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!

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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

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.

South Dallas Story – Pt. 2

Pretty good Saturday, I’d say.  So far anyway.  It was 73 degrees and sunny in Dallas, but unfortunately I didn’t get out to enjoy it as much as I’d have liked.  I was going to set off on foot around the neighborhood to get some shots for a photography book I’m working on, but decided the light was too direct at 2:00pm.  I settled on 4:30-ish.  As I went out, though, I caught my photographer neighbor (see a prior post), and we got to talking, as we’re prone to do.  Interesting dude.  We ended up talking for like an hour, until we were interrupted by the wifey peeking out of the blinds (she’d just gotten up from a day of slumber, and we were standing in front of our door) and a woman from our building’s property management company.

But, I did manage to work on some new paintings (almost done), and edit some of the shots I got last weekend.  What the hell – I’ll share one of them below.

I’m really excited about this project.  It’s a coffee table style photography book about Cedars (aka The Cedars), my neighborhood in South Dallas.  I have no ETA on it at all, but hopefully sometime sooner than later.  This year for sure.  Of course, this is in addition to two poetry book projects currently underway.  Ugh, I really need to stop procrastinating on those and get with it.

In total contrast to today’s weather, here’s a time-lapse video of snow (a relative rarity in the Sun Belt-Buckle that is DFW) falling on Cedars Station, our local DART train station.

I do want to get in some rainy shots, maybe some snowy/icy shots if we get anything good this winter, and some sunny shots.  Watch this blog for more as the project moves forward.

My neighbor is a world-class photographer, and does it for a living, so I must admit it’s sort of intimidating.  He’s also in his early 20s (8 years younger than me) so that makes it somewhat even more intimidating.  It’s also inspiring though.  I’ve never claimed to be the best artist, writer, or photographer, but I’m just doing what I love.  I don’t have all the training and latest tips, but I do have the passion, and I think I do a pretty good job.

Okay,  enough blogging (for now) – time to work on more art, and then watch ‘True Grit’ with the wifey.

Satur-Fucking-Day

I slept until 10:50am today, which is virtually unheard of for me.  For some reason, I am really excited – stoked, even – about today.  A day that includes massive cleaning of the loft… Hmm… For one thing, it’s gorgeous outside.  And I’m well-rested.  What a novel concept.  Yesterday I spent a few minutes chatting with one of my neighbors, a very cool dude who’s an internationally renowned photographer and looks an awful lot like a younger bro of Andy Samberg.  Anyway, he invited me to grab a beer today at our neighborhood bar, Lee Harvey’s.

When I first met him, I was a little intimidated because he was so refreshingly nice.  He was just moving some stuff into the studio with his buddy (2 doors down from our place) and when he saw me come out to walk my dog, he put down his stuff, walked over and shook my hand.  Most people in the city tend to be guarded around strangers, even neighbors they don’t yet know.  I’m certainly no exception, given my social awkwardness and introversion.   But, as I said a few lines up, it was refreshing.  Since then, every time we see one another, he makes a point to stop and chit chat, which is pretty cool.  So, if we actually end up going for a beer or two, that should be interesting.

bahahaha!

Okay, it’s now after noon, I have errands to run and a cluttered loft to clean before wifey’s club-going guests arrive tonight, so ciao.

*UPDATE*

So, no meet-up with Mr. Sambergtographer, but exchanged numbers to do it some other time.  Currently on my 3rd Screwdriver and sketching Beth Ditto for a painting I’m working on.  Not the actual Beth Ditto – I should be so lucky.

South Dallas Story – pt. 1

Disclaimer: The photos contained in this post, unless otherwise noted, were not taken by me, and have been located on the internet.

For those of you who don’t know me IRL, I recently moved to a neighborhood of South Dallas called the Cedars.  It’s just in the shadow of downtown Dallas, technically part of South Dallas, but close enough in to call it downtown and not be lying.

It’s at the northern edge of arguably the most ‘hood’ part of Dallas – the South and South East portions.  But, due perhaps to its proximity to downtown Dallas, it’s what I like to call “the white people’s hood.”  Decades of blight and decay abound, but it’s not as “bad” as some other neighborhoods, even within the same zip code as us.  The further south one travels from the Cedars, the more blighted the terrain becomes.

Drug dealing and prostitution are not at all uncommon, even in broad daylight.  A block away from our loft is an actual $7 a night flophouse – the infamous Bunkhaus.

Vacant lots polkadot our immediate neighborhood and the surrounding environs, with grassy lots where grand old homes once stood.  It’s fairly obvious in most cases that the lots have been empty for years – makes me wonder how many.  Decades even?

We live in a converted loft that used to be part of reputed mob associate and Lee Harvey Oswald murderer Jack Ruby‘s ‘Silver Spur Nightclub.’

Jack Ruby

The NuGrape Bottling Plant at left, the red building was a hotel and the Silver Spur, and the old Ervay Theater at far right

In the past couple of months living here, I have fallen hopelessly in love with this somewhat-forgotten, underrated part of the city, for all the reasons I listed in the beginning of this post.  I love it for its grittiness, its reality, its urban appeal.  Like me, it’s an underdog, something of a loner, and often misunderstood.

The district has gone from being one of Dallas’ earliest wealthy enclaves – and the center of the city’s Jewish population; to an industrial blighted area rife with poverty, crime, and urban decay; to a quiet, slow reemergence as an affordable artist/loft neighborhood.

More to come, as I continue to explore this vibrant, amazing part of my city.  I’m so inspired I’m even planning a photography book project.

Downtown Dallas from an empty lot in the Cedars

Snow In Dallas…

…but no accumulation in my neighborhood 😦

Winter has finally fallen upon Dallas, with a winter storm moving in last night.  Rained all day, then heavy snowfall, but here in the inner city, it didn’t stick.  Friends in the ‘burbs are posting pics online of a solid white dusting of snow.  Ah well, I’d still rather live here. 😉

’30 Days of Truth’ post to follow…