I’m regularly asked, by people who don’t live here, why I remain in the Dallas area. It’s definitely been a while: I celebrate the 35th anniversary of my first move to the Metroplex this December, with escapes in 1985, 1996, and 2002, but I keep coming back. In the last ten years, it’s started turning into the city it always could have been, and now I honestly can’t see living anywhere else. I’m not saying the place is perfect, and it’ll never be perfect, but it’s close enough for my needs.
One of the reasons why I love this town is because of the little things that make the place interesting. For decades, Dallas earned its reputation as “all hat, no cattle” by overhyping pretty mediocre venues in a desperate bid for international attention, while elected officials and noted businessmen worked their utmost to scuttle wonders for which they weren’t getting a cut. To this day, we always alternate between wanting an area or event to get proper recognition so it can grow, and trying to hide it so the SMU brats don’t “discover” it and gentrify it to death.
Sometimes, those little things are in plain sight. For instance, I started a new Day Job back last March. The upshot of this was that I get up at Even The Birds Are Telling Me To Go Back To Sleep Ayem and hitch a ride on the DART rail system practically to DFW Airport. In the process, I go by the notorious Texas School Book Depository twice per day, right along the back, and I see things in the summer morning light. Terrible things.
Not that this is particularly new: for all of the treasures in the Dallas Arboretum and the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, the most famous horticultural display in all of North Texas is the north side of Dealey Plaza. Yes, this is the famed “grassy knoll,” subject of conspiracy theories and Bill Hicks jokes alike. For spending a total of nearly a third of a century here, I’ve only been here maybe three times in my life. Once the original wood fence came down a decade ago, it actually lost some of its charm…if your idea of “charm” consisted of enjoying morbid graffiti on the back of the fence along the lines of “Hey Man, Nice Shot.”
No, the surprise came from passing by the back of the Sixth Floor Museum. Well, technically, it’s the front of the Museum display, but it’s the back of the original Depository building, For health and safety issues, the original structure has a very robust fire escape, brick painstakingly chosen to match the original building, and as such doesn’t contrast with the original the way far too many Dallas residential “improvements” do.
After a few weeks of passing by, that’s when I first saw it. At first, all I could see from the train was a clump of green on the sixth floor fire escape. The train rushed by fast enough that I couldn’t make out much more than that, but I could have sworn I caught a glimpse of round leaves, like a citrus tree’s. My first thought? “Someone has a Meyer lemon up there? Cool!”
My problem here was getting proof. I finally decided one day about two weeks ago to drag my camera out that way and get a good photo to show friends, and wouldn’t you know it, the plant disappeared the day I was prepared. Any conspiracy theorist worth his salt would have said “they probably brought it inside to repot it or clean it,” but I had no doubt that someone was determined to prevent me from getting a photo of “Lee Harvey Orange”. One online wag joked that it had been taken out by “Jack Ruby Red Grapefruit”, and I was starting to wonder.
Finally, I couldn’t stand it any more. Today was a particularly cloudy and cool day for the middle of June in Dallas, so instead of catching my transfer in downtown, I figured that I could sneak by and sneak a shot of Lee Harvey. He was back in the fire escape again, and without the afternoon sun shining right in my eyes, I figured that I’d have my chance. At least I wasn’t a patsy.
Well, the bad news is that Lee Harvey wasn’t a citrus tree after all. Based on an evaluation of the final image, Lee Harvey is most likely a corn plant (Dracaena fragrans), but a positive ID requires a trip to the Sixth Floor itself, and that’s going to require a free weekend. In fact, I just may bring a citrus tree as a peace offering, because that corn plant just doesn’t fit the space. It would probably be better for the Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum, because it’s much less “Lee Harvey Orange” than “Squeaky Frond.”