Apparently nobody WALKS in downtown Dallas. Correction - nobody even goes outside! At first I thought I was just imagining things when I asked people if the b&b was within walking distance of downtown and they just looked at me incredulously like I'd just asked if I could bite their kneecaps. "You want to WALK downtown?" Hmm.... apparently walking is for sissies.
Not to be deterred, I walked anyway. And, in almost a Twilight Zone surrealness (I'm sure that's not a word, but whatever) I was stunningly alone on the streets. The first night, I chalked it up to the fact that it was Sunday evening and I was primarily walking through the business district. But even when I walked past hotels and rows of apartment buildings there was NO ONE outside. For most of the walk, for as far as I could look, I was the only pedestrian. Not surprisingly, in the first 10 minutes alone, two out-of-towners stopped to ask me directions because I was the only person they could see. Pity the poor Russian backpacker who was looking for a cheap hotel - he's probably still looking.
On Monday, I thought surely things would be different. But no - more of the same. Nobody. Anywhere. Okay, so perhaps it's because it's grey and rainy today. But Tuesday, when the sun came out, more of the same. I walked through the heart of the business district at lunch time, and you could have shot a cannon and not hit anyone. I sat by a fountain where there were hoardes of benches to sit on (the kind of place that would have been buzzing with hot dog vendors and office workers with cabin fever in downtown Winnipeg on a sunny Spring day), and I was all alone. Not a soul anywhere.
Where IS everyone? They make it LOOK like there are people downtown. There are lots of schwanky office towers and parking lots full of high-end vehicles, but there are no people.
At 4:00, when I walked back to the b&b, I thought "surely now, when people are going home, there will be few people on the street". But no, other than a few smokers, a couple of people who'd stepped outside to get better cell phone reception, and a few blue collar workers who had to take transit (gasp! practically unheard of around here), I was still alone. I have no idea how people get from the office to the vehicle - perhaps they have underground tunnels.
I headed for the area on the map that looked like the only green space downtown. Maybe in a park... Oops. No more park. Just a massive construction site. I guess they don't need greenspace if nobody goes outside.
Bizarre. Tonight, I finally found a little more buzz in the West Village (close to my b&b), the place where the well-heeled go to be seen. I found a lovely bookstore and another lovely restaurant, so I've had another refreshing evening. But I don't think I need to come back to Dallas again any time soon. At least not downtown. I prefer a place with a little more pulse. This place reminds me of a story I wrote in junior high about a space alien who arrives on earth and thinks that the vehicles are the earthlings because he never sees any people. GET OUT OF YOUR CARS PEOPLE - there's life to be lived! What a surreal contrast this has been to my last trip! In Ethiopia, in what seemed like the most remote place imaginable, you could stop the vehicle and within minutes be surrounded by people. Though that can get overwhelming too, I think I'm more at home there.
In other news - the conference was much of the same. A few mediocre speakers, a few really bad ones, and one or two that are worth remembering. Lance Armstrong is much better than I expected. I just thought of him as an arrogant s.o.b., but he's actually a passionate, inspiring, and easy-to-listen-to speaker.
I've lit my little candle, I've got some good music on, and I'm enjoying my last night in this lovely room. Tomorrow I meet my family in Minneapolis. Yay! Sweet dreams.