saw the ominous faded X painted on Elm Street where the vehicle was when those bullets blew up the President. 

I don’t have strong feelings or opinions about all the conspiracies surrounding the JFK assassination. I also don’t care about his indiscretions. I’ve read several profiles of him and have been pretty impressed with the man and what he might have accomplished had it not been for the events that fateful morning in Dallas. 

I may be a little biased though. Growing up in the Irish Catholic part of Buffalo in the 60's it was very common for people to have a picture of John Kennedy (our martyr) next to Jesus and the Pope on the other side in the entrance way of their homes. Everyone was Catholic, but this holy trinity was in more than just the Irish homes. It has been a powerful symbol that I think about to this day.

Later that afternoon we went and played the game that has been sweeping the nation: Pickleball. There were seven of us—with those numbers there was plenty of rest for the old people. My nephews, Eliot and Harrison were both college soccer players and went easy on us. Harrison’s wife Cherish was pretty intense and talked some good funny trash toward my nephew, which made me laugh. 

Cherish is from Oklahoma and Nicole, Elliott’s wife, is from New Jersey, but they were outfitted in Bills and Sabres gear—sweet girls that married into the never-ending fiasco that is Buffalo sports. ‘How bad could it be?’ they probably thought as the Bills are 0-56 in Super Bowls and the Sabres are 0-51 in Stanley a Cups. Hopefully this will be the only disappointment they suffer being with these Kane boys. They are sweet girls.

We had a nice dinner after that.

The next morning after working on this blog Joe and I went back to the “Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza,” which was open. It was a good museum with lots of displays, a diorama of Kennedy’s route, historical information about the associated players, including a section on the conspiracy theories. It was also a little morbid. 

Though the window through which Oswald fired those shots was sectioned off, the window next to it was not and the X marking where the vehicle was when that first shot hit the President was faded but visible as mentioned. Though I’ve been hearing about this assassination my whole life standing feet from where the heinous deed was done, no longer abstracted by words on a page or film footage, I was left with a sinking sad feeling.

As we were walking out, the supposed gun that Oswald used was in a case near the exit. Some kid who was some kind of firearms savant came up to Joe and I and tried to draw us into a conversation rattling off all these facts about the gun with the intention of casting doubt on the probability that Oswald acted alone. I didn’t know quite how to respond and just said, “Most of the time I can't even hit a foul shot, so I wouldn't have any idea what this gun could or couldn’t hit.”  

Reunion Tower

When we left we drove through downtown Dallas and I was impressed with how modern the buildings were—Reunion Tower and The Fountain Place—and how clean the city was, which made sense because it didn’t have to endure any real kind of winter like up north. But there didn't seem to be any people on the street, which Joe couldn’t quite explain. Still it was cool and was another element that made me think differently about Texas.

In a previous post I mentioned my brother Joe left Buffalo for good when he went away to college in 1976, and over the years we hadn’t spent a lot of time together. Our relationship has never been strained, it was more a matter of circumstance. He left, I stayed, we both had work and families and because of the sheer numbers of our extended family—nine-siblings and spouses; twenty-five nieces and nephews and now grandchildren, some fifty people in all, when we get together it's tough to find any quality one on one time. So, it was great to spend some up-close and personal time with him, his wife Michelle and their kids.

And before I end here let me just say, Joe has been blessed/cursed with  being designated #1 son among my siblings—the guy who can do everything from picking winning stocks to completing every imaginable home project to talking intelligently about business and technological trends. And, he does it with ease, grace and lack of ego. There’s a recurring joke among my brothers that when trying something new or hard to check with Joe so you don’t screw it up. Joe may or may not be aware of this joke, but it would hardly matter because he would deal with the same grace and lack of ego he does everything else. The guy is nails and a pleasure to be around.   

How we got here...
An Ode to Fire and Donna
Chronological Posts From The Road 
Going Mobile: What We Learned
Our Rig: A Pictorial Essay

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