Previously in the Nasher XChange series:
- Flock in Space, Nasher XChange, Entry One of Ten
- X , Nasher XChange, Entry Two of Ten
- Fountainhead , Nasher XChange, Entry Three of Ten
- Moore to the Point, Nasher XChange, Entry Four of Ten
- Buried House, Nasher XChange, Entry Five of Ten
- dear sunset, Nasher XChange, Entry Six of Ten
- Music (Everything I know I learned the day my son was born), Nasher XChange, Entry Seven of Ten
- Black & Blue: A Cultural Oasis in the Hills, Nasher XChange, Entry Eight of Ten
- 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.
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.