I was sitting at the lunch counter of Coots’ Drugstore, at the corner of Marsh Lane and Walnut Hill Road in Dallas. We had been let out of school that Friday so that we could follow President John F. Kennedy as he and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy landed at Love Field and then rode in a motorcade through downtown. But the excitement turned to anguish and confusion as news came over the radio that the president had been shot and killed.
In the 1920s and ‘30s, music filled the streets, theaters, joints, and churches of Deep Ellum, an area just east of downtown Dallas that thrived as an African-American mecca of culture and commerce before construction of Central Expressway altered the neighborhood’s character after World War II. Named for the languid, southern pronunciation of Elm Street, the district was mythologized by “Deep Ellum Blues,” a 1930s folk tune about backstabbing women, backsliding preachers, and cops on the take.
Having grown up in Dallas, I rarely thought of the city as a getaway destination, even though I’ve lived my adult life just 40 miles to the west in Fort Worth. Recently, however, Big D has grown into a place I hardly recognize, with its most exciting metamorphosis happening downtown. Today, the city center holds new discoveries I’m itching to explore whenever I find a spare moment.
I have had some memorable museum experiences in my life: a foggy night encounter with a Rembrandt in East Berlin, a red wine and squid-fueled afternoon cooing over Degas at the Prado. But recently I was gifted with perhaps the single most perfect day I have ever spent in the company of great art: a balmy afternoon wiled away at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.
Among the best known of the criminal enterprises in Texas was the group known as the Barrow Gang. The only two individuals continuously associated with the group were Bonnie Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow. Their trail of crime covered much of Texas as well as places as distant as Minnesota and Indiana.
A few blocks north of the Fort Worth Convention Center and its supporting cast of restaurants, wine bars, and plush hotels, the railroad still rolls into town much as it did in 1876, when the city became a major shipping point for livestock headed to northern markets. There are no cattle today, but freight cars carrying everything from auto parts and coal to orange juice rumble through every few hours, the full-throated whistles lending a note of nostalgia to the downtown streetscape. Periodically, blue-and-silver passenger trains, operated by Amtrak these days, arrive at the new Intermodal Transportation Center from points north and south.
Nestled in downtown Dallas’ burgeoning arts district, the Nasher Sculpture Center marks its fifth anniversary in October. To celebrate that landmark, the center mounts an exhibition called In Pursuit of the Masters: Stories from the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection . The exhibition runs September 20 through January 4, 2009
“This exhibition is all about the backstory of the collection, about Ray and Patsy’s passion for collecting,” says acting chief curator Jed Morse. “We’re telling the story of their warm relationships with artists like Henry Moore, Andy Warhol, Beverly Pepper, and Mark di Suvero; and what it was like for the Nashers to live with some of those incredible works of art.”
Some of the pieces, such as Jean Arp’s sculpture Torso With Buds (1961), which Patsy bought for Ray as a birthday present, have never before been shown at the Nasher Sculpture Center. “The main thing that comes through,” says Morse, “is that the collection was a labor a love. They started off collecting very modestly, things they could afford.”
For more details visit The Nasher Sculpture Center or call 214/242-5177.
As I maneuver through southbound traffic along I-35E, I’m keeping one eye on the Dallas skyline. Just ahead, the 50-story Reunion Tower marks the western edge of downtown like a giant, gleaming pushpin. As I zip on the elevated freeway past the American Airlines Center sports arena and its posh neighbor, the W Dallas-Victory Hotel, I take in a fine view of Dealey Plaza, hands-down the city’s most famous historical spot.
I love my old friends, but that doesn’t keep me from making exciting new ones. I wish I had more time to spend with all of them. So it goes with travel: I’ll never quit staying, eating, and playing at my old favorites, but I always try to work in a few new ones, too. And we all know what that means: The list of old friends grows longer and longer...
They appeared to walk around aimlessly, looking innocent until the right opportunity presented itself. Then, moving as quickly as they could, they struck. Soon, the unguarded flying machine’s two linen wings had been ripped to shreds—an airplane that had cost Uncle Sam $5,465.
For a relaxing break from city hustle, venture down the following urban trails…and learn about nature along the way. Regulations vary, but everywhere, follow the hiker's credo: Take only photographs and leave only footprints. Stay on marked trails to prevent erosion. Wear sturdy walking or hiking shoes. Carry insect repellent, sunscreen, and plenty of water, plus a camera and binoculars.