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"Well, fine, but where is everyone tonight?" I asked. "This is what a Thursday night in storied Deep Ellum looks like?"
He didn't skip a beat. He refused to acknowledge, even to this stranger, that the neighborhood had become a shadow of its former self.
"Well, it's only 11," Frankie told me. "When I go out with my friends, we usually don't hit the bars until around midnight."
Dallas, TX 75226
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Region: Downtown & Deep Ellum
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I took his word for it, ordered another beer, and, shortly thereafter, left.
Two weekends ago, over a couple drinks and a game of darts at another Deep Ellum bar, I told Campagna that story.
"I was probably just trying to squeeze a couple of extra bucks out of you," he said, laughing his hearty laugh.
I knew better. Campagna was simply doing his part for the neighborhood he loved—something he always did, and gladly at that.
When I saw him on Friday, we shared a quick conversation about all the action taking place in the neighborhood that night. He seemed proud that things were looking up for the neighborhood once more.
"This is a good thing," I said, now a resident of the neighborhood myself.
He nodded, agreeing, before changing the subject to give me grief about beating him in darts the weekend before.
"I'm never playing darts with you again," he said.
I didn't think anything of it. The kid, I assumed, was kidding again. Just as he always did.
He always seemed so happy to me.
Sometimes you can just tell.
Other times, you can't.