Tourists in our own hometowns

Gas prices, airplane fares, and other economic conditions are causing many Americans to rethink the traditional summer vacation. Our workday commutes are pushing lots of to use mass transit where it's available. Some of us have the option of using mass transit to become tourists in our hometown. It just takes a little mindset shifting.

In an area like the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex there are an amazing number of possible attractions and events to see on any day or night of the week. Most residents never sample even a fraction of the possibilities, myself included. Many residents travel the same route everyday in their car, and never experience it on foot or by train, myself included We are always going and going, driving past the pretty little park, but never getting out of the car to walk past the flowers to sit on the bench.

Last evening I had the chance to ride the light rail to downtown Dallas to hear a "casual concert" by the Dallas Symphony. The ride gave me chances to see the impressive amount of construction going on along the DART rail corridor.

A brisk walk from the Pearl Station brought us to the Morton Meyerson Symphony Center with views on every side of new construction in the Dallas Arts District. The concert itself was "a gem," and I'm still hearing the Allegretto non troppo movement of Mendelssohn's Concerto in E Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 64, in my head.

Afterwards, we intended to walk to catch the McKinney Avenue Trolley for a ride through Uptown and a late supper. The walk up Pearl took us past the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank building. I had only the foggiest notion that Dallas had a Federal Reserve Bank, and that it might have a building with art in its lobby. I wasn't sure it was really art, as it looked like a giant fiberglass model of a heart from the sidewalk.

Walked up the steps to the bank. From this vantage we could begin to see a bull seeming to plow through curving waves with a male figure following. Bull... sea... male...Poseidon? Was Poseidon the Greek god of banking and U.S. monetary policy? I've always been vague on the bull markets, but clearer on Theseus, the Minotaur, and returning home with black sails!

Or maybe this was a conceptual representation of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the early Spanish explorer of the New World whose surname means either "head of cow," or "in charge of vacations," depending whom you ask. Walking closer to the lobby window we could begin to tell it was a man plowing behind a yoke of oxen:

The Dallas Fed's art collection comprises contemporary works, including sculpture, oil and acrylic paintings, photographs, lithographs, collages, pen and ink drawings and a sound sculpture. The collection represents a diverse group of artists from Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico whose expressions reflect the Eleventh District’s historical and cultural diversity. The cornerstone of the collection, Luis Jimenez's "Sodbuster", is located in the main lobby. This fiberglass sculpture, depicting a farmer and two oxen, is a tribute to the spirit of the American West.

At this point the building security guard came through the lobby to wave us away with absolutely no sense of humor. I know I looked like a terrorist in my sandals and floral skirt! Must have been my purse that set him off.

On up Pearl, we waited at the stop for the McKinney Avenue Trolley. The trolley is known to tourists with guidebooks, but exists only as a vague concept to a long-time resident of suburban Plano. In theory, we could ride the trolley, get supper, then ride the trolley back near the DART light rail station. Sounds like a vacation itinerary!

A warm night with a cooling breeze and the occasional sprinkle, it was pleasant standing at the trolley stop. And standing. And standing. Looking back south at the lighted skyscrapers from this new vantage point and waiting. My stomach was starting to growl in a manner that would alarm the Federal Reserve.

Look! Here it comes! Here it comes! And there it goes! What's up with that? Guess I won't be singing about Rice-A-Roni or Thomas the Tank Engine anytime soon. I'll just hang onto that violin concerto in my head for awhile.

Walking on it was fun to see girls' volleyball teams and trendy loft dwellers passing on the sidewalk. Over seven hundred VB teams are in Dallas for the Junior Olympics championship, probably seeing more sights between games than most locals.

It was easy to be annoyed that the trolley didn't stop, and that it was a long walk back to the DART station. There was a distinction to be discovered. The McKinney Avenue Trolley is a free attraction sponsored by local entities and manned by volunteer rail afficianados. It is not mass transit with a timetable and transfer points. Some other visit I'll sing the "Trolley Song"* with Judy Garland or Frank Sinatra:

Clang, clang, clang went the trolley
Ding, ding, ding went the bell
Zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings
From the moment I saw him I fell

Chug, chug, chug went the motor
Bump, bump, bump went the brake
Thump, thump, thump went my heartstrings
When he smiled I could feel the car shake

That's all the vacation I can handle for one evening, but it sure was fun seeing the city in a new way.

*From "Meet Me In St. Louis," 1944, by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

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