Yeah, yeah, it's a cheap essay topic, but I just got back from ten days of vacation, and I'm going to write up my impressions. The trip was planned to see people, not places, but the places were interesting in their own right.
The terrain of Dallas, TX still has a lot of the feel of the range to it, but the city also seems to be quickly filling the range with new housing and commercial development. Subdivisions are growing like ice crystals in a supercooled beer, expanding in regular patterns faster than their container can hold them. I don't know what combination of investment and resources is causing the area to boom, but layer after layer of nearly identical homes are suddenly snapping into place.
The incoming housing seems to be planned to hold folks with money as well, as upscale restaurants and consumer outlets seemed to be ubiquitous. Microbreweries, malls, and gourmet supermarkets seemed to be new, and prevalent.
As I say, I spent my time there with friends, so my perceptions are undoubtably colored by what they showed me, which included the Kimble Art Museum (which is actually in Fort Worth) and the Sixth Floor Museum. The Kimble calls itself America's best small museum, and was certainly interesting. There was a display of Renoir portraits there which were fascinating, but not part of the museum's permanent collection. The permanent collection was the wonderful sampling of art that can only come from a small museum: the modern color studies hanging next to Gauguin next to Renaissance portraits. I can only imagine what amazing inspirations can come from someone's first exposure to art being to the visual gumbo that is the Kimble's art collection.
The Sixth Floor Museum is considerably more focussed. It's a historical museum dedicated to the assassination of John Kennedy constructed on the 6th floor of the Book Depository from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots. The museum talks about Kennedy's career, reconstructs the fatal events, and even notes the various conspiracy theories that abound. Putting such exhibits next to the spots (preserved as they were in 1963) where the shots were taken and the rifle was found, gives the history a sense of immediacy that can be overwhelming. I'm certain that most visitors line up the shot for themselves.
My next stop, Asheville, NC, wasn't growing as spectacularly as Dallas, but there was a definite sense of change in the air. At least four distinct groups seem to be coexisting in that space, and I can't help but wonder how peacefully. First are the old time residents, who are small town southerners with traditional religious values. Second are older people retiring to the area for its bucolic beauty. Then on the other end of the age wheel are young students, many of them apparently drawn by the area's natural beauty into environmental studies. Finally the area is also filled with hippies who seem attached to the quiet area and tourists to whom they can sell crafts and other handmade products.
The result is a downtown full of college town coffee shops, vegetarian restaurants, and bead shops near a thriving medical park and several tourist attractions. This is a town with some world class graffiti, including a Nike-logo-headed "Class War: Just Do It," next to some of the most beautiful scenery and old homes in the country. It's a town with a thriving counter culture that has articles in the paper claiming that booking George Clinton, in their words a "black" act, could cost promoters money.
My parents are moving there, and I would dearly love to watch those cultures collide. Probably be better than Madison.