Dallas Isn't Growing Much, But At Least the Dead Aren't Fleeing. Not Yet, Anyway.

Yet another slavishly uncritical fan of Get Off My lawn (I get so bored with their love) -- this one with the on-line moniker of Enrique de la Fuente (I assume he is not really the Spanish volleyball Olympian) -- wrote yesterday to ask, "What's your take on Dallas' poor show for growth during the last census? Are we going to wind up like your old 'burg?"

Ah, yes, nice little shiv to the heart, Enrique, and I do thank you for that. You earn today's Knavish Dexterity Award for reminding readers (and myself) that I am originally from Detroit.

Enrique is drawing on an earlier item by Wilonsky, the chief mullah of our little tribe here at Unfair Park, who reported last week that Dallas's population has grown by less than a percentage point since 2000, while Austin has grown by 20 percent, San Antonio by 16 percent and Houston by 7.5 percent.

What could it be? Bad hair?


I keep coming back to that famous edict issued recently by Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price: "You are all white. You can go to hell."

I don't think that helps. I mean, if I'm wrong, then why don't we just go ahead and put it on billboards on the way into town? "DALLAS WANTS YOU TO KNOW: YOU ARE ALL WHITE. YOU CAN GO TO HELL."

If that's our persona, let's play it to the hilt. We could get the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau to do television ads for distant markets.

Closeup of the back of Commissioner Price's head. Theme from old Dallas TV show comes up. Price whirls, pointing at camera, smiling. PRICE: You are all white! You can go to hell. VOICE-OVER: We're Dallas, Texas. We hate you.

I still love Detroit. My son, Will, his friend Alex Wagner and I sat down for coffee recently at MOKAH coffee shop in Deep Ellum with Andy Sturm, an architect with bcWorkshop, a Dallas-based nonprofit planning group. Sturm was in Detroit before coming here, and we traded Motor City tales. I'm much older than he, so I had old stories, like the one about the ring of radio-dispatched arsonists we wrote about at the Free Press in the 1970s. Ah, those were the hazy-crazy days of urban decay.

Sturm put me onto a fascinating story about Detroit today: They've found out that even the unliving are leaving the city now. I looked it up back at the office and found a great story in the Detroit News from two years ago by Charlie LeDuff called "The Flight of the Dead."

Suburban families are coming back into the city and digging up their loved ones -- legally disinterring them, for the most part -- in order to replant them in more congenial suburban climes.

For every 30 living people who leave the city, LeDuff found, one dead person makes the hike. Between 2002 and 2007, 1,000 of the departed departed.

Sturm told me about a group that has plotted the trend even more closely. They see departures from Detroit by the living slowly decreasing over time, but they predict the departed will depart at ever faster rates in the future, so that at some point on the graph the two lines will intersect and the dead will be moving out faster than the living.

I wonder if that's going on here yet. I'm thinking of a TV ad 30 years from now, opening with a close-up on the back of Commissioner Price's bent gray head. Scary Dracula music. He turns slowly, painfully, pointing an arthritic finger at the camera. Cackling fiendishly, he says, "You're all dead! You can go to hell!"

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze