Longform

Fowled Out

Page 5 of 7

Allen is referring to Miller's abortive attempt last year to lure a Barnes & Noble southward. The bookstore's representatives informed her that she would first have to provide evidence that at least 30,000 of her constituents possess college degrees before they'd consider the venture. While this kind of corporate stereotyping (i.e., Cliffites are illiterate) is frustrating, Allen says the stereotypes of Oak Cliff among Cliff Dwellers themselves is maddening. "I have friends in Stevens Park who don't go south of Davis Street. The perception is that it's dangerous here."

Allen, who has no stake in the rooster squabble, believes the barnyard birds symbolize the gulf that divides Anglos and Hispanics. He says he loves Oak Cliff because of its diversity, which is why it is home to many gay and lesbian couples. Yet Allen reveals his own bias when expressing frustration with city inspectors, who he believes let Hispanic business owners skirt codes while cracking down on their white counterparts. Not speaking English or being unaware of local laws, he says, should not be an excuse for breaking the rules.

"Even in the gay and lesbian community, we've got people who are constantly crying victim," says Allen. "It's the same with Hispanics. But I don't care what your culture is, this is the United States of America, and there are codes you have to follow."

Around the corner at the beauty salon, owner Amanda Cross agrees that the city's code-enforcement department ranks at the top of Oak Cliff's problems. She, like Allen, believes inspectors apply a double standard when it comes to enforcement, but says it's the Hispanic merchants who are forced to close their doors. Cross, whose parents were born in Mexico, is a first-generation American, and she spends her time helping Hispanic merchants learn what they need to do to keep inspectors at bay.

"A lot of people aren't complying with the city ordinances, and the reason they're not is because they don't know how," Cross says. "In Mexico, when you open a business, you just open a business. You don't need a permit."

Cross points to recent efforts by the city to shut down taco vendors. Sure, they're not entirely up to code, but neither are most businesses in the area. "I think the Hispanic people have gotten more crap than any other race. A lot of these problems exist because of the language barrier, and a lot of the merchants are intimidated by the city."

Not surprisingly, Cross, who has a stake in the Oak Cliff Coffee House, isn't thrilled about Starbucks opening in the neighborhood--not to mention other chain stores that might want to make the move.

"Here in Oak Cliff, a Starbucks? Pleeease." She claims that 85 percent of the consumers in Oak Cliff are Hispanic. "They have money to spend, but they want to go into a place they feel comfortable in. They don't want to go into a place where the people are going to look at them like they're going to rob and steal. If Laura wants to open a Starbucks, she needs to go up north."

Death hangs in the air outside the TeePee Club in the heart of Oak Cliff this Wednesday evening. And not because of the impending rooster genocide. Several days ago, on an early Sunday morning, the red and blue glow of emergency lights bounced off the black asphalt while paramedics dragged five people and one corpse out of the R&R Sports Bar, which shares the TeePee parking lot. Some guy who had been tossed from the R&R decided he'd been disrespected and came back at closing time with an assault rifle. One of his bullets caught a patron in the back of the head.

Darlene, a bartender at the TeePee Club, still thinks about the murder, planting her elbow on the bar next to a bumper sticker that advises patrons to fight crime by shooting back. But the nearby tragedy is not what's got her down tonight.

Lately folks have been hearing rumors that Eckerd is going to buy the whole block and level it to make way for a new, jumbo-size store to replace the old one across the street, next to Jerry's Supermarket.

An Eckerd spokesperson says it's too soon for the drug chain to discuss its plans. But Norman Hogue, a family-law attorney, says Eckerd is in the process of purchasing the two-story, wood-framed building behind the TeePee Club, which he co-owns and which has served as his law office for the last 20 years.

"They came to us with an offer, and we unanimously said no. They came back with another offer, and I said, 'Where do I sign?'" He claims he and his partners are getting more than the building is worth, but figures it's time to sell--he just retired, but keeps going to the office every day. "Things change," he reminds himself.

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Rose Farley
Contact: Rose Farley