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July 6th, 2002

As if rock never happened

I was rather looking forward to a nice quiet evening at home when my wife popped up, excited about a new way to spend our Friday. Because a friend's relative was playing in a backing band, her friend was kindly making available to us tickets to a hot attraction at that open air concert hall which used to be called Starplex but now is called Smirnov, after a vodka company with a large check. The novelty of my wife's suggestion appealed to me.

Soon, we were having dinner with friends at Nuevo Leon down in Dallas, where I had a wonderful meal of cabrito and carnitas (for some reason, I was thinking earlier yesterday about bbq cabrito, so a northern Mexican restaurant was perfect to try some again). Then we were off to see that man for whom all of rock and roll after the Shirelles never happened. Yes, we were off to spend A HOT NIGHT WITH BARRY MANILOW!Collapse )

To Mars and Tokyo

I received a nice note in the e mail from the Yahoo Discussion Group for MarsTokyo's Teenytheaters, in which marstokyo explained that she deleted her journal so that she could focus on her art at present. Her art is a wonderful collection of things, including in particular these miniature theaters which are breathtaking.

I am sorry to see her journal deleted, but at least those who, like me, are interested in her art can continue to interface through the yahoo discussion group. If you haven't joined the discussion group, but might be interested, it's an extremely simple format. Periodically, a link to photos of one of her tiny theater artworks will be posted, and then folks will post their interpretations. Frequently MarsTokyo will follow up with "what I was thinking", which is interesting. Sometimes I feel as though I "miss the mark" altogether, but then sometimes I like my interpretation better than what she was thinking :). I think all art is that way, and if ever I do a work of art, I'd be flattered by multiple interpretations. So I hope that more folks join the discussion group, sad as I am to see the LiveJournal go, and hopeful as I am (damn it) that it will be restored.

If you don't have the patience for discussion groups (and MarsTokyo was the one I signed up for after I thought I had sworn them off), you can see theaters on a grand scale at the website www.teenytheaters.com.

But I'll still miss reading marstokyo's journal.

Scenes from a pasta restaurant

We went with our friends Scott and Donna to Mama Emilia's restaurant in McKinney, the 25,000 person town to the north of us. It's in a rustic old brick building, and it has old fashioned wooden booths. It's one of those "dark little Italian" places with a good menu, reasonable prices, and a sort of casual dressy feel that one finds in Kansas City or some east coast cities, but rarely in north Texas. We had a wonderful meal. Best of all, I think this restaurant will be immune to potential franchising.

Dallas has some wonderful restaurants. But Dallas also has "franchise-itis". Frequently, a really charming new idea will arise in a restaurant. The outlet in question will soon be bulging with people. In some instances, the owners will do as in Los Angeles or New York, and merely open a single second location, subject to the same management and quality control. Dallas folks think a lot about "hey, we could open a new business", though. Financial people and folks with investment capital for franchises or massive "chains" of outlets are part of the Dallas thing, as sure as are the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and Nieman Marcus.

Soon, no matter how charming or individual a concept might be, it is converted into franchises or thousands of outlets and exported into the Dallas, Houston and San Antonio suburbs. One case in point is Sonny Bryan's. Texas barbecue is a real regional cuisine. It's hotter than the KC and Chicago stuff to the north, less vinegar based than the Carolinas stuff. It's a meat-oriented, "hot sauce" bbq. Every great Texas city has at least one great bbq stand. In Dallas, it was Sonny Bryan's. Sonny Bryan's was informal, hole in the wallish. They opened the doors at 11 and sold until the bbq was sold out. This usually happened by 1, when enough money would be earned to permit them to close and open the next day. Sonny Bryan's was one location, perfect unto itself,and dynamite.

Now, of course, a pristine open until 10 p.m. identical franchise outlet is open in every tract home suburb. They are all good, the food is always dependable, I would eat there gladly. But that "Sonny Bryan's magic" is gone in the mix somehow.

Similarly, Gloria's opened 12 or 13 years ago in Oak Cliff, Dallas' historic diverse neighborhood. Gloria's serves Salvadoran and Guatemalan food along with Mexican food--great tamals, real masa, the whole works. But now Gloria's are opening in all the suburbs, and they have acquired just a bit of blandness in the franchise (or multi-outlet, I'm not sure) package. It's still a good restaurant, but it's not what it was before.

Perhaps it's something about Dallas people, who tend to be extremely hard working and quite conservative and value predictabiity in their food to an almost absurd extent. In our northern Collin County suburbs, filled with high tech family folks, non-chain restaurants with maximum charm have no waiting for tables on Friday night, while TGI Friday's or Cheesecake Factory might have 1 hour and 15 minute waits (sure makes our lives easier, that phenomenon). Perhaps it's something about the way business is done here, when the word "franchise" or "chain" is as natural as in some cities "job at McDonald's" might be.

I just know that I go to a 'personal service and incredible ambience' place like Mama Emilia's and am thankful that there's no way in heck they can bottle this place into a chain.

It's not that I'm against chains--I'm not a food snob and eat at them gladly. But when something's special, you can't bottle it.
You just have to let it be.

Damn it, I'm so glad Marstokyo undeleted. She can't be franchised, either.