April 24, 2014

I Love Dallas and I Love Texas

We are finally in Dallas.  As far as cities go, I love Dallas.  I’m thrilled with Dallas.  It, like me, is fiscally conservative and socially liberal.  There is plenty of high-end shopping.  There are world-class restaurants.  Several major airports are within driving distance.  Unlike my former home in the New York metro area, I can still see the sky.  Some of the major luxury residential areas are exempt from property taxes and there are no state income taxes.  The traffic isn’t nearly as bad as Houston.  Actually, as I type this, I am wondering why I don’t move the company from Kansas City to Dallas.  That isn’t a joke … it is a much better fit, though I do love the Ward Parkway neighborhood in Kansas City.

Dallas Texas

I forgot to take a picture of the skyline at night so I found this one that was close to our view of downtown Dallas, Texas.

Dallas, and Texas in general, are like the opposite of Oklahoma.  Forgive me if you are from, grew up, or plan on retiring there; I’m sure I’d like you very much.  I just don’t like your state.  It’s a personal thing but I hate it more than any other place I’ve ever visited.  In fact, I despise almost everything about Oklahoma, despite its recent impressive performance during the recessionary period following the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  From the color of the dirt to the onslaught of tornados, the above-average poverty rates to the below-average educational attainment, the ironic obsession with Sharia law to the fact that there is nothing to do, Oklahoma fills me with as much emotional and intellectual disgust as Texas does with pride.  

I mean, Oklahoma City is filled with storefronts that don’t even know how to use the stupid color wheel; they will pick the most godawful, ugly combinations.  The infrastructure is aging.  It’s just an ugly, backwards place.  On the other hand, Texas is awesome.  Texas makes me want to get a horse, put on a cowboy hat, drill for oil, go buy a massive ranch, and buy a private jet as I donate money to the ACLU to sue the government for whatever offense it committed that day.  God bless Texas.

The plan is to check into the Omni in the heart of downtown so we have easy access to the Dallas Gift Mart wholesale show that I am attending with some people.  It’s this 11 or 15 story complex private shopping mall where manufacturers and distributors have stores for retailers to visit.  They try to convince you to sell their lines.  If I were a furniture company, for example, I’d go up and visit the Century Furniture or Maitland-Smith distributors and look at the product offerings, write up a minimum opening order, and have it all shipped to my store.  

After checkout, I’m heading over to the flagship Neiman Marcus store to visit.  Then, I need to head up to North Park Center to pick up a couple of things.  We’ll probably do dinner tonight at Bob’s Steak and Chop House, which is supposed to be one of the best steak restaurants in the city.

  • W.

    I lived in the Dallas area for a year and a half, and I have to say I came away with a completely different picture than you did.

    To me, Dallas is hell, and the whole area reminded me of the things I hate most about this country. The disgust you feel towards Oklahoma reminds me of my own feelings for the state of Texas, actually.

    I hated the scenery, with nothing but expanses of dry grass in all directions. I hated the way it was too hot to even enjoy being outside in the summer. I hated how dangerous flammable that made everything. I hated the fact that when it wasn’t sunny it was because they were having hail and/or tornadoes. I hated that no one, no one at all, could drive when it rained. I hated how all the churches were giant megaplex-style buildings run more as businesses than as sites of worship.

    They educational attainment there might be better than Oklahoma, but it is still very poor. The school system ACTUALLY uses abstinence-only sex ed. In the 21st century. The infrastructure for roads there is beyond horrible, because their ONLY approach to urban planning is to widen the highways, and there’s no effective public transport system. No one ever walks anywhere, because the place wasn’t designed for pedestrians, and obesity is rampant. It’s like someone wanted to create a joke state to satirize the car-driven, sprawling, inefficient, cheap-calorie fed, myopic, hypocritical aspects of American culture. Only…it exists.

    As far as Dallas being socially liberal, well, don’t stray too far into the wrong neighborhoods and don’t leave city limits if you want to keep that impression. Or if you don’t want to see firsthand how racially divided the Dallas area is.

    I agree the impression of Texas is just what you said, self-sufficient cowboys suing big government for their God-given freedom. But It’s all a bad joke. The “cowboys” make due with oversized trucks instead of horses, often because they couldn’t fit into anything smaller. They fill their homes with guns because they watch TV news and think they have to fight off…someone. The ranches all get sold to build development after development full of cheaply built, oversized mcmansions.

    And with red light cameras at every stop light, laws allowing police officers to forcibly remove your blood in the event they think you’re drunk, lightly traveled roads which give out more tickets in total than anywhere else in the country and a prison system that puts more people to death than many actual dictatorships (and often ignores new evidence which might exonerate or reduce sentences), Texas is closer to being a police state than any kind of oasis of freedom. Not to mention the fact the lower taxes there are bolstered by the extra money it gets from other states, via the federal government.

    But if you love Texas you love Texas. I just want to point out that there’s a much, much uglier other side to the place that you might not have noticed while visiting Dallas. Oklahoma, on the other hand, I’ve only driven through that state. But your comments about the place seem right on target. It’s just I think Texas is even worse.

    • Joshua Kennon

      Your last sentence cracks me up. Having lived there, as opposed to me just visiting, you would have a much better idea of what it is like than I would. I appreciate you taking the time to write your thoughts out to give me your impressions of the city. (My trip was relatively short, and existed entirely within an orchestrated bubble of expensive hotels, expensive shopping districts, and meetings with business owners and bankers. It was kind of like looking at a diamond under the show room lights in the perfectly displayed jewelry store.)

      Personally, my favorite areas of the country change with my mood. I’d move to California tomorrow but I just can’t part with the 9.3% state income tax rate. At my age, the end result in wealth would be staggering on a compounded basis.

      I figured the long-term solution will be to buy multiple houses sometime in my 30′s. That way, I can stay in an area for as long as I love the weather and then get on a plane and go. Several of my neighbors near Kansas City do that and they’ve got me sold on the concept. That way, you get the best of each area of the country and avoid the bad side. I get in moods where I want to be in the Rocky Mountains, then I may want to be in New York. I think it will work best for my personality.

    • Joshua Kennon

      P.S. It’s funny you mentioned abstinence-only education. I’m working my way through some papers showing the direct statistical relationship between that policy, which ignores human biology, and higher-than-average teen pregnancy rates.

      Rationally, there is no other conclusion that can be drawn than this: If you want your child to get an STD and become a teen parent before they graduate from high school, then abstinence only is the the appropriate education method for you.

      I’m working on a post about it. The showings are staggering in how consistent they are. To follow such a policy given the damage it does to kids almost seems like child abuse.

    • Anon

      W.: This is some hard-hitting stuff. Very well written. You should consider a career in writing or political advocacy.

      I was originally going to say that the #1 reason to avoid buying real estate (especially as a young person) is the prospect of being tied down to a given city, state, or country. I do not plan on buying real estate until decades from now or until there’s a firm bottom in the housing market in the US.

  • Ian Francis

    I’d have to say my one and only trip to Texas a few years ago was about as I expected. I made my way through Houston, Austin, Dallas/Forth Worth, and briefly though a couple of the less populated areas. To be fair, I spent less time in all of Texas than Josh did on this one trip, but I can safely say I did not like it.
    My impression of Houston was a dirty, overcrowded, backwards city full of roving packs of stray dogs. The one night I was there consisted of me turing on the TV and watching the news reporters talk about an upcoming execution for 20 minutes, including why this evil SOB deserved to die.
    Austin was nicer, though I still don’t quite get why everyone seems to like it so much. The traffic there is terrible, primarily because they seem to refuse to expand their highway system beyond what they built in the 1970s. I guess the nightlife is good, but I really dislike bar-hopping, and for the most part dislike going to like music clubs even more. The social attitude there did seem to be much better than in the rest of Texas, but otherwise I wasn’t super impressed.
    Dallas wasn’t terrible, and I’d say their roads were better than I fould in the rest of the state. The airport is one of my least favorite airports I have even flown into or out of. The terminals are all too far away from each other and it looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 70s. I cannot tell you how much I hate the all concrete look. Otherwise I didn’t really get to experience Dallas, so I can’t really say anything else about it. Ashly, however, did have the experience of listening to a pop station there and in between songs caught the DJ talking about how all gays are evil and are going to hell. That may have been an hour outside Dallas to be fair, but none-the-less, it happened.
    My only other comments about Texas as a whole are:
    1) Holy crap it is so ridiculously hot! I don’t care how dry the heat is, it truly feels like being in hell.
    2) Could it be any flatter? I thought Missouri was the flattest place on Earth until I visited Texas. And the lack of tall vegitation only makes the flatness worse. It makes my home state of Ohio look like the Himalayas.

    • Joshua Kennon

      The roving packs of stray dogs made me lose it … the image of that … poor Houston, haha.

  • FratMan

    I was born in Dallas. About a stone’s throw away from Exxon’s headquarters. A lot of my dad’s friends with small kids thought he was crazy for moving back to St. Louis to raise me there, but my dad replied, “It’s not until my kids are in their 20s that I’ll appreciate why I raised them in Missouri instead of Texas.” haha….