Leaving My Blonde

D Home contributing editor Glenn Arbery is taking a two-year leave of absence to teach in Massachusetts. He tells us about all he will miss.

photography by Dave Shafer

Listen, Dallas, after 11 years, it’s time I saw somebody else. Don’t worry. It’s not a divorce, just a two-year separation. That sounds like a long time, but two years ago seems like yesterday (Borat? Little Miss Sunshine?), and two years from now, I’ll be back. By then, maybe you’ll be poolside at the W sipping power from one of T. Boone Pickens’ windmills and watching Calatrava’s bridge dominate the landscape. Somehow I doubt it. Great and momentous things might have happened, and all you care is what I’ll miss about you? That’s such pure insecurity, Dallas. So you.

This is when I’m supposed to murmur, “It’s the little things, darling—like that diamond the size of your pretty little fist I bought you at Neiman’s when you thought I loved Austin better.” But what I love might surprise you. Biking up White Rock Trail from the lake early on a Sunday morning and seeing an old man fishing in White Rock Creek, just down from Flagpole Hill—that moves me. It makes me want to say “immemorial,” unlike most things about you.


Obviously, I love everything about film here. Where could it be better outside New York or L.A.? And about the theater—I’ll miss so many things. I’ll sum them up with one: watching Tina Parker come out to do the curtain speech at Kitchen Dog Theater. “Howdy, howdy, howdy!”—except “howdy” comes out Heidi—and she does this corny, circular, ’50s-style cowgirl wave and scans the crowd with cunning eyes and a slight ironic smile on her face and tells everybody to turn off their “cellular DEE-vices.” You just don’t get that in Boston.


Yes, that’s close to where I’m going. But no way I fall in love with Boston. Just look at you. I come over the bridge from Oak Cliff and there you are, that unbelievable skyline you’ve got. I know, you’re more than that. But sometimes, just at sunset, when I’m coming in from the west, the Bank of America building catches the last of the sun from the horizon behind me and the downtown buildings melt into pure light like the lost City of Gold. Is that superficial?


Or the way you sometimes come out of the winter mist at dawn when I’m crossing the Continental Viaduct, and white plumes of steam rise motionless from the high vents of the skyscrapers. When I see you that way, whole and momentary, I forget how the Cowboys always lose in the playoffs. I forget the names “Dwyane Wade” and “Mark Cuban.” I see the sphere of Reunion Tower out at the edge of downtown, like a lighthouse beaming all night over a tide of traffic, and I ignore Lew Sterrett, I forgive Industrial Boulevard for being what it is. I don’t even care about that statue at the zoo, where the giraffe’s tongue probes the flight lanes overhead with such innocent obscenity. Daydreaming about you when you’re most yourself, gathered and at ease, I remember that red horse you wear downtown. It’s like when the waitress leans over to pour the wine and the ruby pendant on her necklace swings loose from her blouse and gleams and disappears again when she stands. That’s your prize, your secret (and so close to Neiman’s).


What I’ll miss—literally miss—are the first two seasons of the Dallas Theater Center with Kevin Moriarty directing plays, and the first two seasons of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jaap van Zweden. If someplace in the country has something going on better than that, they’re lucky. Not just quality, but the sense that the arts themselves are being rediscovered. I won’t miss an unfinished Arts District, but I’ll miss breakfasts in Bishop Arts, going in the new Café Brazil with my buddy Dave Spence, say, or heading down Davis for an omelet at Norma’s Cafe. I’ll miss the Starbucks on McKinney where I’ve sat so often to write, the parade of girls with lattes, all of them impersonating you.


I’ll miss the little shrine near the bridge where Commerce crosses Beckley Avenue. A group of little Mexican children was killed there years ago, and the flowers are always fresh. I’ll even miss the nothing I find when I walk along the levees and over to downtown—the emptiness around highways, the wasted spaces that people in the old world would fill with vegetables or flowers, the sense of mature reality still to be discovered.


But you’ve stopped listening. No, don’t pretend you’re going to be some long-suffering Penelope. I’ll get back and you’ll say, “Oh, I haven’t seen you for so long!” and you’ll put your hand warmly on my forearm and squeeze it. And after a second or two your eyes will start to skitter lightly sideways for somebody who might remember my name. I know you, sweetheart.

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