Politics & Policy

Ft. Worth Journal

Editor’s Note: Jay Nordlinger was in Ft. Worth over the weekend. Below are some characteristic “scribbles.”

There are some significant events going on in this friendly town west of Dallas: the Colonial Golf Tournament (a PGA event, in case you didn’t know); and the premiere of an opera, Before Night Falls, by Jorge Martín.

All over town, people have tags around their necks — their tickets to get into the tournament, on the various days. And a blimp hovers over the tournament — a Met Life blimp. With Snoopy on it.

I remember something from my childhood — or adolescence? — and it may amuse you. One day, we woke up and Snoopy was advertising for Met Life. I remember being kind of traumatized, and appalled: Peanuts belonged to the whole nation; the strip and its characters were a national institution. And here Snoopy was shilling for a company?

I thought it was so wrong! As though the government had weighed in on behalf of a particular product. I guess I was innocenter then . . .

Before Night Falls treats the well-known story of Reinaldo Arenas, the Cuban poet, gay, who was persecuted by the revolution. You may remember that a movie was made of this story in 2000. I will be writing about the opera for National Review.

The performances take place in Bass Hall — on the front of which, two enormous angels stick out, blowing long, long trumpets.

And some of the ladies attending the opera are interesting: They have backless or sleeveless dresses, and big ol’ tattoos. Big mamas, too.

Oh, one more thing, before I move on: The Diet Cokes at the opera are $2.25. Two twenty-five! At the Metropolitan Opera, where I am usually reviewing, they are $5, I think — maybe more. In Ft. Worth, I feel like getting two!

‐At Angelo’s Barbecue, I hear two old men talking about “the Five Lessons” — and they are obviously talking about Hogan, the great, late golfer who was from Ft. Worth: and who in 1957 wrote his famous Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.

I wonder if these old duffers knew Hogan — or met him. He did not like to be met much. (By the way, I wrote an appreciation of Hogan when he died in 1997. You may find it in the collection advertised at the bottom of this column: Here, There & Everywhere.)

‐The barbecue at Angelo’s is good, of course, but is it better than it is elsewhere in the country — New York City, for example? Or do we merely think it is, ’cause we’re in Texas? I’m afraid I think the latter . . .

But that doesn’t negate the goodness of Angelo’s!

‐Angelo’s is closed on Sunday: a reminder that we are not in New York anymore . . .

‐By the way, the joint is on White Settlement Road. Interesting to speculate how the road got its name.

And is there a less modern-sounding name?

‐At the hotel, I check in, and the young man behind the counter thrusts out his hand and says, “My name’s Hayden. Have a great stay.”

That is something I love about America — something that differentiates it from Europe. And something that differentiates, say, Texas from New York City. The sheer openness of it, the equality of it — do you know what I’m driving at (in this brief little blurby thing)?

I’m reminded of the observations of European travelers to early America. They were amazed at the easy intercourse between people. (No snickers, please.) For example, the easy intercourse between employees and employers. (Yes, I’ve heard of slavery, thank you very much. Please don’t write me.) (On this point.)

‐There is a big photo of JFK, visiting Ft. Worth. Was it during that trip? I don’t know, but I could check — not germane at the moment. He is leaving the Texas Theater. The marquee says, “Welcome to Ft. Worth, Where the West Begins.” JFK is striding, buttoning (I believe) his suit coat. Big, bright smile. Has anyone ever looked better in a suit? Ever?

Behind him is LBJ, in a raincoat. Not looking very good at all. Hey, I’ve learned my Oliver Stone history: I know LBJ killed Kennedy.

‐I see an ad for Lone Star beer. It says, “Drinking any other beer is treason.” A stinking example of Texas McCarthyism . . .

‐The Tarrant County Courthouse (I think it is) is a beautiful brown building, with a champion clock tower — the clock is right, too (and more than twice a day, I assume). If this building were in another country, we would pause before it with great appreciation, and consider ourselves lucky to have seen it. Seldom do you appreciate your own stuff, you know?

‐Outside the courthouse is a monument honoring “Confederate soldiers and their descendents who served in the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.” It was put there by the Julia Jackson Chapter of the UDC — the United Daughters of the Confederacy — in 1953.

“Descendants” is misspelled (as it so often is). “Descendent” is only an adjective, never a noun, as far as I know.

‐There is a great, huge, beautiful old building that was the Texas & Pacific depot. It is now condominiums. You should see the elevators in the building: works of art. I don’t see why we can’t make stuff like this now. Do you?

‐Nearby is a monument to Al Hayne, a British visitor who rescued many people in a tremendous fire. He was the only one to die. An inscription reads, “Most noble is that fame which rests upon heroic deeds of love and sacrifice.” A great monument, and, by the evidence, man.

‐The old post office is absolutely enormous, and rock-solid — it ain’t goin’ nowhere. Was built in 1933. They built things to last. Huge, huge columns: There are cows at the top of them, to honor the area. (Ft. Worth is known as “Cowtown,” you know.) There are also traditional gargoyles and such.

And the lobby? It features — I am tempted to say “boasts” — marble, bronze, and gold leaf.

Why does everything new need to be ugly? Do we have a lack of imagination — of taste, of money?

‐I have a point confirmed in Ft. Worth: There is no Texas accent. Rather, there are many Texas accents. Such a big state, and a diverse one, at that. There could no way be just one accent.

‐At a bar or some establishment — 7th Haven (no, not “Heaven”) — I see a marquee. Today, it’s reading, “Better to lose a lover than to love a loser.” Ah, American folk wisdom!

‐Would you like to know where the “Home of the Crawfish Sausage” is? Well, I’m gonna tell you: J&J Blues Bar.

‐I have complained about this a million times: the sheer extremism of the environmentalist movement. I mean, if only they would speak more sanely. The little signs on the bathroom counters in hotels say, “Save Our Planet.” It has to do with washing the towels.

“Save Our Planet”! Why do they have to talk that way? Why? Can’t they be a little more — temperate, credible? A friend of mine was saying, makes her want to throw her towels on the floor, to be washed. I know the feeling.

‐The Ft. Worth Water Gardens is — are? — a very good idea. This is a hot climate. And the gardens are very pleasant. There is this kind of waterfall, a little Niagara — and I think of Annie Taylor. Remember her? The first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls. She was in a barrel.

Weird, bizarre, very American story.

‐Guy has a black Corvette — very cool. Wrong color for this uncool climate, however, in my opinion. Still, I’d take it, if offered . . .

‐First Christian Church, established in 1855, has an interesting slogan: “From the Frontier to the Future.”

‐There is a Foch Street, or Foch Road — I can’t help thinking of it as Avenue Foch. Could it possibly be named for the World War I general?

‐On Houston Street — is it “Street”? — there’s a fantastic old-timey sign for a store that no longer exists: Juvenile Shoe Store — “for Boys, for Girls.” It is my impression — and things may be different where you are — that people don’t say “boys” and “girls” much anymore: It’s “kids,” “young people,” etc.

By the way, would you like to see a picture of that sign? Took it with my little BlackBerry, so it’s not exactly Stieglitz-level, but you may like it: here.

‐Um, there’s also, elsewhere in town, Limp Willies Snowball Palace. Oh, come on, y’all.

‐In airports and hotels, I am asked, often, for ID, such as my driver’s license. In these days of anti-Arizona fever, perhaps I should say that I’m asked “for my papers” — and I should say it with a Nazi accent (as distinct from a German accent, huh?).

‐They have this slogan down in Austin: “Texas for people who hate Texas.” Must be the snottiest slogan on the planet. Well, I love Austin — and I also love Texas for people who love Texas.



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