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.   

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