Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Some More Fort Worth

Everyday at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., about 15 longhorn cows are paraded down Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards section of Forth Worth. The Stockyards section was home to large, working stockyards. Cattle were brought in and out of the area before being shipped across the country in the late 1800s. Later, they were brought to the stockyards to Armour and Swift meat processing plants.

Today's parade is a tribute to that past. Tourists line both sides of the street to watch. I really enjoyed my day in the Stockyards. You can feel the history of Cowtown. I learned that Fort Worth is more than highways and shopping centers.

Here is a view of the pens that used to hold cattle.

Mission Creek flows underneath and behind all the activity in the Stockyards.

On Exchange Street, stands a statue of legendary bulldogger Bill Pickett.

This African-American cowboy invented the bulldogging technique. His method required biting steer on the lips to get them to submit. He learned that from the dogs that helped him in his work.

The remains of the stockyards.

Fort Worth or Bust!

Downtown Fort Worth. Note the tan building on the right and the brick building on the left.
Those are two very popular building materials in those parts.

I had a horrible flight. After flying international, American domestic flights are real letdowns. There is no legroom. No legroom. Right before the woman in front of me went to sleep, she put her chair back as far as it could. That meant that her chair was about eight inches from my faces. When I checked in, I was offered the opportunity to buy an first class for $135. I thought about it but skipped it. I would have paid five times that amount in order to move. There was also no food, no movies, no television shows, no nothing. The four-hour flight from Newark to Dallas-Fort Worth was about three hours shorter than my flight from Germany and I got all of those things.

Texas is blessed to have Dell company call it home. There were computers with free Internet access sprinkled throughout DFW. I sent Kara an email that I was early and my cellphone was not working. I went outside and waited.

After living in brusque northern Germany, it was nice to be inundated with "Please," "Thank you so much," "Have a good day," "Yes, Ma'am," and "Oh, I'm so sorry."

I was met with a world of tan. The outside of the airport was tan. The parking garage was tan. The nearby hotel was tan. I waited and was excited. It observed all the cars. There were a lot of white cars. In northern Germany, there are a lot of black and gray cars. Go Figure.

Kara pulled up in a white car with her young daughter in the backseat. I feel old. I used to hate it when my parents friends used to note how big I had gotten. It was obvious to me that I had not gotten any bigger. I was the same size as always. I was tempted to say this but I kept the words in. It was so relaxed and cool.

I had some goals for my time in Texas and fulfilled all of them.

Eat egg foo young. [This faux Chinese food makes me very, very happy. This delicacy has not made it to these shores.]

Eat big pieces of meat, especially with bones/

Eat good Tex-Mex.

[Michelin recently started awarding Germany a lot of stars. However, these accolades are mostly for gourmet restaurants that serve great French fare. Germany is not an ethnically-diverse nation, so the food reflects it. The most popular cuts of steaks have no bones and no fat. Mexican food has no kick but does have cream in odd places. Chinese food is as bad as it is anywhere but there is no egg foo young. Germany has many "Asian restaurants," serve food allegedly from China, Japan and Thai under one roof. Therefore, there is a variety of bad food to be had in one place.]

Visit one of the amazing art museums in Fort Worth.

See the place where JFK was shot.

Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.

It was cool to hang with Kara and her parents. Parents make me nervous. I am constantly making sure that my elbows are not on the table. However, Kara's parents are welcoming and interesting. Her mother, Kathy, was sincerely interested in my life in Germany. I felt honored to go to a blues club with her father, Robert. It was like hanging out with Frank Sinatra in 1965.

Kara had so much going on. Graphic design class and coordinating Angel's various lessons was a sight to behold. Plus, she and her husband, Josh, are renovating some cool houses in Fort Worth. Despite all this activity, we talked, ate, shopped. I love gift shops. I was happy that Kara and Angel moved as slowly through the superb Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth as I did.

As polite and delicious as Texas is, I didn't fall in love with Fort Worth or Dallas. From my short, three-day visit, it seems that the area is beige buildings and shopping centers connected by highways.


A view of downtown Fort Worth on the way from DFW airport.

I needed to go to the store for some juice. To get to the Albert's supermarket from my hotel, I had to cross over a wide highway without a fence. It was the most stressful that I have done in a long time. I had to do this twice. Residential and commercial areas do not mix.

If you need bread, you need to hop in your car to drive along I-30 to get to a store. Also, museums are segregated. The Amon Carter Museum, the Kimbell Art Museum, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Modern sit away from the houses and stores in city's Cultural District.

While one shopping center looked like the other, houses were not carbon copies of one another. Plus, there were no rowhouses or massive housing projects.

I enjoyed my time in the company of Kara and her family. I cannot wait to see them again. It will happen before 2016.

Back in the USA

A brick from the stockyards in Fort Worth, Texas from the Thurber brick plant.

Christmas just passed but I must mention Thanksgiving because I spent it in the country of its origin. Yes, I went home! Twice in one year. I wanted to take a trip somewhere but not spend much money, so I headed to the United States of America.

I left the hustle and bustle of Germany and landed in JFK a week before the big day. I got the inquisitive immigration officer. But I didn't flinch:

Holding my American passport in my hand, she asked:

Sooo, what brings you here?
Umm, the chance to argue with my family after a big meal and feel awkward in front of an old friend. [Note Bene: Her quotes are real. Mine are not.]

You reside in Germany, right?

Do you work there?
I'm a freelance writer and I teach English. The English language.

Soooo, you moved to Germany to teach English?
Exactly, I got tired of using my degree in journalism, so I decided to move to a nation where I am .0000000001% of the population. I don't get enough weird stares here in New York.

OK, have a good trip.

That hurdle was over. Now all I had to do was get my luggage. Yes, my luggage. My dear husband, Asmus, decided not to come with me because he wanted to use his remaining vacation days in 2011 to program in his underwear. [Note Bene: This is not an exaggeration.]

Well, of course, my luggage was in Heathrow, while I was in JFK. That was annoying but fortunate. I planned to pick up my luggage and taking it to a FedEx office near Penn Station after catching a monorail and the Long Island Railroad. Now British Airways was going to send it to my friend Marie in Pennsylvania for me. I just had to stand around for about an hour to discover the loss [Fortunately, I stood at the baggage carousel next to an airline employee. While we chatted about nothing and she pulled suitcases off the machine, she told me that my bag was not coming. I learned that baggage handlers put a little plastic basket on the conveyor after the last bag. The little basket arrived and my little black suitcase had not.

I was late to meet my friend Jennifer for dinner. That didn't matter much because my cellphone didn't work in the United States. I sat in the Starbucks at Penn Station and sent an email apologizing to her and then went to Newark.

I was flying to Fort Worth, Texas, the next morning at 10:15, so I booked a room at Comfort Suites not far from Newark Liberty Airport. Cory Booker is a great man but Newark at night is still a spooky site. It reminds me of Midtown Manhattan in 1989. I hopped in the dirtiest taxi I have ever sat in. I was a shade too tired to argue with the shady cabdriver. A shade. I asked him if he knew where the hotel was and he told me to get in. I asked him if he knew where the hotel was and he told me to get in. I asked him how much it cost to get there. He said ten dollars; I sighed and got in. Five minutes later, we pulled up to the hotel.

The room was huge, takeout food came directly to my room, there were lots of newspapers in the lobby, and a nice woman helped me make my Belgian waffle [a little too much help. The maneuver was quite similar to the contraption we used at college. Every college probably had Sunday Belgian waffles. It is nice but not very complicated to eat on the Lord's day. I took her instructions with a smile]. The heat in my room didn't work but when I asked for help, someone came quickly. When the Wi-Fi went out, someone quickly fixed it. That's all I want for $70 a night.

Then it was off to Texas.

I had never been to the Lone Star State, but I had a good feeling about it. I like places where people are super proud. I had a roommate who went to college in Texas from Pennsylvania and she was always flashing Hook 'Em horns and talking about how Badass Texas is. When people in Germany learn that I moved here from New York, they ALWAYS respond, "Why?"

I was really excited to see my friend Kara. Kara and I fall in and out of each other's orbit. However, when our worlds meet, it was always amazing. I have Spock-like tendencies and experience most human interaction with confusion. People do things and say things that may or may not be true or correct. It takes me a few seconds to understand to separate fiction from non-fiction. I never have to worry about that with Kara. She is real, so I am just relaxed when I am with her. I was going to see her after an absence of about five years. I was 90% certain it would be great

I was 110% correct.