Friday, May 20, 2016

In Defense of a Dusty Old Relic

What better way to dust off this weird old corner of the internet called blogging than to use it as platform to defend a tiny little venue that could.

I went to see a taping of a podcast on Tuesday.  Because that's a thing that people, myself included, do now.  We do it with such a passion that I am flying into LA in two weeks to see one of the stars of said podcast do a taping of another podcast at a tiny theater called Largo in LA.  Largo is pretty magical and I have flown to LA five times in the past year to see shows there just because I love the place that much.

Which brings me back to that podcast.

I want to make it clear that the aim of this is not to call anyone out.  The people who make the podcast in question has given me thousands of hours of enjoyment and the fact that they came to Dallas was a really special moment for a lot of us in town who have waited a very long time to see them.  We gave them a standing ovation.

That said, they made a lot of cracks about how dilapidated Texas Theatre was. They opened the Austin show the next night by calling Texas Theatre a shithole. And it's certainly not in the best shape. Buuuuut...

I know the owners of Texas Theatre and a little background: because a) it was a part of the worst day in Dallas history and b) because Dallas likes to bulldoze anything old and build a Chase bank on top of a CVS, the Theatre was left to rot in the early 2000's. It was the first theater that Howard Hughes built and has original frescos by an important Texas artist. It's important and in a different city, perhaps a civic arts group or the actual city would decide to put money into it to help save it.  Alas, Dallas isn't that city.

So a group of very poor filmmakers and musicians did what the city wouldn't do and they, along with a community group, bought it and turned it into a very rough around the edges DIY performance and repertory theater space. They are so invested that the owners were the guys making popcorn and refilling the ice behind the bar at the podcast taping. To say that they have a shoestring budget is putting it mildly.

The theater also serves a low income Hispanic community and acts as their cultural center and hosts community events. In short, people move to the area around the theater (myself included) because we have all ponied up money to try to do what the city won't do and not bulldoze history.

The community in which Texas Theatre operates is a community which has been left behind by the city and it's through the local residents that the Oak Cliff Foundation fronted the money to buy the building and save it from the wrecking ball to have a little space to be weird and put on shows and be creative.  I got to see Goblin live playing the soundtrack to Suspiria as it screened behind them there, a show which no one else in Dallas was going to book.  I saw The Sonics there.  These are shows that Dallas wouldn't have gotten unless this ragged little building still stood.
Again, this doesn't really matter because it's all fun and jokes and I know the cracks were definitely not meant to be taken too seriously. 

So there it is. I love this podcast so much but I also love my poor artist friends who have made it their personal mission to try to save a little cultural island in a sea of suburban sprawl.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

As a follow up to the Dallas Morning News write up on the newly opened Truck Yard, I would also like to express my displeasure at my recent experience at the Lower Greenville establishment. *

* sarcasm

So I went to Truck Yard on a Monday afternoon.  I say afternoon but it was actually 11am.  Rudely, I was told that they did not begin serving food and beverages until the ludicrous hour of 11am.  I think this is very shortsighted on their part and discriminates against all the graveyard shift workers who just want something simple as a Philly cheesteak sandwich and an ice cold Lone Star beer at 6:30am.  Way to know your target demo, Truck Yard.

As I sat down at 11:01am in gloriously perfect weather, I was immediately struck by the lack of full service teppanyaki grills with fully trained chefs flipping grilled shrimp into their hats, capable and ready to create an onion volcano on a moment's notice.  It also bears noting that my birthday was last week and not a single member of the oblivious wait and bar staff took the time to either wish me a happy birthday nor had they even take a cursory look at my Target gift registry.  

Now this place is an outdoors place and is supposedly dog friendly.  Which is fine and all until I brought my friendly furry companion, D'Artagnan, with me.  Sure they had water bowls available.  Yes, they even let me take ol' D'Arty off the leash if I promised to watch him.  But not once did they offer to expel his anal glands nor did my server once offer to perform a doggie DNA test on my mutt to confirm my suspicions that he is a Malamute/Dachshund mix.  I mean, what is the point of telling people that they can bring their dogs when you clearly are not dog-friendly by not offering these basic canine services?

I had worked up quite an appetite by this point, what with all the unjustified rage coursing through my veins.  Time to eat.  What's that?  You only have two food trucks literally ten paces from where I am seated?  And one of them is sponsored by some sort of food company?  Listen, I'm not here to be fed your queso blanco propaganda by the Big Cheese lobby.  

The other truck available was the Ssahm BBQ Korean taco truck.  Now that might sound tasty but what they failed to note was that I've totally eaten at that truck once before and my culinary whims didn't blow in that direction on this particular day.  In a town with no less than 75 food trucks covering one of the largest and most sprawling metro areas in the country, I feel it isn't too much to ask that a selection of at least a dozen different cuisine options are placed feet from me.  

I know the owners may respond with something about how a truck is a big object and only a certain set number of large objects can fit into a confined amount of space.  So why didn't they have the forethought to purchase entire blocks of highly contested city land so that they could ensure that diners like me would never have to make the gut wrenching decision of choosing between the available options that were on offer on a particular weekday?  

Then someone reminded me that there is a permanent Philly cheesesteak window from which I can also order.  If I were a vegetarian, they even have a meatless cheesesteak option.  That's fine and all but what they didn't know is that my great uncle, twice removed, was once a trainer for the Dallas Cowboys and was hit by a D cell battery concealed inside a snowball during a particularly vicious Cowboys-Eagles matchup in the Jimmie Johnson era.  To be so callously oblivious to my family's history and the pain we still suffer when faced with vague references to the city of Philadelphia just goes to show that the Truck Yard does not care about its' customer base.

As I walked out in disgust with D'Artagnan tugging at his Juicy Couture leash, desperate for the bi-hourly steak tartare feedings to which he has become so accustomed, I passed by the Carnival Barkers ice cream window.  Ice cream...served from something that is not mobile in any fashion?  Well, that's just rich.  As rich as I'm sure the rice krispee ice cream sandwiches that they serve are and about which I have heard many people rave.  

But sadly, I'll never know.  I walked out, dazed and hungry, with the bright autumn sun and gentle winds mocking my pain.  Sure, there's a Trader Joe's across the street.  And there's Mudsmith right across the street in the other direction.  But who could ever find the courage to eat or imbibe after the trauma that I just suffered?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sorry Ted Cruz, But You Lost

Hey Ted,

I know you’ve had a rough 24 hours.  You stood on your feet and argued for something that was going to pass anyways.  I can’t imagine where you could have possibly gotten that idea from.  The only difference between your filibuster and Wendy’s is that she was harassed and threatened when she dared to veer ever so slightly off message while you took a good 30 minutes to read a Dr. Seuss story to kill some time.

But the bottom line is that you lost.  Even those in your party distanced from you.  But I’m not here to gloat.  Ok, I’m here to gloat a little.  But more than gloating, I’m here to share with you what your defeat means to me personally.

I recently became self-employed.  How did I do that, you ask?  Well, here goes.  I had an office job that I loathed with a company that was dubious at best.  Every single day, I contemplated fantasies of how I would one day be able to leave that office and never come back to it again.  I got called names and had to put up with sexism and rampant disrespect.  And I took all of it because it provided me with one (and only one) thing that I couldn’t provide for myself:  health insurance.  

I had clients reaching out to me, asking me to take them on.  And I did.  In fact, because I could not be available to them during the majority of their working hours, I had to turn down work.  All so I could have insurance.  I’m lucky enough to not have any major health problems but the prospect of being left penniless if I were to get into a car accident or have a health issue was enough of a fear that I kept that job.  And hey, I could always use that insurance to treat the ulcer I had developed from the stress of being belittled every day at work.

What I really wanted to do more than anything was to be my own boss and to be an entrepreneur.  Surely you remember the entrepreneurial spirit that made our country the kickass place it is, Ted?  Henry Ford and Thomas Edison and Bill Gates?  Those dudes?  People who took an idea and made it into a viable business plan and then employed hundreds of thousands of people to make that dream a reality.  

I am lucky enough to know dozens of absurdly talented creative types who can write their asses off, who can take a few scattered thoughts and turn it into a visual masterpiece, who can code like their lives depended on it.  And you know what?  Most of them are working at jobs where they are underpaid for their skills because they made the horrible mistake (jokes!) of starting families and wanting to do silly things like provide their families with basic health care coverage.  

I found myself at a crossroads where I don’t have dependents who will have to just ride out colic, frontier-style, without health insurance.  I had the freedom to be able to take risks.  And by risks, I mean finding a way to monetarily provide for myself and better my own future instead of coming home from a job I despise, crumpled and defeated, to weakly crawl into bed and wake up and dance the same limp, half-hearted dance the next day.  

I can’t promise I’ll be the next Bill Gates or Mark Cuban but I can promise one thing.  That bill you so valiantly tried to stand down, the Affordable Care Act, means that I can be self-employed and start my own business while paying less than I did at my day job for health insurance coverage.  I don’t know what you have against Texans like myself, your constituents, becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own small businesses that might one day employ other creative and talented Texans.  But it seems to run completely perpendicular to your Tea Party “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” schtick.  

In short, I’m pretty happy you lost.