A Daily Conversation About Dallas

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The Day a Bunch of Strangers Played Catch Together in Cole Park

| 22 hours ago

Halfway through the vote on President Trump’s second impeachment, 10 months into a pandemic that’s left the lucky among us healthy but locked in our homes, weeks after the loneliest holidays of our lives — something normal happened.

I went to a park and watched grown men play catch and become little boys again.

It all started with a post on Oak Lawn’s Nextdoor site, the digital neighborhood hangout where people relentlessly discuss dog doo, feral cats, loud music, and man’s general inhumanity to man. But over the weekend, I noticed a new post that almost made me gasp. It was so simple and sentimental, but powerful in the way it affected those who read it. It felt like a message from our old lives, a weak radio signal from the way the world used to be.

Alice Miller, of Turtle Creek, had written, “My 74-year-old husband would like to have a partner to throw the ball with. He is a former high school and college pitcher and is looking for someone who knows how to throw a baseball. He is in good shape and loves baseball.”

Within minutes, there were replies:

“Count me in!”

“Played for 12 years as a catcher. Would be happy to throw the ball around again.”

“My husband played ball, too, growing up and would love to join in.”

“Wow! Love to see this come together.”

“I can throw.”

“I’m loving it. I’ll join.”

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Local News

Leading Off (1/15/21)

| 1 day ago

More School Days Could Be Coming to Dallas ISD. Yesterday, trustees were briefed about a plan for an “intersessional” calendar, which basically means year-round school. I wrote about this idea back in July, which some trustees were floating as an idea to curb learning loss among students. The district is considering starting school a week earlier and ending four weeks later at 11 feeder patterns. One idea is offering the new schedule to about half of the students while the other option is offering another 23 days of school to all of a school’s enrollment. The News’ Corbett Smith says just 10 campuses will be considered. The board can vote on the schedule before they select the schools that participate.

The Vaccine Distribution Looks More and More Like a Free-For-All. In Collin County, 86,000 people are signed up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. But the county’s health department has only received 2,000 doses. Another 2,000 are coming next week. Meanwhile, 22 mayors of large American cities signed a letter asking President-elect Biden to send vaccine doses directly to big cities. (Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson’s name does appear on that list, alongside the mayors of Houston, San Antonio, and Austin.) It appears that most providers and health departments are following the state’s guidelines until the vaccines are at risk of spoiling, then, as Will Maddox has reported this week, they look for arms to stick. Meanwhile, 39 percent of the doses sent to states have actually been used, per Bloomberg News. Some providers are giving family members of healthcare workers the vaccine regardless of whether they fit the state’s criteria. It’s only fitting that the end of the virus response is as messy and disorganized as every other bit of it.

Local Insurrectionist Goes Free Despite Prosecutors’ Plea. Larry Rendell Brock Jr. is the Grapevine man who was photographed on the Senate floor of the U.S. Capitol wearing a helmet and holding zip tie restraints. He was a former U.S. Air Force combat pilot who, according to an FBI agent who testified in his arraignment, had once been fired from a job for making “racist and threatening comments.” Prosecutors wanted him held in jail, but a federal judge declined, saying that the charges weren’t enough to prove he was a threat to the public. Here is the ridiculous kicker: “It is not yet clear if Brock was required to post bond before being released.”

Sunny, Chilly Long Weekend Ahead. Expect highs in the low 60s, high 50s, and lows in the mid-30s this weekend. There is no rain or snow in the forecast, only the nice sunshine that cuts through the chilly temperatures. Enjoy it.

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Clay Jenkins: Mayor Johnson ‘Undermined’ the Vaccine Effort

| 2 days ago

Mayor Eric Johnson is once again clashing with Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, this time over the communication surrounding the COVID-19 vaccination distribution at the Fair Park mega center. Johnson made his allegations in a letter he sent Wednesday night to Jenkins, the city manager, and members of the City Council. Media got ahold of it Thursday afternoon. The mayor said that Jenkins was allowing some individuals to get walk-up vaccinations without registering ahead of time, which disenfranchised others in South Dallas, all while not communicating the change to the city.

Johnson’s letter alleged “a resident … told us they were able to simply walk up and get the vaccine without needing to register.” This, Johnson wrote, was not part of the original process. Upon further inquiry, Johnson heard that Jenkins had requested a select group of residents to keep the arrangement hush-hush. The mayor credited this allegation to “someone who I trust a great deal.” He closed his letter by threatening to “reevaluate our contract” with the county as the city’s public health authority if communication didn’t improve.

Johnson said he would be open to a change in the registration protocol, but he found it “incredibly disappointing” that Jenkins would talk out of two sides of his mouth: telling the general public to register and schedule an appointment while telling others in the know that they didn’t need to do so, all without communicating any of this to the city. “It’s unacceptable that we were not notified about such a major decision,” he wrote.

But Jenkins tells a different version, calling Johnson’s letter “inaccurate.” Jenkins says the outreach was not to those who knew the right people, but rather to seniors in ZIP codes that lack adequate healthcare services and vaccine access. Jenkins says a council member shared the Fair Park registration link with the general public, resulting in Monday-Wednesday’s appointments being filled by a “group [that] was overwhelmingly white, under 75, and from the city’s most affluent ZIP codes.” The unauthorized appointments were not honored on Tuesday and Wednesday, and vaccines went unused.

Jenkins says the county then attempted to “balance the demographic makeup” of those receiving vaccines by reaching out directly to churches, health centers, senior centers and others that work with Black and Hispanic residents. Jenkins says this was to help remedy the imbalance of appointments.

Jenkins blames the confusion on the mayor. “Your and other’s decision earlier today to broadcast that vaccines are available to anyone over 75 without an appointment has undermined that effort and made it less likely the vaccine will get to the people at the highest risk in the hardest hit, most underserved ZIP codes this week,” his response says.

Jenkins seemed to take issue with Johnson’s communication style, closing with, “I trust in the future you will route any questions through the Dallas City Manager’s Office, the city’s (Office of Emergency Management) leads for this response, our [sic] call directly.”

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Politics & Government

The Other Dallas Street Name That Needs to Change

| 2 days ago

Today brings news that a stretch of street in front of Dallas’ Jack Evans Police Headquarters will be renamed Botham Jean Boulevard. Soon enough, every day that every cop who goes to work there will see the name of the man who was murdered by an off-duty cop right across the street from the headquarters. We’re getting close. Next step: change the name of the other street at the police HQ intersection to Santos Rodriguez Street. If we move quickly enough, the street crews can change both names simultaneously and save some taxpayer money.

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Good Reads

Watch: Ex-Dallasite Bradford Pearson Talks Eagles of Heart Mountain Via Interabang Books

| 2 days ago

It’s a real bummer that it’s been about 11 months since I last attended an event. It’s probably an even bigger bummer to folks like my friend Bradford Pearson, a former associate editor and People Newspapers reporter who has spent the last few years of his life researching and writing a book. It came out earlier this month, well before most of us have had vaccines shot in our arms.

So, of course, the book tour moved online. But the one nice thing about all this is that the conversation doesn’t disappear after it wraps up. On Tuesday, Interabang Books invited West Texas-based author Rachel Monroe (whose book Savage Appetites is also very good and now out in paperback) to interview Brad about his new book, The Eagles of Heart Mountain: A True Story of Football, Incarceration, and Resistance in World War II America. You can purchase it here.

It’s a great conversation that doesn’t give away too much of his narrative, but signals that too many of us do not understand the full story of the incarceration of Japanese Americans that happened after Pearl Harbor. Brad’s book is ostensibly about a really good football team made up of Japanese American high schoolers who were taken from their homes and relocated to the Heart Mountain camp in Cody, Wyoming. But it’s a bigger story about the history of immigration and longstanding racism in America, themes that are not unlike what we’re seeing play out today.

The video is after the jump. (It’s also a good point to mention that Interabang has convened a lot of great author chats during the pandemic; you can watch them all here. Skip Amazon and support a local bookstore.)

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Local News

Leading Off (1/14/21)

| 2 days ago

This time last year I was in Mexico sipping margaritas in a hammock overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This year, here’s what’s up:

Dallas City Council Agrees to Rename a 4-Mile Section of South Lamar in Memory of Botham Jean. This was one vote that was unanimous. The change will go in effect in 60 days, at which point Botham Jean Boulevard will run from Interstate 30 to South Central Expressway, past South Side Flats, the apartments where Jean lived and was killed by Amber Guyger, and the Dallas Police Department HQ. “This street on which he chose to live and the street on which he died can serve as a lasting memory of the upstanding resident who loved Dallas so much,” said his mother, Allison Jean.

Special Training Program Approved for DPD Officers. Dallas City Council members approved the Active Bystandership in Law Enforcement program yesterday. ABLE will be run by the University of North Texas at Dallas’ Caruth Police Institute. The goal, says BJ Wagner, Caruth’s executive director, is to train first responders how and when to intervene to prevent their colleagues from causing harm. Training will start in February and run through 2024, with costs capped at $300,000.

Dallas County Adds 2,994 Coronavirus Cases and 21 Deaths. By the end of next week, UT Southwestern Medical Center predicts, the county could have up to 1,900 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 and 3,600 new cases a day. The vaccination site at Fair Park was temporarily opened up yesterday to all North Texans over the age of 75 to take advantage of a surplus of shots, which critics blame in part on a disorganized process that has been particularly difficult to access by high-risk Latino and Black residents. Dallas County residents age 65 and older, or 18 and older with an underlying medical condition, are advised to register for the vaccine here.

POTUS Was Impeached for a Historic Second Time. Texas reps mostly voted along party lines except for Fort Worth’s Kay Granger, one of four Republicans who simply didn’t participate.

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Sports & Leisure

FC Dallas Offseason Round-Up

| 3 days ago

Regular readers of this site know that I am the resident FC Dallas fan. I admit that I was not a very good at that job in the 2020 season because, well, 2020. I became a bigger fan of making it through each week, and a few things got lost in the sauce. I’m going to try to get right in 2021, but I make no promises. I can’t. At any rate, maybe you also have some catching up to do. Here then are a few notes about FCD’s offseason thus far. New season starts, God willing and the creek don’t rise, in March.

Bryan Reynolds heads to Juventus, via Benevento. The Serie A giant has finally, after talking about it for seemingly forever, signed the 19-year-old FC Dallas right back. But they don’t have room on the roster at the moment for another non-EU player. So he had been loaned out for the rest of the season to Benevento, who are in only their second season in Italy’s top flight. But they do have an absolutely cracking badge and nickname (The Sorcerers). When Reynolds does make his way to Juventus, he will join Weston McKennie, who came up through the vaunted FC Dallas academy. FCD will get $10 million in the deal.

Michael Barrios is traded to Colorado Rapids. The pocket-size (5-foot-3, not counting bleach-blond mohawk) winger joins former teammate Kellyn Acosta, in exchange for an international roster spot and a SuperDraft pick swap. It’s a good deal for the club, but it does bum me out, because Barrios was one of the last links to the 2016 squad that won the Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup, and would have likely won the MLS Cup, too, save for an injury to Mauro Diaz. But he was superfluous because they had already signed his replacement.

Jáder Obrian joins from Colombia’s Rionegro Águilas. The 25-year-old scored 13 goals in 22 matches this season, and plays on the right side, where Barrios used to roam. He is super fast, plays direct, and is nicknamed “The Soldier.” But I assume you already knew that based on our shared familiarity with Colombia’s Categoría Primera A. As it happens, Obrian began his professional career in 2015 at Uniautónoma FC alongside … Michael Barrios.

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Dallas Express, Historic Black-Owned Newspaper, Has Become Fake News Site

| 3 days ago

The Dallas Express was once an important newspaper here. When you google “Dallas Express newspaper,” you get pages and pages of results that address that outlet’s role in the city and beyond. From UNT’s Portal to Texas History:

Self-proclaimed as “the South’s Oldest and Largest Negro Newspaper,” the Dallas Express traces its roots to 1892, when William E. King began publishing the Dallas Bee. Renamed the Dallas Express in 1893, the paper served as an advocate for blacks in Dallas and throughout the South for over 70 years.

Although little exists to document the paper’s early years, the Express became one of the most influential black publications in Texas in the decades leading up to the Great Depression.

So it is maddening to see what has now landed at the URL It is a pay-to-play “news” site run by a Chicago-based operation called Metric Media News that owns hundreds of such bogus news sites all across the country. The New York Times and the Columbia Journalism Review both exposed this. Our Peter Simek wrote about it when another Metric Media site called Dallas Media Wire popped up here. Read Peter’s post for a fuller understanding of how nasty this stuff is. The industry term for it, “pink slime,” is an apt one (that’s also the term for a meat-processing byproduct).

People, be careful with what you read and share. And watch out if a “reporter” from what sounds like a community newspaper calls you. Check their site at the very bottom. When there isn’t any information under the “contact” or “about us” links, that’s your first clue. If the site anywhere has the words “Metric Media” on it, that’s your second clue.

Don’t consume pink slime.

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COVID-19 Nearly Kept Dallas Stars Playoff Hero ‘Dobby’ Stuck in Russia

| 3 days ago

During last year’s miraculous run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Dallas Star’s Russian netminder Anton Khudobin quickly emerged as a fan favorite thanks to his dazzling saves on the ice and equally charming performances post-game. Khudobin’s playoff heroics are part of the reason why the Stars felt comfortable relying more on Khudobin this coming season. In the past, he has platooned with Ben Bishop, who is out this season due to a knee injury. But according to a story in The Athletic (sub. req.), Khudobin — or “Dobby,” as he is affectionally known by fans — nearly didn’t make it back from Russia for the start of the 2020-2021 NHL season, which kicks-off tonight.

First, there was a hand injury that led to a difficult post-season rehab. Then, the goalie contracted COVID-19, and his symptoms were anything but mild. Finally, as the virus surged in Dallas, immigration delays and Russia’s plans to cancel flights to the United States nearly left Dobby stranded.

Here are some highlights from the wild tale:

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Some of the World’s Best Whiskies Are Made in North Texas

| 3 days ago

When we were trying to figure out what we were going to put on the cover of the January issue, one item was on just about everyone’s lips: booze. A few of us were in the process of cutting back on consumption, but others (like me) had taken advantage of the quarantine to up our cocktail games. So what if bars were closed: we were taking solace at home in a well-crafted G&T or Manhattan. We found ourselves using the ritual as a signifier of the otherwise vague transition from workday to evening, removing the laptop from the dining table and pulling out a cutting board and fresh citrus, a muddler and shaker, performing both an exorcism and a forearm exercise of sorts before changing into couch socks and settling in for an episode of The Repair Shop.

Some of my efforts were also partly research for the cocktail section of my cookbook. I was ordering obscure bottles for home delivery from Bar & Garden, experimenting with brands and flavors. I’m a sucker for a pretty bottle, and one day I spotted a beveled glass beauty from a distillery I had never heard of. It was a bourbon whiskey from Blackland Distillery in Fort Worth. I ordered it; I loved it. That led me to wonder how many other regional distilleries I was missing. Sure, I knew Balcones, Herman Marshall, Firestone & Robinson. But what I didn’t know or understand was that since Balcones and Garrison Brothers started the Texas whiskey revolution a little over a decade ago, North Texas is now dotted with nearly two dozen distilleries, crafting everything from Scotch-style single malts to Japanese-style non-chill filtered vodkas.

What is being crafted here reflects a world of influences, but also a distinct North Texas terroir and an independent Lone Star point of view. At the southernmost point, in Waco, you have Balcones, the standard bearer for Texas whiskey, which first made a name for itself with its Baby Blue blue corn whisky and then stunned the world in 2012 by beating out the top Scotch houses with its Texas Single Malt. At the northernmost point, virtually on the Oklahoma border in Denison, you have Ironroot, the more recent upstart from the Likarish family, which produced the world’s best bourbon (made from locally grown heirloom corn) in 2020, the first non-Kentucky bourbon to ever be so honored.

But it’s not just the booze that’s worth seeking out. A number of these distilleries have cool tasting rooms staffed by distillers who are more than willing to go into detail about the differences in flavor between Atomic Orange and Bloody Butcher corn or the effect of a 30-degree temperature change (like last weekend’s snowfall) on increased tannin extraction. So we’ve put together a guide on the best liquors to try and distilleries to tour, which you can read here. It is our January cover story and it’s online today. And we’ve added some ideas for overnight trips because, of course, you can sample more if you don’t have to drive.

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Local News

The Mavericks Play Tonight. Should They?

| 3 days ago

The Mavericks were supposed to play the Pelicans Monday evening, even after Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Jalen Brunson had entered into the NBA’s “health and safety protocols,” the league’s linguistic sleight of hand for “COVID-19 exposure.” There was word that Maxi Kleber would join them, and now he has, along with Dwight Powell. The rest of the team traveled yesterday to Charlotte, where they will play the Hornets tonight at 6 p.m. I wish they weren’t.

Given that five of its rotation players are out, I do not have high hopes for the Mavs’ delivering any sort of payback for the 118–99 home loss to the Hornets a couple of days before the new year, a game that wasn’t even that close and caused Luka Doncic to come back out to get some shots up after it was over. But that is not why I wish they had postponed this game. It’s not just the Mavs. The Heat, Sixers, and Celtics are all dealing with “health and safety protocols” absences, and you have to imagine that it is going to get worse before it gets better. Tonight’s Atlanta-Phoenix game was postponed this morning; it’s the seventh game to be postponed so far, and the season is less than a month old.

Yesterday, the league added more to its already lengthy health and safety guidelines, requiring team personnel to stay home for the next two weeks “at all times” except for team activities and store runs, and forbidding guests at team hotels. Will that be enough? I don’t think so. Without a bubble and without vaccines, it looks like the season will have to proceed a week at a time, if they insist on keeping going.

I don’t know what the solution is. A few different bubbles scattered around the country? Pushing pause for two weeks while teams get healthy and out of quarantine and trying to come up with best practices going forward? I really do not know. But I’m expecting a lot more games will look like what the Mavs roll out tonight, with Boban Marjanovic as the only true big man on the roster (maybe James Johnson counts) and a lot of rookies and little-used players on the court. [Update: I totally blanked on Willie Cauley-Stein, who has started the past few games and thus far has been a welcome addition to the team. Sorry, WCS. Still, a very thin big-man rotation.] That could lead to injuries (worst case) or just bad basketball.

Either way, not a great future. But I suppose that is sort of what everyone is dealing with, so why should this be any different?

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The LiquorHound Has the Finest Palate in Texas

| 3 days ago

Approximately 2,500 liquor bottles line the display case—six shelves tall, three feet wide, four or five bottles deep—that takes up half the kitchen and spills into the living room of Chris Trevino’s Fort Worth home. Part of the collection resides in closets, and he owns doubles, but he guesses that the total number of unique specimens hovers around 1,300 or 1,400.

Before he obtained his Certified Specialist of Spirits status and was certified by the Tequila Regulatory Council of Mexico, before he became LiquorHound, with a YouTube subscription base of 25,000, a view count of 6 million, and a Patreon channel where he releases reviews weekly to subscribers, Trevino was just a guy with a friend who’d brought a bottle of tequila back when he visited family in Mexico. It was 1994, and Trevino was 21 years old.  

Soon, tequila segued to rum and then vodka, which led to gin, bourbon, and scotch—each spirit the object of a year or two of study in a collection that quickly encompassed hundreds. During the first few years, there wasn’t a YouTube channel to post to. Trevino just studied, tasted, and collected. He made it his mission to divide North Texas into pie wedges that he would sweep and reconnoiter, visiting dozens of liquor stores in each sector, eventually taking in the whole state in an exhaustive (and exhausting) pursuit as he sleuthed for rare bottles.  

The spoils of his time-telescoping hobby include a bourbon called Black and Gold, distilled in 1917 and allowed to rest in barrels until 1933, that waited out Prohibition. There is an 1819 Rhum Clement from Martinique, an Agricole rum distilled from the juice of the sugarcane rather than the traditional molasses, and an original imperial wicker-covered gallon demijohn of rum, bottled for the British Royal Navy in the days of daily rum rations. There’s the 1940s Pernod Fils absinthe created in Tarragona, Spain, where Pernod had moved production after France banned it in 1915, and a bottle from a 2,400-bottle batch of Booker’s “Friends and Family” Bourbon, given as holiday gifts by iconic Jim Beam distiller Booker Noe in 1986. Each is a history lesson.  

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