Chucks & Grime – South Dallas February 2011

Picture post…

This photo was taken during shoots for a photography book I’m working on, celebrating my neighborhood south of downtown Dallas, the Cedars.

It’s a brilliant, gorgeous spring day in Dallas – even though it’s only February 15th.

Partly Cloudy
74°F
Current: Partly Cloudy
Wind: S at 17 mph
Humidity: 46%

I hope this isn’t one of the weather teasers we usually get.  A little over a week ago we had the “ice storm of the century” followed by 6 inches of snow – now it’s 75 degrees.   ¡Bienvenidos a Tejas!

Son of Snowpocalypse: Dispatches From the Texas Tundra

So, freakish North Texas February weather made its dramatic Oscar-contending return this morning, with 50-degree daytime highs once again giving way to first rain, then sleet, then snow.

Unlike last week’s “Storm of the Century” smack in the middle of the Metroplex’s first shot at hosting a Super Bowl, this one came and went.

For some reason I decided it would be a great idea to go into the office today.  I didn’t want to be “that guy” that just worked from home, although I have this ability and took advantage of it last week.

DART (our regional transit system) was reporting “running on schedule” and the agency had kept the trains running all night to try and keep ice off the lines.  So I figured what the hell, and headed out into the light, cold rain.  I caught my first train in my neighborhood and 3 stops later, was at the West End Station downtown.

Caught the northbound Green Line, as usual.  After a few stops, however, trouble set in.  The lights and HVAC system started to flicker on and off for a few seconds at a time, leaving only the train’s interior emergency lighting on.  This was about 5:40am.  It also quickly became apparent that the train was unable to move on the track.  It began to jolt, but not move, then it would inch forward, then jolt.  Rinse and repeat for about half an hour.  At last, we began to move.  I contemplated getting off and heading back downtown to the safety of my nice warm loft.  But, we were caught between stations, so there was no getting off.  Plus, it was 16 degrees, and I really didn’t feel like standing at a train station in it, waiting some unknown length of time for a train that may or may not be able to get me anywhere.

Finally I reached my station, caught my connecting bus, and was off.  The buses (I take two) were smooth sailing.  The drivers were cautious, polite, and sent each passenger off with a “be careful” or “watch your step,” etc.

So, long story slightly less long – THREE HOURS later, I arrived at the office to find I was the ONLY person in my department to come in.  Worst. decision. ever.  lol.  My normal 1.5 hour commute was doubled.  But, whatever, I made it safely in.  A couple of hours later the sun was out – though the temperature was (and still is) well below zero.  But at least the streets melted enough to make a normal commute home possible.  I hear we may be in store for more next week.  Ugh, over it.  This weather is decidedly un-Dallas, and I cannot abide it!   haha.  What can you do?  Just roll with it, I guess.  Glad I had a well-worn copy of Tony Hillerman‘s Sacred Clowns to keep me company.  I always carry a couple of books and an Observer.

Tomorrow promises to start with record-low temperatures, but should climb up a bit in the afternoon…to around freezing.

Sweet Georgia Brown, I’m ready for some spring up in heah!  Spring in Dallas is truly the most amazing time – but then, I’m sure it is everywhere.  Problem is spring here is the end of March – May, and then it’s summer from June – Halloween.  And if you’ve never been to Big D, lemme tell ya – summer means BUSINESS around these sun-baked parts.

Every summer I swear I’m moving elsewhere, as I curse the heat with every fiber of my being.  I detest sweating, unless I’m exercising or something, where I equate more sweat with more results. lol

IN OTHER NEWS:

Stevie Nicks‘ new single, “Secret Love” is now available on iTunes, and her new solo album, In Your Dreams (her first since 2001’s Trouble In Shangri-La) comes out May 23rd.  I could only be happier about this is she hand-delivered it to my door and then hung out with me the rest of the day.  Ah, I can dream…

Anyway, Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) co-wrote and produced the album.  Here’s the new single:

Album Review: Dustin Cavazos – I Think In the Shower I Dream On My Bike

Dustin Cavazos – I Think In the Shower I Dream On My Bike
©2010 Dustin Cavazos Music

Dallas born-and-bred rapper Dustin Cavazos burst onto the local scene last year with his debut album, I Think In the Shower I Dream On My Bike.

Rather than trying to write a play-by-play for each song, I’ll give you the basics and then let the music do the talking – it says it all better than I could anyway.

The first half of the disc is the most radio-friendly and accessible from a mainstream perspective – but Cavazos’ art is anything but conventional and mainstream.  He knows how to spit a meaty verse, but remains organic, indie, and legit throughout.

“Skip This Day” opens the set as a slow burning short track, a sort of intro to the meat & potatoes of the disc.  He quickly segues into “First Things First,” a tune that establishes his priorities – getting up off the couch and “getting on his grind” to make something happen.

“Everything Everybody Told Us,” one of the album’s standout tracks, plays on the familiar “someday we’ll understand our parents were right about everything” theme many people realize as they enter adulthood.

“Fresh,” arguably the best cut on the disc, deftly samples the Chi-Lites, which serves to compliment Cavazos’ hand-clapping beats well, as he raps about dismissing his haters and his strapped upbringing in a close-knit but poor family.

On “Eye to Eye With Myself,” Cavazos gets a helping hand from the talented R&B/gospel darling Ayiesha Woods.  The track builds from a bubble of sound to a frenzied peak, with the two voices melding effortlessly into the soulful finishing lines.

“The Last Song I’ll Write About You” cleverly turns from Cavazos’ own personal final farewell to an ex girlfriend, into a shout out to the scandalous Everywoman, thanks to help from fellow MC Ty City.

The disc’s midpoint, beginning with “Fountain,” sees Cavazos take a distinctly cerebral turn for most of the last half of the album.  While the bulk of his work introduces musical experimentation, with interesting and unexpected blips and twists abounding, it is this slew of tracks that really turns the pace down a bit, but the headspace up to 12.  Cavazos creates lush walls of luxe sound landscapes, and truly puts his focus into perspective on superb tracks like “Is This It?” “You Choose,” and “I See the Future.”

The album serves not only as Cavazos’ open book of his philosophy, but also a love letter to his beloved Dallas.  (seriously, the city practically plays a recurring character – rarely do hometown shout-outs sound this sincere, rather than zip-code posturing)

While the disc is chock-full of homeboy-with-a-heart rhymes and clever lines about growing up relatively poor, and his staunch belief and support of his friends and family, his overall message of positivity connects each and every track like a chord running throughout the middle of the disc.

It’s perhaps on the album’s closer, “I See the Future,” where the philosophy of Dustin Cavazos the man becomes most clear – he’s not too troubled by the rough patches in life, because he knows in his heart that he has himself to rely on, and his friends and family as a never-ending source of support.  As he raps in the song, “Is it over? / Or will I wake? / Tomorrow’s never promised / And I will never finish / And you could never handle what it is that’s on my plate…”

Cavazos leaves the tired raps about “bitches, hos, and money” to lesser MCs (“Money and fame is better off in the toilet,” he raps early on), preferring to simply rhyme about the daily struggles of life in the hood and trying to make a name for himself, with his friends, family, and fans in tow.  He may just be the future savior of the local rap scene…and if music fans are lucky, he will be.

This review comes just before the highly anticipated (hopefully this month!?) release of his sophomore set, Be.Leave.Me.

Now, for that music I was telling you about.  For more on Dustin, visit him online at:

www.dustincavazos.com
www.myspace.com/dustincavazosmusic
www.twitter.com/dustincavazos

30 Days – Day 11 – Something People Compliment Me On

If you’re following this blog, you know I’m participating in the ‘30 Days of Truth‘ project I’ve seen on other blogs.  It’s helping me commit to posting every single day, since I’m also taking part in The Daily Post project.

Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on

People have often complimented me on my humor and/or wit.  I guess I am pretty quick with a snappy quip.  Is that a talent?  Perhaps it is; although I’m not sure I’ve put it to the best use over the years.  Like many things, I can’t force it – guess that’s why I probably wouldn’t want to be a comedy writer or comedian (the pressure). 

I’ve also gotten compliments on my art and photography (fyi, I did not take the photo above – click on it to see more tilt shift images).  I have had no formal art or photography training.  I’ve drawn since I was about 2 years old, and I guess I had a natural affinity for photography from a fairly young age.  I used to carry those Fun Saver cameras with me everywhere.

I actually would like to take a digital photography class – something non-credit where I could learn tips & tricks to better my craft.  But I’ve been told I have a good eye for things.  That makes me feel pretty good.  🙂  And I’ve learned some interesting digital processing techniques through friends and just messing around with various programs and websites such as Photoshop, GIMP, Pixlr, etc.  I’ve also learned some cool tricks from the wife.  She took digital photography and editing classes in college. 

I got into painting last year.  I really took to it after my first piece.  I decided I’d like to try something on canvas.  For many years, though I was pretty adept at drawing, painting intimidated me.  I was afraid to try it.  Mind you, I am no Picaso, but I think I have been able to successfully translate my inspiration and vision onto the canvas.  My work leans toward pop art, with major inspriations/themes running the gambit from Mexican cultural and/or religious iconography, fantasy art, rockabilly, vintage, retro, and so forth.  Although I’m atheist, I must confess I have a sweet spot for Mexican Catholic iconography – the Virgin of Guadalupe is a personal favorite. 

I’ve been photographing a lot outdoors lately.  I moved to a loft in South Dallas the weekend of Halloween, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously somewhere.  I love my neighborhood.  I feel very at home, and I’m discovering more about this part of the city every day.  I’d never ventured down here much at all – it was verboten, as it’s “that part of town” that nobody from the North Side ever goes to.  I’m glad they don’t – that saves it as the treasure it is.  Although some development and services on the whole are badly needed for the residents of South Dallas, many of whom are among the poorest in the entire city.  Anyway, I’m working on a photography book about my neighborhood.  I’ve gotten what I think are some pretty great shots, and while there’s a lot of information online and in books about South Dallas as a whole, including Oak Cliff, I am fairly certain there’s yet to be a book (and certainly a photography book) about The Cedars (my neighborhood). 

Here’s a shot I thought I’d share:

I Almost Found a Dead Body Today…Sort Of

Stock image - but very similar to this

I drove by last night, about 7:30pm, venturing out in the barely double digit temperatures to brave the ice-pocked streets for dinner.  We had failed to get groceries before the ice storm hit.  Luckily, there were very few cars downtown.

On South Akard Street, in my neighborhood, I drove past a not-unfamiliar site – a homeless person asleep in the doorway of an abandoned business.  The small, single-story vacant brick building regularly houses the remnants of people seeking shelter in its cozy confines.  Well, the doorway at least.

I noticed a big pile of blankets, obviously covering a human figure head to toe.  Mind you, again, the temperatures at that point were in the teens.  I thought to myself, how terrible, to endure this for hours on end through the night.  The days are hardly better this week.  But, as I said earlier, in this part of town, it’s all too familiar.

Early this morning, I had to step out for a bit once more to run down the street.  This was about 6:30.  I wasn’t about to make the commute to the office, with the city suffering under rolling blackouts and just as much ice as before.  As I drove past the building, the figure was still there.  Noting the time, I assumed the person had slept there throughout the night, and I hoped they were sheltered from the admittedly sparse breeze.

Here’s the kicker.  After I finished working at home, I decided to make the trek to Oak Lawn for some dinner items and a couple of staples for tomorrow.  This was about 4:30pm.  There, just as motionless as before, lay the figure covered in mounds of blankets, next to a large suitcase.  I thought, ‘surely not…’ ‘That must be someone’s stuff.’  And I feared the worst – that the person lying under those blankets had possibly frozen to death as the mercury plummeted to 7 degrees Fahrenheit overnight.

This thought bothered me all the way to Kroger and back.  I felt, in good conscience, I had to stop and check on this person, to see if the worst was true, or if I was only imagining things.

I pulled into an icy spot next to the curb, just off the main street, where I parked.  Sliding out of the driver’s seat and onto a thick patch of ice, I shuffled my way onto the curb and up the sidewalk, muttering to myself that it was surely just someone’s abandoned possessions.  As I made my way along the sidewalk, I very quickly came upon debris strewn from the doorway toward the street – old food packages and plastic bottles, some unknown individual’s old Christmas family photo, and so forth.

I came upon the figure, and hovered for just a split second over the pale blue woolen blanket – one of those with the satin ribbon along the top edge.  I must have stepped on the ice, becuase when it gave a cracking sound, the lumpy blanketed figure emerged, eager to find the source of this sound so close to him.

I quickly turned and walked the other direction, and gave a glance as if I’d only been passing.  He was a white man, maybe in his 30s, with reddish blonde hair and beard.  He covered up and went back on about his business, whatever it was.

I felt relieved, as I’d already played out the ensuing 911 call and anonymous “tip,” and so forth.  But, as I drove away back to my safe, spacious, warm loft, I felt bad, and thought I should have asked him if he was okay, would like to go to a shelter, or if he’d eaten.  My only consolation to myself was that I’d thought to stop at all.  Most people would be all too happy to avoid ever having to talk to “one of those people.”

From an article about the current “super freeze.”

A Dallas Police Crisis Intervention worker found two homeless people under ice-covered blankets, leaves and trash in a wooded area in south Dallas Wednesday morning, said Ron Cowart, manager of the unit. One had ice crystals in her hair. He convinced them to go to a shelter.

Ice-a-palooza!

An ice storm moved into North Texas overnight, causing havoc and shutting the city’s transportation infrastructure down for most of Tuesday.  Hundreds of flights at DFW and Love Field were closed, as was Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s (DART) rail service throughout the Dallas area.  DART buses were running, but many were getting stuck or sliding around the ice.  The trains finally began running in mid-afternoon, but only operated on a 30 minute schedule for the duration of the day.

A record low overnight is anticipated, with the mercury plummeting to around 7 degrees Fahrenheit.   Wednesday looks clear, but highs only reach the 20s.  In fact, we won’t get above freezing until Friday.

Wifey drove me the 7 blocks to the train station, and we waited as the sleet pelted us.  The train never came.  I knew I was going to miss all my connections, and have to stand out in the weather at one point for at least 30 minutes for a bus, so I came home.  Luckily, I was able to work from home today.  I think I may do the same tomorrow.  I managed to be productive, and stayed safe & warm in the loft.

February is always our nasty, wintery month.  It doesn’t get cold here until January, and Feb. always seems to bring the horrible winter weather.  Luckily, this being the Sunbelt and all, these two months are all that constitute winter in North Texas.  By March we’ll be in spring, and we’ll stay gorgeous until June when the temperatures and humidity begin to rise.  Then, it’s summer from June through Halloween.  Truly, it is not at all uncommon for temperatures to hit around 90 all the way through October.  Then November and December give us our share of fall.

I love winter and all, but this is a bit too much winter for me.  This is why I never relocated to Chicago, etc.  I need my Southwestern sun back