There’s no place like home

With the Mavs’ victory and the Super Bowl, all eyes are on Dallas lately. But many locals don’t know just what Uptown has to offer

CLANG CLANG CLANG WENT THE … | Uptown’s trolley service has a history and plans for expansion. Best of all, it’s free. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Every year, when they bring in travel journalists from all over the world to promote Dallas as a gay destination, the Tavern Guild shows them everything the city has to offer a visitor. (See sidebar.) Just this week, all eyes were on Victory Park as the Mavericks won their first NBA championship title. In other words, lots of people from outside have had Uptown Dallas on the brain.
So let me ask: Where, exactly, is Uptown?

There’s a lot even Dallas natives don’t know about the Oak Lawn-adjacent neighborhood. And that’s something the local association is trying to change.

Uptown, officially, is just a single square mile, bordered roughly to the south by Woodall Rodgers Freeway, to the west by the Katy Trail, to the east by North Central Expressway and to the north by Haskell Street. But they’ve packed a ton of stuff in that district: Five hotels, all pretty high end (the Stoneleigh, the Ritz-Carlton, the Crescent Court, Zaza and the Hotel St. Germain); 90 bars and restaurants; three live theaters … and tons of gay folks, of course.

Uptown didn’t used to be “up;” it used to be “low.” When the plans were drafted in the 1980s for construction on the Crescent, the area was described as “Lower Oak Lawn,” which is how many in the gayborhood still see it. But Uptown has some attractions unique to it.

Not the least of these is the McKinney Avenue Trolley system, which circles Uptown before crossing over the Woodall canyon and dead-ending on St. Paul Street between the Dallas Museum of Art and the Fairmont Hotel. That’ll change soon; plans are underway to extend the end of the line and make it a true loop. That should add to the 390,000 riders who hopped one of the three trolleys in 2010. And best of all, they rode them for free.

If you haven’t ridden the trolley yet, it merits your time. Because they are antiques, these are not cookie-cutter light rail trains but variously sized, one-of-a-kind streetcars loaded with history. One of the cars is 101 years old; one has distinctly European styling; they come from as far away as Australia, and run on tracks that won’t need to be repaired for decades.

One trolley trip can take you from right next to Stephan Pyles Restaurant back up McKinney Avenue, where you can grab a cocktail at Sambuca and an appetizer from Fearing’s across the street; up toward State-Thomas, which hides some hip bars like The Nodding Donkey; and past the West Village where Cork has a variety of wines. And you’re just a few paces from the Cityplace DART stop, so you don’t have to drive home after indulging.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

DPD officers won’t clean up horses’ poop

The horses may be pretty to look at, and their presence is a sign of spring, but not everyone is thrilled to see mounted DPD officers in the area of the Katy Trail this year.

Earlier today the proprietor of the 7-11 on Fitzhugh told me the horses make a mess in his parking lot, and the officers refuse to clean it up, leaving him to do their dirty work.

As you can see in the above photo, two mounted officers were hanging out in the 7-11 parking lot earlier today, and not surprisingly, one of the horses dropped a deuce in a parking space. I watched the officers leave without cleaning it up.

“If anyone else did that they’d get a ticket,” the 7-11 proprietor told me. “Just because they’re police doesn’t mean they should be able to do whatever they want.”

It’s unclear why the police horses aren’t equipped with bags that catch their poop, but they’re not. Budget cutbacks?

In any case, this is clearly horseshit! Just wait till some queen from one of the nearby gay bars steps in that stuff. Then you’re really gonna have a problem.

—  John Wright

Help Troy Aikman make the Katy Trail safer

In the wake of the tragic death of jogger Lauren Huddleston, who suffered fatal head injuries when she was struck by a bicyclist, Friends of the Katy Trail is kicking off a Safety Awareness Drive with the help of former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman. Aikman will be on the trail from 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, and hey, maybe this will be a good opportunity to show off your purple. From the Friends:

Friends of the Katy Trail will ask Trail users to sign a pledge stating how they will use the Trail safely. The Safety Awareness Drive kicks off Oct. 20 with Troy Aikman and lasts all weekend!

If you want to help with the Safety Awareness Drive, please contact Ashleigh Falk at Ashleigh@KatyTrailDallas.org. Volunteers will ask people to sign the safety pledge and distribute tips for safe use of the Trail. They also will take new or renewed memberships in the Friends of the Katy Trail. We need volunteers on Oct. 23 and 24. at various points on the Trail.

Friends of the Katy Trail and Dallas city officials met last week and are working on a plan to address safety concerns, which will be released no later than Thanksgiving. City Councilwoman Angela Hunt reports in an e-mail:

Last week, I met with city staff and Friends of the Katy Trail board members to discuss ways to make the trail safer in response to Lauren Huddleston’s tragic death. We will have a plan to address trail safety for all users within 45 days.

Last month’s unveiling of Dallas’ Bike Plan was a great success, with over 200 people attending the meeting at City Hall. Please take a look at the draft maps and give us your input.

The updated bike plan will help us address overcrowding on the Katy Trail by providing alternatives for cyclists. Right now, many cyclists feel that off-street trails are the only safe place to ride. As we develop safe on-street facilities like separated bike paths and well-marked bike lanes, as envisioned by the bike plan, cyclists will have more options and we can take some of the pressure off our trails.

UPDATE: Moments after we posted this, yet another accident was reported on the Katy Trail. The Dallas Police Department says a bicyclist was struck by a vehicle at about noon on Monday:

According to witness, a bicyclist stopped at stop sign at Harvard Street and Cole Avenue and then proceeded to cross Cole Avenue, when she was lightly struck by a vehicle traveling on Cole Street with no stop sign. The bicyclist was transported to Baylor with minor injuries.

—  John Wright

How to make the Katy Trail safer?

Lauren Huddleston

As you may have heard, a 28-year-old woman died Sunday after suffering head injuries in a collision last week on the Katy Trail near Routh Street.

Lauren Huddleston was jogging and listening to her iPod when she abruptly changed direction and was struck by a bicyclist, according to reports. Naturally, Huddleston’s death has prompted debate about what can be done to make the trail safer, including a front-page story in Tuesday’s Dallas Morning News.

In the article, one man proposes a 10 mph speed limit for bicyclists on the trail. Others say more signs are needed directing walkers and joggers to the pedestrian-only path alongside the main trail. However, this path doesn’t run the full length of the trail and — like the trail itself — becomes overly crowded during peak hours.

Anyone who’s ever walked, run or biked the trail has undoubtedly had a close call — one Dallas Voice employee was involved in a collision last year.

Perhaps the mere perception that the trail is unsafe will keep some away and make it slightly less crowded in the short-term, but that’s hardly a long-term fix. The ultimate solution is more jogging and biking trails throughout North Texas, so that the trail’s limited space isn’t so heavily in demand.

In the meantime, given that the gays are among the trail’s biggest users, what if anything do you think could be done to make it safer?

—  John Wright

Report: Dallas police arrest suspect in 2 recent armed robberies in Oak Lawn, Uptown

Dallas police have arrested a suspect in two recent armed robberies in the Oak Lawn and Uptown areas, according to an e-mail we received late Friday afternoon from Nancy Weinberger, a volunteer with the Oak Lawn crime watch group. We’re still trying to confirm the arrest with Dallas police. Both robberies involved the victim being kidnapped and forced to drive, at gunpoint, to ATMs to withdraw cash. The first incident began late Sunday night at the Office Depot on Oak Lawn Avenue, and the second occurred Monday at the Katy Trail Animal Hospital on McKinney Avenue. The Dallas Morning News picked up the story Friday morning, two days after we reported it here on Instant Tea. Anyhow, here’s Weinberger’s e-mail:

I have been advised that DPD has made an arrest related to the two recent
robberies…where the people were forced to drive to ATM’s to withdraw $$$$.
One occurred in the Office Depot parking lot about 11 pm Sunday night and
the other occurred about 6:45 am Monday in the 4100 block of McKinney.
There was an article about the incidents in this morning’s newspaper.
Suspect sounded like same person. Arrest made early this am.

Thanks to Chief Aziz and Lt Overstreet for getting me this information as
quickly as possible.

Have a good weekend!

Reminder: This doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.

UPDATE: According to a press release from DPD, the suspect is facing charges related to the McKinney Avenue incident but not necessarily the first incident on Oak Lawn Avenue. The suspect, whose name hasn’t been released, was nabbed on Thursday night after he was spotted leaving the Exxon station at Maple and Oak Lawn. Here’s the full release:

Notable Arrest by DPD

On September 27, 2010, at approximately 6:45 a.m., the suspect carjacked and robbed a complainant at gunpoint at 4151 McKinney Avenue. The suspect drove the complainant to an ATM where the complainant was forced to withdraw money.  The suspect then forced the complainant to drive to Ervay and Grand where the suspect fled on foot.  Investigators processed the crime scene and obtained forensic evidences which allowed them to identify the suspect.  Investigators walked an arrest warrant for the suspect.  After an attempt to locate the suspect at his residence rendered negative results, the information was forwarded to each of the patrol divisions.  On September 30, 2010, at about 10:30pm, Central Deployment Unit observed the suspect leaving the Exxon Station at Maple and Oak Lawn.  The suspect was taken into custody.  The identity of the suspect will not be released at this time because investigators are waiting to conduct a photo line up.  The Aggravated Robbery incident is documented on incident number 269715X.

—  John Wright

Another robbery victim kidnapped at gunpoint in Uptown Dallas, forced to drive to ATM

The second incident began at 4151 McKinney Ave. early Monday morning.

Dallas police say the same suspect may be responsible for two recent aggravated robberies in the Uptown and Oak Lawn area that involved victims being kidnapped and forced to drive to ATMs to withdraw money.

The first incident, which we reported on Tuesday, occurred late Sunday and began in the Office Depot parking lot on Oak Lawn Avenue, at 2929 Oak Lawn Ave.

The second incident began at 6:45 a.m. Monday in an alleway at 4151 McKinney Ave., according to police reports. The victim reportedly is an employee at the Katy Trail Animal Hospital.

“Detectives are looking to see if they are related,” DPD Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse said of the two incidents on Wednesday. “The suspect description is very similar. We suggest people call ahead to their place of business or home and have someone waiting on them when they arrive to make sure they get inside safely. This lady [the second victim] did the right thing and complied with the demands.”

The suspect is described as a black male about 40 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing about 220 pounds. He has a scar under his right eye and was wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and a black hat at the time of the first incident. Anyone with information should call 214-671-4071 or 911.

If you’ll recall, there was a similar rash of aggravated robberies in Oak Lawn last year. The suspect in those cases was finally caught after David Ethridge, a gay victim, chased him down and obtained a license plate number from his vehicle.

—  John Wright

Lone Star Ride in (on) the news!

Cynthia Izaguirre of Dallas’ News 8 Daybreak interviews Lone Star Ride co-chair Laura Kerr on the Katy Trail Tuesday morning.

Around 15 cyclists participating in the 10th annual Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS got up bright and early this morning to hit the Katy Trail to meet with Cynthia Izaguirre, co-host of WFAA-Channel 8’s News 8 Daybreak program. Izaguirre interviewed LSR co-chair Laura Kerr, event manager David Minehart and Pos Pedaler Jim Frederick, and the rest of us were there with our bikes and bright jerseys to ride down the trail together for the “B-roll” extra footage.

Ms. Izaguirre told us the segment should air on Tuesday, Aug. 17, between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. (unless it gets bumped by some big breaking news story. If that happens, watch for it on Thursday, Aug. 19 at the same time).

She also asked for as many LSRiders as possible — at least 50, she said — to gather in the Plaza at Victory Park about 6 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 24 — the day before Lone Star Ride — for the filming of News 8 Daybreak. So if you are a LSRider, put it on your calendar and head on day that morning in your jerseys, with your bike and all your gear. (I know, I know. That means getting up at the ass-crack of dawn, which I hate. But I can do it this one time for such a great cause, and so can you!)

Even if you’re not a rider but you are LSR supporter, come on down that morning. The more the merrier.

News 8 Daybreak’s Cynthia Izaguirre interviews LSR event manager David Mineheart, above, and Pos Pedaler Jim Frederick, below.

—  admin

It's National Bike to Work Day, and I'm becoming Exxon's worst nightmare

DART's new bike rack
DART’s new bike rack

ExxonMobil’s nightmare?

Not because of our coverage. If they don’t care about 40 percent of their shareholders disapproving of their employment policies, they won’t care about a few people protesting or a newspaper covering protests against them.

No, what makes me their real nightmare is my new favorite way to get to work that takes only about 15 minutes more than my old way.

And I believe in multi-tasking. This is a great way to do it.

Old way: Get in car and drive, park in underground garage.

Total average amount of gas used per day (which went to companies with LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies): $4.

New way: Drive to Hampton Station, about a mile and a half from my house in South Oak Cliff. Ride the Red Line to West End Station. Cross the tracks. Catch the Green Line to Victory Station. (Just enough time to cross tracks and catch other train every time I’ve done it this week). Ride bike from Victory Station up Katy Trail to Dallas Voice office. Ride up elevator. Ride bike down hall to desk. Park at filing cabinet behind desk.

Total daily cost for Dallas Area (Fairly) Rapid Transit ticket: $4.

By the way, DART’s new trains are very bike-friendly. Use a grade-level entrance in the new low-rider car and hang the bicycle on the bike hook. It looks like the bike will swing wildly, but it pretty much stays in place, even with a short stop.

—  David Taffet

Katy Trail should thank Troy Aikman for being a friend tonight

Aikman will probably be a bit more casual than this tonight.
Aikman should be a bit more casual than this tonight.

Our favorite quarterback who has won a few Super Bowls makes an appearance tonight on the Katy Trail. The Friends of Katy Trail begin their inaugural membership drive (perfect timing, huh?)  tonight and Troy Aikman might just stop you in your running tracks to ask you to become a member.

—  Rich Lopez