Best Of :: People & Places
The Texas Discovery Gardens now include a new wonderful butterfly conservatory that is basically a rain forest in a three-story greenhouse brimming with exotic butterflies. Elevated walkways allow guests to follow the butterflies all the way up into the tops of the trees. For $200 you can take 40 kids there for a unique and memorable birthday party. The thoughtful folks at the Discovery Gardens provide decorations and have even come up with gender-specific themes: "For the Love of Butterflies" for girls, and for boys, "For the Love of Bugs." You get two hours, an educational gift for your child and the staff does the clean-up. Kids can roam out into the outdoor gardens if the butterflies aren't enough. Two shifts, Saturdays and Sunday. Make reservations.
Conventional wisdom holds that rich guys don't like to air their dirty laundry in public, which is likely why the descendants of H.L. Hunt settled their family feud on the courthouse steps in May. It's also why we relished the opportunity to view the dirty laundry filed by billionaire Ross Perot Jr. against billionaire Mark Cuban in the form of a civil case that alleged Cuban had racked up so much debt during the nine years he has been running the Dallas Mavericks ($270 million) that he had basically run the team into the ground. Perot claimed that Cuban's bad management had jeopardized the 5 percent minority interest Perot, through his Hillwood Properties, still retains in the Mavs. Claiming that the Mavs were nearly bankrupted by Mark Cuban seemed about as likely as saying that the Rangers weren't nearly bankrupted by Tom Hicks. Although Perot did his talking through lawyers, Cuban took his case to the Internet and e-mailed various press outlets, telling them that the lawsuit was an act of desperation on the part of Perot, who had lost big on his Victory Park development. No matter the right and wrong of it, the public was given a glimpse of rich guys getting all shitty with each other. And the prospect of watching how the rich play hardball remains as the lawsuit takes on age and animosity.
Sure, a classy dinner, a bottle of wine and a movie says "romance," but it's not exactly the stuff of sweeping love songs. No heartbroken musician out there pens tunes about the time they had the fish at Central 214 and rented The Proposal. A song-worthy kiss comes with hints of danger, apprehension and excitement. Your heart will go pitter-patter with both love and adrenaline when you make a late-night run at climbing the fence of AT&T's telephone pole-climbing training ground at the corner of Bryan and Fitzhugh in East Dallas with the object of your affection. The barbed-wire is easily conquered with a thick flannel blanket, and there are plenty of footholds at the northwest corner of the compound. We're not saying it's like taking candy from a baby, but we are saying that maybe we know a girl who did this in a mini-skirt, unscathed. And once you've shown your prowess at trespassing vertically, getting horizontal is the easy part.
The Texas Pinball Festival will celebrate its 18th annual event this March, proving that even in the age of Wii and PlayStation, people still appreciate the craftsmanship and tactile experience of their favorite arcade games. A flat fee gets you in the door for unlimited play on a plethora of machines—for a much heftier fee, you can even take some of them home. You'll see machines you thought you'd never see again, from cool, vintage '70s Playboy and Capt. Fantastic games to those based on best-forgotten '90s films like Demolition Man ("Featuring Academy Awards Winning Actress Sandra Bullock!"). And if the pinball isn't enough, the people watching is amazing—whether it's the hardcore competition players or the blinking light salesmen or the drunk middle-aged couples down from Oklahoma, hoping to rekindle a little of that teenage feeling with a sweet multiball or two.
Dallas used to be dotted with little bait and tackle stores where you could acquire a little bit of equipment and a whole bunch of information just by stopping in. Now, of course, the huge category-killers like Bass Pro Shops and Academy have driven most of the mom-and-pops out of business. One of the interesting exceptions to that rule is Barlow's, just south of Arapaho Road on the southbound service drive of Central Expressway in Richardson. Barlow's maintains a serious Web presence, selling specialized bait and equipment to guides and dedicated fishermen. Maybe that's what allows them to keep the retail store open. However they do it, their store is a great place to pick up inside scoop on area lakes from Texoma to Fork. The people behind the counter know what's biting, where and on what. Sometimes you don't even have to ask. Just slouch around and keep your ears open, because somebody else is always up there trying to pick up some secrets.
No small matter, balancing the public's right to a free and open judiciary against the privacy rights of the litigants who play within its courtrooms. But Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons has spent much of his public career trying to strike that balance. On July 26, he made court records available over the Internet, initially releasing more than 13 million images to the public. Currently the dockets of 10 criminal courts, eight civil courts and all seven family courts can be viewed online. Documents for the remaining courts will be available by year's end. This may be a boon to the media but not so much to those litigants who object to public disclosure of private matters. To assist in these privacy concerns, individuals can request that their Social Security numbers be redacted from documents and certain records—those not required by law to remain public—may be restricted. Lawyers and the media will have access to all documents save those sealed or made confidential by law. Tricky business, maintaining some semblance of privacy in an electronic world. But Fitzsimmons seems bent on trying to get it right.