Category Archives: Exploring

My visits.

A Uniquely American Evening When Fear And Scarcity Seemed To Fade Away

What’s your idea of a pleasant evening in America?

I don’t watch reality television shows or participate in politics. I don’t spend hours endlessly looking through celebrity Twitter feeds or trolling Instagram. I even limit my time on Facebook.

Further, I’m not very patriotic. I’ll never fly an American flag because I don’t believe America is better than other nations or that my way of life is superior to another.

But I enjoy having unique experiences that make me feel good about myself and about the world. I like feeling proud to be part of the human race.

Yesterday evening in Fort Worth was a good one for me – something that’s perhaps only available for experiencing in today’s America.

It started at Chadra Mezza and Grill, a restaurant owned by a Lebanese couple where there’s pizza, pasta, gyro, hummus and Greek salad on the $8 Wednesday night buffet. There’s a beautiful patio where some men were enjoying a hookah and a family was enjoying the food. Inside, we ate plenty – and so do did the Catholic couple who prayed before their meal and then made the sign of the cross before eating lots of cucumbers, pita chips and mahummara.

One older woman enjoyed three plates of food while her husband worked his way through a single piece of pizza.

When we were done with dinner, we made a conscious effort to see what everyone else was doing by visiting Sundance Square Plaza downtown. There was a private party in progress apparently celebrating American Airlines and their new service to China.

We were surprised to see American success story Luke Wade headlining the party, and there was plenty of room for the public to have a seat and watch. Luke is a small town boy like me, and he has overcome physical illness and injury to find success, thanks in large part to, ironically, a reality show.

While he sang, Chinese businesspeople passed around cowboy hats, at fancy food from the Reata and stood around taking it all in. And people of all kinds stopped to sing along with the music and dance a bit.

One group of women particularly liked Luke’s version of “Lean on Me”.

In a shelter at the back of the pavilion, a group of young people played cards. A few tables over, a young man sat down facing Mecca and said his evening prayers. A few minutes later, his friends did the same thing. I was pleased to see that, especially since I had seen a Bible study group in that same shelter a few months ago. It just seemed right.

At the restaurant and the plaza, I was among people who were enjoying themselves and each other.

As the show ended at the plaza, the Muslim guys headed to the same parking garage where we parked. And we all went on with our lives here in America.

It made me feel proud to have a great experience in a great American town. I didn’t see any flags.

And it enhanced my experience to see that others of diverse background, religions and ideas were enjoying the same evening in the same town – doing pretty much the same things we were.

Today’s America makes that uniquely American evening in Fort Worth possible. Freedom allows diverse people to come together and share their interests at the points where their interests touch and cross over.

Today’s America is a place where everyone can do what they like and others have no reason to interfere, judge or feel limited. It’s a place where there’s plenty for everyone and no reason to feel scared or concerned when others get their share too.

For me, being free in today’s America trumps everything else.

An Evening In Fort Worth, Texas Without A Plan Can Serve A Purpose

When we’re out on the town in Fort Worth, we usually spend our time at events like plays, concerts and art openings. We rarely go out without a real plan. But we did twice last week, and both evenings went really well. What do you do when you don’t have a plan?

Last Wednesday, we started out with our usual walk and did some necessary shopping. Then David sold a few books at Half Price Books on Hwy. 183. Part of simple living is getting rid of things you don’t need, after all. The highlight of the evening was our first visit to Le’s Wok, a little Asian restaurant in a convenience store on the Near South Side with a great back story about the family who owns it recovering from an attack and competing with the newly opened QT convenience store across the street.

We picked up some cinnamon rolls at Esperanza’s on Park Place (where a sign says the parking is only for Ezmerelda’s patrons!) and then stopped by the Clearfork Food Park where there were two guys playing music and a private party of some kind in progress. We wandered on the river a bit and marveled at a big white bird. Then we finished the evening with some chocolate custard at Curly’s Frozen Custard on Camp Bowie. We should have had peach again, but I wanted something different.

We had no real reason to go out again the next night, but I wanted to. So we took back two of the things we bought on Wednesday that didn’t work and headed toward the Cultural District. We didn’t want to spend much money on dinner, so In-N-Out served the purpose. (Our current order is singles without cheese, mustard instead of sauce, add pickles and onions. I give David my tomato.) Then we strolled through the Amon Carter to have another look at an exhibit that we hadn’t enjoyed the previous week and see if we could make more sense of it. We did.

Next, we headed down Summit to check out the cramped newish Goodwill near Cleburne Road at Berry. After examining an ancient rice cooker and looking at a selection of DVDs that included a collection of Mormon sermons, we pointed the car toward Central

Market. The goal was to get a piece of Italian cream cake to share for dessert, but somewhere between Tom Thumb and Trader Joe’s on Hulen we decided to have a dipped cone at McDonald’s instead, a good choice.

So what made these two evenings out so nice? They don’t sound very interesting, do they? They were opportunities to recover from the big experiences of life instead of actually being experiences in their own right. They provided time for us to unwind, let our sore muscles heal and clear our heads. And they were meaningful times together when no one else was looking.

In fact, maybe I shouldn’t have shared so much about our two uneventful evenings on the town. Some Fort Worth secrets are best left unspoken, I suppose.

But I want to make sure you never feel like you’ve run out of things to do. Instead, unplanned evenings out are times when you’re recovering from previous experiences and planning for others. There are concerts, plays, art galleries and, of course plenty of hours of work of one kind or another ahead of you. But why not put those out of your mind and stay in the moment? It might be a moment when looking at all the buttons on an old rice cooker is entertainment enough.

Downtown Fort Worth And Sundance Square Are Sad Now, But Can They Recover?

No one disputes that the new development along West 7th St. in Fort Worth has stolen something from downtown Fort Worth and its Sundance Square development. But can the city’s central business district become a tourist destination and hangout for locals again?

Sure it can, but many, many things will have to change first. Downtown Fort Worth is a sad place to visit now, and that will be difficult for developers to overcome.

When I worked at RadioShack’s corporate headquarters in the late 1990s, Sundance Square was booming. My employer was even in on the act with its ill-devised and ill-fated Fort Worth Outlet Square mall. (Developing a shopping center with the idea of beautifying your corporate headquarters instead of attracting customers and filling underserved niches was a bad idea.)

Then, two movie theaters gave people a reason to come downtown. A thriving Barnes and Noble bookstore gave them something to do if they finished dinner 30 minutes before their movie, play or concert started. And a number of eclectic shops made wandering the streets an enjoyable part of every evening downtown.

Slowly, things began to erode. Even before ground was broken on the new 7th St. development, Sundance Square started to lose its luster. The rest of downtown never really had much luster to lose.

The destructive tornado that hit downtown in 2000 did plenty of damage, but the area recovered from that. It didn’t last long, however.

One of the movie theaters closed to become some kind of conference center. Iconic hamburger joint Billy Miner’s closed, but you couldn’t really blame the owner for wanting to retire. Other established restaurants came and went, and new restaurants went before anyone knew they had come.

The changes at the Barnes and Noble are among the saddest for me. I’ve spent many hours — in 15 or 20 minute chunks — wandering, sitting and sipping in that bookstore, but most of the furniture has been removed now. The number of books has been dramatically reduced as well. The upstairs area above the entrance was once a great place to overlook the happenings at the restaurant 8.0. With no furniture, the windows have lost their appeal. Never mind that 8.0 is gone.

And what were the owners of 8.0 thinking when they put that massive and ugly cover over their well-regarded patio? Now, the heat stays in, and young customers of the new Flying Saucer will never know how beautiful that big patio was before th

at monstrous plastic thing covered it up.

At least one supposedly positive sign for downtown Fort Worth turned out to be a flop. Oliver’s Fine Foods promised downtown the grocery store it never had but delivered yet another sandwich shop instead. My review of Oliver’s a few months ago expressed my disappointment, and things had not improved on a recent visit. It may be a successful sandwich shop at lunch, but rotten lettuce and single celeries don’t make for a great grocery store.

I attended two nights of the Colonial golf tournament after-party in Sundance Square recently, but few others joined me. The concerts were great, but the few vendors combined with the band members sometimes outnumbered the audience of paying beer drinkers. A walk around downtown both nights helped me see that there was no one downtown from which the party could draw.

The cartooned construction walls signal another chance at revival for Sundance Square, but a new plaza and some new buildings won’t necessarily bring back the energy the area once had — or the people, who will have probably found a good place to park on West 7th by then.

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