If You Pee Here…You May Appear On Youtube

A while back I was at a writing event at a coffee shop in Plano. There were about ten of us sitting at a long table doing some writing but mostly talking. The woman next to me told an interesting story. She and her husband owned an internet services company in Deep Ellum. The thing is that the location is just down the street from The Bomb Factory – a very popular Dallas concert venue – and the space in back of their building is a popular place to park. Unfortunately, it was not a public lot and anyone parking there will get towed. I assume you have had your car towed from some obscure spot during a late evening of nightlife revelry and know how nasty, upsetting, and expensive that can be.

The space in back of their building is heavily labeled and there is no excuse for anyone to park there. Still, they do and they get towed. A lot. So the woman’s husband put up a gaggle of high-quality video cameras facing the no-parking area and captures all the sadness and glory of the nightly dramatics. He edits them with music and funny comments and posts them on a YouTube channel. She said their channel has gone viral and they made a bit of cash from the millions of views they get.

What an amazing story.

So I had to check it out. The channel is GTOger and it’s pretty hilarious. There are hundreds of videos… here’s a typical one:

It’s a real time suck. There are cars getting towed and pissed-off owners coming back. I never knew how fast and efficient the towing companies are (my car-towed days were decades ago – when they actually had to hook a chain to your car) using that automated thing. If you look through the videos there are people peeing, fooling around, and even some photo shoots… all caught on camera and posted for all the world to see.

At any rate, the other weekend I was in Deep Ellum for a Dallas Photowalk. We all met up in front of The Bomb Factory and wandered off in search of photographic scenery. Before long, we were moving down Clover street – a narrow grungy road that was barely more than an alley. Suddenly it looked familiar to me and I realized we were in the GTOger alley right where all those cars were towed. There were the warning signs and the clusters of cameras.

The signage is very clear… I can’t imagine anybody ignoring it and parking there…

let alone taking a leak.

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

 

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Bike Corral

“I had to ride slow because I was taking my guerrilla route, the one I follow when I assume that everyone in a car is out to get me. My nighttime attitude is, anyone can run you down and get away with it. Why give some drunk the chance to plaster me against a car? That’s why I don’t even own a bike light, or one of those godawful reflective suits. Because if you’ve put yourself in a position where someone has to see you in order for you to be safe–to see you, and to give a fuck–you’ve already blown it… We had a nice ride through the darkness. On those bikes we were weak and vulnerable, but invisible, elusive, aware of everything within a two-block radius.”
Neal Stephenson, Zodiac


Bike Corral, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Most people will say there isn’t enough parking – especially in a popular destination like Deep Ellum, especially on a weekend. I, however, think there is too much parking… at least too much car parking.

On a trip to Braindead Brewing for a late lunch with Nick, I locked my bike in the oh-so-convienient Bike Corral that eliminates one parking space in front of the Local Hub Bicycle Company.

Bike Corral, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

 

That’s my vintage 1987 Cannondale locked up between a vintage Peugeot converted into a fixie and a nice Jamis Beatnik urban single speed with a front basket.

Bike Corral, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Majestic Parking

“‘He thinks you need a lobotomy. He told me you’re obsessed by car parks.’”
—-J.G. Ballard, Super-Cannes

parking

“An immense peace seemed to preside over the shabby concrete and untended grass. The glass curtain-walling of the terminal buildings and the multi-storey car-parks behind them belonged to an enchanted domain.”
—-J.G. Ballard, Crash

“At the time he had found himself wishing that Catherine were with him — she would have liked the ziggurat hotels and apartment houses, and the vast, empty parking lots laid down by the planners years before any tourist would arrive to park their cars, like a city abandoned In advance of itself.”
—-J.G. Ballard, Concrete Island

“Wilder pressed on. “I know Charlotte has reservations about life here — the trouble with these places is that they’re not designed for children. The only open space turns out to be someone else’s car-park.”
—-J.G. Ballard, High-Rise

“The town centre consisted of little more than a supermarket and shopping mall, a multi-storey car-park and filling station. Shepperton, known to me only for its film studios, seemed to be the everywhere of suburbia, the paradigm of nowhere.”
—-J.G. Ballard, The Unlimited Dream Company

“The street lamps shone down on the empty car parks, yet there were no cars or people about, no one was playing the countless slot-machines in the stores and arcades.”
—-J.G. Ballard, Hello America

“Two vehicles occupied opposite corners of the car-park, breaking that companionable rule by which drivers arriving at an empty car-park place themselves alongside each other.”
—-J.G. Ballard, The Kindness of Women

“Acres of car parks stretched around me, areas for airline crews, security personnel, business travellers, an almost planetary expanse of waiting vehicles. They sat patiently in the caged pens as their drivers circled the world. Days lost for ever would expire until they dismounted from the courtesy buses and reclaimed their cars.”
—-J.G. Ballard, Millennium People

“I had left the Jensen in the multi-storey car park that dominated the town, a massive concrete edifice of ten canted floors more mysterious in its way than the Minotaur’s labyrinth at Knossos — where, a little perversely, my wife suggested we should spend our honeymoon.”
—-J.G. Ballard, Kingdom Come

“Thousands of inverted buildings hung from street level — car parks, underground cinemas, sub-basements and sub-sub-basements — which now provided tolerable shelter, sealed off from the ravaging wind by the collapsing structures above.”
—-J.G. Ballard, The Wind from Nowhere

“Already, without touching her, he knew intimately the repertory of her body, its anthology of junctions. His eyes turned to the multi-storey car park beside the apartment blocks above the beach. Its inclined floors contained an operating formula for their passage through consciousness.”
—-J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition

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.