Monday, May 8, 2017

Memphis to Dallas Road Trip

For many years, I’ve had a goal to visit every state. It began when I was nine. I started collecting thimbles. When visiting Boston, I was in a store that sold a thimble for each state. I bought about eight from states I had never set foot in. At the register, the guy told me I had to promise to visit each state; I replied that I would. Sure, I'm the kind of person who accepts a challenge from a stranger, at the age of nine.

Since then I had been to all but five states. There was a cluster of states in the middle/south that I wasn’t sure how I was going to visit. Thus, I came up with a road trip from Memphis to Dallas, with a dip into Mississippi and Nebraska, that would allow me to visit four of my five remaining states. My mother, also on this fifty-state mission, but a few behind me, joined the bizarre road trip.

We started the trip with a flight to Memphis. I’ve been to Nashville and drove the entire state 
Clinton Library
east, through the Great Smoky Mountains to Asheville, on another road trip. I wanted to see Memphis; my mother wanted to go to Graceland. We went to Graceland, the Civil Rights Museum and the hotel where MLK was assassinated, ate some not great BBQ, found good coffee at City & State, and then drove to Little Rock. 

Memphis is a small city, “dark, dark in the daytime.” It’s tiny compared to Nashville and felt deserted. We drove a short fifteen minutes into Mississippi, so I could say I’ve been to Mississippi. I’ll revisit properly, at some point.

We spent one night in Little Rock. In the morning, I went out for coffee to an awesome spot: Mylo Coffee Co. They bake fantastic pastries in house. Then we went to the Clinton Library. My mother wanted to go and I wanted to see the building. Given the current political climate, I ended up feeling sad and dismayed that someone so accomplished and successful had run the country, and now, we are where we are. After the library, we went to a coffee shop for lunch and drove to Tulsa.

Tulsa is known for art deco buildings. It’s a gorgeous tiny city. I wanted to go to the Tulsa Art Deco Museum in the lobby of a building. To call it a museum is an exaggeration, but I took some pictures I can use in my history lectures. 

Then we drove north to Bartlesville to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower, his only extant “skyscraper.” At nineteen floors, it’s a beautiful, odd FLLY building. My favorite part of being in his buildings is wandering around. He built tiny closets that often aren’t locked. I like to see how subsequent owners changed things to build modern bathrooms and AC systems. I like to see the light fixtures and the corners and the details. 

We took a tiny elevator to the top floor where there is a restaurant; the building is now a hotel. We had a drink at sunset on the top floor. There’s something about the energy of a FLLY structure. I feel better in them. I feel at ease. I think it’s the feeling of being inside something so intentionally built. Something that makes architectural and aesthetic sense. There’s a reason I based my first tattoo on a FLLY stained-glass window. Good design is good design. A rarity these days.

After the skyscraper, we drove twenty-minutes north to crossover into Nebraska. Again, I will make a real visit to Nebraska (no hurry), one day. We drove back to Tulsa to have dinner in a building we happened to find while walking around. The Vault Restaurant is an old bank that’s a mid-century modern heaven. Dinner wasn’t bad. I had a very Murakami-like conversation with a bartender, smoking a cigarette on the roof. It was something.

Crystal Bridges
Since Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is closed on Tuesdays, we had to backtrack from Oklahoma to Northeast Arkansas, Bentonville, to go to the museum the next day. The Museum is free and owned by Walmart. I have mixed feelings about Walmart owning so much art (so much of it not on display), but at least the museum is free. The architecture of the museum is unique. It’s built over a river, designed by Moshe Safdie. The way the water reflects onto the art, in the outside hallways around the galleries is very cool. Having viewed so much art, at this point, it has almost become about the surroundings and the architecture of the building in which the art is presented. There’s nothing like the old factory buildings of MASS MoCA, or the Campbell’s factory of DIA: Beacon, or basically, all of Marfa.

Before the museum we had breakfast at The Hive (very good) and I went to Onyx Coffee Lab for coffee. I grabbed a macchiato, a drip coffee, and two single origins. 

After the museum we had a long, long drive down to Dallas. I’d never been to Dallas/Fort 
Velvet Taco, Dallas
Worth. I’ve been to Austin, El Paso, Marfa, and Nacogdoches. DFW is a beast. An absolute beast of a sprawling city. Immediately, we went for tacos. I always joke that I only eat tacos in Texas and California; pretty much every taco outside of those states is a waste of time (save South Philly Barbacoa). I enjoyed the tacos at Velvet Taco; my mom, not so much. But fancy, carefully curated, Texas tacos are something a northerner might not necessarily enjoy.

The Kimbell, Louis Kahn
With a whole day in DFW, we over did it on the art. We went to The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Kimbell Art Museum next door, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Dallas Museum of Art. I love seeing art in cities that aren’t NYC. The museums aren’t busy, during the week at least, and the art is always unexpectedly fantastic. 

Again, the architecture of the FW Modern and Kimbell made it for me. Intentional concrete buildings. One of the Kimbell buildings was designed by Louis Kahn; it’s hard not to be in awe of it. The Nasher was very cool; being inside a sculpture garden in the downtown of a city is a stellar juxtaposition. I could have stayed there all day.

After overdosing on art, we went for BBQ. Lockhart Smokehouse. Years ago, I waited in line for five hours for Franklin BBQ in Austin. Yes, it remains the best BBQ I’ve ever had. I’d say, for only waiting five minutes, Lockhart was very, very good. My mother had never done the whole, here’s a bunch of meat wrapped in butcher paper, goodluck(!), thing. It was worth doing.

The road trip ended in Dallas. I added Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Arkansas to my list of states. All that’s left is North Dakota. I’ll end up in Minneapolis, one of the last larger cities in the US I need to explore, and drive over to North Dakota. Then, I guess, I’ll have to move on to countries.

Lorraine Motel, Memphis
Otherlands Coffee Bar, Memphis
City & State, Memphis
"I Am a Man," Lovelace, Marcellous (with BLK75), 2014, Memphis

Turrell, "The Way of Color," 2009, Crystal Bridges
FLLY, Price Tower, Bartlesville
Onyx Coffee Lab, Bentonville
Sol LeWitt, Crystal Bridges, Bentonville
Roxy Paine, "Conjoined," 2007, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Flavin in the distance, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
KAWS, "CLEAN SLATE," 2014, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Martin Puryear, "Ladder for Booker T. Washington," 1996, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
The Kimbell, Louis Kahn, Fort Worth
The Kimbell, Louis Kahn, Fort Worth
Nasher Sculpture Center, Richard Serra, Dallas
Dallas Museum of Art, Ellsworth Kelly
Lockhart Smokehouse, Dallas

1 comment:

Vicki said...

It's so cool that you soon have visited all states!! I try to do the same, but with all european countries. I got this idea from my horoscope and traveled a few countries until now. This year, my To-Do list will be shortened :) I'm planning to go on a Balkans road trip, I'll visit Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Macedonia and Kosovo. I'm so excited! I hope next year I can do the last few countries, and maybe I proceed with the american states next^^