11/05/2008

Things I Love about Denton

GFT has lived in many places : born and raised in Dallas, Tx. Moved to downtown Houston, lived there for over 13 years. During that time, interspersed here and there, I spent a summer in Los Angeles/Orange County , 6 months in downtown San Francisco ( Stockton St near Chinatown) , little over half a year living in semi-rural northern suburbs of New York City. I also called the Washington, DC area home for 3 years - lived in Alexandria, Va; worked in Silver Spring , Md (near Kensington). I love big cities, but I also enjoy small town life. It was after the frenzy of trying to live, work, commute, and raise our two young children in the DC area that the hubster and I decided we needed to leave the insanity of Big Cities and find a more family-friendly place to raise our little brood. Hubster commenced a job search and had several interviews/offers . After much analysis, discussion and thought, GFT and hubster loaded up all their belongings and moved to Denton, Tx.
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We decided we were looking for several key things which we found all in this one location : affordable housing, proximity to a major air hub , also to a major city, yet wanted to avoid the "bedroom community " syndrome, where everyone is the same ethnicity, religion, income level, and boringly snooty of those not like themselves. I threw in the requirement that Mexican food be readily available, (really suffered withdrawal when away from it ) and hubster requested not having to shovel snow. Given that hubster is a college prof, we knew we'd be living in a college town, large or small - another important plus . Our latest hometown, even after a decade, still charms us on a near daily basis with the small town feel and cute touches (old fashioned ice cream parlor, roller skating rink, longhorn cows dotting pastures on the edge of town ) and the fact that , after living in the northeast, people are so amazingly polite. They actually wave to each other at four-way intersections, "no, you go first". Lots of "yes , ma'am" and "no, sir". People honk "howdy" if they pass you on the street. Lines in grocery stores are civilized; if several lines need to merge, people take turns. Boys hold open doors , old men tip their cowboy hats. (I spent pregnancy #2 in the DC area, and routinely , while hugely pregnant, had people slam mall shopping doors in my face, not offer me seats on the metro, and one guy in a movie ticket line pushed me roughly b/c he thought I was trying to line jump- I wasn't.)
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There are many wonderful things about my new home town, not just the manners of its denizens. That is difficult to capture in a photo, so here I've chosen to focus on a few of the places in this town that fill me with joy. Top of this posting : the downtown square, in twilight. I drive past this site several times a week, and it is especially breath-taking in the winter, when the leaves have fallen off the trees and you can really see the old courthouse silhouetted against the sky. I don't know why the turrets on the building have onion domes, making it look almost Russian in appearance. I'm just glad they do - so many Texas courthouses have a boxy imperial pseudo art deco 1920's look about them.....we actually call that style "early courthouse". Somehow in Denton, we got this whimsical structure , which nowadays is a museum. The actual functioning gov't buildings are all modern, and are down the road a piece.

Living in a college town has it's advantages, and in Denton we are doubly blessed - we have two universities ( UNT and TWU.) This means lots and lots of college professors live here, and when old college professors die.....their families hold incredible estate sales. Often their relatives are young and clueless or unappreciative of grandpa's collection of musical instruments from around the world or grandma's nick-nacks and hand-made linens. Because members of this town often have travelled quite a bit, you can find Belleek china and drums from Africa and Thai silk curtains and all sorts of wonderful things at local yard and tag sales. But most importantly - books! GFT is an avid book collector, has books in every room of her house, even the bathrooms. I have more books than my local school library, and add new ones every day ! Not only are there all the college professors' books floating around at estate sales and used book stores, but all those college kids , whenever they need beer money , what do they do ? You guessed it ! They sell their books ! We have many wonderful book stores in this town, but none more so than Recycled Books on the Square. Highly selective in what they will buy, this place is a former opera house filled with gems - rare finds, first editions, popular reads, all kinds of wonderful things. No trashy grocery store novels.

Recycling - Denton was big into it, before "green " became the "new black". This town does all the usual stuff - but also recycles buildings. When a national grocery store chain left town a few years back, the city bought up the boarded up stores and remodeled them into a variety of civic buildings. This one is now a library near my home. Can you ever imagine this was once a grocery store ? It even has a Starbucks inside.


Music scene - Denton is famous for the school of music at UNT, and also for it's lively bar/club scene. You can see anything from c & w to rock n' roll to hip-hop. We also have many recording studios in town, and a local band, Brave Combo, that has won numerous grammy's for their polka CD's- they show up at many local events , like the big Fourth of July bash at Fouts Field. Have you ever seen 3,000 people performing " the chicken dance", all together ? I have. The Fry Street area near UNT is a walkable student shopping/restaurant/club district that recalls Austin back when Austin really was weird. All this music activity also means that there are wonderful music programs in our local schools with many great teachers.



Beth Marie's old fashioned ice cream parlor. Don't think this town is all cute and charming - we have our ugly strip malls, our upscale designer boutiques, our boring track homes. They just don't inspire GFT to write about them. Our city's unique little spots, do , however - and this is one of them. Everyone wishes they had a place like this nearby- and everything in Denton is 10 min from everything else. In addition to dozens of home-made premium ice cream flavors, Beth Marie's serves lunch, too, soda fountain favorites like BLT's and root beer floats. To me, the cutest thing about his place is that if you go there, late on Friday night, you will find a truly eclectic clientele : punked out college kids on group dates, moms and daughters, soccer teams, old couples sharing a float or sundae, escapees from the bar scene having a quiet moment. Too cute for words.




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