Houston vs. Dallas

A First Trip to Dallas

How awful is it really? A scientific inquiry

By Catherine Matusow August 1, 2013 Published in the August 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine

I have lived in Houston for most of my 36 years and love to travel. My curiosity about the world around me has led me from Nicaragua to Moscow, Seville to Nairobi. And I’ve traveled Texas extensively too: San Antonio, Hunt, Wimberley, Galveston, Port A, Marfa, Austin (far too many times)—but not Dallas. Never Dallas. My coworkers regarded this as quite curious, to say the least, what with Big D being only a few miles up the road. What’s up with that, they wanted to know. Was my avoidance based on assumptions or evidence? Did I really hate Dallas or had I only accessorized the hatred of others? The honest answer was I didn’t know. And I’d never find out unless I paid a belated visit, albeit one strictly adhering to the scientific method.


To find out whether I myself actually hate Dallas.

Previous Findings

Data gathered from years of listening to my gay BFF reminisce about his SMU years, when he naturally weighed 120 pounds and worked at the Ralph Lauren store in Highland Park Village; hours spent perusing an amazing photo album from a girlfriend’s time as an SMU sorority girl; sporadic Dallas viewing back in the ’80s.  


I don’t hate Dallas, but it probably isn’t my thing. 

Materials and Methods

First, I traveled with fellow Houstonia staffers to Dallas in a decidedly non-sketchy white van. Upon arrival, I checked in at the historic Belmont Hotel, which turned out to have a deeply Austin vibe, and visited some major cultural landmarks (weird Fair Park, including its hilariously wrong Hall of State, predictable Dallas Museum of Art, fantastic Nasher Sculpture Garden); some well-known restaurants (wonderful Smoke and Texas Spice, horrid El Fenix); and two renowned shopping centers (Highland Park Village and NorthPark Center). I also spent a great deal of time in the aforementioned non-sketchy van observing Dallasites in their native habitats, getting a feel for the different neighborhoods, and debating the merits of the skyline. 


I found that I couldn’t honestly say that I hated any of those things, even El Fenix. By the afternoon of the second day, however, as I wandered NorthPark Center aimlessly, taking note of the freaky plastic surgery and general superficiality that surrounded me, I began to feel a little … depressed. Maybe even a little defensive.

Later, back at the hotel, I decided to take a swim. A co-worker, having noticed she’d forgotten her bathing suit, simply picked one up at a nearby Walmart. When she asked for the pool code at the front desk, the concierge scrutinized her skeptically, then asked for her room number. “We’ve had a lot of people trying to sneak in,” she explained.

That night when the group went out for dinner at Common Table, I discovered a table of girls snickering at what I presumed to be our crew’s sartorial choices. (We didn’t look like slobs, we just hadn’t spent an hour dressing for dinner.) I stared back, then felt silly for engaging them—we Houston women don’t take kindly to bitchiness, but we will do battle when necessary.

On the way home, I reflected that the city’s new Bridge to Nowhere was a perfect Dallas symbol: pretty, sure. But ridiculously expensive, and ultimately pointless.


I don’t hate Dallas, but I could never love it either. Plus, the people get on my nerves. The place has nothing on quirky, friendly, open-minded Houston. I could go another 36 years without making that trip up I-45.

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