Wednesday, May 30, 2007

15/4/07 Dallas, Texas – Keep the Red Horse Flying

Sometime towards the end of this day, we realised I had not seen the front of Cath's parents' house, despite having stayed there for two days. Every time we had gone in or out, it was via the garage (or gararge as they mispronounce it here). Just so as I could have a glimpse, and to make sure no one had stolen it, we drove past the front on our way round to the back and the gararge.

The equivalent area in the UK would be one of those new estates with multiple branching roads that end in scores of cul-de-sacs where every house looks exactly the same, externally at least. From the air in the UK, they look like My First Mandelbrot Picture. The US equivalent is much improved. Not least because they have much more spare room. The other reason is that individualisation within boundaries is highly prized in the US, and each house is built according to a template. You pick one of the two or three templates (both single and double storey) and then from a number of variables including brickwork, floor types, window style, etc. Of course the mock castle style is an option and in one template, pillars are standard. The result is that on first glance, all the houses are different, but on the second viewing, you can easily see that the models are, and what options exist. But at least every single house is almost unique, even if you will have at least one neighbour with a bungalow in the style of a castle.

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Once upon a time, the Magnolia Building of the Magnolia Petroleum Company (later Mobil Oil) was the tallest building in Dallas. With its huge red Pegasus (flying horse), it was a shining beacon marking the dominance of the Magnolia Petroleum Company. Today it is about half the height of some of the newer buildings and looking a little shabby, like an aging footballer amongst the latest batch of basketball players.
Before our first appointment, we drove around a few of the sites of downtown Dallas, including the famous Children's Book Repository from which Kennedy was missed and the nightclub area of Deep Ellum (an African American pronunciation of the street Elm that stuck and became the name of that part of town).

Today's main event was a family reunion of Catherine's father's side of the family, mainly in honour of her grandfather and grandmother. Yes, the same grandfather who was honoured yesterday. It wasn't a coincidence.

From the 28th floor of the hotel where the event took place, we could look down on the Magnolia Building nestling between its larger neighbours. It was hard not to feel sorry for it.

The event was a heart-warming look at the lives of members of a strong American family and of its two figureheads. There were frequent tales recalling the days of segregation-era America. With stories of things you can scarcely believe happened in living memory of people in a supposedly civilised country. Things like the park in between the grandparent's house and the shops being for whites only. But the tale was amusingly told - a couple of the kids would go to the park which was sometimes guarded by some odious offspring from the white part of town and put just a foot into the park to tease and torment the odious ones. And had a happy ending - the park was eventually made open to everybody through an appeal by the grandfather. But still it makes the hair on your back bristle.

Basically, you could say I had a crash course in Cath's family and its history in a way most boyfriends take years to accumulate.

We ended the day at David's Seafood Restaurant for some contemplative perch and gumbo. And before you ask, David was not another relative but a man who likes to cook fish. Or rather he likes to leave the fish cooking to subordinates and wonder round his restaurant badgering the guests into telling him everything was okay. And it wasn't just David himself. Two separate waiters on at least three occasions came and bothered us with this enquiry. This was a lot even by American standards.

2 comments:

getreal said...

Why are you critizing the way we talk and spell in Texas? I think it is cute being from Md. myself.

Fred West said...

Nice. I lived in Dallas when the Magnolia Building with its big red horse was the tallest structure on the skyline. Good memories!