Elderly Cambodians, a few Vietnamese and a handful of Thais are still in Old East Dallas, remnants of the refugee tide that came through in the 1980s and quickly dispersed to the suburbs. These are the least assimilable. The ragtag little vegetable plots they keep on Fitzhugh Avenue are their tiny fragment of home. On Saturday mornings they sell water spinach, Asian herbs, wax and loofah gourds, snake gourd, vine tips and more. Unfailingly polite, sad and jolly at the same time, they offer a serene beginning for the weekend.

You have to pay to be a member of the Y, but the fees are reasonable, and the downtown branch offers swim lessons for all ages plus water aerobics classes at its indoor 25-meter, eight-lane pool. It's an easy walk or short drive from virtually everywhere downtown, so office workers panting to take a dip can fit it into their schedules. Better still, along with your swim you can work out at the Y's extensive aerobics and weight facilities upstairs, though do us a favor and hit the showers before jumping in. We once made the mistake of asking a lifeguard why the water sometimes tastes salty. You don't want to know the answer.
Lakewood Country Club
We all need to blow off some steam these days. Between North Korea, the Middle East and various domestic dilemmas, our chances of seeing the new year are slim. So why not enjoy ourselves while we still have the time? Right. That's what we say. Want to have some real fun? There's nothing better than screwing with golfers. If you drive around the Lakewood Country Club, you'll notice that the golf course is surrounded by iron gates--the kind you can easily see through. That's the key here. So this is what you do. Drive slowly. Pick out a foursome (we suggest the elderly or the competitive--they always react with excited indignation). Then, when one of them is on his backswing, honk your horn and scream obscenities out the window. At the least, you'll get to watch them shank the ball. In the best scenario, they'll jump up and down or throw something your way. All very funny. Feeling particularly blue? Just drive by again. Hey, it's free. And besides, we'll all be dead soon from nuclear winter, so it won't matter anyway.

Between suburban Cedar Hill and Grand Prairie, the rolling landscape along this rapidly developing two-lane road is about as close as you're gonna get to the Texas Hill Country. The route leads to the popular and picturesque Lake Joe Pool, where a state park boasts nature trails, campsites and bike routes that are hardly overused as long as you skip Fourth of July weekend and Memorial Day. You'll want to make a quick detour into the tree-hidden campus of Northwood University. In the early evening, it provides a nice vantage point to see red-tailed hawks and big white egrets swooping in for landings.
The spacious ice rink in the center of downtown's Plaza of the Americas is the perfect escape for any middle-management yuppie who could use a cool break from that three-walled hell known as the cubicle. Located on the bottom floor of a building filled with law offices, real estate agencies, financial consolidation groups and Internet mortgage blabitty-blabitty-blahs, the rink generally will be filled with a mix of businesspeople, vacationers staying at the adjacent Westin City Center and local high-schoolers who make their way over via the Pearl Street DART station. Surrounding the ice rink is a plethora of shops and restaurants ready to provide you with a post-skate snack and some trinkets to bring home. Closer than the Galleria and better than hosing down the driveway on one of Texas' only subzero days, Americas Ice Garden Ice Rink is a chilly oasis in the middle of our concrete jungle.

Cowboys Red River
Thought it was going to be some techno club, huh? Well, hang on, because Red River has its share of mainstream and country music. Hear us out on our reasoning. The venue has a house band when it doesn't have a scheduled concert, dance lessons (because there's nothing worse than turning the wrong way, causing your new dance partner to lose an eye) or one incredibly entertaining mechanical bull. The joint has drink and cover specials most nights and the aforementioned lessons two nights a week. It's a bit like an amusement park for drinkers, really. Grab a Bud, slide out onto the hardwood dance floor, spin for a few, go for a ride--and on occasion the ladies can race and claw their way to cash, thanks to a balloon drop. Red River is chaos, it's country and it's fun. Give it a shot...after buying us one, of course.
Main Street Liquid Co
Ah, yes, the dreaded 972. Depending on the area and particular social circle, the three-digit prefix is anything but innocuous. Those who have chosen the manicured grass, SUVs and loooong exit ramps run a constant risk of being shunned by their Southern, city-slick brethren. After all, there's no way some "Yankee" can handle the nightlife of the real Dallas, right? On the contrary, roughnecks...the Main Street Liquid Co. in Richardson offers 214-esque carousing in the coziness of the suburbs and consequently presents an alternative to the suffocating blitzkrieg of corporate sports-bar hell. The no-frills environment is apparent even before you step into the warmly wooded interior of the tavern, as the identifying neon above the door succinctly (hence tastefully) reads "BAR." Once inside, a new patron must acquire a free card before that initial libation is poured, but don't let any notion of exclusiveness fool you; everyone willing to belly up to the well-stocked bar and engage in a game of billiards or traditional elbow rubbing is welcome. It has the dimly lit cramped charm, it has the regulars and it has the specials that translate to downtown drinking north of the "border."

There is no spot we know of where the soul (some would say soullessness) of Dallas is on display more than at the West Village on Saturday night. Young, toned bodies fitted into stretch-fabric outfits. Quick and quicker gaits. Grand entrances. Primo automobiles. If your Benz is in the shop and you're stuck for the night with the Aerostar van, you'd better park it three blocks away, maybe by the trash bin behind Texas Land & Cattle Co. Among the chic restaurants, bars and grown-up movie theater, there's a lot in this quarter to attract the attractive. Former Mayor Ron Kirk once famously said that nobody comes to Dallas for the scenery; people come here to get rich. He was dead right, with at least one qualification. People come here to at least look rich, and when that's on the agenda, this is definitely the place.

Dumplings in broth
Taylor Adams
Dumplings in broth
The last time we were there, Cosmo's was buzzing with so much chatter and laughter that it was hard to know where to begin our conversation. We watched another fellow on the other side of the bar checking out the waitress. He told us later that this was his nightspot after leaving work on Greenville Avenue. The waitress caught his eye because he was bedazzled by the "architecture of her ass." In the front of the room by the doors, a birthday party was in full motion. To the delight of that group and much of the bar, the birthday boy was doing his best to improvise new steps to "Billie Jean." Everybody still loves Michael Jackson. But a group of ladies in the back of the room made everyone's night by reminding us, in a jukebox sing-along, "What's Love Got to Do With It?" What better testament is there to the power of a juke?
There are busier happy hours; there are more tricked-up happy hours. But we're partial to this one because it's simply classy and smart--not unlike us. From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., all draft beers are half-price. No muss, no fuss. The place is nice enough to bring a date or a client but not so stuffy that you can't walk right up to the bar and order a Bud Light, if you like your beer old-school. If you need to nosh while you sip, the appetizers are great, and the wood-fired pizza is delicious (the "M" gimmick they use on the menu, in which they come up with several clever names using the letter, is a bit much, but we'll let it slide). The waitstaff is attentive and friendly, the drinks cold, the bartenders knowledgeable. All of which makes us happy, happy.

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