DALLAS: Snapshots

Article excerpt

In 1841, Dallas was founded on the sheer determination of a handful of settlers. Agriculture was king back then--cotton, wheat, corn, oats, barley, rye, fruits and vegetables all flourished. By 1896, the population of the city had grown to 63,645, according to the Dallas Historical Society.

Today, with a population of approximately 1.5 million, Dallas is often called the "great metropolis." Replete with towering, shimmering skyscrapers and ten-gallon entrepreneurial schemes, downtown Dallas and its surrounding communities are a paean to the innovation and perseverance of its earliest inhabitants--a sprawling mecca with a blend of big business, big beef, urban cowboys and cowgirls, high society and ... traffic.

Bottle Necks

Dallas-Fort Worth traffic is well known to be a Texas-size tangle: "We certainly have our share of traffic concerns," says Justin Lonon, press secretary for the Dallas mayor's office. "Given the size of the Metroplex region and our love of driving, there are more cars than roads or lanes. The situation gives our citizens the opportunity to get to know their cars better," he jokes. Downtown Dallas is not the problem. "It's getting in and out that's the challenge; people going to and from home and work clog the main arteries. Things are looking up, however, with more people taking advantage of carpooling and public transportation."

Texas Ammo

The 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives citizens the right the bear arms, and Texans take that right very seriously. The city has approximately 222 licensed firearm dealers, who can sell their wares only to customers who can pass the fingerprint test, present the required photos and notarized documents.

Dallas Living

Who calls Dallas home? The city is represented by a wide range of ethnic and cultural groups, including African-Americans, Filipinos, Hispanics, Japanese, Jews and Koreans. According to Dan Day, artistic director of Dallas' Kitchen Dog Theater, the diverse groups engage in an "active and aggressive interchange, keeping Dallas vital and alive."

Culture in general is considered something of a sore spot for Dallas citizens: some define the city as cultureless, an unsound argument according to Jimmy Fowler, theater critic for the Dallas Observer. Mr. Fowler writes daily to overcome this misperception. "The main problem is that since Dallas has yet to generate a `cachet of coolness,' many people who live here just don't care," asserts Mr. Fowler.

Dallasites, however, can find plenty of cultural edification at various local outposts. Mr. Day, whose live theater presents experimental, avant-garde and classical productions, believes that geography is partly responsible for any lack of artistic life. "There is really no downtown," he says. "Dallas is completely spread out, depriving it of urban energy, and that leads to the perception that there is no culture.

"What I like about Dallas," continues Mr. …