Sunday, September 29, 2013

Backward Dallas

Today, Claire S. and I skipped over to Uptown for a coffee, studying, and an impromptu architectural excursion. Uptown is a very strange area: on one block, you have adorable little bungalows, shaded by spreading pecans and oaks. 

And, the next block, you're dwarfed by the inhuman scale of the high rises.

Claire bemoans the loss of human scale.
But, this really is no surprise for Dallas' brand of urbanism. The city is obsessed with the big and the flashy. Think of the Stanley Korshak, just a few blocks away. 

Photo cred Claire S.
Or 'Monument Valley' over in the Arts District (Larry Speck gives it that title on his blog here, which Claire S. referred me to). But, Dallas' charm does not lie in its magnificent, if not ridiculous shopping malls, and its monumental theaters by I.M. Pei and other famous architects. 

Photo cred Claire S.
Rather, it lies in the care and attention its residents take to make it a beautiful place. Take the above door (just the door, all by its lonesome) for instance. It was made by a craftsman, not an architect. But, it brings to its home all the elegance and charm that the Winspear Opera House decidedly lacks. While the Opera is loud (pun intended) and ostentatious (it glows red, for crying out loud), there is nothing that denotes real craftsmanship in its construction. It is yet another gigantic monstrosity, constructed over its iron skeleton.

But, the houses, on the other hand, are filled with personal details. Claire and I were especially impressed by this red-brick Queen Anne. It's nice how the house is built up from the street level, thereby establishing a sense of liminality. It is in a separate sphere from the banal goings-on of the street.

The porch is another delightful feature of the house. Front porches so often become absurd and useless features that are meant to establish a sense of old-school charm but that really just waste space. But this porch, however, is clearly beloved and used. The potted plants and the outdoor furniture suggest the care and concern the residents have for their home. 

Moreover, it's wide enough that it can comfortably hold chairs, and people can actually turn their seats towards each other. Rather than serving as an awkward perch from which to survey passing promenaders, this porch is a place that can foster conversation and camaraderie.

I think what is most charming about this house is that it looks like a home. The house itself is beautiful, but it's the attention to detail that really makes it. The owners painted the porch and the window-trim blue, thereby adding coherence and contrast.

They allowed vines to grow up on their walls and to break the otherwise jarring expanse of red.

They have a cat who sits picturesquely in their windows. In short, they have a home.

There were other charming houses in Uptown. But, they lacked the familiarity and personality of the red Queen Anne. Many (like the one pictured above) had been turned into law offices or doctor's offices or psychoanalyst's offices.

And, although it's nice that they're being preserved by their respective office-keepers, it's tragic that their yards are empty of children, their windows devoid of cats, their porches unused.

Somehow, the takeover of the office is the most heinous and abusive defamation of old houses. Shops, at least, and restaurants still hum with human interactions and provide a venue for interpersonal exchange. But, the office sterilizes an environment. You may haphazardly walk into a shop or greet your neighbor from the street, but you will not haphazardly walk into a law firm.

That said, some of the residents of Uptown are still doing their best to keep their streets charming. And, that is all one can do. Creating a beautiful environment does not require building newer and more impressive buildings or imitating (might I say, bastardizing?) the grandiose style of some bygone era. Rather, it requires humanizing the inhuman, personalizing the impersonal, and creating a space in which it is clear that individuals live. 

As JPII would say, it's the personalist principle. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Texas is not DFW

I went home last weekend, because, well, let's face it, the DFW area can be a little depressing. Unless you like vast expanses of cement and traffic noise, living here may not be optimal for you. But, Texas is not just the DFW area. 

A few miles from my home; photo cred goes to Mark Spearman.
Much of Texas is breathtakingly beautiful. 

Though people often bemoan the brutal flatness of the landscape, the above image is a reminder of how even that flatness serves as a conduit for beauty. The expanse of the Texan sky is truly without peer.

And, what is the purpose of saying this? Am I just trying to defend my home from the yankee critics? No. The answer lies in the surprise of the thing: one learns not to expect beauty from the barren, toasted dirt of Texas. But, beauty has a way of creeping up on you when you least expect it. When the sweltering sun has baked you. When the grass is dead in the pasture. Then, of a sudden, a ray of light gapes through a distant thunderhead, and the heavens pour forth upon the land. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

But really, UD...

As I wandered into work this morning, I was greeted by a forlorn Dr. Maurer. 'Have you seen what they're doing to the trees?' I hadn't, so he said, 'Well, go downstairs and see' as he marched off. And, this is what I saw. 

Around the oaks, the only adornments of sinking Carpenter, lay piles of oaken branches. 

And more piles. And more. 

And, all I could think was, 'Why, UD, why?'

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Capp Bar: Celia

I love the way Celia combined a mustard pencil skirt with a royal blue polka-dot blouse. This is possibly one of the prettiest color combinations of all time. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

William Faulker: literary fashion icon

If you've spent any time at this school, you've probably realized that the men like to grow mustaches (or beards) and smoke pipes.

It makes them feel something like William Faulkner. That's nice. He was manly and wrote books about killing bears. Very cool. He also wore tweed. Also cool.

But, as the French say, l'habit ne fait le moine. A dashing mustache and pipe may not make you Faulkner (though it might help), but a well-fitted jacket and tie will make you look good.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Capp Bar: Ariana

Ariana has really cool hair. 

I love that she just lets it be voluminous. Embrace the curl.

(And, yes, I do spend most of my time in the Capp Bar. I'm a senior liberal arts major--it's what we do.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What my life looks like #2

Senior Year is already fully in swing, and it's good to be back, even if it's back to homework. 

Sometimes, I find myself reading Aristotle, while eating breakfast. Some people might think that's a problem, but it's fine by me. Man was made for work, even if his work is reading. And, after all, it is good to be kept busy. 

Although I, like everyone else, am not always perfectly happy, I feel amazingly privileged to be able to weave together the intellectual work I do for school and the inevitable tasks that come with living in a home of one's own. Even doing the dishes brings something beautiful and precious to the day.

What also helps to make meaningful the banalities of housekeeping are the beautiful young women I live with.  I'm really lucky to have the roommates I have. One of them gave me lilies the day I took the GRE (that's a close up of one, by the way). It's those little, unexpected, unnecessary acts of love that are so crucial to human flourishing. They help us to step back from a frenetic world, composed of nameless faces and impersonal relationships, and remember that we are parts of a whole, that we are fitted to each other, that we need and are needed by others.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Capp Bar: Pavlos Papadapoulos

 I like what Pavlos has going on here: the tie, the flag belt (you can barely see it, but it's cool), the casual rolled up sleeves.

I also like the book and the spread cut of his collar. It transforms a white button-down from the middle-aged office worker look to graduate student chic (that's a technical term). 

I was trying to be surreptitious, but he noticed me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my camera was on flash.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Joan Didion

I haven't read any of her work, so I'm not endorsing her as a writer (if you feel strongly about her as a writer, let me know!), but, damn! she's got a great vibe going on her. Thanks, iBond, for the picture. 

So cool. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gorman: Katherine Schweers

I noticed Katherine's outfit today in Philosophy class. She had a really delightful color combination going on (the lighting in Gorman is atrocious, so it might be hard to tell).

I'm not really sure if she's wearing one blouse or two, but it doesn't matter. The printed bodice with the lacy sleeves is very charming, especially if you notice that it has bicycles on it. I love the attention to detail that she obviously put into her outfit. 

First Friday Mass: Emma Slowey and Jane Ziolkowski

Went to First Friday Mass with these ladies. I love the vintage vibe Jane had going on. 

And, Emma's casual elegance is lovely, especially the pairing of a lime green skirt and an orange wallet. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Mall: Abby Bagby

Ran into Abby Bagby, while going from class to class. She looks so chic with her short hair and her bike. Also, stripes. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Carpenter Hall: Rebekah Wallace

Today in Greek Class, I was struck by Miss Wallace's effortless peasant ensemble. I love her whole boho aesthetic. 

Even her sandals are darling and well-suited to a collegiate lifestyle. 

But, perhaps best is her smile and the fact that she is forever kind to those around her.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Day of School... The Capp Bar: Clare Elfelt and Meghan Bielinski

Today was the first day of my senior year, and I'm finally beginning something I've wanted to undertake since freshman year--a blog about fashion at UD. As you probably are aware, UD is a very special school. It's unusual and amazing. And, the students are remarkably well-dressed--you will rarely find the state-school uniform of athletic shorts and a sorority t-shirt. For this, I am very proud. So, without further ado, I begin this tribute to the well-dressed ladies and gentlemen of the University of Dallas. 

Saw them in the Capp Bar, looking lovely.

I really like the way she paired a blousey sweater with a summery skirt.