If you’ve been around this blog or our magazine for any length of time, then you’re familiar with the name Richard Patterson. He’s a British painter of some renown. Every so often, we trick him into writing something for us. Perhaps you recall what he had to say about the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. More recently, last summer, he wrote a piece for the magazine about a religious experience he had at a Fort Worth Jaguar dealership. Correction: he didn’t write that story for the magazine; he just sent along an email, to keep us apprised of what was going on in his life, and then we decided the email needed to be published. Richard is something of a Jaguar nut. He drives a 1994 XJS. Or, rather, he drove a 1994 XJS. Last week, someone plowed into his car, totaling it. I thought you might enjoy the obituary he wrote for his dearly departed car:
British racing green Jaguar XJS 1994 – 2014. It will be survived by its owner, Sir Richard Patterson, Lady Christina Rees, Trixie Rees-Patterson, Murray Rees-Patterson and Wallace Rees-Patterson. [Ed: Christina is his wife. The others are their dogs.] The family would prefer for no flowers. A private service has already taken place.
The Jaguar met with a violent and inappropriately banal end — although it performed to the last with dignity and valour.
After 12 years of inter-Jag existential hyper carness, my Jaguar was fecklessly T-boned by a Nissan Ultima running a red light in Deep Ellum on Tuesday and is probably, in ignoble insurance terms, to be written off. I’m currently having an out-of-body experience about my state of unJaguar. I have been unceremoniously deJaguared. I am stripped of my own psyche. The Jag was the Land of Hope Glory under my feet. It remains my compass in more ways than one. It may as well have been the complete works of John Donne.
I had self-sanctioned diplomatic immunity while in it or within 1,000 yards, so you can imagine the internationalness of the incident when some dozy cow sailed across an intersection and plowed into the side of it in broad daylight, on virtually empty streets.
People are allowed to drive here from the age of 15 for no reason known to man. So long as they can open a can of Sprite and reach the door handles, they’re set on a rampage to terrorize other Dallasites and guest road users alike. Traffic lights and road signs seem to be considered “Nanny State devices” by many here and treated as optional, governmentally interfering or corrupt. It would seem the casual libertarian that lurks inside so many Texan drivers, delivers driving etiquette based on tractors, shopping karts at Costco parking lots, pumping jacks, or, failing that, fair ground rides at Six Flags. Roads are purely guidelines in a navigational sense and no substitute for a farm track or an open field, while kerbs are a throwback to the railroad days and are used mainly as devices to keep your wheels following the bends in the event that you’re too preoccupied to steer because you’re opening a twelve pack of shite beer, explaining the different meanings of the phrases “very annoying” and “already entitled” to your post-Y gen infants, reviewing your gun collection, or updating your Facebook profile or texting a friend about the nannyingness of traffic lights while driving. Texan road users — what can one say?
My car was spun through 90 degrees, its impressively engineered side-impact bars and military-grade steel taking the impact with huge manliness.
I called the cops and a tow truck immediately. Four or five cop cars showed up. A mirror-shaded African-American officer with football player shoulders offered that I get out of the rain and sit on the dehumanising and blood-repellent hard plastic bench seat of his patrol car, where my life flashed literally before my eyes on his computer screen up front. He was very nice. He said, almost in British cop style, “You don’t happen to be carrying a gun, do you?” as he offered me the shelter of his car.
“Actually, no,” I said, thinking, “Do I look like I’m carrying a gun? I’m English. I drive an XJS.”
A couple of Murray St. coffee shop regulars stopped on the sidewalk and gawked at the beached Jag, improperly strewn across the intersection, mortally wounded, still with its lights on, stalled but still in gear, beeping from within, like the life support machine of a comatosed patient, its rear off-side wheel no longer pointing forward. The entire front section of the other car was separated and wedged under my steed, like the severed limb of a Russian cavalryman. It was my Balaclava Ned moment — my great great great great uncle Ned, last survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade, whose horse was shot from under him, trapping his leg, and who only survived by pulling his foot from his boot and taking the boot of a dead Russian in order to walk back the length of the valley through the smoke and carnage of Russian cannon fire coming from three sides.
The Jag is a landmark, like a Royal Navy Cruiser, known all over the area. It was the Flag Ship for the Arts. Leonardo used to wear daringly and unfashionably short tunics in bright scarlet, which, combined with his impressive height and white beard, made him instantly recognisable from afar. It was an early form of Jag ownership.
The Jag is currently lying in state in my garage, having been carried funerally on the back of a DW flatbed truck for the short stretch of Main Street that leads to Commerce Palace.
While the XJS is not without heirs, the next in line will most certainly be a Guard’s red F Type coupe. It is only correct that the XJS should have no further owner. It is not appropriate to “trade” a Jag of this calibre. More correctly it will be (mentally at least) buried at sea with full honours, taken to its North Sea burial site by HMS Ark Royal and rolled off the flight deck, while the London Symphony Orchestra plays Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.”
It is a sad day for Dallas that only months after putting to bed its guilt over the assassination of John F. Kennedy that it should see fit to reignite more diplomatic difficulty.
As a city, it struggles to be urban. It can only move forward if it knows how to respect and nurture a sense of the urbane within its city walls. Gentility starts on the streets. Urbanity and the urbane are a state of mind, not a derelict condition. Street life is a modern art that needs to be procured and practiced. There is, quite self-evidently, scarce respect for the Jaguar. The streets here are seen as a frontline, a hostile battleground.
Behind all this is the Dallas ethos of the non-public space. Despite citizenry being a born rite, from a legal and existential point of view, the notion of the public space remains the disenfranchised poor cousin of the private space.
If culture might be said to be the opposite of nature — culture being the fettling and overcoming of nature as well as its instruments of progress and improvement — then it might be said that it is culture’s dialogue with the notion of the urban that ultimately shapes Dallas’ immediate future. In turn, the relationship of how we think about the idea of public in relation to urban that helps shape culture. The “urban” still seems synonymous with “hostile” or “alienated” in much of Dallas’ recent history. The lassoing effect of the highways around Dallas is the most visible and culpable sign of this hostility. But it would be easy to blame only the highways and ignore fundamental mindsets about what constitutes an enriching urban experience as opposed to a dehumanising urban experience.
Hence, the aggressive and paranoid mindset of the Dallas driver. The Dallas driver, whether they recognize it or not, are in a sort of no man’s land the second they step into their car. Cars are mobile private property that link one private experience to the next. The notion of public is badly conflated with the notion of city politics and government. Being divorced from one’s car leads one down the path toward vagrancy — the grubby bedfellow of the feared state of mind of “public” in Dallas. If one is not on one’s way to or from one’s car on a daily basis — by default — one is a half step from vagrancy here. Pedestrians are not pedestrians here; they are simply en route to their car or some other vehicle that can be considered “someone’s property.”
Short of the $121 tow fee back to my house, I would have had to have the Jaguar impounded at the Police pound, since it was otherwise stranded on a city street, unfit to be driven. I was acutely aware of the immediate change in personal status that being car-ed up or de-carred was to carry. I would imagine here, people feel the same paranoid urge in relation to gun ownership.
In the end, the paranoia stems from the lack of civility that comes with knowing how to embrace the urban. It is as much a state of mind as it is a state of law. But in order to be civil, one has to love one’s surroundings, and to love one’s surroundings one has to feel an investment in them. The sense of public here is more often seen as a form of disenfranchisement, when it should so obviously be the other way around.
On Friday, Richard picked up a rental car. It is a Hyundai Santa Fe. If you think driving around in a Hyundai Santa Fe has thrown him into a deep existential crisis that led him to send another email, this one about the Bauhaus and the idea of the total artwork, then you would be correct. Perhaps tomorrow I will share that email as well.