Saturday, August 30, 2014

Valley View and Pan Pipes

I recently took a 2 minute drive east and took a leisurely walk around Valley View Center.  It's a mall, much like the Macon Mall in Georgia, or Crossroads mall in Oklahoma City, which, in the prime of its existence, was the most attractive shopping destination in Dallas. But bigger and better things are built. Superhighways of goods flow across the Internet, and towers of glass and steel rise above the horizon, leaving the flat shopping paradise behind.  They have a web site dedicated just to those slabs of granite, Deadmalls,, that paint in detail the dying world of shopping malls.  But where people see crime infested corners and empty shops, bringing poverty and depression, I see a world filled with potential.  Perhaps those in this part of the world do, too.  For what is now inside Valley View Center is worth the notice of any traveler to Dallas.

Upon entering, you see that the shops are indeed closed. Go on a Sunday, like I did, and the entire mall is basically empty. But the few signs of life are vibrant, colorful. A church gathers in one small shop and sings patriotic hymns, praying for our nation. An artist works in his shop, preparing paintings for the next week.  The lights from the dance studio are on, thought no one is inside, and the lady on the second floor selling fake Peruvian jewelry has Incan Pan Flute music playing, and it echoes throughout the empty hallways.

Upstairs, the mall has been turned into an art gallery, each framed and ready to sell, for the right price. It's here that my dad would have felt right at home. He was a sprinkler engineer, and designed pipe layouts for skyscrapers like the Peachtree Tower in Atlanta, and the giant glass greenhouse and Arboretum in Oklahoma City. In his mind, the steel beams ran through the walls, across floors and elevators, and in those urban landscapes, I'm sure he saw the construction of those buildings in his mind. Why not see the ideal structures erected inside your mind while the real ones, imperfect maybe, slowly assemble up from the rock and the noise of the construction crew. He would have seen these paintings, of urban landscapes such as those of Ozz Franca, a Brazilian painter who drew abstract landscapes of towers and bridges (as well as Native American portraits), and he would have loved them. The fantasy works that might as well have illustrated the covers of his science fiction novels, the geometric designs filled with color and depth... these are the things he would have loved.  I hung (or will hang) the ones my dad had in their bedroom in my living room.

I know that James (a co-worker from Borders) would have loved the gigantic space to work and create art and sell it to the world.  The idea is amazing, that the owners of this mall could turn it into a service based center for arts and movement, the tactile creations when we move our bodies and create.  They have a boxing ring there, for lessons, and a place for martial arts. There are soothing spas for the masseuse who has learned to press stress from the body. And all the while, the music of the pan pipes play, and the colors from the murals dance. There is no other place, except the dirt trails that meander through the forests, where I could be utterly at peace.  It's evident that the Hispanic culture has influenced the culture around here, but also that of Japan and China, and that of America. 

As I left, I found a Western shop, where cowboy hats could be bought, and boots, and jeans. All symbols of the Nostalgic American West. It is a part of this country, just as the Mexican culture and the Japanese culture are as well. We think of Hispanics and we immediately think of those who would cross over the Rio Grande, smuggling drugs and bringing their crime-ridden pasts with them. But remember that also, they bring with them a vibrant culture of food (which I'm sure I'll sample much of), art, music, and a hard work ethic. Let's not throw the amazing things humans can do out with the vices and flaws that we all have.  I'm not saying we should just give everyone amnesty (in fact, I have no real solution to the problems facing our country today). Perhaps, though, if we went inside this center of beauty in the middle of Dallas, and saw the colors of paint dipped onto easels, and heard the melodies of the Incan Pan Pipes, maybe some thoughts would come to us.  It's worth a try.   

Friday, August 22, 2014

Letter from the Apartment

Silly morning rains... I was sitting in a chair next to the pool in the apartment complex where I live now. Dallas, Texas. I was waiting for my laundry to finish, and it was so peaceful that I thought, "This is a perfect place to write blogs." So I went back to my bedroom and got my AlphaSmart 3000, which is a cordless typewriter with a usb plug, and I started walking back to the pool when it started sprinkling.  Looks like it's stopped now...

Now, back by the pool. I was reading a book, as well, and I didn't want the pages to get wet. I've said before that reading a book is much like taking a dip in this pool in front of me. You can only stay underwater for so long, then you have to come up for air. Same thing with books. For me, I can only read for so long, then I have to come up to reality for a time, to breathe, to relaign myself with this world and place.

I think the same thing goes with television series as well.  I haven't hooked up the cable or Internet yet, so I've been watching seasons of Star Trek DS9 while unpacking boxes and the like.  I remember thinking, as I drifted off to sleep that night that, there was no need for my brother to send the things I had forgotten in Georgia, that he could just beam them over.  Problem was, I'm not in the 24th century, nor have transporters been invented yet.  A shame, it would have made moving much simpler.  Of course, if that economy was here, now, I wouldn't have this job.  Textbooks would be on tablets (more so than they are now... as life imitates fiction), and there would be no need to buy them. I can't help but think that the world of the Federation, with the technological breakthroughs that they would have, the whole idea of Capitalism would fall by the wayside. I know that some references are made to credits and rations when it came to Transporter usage and trade with other races... but the society would work on a service base, not one of marketing goods and materials.  Only what you could make yourself through your own skills would be marketable through some kid of market.  Like Cisko's father's restaraunt in New Orleans, for instance. But I've digressed. I'm sure enough theses have been written on the economy of Rodenberry's world that I have nothing to add.

Like I said, I haven't had Internet at my apartment since I moved in, and while that will change in couple of weeks, I've not had a place to work on blogs, save for the Subway next to the bookstore, which has a row of computers. It's been a pain, but, no major withdrawls, since I can access it from time to time.

Dallas' summers are dry (except for the occassional summer storms which, when it rains, forms a private lake outside my apartment. I'm sure if a Tropical system ever parks over Texas like Alberto did in Georgia in 94, I would have flooding issues. But for now, I wont worry about it. The hot summers are tempered by low humidity and a nice breeze that keeps 100 degrees not feeling so bad.  It would be unbearable in the humid, muggy, Georgia climate.

My apt. is underneath the left chimney in front of the
building on the left side. 
I'm very satisfied with the apartment complex I've moved into. The Arts At Midtown right next to the Galleria Mall. Very quiet, great security, I feel at peace here.  Moving into an apartment, however, teaches you certain things. Living by myself, I didn't realize that there's no reason to have 50 cups or three sets of silverware (which was too heavy for the board shelf it was on, and came crashing down inside the cupboard one afternoon). I use the dishwasher (I have a dishwasher!!) and clean the same three plates and the same two or three cups and silverware that I use every three or so days.  So unless I have a large gathering (not going to happen...), all these dishes will remain stashed away.  I think laundry room ettiquite is not practiced in most places. In a laundry room with 10 washers (and 4 are out of order) and 8 dryers, it's not necessary to bring 6 loads of laundry to do all at once. Do a couple a day, or whatever, and let more people clean their clothes.  I only have three loads total, and so I've done two on Sunday, and I'll do the other tomorrow.

I'm in building S.

All the things I talked about several years ago about the way a town should be built is realized here in North Dallas. Apartments, houses, all right next to shopping centers, parks, colleges, and offices, all so that you never have to drive more than 10 minutes to work.  Assuming that I never drove out of the area around me, I could easily fill my tank up every two or three weeks, and that would be sufficient for my needs. Or, I could walk, or tke the DART bus. But with the amount of gas I save just by being right here, I doubt it would be necessary. I could walk about 10 minutes and get to a Target, Burger King, Macdonalds, two shopping malls, quite a few other restaurants, and probably a bank, if I wanted to switch. Not to mention the parks around where I work, with miles of trails.  This is the way a town was supposed to be constructed.


Yeah, I know, no big philosophical musings in this blog, just the act of living my life in a new place, and being on my own to do it.  Perhaps just surviving is the greatest happiness we could have, and no lofty ideals should ever climb above that.  I keep thinking back to Voltaire's Candide, where his answer to the best of all possible worlds is simply to live in a house and till one's gardens.  I don't have any gardens to till, but I know it's a metaphoric garden. My little spot in this world is my garden, and I shall nuture it and watch it grow.