Sunday, April 22, 2012

Giddy-up Dallas - Yee Haw!

“I'm wondering about wearing my cowboy boots,” I said, extending and wiggling a booted foot. “But traveling with something this bulky...” my voice trailed off. 
“Buy boots there,” Maria said, “You'll find boots there you won't find anywhere.”
“Really?” That never occurred to me.
“And a cowboy hat,” Bev offered with enthusiasm, “Ya gotta have a cowboy hat.”
“I actually bought a Stetson when I visited Jackson Hole. It even has stampede straps so it's pretty stylin'. But again, traveling with something like that...”
“Yeah, for sure someone will set their laptop on your Stetson,” she agreed.
My journey to Dallas began very early at Sacramento International Airport’s Terminal-B. I shuttled in from long-term parking and stood just inside the doorway, gazing up. Morning seeped in from the east, bringing pale light into the cavernous terminal. The red rabbit, suspended in a perpetual state of scurry, hung overhead. The bus growled as it pulled away from the curb. Voices disappeared, dissolved in space, vaporized like breath in winter, and the terminal was terminally quiet indeed.
I looked left, to the twin escalators that dropped uninterrupted from the third floor. There have to be more escalators! I have time, I thought, glancing at my watch. I started toward the escalators, rolling my carry-on behind.
My gaze followed the escalators to the third floor and confirmed again that they both flowed down, uninterrupted from the All-Gates-on-three. I looked further left and saw people queuing for another set of escalators going up. Aha! I picked up speed and clamored aboard for Ticketing-on-two, to collect my boarding pass. Why doesn't the bus drop us off in front of these escalators? Perhaps in time it will, when the old Terminal-B is demolished and the road re-routed.
I watched a family of four shuffle through security. Their lanky teen wore a cowgirl hat. Her father was tall, sporting a week’s worth of stubble on his scalp and goatee. His jeans tightly corralled fleshy thighs. Her mother was tall with bottle-enhanced, auburn hair that touched her shoulders.  Stature implies age though not when one is of lanky lineage. Her brother acted six but was tall as ten. Aboard, they occupied the row ahead of me and during take off he reached across the aisle to grasp his wife's hand. “I love you,” he said with a squeeze. Sah-weeet! 
As an aside, we’ve been told that takeoff and landing are the most dangerous phases of flight. I wondered if that was truth or urban myth. A Google search pointed me to They report accidents and fatalities by phase of flight: takeoff and initial climb= 20%, final approach and landing = 36%. Guess it’s true. Interestingly, crash survival rates steadily climbed during the previous seven decades then dropped precipitously in the new millennia. I suspect 9/11, with high volume flights and 100% mortality crashed the stats with the planes. But I digress.
With a bird's eye view, I couldn't help myself, I studied him. Had he failed to shave cheeks and neck, his head would be a fuzz-ball. I looked for further evidence of his linkage and lineage to furry clansmen. My eyes rested on tufted knuckles. The backs of his hands and ankles were coated. It's likely, I quickly concluded, that beneath those jeans and two shirts Daddy was quite... Never mind. I opened my book.
He stood to retrieve something from the overhead bin and I got a whiff of mothballs. Mothballs? It's a distinctive odor. Who uses mothballs anymore? Daddy does!
On approach into Dallas, the day was hazy-gray with a forecast for warm thundershowers. The trees were fully leafed - in Dallas spring had sprung. A red horse galloped atop a white water tower perched over an outdoor stadium. College football? This is Texas Dorothy, could be high school.
I connected through Dallas when traveling to Chicago last year and remembered DFW as a cramped and outdated facility, ill suited for today’s large jets. Nothing had changed but the date - DFW's concourse was congested with passengers overflowing from painfully inadequate gate seating areas. 
At baggage claim I passed a man holding a single sheet of paper printed with the NovoNordisk bull, obviously collecting people for a NovoNordisk conference. A large, large man suited in black leaned against the wall and held an electronic tablet displaying the logo and name of the conference I planned to attend. Chris lead the way, lumbering to the Cadillac Escalade in thick-soled shoes made to withstand the gravity of his 350+ pound frame. 
“Where you from?” he asked politely. Chris was Texas born and bred but spent the intervening years in Sacramento. 
“I was a river rat,” he said, “Lured back to Texas to make something of myself at nineteen” by his Daddy's promise of a new 240Z. It worked, he is married with kids and has never left.
We exited the DFW airport complex due south, headed for the Tom Landry Hwy. Directional signs pointed toward the LBJ Freeway and the George Bush Tollway, roads that circle concentric about Dallas. Clearly, Dallas is presidential country and cowboy country - and Dallas Cowboy country. 
Chris made a food recommendation: Javier’s. “It’s a little pricey,” he said, “But it’s worth it.”
What do I know? I know Taco Bell and Chevy’s.
“You should know if their food is good from the beginning - by the crispiness of their chips and snappiness of the salsa.” I figured he knew a lot more about it than I and put Javier’s on my list.
“Do you like history?” After answering in the affirmative Chris mentioned the Sixth Floor (Book Depository) Museum and the Grassy Knoll. It was already on my list. If I’ve read one book about that fateful day in Dallas, I’ve read four. A Warren Commission cynic and skeptic, I was anxious to examine the physical evidence preserved on Elm Street.
We pulled into the Hilton Anatole, consisting of three, reddish-brown, brick towers. I disembarked into a bevy of bellhops and thanked Chris for a pleasant ride. According to their brochure, the word “Anatole” hails from Greece meaning “where the sun rises.” The Hilton Anatole covers 45-acres wedged between the freeway and industrial zone, three miles northwest of downtown Dallas. It is a convention resort housing 1600 guest rooms, 79 meeting rooms, and over 600,000 SF of flexible meeting/event space. Larger than life, “18th century, bronze, Chinese Fu Dogs guard the lobby entry-way with ferocious glances to scare off evil spirits,” just as they did for their home or origin, an ancient Buddhist temple.
I swear registration clerks must assess our ability to walk as we queue for their service. I rode the glass elevator to the eleventh floor. The rooms were organized around a large atrium beneath a glass ceiling where Buddha, carved in white, Vietnamese marble, sat contemplative. I threw open the drapes of my room next to the corner suite, farthest from the elevator, and took in a view of downtown Dallas. I was suddenly struck that the last three rooms at my last three conferences were corner rooms with commanding vistas. Yippie ki-yay! Hurray for a body that “ambulates independently without use of assistive devices.” (My charting jargon for a body that moves unaided.) I thank God every day for mind and body that work.
With four-hours to burn, I wanted to move a bit. Pinks Western World, a wholesale-to-the-public, cowboy outfitter was nearby. Chris pointed to it as we drove by. 
“There’s Pinks. You can walk to it along the frontage road.” In keeping with Maria’s suggestion, I walked along Anatole's carved, relief walls and the half-mile to Pinks, to look at cowboy boots in Dallas.
Four generations of Pinks greeted me from their stations around the showroom floor. An ancient man with bushy brows beneath a cowboy hat nodded from his prop against a round of cowgirl shirts, just inside the front door.  I wore a Honolulu Marathon cap and carried a backpack. 
“Are you here for a conference?” Customers from the conference center must be common.
“Yes, a diabetes conference next door.”
“Are you an Endocrinologist?” That’s an unusual question.
“No, I’m a nurse practitioner.” 
To make a long story short, Bushy-brow’s great-grandson was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes in 2011. He is a junior in high school, continues to play varsity football, and uses the new OmniPod insulin pump when not suited for football. They were happy with his care at Children’s Hospital but the whole event had scared and corralled them. They learned as a family and now enjoy his football games all the more.
I browsed and chatted while Grandpa and Daddy trailed me through the store. After a very pleasant visit, I thanked them and they wished me well before I ventured again into the hot, humid day.
I re-entered the Hilton Anatole through its western lobby and was welcomed by a breathtaking, nine-foot Quan Yin carved from a single block of white, Vietnamese marble. 
Quan Yin is the shortened form of a name meaning One Who Sees and Hears the Cry from the Human World.  In Sanskrit, her name is Padma-pâni, or "Born of the Lotus." She is one of the San Ta Shih, the Three Great Beings, a Holy Trinity, and is often compared to the Virgin Mary.
Quan Yin, alone among Buddhist gods, is loved rather than feared and is the model of Chinese beauty. Eastern religion claims Quan Yin earned the right to enter Nirvana through great love and sacrifice during life. However, while standing before the gates of Paradise, heard a cry of anguish from earth below. Turning back, she renounced her reward of bliss eternal and in its place found immortality in the hearts of the suffering.
      The parallels of the great religions never fail to provoke questions in me: a Hindu Holy Trinity, a gated Heaven or Nirvana up there, the universal message of doing unto others and earning one's place, etc. Is it just me?
A matched set of gigantic vases lined the opposite wall. The Hilton Anatole, as it turns out, displays the largest, private collection of Asian antiquities ever assembled for an American hotel, a fragment of the Crow Collection of Asian Art. I wandered through the hotel - appreciative of each piece and its placard.
With Sacramento gripped in late winter storms, I intended to enjoy the weather. I grabbed my bikini and book, and made my way through Anatole’s Sculpture Park to the outdoor pool. Temperature and humidity in the 70’s - ahhh. You can take the woman out of Hawai’i but you no can take Hawai’i outta da wahine. The warmth and humidity felt wonderful on my skin - which was not so pale, pasty, and sickly as those visiting from more northerly destinations.
I watched a crow scavenge for scraps. Alert and energetic, it hopped from lounges and fluttered to tables, pecking at points of interest. Unlike the full-bodied, foot-long, Poe-esque ravens of Yellowstone, Dallas' crows are two-thirds tail - all plumage and glitz - sooo apropos for a Dallas show.
I was gripped and glued to the pages of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. A group of friends in their 20’s moved in nearby. They chatted in-between texting and surfing on their phones. 
“I can’t imagine a world without facebook and twitter,” he exclaimed. That seems like such a girly thing to say. He was tall and lean and heretofore, seemed quite intelligent - my interest was piqued. “If we had social media for the last 40-years,” he continued, “The world would be in a better place. We would not be facing the same problems.” They spoke of the Arab spring and our ever-growing sense of one world - one people. He has a point.
After an hour, I gathered my belongings and retreated to my room to shower and ready for the opening program. I expected to reconnect with a few western-states acquaintances. I dined with a pharmacist from Napa and diabetes nurse from Billings, MT. Linda’s stories of diabetes in-reach into Montana’s Indian reservations were inspiring. I greeted Sugar Nancy, a bodacious, outrageous endocrinologist from San Francisco. I chatted with Nazly, a multi-ethnic, enchanting, exotic, shapely mother/doctor from L.A.
The conference began at 0730 the following morning - 0530 PST. I returned to my room and a brightly lit Dallas skyline but try as I might, sleep did not easily come.

Stay tuned for conferences and Cowboy Cool.


  1. Finally settling in to read your "trilogy." No. 1 is excellent. Favorite line (writer's POV only): "His jeans tightly corralled fleshy thighs."

    Good imagery and fine metaphor for your cowboy.

    Going on to read No. 2.

  2. U no ka oi' Patricia! = da bes! in Hawaiian.