Best Of :: People & Places
After just three seasons with the Dallas Stars, Jamie Benn has already flown up the ranks to become the face of the franchise. Not since Mike Modano rode his feathered mullet into town have we seen a player with such skill lace up for the celestial skaters. Benn has seen his point totals increase with each season, and with another year of experience and salty vets Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr coming aboard this year, "Benner" could be poised for a true breakout. His combination of finesse and brute strength are not often found on the rink, making him a lethal force and the embodiment of the team's pesky attitude. Speaking of pesky, Benn had an appendectomy last season, so now there is nothing holding the British Columbian back from ultimate hockey glory.
Do we need to add to what we said in previous Best of Dallas write-ups, or the People Issue love we showed for the guys behind The Texas Theatre's revival? A refresher: the so-bad-they're-good genre flicks at Tuesday Night Trash; the bar; the arthouse films you won't see anywhere else; the bar; the revival of past classics; the bar; the Oak Cliff Film Festival; the bar. For us, seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark on 35mm was enough to seal a repeat victory.
The Mavs may have had a disappointing 2011-2012 season, but Delonte West's toughness and dogged defensive play were a highlight, and we're glad to hear he'll be returning for basketball reasons alone. But his unique personality has made his off-the-court presence especially refreshing. His Twitter account is always entertaining, whether he's tweeting pictures of his own vomit or urging Deron Williams to come help bring another championship title to Dallas. He teaches young ballers in charity basketball clinics, despite coming to the team so broke that he had to sleep in the locker room and had to work for a furniture-moving company during the lockout — very humbling, considering he's made millions over his career. Yet he kept his head up despite the troubling circumstances and has proved to be a great example of how to live with bipolar disorder even under the media spotlight.
Jason Kidd, the 39-year-old point guard who helped lead the Mavericks to their championship in 2011, shocked Dallas July 5 when he signed a three-year contract with the New York Knicks for $9.5 million — just half a million more than what the Mavs reportedly offered. Ten days later, at about 2 a.m. on July 15, he crashed his Cadillac Escalade into a utility pole and was subsequently arrested on drunken-driving charges after he refused a blood-alcohol test. Even more delicious, the wreck knocked out cable in the neighborhood — cable that was supplied by a company of which Knicks owner James Dolan is president and CEO. We're glad he wasn't seriously injured, of course, but will have to admit to enjoying a bit of schadenfreude over the incident.
In the days leading up to the NFL opener, it was said, somewhere on the AM dial, that the Cowboys would struggle to contain the Giants' offense because the Cowboys had "no pass rush." It was an understandable assessment, given their inability to so much as breathe on Eli Manning last season. But then the season opener came, and we all remembered: DeMarcus Ware. He bull-rushed his way to 19.5 sacks last season, helping the Cowboys amass the seventh-most sacks in the league — as many as the vaunted San Francisco 49ers — and he racked up two in this season's opener. He is the best in the league at one of its most important positions, especially in the era of 40 pass attempts a game. If the quarterback is back there throwing — and he so often is nowadays — Ware will be back there with him, right where the Cowboys need him.
Don't let Adrian Beltre's recent onslaught confuse the issue: Josh Hamilton is the Rangers' star. And don't let Hamilton's expiring contract cloud your judgment: You want him, you need him, you have to have him. Maybe not for what the market will demand — he'll be asking for roughly all the money ever, with a player option for the change in your couch. But still. He and Beltre produced roughly the same last year, right around .300 with 100 RBIs and an OPS nearing .900. Trust us, neophytes, those are gargantuan numbers, and Hamilton's have only grown in 2012. Together with that style, that swagger, that story, you can't help but admit: This dude's got it all. How 'bout we wait till November to get all depressed about it?
Josh Hamilton was terrible during June and July, hitting a pathetic .190 during an eight-week stretch. In media interviews, he made ominous allusions to private struggles, leading to worries that he was relapsing on his crack-smoking habit. Turns out, he was just trying to quit chewing tobacco. Before and since, however, Hamilton has had a typically outstanding season, at the top of the American league in RBIs and home runs. He also happened to turn in one of the signature performances of his career. On May 8 in Baltimore, he hit four home runs in a game, only the 16th time in history that's happened. It was Hamilton's return to form in the fall that's provided comfort to fans, but it was that one magic night in May that propelled his bat to the place Hamilton will be one day: Cooperstown.
It's easy to confuse this gym for a prison yard: The stripped-down interior and bare-bones furnishings don't imply a cushy afternoon, sipping lemonade post-sauna. But that minimalist approach to fitness is the Ross Avenue location's source of strength. There are no distractions here. Instead, there's a revolving workout program that changes daily, so you can't rest on your lumpy, unchiseled laurels. The center's intense approach to exercise winds up working out your entire body, not just the areas that you're most comfortable flexing in public. Soon, your frame slims down while your muscle mass builds, and you can't help but notice a feline touch of agility in your previously uncoordinated gait. The demanding nature of each class combined with the supportive mentality of your fellow sufferers is a 180 from traditional gyms, where folks wander aimlessly, lifting things without intention. But maybe most important is this: When you leave a rigorous session that you initially couldn't believe you would finish, you realize your limitations are strictly mental. If you can do this, you can do anything.
This town's greatest sideshow of late-night humanity is situated at the swirling nexus in Serious Pizza and the area between the shop and its two next-door neighbors: July Alley (bar) and Elm Street Tattoo (inkery). Deep Ellum's rock 'n' roll finery is all on display, as hungry, sweaty, drunk, music-buzzed people wait patiently in line to put ludicrously large slices of pie in their faces. The tattoos, the piercings, the ill-advised leather trousers, the incredible awkwardness of standing 6 inches from a be-mohawked couple fighting furiously over toppings! It's a glorious scene, and it's available every weekend and a fair number of weeknights too. Watch too for the ever-present row of dudes looking on enviously as the pizza guys twirl and toss dough high above them. "Does that get chicks?" one sodden young patron asked us earnestly not long ago. We told him the obvious answer and turned back to the show.
"Fuck with me and you will have a huge asshole," Sweeney memorably promised his opposing council, a guy named Chad Arnette from Kelley, Hart & Hallman. It was an email conversation about scheduling conflicts that somehow went completely, wonderfully off the rails, landing on legal blog Above the Law as well as our own Unfair Park. The two sides couldn't agree on a date for a deposition, you see, leading Sweeney to eventually let Arnette know that he felt the other lawyer to be a "pansy," an "ignorant slut" and a "gutless attorney." There was also something in there about Sweeney shoving his boot so far up Arnette's ass "he'll be talkin' out of it." Arnette's firm promptly filed a complaint with the court, and Sweeney seems to have been sacked from Cozen O'Connor soon after. Worth it, we say.
Scott Griggs was elected last summer, ousting the wildly unpopular, frequently absent Dave Neumann. Honestly, they probably could have run a reasonably charming sock monkey against him and still shown Neumann the door. But Griggs has quickly joined fellow council members Angela Hunt and Sandy Greyson in what we can only term the Axis of Making Sense. He's fought against gas drilling within city limits, almost single-handedly pushed for better regulation and higher standards in the city's boarding homes and questioned the fuzzy math that's led other city officials (including Mayor Mike Rawlings) to advocate for a toll road in a floodplain. He has a bizarre tendency to show up at council meetings giving off the distinct impression that he's done the reading and knows something about the issues he's supposed to decide. Despite this dangerous eccentricity, we're still grateful to have Griggs sitting at the horseshoe.
Only three miles from downtown but a world unto itself, the North Wynnewood neighborhood in Oak Cliff is proof the 1950s weren't just about insanely grinning pipe-smoking dad figures in beltless trousers next to coral-green cars with cartoon tail fins. North Wynnewood is the best of '50s cool architecture, beautifully maintained for decades by families who never moved, occupied now by a crowd that's younger and more diverse but just as loyal to the neighborhood. Wynnewood sits on 150 acres of gently sloping hills loosely bounded by Interstate 35 South, 12th Street, Vernon Avenue and Illinois Avenue. Low-slung mid-century modern houses were built to standards we can only dream of today, several designed by the architects DeWitt & Swank. Many still look new. The houses, one to one-and-a-half-story brick in the 2,000- to 3,500-square-foot range, occupy large lush lots on artfully meandering streets, with huge backyards, many of them still dominated by those brick and stone '50s barbecue pits the size of small chapels. Crime is low for Oak Cliff. Values are up almost 60 percent in the last 10 years. An active neighborhood group guards against trouble and thinks up easygoing social activities. North Wynnewood manages to be both deeply staid and really interesting without going quite David Lynch — a rare trick in a rare jewel of a neighborhood.