Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tha West Side is Tha Best Side

Let's show these fools how we do this on that west side,

Cause you and I know it's tha best side.

- 2Pac

For those of you not from Texas or one of the plains states, this is a tornado - specifically, it is the tornado that shattered Fort Worth's "West Side Bubble" in 2000.
The steeple in the background belongs to the First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth. My church. When I say that the tornado hit close to home, I am not exaggerating. The path of the tornado, essentially, was West 7th Street. I office at the corner of 7th and Throckmorton downtown, and my neighborhood, Arlington Heights, begins where 7th Street ends and turns into Camp Bowie Boulevard. FUMC falls in between. Mercifully, the tornado picked up, went over my building, missed the church, and picked up again just east of our neighborhood.

But it took out a LOT of stuff between points A and B.

This is (sort of) the story of a tornado, and why that tornado cemented a girl's love for her adopted hometown in general, and her adopted 'hood in particular.

You've heard of making lemonade out of lemons, right? Well, the West Side decided to make a lemon souffle. A big, fluffy one, worthy of "Top Chef," with a beautiful lemon glaze drizzled over the top. Everything was rebuilt - but it was rebuilt bigger, and much, MUCH better, and for the most part folks avoided the temptation to raze stuff and start from scratch. They used what was there. Literally.

This "sculpture" sits outside of the new post office building. (No, the tornado didn't take out the post office. Long story, but in a nutshell - the USPS agreed to give up its prior location in exchange for the developer building a brand new post office building. You read that right - the federal government actually cooperated and recognized a good deal when it was offered one.)

The artist who created the sculpture? A true visionary named Mother Nature. These steel beams used to support a billboard. Now they are public art.

One of the biggest tornado casualties, the old Montgomery Ward catalog building, was converted into a mixed use residential project, the commercial component of which, anyone who knows me will tell you, is the actual, factual center of my personal universe. See, behind the beautifully restored Monkey Ward's building (which now has a boulevard cutting through it - hard to describe, really cool in person), there lies the most fabulous Super Target on the planet. Seriously. I have visited others. They pale in comparison. When it was under construction, I drove by it twice a day. In my head, I did the "OPEN, OPEN, OPEN" hand routine from the old Mervyn's commercial.

Then, one night when I was out driving (I forget my actual intended destination), I drove by Super Target for the heck of it (knowing that the grand opening wasn't scheduled for a few days) - and the doors were open. And they let me in. And, that night, I had the Montgomery Plaza Super Target all to myself. As I recall, it was right before Halloween, too. So I shopped the newly stocked shelves of the Halloween section of the Montgomery Plaza Super Target all by myself. It was so peaceful there. I'm getting a little misty-eyed just thinking about it.

Anyway, since then, rarely a day goes by without a trip to the MPST. It's less than a five-minute drive either way (from the office or from the house), so it's the no-brainer choice for - well, for just about everything.

This is the gorgeous view of downtown Fort Worth as you approach my beloved MPST, along with another "night shot" of Montgomery Plaza:

Between MPST and our 'hood are situated three of the best art museums in the country - the Kimbell, the Amon Carter and the Modern. Here is some more public art, courtesy of the Modern and the Kimbell:

The rusted thing in the background is Richard Serra's "Vortex." It's hard to grasp the scale of the piece from the picture, so I'll just tell you - it's 67 feet and 230 tons of awesomeness. Why is it awesome? Ask my sons, who could spend hours in the "Pretend-cano" (a young Parker's description of what he viewed as being a volcano-like object). Best description that I have heard of it is that the piece is a giant acoustic bell, and you, the visitor, are the clapper. You go inside, and every noise that you make reverberates and is amplified. What I really like about it: the more subtle the sound, the greater the effect. A whisper or a foot shuffle is far more impressive than a scream or a stomp, driving home (maybe) a point that we try to impress on the kids - well, pretty much on a daily basis.

In the foreground is Joan Miro's "Woman Addressing the Public." Which the kids like because it's freakish-looking. And which my husband likes because the reverse side looks like this.

He would like to think that the large hollowed-out area is the woman's mouth. Because she is addressing the public in a typical female fashion. Alternative title of this piece, according to him, could be "Woman Shrewing her Husband."

I could go on all day about the quality of the art at these three museums, but to sum: Fort Worth has really cool art. Housed in really cool buildings. Architecture snobs will recognize the work of Louis I. Kahn (the Kimbell), Tadao Ando (the Modern) and Philip Johnson (the Carter):

Non-architecture snobs will simply say, "Wow, cool buildings."

Rounding out the museum campus are the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, which houses both the Fort Worth Children's Museum (pictured below) and the Cattle Raisers Museum (so, kind of a three-for-one).

Continuing on the "great architecture" theme, the new FWMSH building, pictured above, was designed by the Legorreta + Legorreta firm - which, contrary to my kids' insistence, has no connection with a certain Danish toymaker. Although the lantern on top does look awfully LEGO-like . . . . We spend a LOT of time at the FWMSH. It's a kid magnet, and the new facility is ridiculously awesome - although we have a lot of fond memories of the old building. We also have a lot of fond memories of the construction period in between, chief among them: (1) navigating temporary walkways and barriers while taking ten nine year-olds to the Omni for Connor's "Night at the Museum"-themed birthday (on what had to be the coldest November night on record); and (2) seeing "The Polar Express" (for the first time - where WAS I all of those years?) at the same Omni Theater, just Parker and me, both of us in our pajamas, drinking complimentary Starbucks hot chocolate and marveling at the construction-themed Christmas tree in the atrium (the atrium and the theater being more or less the only parts of the old building still standing). If you're ever looking for a new holiday tree "concept," I highly recommend shopping the Home Depot - you can do a lot with yellow caution tape, levels and T squares, with some Bob the Builder-type vehicles thrown in for good measure.

It was during our Mom-and-son Polar Express outing that Parker discovered that he really LOVES hot chocolate (Starbucks or otherwise), and that was also the day that he and I conquered our respective Omni phobias. See, every Omni show in Fort Worth begins with a mini-movie, taken from the perspective of a cameraman in a helicopter flying over downtown Fort Worth, which helicopter gets way too close (for my comfort) to various buildings. Interesting factoid: Connor's friend's grandfather shot that footage. Another interesting factoid: I could not switch jobs with Connor's friend's grandfather, not for any sum of money. To say that watching the film gives me vertigo is an understatement. I usually clamp my eyes shut, and Parnell tells me when it's over.

Parker's Omni phobia? "The black part." Yeah, we had no idea what he was talking about, either, at least not at first. We finally figured out that he was objecting to the demonstration of the Omni's acoustic system. The lights in the theater are dimmed, the screens go black, and one by one they illuminate a speaker, and that speaker plays a distinctive, very loud and bone-resonating tone. For whatever reason, this seemingly innocuous demonstration scared the bejeepers out of our youngest son, who was fine while he was drinking hot chocolate in the atrium but had to be dragged into the theater proper and had a panic attack while waiting for "the black part" to start. So I confessed to him my issue with the downtown flyover, and he saw in his mother a kindred spirit. No, totally kidding, he took the opportunity to make fun of me:

"Mom, that's just dumb. The helicopter part isn't scary AT ALL."

So we cut a deal - he agreed to try to remain calm during "the black part" if I would keep my eyes open during "the helicopter part." We held hands. And, you know, it worked! I am pleased to report that I now watch the flyover every time. It still makes me a TAD nauseated, but all in all it's tolerable.

So, for a myriad of reasons, we're big fans of the FWMSH. We're big fans of the museum district in general. We're really big fans of the fact that the museum district lies six blocks from our house. Not that we have ever actually WALKED there (they are LONG blocks), but it's somehow tremendously satisfying to know that we could walk, if we wanted to.

Between the museums and downtown, and across the street from the world's best Super Target, a BUNCH of stuff is happening - condos, restaurants, condos above restaurants, a three-story Movie Tavern (soon to be joined by a Lucky Strikes bowling alley), boutiques, miscellaneous bars and live music venues . . . but what really makes me happy is that, in the midst of all of this shiny, contemporary, "sort of Dallas-y but we try to ignore that" new construction stands THIS:

This is Fred's Texas Cafe - home of some truly amazing hamburgers and really cold beer. The interior of Fred's looks much like the exterior. Regulars got angry when the replaced the naugahyde booth seats, because sitting on exposed springs and tufts of foam was part of the "experience." There is a piano on the porch. I'm not entirely sure why. Bikers like Fred's. So do families. The chef, Terry Chandler (AKA "The Outlaw Chef") is a flippin' gourmet chef, whose "blue-plate specials" could rival anything you can get in fancier digs.

In addition to being a great hangout, Fred's is an important landmark, because the 7th Street development is LOOOOOOOONG - blocks and blocks long. At one end is Fred's, and at the other end is Trinity Park, inspiring Bud Kennedy, local food critic and all-around funny guy, to refer to the east side of the development as "The Shops at the Duck Pond" and the west side of the development as "The Shops at Fred's." Naturally, this nomenclature stuck at the McGlinchey household.

Describing things as being "near Fred's" also allows one to avoid having to pronounce "Foch," which is one of the main thoroughfares through the area. Being a German word, it's pronounced a lot like a certain word that it sort of resembles. However, no one really feels COMFORTABLE pronouncing it that way, so you hear a lot of variations. My personal favorite is when people pronounce it "faush," like it's French. Which it clearly isn't. Anyway, a whole lot easier to say, "Oh, it's over by Fred's."

What else do we have going for us on the near west side? Well, we have really inventive crazy people:

Yes, that's a naked guy, sitting on a sign for the "Museum of Living Art" at the Fort Worth Zoo ("Museum of Living Art" being a synonym for "really kick-butt herpetarium") touting art that looks at you. We also have really creative crafty people:

Before you ask, it's a "traffic sign cozy" - crocheted and whipstitched to the pole. It's red, yellow and green, mimicking the colors of a traffic light . . . because the sign advertises the location of a traffic intersection camera. Not sure if the person who made this was silently protesting the placement of the camera (or a society where cameras have replaced people), or seeking to draw attention to the sign (and, thereby, the camera). Or maybe he or she was just trying to be funny. Or thought that the sign looked a bit chilled.

What makes me laugh is that no one has made a move to take down the cozy.

When I hear people refer to our area as "The Bubble," I wonder if that term really fits. To me, "bubble" has connotations of "staid" and "coddled." Yes, all of our kids wear uniforms to school - private and public alike - but that's a citywide thing. Likewise, all of our trash receptacles look the same, but that's not unique to the West Side, either. If left to their own devices, most West Siders would opt out of uniforms and identical yard carts. Our trash cans may be Stepford, but we are not. We are cheerfully artsy and individualistic and just a bit off-kilter.

And that's why my family lives where we live.

Oh, and one more thing about the tornado: the residential neighborhood that was the hardest hit is called Lindale. After the storm, Lindale had new street signs made. The signs have a tornado on them.

THAT'S how we roll on the West Side of the 817 . . . .

1 comment:

Courtney said...

really enjoyed this blog!