Thank you, Civilian Conservation Corps, for creating this lake from farmland in the 1930s. Thank you, members of For the Love of the Lake, for keeping it clean and pretty with your monthly spruce-up crews. Thank you, dog park (Dallas' first), for giving our fur families places to romp and splash with their fur friends. Thank you, squirrels, rabbits, possums, foxes, bobcats, minks and even you, skunks, for giving us cuteness to photograph on the trails and among the flora. Thank you, turtles, big and small, salamanders, lizards, horned toads — but not you, rattlesnakes — for giving our kids nature lessons as you sun yourselves on rocks and logs. Thank you, 217 species of birds, including swans and loons, for using White Rock as your stopover on migration. Thank you, bass, crappie and catfish, for giving city anglers something to hook. Thank you, oaks, pecans, sweet gums, cottonwoods and pear trees for shading the banks and scenting the trails. Thank you, 11 miles of trails, for helping us walk, run and bike off the pounds. Thank you, Lady of the Lake, for the best ghost story in town. Most of all, thank you, 1,088 acres of White Rock Lake, for keeping the sailboats afloat, and for giving us a huge patch of beautiful water in the middle of our hard, hot concrete city.

Back in the 1980s, a local trickster used to pull the same stunt every November. Around the anniversary of the JFK assassination, November 22, he'd sprinkle a few shell casings around the Grassy Knoll, that hillock just below the Texas School Book Depository and across the street from Dealey Plaza. He just wanted to watch the tourists when they thought they'd found new evidence. The place was picked clean long ago, of course, but it's still a primo observation spot to see crowds of out-of-towners — more than 325,000 visit the Sixth Floor Museum every year — getting their first looks at the historic "triple underpass," the "sniper's perch" window and the railroad tracks where the mysterious "hobos" may or may not have been aiming their own weapons at the president that day in 1963. Wanna really thrill the lookie-loos? Sit on the knoll under an unfurled red umbrella. You'll end up in everybody's vacation pictures.

Fairmont Hotel

It's almost ridiculously easy to trespass into this downtown luxury hotel's gorgeous swimming pool. Stroll over to the north elevators, push "T" for terrace level and exit onto the massive pool deck. No card key necessary (yet) and nobody bird-dogging interlopers. We've done it. More than once. There are comfy lounge chairs, free towels, shady areas with tables and lots of greenery. It's like SoHo House without the attitude, right in our own Arts District. Just be subtle when you go, OK? Don't ruin it for the rest of us.

Lakewood Landing

It's right there on the wall above the urinal, staring back at you mid-pee. Amid the gibberish and wild-scrawled drawings: "Ayn Rand had some big ass titties." Mid expel, you find yourself questioning the veracity of this bold statement. It's nearly too descriptive to be false, right? And let's not discount the talent it takes to pen this during urination, which is the only way we can imagine it happening. Anyway, welcome to the Lakewood Landing, where cold beer, a jukebox playing Sam Cooke, and vexing wall graffiti lives. Enjoy yourself. We always do.

Angelika Film Center Dallas

You don't know who he is, but he's been pushing movies in front of your face through Dallas' Angelika Theatre on Mockingbird for the past few years. A die-hard film nerd (Conway spawned from SMU's Cinema program), he has been wrangling themed screenings, TV premiere parties and Q&As as Angelika's events and marketing manager. This year, Conway has been everywhere, from handing out Hulk-themed 3-D glasses to setting up a series with the Texas Independent Film Network to bring Texas-made films to the theater. In the meantime, he's organizing screenings of shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men with prizes and specialty drinks. A man behind the curtain, indeed. Keep an eye on angelikafilmcenter.com and follow @angelikatexas for more updates on Adam's screenings.

Dude. Duuuude. Remember when Cubes saved the parade? Back in February, there was a minor earthquake in North Texas. Not the geological kind, the emotional one: The Greenville Avenue St. Patrick's Day parade was on life support. Preparing livers quivered with fear as the news spread, and reporters (like us) were dispatched to follow up. Then came Mark Cuban: He flew in on a golden Pegasus leaving behind a forest-green trail of gorgeous cash. OK, so what he actually did was cut a $40,000 check to the Greenville Avenue Area Business Association to save the parade, while pledging another $25,000 to the parade's scholarship fund. And the parade and our booze-soaked livers miraculously lived on. That was awesome, bro.

What is it about Texas pride? It's a feeling that pumps around with your blood. That bath-like heat in Austin, the cold Lone Star beer and spicy barbecue. It's taking photos of Luckenbach, your Whataburger or ice on a bottle of real Dr Pepper. Fortunately, there's a Tumblr that has no problem visualizing it for you. It'll get you through your day — under a big, blue banner that reads "FUCK YEAH TEXAS" is the subtitle for the most entertaining Texas Tumblr out there: "a collection of what makes this state great." Damn right.

Just after midnight on Sunday, January 15, Erykah Badu pulled up in a black Stingray to lead a funeral procession down Main Street. Only it wasn't for a body. No, this processional was the New Orleans-style jazz-funk Rebirth Brass Band trailing behind Badu playing melancholy, sometimes whimsical tunes to signal the last breath of the PM Nightlife Lounge in the basement of the Joule. Badu, topped in a tall hat and wearing a trench coat, danced with the band and gatherers who jumped in after Main Street was closed. Then, she went inside and DJed into the tiny hours of the night. Take that, Dealey Plaza strip session.

A little more than three years ago, Nicole Stewart was in Venice Beach, California, and she was heartbroken. She'd been pursuing acting since she was 14 and was looking to be in a sitcom. Then her agent dropped her. Fast forward to 2012, when Stewart, minted in a city she knows well (her grandparents are legends in the art scene in Dallas) kicked off a non-fiction storytelling series known as Oral Fixation. Oral Fixation is a curated night of real-life stories, but it's no open mic. It is raw, emotional, often funny performances of true tales. But Stewart wants more. She wants to be a leader in the arts community, and, if the innovation behind Oral Fixation is any indication, Dallas is certain to see exciting moves from her chess board. You can follow Oral Fixation on Facebook at facebook.com/oralfixationshow for upcoming shows.

The best thing about community gardens in older urban areas is their sheer obduracy — the grit and patience, the sweat equity involved in digging down through rubble to find real dirt again and bring it back to green abundance. A great example is this garden, four-tenths of an acre of serenity just off a noisy intersection in Old East Dallas. In the early '90s it was an overflow garden for Cambodian refugees not able to find plots in the busy Southeast Asian refugee garden a few blocks away. Later abandoned and neglected, it has been adopted again by families fleeing turmoil in Bhutan, a Himalayan nation sandwiched between China and India. You can wander in and watch them work their beds in rhythms and tones of ancient practice, their garden a soft prayer to our city's roaring heart.

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