Longform

Fowled Out

Page 6 of 7

Hogue doesn't keep up with politics and hasn't heard anything about a plan to ban roosters from Dallas.

"I have no problem with roosters. They wouldn't bother me one way or the other. What makes me mad is every time something happens, they say the perpetrator is from Oak Cliff. I don't think that's fair. There's crime in North Dallas too. There's crime all over. There's even crime in Colorado."

Soon Hogue won't be coming around here anymore. The barber next door is already gone, according to the orange sign he taped to the door to inform customers that he lost his lease and moved. Closed, too, will be the auto shop across the lot, where a handmade poster hung above a grease-stained sink announces that "Jesus is Coming."

Darlene doesn't know whether the TeePee Club will re-open somewhere else. She also has no idea that roosters are now deemed a threat to the public order. Neither did Robert, a regular, who unlike everyone else in the TeePee Club has heard of Laura Miller. "Laura Miller's my girl," he shouts, punching the air with his clenched fist. "She's giving them blacks and Hispanics hell."

Robert hunkers down in a cracking red vinyl booth and strikes up a conversation with a Budweiser. Jay, also a regular, doesn't pay him any attention; his nonchalance about Robert's comments illustrate how some folks tolerate prejudice in Oak Cliff: They ignore it. Dallas-born and Hispanic, Jay can't imagine why anyone would dislike a rooster. "Not everybody has alarm clocks," he cracks.

Like Darlene, Jay mourns the imminent destruction of his watering hole and is leery of certain elements moving into the neighborhood. "Starbucks? That's not Oak Cliff at all," he says. "Starbucks is trendy. Oak Cliff life is to sit back and watch things go by."

Jay says he doesn't keep up with local politics because local politicians never seem to keep up with him. "The city council is trying to make Oak Cliff pro-business, and that's not right at all. They're talking about businesses coming through here and destroying the lifestyle. They're going to do some damage."

Jay downs one beer and begins to empty another, deciding to do some damage of his own.

Back at the Oak Cliff Coffee House, the reality of the rooster ordinance is beginning to sink in.

"We ought to declare war on Dallas," says Adam the Buddhist, who curses this vision of an Oak Cliff culturally cleansed of its male chickens. His words recall that rebellious spirit that caused Cliffites to threaten Dallas with secession a decade ago. "It's that Americanization mind-set," he clucks, "to go in and make everything look the same."

"That's exactly right," Kenneth Cross, the owner, chimes in. He winces at any talk of roosters, not to mention Starbucks, whose upcoming entry into the neighborhood just might put him out of business. Ever since Miller decided Starbucks was good for Oak Cliff, Cross says, he's tried to get her to taste his coffee. He's waved at her as she's driven past in her Mercedes-Benz. He's called her office, left messages, pleaded to get her attention.

"I've even left a bag of Oak Cliff coffee on her steps," he says. "I hope it was the right house." Anyway, he says, the point is, Oak Cliff already has independently owned businesses that give the place a neighborly feel that chain stores just can't deliver.

Indeed, trying to get representatives of the Seattle-based coffee giant to discuss why they've chosen to venture into the Cliff--a move that follows store openings in Harlem, Kuwait, and even Beijing--can mean battling a corporate bureaucracy staffed by a small army of PR people. After one spokesperson recently revealed to the Dallas Observer that the company planned to open an Oak Cliff store within the next nine months, another spokesperson followed up, worried that the first spokesperson had said too much. Days later, the company announced its plans to open the store in a Dallas Morning News article.

At the Oak Cliff Coffee House, Cross points to the kind of marketing glitches you're going to find at his place. It's the chalkboard he's just hung to advertise the coffee flavors of the day.

"Look. This sign is crooked, and we're going to leave it that way. That wouldn't happen at Starbucks."

Adam recalls that his dad used to say that Oak Cliff is like a beautiful woman who has never looked in the mirror.

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Rose Farley
Contact: Rose Farley