Tonight, I presented a talk for PechaKucha 12 at the beautiful Lakewood Theater. The PechaKucha presentation format is simple. 20 slides, 20 seconds each. This time, all the talks centered around the theme "This is My City." We had lots of great people: Lily Smith-Kirkley, Stefan Reddick, Tom Dennis, Angela Mondragon, Catherine Cuellar, Cone Johnson, Robbie Good, Jenn Dunn, Alan Lidji, Jim Hart, Fred Holston, and me. Thank you Frances Yllana (via AIGA DFW) for inviting me to participate. Here's what I had written for my 6 minutes and 40 seconds. I went off script just a few times to better accommodate the timing of each slide.
1. I love that word “metropolis.” It simply means the main city of a region, but thanks to Fritz Lang and Superman the word now carries the weight of terrifying grandeur. It’s a place to behold, to cherish, to protect, to be inspired by. It’s a utopia constantly on the brink.
2. Metropolis was a German film, made in 1927, directed by Fritz Lang. It’s a story about the distant future, 2026, when industrialists rule the city from towering skyscrapers. It was a silent masterpiece of tremendous ambition and imagination.
3. Twelve years later in 1939, Metropolis was reborn in Action Comics no. 16 as Superman’s New York-esque adoptive home. There, Superman fought the corruption of industrialists. While Batman’s Gotham was a dire place, drawn for the night, Superman’s Metropolis was the shining hopeful city of tomorrow.
4. From the word “metropolis,” we also get the neologism “metroplex” which is an ugly creation, a blight upon our language only possible from the demented brain of a copywriter on deadline. Which is what happened. In 1971, the North Texas Commission wanted to promote the region and DFW Airport.
5. So, Harve Chapman of Tracy Locke stitched together this word from the Greek “metropolis” and the French/Latin word “complex,” the lyrical and the utilitarian, to designate what had been known as Dallas-Fort Worth. I hate “metroplex,” but I love “metropolis.” And Dallas is the metropolis of my childhood imagination.
6. Superman needs Metropolis to be “super.” Nothing happens in Smallville. I grew up in Smallville, a town 25 miles from Dallas called Mansfield. Actual dirt roads connected my town to other cities. By contrast, Dallas was a place of adventure, this large, loud, bawdy, thriving pulse of humanity.
7. In the 80s, my dad would take me to watch the Dallas Mavericks. Reunion Arena had the aesthetic of a parking garage. The stark, boring usefulness was endearing. Even the location of Reunion Arena said: “Come for the game, then go home.” There was nothing around it.
8. To get to the game, my dad and I would cross a series of railroad tracks. Occasionally, a train passed and it would halt our journey. It gave the city this sense of being off-limits. I left my suburban nest, trespassing into this other world of concrete, hardwood, steel and noise.
9. Other times, my mom would drive my friend Wim and I into Dallas for the Fantasy Fair. It was a comic book convention in downtown. One year, it took place at the Statler Hilton—which then was called the Dallas Grand. Wim and I would wander the convention floor.
10. While my mom spent all day in the lobby, reading her romance novels, we would explore. We were surrounded by comics; these fantastic stories packed into cardboard boxes. I felt like a boy who just joined the circus. Here I decided I wanted to be a writer, a high-flying wordsmith.
11. In high school, I cheated on Dallas with Fort Worth. Closer, more places to hang out, and, at one time, they had a better arts district—but Fort Worth could never have my heart. Too safe, too well-played, too calculated. A good town—but not for me.
12. I wanted to go to SMU, but I couldn’t afford it. Instead, I went to a college in Commerce, Texas. Wim went to SMU, and I would visit him on weekends. I’d sleep on his dorm room floor. Yet again, Dallas was my first choice—while I was estranged elsewhere.
13. After college, my first wife and I moved to Dallas, an apartment on East Grand. It was the happiest year of our marriage. Everything felt close. For instance, it was close to a nice neighborhood. Nearly safe. I only saw one knife fight. And I should’ve never told my in-laws.
14. When Melissa found out she was pregnant, her parents bribed us into moving “some place safer.” We were poor, and they were not. How could we refuse? They graciously paid for the closing costs on a house in Arlington.
15. Exiled in Arlington, longing for Dallas—where all my friends were, most who lived in Lakewood, a few miles from this theater. I visited when I felt lonely. Lakewood was the place of weddings and weekends. I wanted this city to be mine, but it belonged to them, those who stayed.
16. Of course, Wim never left. He started Lakewood Brewing Company. He recklessly followed his dreams. Dallas, the Metropolis, does that to people. And since he jumped, I wanted to jump too. I wanted to quit my teaching job to become a writer--hoping this city would catch me.
17. The metropolis did, in a sense. Through a series of mutual friends, I was invited to serve on the advisory committee of La Reunion. I met people who loved this city as I loved it. We wanted to bring art, beauty, and wisdom to its concrete shores.
18. These connections led to others. And with my writing, I got a break. An editor at D Magazine saw something in my work and passed me along to another editor willing to mentor me. I quit teaching and dove into magazine writing, with Dallas as my muse.
19. I couldn’t return, but I could endear myself. I joined D Academy. “Academy,” another beautiful Greek word from “Akademos,” named for the garden where Plato taught. D Academy would host the Big Read, attempting to rebrand Dallas as a city of readers, a city of reckless imagineers, not just industrialists.
20. I may not live here, but this is my city, my metropolis. I lost my sense of place when my Smallville was destroyed by suburban sprawl, when my parents moved to California as I stumbled toward college, as I was displaced in Arlington. Like the lone survivor of a dying planet, Dallas, adopt me, please.