City Hall

Main Street Garden, We Really Need to Talk

The boy and I were downtown yesterday. We'd just been to Dallas Farmers Market and taken a long drive through the Cedars so he could take pictures. He asked, from the backseat, if we could go to Main Street Garden. I asked, "Why?" Told him he couldn't play on the playground, not unless he wanted to end up sautéed. I told him they have to build a shade for the playground. He asked, "But, Dad, why didn't they do that first?" At 6, he's already too smart to work in city government.

But then I remembered: Downtown Dallas's senior vice president of marketing, Kourtny Garrett, told me they paid for the fountain to run from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays. He enjoyed frolicking in the lake of coffins during Homegrown. And, we had nothing better to do. So, sure. Fine. Let's go.

We pulled up on the Main Street side. Had to pay to park along the desolate stretch of concrete -- 25 cents for each 10 minutes. I mumbled an obscenity. The boy asked, "When was mom a trucker?"

We were greeted by quite the surprise: The Lily Pad's open, finally. Now available, among other options: grilled-chicken Greek salad ($7.25), Niman Ranch dogs ($2.95, one dollar extra for chili), shaved-ham pressed tortilla sandwiches ($6.95), iced green tea ($1.95). Two men in red Beyond the Box shirts kept things tidy on the deck; inside, a woman worked the counter. There were five patrons sitting at two tables; the rest were empty. This was at 2.

"But, Dad." The boy pointed to the fountain, now a concrete mirage. I asked the Beyond the Box'ers why the fountain wasn't running as promised. They said the city didn't have the money to run it. I told him John Crawford's Downtown Dallas had promised to cover the difference. He shrugged. We looked across the street, at the men and women floating in The Element pool. He said this would be bad for business, which had just opened Friday. The boy said we should just go.

I told him we should at least get a couple of drinks. Give 'em some business. So we ordered, grabbed a table and sat beneath misters that would, occasionally, come very close to misting us. "Dad, it's hot." We looked at the pool across the street. "Dad, can we go?"

Turns out I knew, at least by reputation, two of the three people sitting beneath the cafe's shade: Scott and Mariana Griggs. Mariana's the founder of Community Gardens of Oak Cliff; Scott, an attorney, is one of the significant voices of Bike Friendly Oak Cliff. They were headed to the farmers market and stopped in for a quick bite. They didn't understand why anyone would come downtown. What was there to do? Well, you could watch that dude piss on the old Statler.

My son said he needed to use the bathroom. The men's room was padlocked. There's a gaping metal wound where there should be a doorknob. It was supposed to be repaired before the Lily Pad opened; its destruction, in fact, is what delayed the restaurant's already delayed grand opening. The boy opted not to use the ladies' room, a long concrete box with a working air conditioner.

"Dad, I just want to leave."

So we did.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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