Texas Magic

deep ellum texas birds

My camera did not get its fair share of capturing  Dallas and Austin. I took my camera out the very first day in Dallas and then not once after. With few photos to share, besides those I took on my phone and shared to Instagram, I’ve decided to challenge the notion a picture is worth 1,000 words. Sometimes a story is worth telling, too.

Despite my failure to give my camera the action it deserved, reminiscing on these photos is a great way to inspire my last two months in Philly and reflect on how far I’ve come. Also, Texas was my first ever vacation as a working adult — go me.

Dallas Train Tracks Amtrack DART
Train goals, experienced in Texas

Texas Magic

 

A Creative Snippet of Deep Ellum

Four and a half years ago I visited Deep Ellum for the first time. As a youngin’ at 20, I drank in the bright murals that seemingly wrapped around any open wall. Being more responsible with my camera at the time, I took plenty of photos. With these visual memories, I made it my goal to relocate specific murals I saw on my first trip.

(These photos are new murals, and not the ones I was scouting.)

Deep Ellum Texas Art Murals Paintings

So how did it go? I only found one of those pieces of art. And honestly, I think it hadn’t changed because it was along a business and not a public space.

The huge murals that sprawled lots had been replaced by new mural art, all to my excitement and disappointment. They now only remain in a photograph. Next time I go, I’m going to hunt once again for the murals featured on this very page.

I bet they won’t be there, one again fading into digital existence, but it’ll be worth the shot.

Note to self: start writing down the artists of murals so I can link them. If you happen to know the artist, leave a comment! If not, that’s cool. I just need to do better when it comes to this, especially when the artist names aren’t hard to find on murals.

My new friend Darth, the bar stool-sitting dog on Ross Avenue

Have you ever had travel moments where you decide to check something off your bucket list that was never there before? Well, I never had ¨sit at a bar with a dog¨ on my bucket list, but it’s been checked off.

 

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I was walking towards downtown on Ross Avenue after having the most delicious (and budget-friendly) Mexican food at La Victoria when I saw this pooch chillin’ in a tall stool along an outside bar just off the avenue. Knowing I would regret not meeting this bar dog, I now knew what I was doing next with my day: drinks, and then downtown.

So what if it just hit 2 pm?

I approached the bar with that weird smile you get when you really want to pet a random dog. The bartender already knew that look and invited me to sit. I plopped myself next to my new bar buddy: Darth.

Darth appeared to have it made. He got to enjoy the fresh air, sit in a human chair, and socialize (but also have down time), considering the environment. I’m pretty sure this was all he did. In fact, he had his own private balcony built into the sidewall of the bar, jumbo letters decorating his name on the front.

I stayed for two gin and tonics while Darth lapped water. His owner, whose name I forget, reminded me of myself, expect he was a Southerner.

Being from the country in Pennsylvania, I came to Philadelphia to get away from a place that kept me from growing. Him and I were both products of middle-of-nowhere America, but we also came to our senses and got out.

If you ever wanted to understand small-town white America, I could tell you all about it. As I write that, I’m feel thankful to be sitting in my glorious Philadelphia room with a view over Baltimore Avenue. I lived small town life for 20 years when I suddenly made the decision to leave to travel the US — staying was not an option anymore. I wasn’t sure where to move, I only knew I couldn’t stay any longer or the bad decisions I’d made would revisit me, tempting me to chose them again.

He was from the Texan-country. Sounds like a brand of its’ own. He also had no desire to be living where he was from either. We talked about backwards views, the drugs, and how we handled our families during the holidays all those years.

Live the Darth Life – Do you.

Not everyone from small white towns is racist, homophobic, or conservative, but the presence of it can definitely become draining and the lack of things to do is soul-sucking if you have goals that reach beyond township limits.

Leaving my hometown was a choice that tilted my life’s axis. In fact, I came to Texas the very first time because of my choice to leave. And that’s how I ended up back here again, enjoying random conversation and a spot at the bar next to Darth.

Opposing Visions in Dallas

I walked a long stretch of Ross Avenue, starting along the downtown outskirts, merging into the skyline high streets.

dallas east grafitti texas art gentrification

Along the North East section of Dallas, run down buildings stand alongside gentrification boxes, the cheap-to-make, expensive to sell apartments and houses. The style of them reminded me of how it’s happening in Philly. But these photos are not that kind of comparison, especially because none of these photos feature a gentrification box.

All these buildings I encountered along a single stretch. The first and third, taken outside of downtown, reflected the condition of many buildings awaiting a new fate in a changing neighborhood. Looking at abandoned building, I always imagine their history, what they were, what happened there. What was the day in the life of this building before it became an empty shell with a blue notice slapped on its front door?

And as you enter downtown, the buildings grow higher, the art work becomes pristine, and blue sky appears through the grey clouds. A type of pride is handed over to this section simply for being the center. Life still continually flows through it, so while we ponder the history, time doesn’t stop.

A few nights in Deep Ellum.

Deep Ellum, a neighborhood where music, attitudes, strange events, and alcohol all flow. As a visitor, going into the Deep Ellum night guaranteed I’d find at least one partner in crime to carry on the night with. This is one thing I love about solo travel; you have to make friends. I was in Deep Ellum for three nights total; two nights before I left for Austin and one night before coming back to Philly.

The night before leaving for Austin I contemplated going out. In most cases, the non-social, frugal part of me usually wins.  Yet with only a week in Texas, I forced myself to head out to a bar I earlier saw with a 5 – 8 happy hour sign. I later learned this is totally normal there. Anyways, I was here to go out and live so I found myself a spot at the bar (not the one pictured below).

Brain Dead Brewing Deep Ellum Dallas

I started my night out solo with a Texas version of a City Wide, a shot and a beer. Little did I know a show was going on that night. Sound checking bands gave it up and the audio teaser convinced me to stay around.

After a few beers and chill conversation with a local nail salon owner, I was determined to move to the outdoor seating where I had to ask two random guys if I could share a table with them. This is totally not my style, but when I travel there is no excuse *not* ask, especially when an empty seat is available.  Once again, little did I know,  I was sitting with two band members who were playing that night.

After introducing ourselves and discovering we were all from the North East coast, one of them got up to attend to what I assume was touring life stuff. Anyways, I still sat across the table with the other, the band’s bassist. I’ll just call him B.

I don’t talk about it much, but my romance life quite frankly feels like trash. In Philly, despite being surrounded by seas of people, that aspect of life feels like a withered flower attempting to regain life, failing again and again. When I’m traveling, it’s as if that flower has suddenly found water, blooming (and probably looking into the sun). I can always snag myself a cutie when I travel.

Note to my readers: when you travel (or are even at home) and go out with new people, trust your instincts and let a situation be if you see red flags. It’s important to have fun, but trusting a stranger too much for the sake of fun might not be worth it.

This night though, as I sat and talked to B though, I trusted my instincts that he was actually a decent guy. Also, being in a band and trying to be known and all would be harmful to his future (if he were actually a creep, sorry B).

In fact, B, just by being with me was actually a creep deterrent (wack dude story to come shortly). It was great — simply incredible.

Being almost ironically from New Jersey, he’s one of the better guys I’ve met in my four years living on the East coast, while visiting Texas.

You can’t meet them in Philly though, can you? Oh Philly.

So, I had found my partner in crime that night, B.

I got to watch his band play before the headliner. I’ll admit I missed most of their performance, but I thoroughly enjoyed the song and dance they swayed the crowd into projecting. Being a dancer myself, it was pretty fun to watch a crowd of uncommon dancers join forces to move together.

After the show, B and I did what most people visiting Deep Ellum should do — drink, dance, play video games, eat, and appreciate all the oddities to be found.

Littered with an assortment of bars, I was ready to have my first night out with a new friend on the same wavelength as me. B could not have been a more perfect companion. I wasn’t just completely into his personality and stunning eyes, but he tore up the dance floor with me, and held my hand for like 5-minutes at some point. Isn’t that what we all just want when we first meet someone? Oh, and I guess it was pretty cool he was in a band.

In Deep Ellum, life flows, and B and I swam through it that night, bouncing from one hole in the wall to the next.

Also, I highly recommend the bacon cheese fried from Atlantis Diner.

About five days later back in Dallas, I introduced a new Australian friend to Chicken N Waffles at that same diner.

That evening also started alone. It was my birthday so I decided I’d go out and grab a drink at each bar until I found someone to hang with. At the third bar, I sat next to brunette with a high 90’s pony tail. After about ten minutes, I realized she was definitely that girl I saw back at the hostel. When we started talking, we both confirmed we were actually in the same room.

She was a few years younger than me, traveling solo from Australia around the US. So basically she was dope. We both decided since we didn’t have particular plans that we’d hang out for the night. I’ll call her J. I told J it was my birthday and I was just trying to check out different bars in Deep Ellum and dance uninhibitedly.

 

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That night was a trip.  J was not as focused on drinking and dancing as I was, especially towards the end, but she was awesome to talk to about travel, politics, and general life shit. It’s also nice to be able to meet and roll with other solo female travelers. Not only do you have a friend to be with for the night, but you can have each others’ back. Women and girls…we gotta look out for each other.

J and I wandered around Deep Ellum stopping at appealing looking establishments. Our first stop specialized in fancy drinks with ingredients I couldn’t comprehend. Since it was my birthday, I indulged: it will probably be another year before I splurge on such a delicacy.  It was pretty, fancy, and worth it. But we had to get off that high-horse and head somewhere more affordable.

ruins bar deep ellum texas

Hearing some bumpin’ hip hop from the entrance of one place, I ushered us in. I needed to dance at this point and boy I did. It was super fun and we had no idea our time there was going to ruined by two men, not including the strange one that kept appearing to say hi to me, then sitting down and watching me. No, these two seemed totally normal at first.

That’s the thing about the South, I think people are too nice at first. Like, at least in Philly I can usually tell if someone is gonna be too much within a few minutes. But not these guys. After J and I had talked with them a few times that night, we retreated to the backyard area to hang together. Five minutes later, they rolled up again.

This time, they were talking no sense. I kept guessing topics because the man in front of me, the larger one, was talking without direction. He was using words one would use to describe a topic, without inserting a topic….right…

I even looked at J to make sure it wasn’t just me. She didn’t understand him either. We were frustrated and the larger man was getting more angry as we told him he lacked competency. Feeling tense, defensive, and getting more aggressive myself, with his shit attitude he says, ¨Kayla, you need to shut up.¨

And that was it. You don’t buy me drinks, try to chat me up, and then expect me to go with that. Nah, that disrespect was our cue to leave.

J and I looked at each other and knew it was time to just walk away. There was no easy way to verbally mend things. Nope.

¨We’re leaving.¨ I told them and we started to move, having to walk past them to leave. The one who already had the nerve to tell me to shut up, got even more ballsy and grabbed my arm.

I don’t recall my response, but I assume I gave him a look and pulled my arm back. I might act tough, but he was still a big and pissed man. Him grabbing me made me shuffle out twice as fast.

So, the rest of the night? Well, it was clear we made the right choice to leave earlier. We saw them again later on, drunk and angry. It was 2-3 AM and we watched them argue loudly right outside our window seat at the diner. They had to of seen us there, as if they were trying to show us it was our fault for their bad night  — without actually dragging us into it. They eventually left in a car.

We ate our chicken n’ waffles. My Australian friend, originally confused by the idea of the food, saw the light.

And let’s not forget I also went to Austin

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