It could only have been fate that steered me to Al Roker this morning. Just one week after I changed the route of my Farmers Market-to-Oak Lawn bike commute, shifting from one plowing straight through Downtown and McKinney Avenue to one skirting the edges past City Hall and Victory Park, there he was, standing in the shade of a Live Oak in Pioneer Plaza, waiting for the cameras to roll. What had seemed an impulsive need for a change of scenery suddenly seemed like the tug of an invisible hand, guiding me toward the prime deity of American meteorology.
Only I didn't realize at first that it was Al Roker. In my mind's eye, he's still rather rotund, his bald pate uncapped by a hipster fedora. When I asked one of the besuited G-men types what they were filming -- I counted three, though more may have been hiding in the bushes -- he eyed me with what I took to be disbelief, though I couldn't be sure as his mirrored aviators disguised all human emotion. You don't know who that is?
The handful of picture-snapping onlookers clearly did, and once the security guy mentioned weather, I pieced it together. Roker, it seems, had deigned to pick Dallas to deliver his daily weather report.
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After a moment of awe commensurate with Roker's stature, a though began to nag at me. Of all the cool, iconic places in Dallas -- the preening but impressive Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the Arts District, Klyde Warren Park, the organic cools spots of places like Oak Cliff and Deep Ellum, more nature-based amenities like White Rock Lake and the Santa Fe Trestle Trail -- Roker picked the ahistorical herd of bronze cattle fording the Convention Center lawn?
Of course he did. Because so long as those steers trample the southern edge of Downtown, they will be a magnet for national TV cameras, whether they're looking for a backdrop for weather forecasts or B-roll for sporting events. And so long as TV sets keep showing the cattle, the nation will continue to think of Dallas as the type of place that spends millions of dollars on cow statues.
The sports guys we can forgive for their perpetuation of the Dallas stereotypes. Best to keep giving people what they expect. But Al Roker? He's a weather god. He should have the wisdom to know better.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.