Not Giving a Damn

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn”
― Orson Welles

Neiman Marcus Window, Downtown Dallas, Texas

Window reflection, Dsquared2 Clothing, and the Dallas Eye.

Oblique Strategies: Don’t be frightened of cliches

I am not their target kind of customer. Even though I’ve lived in Dallas close to forty years now, and spent a lot of time downtown, I’ve only been in the big main fancy Neiman Marcus store a couple of times… and I only remember it once.

That was before I moved here – I was only visiting – so I must have been young. I went in with a friend that wanted to look at the fashions and I followed her. Right at the entryway we were waylaid by a couple of women demonstrating nail care products – some sort of abrasive sanding thing (to remove ridges) and a set of various strong-smelling types of polish. I was the only one without colored nails so they demonstrated on me. I stood as stoically as I could while they sanded the ridges off a couple of my nails and then put polish on them. A good-sized group of women gathered to watch and to ooh and aah at the miracle product. It wasn’t too bad… actually, it was kind of interesting. I was mostly glad that, for once, my hands were clean.

But I didn’t buy anything.

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Spokes and Seersucker

People from the Seersucker Ride at Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

People from the Seersucker Ride at Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

A tradition in Dallas in the bicycling community is the fall/winter Tweed Ride. Last December’s ride was a lot of fun, though bitterly cold. As a bookend to that ride, the great folks at Dallas Cycle Style organized a springtime/warm weather ride, and called it the Seersucker Ride. It looked like a blast.

But I needed something seersucker to wear. I am the most fashion-challenged person in the world – but I knew what seersucker is. The only reason I knew was because once, a few years back, I had actually looked it up after seeing this scene in Sophie’s Choice.

Right now we are as broke as broke can be, so I couldn’t spend any money on clothes. Also, I futzed and dutzed, as always, around and waited too long – so ebay was out of the question. I did a circuit of the various thrift stores and actually found some seersucker (mostly pants) here and there – but none of it came even close to fitting me. It appears that only undernourished men wear seersucker.

So I was left with a journey into the heart of the beast. I actually went to a mall. Other than a trip to NorthPark for the Nasher Exchange Sculpture (and I wasn’t going to buy anything) I haven’t been inside a mall in decades. Collin Creek Mall is only a tiny jump up the freeway from where I live. I remember driving there from Oak Cliff in 1981 when it first opened – it seemed like driving forever – and how shiny, lavish, and sumptuous the enormous multi-lobed two story shopping extravaganza seemed – like a brave new world. Now, not that long later, the mall is on its last legs, barely hanging on for dear life, coasting on past glories. To walk the corridors is borderline depressing.

I found a shirt that was seersucker-like on a clearance rack for four dollars. The only open checkout was in the shoe department where I had to wait behind a woman trying to get a discount because the pair she was looking at had a tiny blemish.

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
—-Shelley

So I had my seersucker. On Saturday morning I packed my Xootr Swift bicycle with food, drink, and a blanket, put a fresh battery in my camera, and rode the DART train downtown to meet everyone at Klyde Warren Park.

My Xootr Swift bike with picnic supplies loaded in the pannier.

My Xootr Swift bike with picnic supplies loaded in the pannier.

The park was a hive of activity – S.E. Hinton was on her way to grace the presence of the Dallas Reads One Book celebration of The Outsiders. They gave us all paperback copies and took photos of everyone in period outfits reading the tome. We would like to have seen the author (and seen the movie they would show later) but we had a picnic to do so we all rode off across Uptown to Lee Park.

Posing with an S. E. Hinton paperback.

Posing with an S. E. Hinton paperback.

It was a beautiful spot – along Turtle Creek with a fountain in the center and a wave of purple/pink Azaleas blooming across the water. We parked the bikes, spread out the blankets, and unloaded the vittles – a veritable moveable feast. A volunteer had driven in to deliver items too bulky to bike – coolers of ice, extra water, a croquet set. Not content with pitiful portable picnic players, he brought in a generator, amp, and speakers and we had vintage music all proper – angel trumpets and devil trombones.

Seersucker Ride and Picnic, Lee Park, Dallas, Texas

Seersucker Ride and Picnic, Lee Park, Dallas, Texas

Seersucker Ride and Picnic, Lee Park, Dallas, Texas

Seersucker Ride and Picnic, Lee Park, Dallas, Texas

Seersucker Ride and Picnic, Lee Park, Dallas, Texas

Seersucker Ride and Picnic, Lee Park, Dallas, Texas

Seersucker Ride and Picnic, Lee Park, Dallas, Texas

Seersucker Ride and Picnic, Lee Park, Dallas, Texas

Such a great day. The weather was warm with a bit of a breeze. A beautiful park with a lot of cool people. There is something about wearing silly clothing and riding together through a big city on ridiculous bicycles that is relaxing and disarming. Such fun.

There were a lot of photos taken – I tried not to spend too much time shooting, but everything and everybody around was too freakishly photogenic to resist. I have a nice collection I’ll post here for journal entries over the next few days.

Shooting photographs at the Seersucker Ride and Picnic, Lee Park, Dallas, Texas

Shooting photographs at the Seersucker Ride and Picnic, Lee Park, Dallas, Texas

All good things must come to an end and we packed up and headed out. Three of us rode back downtown, cutting west on the Katy Trail which ends at the American Airlines Center. As we passed next to the building the Dallas Mavericks basketball playoff game ended, spilling an enormous throng of blue-T shirted fans out all around us – flowing like a rabid river as we worked our way through on our bicycles. It was surreal.

Luckily, the home team had won on a last second three point shot right before we arrived, so everyone was in a great mood. Everyone was yelling, “Vince Carter!, Vince Carter!”

It wouldn’t have been any fun to ride through that crowd if the home team had lost.

I rode back to Klyde Warren Park and rested for a bit. I knew the trains would be full of Maverick fans on their way home, plus I needed to decompress for a few minutes. Next to me a young couple sat playing chess – she was much better, but he liked to win, so he kept buying her wine until he prevailed. The inflatable movie screen for the showing of The Outsiders went up – but I didn’t want to stay downtown that long after dark, so I caught my train and went home.

SCABhenge

Closeup of the crazing in the ice sculpture at the Dallas Contemporary

Closeup of the crazing in the ice sculpture at the Dallas Contemporary

The ice sculpture at the Dallas Contemporary

The ice sculpture at the Dallas Contemporary

The last moments of the ice sculpture at the Dallas Contemporary

The last moments of the ice sculpture at the Dallas Contemporary

I have always been fascinated by ice as a sculptural medium. It is cheap, versatile, and, most importantly, temporary. It is fixed in time. What you see now is totally unique, it will never be repeated.

The coolest ice sculptures were Dane Pennington’s Transcendence – from the Arts District a couple years ago. Larger than life figures and monoliths slowly melted – releasing stones that were imprisoned within. I kept going downtown day after day to watch them melt.

Transcendence, on the first night.

Transcendence, on the first night.

Transcendence, on the first night.

Transcendence, on the first night.

After a day of melting in the rain

After a day of melting in the rain

A few weeks ago, I went on (and wrote about) a fun bike ride organized by Dallas Cycle Style. It started at, and was part of, The Dallas Contemporary 35th anniversary celebration. Out in front of the Contemporary was an ice sculpture called SCABhenge, built by the Socialized Contemporary Artists Bureau.

It had been out all night and the ice had crazed and was falling apart. I was there for its final demise, melting in the Texas afternoon.

If you watch this time lapse video closely, you can see a few bicycles from our group go by.

Cycling in Style

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

Despite the fact that (in additional to the least-cool) I am the least fashionable person on the planet I am interested in the idea of bicycling style, or chic, or whatever you want to call it. Not the old spandex, carbon, and logo style, but the more relaxed, European, style of riding a bike in the urban environs.

I went on a fun ride the other day with a nice group visiting some boutiques and such in a couple of stylish and hip neighborhoods of Dallas.

Yes, they exist.

Looking through the library I discovered a book by David Byrne, where he relates some of his experiences riding a folding bike through some of the more interesting cities of the world.

He starts out insulting my city… which is pretty world-renowned for cycling unfriendliness.

Bicycle Diaries

by David Byrne

Chapter One – American Cities

Most US cities are not very bike-friendly. They’re not very pedestrian-friendly either. They’re car-friendly – or at least they try very hard to be. In most of the cities one could say that the machines have won. Lives, city planning, budgets, and time are all focused around the automobile. It’s long-term unsustainable and short-term lousy living. How did it get this way? Maybe we can blame Le Corbusier for his “visionary” Radiant City proposals in the early part of the last century:

His utopian proposals — cities (or just towers really) enmeshed in a net of multilane roads — were perfectly in sync with what the car and oil companies wanted. Given that four of the five biggest corporations in the world still are oil and gas companies, it’s not surprising how these weird and car-friendly visions have lingered. In the postwar period general Motors was the largest company in the whole world. Its president, Charlie Wilson said, “What’s good for GM is good for the country.” Does anyone still believe that GM ever had the country’s best interests at heart?

Maybe we can also blame Robert Moses, who was so successful at slicing up New York City with elevated expressways and concrete canyons. His force of will and proselytizing had wide ranging effects. Other cities copied his example. Or maybe we can blame Hitler, who built the autobahns in order to allow German troops and supplies fast, efficient, and reliable access to all points along the fronts during World War II.

I try to explore some of these towns — Dallas, Detroit, Phoenix, Atlanta — by bike, and it’s frustrating. The various parts of town are often “connected” — if one can call it that — mainly by freeways, massive awe-inspiring concrete ribbons that usually kill the neighborhoods they pass through, and often the ones they are supposed to connect as well. The areas bordering expressways inevitably become dead zones. There may be, near the edges of town, an exit ramp leading to a KFC or a Red Lobster, but that’s not a neighborhood. What remains of the severed communities is eventually replaced by shopping malls and big-box stores isolated in vast deserts of parking. These are strung along the highways that have killed the towns that the highways were meant to connect. The roads, housing developments with no focus, and shopping centers eventually sprawl as far as the eye can see as the highways inched farther and farther out. Monotonous, tedious, exhausting… and soon to be gone, I suspect.

He’s right of course… but not completely right. There is hope. Dallas (and every big modern city) does have its notorious web of high speed freeways, concrete ribbons of death.

But they don’t cover the whole city. In between these barriers are real neighborhoods with real people living in them. The challenge is to get off the freeway and find what’s there – and a bicycle is the best way to do it.

The freeways become a barrier to pierce. The city is working on creating routes and I’m working on finding them.