For three months I lived in the heart of the ghetto. Much of what I found there I expected: bitter poverty, crime, broken families, the dark underside of life. But I also found a community determined that life should win over death, hope over despair, pride over poverty. It’s true that in the ghetto only the strong survive—and I don’t mean just physical strength. I mean the strength that is in quick wits, friendship, family, religion, love, and hard work.
Remember when margaritas were considered exotic? In those days, to be a margarita drinker was to be someone special. Tough. Independent. Unafraid. If you could handle the stuff, you could handle yourself. And if you couldn’t handle it, you knew it fast, because your insides told you so. But now that the margarita has become the darling of the happy hour set, some of us diehard margarita drinkers have begun to feel queasy for another reason.
Three winters ago it snowed in Dallas for the first time in easy recall, and my luck to be there. As a result, I paid my only visit to the old Brammer place in Oak Cliff, a backwater suburb on the wrong shore of the Trinity River. Billy Lee had to run down to Austin to report to his probation officer, and so for a few days I was alone in that quiet house where he had grown up. It had been in Billy’s hands about three months and he had sacked it pretty thoroughly by then, hauling out everything easily movable and remotely salable.
ON THE COVER: Cover photography by Pat Berry