Thursday, December 2, 2010

Life Really is Too Short to Live in Dallas

My occupation is an odd combination of intellectual dexterity, emotional intelligence, and reasonable taste. It was in the latter vein that I was dispatched to find gifts for an internal meeting next year of senior management from all over the United States and Latin America. 

I don't really mind doing these things, as it's a break from my desk and the hundreds of emails that flood towards me all day and night, an aspect of working for a global organization that it took me a long while to manage.  ("Just turn it off when you go to sleep," offered a partner in my early days.  So much for that.  When I wake at three-thirty for my regular worry session, I can't help but scan the Blackberry for urgent messages.  And even if I slumber through the night, an increasingly rare thing, I look at the damn thing before I even get out of bed.)  

At any rate, when I got marching orders to look at Texas-themed gifts, I went to what I consider the real thing:  Fort Worth. When I moved here over a decade ago, I heard again and again that the FW of DFW was a completely different animal than the Big D.  At Railhead, a Fort Worth barbeque place owned by a local who is also a state congressman, the shirts read, "Life is too short to live in Dallas."  The lore I learned early on included the story, perhaps apocryphal though it feels true, that Amon Carter, the millionaire who started Fort Worth's Star-Telegram newspaper and who founded the first television station in the area, is said to have packed a lunch before visiting Dallas rather than spending his money there. 

I didn't know or care a thing about Dallas until three years ago, when I started commuting in that direction.  I've tried to be open-minded, as an aspiring urban soul who lived in Toronto for seven years. To be sure, there are some great places to shop and a few tightly-wound restaurants.  I've worked with people who live there and gotten to even like a few, but I always feel like a tourist. Additionally, I've experienced quite sincere pity from my Cowtown friends.  They don't understand my protests about "world class" and "global."  Why can't I just stay home and make a ten-minute commute?  Surely there is something I can do. Well, I have two kids and my opportunities lie outside the Gateway to the West. 

Nevertheless, my loyalty in tact, I went to a fabulous store in Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth, and managed to find myself some pretty hot premium denim, and I coveted a pair of six hundred dollar boots.  For the work task, I found some beautiful cufflinks, a silver money clip, a proper buckle for a leather strap, and some coffee table books.  These, the Dallas partner (okay, he's actually from the Midwest, but he's been here as long as I have, so no excuses) pronounced "cowboy" and "hick."  I agreed with the first characterization, because I've met more than a few cowboys who are worth a lot more than a Dallas lawyer--they might have manure on their boots, but money spews forth from their granddaddies' acreage, and they are Real Texas Men, which as my readers know is irresistable to me--but took exception to the second. 

Several years ago, another Dallas lawyer explained his city to me: "Dallas is not like Fort Worth.  We are aspirational.  We want to be L.A."  He seemed, inexplicably, to believe this was a good thing.  As those in West Texas would say, Big hat, no cattle.

So I'll work in Dallas--because I don't have a granddaddy with an acreage and this is my gig and the deal that goes with it--but every weekday evening when I drive back across the Tarrant County line, I exhale.  I love my town and its contradictions: rich yet unpretentious, conservative but live and let live, sleepy yet full of a fair number of scandalous open secrets, a big city that acts like a small town. Fort Worth grows and has ever more to offer, but it never forgets where it came from. 


  1. Love, love, love this! So true. And I can guess who said what! When I came to Ft. Worth (my friends from Chicago live there), I had the BEST time. I want to come back. Can't wait.

  2. Ah, Kathy, you know all too well who said it! Hope to see you here in Cowtown soon!

  3. When I tell people I'm from Fort Worth, and they react with a wee bit of sympathy in their voices, I don't bother to address those perceptions. I figure the FW secret will get out soon enough, but until then I'm happy to let folks on the other side of the metroplex think we're backward hicks. Bless their hearts.