Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fuel City

Next time you’re speeding through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas headed for the Stemmons Freeway underpass, don’t hightail it to Parkland Hospital. Instead, hang a left on Industrial Blvd and head on over to Fuel City.

Technically, Fuel City is a gas station. But it’s a big one right in the middle of a tangle of elevated highways. And it sells every possible brand of mainstream domestic and Mexican beer to go. Plus it has a swimming pool with a bikini girl sitting on a plastic lawn chair. And, according to some scientific polling methodology, it has the best tacos in Texas.

The name enchanted me and came for a visit last night.

Fuel City could easily be a kitch landmark if some hipsters from the coast latched on to it but for now it’s a disappointment because it’s for real. There’s only the barest hint of irony. The tee shirts, which they will dig out from the far back somewhere if you ask for one, say in huge block letters, “FAMOUS FOR FUN” though I doubt Fuel City is even famous for fuel.

I guess the girl by the pool is a bit contrived but other than that, it seems to be more in tune with the Texas vibe than anything alt. Of course, for most of the coast hugging United States, Texas, and flyover country generally, is authentically alternative to what passes for officially sanctioned coolness. The huge signs pointing out the President George Bush Freeway are enough to make the whole area radioactive to sophisticates.

Texas doesn't allow you to forget where you are. Everywhere there are Texas flags. “Texas” is incorporated into most signs and brand names. And little Texas shapes are ubiquitously sprinkled over the landscape. And where Texas-jingoism leaves off, Americana begins.

This must be what Europeans feel when they come to anyplace in the United States . . . the flags, the overconfidence. It could certainly come off as arrogance, but it's actually far more benign than that.

I like jingo. Unlike the usual connotations, I think it’s hopeful and inclusive. After all, anyone can be Texan if they buy into the values.

The same with flag-waving America. If you buy into it, you're as American as George Bush. Can't say that about France or Sweden. And that may be a reason why those countries have such difficulty absorbing immigrants.

I'd like to compare assimilation success in chauvinistic states like Texas and less well defined states such as Connecticut. I suspect Mexicans feel more like Texans after a few months in Dallas than they feel like Nutmeggers after years of living in Hartford.

Anyway, it's remarkable to think that if JFK had simply said, "Ah drivah, don't ahh tahn heah. Take me ahh straight to ahh Fuel City," he'd probably be alive today.

Friday, October 26, 2007

This Makes Me Dizzy

I want to build something like this in my backyard. Probably easier than it looks, right?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bad News. We're Winning

I'm confused. According to Reuters, violence of all kinds in Iraq is down 70% since the so-called "surge." Shiites and Sunnis are reconciling in Anbar, Diyala, Basra and attacking their mutual enemy, foreign al Qaeda jihadists. Moqtadr al Sadr's Mahdi Army is splintered and in his last radio address, Osama bin Laden pleads with followers to stop killing each other.

So what's the first sentence of the lead editorial in today's New York Times? "The news out of Iraq just keeps getting worse."

I guess that must mean we're winning.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Born to Sell

According to this CBS News Buzzwatch, Bruce Springsteen is putting his entire career at risk by taking a bold public stand on the Iraq war. He’s against it.

What kind of balls does it take to stand up in Hollywood and oppose the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy? Itsy bitsy teeny weeny ones.

It’s another case of dissent without consequences. The average Burmese monk is putting it all on the line. Springsteen is just standing on line.

The “story”, which inexplicably promotes Springsteen's upcoming appearance on CBS's 60 Minutes, says his views “will cause people to say he is unpatriotic.” Exactly who is saying that aside from CBS itself? It’s almost as if CBS is stoking a controversy in order to get more people to watch CBS programming.

I have no doubt that The Boss loves America and the Jersey Shore which is part of America and American cars, food, music, fans, and currency. No one is questioning his patriotism. But it’s fair to question is judgment.

I might even question his motives. I mean, why speak out now on network television just when he’s releasing a new album? (“Magic” on Columbia Records, Sony/BMG Corp.)

I sort of wonder when the anti-war folks are going to figure out they are being manipulated . . . by Sony Corp., by Viacom, by the Democratic Party, even Al Qaeda is leading them on. Everyone is either getting rich or getting elected (or both) and the policy never changes.

Why is that?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Herbert Muschamp (1947-2007)

Shocking and sad. Herb Muschamp, the quintessential New York Times architecture critic, has died at a relatively young age.

I found fault with nearly everything the man wrote but I certainly expected he'd go on and on for decades to come. He was articulate and boldly opinionated, a combination I respect in anyone regardless of their substance of their opinions.

I hope he maintained his exasperating dignity to the end.