Monday, August 27, 2007

Live Large, Think Big

Back from Texas, deep in the heart of. Spent the weekend in Big D speaking to the Dallas Screenwriters Association, filling in for the Mariners (in town to play the Rangers), and risking gout with every meal. On every corner there’s either a steakhouse or a church. One place called “Holy Cow” could be either or both.

The current Dallas motto is “Live Large, Think Big” which is much better than “Not Just Hot But Humid”.

Believe it or not, Dallas has more restaurants per capita than New York City (although NYC has a huge lead in salad bars) and more shopping centers per capita than any city in the U.S. “Eat Large, Spend Big”.

It is a surprisingly cosmopolitan city. Gorgeous downtown skyline, with its tall towers outlined in shimmering green and white lights. There are museums, a night life, and be careful going into that shit-kicker bar, it just might be gay.

Not to further tarnish Dallas’ sparkling redneck reputation but until recently their mayor was a woman…and Jewish, Laura Miller. And in 2004 Lupe Valdez was elected sheriff of Dallas County. She’s the first Hispanic, first woman, and first openly gay lesbian to ever fill that role. Hey, she might’ve had better luck getting into Miss Kitty’s bloomers than Marshall Dillon ever did.

Stayed at the Arlington Hilton and had a lovely view of people throwing up from 700 feet on the Six Flags Over Texas thrill rides. Nearby is Hurricane Harbor, a waterslide amusement park. I’m sure it’s very refreshing if you pretend that hundreds of people don’t pee in it a day.

Football is king in Dallas. High school games routinely draw from 20 – 50,000 people. And still, no one watches FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

Meanwhile, the entire world stops for the Dallas Cowboys. Last week when the Rangers broke an all-time major league record by scoring 30 runs in one game they still shared the front page of the sports section with the Cowboys training camp report on wind sprint drills.

They’re building a new stadium for the Cowboys in Arlington, affectionately known as "Jerry’s World" (for Jerry Jones, the team’s owner). It’s costing in the neighborhood of one billion dollars, will have a retractable roof, and the two largest glass panels in the world. Which makes sense financially because the stadium will be in use eight times a year.

Had to once again see the Texas School Book Depository (now an excellent museum) where Oswald shot Kennedy. Forget that it’s across the street from a Morton’s Steakhouse, it’s still pretty chilling. And on the street itself are X’s where the shots landed. I don’t think they needed the guys standing around selling grisly pictures however. America remembers and profits.

Saw the grassy knoll and the white picket fence that hid the alleged “second shooter”. But it’s not the original picket fence. It’s a replica. The real one I understand (true story) was sold on ebay.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the Conspiracy Museum to reopen. Their previous landlord booted them out – a plot no doubt engineered by the CIA, Rupert Murdoch, Korean airlines, and Posh Spice. I hope my phones aren’t tapped because I wrote this.

If you go to Black Eyed Peas' and order your first chicken fried steak (like I did fifteen years ago when I was fulltime with the Mariners) don’t ask them to cook it “medium rare”. I did and it was an E.F. Hutton moment as forty guys named Dirk stared at me in disbelief and disgust.

When you think of Dallas – what comes to mind besides JFK, football, cured meats, heat prostration, people carrying weapons, the Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, rodeos, rodeo clowns like our president, country clubs, “Country” Charlie Pride, evil oil companies, the Renaissance Hotel that looks like a Bic lighter, J.R. Ewing, Dr. Pepper, Texas-Instruments, SMU, Verne Lundquist, the first Neiman Marcus, the Savings & Loan crisis, Tex-Mex, cheerleaders, and “Debbie Does”? Why radio station jingles of course! Dallas is the home of JAM Creative Productions the largest radio jingle mill in the country. Big D is filled with gifted singers who would all have huge careers if they could only sing songs that were longer than eight seconds.

There’s a chain of convenience stores called “Grab and Go”. I guess their target customers are robbers.

And the police have recently instituted a “no pursuit” rule so it’s “Grab and Go At Your Leisure”.

Goff’s Hamburgers no longer has an eight-foot statue of Vladimir Lenin out front. I don’t know about you but nothing says tasty burgers to me like the Russian Revolution.

If you want tacos there’s Taco Bueno, Taco King, Taco Cabana, Taco Bell, Taco Diner, Taco Express, Taco Grande, Taco Pronto, and Taco Loco Wagon. If you want a good deli, good luck. It’s easier to find a mountain in Dallas.

For Italian, there’s the aptly named Campisi’s Egyptian.

My dining trips took me to Pappadeaux, which was excellent (I find the more unpronounceable the title, the better the Cajun cuisine), Lawry’s for a light lunch, and Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse BBQ, clogging Dallas arteries since 1910. “Live Large, Think Pig”.

Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Mavericks, supposedly answers his email. Not true. I dropped him a note saying I’d be in town, and wondered if he could show me Bonnie Parker’s grave. He never responded, the bastard.

How perfect! There’s a highway named for George Bush… and it’s a toll road.

Guns are not allowed in bars or libraries.

Sunday night I filled in for the great Dave Neihaus and broadcast the Mariners-Rangers game back to Seattle. It was my first time in their new stadium. Originally named “the Ballpark”, they must’ve felt that was too generic because they’ve now renamed it the far more colorful, “Rangers Park”. What they really should call it is “the Typhoon”. My God! It was like the movie TWISTER. I fully expected to see a cow fly by the booth as I was describing the action.

Taking a cue from the Dodgers, the Rangers experimented this weekend with a “Country Style” section. For you tenderfoots and Jews, that means “all you can eat”. For only $29 fans could stuff themselves into oblivion. The tickets sold out almost immediately. The experiment was so successful the team next year plans to release their expensive players and replace them with corn dogs and ribs. Future tie-in promotions include: “Heart Attack Night” and “Heimlich Maneuver Night”.

We have a contest on M’s radio where we give a fan $7,000 if the team scores seven runs in the 7th inning. The Rangers had a similar one pay off last week – their “30/30” contest. If Texas scores 30 runs in a game one lucky listener wins a can of 30 grade motor oil. Enter these things because you just never know.

All in all, I had a great trip. I would’ve gained twenty pounds if I didn’t stop off at Six Flags Over Texas for some thrill rides on my way out of town.

“Live Large… or Think Bulimic.”


Anonymous said...

football is the scourge of our culture.

Christina said...

I worked in Dallas every 3rd week or so about five years ago for a year. I actually like the visit. They have great restaurants and a beautiful horizon. It's also the home of Mary Kay Cosmetics. More women have become millionaires from Mary Kay than any other company. I personally hate Mary Kay products, but I respect the statistic. Only in Dallas.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a fair review of Dallas. I am so tired of seeing our fair city represented in TV & Film by a bunch of cowboys hootin' and hollarin' like retarded chimpanzees. A great example of this phenomenon is "Serving Sara" with Matthew Perry; seriously, it pains me to watch what they did to Dallas. Oh, you have to admit the Ballpark (we still call it that) is pretty awesome… the Press Box on the other hand; not so much. Next time you’re in town, let me buy you a steak.

Anonymous said...

That better be one tough librarian if she thinks she kin make me hang up my shootin' irons before I go in to check out HARRY POTTER AND THE OK CORRAL. (Yeah, I know the OK Corral was in Arizona.) Besides, what if a book looks at me funny? Am I just supposed to take it?

It's been 31 years since I was last in Dallas, and I still haven't gotten the itch to go back. I'll settle for syndicated reruns. Who the hell did shoot JR anyway? (O yeah, Kristin. Bing shoulda raised her better.) Well, at least we know it wasn't in a library.

I still have to be careful that the shit-kicker bar I go into IS a gay bar. You know how you know if it's a gay shit-kicker bar? You hear "Oh my God, look at this mess! Do you know what I paid for these boots? They're suede! This shit will NEVER come out!"

Remind me again why we didn't just let Texas secede? Any chance they still might? And take Dubya with them?

Anonymous said...

Ken- Enjoyed seeing you and watching your arteries clog before my eyes. Since I've now lived in Dallas twice as long as I lived in NY, may I offer these observations:

If you want a good deli, good luck.

Exactly. Why do you think I have a business card from the Carnegie Deli stuck to my office door? We had one wonderful authentic NY kosher deli here named Gilbert's, but they closed last year. I used to ask the owners how they managed to be the only ones in Texas to get the food right. Answer: they flew everything in from NY.

For Italian, there’s the aptly named Campisi’s Egyptian.

Great pizza, which has no resemblance to what New Yorkers call pizza. And you never know, the lovely Amber Campisi (Playboy centerfold Feb 2005) might be tending the bar. We 'locals' are full of useful information like that.

Mark Cuban...supposedly answers his email

Just for the record, he actually does. It may take two months and you'll only get one sentence, but he does it. Punctuation and capital letters cost extra.

Dallas is the home of JAM

I KNEW there was some reason I moved here.

Big D is filled with gifted singers who would all have huge careers if they could only sing songs that were longer than eight seconds.

Eight seconds is the average time it takes to describe in song all the natural scenic wonders of North Texas. Well it's flat, and it's hot, 'till it's not, ba-da-bop. We've just been re-working that kind of little song for radio stations for 30+ years!

There. I finally posted a comment on your blog. Thank you, and thank you-FM.


Bill said...

When my brother was in grad school in Houston, I visited for a baseball week, catching an Astros-Reds series in Houston then road tripping to Dallas for a Red Sox-Rangers series. Lot of the same experiences.

I'm not entirely surprised that the conspiracy theory museum closed. It was small and generally unimpressive. I was hoping for more of the crazy tin foil hat stuff with A Beautiful Mind-like charts of global conspiracies implicating the Vatican, the Rockefellers, and the Girl Scouts in successfully conspiring to replace sugar with corn syrup in our soft drinks. Or something. But it was all the standard stuff about JFK, a few other assassination-related things, and still left two medium-sized rooms not entirely cramped.

Anonymous said...

One more thing:

There’s a highway named for George Bush… and it’s a toll road.

It's actually named for the first President Bush (small consolation). But I know people who won't use the road because they think that W is getting the money!

Mary Stella said...

Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Mavericks, supposedly answers his email. Not true. I dropped him a note saying I’d be in town, and wondered if he could show me Bonnie Parker’s grave. He never responded, the bastard.

He's training for his appearances on Dancing with the Stars

Graham Powell said...

You should have come over to Fort Worth, which moves at a slower pace than Dallas but is really a pretty cool town. Plus we have Kincaid's, the greatest hamburgers in the entire world.

Rangers note: you know you're a long-time Rangers fan if, when you heard they scored 30 runs in a game, you immediately asked, "Did they win?"

Ryan Paige said...

In the movie of "Friday Night Lights", the Dallas team (the Carter Cowboys) were the villains. Even though the TV show is of a fictional town, I'm still not over being the villain in the movie (also, the Permian Panthers kicked the crap out of my high school team every single year for a very, very long time, so screw the show inspired by those bastards).

And the Cowboys stadium will be used at least 10 times a year. There are two home preseason games each season, after all - and say what you will about preseason games, but when I worked in minor league baseball, our attendance dropped nearly 80% on the night we were up against a Cowboys preseason game on TV. (plus, the Cotton Bowl is moving to the new stadium, so that makes it 11).

"And take Dubya with them?"

Not a Texan. You're only a Texan if you're born here. He's a Connecticut Yankee as far as a good many of us are concerned.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for acknowledging some of the finer points of Dallas, such as the Crow Museum of Asian Art. Next time, you should check out the Nasher Sculpture Garden, which is home to one of the largest private collection of sculptures and artwork. You also need to try out some of the non-Texas restaurants, such Abacus, Fearing's, Tei Tei Robata, Hibiscus, The French Room, Nana, Shinsei...just to name a few random but excellent examples of Dallas' fine food culture.
In a few years, you will be able to see the new Opera House and Performing Arts Center in downtown, next to the Meyerson Symphony Center.
If you do stay in Arlington again, be sure to visit Cacharel, which is one of the longest-lasting restaurants in DFW and still serves some of the finest French cuisine in Texas. It also boasts a great view of the lights at Six Flags at night.
On top of that, there are great private art galleries featuring works of local artists, the Dallas Arboretum and White Rock Lake Park which is actually larger than Central Park, the live music scene in Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton, and surprisingly good nightlife. You can find a great neighborhood bar with a comfortable, laid back atmosphere, or you can venture into the upscale nightclubs that continue to hold prominence across the country.

Anonymous said...

Football is king in Dallas. High school games routinely draw from 20 – 50,000 people. And still, no one watches FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

Last I heard, Friday Night Lights was being broadcast on Friday Nights. Since Friday night is when high school games are played, that audience won't be at home to watch the TV show. So the natural core audience (admittedly, not huge considering the whole US, but still potentially helpful to a low-rated show) is immediately excluded. There's something entertaining in its own way about watching network programmers screw up.

R.A. Porter said...

Ryan, I'm from Connecticut. You can tell because even though I haven't lived there in a dozen years, I don't put on a fake drawl and cowboy boots and pretend to be from somewhere else. I'm quite proud to come from the Constitution State, unlike Fearless Leader (who doesn't like any Constitutions).

You can't foist him on us that easily. Even though he was born in New Haven, we're happy to rescind his Yankee-hood.

Anonymous said...

How you could've left out the simple genius of chik-fil-a and the fact that the Mariner's pinched a fat loaf in the form of a SPLIT SERIES with the Renarded Rangers is beyond my grasp.

Other topics I'm less shocked you failed to mention:

Yuniesky Bettancourt: best name in the bigs is also the most repugnant to SpellCheck.

Where does Ichiro eat in Dallas?

Does Ichiro eat in Dallas?

Taco Bueno: Best Mexican Fast food in the states that border Texas?

Anonymous said...

For a great deli, you have to go to Grapevine just north of the airport and hit Weinberger's. It's more Chicago-style than NY but it's excellent, plus they give you attitude, which I sorely miss. I've been in Texas for six years and I still can't get over how nice everyone is.

Anonymous said...

Big D is filled with gifted singers who would all have huge careers if they could only sing songs that were longer than eight seconds.

...and had a union


KLA 83 said...


The Dallas Screenwriters Association?

When do you speak at the Encino Future Farmers of America?

Ryan Paige said...

There was at least one WGA screenwriter at the DSA meeting (other than Ken, of course).

Anonymous said...

"'And take Dubya with them?'
Not a Texan. You're only a Texan if you're born here. He's a Connecticut Yankee as far as a good many of us are concerned."

I'm with R.A. on this. You guys elected him your governor, so you've claimed him. (Or are you telling me Texans would elect someone they consider a non-Texan to be their Governor?) Take him, and take him NOW.

I realize I live in a state which elected Ahnohd Schwarzenegger Governor, so we're in no position to point fingers. Tell you what; in the spirit of generosity, you can take Ahnold too. If only the great Ann Richards were still alive, I'd settle for a trade.

Ryan Paige said...

We only elected him Governor because we felt bad for his Dad losing in '92.

It was a pity vote, and we felt pretty safe since the governor has virtually no power in Texas.

Anonymous said...

The last great Deli in Dallas was a place called Phil's on Lemon Ave, i think. Real kitschy inside like the breakfast restaurant in Pulp Fiction. They closed many years ago. Though I would never move back now, Texas was very good to me during my years there. Fondly remembered.

Anybody else here remember Phil's Deli?

How about the Cellar?

or Jack Ruby strippers on Harry Hines.

Good times.

Cap'n Bob said...

My one trip to Dallas for a July comic convention did not inspire me to return. When I laft the comfort of the air-conditioned hotel I was met by a monstrous heat propelled by a stiff breeze. It worked just like a convection oven, and I felt myself being cooked as I walked down the street. I'm sure it's a nice town, but I couldn't hack the awful weather.

Anonymous said... sure to visit Cacharel, which is one of the longest-lasting restaurants in DFW and still serves some of the finest French cuisine in Texas. It also boasts a great view of the lights at Six Flags at night. ...

Just what I am looking for in a French restaurant (snerk)

Anonymous said...

I wish you would write a book of travelogues. I enjoy most things you write Ken, but I really look forward to your descriptions of the places you visit most.

Anonymous said...

"We only elected him Governor because we felt bad for his Dad losing in '92."

You FELT BAD FOR HIS DAD??? How about feeling bad for America for having had that evil shmuck as president for 4 years? In any event, shoving the imbicile son, that a more-enlightened generation would have kept locked in the attic for his whole life, into a national spotlight and handing him a political career could only serve as further embarassment for Evil George Sr.

Anonymous said...

The West End has gotten a bit down on its heels as far as a tourist location in the past couple of years (assuming that the Sonny Bryan's BBQ you went to was the one near the Depository). Since they built the American Airlines Arena to the north, the main section has lost a lot of both restaurants and tourist-trap stores. And the one-story building Dick's Last Resort is now in next to Hooters isn't nearly as much fun to throw ripped up napkins around in as when you could rain them down from the second floor onto the hostess in the old building (though I assume they still have an area where the can serve batchlorette parties their drinks in phallic-shaped glasses they way they used to upstairs).

A nice stumble through all the clubs and bars of Deep Ellum, over on the east side of the downtown area, is also an interesting way to spend the night, as long as you have nowhere to go before noon the next day. Or if you're stuck at a hotel Arlington, you can drive over to the Stockyards in Fort Worth, which is also restaurant and bar-intensive (though from first-hand experience, I don't recommend going there to drink and then trying to drive back to Dallas).

But I shudder to think what the ticket prices are going to be for the Cowboys at the Jerrydome when it opens in 2009, since we're shelling out $160 apiece for the Cowboys-Patriots game this October (of course, I also shudder to think what the ticket prices are going to be at George's new Yankee Stadium when it opens two years from now).

Ryan Paige said...


That seemed to be the most common reason I heard for voting for GWB for governor in 1994. Nobody was particularly against Ann Richards or her term of office, other than her being a Democrat in a state that had become increasingly Republican over the years (though we elected a Democratic Lt. Governor in 1994, and the Lt. Governor is considered to be the most powerful office in the state).

And there was quite a bit of talk about how GWB hadn't done anything to prepare himself for holding any kind of public office. His election really did seem like a kind of an apology for not getting GHWB elected to a second term (and maybe we felt a little bad about Ross Perot, too).

It doesn't make any sense, but that appeared to be the consensus reason for GWB's first Gubernatorial election.

And it wasn't me. I've never cast a vote for GWB.

Anonymous said...

It IS a fair review of Dallas, and Dallas does have some national if not international class cultural institutions. But, as a native Chicagoan who lived there for four years, the place is still not a real city. There are no neighborhoods where you can really walk in, no place beyond the mostly chain-driven West End Village that has any real street life with significant commercial vitality. All that shopping is to be had in malls--big malls and strip malls. The downtown is not a place where people congregate. And there are literally no independent bookstores. Only Half-Price Books and Christian bookstores. It's just one big bland, ugly suburb whose people aren't clear on the separation of church and state and therefore a most undesireable place to live.

Anonymous said...

Have lived here nearly 30 years; you pretty much nailed it.

You unfortunately missed one of the more curious Dallas marketing campaigns while you were here, though:

"Find You D-Spot."

No, I'm not kidding.

Anonymous said...

And in 2004 Lupe Valdez was elected sheriff of Dallas County. She’s the first Hispanic, first woman, and first openly gay lesbian to ever fill that role.

Well, all the straight lesbians just weren't working out, so we figured we'd try something new.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,

Enjoyed hearing you broadcast the game with Rick Rizzs Saturday. I never enjoyed listening to a (usually bad) baseball game more than when you and Dave Niehaus did them together in the early 90s.

I hope to hear more from you on that front ...

Unknown said...

It's so pleasant to read comments on a blog where the contributors don't call each other "retarded."

Anonymous said...

Can't really disagree with the negative OR positive things said so far about my home town, but I need to address the "no delis" assertion. There's a (fairly new) place at Preston Rd. & LBJ called Ed's Deli that I love and, as with the aforementioned Gilbert's, flies everything in from NY. I'd love to hear previous poster Jon's opinion of this place (or yours, Ken, next time you're in town)as I've never been any farther north than Oklahoma.

Anonymous said...

Ken (& Weepingorilla)
RE: The Big D stands for DELI.

Please tell me if this is an abuse of your comments section. I just thought a few of these factoids might be educational as well as of minor amusement.

I know Ed’s Deli flies everything in from NY. Their motto is, “Here come the knishes; there go the carbon credits.” We moved to Dallas 20 years ago (so centrally located, exactly halfway between Lubbock and Lufkin), and I finally figured out why it’s been so tough to find a decent corned beef sandwhich. Here, they use up all the brisket for BBQ! (Why waste it on a Reuben?)

But there are 5 delis and one colossal supermarket chain where you can get corned beef and pastrami that isn’t made out of shoulder or top round (which I wouldn’t even recommend to a goy). The supermarkets are the larger Tom Thumbs in N. Dallas where the kosher meat section gives you a choice between the aforementioned shoulder or brisket. I recommend taking out the second mortgage and going for the brisket.

The delis are your Ed’s, then Bagelstein’s at Arapaho and Coit (which still sounds like only half a name.) I’ve been trying to convince them to open a second place called Bride of Bagelstein. Then Deli News, also in Far N. Dallas, and finally the two Cindi’s NY Deli and Bakeries. One at Campbell at Coit and the original on Central Expressway at Northhaven next-to-the-Discount Casket-store-I-am-not-making-this-up.

Cindi’s is an amazing story. Taken over 20 years ago from the original Jewish owner by Anh Tran and her family, Vietnamese boat people. Customers kept asking why she didn’t open a Vietnamese restaurant. She said she never cooked in Vietnam, she only learned in Texas. Only a notch below Carnegie grade, but the best thing is, because they’re also a bakery, you can even get black and white cookies or a charrah (er, excuse me, challah).

I would recommend trusting these professionals for all your Hebraic meat needs after my harrowing experience Memorial Day. Kroger’s supermarket had a phenomenal sale on brisket ($1.99lb). Unfortunately the smallest you could buy was 14 lbs. “No problem,” I said, I’ll save one-third as brisket, smoke another third for BBQ (fyi 6hrs.) and pickle the rest into corned beef. How hard could it be?”

Gathering the pickling spices, I discovered I was only one ingredient short – potassium nitrate, which arguably doesn’t contribute flavor but is essential to keep the meat nice and pink. Just like at the deli, rather than turning an ominous gray. All the recipes said “Readily available at my neighborhood pharmacy."

Well the first didn’t have any, but, with a smirk, informed me that potassium nitrate is SALTPETER. That’s one of the 3 ingredients in gunpowder, and as you probably know, also the legendary secret food additive allegedly employed liberally by prep schools and the US Army to keep a guy’s mind on either studies or combat.

I tried 5 pharmacies, none of which has carried said product since Oklahoma City -- even though that was a Ryder Rental truck full of Ammonium Nitrate, not the Potassium variety. But evidently close enough. You don’t know how tiring it is continuously explaining to pharmacists that, no, you are not another Timothy McVeigh; all you want is a sandwich.

I finally scored a 4-oz. jar of the stuff at Dougherty’s independent Drug Store, after changing my story. I explained that I was one of those guys everybody keeps hearing about with erections that last more than 4 hours. And I was getting’ pretty sick of it.