Bridge and Jail

Another night, long exposure, a different zoom from the same spot, the abandoned parking garage, I shot from earlier. The white and red bars are the cars going by on the Interstate – smeared out in time. The buildings are part of the Dallas jail complex with the Calatrava designed Margaret Hunt Hill bridge in the background.

Dallas Jail complex with the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge in the background. (click to enlarge)

Dallas Jail complex with the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge in the background.
(click to enlarge)

The crossing between the parking lot you see and the building to the right is what I call, “the saddest spot in the world.” When you drive by there early in the morning on the weekends you see a crowd of families crossing from the lot to get in to bail their loved ones out of jail.

I’ve never been in there, but when I was younger I would occasionally get a desperate call to go down there and bail somebody out. After paying the clerk and waiting around for everything to process they would shuffle out. On the way to the car I would ask, “Well, what is is like in there?”

Nobody ever answered.


The jail complex is the Lew Sterrett Justice Center.

We all know how nasty the reviews on Yelp can be – but Lew Sterrett gets some intersting press there.

From Yelp:

I had a delightful time at Lew. The industrial vibe of the accommodations, combined with the summer camp atmosphere among the guests, somehow managed to be both sophisticated and good old-fashioned fun. The noise level was high, like the best hipster restaurants. And the complementary proctological exam was a nice surprise. Big D, little A, double L, A, YES!

this guy had something to say:

Wow this is the crappiest place on earth. I have been here twice(last time was November 06, and I would like to say the accomodations were dirty, dingy and downright disgusting. The staff seem like former Walmart employees or even criminals themselves(not to say that all inmates are convicted criminals because they are not). One word of advice…as soon as you get in, grab the nearest toilet paper roll(they are like gold in here) eat a couple of bologna sandwhiches, drink some fake cool aid, and live for the moment because you never know what the hell is about to happen around or too you.

Fireworks from Reunion Tower

My old commuter bicycle with Reunion Tower in the background

My old commuter bicycle with Reunion Tower in the background
(click to enlarge)

I remember the first time I saw it – in 1979 (it was only a year old) and driving from Kansas to Padre Island. We took the I35 Route through Dallas (instead of I35W through Fort Worth) and there was Reunion Tower, looming up next to the highway. Unexpected, it was pretty impressive.

Not long after, I saw the tower in a little seen science fiction film on PBS – The Lathe of Heaven. Reunion Tower was part of an enormous “dream machine” that warped reality. Then, after I moved here – every now and then I’d take people up to the bar in the ball. The view from up there is pretty cool.

Now they have rebuilt and remodeled the Observation Deck on the tower. After I drove my bike downtown and watched the video show on the side of the Omni Hotel, I moved over to watch the fireworks show that was supposed to go down. I chatted with the photographers, cops, and general gawkers up there – nobody knew any details. We all assumed the fireworks would be fired from the big empty field that sits where Reunion Arena used to be.

Finally, the show started. The fireworks were fired directly from the tower itself. It was amazing – probably the best fireworks show I’ve ever seen.

I had my camera set up on a tripod. I stood there with the infrared remote, clicking the shutter open and closed. Here’s what came up.

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Expanded Cinema

October is a good month in Dallas. The killer summer heat is ending and there are a lot of events scheduled in the, if not always pleasant, at least not toxic weather.

Only about a day or so ahead of time, I heard about something going on in downtown Dallas that looked interesting.

There is a relatively new hotel attached to the convention center – the Omni – that is skinned with four miles of light bars and more than a million LED lights. It’s an enormous computer controlled light show that’s only limited by the quality of the images. They say it’s like a low quality printer.

So, for the opening of the Dallas Videofest a dozen video artists were given the Omni hotel to use as a canvas, for a series of works under the moniker Expanded Cinema – MultipliCity.

Looking at a map of downtown I realized I could take the DART train downtown and then ride my bike onto the Jefferson Street Viaduct Bike Lane – there was a good view of the Omni Hotel from there.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

When work ended I almost didn’t go. It was a tough week and I was exhausted. At home I stretched out on the bed and felt my motivation draining out. I wanted to stay home and watch television. It took all my motivation to get up, change, load up my bicycle, and ride out to the train station.

I knew I had to have my tripod with me if I wanted to take any photographs. For a long time I’ve been trying to figure out how to carry it on my bike. The legs collapse, of course, but it’s still pretty long. After thinking about it, imagining all sorts of different scenarios and improvised equipment – I simply took a single bungee cord and tied it to the rack. It stuck out the back… but it worked. Sometimes, simple is the best.

I rode the train to the Union Station and it was a short jump to get on the Jefferson Viaduct. As I rode up and over I noticed the old, abandoned parking garage that served Reunion Arena back in the day. I turned in and rode up to the top level, where there was a great view of the downtown and the Omni.

I was a little early and there was only one guy there – and I set up my camera and tripod.

My bike on the old parking garage with the Omni in the background.

My commuter bike on the old parking garage with the Omni in the background.

The only problem was that the audio portion of the program was broadcast on 97.1FM – and as I was packing up I realized that I don’t even own a portable radio. I would have to watch the show without sound.

As the appointed hour arrived a good number of cars started to arrive and try to jockey for position. Watching this comedy of of errors on the parking garage ramps below my perch was as amusing as the video show itself. A few more bicyclists came riding up and some police cars showed to work on reports and see what was up.

Watching the show from the roof of an SUV.

Watching the show from the roof of an SUV.

I have no idea who owns that old parking garage or if there are any plans for it in the future. It does have a spectacular view of downtown but there isn’t anything going on there now except a home (and bathroom) for homeless folks. I wish the city would do something cool – the top level of the garage could get the Klyde Warren treatment. A layer of dirt, some grass, and you would have another really amazing urban park. The levels of parking below could be used for visitors or for the Convention Center nearby. As a matter of fact, the Convention Center would benefit from a nearby open, grassy, park area with a killer view. It would be a great spot for outdoor events.

That’s my idea, at any rate.

My vantage point was a little too close and that emphasized the low quality of the image – and I missed not having the sound – but it was still a lot of fun to watch. I was glad that I made the effort to get out of bed and get down there.

A figure swimming across the hotel. (click to enlarge)

A figure swimming across the hotel.
(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

When the Expanded Cinema ended everybody switched positions – there was supposed to be a fireworks show in honor of the new observation deck on Reunion Tower. Nobody knew exactly where or when that was going to happen – but that’s a story for tomorrow.

Omni Hotel, Downtown Dallas

Omni Hotel, Downtown Dallas

Mass Transit

J.G. Ballard wrote a short story named “The Concentration City” (you can read the PDF HERE) about a city that has grown to encompass the entire universe… theoretically and practically – whether it is actually is another question.

The protagonist tries to find the edge of the city, to find “free space” – to find an area where he can build and use a flying machine, by hopping a supersonic express sleeper train and riding it west for weeks.

Unfortunately, he discovers that no matter where you go, there you are.

Here in Dallas – which is shaped sort of like a bulls-eye, with concentric rings of highways and radial connectors – all the trains run out of the center and stop. There is no endless loop. They make you get off the train at the end, before it switches track and heads back in.

Otherwise it would be tempting to get on and never exit. Ride the endless electric rails – watch the city go by, circuit after infinite circuit, the commuters come and go. Everything would slide past forever.

Maybe it’s best that you can’t do that.

transit1

transit2

(click to enlarge)

[…]
“The surgeon hesitated before opening the door. “Look,” he began to explain sympathetically, “you can’t get out of time, can you? Subjectively it’s a plastic dimension, but whatever you do to yourself you’ll never be able to stop that clock”- he pointed to the one on the desk-“or make it run backward. In exactly the same way you can’t get out of the City.”
“The analogy doesn’t hold,” M. said. He gestured at the walls around them and the lights in the streets outside. “All this was built by us. The question nobody can answer is: what was here before we built it?”
“It’s always been here,” the surgeon said. “Not these particular bricks and girders, but others before them. You accept that time has no beginning and no end. The City is as old as time and continuous with it.”
“The first bricks were laid by someone,” M. insisted. “There was the Foundation.”
“A myth. Only the scientists believe in that, and even they don’t try to make too much of it. Most of them privately admit that the Foundation Stone is nothing more than a superstition. We pay it lip service out of convenience, and because it gives us a sense of tradition. Obviously there can’t have been a first brick. If there was, how can you explain who laid it, and even more difficult, where they came from?”
“There must be free space somewhere,” M. said doggedly. “The City must have bounds.”
“Why?” the surgeon asked. “It can’t be floating in the middle of nowhere. Or is that what you’re trying to believe?”
M. sank back limply. “No”
The surgeon watched M silently for a few minutes and paced back to the desk. “This peculiar fixation of yours puzzles me. You’re caught between what the psychiatrists call paradoxical faces. I suppose you haven’t misinterpreted something you’ve heard about the Wall?”
M. looked up. “Which wall?”
The surgeon nodded to himself. “Some advanced opinion maintains that there’s a wall around the City, through which it’s impossible to penetrate. I don’t pretend to understand the theory myself. It’s far too abstract and sophisticated. Anyway I suspect they’ve confused this Wall with the bricked-up black areas you passed through on the Sleeper. I prefer the accepted view that the City stretches out in all direction without limits.””
[…]
—-The Concentration City (1957). James Graham Ballard. The Complete Short Stories

Chihuly Nights

I had been reading that the recommendation was to see the Chihuly exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum at least twice – once during the day and once at night. I was happy when Candy and I were able to go to the concert in the evening – I’d get to see it at night.

During the band’s second set I sneaked away (I could hear “Sympathy for the Devil” filtering through the greenery) as the sun dipped below the far shore of White Rock Lake. During the crepuscular “magic hour” the lit glass seemed to jump out of the landscape. It was a lot easier to find the Chihuly glass amongst the maze of gardens because they were colorful and glowing as if lit from within (everything actually had spotlights trained on them… but the translucent glass appeared incandescent).

I walked around and then returned in the darkness for the end of the concert. Then many folks headed out to stumble around and marvel at the sculptures in the dark. It was magical. Probably the most entertaining (and crowded) spot was the infinity pool in A Woman’s Garden with the two glass-filled boats. The night was dead calm and the water was a horizontal mirror.

Finally the staff came out in golf carts and powerful lights and herded everyone off the grounds. I now have my little membership card so I can go again… and again.

As the sun set the sculptures began to glow. This one is one of the largest (about 20 feet tall) and most dramatic works… called “The Sun.” When I first saw it, I thought it was all yellow and red glass, but some kids were looking closer and you can see that there are actually many colors in there.

The boat on the infinity pool. This is taken from the steps that lead down below the water leve.

Red glass shapes with the dramatic Icicle Tower in the distance. The open grassy areas became haunting, lined with the glowing glass.

The thirty foot tall Icicle Tower was even more dramatic at night.

The boat on the infinity pool, taken from the other side.