Over 99 Billion Served

Over 99 Billion Served - but no more.

Over 99 Billion Served – but no more.

There is a joke in Dallas… it goes like this, “Whenever you ask someone for directions, they always start ‘Get on Beltline…’.” And it’s true.

I live a handful of short blocks north of Beltline, so I know that endless loop well. Less than a mile to the West, on Beltline, of course, is was a McDonald’s. I have been in that place exactly once, when we first moved in, before our internet and water was hooked up. I went in there for coffee and wifi.

Now when my kids were little, we went to McDonald’s (and various other fast-food emporiums) all the time. Not for the food, per se, but for the ball pits and climbing tunnels. My kids were connoisseurs of fast-food ball pits. They would sit around at home discussing the comparative merits of all the local McDonald’s vs. Burger King. They would arrive at a decision and off we would go. When driving long distances they would spot a unique climbing structure out the speeding windows and we would have to stop. Candy would walk to another place, any place, and get food – she could not stand McDonald’s… no matter how fun the ball pit was.

But the kids had outgrown all that before we moved here. Shame, because that McDonald’s had a really nice climbing structure in a huge glass enclosure out front. (Google Maps Streetview from before the demolition). At any rate, I had no reason to go there and had only been there that once.

Still, though, I drove or biked past it at least twice a day for years and years and it had blended into the daily background of my life.

Then, one day, coming home from work, it was gone. There was nothing there except a pile of rubble.

Plastic tunnels and ball pit netting, bulldozed and torn asunder.

Plastic tunnels and ball pit netting, bulldozed and torn asunder.

It was a shock. There were the plastic tunnels all bulldozed and torn asunder. It was like finding a body in the yard – like someone you knew slightly had died. Of course, the neighborhood email list went into a frenzy of indignation and fear – nobody knew what had happened.

Of course, this is Dallas (or at least a suburb), and nothing is allowed to rest for long. The rubble was gone in a couple days and already, concrete is being poured. I assume it will be another McDonald’s – probably bigger and better.

But I bet the food will be the same.

There is another Dallas joke. “There are only two seasons in Dallas, Football and Construction.”

Where I Used to Work

Construction going up

When I first moved to Dallas, in 1981, my first job was downtown. I remember the quiet thrill of riding the bus into the forest of skyscrapers every morning – it was an exciting time. I felt that something was really happening – I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was something (I still don’t know what it was, and am pretty sure it wasn’t anything after all).

For a year or so my office was in the Kirby Building on Main Street. The interesting thing about that is a year earlier I had visited Dallas and had seen the Kirby Building from the Adolphus Hotel and wondered to myself, “What would it be like to work in a building like that?” It was a complete coincidence that I found myself toiling away in that very same space only a year later. The Kirby was a grand old place, much too ornate for a whippersnapper like myself and after awhile we moved to less expensive digs.

One thing I remember about the Kirby is that it had old fashioned carpets (they might have been wool) and on dry winter days you had to walk around with a key in your hand to touch the heavy brass doorknob and ground yourself or the static spark would leap out like Lilliputian lightning and shock the crap out of your fingertips whenever you would open a door. An odd thing to remember after all that time, but you don’t forget that much pain easily.

In the decades since, the Kirby Building has been converted into condominiums. I don’t know if they put in new carpet – I suppose they would have to. I hope it is conductive and non-static.

We moved across downtown to another venerable old edifice, this one not so ornate. It was the Cotton Exchange Building. It was like working in a time warp – they had a cotton trading floor and a restaurant on the ground floor that had not changed a bit since the fifties. We were afraid to eat the salad dressing.

I loved working there. These were the salad days in Dallas and I could watch the high rise buildings going up all around. They sprouted like giant glass asparagus from every available scrap of space. I loved to note the various construction techniques and architectural details – mostly how they made the shape such that they had the maximum number of corner offices. It was a cool place.

But all good things must pass and the Cotton Exchange building was too old and not profitable enough. To prepare for demolition they stripped a modern tacky exterior off and found a classic deco building underneath. There was some talk of preservation, but it was too little, too late.

They imploded the building. I thought about going down there to watch the old lady collapse under the thumb of the dynamite – but it was too early in the morning and I told myself I preferred to remember it as it was. For decades the lot sat vacant and I wondered why they had blown it up.

Now, finally, there is construction. Across the street the First Baptist Church is undergoing a massive renovation and the place of the old Cotton Exchange is being used… as a parking garage. I walked by a while back and took a couple of pictures.

I’m a little disappointed that the beloved old Cotton Exchange has been reduced to a spot for a garage… but I guess at least it is something. People have to park somewhere.

Even Baptists.

The new church across the street.