Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wintry Mix in the Metroplex - Conclusion

Kate and I had tickets to see the insanely-popular Body Worlds exhibit Saturday morning at the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science in Fair Park. After forcibly peeling ourselves out of bed, we managed to eat a very fast breakfast at Exposition Park Café before arriving at the museum for our 11am entry time.

Body Worlds consists of actual human bodies with the skin peeled off to reveal organs and tissues. The bodies, donated upon death by volunteers, are preserved by a process called “plastination,” which was invented by a rather creepy-looking German fellow named Gunther von Hagens (left).

Having always been fascinated (some might say obsessed) by the digestive system, I was particularly enthused to view a complete set of pipes in the flesh from tongue to anus. Seeing smoke-blackened lungs, cancerous livers and Alzheimer’s-ravaged brain tissue was a bit more odd. Viewed innocuously in the security of a museum display case, it doesn’t seem possible that those very organs were responsible for so much human misery.

Although having the skin peeled away made it impossible to determine the ethnicity of the cadavers, the overwhelming majority of visitors at Body Worlds were white. I don’t know why that was, but the near-total absence of color (other than museum workers) was enough to take notice of. The hordes made it impossible to really contemplate the exhibits, but I found it interesting how most everyone spoke in hushed tones when they first entered Body Worlds. This memorial-caliber decorum only lasted through the first few rooms, though.

While Body Worlds isn’t for the overly squeamish or reverent, anyone with a garden variety curiosity in how the human body works would probably find it worthwhile. My only advice is to try and go on a weekday to avoid the crowds.

We left the world of bodies around 2pm and drove through the rain into downtown Dallas. Kate wanted to see the Kennedy assassination site, so I drove her past the Texas School Book Depository and right over the white “X” in the middle of Elm Street.

We continued through the Triple Underpass into Oak Cliff, where I showed her the Polar Bear Ice Cream shop of my early youth (now a taqueria) and the stately Cliff Towers Hotel building (soon to be condos). We dropped by the too-cool-for-school Belmont Hotel for a drink, but the bar was closed.

Kate still needed a winter jacket that fit, so we headed toward NorthPark Center via the Stemmons Freeway, catching a brief glimpse of the waterfall billboard on Goat Hill that now advertises Coors Light. Goat Hill is facing imminent redevelopment as the Victory Park infill helmed by American Airlines Center creeps northward, but I hope they never tear down that landmark billboard.

Although I usually hate going to the mall, NorthPark is the mall of my youth and an extraordinarily well-designed shopping center to boot. Developer Raymond Nasher – namesake of the new Nasher Sculpture Center in downtown Dallas – strived to create an asethetically-pleasing facility, installing sculptures where most developers would’ve put up a bunch of handbag kiosks.

NorthPark is no longer as egalitarian as it was in the days where Woolworth’s operated alongside Neiman-Marcus, but I still like going there whenever I’m in Dallas. We had a quick lunch at the Corner Bakery Café where Kip’s Big Boy used to be and found Kate a jacket at American Eagle. I’d never been to American Eagle before, but I’m told the young people go there a lot these days.

It was starting to get dark and the roads were starting to ice up a bit, so we headed for Arlington. I’d made reservations at the Wyndham Arlington because our plan was to explore Fort Worth on Sunday before heading home. The Wyndham Arlington is built on the site of the long-gone Seven Seas marine amusement park, right next to Six Flags Over Texas and Ameriquest Field. With Six Flags closed and the Texas Rangers out of season, the hotel doesn’t do big business in the fall and winter months, though that is sure to change once the Dallas Cowboys relocate to Arlington.

Not wanting to brave the renowned idiocy of Metroplex drivers on ice, we had dinner at a nearby Steak & Ale. Despite being a moribund chain that is woefully out of touch with contemporary American dining, I really like going to Steak & Ale – especially when it’s cold outside. The restaurant was almost completely empty, which made the rancid mix of braying ballads blaring over the PA system all the more disconcerting, but I enjoyed my mixed grill and some of Kate’s filet mignon, too.

On Sunday morning, we ignored reports of worsening weather and headed for Fort Worth only to find the Modern Art Museum and the Kimbell Art Museum closed. I should’ve known those artsy-fartsy types wouldn’t have the brass to brave a little ice!

That certainly wasn’t the case at the adjacent Will Rogers Memorial Center, where the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo went on as scheduled. Coming from the Eastern Seaboard, Kate had never seen a livestock show before, so we spent some quality time with cattle instead. The weather scared most of the tourists away, so we were just about the only people there who weren’t showing animals.

Then we walked through the commercial exhibits, where we learned that if you’re going to sell handmade crafts to Texas rodeo fans, you’d better be selling something in the shape of a cross. This holds true even if your medium of choice is barbed wire. I sure hope Jesus is feeling ironic when he comes back.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Greg--

My wife and I saw more-or-less the same show in Las Vegas this summer, (where it has a somewhat more Vegasy title, like "Bodies: The Exhibition" or something). You say it's not for the reverent, but after seeing it I felt like celebrating how fantastic the body is in this way is a lot more reverent than burning or burying.

About six months back the NYTimes had an article about where these bodies come from (China) and the strange industry that they and Gunther have spawned. Filing systems aren't as advanced over there, I guess, and consent paperwork does have a habit of getting lost.

And after viewing the digestive system, the nervous system, the reproductive system, the ciculatory system, and the Kennedy assasination site, my hat's off to you for being able to order the mixed grill. You won't hear me asking where have all the cowboys gone for a while.