I do a lot of online snooping. Not on people, but rather on places and things. It’s how I collect so much information on geographies, happenings around the world on the subjects I find interesting, and how I explore from my computer without traveling.
It’s how and why I create things like Pinterest boards about cities I’ve never been to (Mexico City, Melbourne), maps of the fire stations in Montreal and Santiago (Chile), and I subscribe to Google Alerts for subjects like “New College of Florida” (my alma mater) and “Bal Harbour Shops” (perhaps one of the most unique and special shopping centers in North America).
This pairs well with my love of cities, and why, after a bit of pre-research, I can comfortably navigate around a city that is totally new to me. Virtual orientation from a variety of data points is key: where is my home base? Where is the shopping? Where are the groceries? What does GayCities.com have to say? Points of interest?
With any place, I check a number of online sources:
- 36 Hours travel coverage by the New York Times
- Sotheby’s International Realty
- Flickr (for photos)
- Google Streetview
My latest curiosity is Dallas, Texas.
Why? Usually there is an inciting hook that peaks my interest, and in the case of this well-known airline hub, it’s that the city has an unusually robust landscape of high-end shopping. Maybe this isn’t news, but the breadth and depth of wealth and taste there is clear once you realize that the region is home to multiple Nordstrom stores, many neighborhood commercial centers, and a “prosperous America” quintessence that I find fascinating.
Right now, I am looking for jobs, and the thought of a city with corporate fashion jobs (Neiman Marcus) and good salaries is wooing me.
On the other hand, I have heard terrible things about Dallas—mostly that it is sprawly and car-oriented. It’s conservative, and cliquey. My friend Ben lived there for a year and hated every minute, said everyone was pretentious.
And there’s the thing about it being in big ole’ red state Texas, not exactly known for progressiveness. But the city isn’t far from Austin, the state’s liberal capital, and the metro area is served by the most prolific operator of light rail transit in the country (DART). In fact, it is a model for cities like Tampa, where we have been trying to build rail transit for decades, which is a perennial fight with anti-government activists.
It is worth noting that CHANEL dedicated its pre-fall 2014 collection to the city, where Coco Chanel had a standing professional kinship with Neiman Marcus founder Stanley Marcus. The show was western-themed, with lots of tooled metal accents and many shades of brown.
It is also home to some fantastic mid-century modern architecture. Northpark Center (mall) is one example that continues to be relevant even after 51 years of operation. It includes the only local boutique of brands like Bottega Veneta and John Varvatos.
There’s also this townhouse, which I like even though it is a bit gloomy inside. Reminds me of the townhouse we lived in when I finished high school, on Dekle Avenue in Hyde Park (Tampa).
With some careful adjustments and upgrades, it could be a winner.
Just across the 75 freeway is another great modern home that is clean and sleek in all-white, at 4322 Deere Street.
Sure they aren’t exactly starter homes, but with dual incomes and a few years of hard work and career climbing, they could be. Plenty of room for a few cats and lots of clothes.
I’m designing a perfect, tidy life here, as you can see. I’ve started a Destination: Dallas Pinterest board to arrange it all.
Elsewhere in the city, local retail is strong in independent multi-brand store Forty Five Ten, which just moved downtown to a massive new building after years on McKinney Avenue; there are now secondary locations throughout the city and in Houston. Stanley Korshak is another local retail name known for its bridal gowns and men’s suiting.
On my Dallas Spots map, I’ve found most of the urban Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s stores (which I miss every day in Italy), and the nearest dealers for the car brands I would consider if I snagged a choice job and needed to commute.
Despite all of this, I have never actually been to Dallas, and so my impressions could be totally off. But online orientation and snooping can be a needed escape from current reality, and since I have in fact applied for a few jobs with Neiman Marcus corporate in the city, I have enjoyed getting to know the area a bit better.
What is your experience with Dallas?