Compared with the glistening two-story mansions that surrounded it, the house looked like something from another time. It was only 2,180 square feet. Its redbrick exterior was crumbling, and its gutters were clogged with leaves. Faded, paint-chipped blinds sagged behind the front windows. Next to the concrete steps leading to the front door, a scraggly banana plant clung to life.
It is easier to understand the destruction of a human body than the destruction of a city. To fully comprehend a town in ruins, you need a before-and- after shot, some solid reference to what was once there. Or at least a tour guide, someone to walk you through the remains of a neighborhood and tell you how tall the buildings used to be, who lived there, where they worked, and where their kids played.
Unlike so many people who have become part of the Dallas narrative, Robert J. Groden doesn’t radiate the aura of a winner. He is a paunchy 67-year-old nebbish who drives a PT Cruiser and loves dining at Red Lobster. He is tall, but he slouches. His color isn’t good, probably because, by his account, he suffers from three kinds of heart disease. His shaggy hair, doleful eyes, and chronic wince give him the mien of a man locked in a perpetual if not entirely painful state of mourning, which actually happens to be the case.
One afternoon in early September, I pulled up to the gates of a nine-acre estate in North Dallas. I waited for them to open, then drove down a long, curving lane to a 15,254-square-foot mansion that looked like a country home for England’s royal family. I rang the doorbell, and a voice over the intercom said, “Please, come in.” But when I opened the door, there was no one to greet me.
With the decline and fall of Lance Armstrong, Texas is on the hunt for a new athletic darling. And the state just might have found that in two preteen sisters from Alvin who hold pace with—and beat—adults on the endurance running circuit. Kaytlynn and Heather Welsch, twelve and ten respectively, together have competed in more than 160 endurance races in the last two years.
In July 2011, more than five thousand miles east of Waco, an assistant designer at the Hermès silk factory, in Lyon, France, unfurled a ninety-by-ninety-centimeter square of the company’s famous silk twill.
By late 1988, the Dallas Cowboys were no longer America’s Team—or if they were, America didn’t seem to care. The once high-flying franchise had suffered three consecutive losing years, including a humiliating 3-13 run during the season that had just ended. The days of Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, and regular visits to the Super Bowl were long gone.
Last August, on the first day of classes for the fall 2011 semester at the University of Texas at Austin, I stood on a pebbled apron of the UT Tower in a patch of shade and took in a timeless scene. A parade of youth passed before me, their backs bent to accommodate the weight of their packs. Guys in baseball caps and baggy shorts sailed a Frisbee across a parched lawn beneath a flagpole. Girls with ponytails and jogging shorts screamed with delight when they spotted a familiar face.
A coach from Georgia is lurking outside the Kimball High School gym in Dallas. Inside, Justin Manning, a defensive tackle who stands six feet two inches tall and weighs 275 pounds, looks beat. It’s not his social studies final. No, the kid’s vacant eyes are a sign of the burden—or, you might say, the privilege—of being a highly coveted high school football player. This year, Manning’s school has become a pilgrimage site for college coaches with a story to sell.
Last week, VICE magazine published a long feature about Sweetwater's self-proclaimed "World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup" written by Canadian author Ryan Knighton, who is not only afraid of snakes but is also blind. "I’ll be goddamned!” one of his cohorts marvels when he realizes the blind journalist signed himself up for a snake hunt. “You the bravest son-bitch I ever met!"