Every once in a while the guns get blazing so fast here on the interwebs that we fail to notice when somebody shoots true. Skimming back through comments on one of my recent items about the proposed new floating boat club at White Rock Lake, I found this ditty from a commenter calling him/herself "Timetomoveon:"
"An epic battle of snobs vs. snobs. With both sides pretending they are not snobs. While calling the other side snobs."
First thought on reading that again was, "My side's not snobs, but the other ones sure are."
Well. Wait. OK. This is about a rowing club on the lake. I belong to a sailing club on the lake. Is this about rowers and sailors out there in the middle of White Rock pelting each other with bottles of Grey Poupon?
And if it is, how much emotional investment should we expect from people in not-far-away neighborhoods more worried about their kids getting killed in pimp-drug-dealer cross-fires? Those, after all, are real bullets.
Not much. But, hey, those bottles still hurt. In fact this fight is not about mustard. It's about the kind of city Dallas intends to be.
You have to go back to the previous chapter here, which was Winfrey Point. I'm tempted to toss in Dealey Plaza, the Calatrava Bridge, the Inland Port and the attempt to double-deck Central Expressway almost 30 years ago, but that may just be because I want to toss all of that stuff somewhere so I can get rid of it. So let's stick to Winfrey Point/floating boat club as our model.
Winfrey Point is an expanse of beautiful green space bordering the lake. The Dallas Park and Recreation Department got caught conspiring with the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society to build a concrete parking garage there for overflow visitors to the Arboretum.
Now the same fee-hungry park department has gotten itself caught trying to sell an expanse of the lake to the Highland Park Rowing Club for a floating boathouse the size of a cruise ship.
When that first fight first started, the defenders of the arboretum tried to construe it as a battle between people of class and taste versus a bunch of crazy East Dallas hippies. The idea for giving Winfrey Point to the Arboretum, in fact, was rooted in the belief that the core value of White Rock Lake is enhanced whenever the lake becomes more cut off and protected from its East Dallas environs.
Emails showed Arboretum President Mary Brinegar telling Park Director Paul Dyer that Winfrey Point needed to be fenced and gated with a $5 admission fee to make it "more accessible to its citizens and safer."
Accessible to which citizens? Safer from which citizens?
The people who exploded out of the shrubbery to fight that idea may have been hippies at some point in the distant past, but an awful lot of them by now are doctors, lawyers, business people and professionals, and their ranks have been swelled by younger recruits whose leanings may never have been anywhere left of Jay Leno.
Timetomoveon isn't right. We're not all snobs. But Timetomoveon isn't wrong. This is about people who share a certain amount of privilege in this world. This really is a battle between two kinds of establishments.
On the one hand you have the East Dallas establishment, which tends to go forward into each day with a certain ethic of modesty and with a respect, even a taste for democracy in day-day-to-day activities. It's the notion that life is more fun and more comfortable when doctors and lawyers feel just fine and totally comfortable sharing space with working class families having picnics.
The other force here -- let's face it -- is a certain culture of fabulousness and rat-in-the-belly competitiveness. Whenever anybody opposes them, they scream class envy. But they're the ones who go to the Palace of Versailles on vacation and come home unable to sleep because it was so much bigger than their own house.
That's how the Calatrava comes into it for me. It's the whole idea that beauty is fancy and fanciness is beautiful. I see it everywhere. I spent a day last week touring wonderful little river parks in the suburbs north of Dallas where Scout leaders and volunteers have helped design charming but modest little hideaway paddling venues along the Trinity River, as opposed to Dallas, which allowed the fabulous-fabulous crowd to absolutely ruin the river with a fake and unusable Colorado whitewater rapids.
Yes, maybe this is about battling elites. But it was the East Dallas elite that saved White Rock from ruin and decay in the first place, and, now that the lake is cool, the other kind, the insecure show-offs and the fancy-pants, want to come in and ruin it the same way they did the river, by making it faaaaabulous.
For one thing, the East Dallas ethic is that you do not make a place safer or more accessible by fencing it off and charging admission. Most of us have lived fairly cheek-by-jowl with people of more modest economic standing for a long time, and the lesson of those years is that your best protection is a big open smile, eyeballs that meet eyeballs, a strong hello and an assumption that we're all in the same boat together.
That does need to include rich people, too. There needs to be a way for them to have their boathouse. They just need to chop it down a little. That 5,000-square-foot ballroom on top definitely needs to be deep-sixed. It would be nice if they could avoid the temptation to cover the decks with foot-lighted fake Greek sculpture and huge flapping battle flags, but maybe that's an each-to-his-own deal.
It just needs to be a little quieter. That's all. Not quite so push-push.
There used to be a certain button you could push with the East Dallas elite by calling it an elite -- latent '60s guilt or whatever. Everybody had to fall all over himself proving he was just plain folks.
But screw that. If the Fancies want to call it snobbish or exclusive or NIMBY of East Dallas to want to protect White Rock from them, then fine, sure. Whatever. Takes one to know one.
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Ultimately, this is not about East Dallas or White Rock or Highland Park. It's about what kind of city Dallas is going to be on down the road. And in that contest, East Dallas is far from the Lone Ranger.
The more understated democratically tolerant view of the city -- I would say the more sophisticated view -- is shared by growing pockets of people in Oak Cliff, southern Dallas, and, yes, even the Park Cities and the wealthiest corners of Bluffview and Preston Hollow. The other view, the fancy-schmancy view, represents only a sub-set even of the Park Cities, not everybody in the Park Cities.
This chapter in this culture war happened to fall in the court of East Dallas, and now East Dallas needs to mensch-up, get over its guilt and win this damn thing. Save the lake. Again.
Everybody always says don't throw stones if you live in a glass house. I say if both sides live in glass houses, our side needs to have way bigger stones.