TEXAS.

Gay Times Magazine - - TRAVEL - Words Simon Gage

“Ladies and gen­tle­men, cow­boys and cow­girls, we are about to start Pole Bend­ing...’ and with that a man in a pink shirt and a Stet­son whizzes past, his horse kick­ing the red sand from the arena into our faces, to the blar­ing out of Wo­man­izer by Brit­ney Spears. Pole Bend­ing, it turns out, is weav­ing your horse in and out of slalom poles and this one is good at it, as he should be hav­ing reached the fi­nals of the World Gay Rodeo Cham­pi­onships.

Other events on the sched­ule at the Mesquite Arena out­side Dal­las to­day are Rough Sad­dle Bronc Rid­ing, which is ba­si­cally big bulls; Goat Dress­ing, where you have to get some un­der­pants on a wriƒling goat; and Chute Doƒing, which seems to be wrestling bulls to the ground. Here’s us think­ing we’d per­se­vere for an hour, but four of them later some drag queens start try­ing to bal­ance on full-size bulls and we’re still happy to watch, the only red wine drinkers in a very beer-y place.

“I first saw some­one rid­ing a bull when I was six and knew I had to do that,” says Bre­ana, an African Amer­i­can girl from Mal­ibu (Stet­son just so and the pret­ti­est eyes this side of Marfa) who we’ve just seen try­ing to stay on top of a mas­sive steer with horns out to here. She’s in town for the Gay Rodeo fi­nals – and to check out how trans-friendly the ap­par­ently trans-wel­com­ing gay sauna scene in Dal­las re­ally is, but suspects they won’t like her breasts. Any pre­con­cep­tions you may have had about a) Tex­ans b) the rodeo and c) the tol­er­ance ex­tended to­wards the LGBTQ com­mu­nity in the Bi­ble belt you may as well flush right now.

But to make out that Dal­las, be­cause it’s in Texas, is all about cow­boys and horses and yee-haws and funny hats would be to do it a dis­ser­vice. Yes, some peo­ple do wear Stet­sons and cow­boy boots as reg­u­lar day­wear, but this is ac­tu­ally one of the most so­phis­ti­cated cities in North Amer­ica, with the art and the shopping and the culi­nary scene and the ar­chi­tec­ture to prove it.

For a start, it has the biƒest arts district in the world (in the world, peo­ple!) with gal­leries and sym­phonies and mu­se­ums, mostly housed in very im­por­tant mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture – Renzo Piano, I.M. Pei, Frank Lloyd Wright, Sir Nor­man Foster. Names, sweetie, names. And this cul­ture is a real part of the life of the city, not just some­thing they’ve bunged money at be­cause, make no mis­take, there is money here. Se­ri­ous money.

The Nasher Sculp­ture Cen­ter, for in­stance, a real beauty with a gar­den where you can wan­der among the Rodins and Henry Moores and eat at a café MC’d by Wolf­gang Puck, is owned by the fam­ily who built NorthPark, an up­scale mall where you can pe­ruse the Mac and Louis Vuit­ton stores by­pass­ing some very im­por­tant sculp­tures by Andy Warhol, Roy Licht­en­stein and Antony Gorm­ley. Oh and Mark di Su­vero’s 48-foot Ad As­tra. And you don’t get that down in West­field.

For the cow­boy stuff, you’ll ac­tu­ally do bet­ter in Fort Worth, Dal­las’s cute lit­tle sis­ter half an hour away. They share an air­port and a friendly ri­valry, with Fort Wor­thi­ans see­ing Dal­l­a­sites as snooty and Dal­l­a­sites see­ing Fort Wor­thi­ans as hokey. Nei­ther is true and they know it.

In Fort Worth, at Reata, a famed steak­house in Sun­dance Square where fam­ily events have been cel­e­brated for decades (some­one ac­tu­ally gets down on one knee to pro­pose to his girl­friend while we point and drink), it may be all about the meat but they can still magic up a full – and de­li­cious! – ve­gan menu just like that. “Y’all can use reg­u­lar cut­lery, right?” asks the wait­ress, wink­ing.

Mean­while at the kitschy, kooky Spi­ral Diner, where tofu scram­ble and ve­gan mac ‘n’ cheese are highly rec­om­mended, the crowd is a mix of races and dot­ted with hip­sters and gays and old mar­ried cou­ples who don’t seem to mind the huge rain­bow flag hang­ing in the win­dow. Noth­ing too hokey about that. From there, you can head to Billy Bob’s, a huge bar where they have line-danc­ing, a Coun­try & West­ern Hall of Fame and a mini arena out the back for live bull rid­ing. Yes, in a bar.

But Fort Worth is gen­er­ally more out­doorsy. Head to the slick mod­ern Press Café where new de­vel­op­ments meet an old ranch, older than the city it­self, and after brunch you can hire a bike from Mel­low Johnny’s next door and cy­cle down the river to see the egrets. Or make your way to the His­toric Stock­yards for the real cow­boy ex­pe­ri­ence com­plete with honky tonks and cow­boys driv­ing steers in an area that has been re­vived to pro­vide the au­then­tic Wild West feel. And if you want a real feel of

some­thing au­then­tic, you could try The Ur­ban Cow­boy, a gay bar with a west­ern flavour and honky tonk drag queens.

The real gay scene is in Dal­las, where they have many a gay­bor­hood, the main one be­ing at Cedar Springs where mas­sive bars like JR’s and S4 are mobbed at week­ends. But it’s across the road at the Round-Up Saloon that you’ll get some real lo­cal flavour, whether it’s line-danc­ing, drag-hosted karaoke, men in their pants danc­ing on podi­ums... some­how this can all hap­pen on the same premises.

And when you’re done with the gays and the arts and the ar­chi­tec­ture (take the E-Frogs Tour, by the way, where the friendly beardie driver will give you all the sto­ries of the city as you chug around town in his lit­tle elec­tric buƒy), you can go down to Elm Street and take in a scene you know so well from news footage of the spot where Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy was gunned down from a sixth-floor win­dow, now a mu­seum ded­i­cated to the as­sas­si­na­tion with Jackie O sun­glasses avail­able in a range of colours.

Then it’s round the block to Forty Five Ten for top glam­our shopping of a beau­ti­fully cu­rated col­lec­tion (maybe no one’s told them they’re not part of the arts district) and lunch-with-a-view at Mi­rador on top of the shop.

One night at Cam­bria Ho­tel Down­town Dal­las starts from £100 (129 USD) based on two peo­ple shar­ing, cam­bri­adal­las.com. One night at Omni Fort Worth starts from £115 (150 USD), based on two peo­ple shar­ing om­ni­ho­tels.com vis­it­dal­las.com. vis­it­fort­worth.com

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