All about the image
We set off on a bit of a lengthy round trip today, which was going to take us over into Dallas and around the northern suburbs before returning to Fort Worth. We have quite strong images of Dallas in our minds, having been hooked on the TV show of the same name some years ago. I expected a flashy, wealthy city surrounded by green fields.
The sun was already pretty strong and the traffic fairly heavy. It’s a holiday weekend here of course and unusually, the 4th is on a Monday, meaning that many people are taking the whole weekend off.
We were heading for the George W Bush Presidential Library, because, as you know, we enjoy such places. The first shocker was the parking charge! Hmmm…not quite used to that here.
Having purchased our admission tickets, we stepped into a large atrium where soaring orchestral music accompanied a video montage high on the walls above us. With one notable exception, we’ve always come away from these libraries feeling reflective and admiring of the subject, often recognising that we didn’t really know the half of what they did and continue to do in some cases. So it was with this optimistic spirit and with an open mind we went inside – let’s find out about the man who is so frequently depicted as a bit of a fool; a bumbler and a lightweight when it came to Presidential qualities.
Well, having watched the introductory video it was clear that the defining moment of his Presidency was most certainly 9/11. Striking images, those harrowing film clips we all watched over and again on the TV and a large, twisted piece of metal were there to greet us as we stepped outside the theatre. A wall panel with every victim listed was there too. We’d guessed that the events would loom large in the exhibit but I had underestimated how affecting they still are. Feeling uncomfortable, I looked for some hope, some optimism, some wise words to reflect on but right now, I didn’t find any.
Instead, I stepped aside and learned a little of Laura Bush’s library background, her work to get children reading and perused her choice of recommended reading. I realised that I knew very little about her and had never heard her speak as far as I know, so I was surprised to hear her strong Texas accent and was impressed by what she had to say.
From there, we moved into a section which focused on world events though I felt that much of this exhibition was superficial and lacked detail. Grand ideas and broad statements, but where was the meat? What inspired the man and what action did he take as a result? Where were the details of his childhood, of his student years and the path to the White House?
There was a brief mention of one particular character in that display but given the long lasting consequences of that encounter, I found it surprising that I didn’t find any commentary on the events or the outcome.
So it wasn’t in the most positive frame of mind that I stepped inside the Oval Office. Here, a family were photographing themselves in the “hot seat” and I took the opportunity to wander around and view the paintings. Since we’d recently seen mock ups of other arrangements of this office, I was interested to see the choices that had been made here and noted a distinct Texan flavour to the artworks. As I did, the docent stepped towards me,
“Come on, sit at the President’s desk and press the red button!”
Oh dear. I’m afraid that I might have let the side down at that stage.
“No thank you, I’m not bothered about sitting in the President’s chair and I certainly have no wish to press any red button!”
Po faced? Me? You bet!
“It’s not real! Nothing will happen! It’s only pretend”
At this point, she recognised an English accent and quickly switched to telling me that “my Queen” had given the Resolute desk to the USA made from the timber of a ship of that name and that President Roosevelt had added the door to conceal his disability.
“Not many people realise he was disabled”, she said.
Do you think I was able to resist continuing the conversation by saying we’d just visited the Little White House last week and yes, I knew about his polio? Sorry….
So I’m sorry to report but a second Presidential Library didn’t deliver today. Other significant events including those in the picture above were glossed over in superficial displays about the events rather than go into details about the President’s role in the management of them.
We felt slightly cheated until we ventured across the hall to the temporary exhibit, then.
Here was an interactive exhibition about the Path to the Presidency. Rather topical, we thought (and of course, intended to be timely in this election year).
One complete wall of the space was devoted to the steps to getting nominated. Throw your hat in the ring, recruit the family and get on the move were the early stages.
Subsequent advice included kissing babies and working on your firm handshake, and each of these was illustrated by people who did and people who didn’t!
There followed a low tech version of the exercise we’d played in Jackson, to see who could vote and who could not. Once again, I struck lucky and was given the persona of a white, middle class gentleman.
My hero was not so lucky and had to wait a while before his voice was heard.
The carpet had been woven with details of every election and as we walked along it, I was surprised at how many results had been very close indeed.
What a great way to learn about the process of electing a President! How glad we were to be able to leave on a high note, too.
From there, we continued our drive around the Dallas suburbs, dropping by a couple of small shopping destinations before arriving at our next venue.
Here was high security. No cameras. No cellphones. No electronic devices of any kind. We submitted ourselves to the airport style checks and chatted with the entry security personnel whilst we waited for our transport to the hub.
We were at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, one of two locations in the country where US banknotes are printed. Once we got inside – it took a while – we were able to walk along a gallery above the factory and see the processes going on in the printworks down below. Except not much seemed to be going on – apart from small groups of men standing around, chatting and waving to the people in the gallery. This was not a high pressure operation today but it was interesting and well managed. We were glad we’d come and have just the one small challenge of finding the FW (for Fort Worth) on a banknote.
I had one last errand to run, to JoAnns. We’ve already been there twice, but this morning, whilst reading a favourite blog, I came across this and needless to say, I wanted to get the pattern. So, we fetched up at one of the many JoAnns in the district and I found Vogue 9193 there, priced at $30 but with a sign for 40% off above. I still haven’t quite worked out how I paid only $5.49 for it, but I guess that’s the reason why I was keen to buy it here and not wait until I get home!
As for how I’ll remember Dallas? Well, I will not forget the never ending freeways, built one on top of the other as in the photographs, with drivers driving at breakneck speed whilst texting, eating, drinking and holding a phone to their ear, zooming around giving us the heeby jeebies. Will I remember anything like the Dallas of the programme? Not really. The most frequent view from our route was of endless developments of large brown houses with brown roofs, packed fairly close together with almost no garden.
No, I wasn’t that taken with it, I’m afraid.
So we came back to Fort Worth, where the Barbeque in Riscky’s was waiting…