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Summer Fiction

Dallas Summer Reading Series: Wait For It

Logen Cure
By Logen Cure |
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Google Maps

The rainbow crosswalks were sun-faded. Cameron was vaguely surprised, remembering the headline on Instagram, the vibrant photos of fresh paint. How long ago was that? What is time? The signal at Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs finally clicked to Walk, and Cameron took a long exhale, approaching the Legacy of Love Monument that towered into the glow of the evening sky. It was hotter than she expected for November, and a single bead of sweat slicked down her sternum. 

She tried to remember the last time she was here: Stevie’s bachelorette party at Sue’s. Stevie’s asshole friends thought it would be funny to make her wear one of those sparkly straight-girl sashes. Cameron remembered pulling Stevie onto the patio, handing her a cigarette, and tying the stupid sash into a double Windsor. Cameron’s last clear memory of the night was straightening the collar of Stevie’s preppy sky-blue polo and kissing her cheek, asking, “Is that better, handsome?” before Stevie slipped back into the pulsing lights of the dance floor. 

That seemed like a lifetime ago, another world. Cameron couldn’t imagine stepping on a dance floor now. She remembered the thrill of being packed shoulder to shoulder with so many other queer folks, but now the thought made her throat tight. The pandemic had spawned nightmares of crowded indoor places with no escape. She had told herself it would feel good to be back in the neighborhood, and, besides, where else would she want to meet up with Devin after all this time? 

Humor

I Took Care of the Coyotes. You’re Welcome.

Tim Rogers
By |
hazing coyotes
Nate Creekmore

First thing I did was make the coyotes carry around at all times for my personal use a tin of dip, a bottle opener, cigarettes, and a lighter. And the lighter had to be blue. That was important. When all the stores in Dallas ran out of blue lighters, the coyotes had to go to Garland to find them. If the coyotes are going to say that was inhumane, then maybe they should learn to avoid this human. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Then I made the coyotes drink milk. Lots and lots of milk. I know that’s old school, but I don’t mind being labeled old school.

Did I make the coyotes do an elephant walk? Do I even know what an elephant walk is? We can let the courts sort this out, if that’s the direction you want to go. Let’s just say the Ringling Bros. got nothing on me. 

You know what happens when you put 20 coyotes in a darkened room and then light that room with only a strobe and force the coyotes to sort 3 pounds of ice cream sprinkles by color? Ask the coyotes. 

Beauty

We’re Really Dallas-ing Dentistry in 2022

Alice Laussade
By Alice Laussade |
Dallas teeth
Michael Byers

A child of the ’80s, my baby teeth were made primarily of Tang and Fruit Stripe gum. Going to see the dentist in Dallas was terrifying, their toolkits filled with aggressive Waterpiks and drills and that weird mouth mold clay that had to harden inside your mouth, forcing you to gag for an eternity to take an impression of your teeth. All teeth-care incentives were nightmare-based. “I didn’t floss” was the headliner of my first confession sacrament at St. Rita Catholic Church. The priest gave me three Hail Marys and a travel-size bottle of brown Listerine. (Back then, we didn’t have the luxury of Cool Mint Listerine. It was character-building, burn-your-mouth-out, alcohol-forward Listerine only. You could spit it out only after you cried a little.)

But now Dallas dentistry is all about making the visit more comfortable. There’s an espresso machine and an arcade and someone making balloon animals in the lobby of the pediatric dentist’s office of my youth. Plus, everything has gone digital. My 9-year-old needed a retainer, and instead of putting him through an unreasonable amount of discomfort, they just took some pictures and 3D-printed the perfect bite-glamorizer for him. He even got to pick the color. (Obviously he chose glow-in-the-dark, which is factually the best of all colors.) 

We’re trying to rebrand dentistry with a new image that’s less dentist from Little Shop of Horrors, more Nordstrom spa. If you’re reading this in a dentist’s office right now, they’re probably about to offer you a set of headphones with soothing playlists to muffle the high-pitched squeals of the drills. Dallas Functional Dentistry’s website says their office even boasts “Soothing textures & colors to feel comfortable and at home” and also “local artwork.” Not sure what percentage of people are drawn to visit a dentist based on knowing that the walls will be cloaked in Sherwin-Williams’ Evergreen Fog and their aunt’s acrylic paint pour art, but y’all are the experts. 

Maybe dentists are going overboard trying to make us comfortable because Dallas is so stressed out all the time. Dr. Randy Sanovich, oral maxillofacial surgeon at Dallas Surgical Arts, says, “Our TMJ Botox treatments went up 60 percent in the last year and a half.” You’re grinding your teeth, Dallas. You gotta cut that out. It’s hard to guess exactly what we could have been worrying about in this perfect world, but it had to be the stress of parking our own cars at the dentist, right?

Music

Paul Slavens Cleans Up Well

Tim Rogers
By |
Paul Slavens Ten Hand
Paul Slavens, a North Texas musician you likely know from KXT and his many years playing around Dallas and Denton. Marc Montoya

Most North Texans old enough to rent a car have probably heard of Paul Slavens. The 60-year-old has fronted the band Ten Hands for 35 years (with a break here and there). He plays with the Baptist Generals and the Travoltas. He was the music director for the improv troupe Four Day Weekend. He has played live scores to silent movies in venues all over. And, of course, he has spun tunes on our public airwaves for 18 years, first at KERA 90.1 and now at KXT 91.7, where The Paul Slavens Show airs Sundays at 8 pm. In June, a serendipitous series of events led to the release of his first solo album in more than a decade, Alphabet Girls, Vol. II.

Summer Fiction

Dallas Summer Reading Series: Beneath the Lamar Street Sears

Tim Coursey
By Tim Coursey |
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Tatjana Junker

The Receiving Clerk inhaled through a slurp of pencil-infused Irish, savored the retro-olfaction of shaved cedar, and found its spice less strident than at first pour—fairly complex, really, the cedar wood was; she savored again the lithophone-like brittle crockery note of No. 2/HB pencil lead, and the lingering finish—bitter chocolate, she thought, or, no, it’s got that aching bite of good Emmental cheese!—the lingering finish of aged yellow pencil lacquer, the blend predominantly Sears brand, she’d bet anything, the kind she’d just dumped out of the pencil jar— 

[The tapping at the glass of the upper half-door had stopped some time ago. In the open doorway now, her Ronson held overhead confirmed the state of demolition outside the Receiving Office, shrunken maple floorboards sawn raggedly away just beyond the threshold. And on the last inches of floor lay a few objects lined up—placed—like a dog might proudly leave for its beloved master a freshly killed litter of kits—here were someone’s rescued curiosities, as if little gifts left shyly at the doorstep.] 

the Receiving Clerk felt that the fit being pitched out there was that of a 4-year-old, perhaps a little girl’s tantrum; and that the voice dealing with the kid—the American voice, its gender and demeanor probable, class clear enough, region and race and words themselves less clear—was that of a Wise Crone; the Receiving Clerk smiled, warmed by the voice, the hooch, the small treasures at her threshold—

[A mammalian heart whittled out of wood, studded here and there with small rusty screw-eyes laced with cotton shoelaces; the delicate bones of a housecat’s right hind leg, complete to the toes and claws, missing only its fibula; a human face—female somehow—once a brass part of something else and now a dense nugget shaped into a face by having been run over many times in the street, the talisman resting on its reliquary, a drawstring Bugler Tobacco bag; and, weighed down by a rocklike clod of black dirt, a four-color postcard on linen-textured stock, “THE NEW SEARS-ROEBUCK COMPLEX • SOUTH LAMAR ST, DALLAS, TEXAS,” the building a numinous accretion from the get-go.

Summer Fiction

Dallas Summer Reading Series: Les Poissons

Mag Gabbert
By Mag Gabbert |
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Tatjana Junker

That evening would be Gillian’s first trip inside “the ball,” as people with weaker imaginations usually called it, despite the fact that it clearly resembled a giant microphone. One of her fifth-grade classmates had described the building’s interior a few months before, after attending a party there with her parents, and ever since then Gillian had tumbled over the details in her mind: a room encased by polished glass walls, floor spinning like a slow cloud, waiters whizzing past cupping petal-blue flames. It all sounded kind of—what was that new spelling bee word? “Extraterrestrial”?

As usual, she and her family were running late. And throughout the drive over, 4-year-old Lizzie kept chirping the same handful of off-pitch lyrics in a never-ending loop, ruining the otherwise hushed atmosphere inside their Suburban. I’ll bet she spent the whole afternoon watching The Little Mermaid for the twentieth time and sucking on Goldfish, Gillian thought. How fricking “obsolete.” But her annoyance was soon interrupted by the sight of the huge microphone finally looming nearby. She rested her head against the window and pretended she was moving the car closer to it with her mind. 

As they rounded the last corner and pulled up toward the valet stand, her dad suddenly smacked the side of the steering wheel. “I think I left my wallet in my other coat,” he huffed. “Do you guys want to head up there and order me a rum and Pepsi?” He glanced toward his wife in the passenger seat. “I guess I need to run back and grab it.”

“Um, sure,” Gillian’s mom said, smiling in a way that meant she was tired. “Just give us a minute to get our things together.”

Once they’d managed to locate several of Lizzie’s toys, snacks, ponytail holders, and picture books—all of which were now artfully balanced along one of their mom’s arms—the three of them made their way past a row of fancy cars parked by the entrance and into the base of the building. From there, they waited in line for an elevator that would take them up through the long, slender column into the large sphere perched at the top. Gillian followed her mother’s instructions when they got in and pressed a button labeled “GeO-Deck.” It would take her dad a little while to return, so they would spend a few minutes exploring the observation area before heading to the restaurant above. 

When Michael Hinojosa announced in January that he planned to resign as superintendent of Dallas ISD, he had run the state’s second-largest school district for 13 years over two stints. By most accounts, he’d done it well. Before the pandemic hit, the Dallas Morning News editorial board said DISD was “poised to be the best urban district in the country,” and a year later H-E-B named it the top large district in the state. Finding the next superintendent would be critical to continuing that success. And pretty much everyone in town who follows education thought they knew who would get the job. Hinojosa himself had hired her. 

Hinojosa’s last contract, negotiated in 2019, contained a clause that required him to make his “best reasonable efforts to identify and mentor one or more qualified individuals” who could be considered by the board of trustees as his replacement—or, as he’d later say, someone “who could take over in case I got run over by a DART bus.”

In November 2020, he hired Susana Cordova away from the top job at Denver Public Schools to serve as his deputy superintendent. A News headline a few months later called her a “ ‘rock star’ who might well be Dallas ISD’s next superintendent.” In that story, Hinojosa said, “I love this job, but while I’ve never felt comfortable leaving for another opportunity, now it’s different because of Susana.”

So that was that. Right? Susana Cordova, second in command, former superintendent. She would take over when Hinojosa formally stepped down. 

Apparently the nine trustees on DISD’s board don’t read the paper. Four months after Hinojosa made his announcement, the board revealed that it had chosen a lone finalist for the job, and—surprise!—it wasn’t Cordova. That finalist must have been, if not surprised, a bit dizzied by how quickly everything had happened. 

Nature

This Bug Wants to Eat Your Trees: How to Stop the Emerald Ash Borer

Tim Rogers
By |
Agrilus planipennis emarld ash borer
The Enemy: Don’t freak. EABs aren’t really this big. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commons

Native to Asia, the emerald ash borer 20 years ago found its way to North America, where it was first spotted in Michigan. In May, Texas A&M Forest Service sounded the alarm that its monitoring traps in Dallas had for the first time caught the sucker. The beetle has arrived.

The EAB, as it is known by tree people, tunnels under the bark of every ash species and gobbles the part of the tree that moves water and nutrients up the trunk, thereby starving it. If a tree goes untreated, it will die in two to three years. 

In 2015, the nonprofit Texas Trees Foundation conducted a survey of the city of Dallas’ entire tree population. It found that 13 percent—about 2 million trees—are some variety of ash. In the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest, what has been called the lungs of the city, the percentage is even higher, about 23 percent. We could lose all of it. Based on environmental impact, Texas Trees puts the value of the city’s ash population at $890 million. 

Trees are essential to a healthy urban environment. They clean the air, reduce the heat island effect created by concrete, and help prevent flooding. Studies have shown that just looking at trees lowers people’s blood pressure and improves mood. So let’s talk about how to save them.

Best of Big D

How We Brought You the ‘Best of Big D’

Tim Rogers
By Tim Rogers |

People enjoy making me feel ignorant with regularity, and I don’t much appreciate it. They’ll learn what it is that I do for a living, and they’ll ask, “Oooh, where’s the best ramen in town?” Or, “Where’s a good place with a DJ to go dancing?” Which would be like if I asked my 16-year-old daughter, “Where does TikTok keep your data?” My daughter is really good at TikTok. I promise you, though: she has no clue it’s a spy tool of the Chinese government that will bring our great nation to its knees, probably with an irresistible challenge we all love, like trying to keep a mouthful of water while slapping a family member with a tortilla.

Point is, I’m really good at magazines. But I absolutely have no idea which is the best kitchen accessories store in town. Or I didn’t until Jessica Otte, the editor of our sister publication D Home, dropped some knowledge on me in the shopping section of “Best of Big D” package, which is online today. And thank goodness Taylor Crumpton, our online arts editor, knows a thing or two about dance parties, and our dining critic, Brian Reinhart, is all over the noodles situation.

And Kathy Wise, Zac Crain, Lesley Busby, Elizabeth Lavin, Aileen Jimenez, Matt Goodman, Bethany Erickson, and Catherine Wendlandt—each one of them is younger than I am and apparently leaves the house to go do stuff and drink stuff and do the stanky leg, which is a dance popularized by a 2009 song by the GS Boyz, who hail from Arlington. Why do I know that? I read it somewhere at some point and committed it to memory because I thought it might one day make for a funny reference in a Dallas-based magazine. But I can’t do the stanky leg. And if I could, I wouldn’t know where to do it. But our staff knows. They know everything.

If I’m in the mood to make excuses, partly it’s a hangover from the pandemic lockdown. Mostly, though, it’s because I’m 52 years old. I’ve grown terribly comfortable just being at home. Or, when I do venture out, I too often stick to the small handful of haunts I always hit before heading home at a reasonable hour so I can watch part of a movie.

Hey, listen. Even if you’re not like me, even if you don’t have one wheel riding in a middle-age rut, even if current events haven’t kept you on the couch, I invite you—nay, I challenge you—to use this year’s “Best of Big D” as your inspiration to further explore this vast place we so lovingly call North Texas. Let’s head out and have some fun. You can read it right here.

Summer Fiction

Dallas Summer Reading Series: Fading In

Mike Soto
By Mike Soto |
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Tatjana Junker

Lalo peers past the midmorning gloss on the window of Victor’s barbershop on Jefferson Boulevard and utters a deep “fuuuuck” to himself. He walks away, pauses for a moment, rubs the back of his head, and then reverses course, pushing the door open to let the flat “ding” punctuate his resignation.   

It is not Lalo’s normal day to get a fade, but here he is. Saturday, 8 in the morning, and Victor’s is already humming. The talc smell is already thick; piles of hair already blot the floor. It’s not just the people inside the barbershop but also the ones waiting in their cars rattling with bass, coming out to check their place in line and slide quarters into the parking meters as far away as El Ranchito. When Victor’s opens at 6 in the morning, there is always a line of people waiting. He knew he would be deeply fucked at this hour, and he was.

He walks up to Victor, who has already noted the oddness of his presence on a Saturday. Victor is middle-aged, still of the generation of Latino men that wear guayaberas with aplomb. (Today he wears a baby blue one.)  

Buenas tardes, Victor, cuántos tiene en línea?”

Unos … veintitrés.” 

“Twenty-three?!”

Lalo usually waits a while longer because can’t afford to get his haircut more often. But Letty’s quinceañera is today, and all the finest girls are going to be there. He has to come correct. And to come correct, he has to look correct. No choice in the matter. It’s not just a matter of the girls who are going to be there but also his close friends and of course the haters waiting to pounce. Having a fresh fade was crucial. He can not be wolfing. He can already hear his friends howling, “Oooowwwwwwww,” when they noticed the shaggy sides of his head. If you can pinch any hair in your hands, you are starting to wolf. He has gone past that and is officially wolfing. No way. 

Summer Fiction

Dallas Summer Reading Series: Early Retirement

Blake Kimzey
By Blake Kimzey |
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Tatjana Junker

Frank Foster was encouraged to take early retirement in January 2019 and decided his legacy was gathering dust in the bowels of Dallas City Hall.

For 40 years, Frank had been the unofficial mayor of City Hall. In early ’78, he was Hire No. 3 for building maintenance. In the Navy, he’d spent his time on the merchant ships of the Military Sea Transportation Service delivering equipment and supplies to the allies in Vietnam, and when Frank came home, he figured taking care of a building was a peaceful way to build a life in East Dallas and raise a family along the way. 

He donned his blue collar a few months before the Hall opened to the public. The first mayor Frank worked for was Robert Folsom, who told stories of playing with three Heisman Trophy winners at SMU and pushed to break ground on Reunion Area, which meant Frank eventually got free tickets to see Brad Davis rocket bounce passes to Rolando Blackman several times a year. 

But that was 10 mayors ago.

Now, if you unrolled a set of plans, you’d circle a section of basement that included a large storage area banded with chain link. After RoboCop wrapped in October ’86, the producers gifted Dallas a full-size costume (tailored for Peter Weller’s stunt double) as a thank-you for letting the crew film at 22 locations across the city, including the Mary Kay Cosmetics factory. 

The RoboCop costume weighed 64 pounds, a laser-cut mash of flexible foam latex, polyurethane, and fiberglass. Only seven were made, including a fireproof version that landed in a Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. The one in the basement of Dallas City Hall was the only one not in a memorabilia collection somewhere, and after more than 30 years in a wooden crate, it had been forgotten and stacked in a dark corner under a bank of rust-tipped sprinkler heads. 

Frank reasoned he was the only one left at City Hall who even knew about the RoboCop suit. 

Summer Fiction

Dallas Summer Reading Series: The Leaning Tree

Sanderia Faye
By Sanderia Faye |
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Tatjana Junker

Perched on the limb of the leaning post oak tree, Pearlie Mae Jenkins watched as the young woman struggled down the sidewalk. She carried an armful of brown paper sacks, and a stuffed bookbag hung on her back. She paused briefly at the historical plaque in front of the Freedman’s Cemetery Memorial. When she stood before the bronze monument of The Sentinel (protector of the site from ever being desecrated again), she set her sacks down and bowed to him. Then she knelt in front of The Prophetess, the Griot, and began praying, Iba se Egun

      The young woman made her way to the bench inside the gate and dropped down next to the homeless man. He came almost every day, parked his shopping cart in the grass, outside of the fence, on the northwest side of the cemetery. After organizing her bags, she unfolded her long legs and meandered down the walkway toward the monument of the emancipated couple. She sobbed as she traced the welts on the man’s back with her forefinger. Could she be the one Pearlie Mae had been waiting for?