What I learned this week, February 28, 2014

I have written below about a presentation I attended concerning a small piece of freeway near Dallas’ Downtown. It was an important and interesting meeting, but what I wrote about it goes on a little long, and I wanted to write a little about what I think is the real crux of the matter.

I’ll write more at length about it later, I need to do some thinking and some research and some more thinking first.

This is the speaker, traffic planner Ian Lockwood’s presentation. Watch the whole thing. His talk should be available on youtube soon.

What jumped at me in particular were two slides (13 and 14 in the presentation). The first, printed from a book, was this statement:

In his 1911 book The Prinicples of Scientific Management, Frederick Winslow Taylor, a pioneer in the efficiency movement, wrote: “The goal of human labor and thought is efficiency. Technical calculation is in all respects superior to human judgement, in fact human judgement cannot be trusted because it is pagued by laxity, ambiguity and unnecessary complexity. Subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking…. That which cannot be measured either does not exist or is of no value….The affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts.”

The bolded part of the quote was underlined, with a handwritten note and arrow that said, “THE BEGINNING OF THE END.”

The bullet at the bottom of the slide emphasized the point, “That which cannot be measured either does not exist or is of no value….The affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts.

This is contrasted to the next slide, which is a quote by Thomas Jefferson:

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves. And if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion.”

Thomas Jefferson September 28, 1820

The contrast, the frisson between the two ways of looking at the world illuminated by these quotes is an amazing concept. If I learned nothing else, this was worth taking the train downtown after work.

I-345 near downtown Dallas

I-345 near downtown Dallas

Dallas has this nasty, falling down 1.4 miles of freeway on the east side of downtown. It’s name is I-345, though nobody knows that. It is an elevated monstrosity that is an ugly barrier between the city center and Deep Ellum.

It also needs replacing. A movement is growing to remove the freeway instead of rebuilding it.

How Dallas is Throwing Away $4 Billion

The more I thought about that idea – the more sense it made.

Of course, the government has no imagination and soon, this headline came out.

TxDOT to Repair, Not Tear Down I-345: Lipstick on a Traffic-Fed Pig?
TxDOT tells Dallas it will repair and not remove the highway separating Deep Ellum and downtown
TxDOT has decided to keep the highway separating Deep Ellum and downtown, but Mayor Rawlings hasn’t

This pissed a lot of people in Dallas off, including me.

So I found out about a meeting at D Magazine (Great write-up about it here) with a presentation on how the modern American Urban High Speed traffic system is killing the city. I sent off for a ticket and rode the train downtown after work. I was more than a little ragged after a tough day at work and felt out of place – but the talk by Ian Lockwood was more than interesting.

They were taping the talk and I think I heard someone say it would be going onto Youtube. I’ll put it on here if I find it, but in the meantime, this one covers most of what he said. I know it’s long, but take the time to watch it if you can, it’s a revelation.

Here’s another photo I took of a typical day on I-345

Car fire just north of downtown, Dallas.

Car fire just north of downtown, Dallas.

Hall & Oates “Rich Girl” wasn’t about a girl after all.

I feel as if I have been living a lie all my life.

“Daryl wrote it,” John confessed, talking about his other musical half. “It was about a guy who was the heir to a fast food fortune.” We can’t help but feel like everything we know in life is a lie now. “He realized ‘Rich Girl’ sounded a lot better than ‘Rich Guy.’”

11 Books That Will Definitely Disturb You

This is an interesting list – there are some amazingly strange films on this. And they all can be piped directly into your living room.

The 50 Best Movies on Netflix Instant (My Version)

10 Awesome Bottle Openers

Skipping Rope in the River Bottoms

After I left the Trans.lation Market in Vickery Meadow I took the DART train across the Trinity River. As we were crossing I saw a large group of bicyclists going past on the Santa Fe Trestle Trail. It was the Ye Olden Tymes Vintagey Retro Ride & Picnic – I had hoped to get down there before them, but I wasn’t all that very late.

As I rode down from the train station all the walkers coming the other way said, “They’re a long ways ahead of you.” All of them, really.
“I’ll catch up, don’t worry,” I replied.

And I did. It was a lot of fun.

Skipping rope at Ye Olden Tymes Vintagey Retro Ride & Picnic. (click to enlarge)

Skipping rope at Ye Olden Tymes Vintagey Retro Ride & Picnic.
(click to enlarge)

Snøhetta Pavilion

As I was working my way through South Dallas on my bicycle exploring three of the Nasher XChange sites – between Flock in Space and Black & Blue: A Cultural Oasis in the Hills – I took a look at the GPS on my phone to make sure I wasn’t lost. I realized that I wasn’t far from something I wanted to visit. Even though I was behind schedule and getting tired I would be passing close enough to make a side trip.

So I did.

I turned off of Bonnie View Road into a neighborhood until I reached College Park. Past some guys playing basketball I found what I was looking for – a new park pavilion designed by the Oslo-New York firm Snøhetta. A review of the structure had shown up in the Dallas paper and aroundgathering some architectural praise.

It looked pretty interesting, enough for me to visit.

Snøhetta Pavillion, College Park, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Snøhetta Pavillion, College Park, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Picnic Tables and Grills, Snøhetta Pavillion, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Picnic Tables and Grills, Snøhetta Pavillion, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

I couldn’t stay long, but it was pretty cool in person. An ingenious design – unusual, yet in harmony with the site. Striking, yet useful. It seems to have been economical to build and designed to last a long time.

The picnic tables and outdoor grills were an unexpected treat – I loved the design of these. I didn’t think there was much you could do with public picnic tables – but these were unique and cool.

Later, at home, I did some web research and found a publication that extolls the virtues of the Pavilions in Dallas parks – listing a whole slew of them.

Now that I’ve finished with the Nasher XChange, maybe that’s something I can cycle through town and look at. Picnic Pavilions are pretty pedestrian objects and I have to say I haven’t noticed them for a long time.

But isn’t that the point? To try and ride around my own city and notice things that everyone usually ignores?

Maybe so.

Taking Flight

A “Heavy Hitter” flight at Luck, in Trinity Groves.

Heavy Hitter beer flight at Luck, in Trinity Groves, Dallas, Texas

Heavy Hitter beer flight at Luck, in Trinity Groves, Dallas, Texas

From left to right:

Velvet Hammer, from Peticolas Brewing Company – One of my favorites. If you buy, say, a whole growler of this be a little careful. They don’t call it Velvet Hammer for nothing.

The Temptress, from Lakewood Brewing Company – I consider The Temptress to be one of the best things in the world. Not one of the best beers… one of the best things.

Inspiration, from Community Beer Company – Actually, I’m not sure if I remember this one correctly. I do love stuff from Community, especially their Mosaic – my favorite IPA.

Quakertown Stout, from Armadillo Ale Works – I liked this one a lot. You can tell, it’s empty. It’s a new favorite – near the top of the list.

Trans.lation: Vickery Meadow, Nasher XChange, Entry Ten of Ten

Previously in the Nasher XChange series:

  1. Flock in Space, Nasher XChange, Entry One of Ten
  2. X , Nasher XChange, Entry Two of Ten
  3. Fountainhead , Nasher XChange, Entry Three of Ten
  4. Moore to the Point, Nasher XChange, Entry Four of Ten
  5. Buried House, Nasher XChange, Entry Five of Ten
  6. dear sunset, Nasher XChange, Entry Six of Ten
  7. Music (Everything I know I learned the day my son was born), Nasher XChange, Entry Seven of Ten
  8. Black & Blue: A Cultural Oasis in the Hills, Nasher XChange, Entry Eight of Ten
  9. Curtains, Nasher XChange, Entry Nine of Ten

I know the Vickery Meadow area of Dallas very well. When I showed up in Dallas in 1981, unemployed and with twenty-five dollars to my name (Texas was the only place in the country you could find a job in 1981) I stayed with some friends in the Timbercreek Apartments on Melody Lane (they have since been torn out) for a short time. Moving there from the rural plains of Kansas seemed like the height of big city living – and they were pretty cool at the time. We soon moved to Oak Cliff, and then I came back to Lower Greenville when I found a job and saved enough for a deposit.

I loved living down there (especially in the 80’s) but my social life was mostly in Vickery Meadow (and The Village across Northwest Highway). You see, it’s hard to imagine now, but in 1982 interest rates hit sixteen percent. At that rate nobody… and I mean nobody, could afford to buy a house. So all these apartment complexes sprouted up like mushrooms and hordes of young people, and a few not so young people, moved in.

It was a wild social scene. One complex was full of a combination of strippers and Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. That was a popular swimming pool on a hot summer afternoon. It was a good time.

But good times never last and this one fell faster than anyone thought possible. When the interest rates came down, many fled the rental complexes for the northern suburbs and the endless expanses of single family homes that were vomiting out across the cotton fields of North Texas. Then, in 1988, the Federal Government started enforcing the Fair Housing Act (making it illegal to exclude families from rental properties) – which doomed the singles apartment complexes that were the lifeblood of the area. That was the death knell. Occupancy rates fell. Rents dropped. And soon the owners couldn’t get enough from their rents to maintain the properties, which fell into disrepair – and the cycle repeated until it fell into a spiral of catastrophe.

Within a few short years the whole area was crack city. Sometimes I would drive through on my way to the Big Main Half-Price Bookstore and I would feel sad – the echoes of such good times gone to bad.

But then Vickery Meadow made a comeback of sort. Not one of wealth – quite the opposite – but one of culture. The area had fallen so far that the only people that would live there were the ones that could not afford to live anywhere else – the immigrant, the tired and poor, the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.

The Remaking of Vickery Meadow

And now Vickery Meadow is a dense package of diverse humanity. It is still dirt poor, but it feels different. It feels like there might be a little hope in the most unlikely of places.

The tenth, and, for me, the last exhibition of the Nasher XChange works was a pop up market called Trans.lation by Rick Lowe. I had missed the first few dates and February 22 was my last chance. As always, I had my commitment to visit all ten sites without using a car. This one was easy. I rode my bike down to the Arapaho and caught the Red Line down to the Park Lane station and fought my way across Greeville Avenue and on into Vickery Meadow.

I was immediately struck by that odd layering of strong old memories with the present that has changed – but not enough that it does not stir ancient echoes. Many of the apartment buildings that contained some of my best friends, places I spent a lot of time, have been torn down and replaced by sprawling school campuses to accommodate the children of the new residents. I rode up to the heart of Vickery Meadow – a complex bustling intersection called “Five Points.”

My memory isn’t as good as it should be and I took the wrong one of the five roads and pedaled out down Park Lane instead of Ridgecrest. By the time I realized my error and looped back up another memory was brought back to me – the streets there can be very steep. I remembered exercising my way up these hills on a road bike back in the day. Unfortunately, I’m not twenty-five years old any more, and I had to wait a bit to catch my breath.

Finally, I picked the right road and found the market. I locked my bike up to a fence and went in – enjoying the arts and crafts for sale… I especially loved the music coming from the stage. There were a lot of people of every age and nationality you could imagine and everyone was having a great time.

That was something I will remember for a long time.

Trans.lation Market: Vickery Meadow

Trans.lation Market: Vickery Meadow

Trans.lation Market: Vickery Meadow

Trans.lation Market: Vickery Meadow

Trans.lation Market: Vickery Meadow

Trans.lation Market: Vickery Meadow

Trans.lation Market: Vickery Meadow

Trans.lation Market: Vickery Meadow

Trans.lation Market: Vickery Meadow - There were three pop up art galleries along the street featuring local art and concerns.

Trans.lation Market: Vickery Meadow – There were three pop up art galleries along the street featuring neighborhood artists and concerns.

Deep Ellum Sunset

“Walked up Ellum an’ I come down Main,
Tryin’ to bum a nickel jes’ to buy cocaine.
Ho, Ho, baby, take a whiff on me”
—- Leadbelly, Take a Whiff on Me

“Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgandy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

“A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.”
― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

When you go down on Deep Ellum,
Put your money in your socks
‘Cause them Women on Deep Ellum
Sho’ will throw you on the rocks.
—-Leadbelly, Deep Ellum Blues