A hundred years ago, when I was a city desk reporter for the Dallas Times Herald, there was a certain dreaded 4 a.m. phone call I used to get from the late Ernie Makovy, one of the great breaking-news city desk editors of all time, usually having to do with a big fire or barricaded gunman or something. There was never a hello. The greeting was always the same: "Get outta bed, asshole."
So this morning at a barely more reasonable hour I get the same call from Wilonsky, but instead of a four-alarm fire, the big news is that City Hall may be on the verge of doing something right. I agree. This is bigger.
Wilonsky was calling me about the community garden ordinance going before the City Plan Commission next week, which looks like some type of under-the-table sneak attack attempt to do something enlightened. It still needs to pass the plan commission and the council. It could change. It probably will. But ... it might now. Why, these bastards are trying to do me out of a job.
The proposed ordinance would do everything I have predicted City Hall would never do: allow community gardens by right, get off their backs about parking, fees and other deal-killers and almost even encourage them.
It so happened Wilonsky's call came just as my wife and I were concluding a morning coffee chat with our son, who is home for the holiday from L.A. He reads Unfair Park and the Dallas News blogs but also the L.A. blogs. And he was trying to feed us some big line of crap about how people in Dallas are smarter than people in L.A. and Dallas is a more together city. It's the typical thing where your kid just knows how to punch your buttons.
My kid, with a positive mental attitude. How sharper than a serpent's tooth.
But the garden thing does raise a question in my mind, which I pose here on Unfair Park for my fellow Friends of Unfair Park: Is it possible that Dallas is going to turn out to be a cool city, instead of an uncool city?
There's still a huge generation gap and cultural divide -- nobody's fault exactly -- between the old Boomer build-it-and-they-will-come post-World War II mentality and the Gen-X Oak Cliff who-wants-it-anyway crowd. But that tide will turn as we begin to have more funerals.
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And look at where the creative X-ers go - to Oak Cliff, to Southern Dallas, to Detroit, for God's sake. To the kind for places pioneers always seek, where they have room and freedom because nobody is in their way. Well, except for the Comanche. Nuthin's easy.
The assumption of older observers has been that cities must do big things -- pump up the universities, create state-owned mass-produced coffee shops or something -- in order to capture the creative elite of tomorrow. But maybe it works the other way -- that the cool stuff goes to raw territory.
I have calls out to my community garden experts to see what they think of this proposal. But at first blush it seems amazingly smart. Could this be the start of something new?
Do you think Dallas could be cool?