Ben and Leah Does Dallas

Trip Start Mar 15, 2008
Trip End Oct 02, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ben Reporting: We arrive in Dallas, Texas, after a lengthy overnight flight from Alaska, and watch through the window of the plane as a red sun illuminates the pastel blue morning dawn. You might be wondering: why Dallas? Why Texas? It's not Hollywood, not New York, Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon. Well, please, give us credit for not being shallow travellers! Actually, the honest truth is, we're going to Dallas because American Airlines doesn't fly direct from Alaska to New York, so we have to go via Dallas or Perth or the moon or something ridiculous. And so we decided that, since we have to change in Dallas, we might as well spend a bit of time. One and a half days, to be specific. And believe it or not, our brief time in Dallas gives us one of our most surprising and memorable incidents since we started travelling.

We arrive at Dallas Fort Worth airport without much expectation. The popular culture references to Dallas paint it as a curiously varied location. First, our gloried world-leader George Dubyah Bush hails from Dallas, and as we speed away from the airport, we drive by a turnpike named after his also famous president father. Then there's the grassy knoll. You know, where the much loved, left-wing US president John F. Kennedy was gunned down by Oswald, or the US military, or the Freemason's or aliens from the future or Kevin Costner or someone, I'm not really sure who. So Dallas has a history with controversial US presidents. And then there's that program, 'Dallas', where that JR guy was shot. So Dallas had plenty to teach us, or so we thought.

We headed to our motel, about halfway between the airport and downtown, and went up to the front desk, hoping to get checked in. We'd arrived at about 9 a.m. and check-in wasn't until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. The front desk clerk let us keep our backpacks in the office (you could tell they didn't get many backpackers), and we asked them about where we could find some food or somewhere at least where we could kill some time. After umming and erring for a few minutes, he decided he'd let us into our room a little earlier, since the hotel had about 1000 rooms and less than half were probably full on a Tuesday in May. So thanks to him.

We napped for a while and then started to do some net surfing, to see what Dallas had to offer. I was searching aimlessly through a calendar of events in the hotel room, when I stumbled across something interesting happening in the city on the one full day we were there: a Radiohead concert. For those (from the 'older' generation) who don't know, Radiohead are not so complicated new update of the I-pod. They're a rock band from the UK, one of my favourites on account of the fact that I like their music. In fact they're probably my favourite band, if one has one in these fast moving times. So after umming and erring again, as to whether I should book tickets to their show in Dallas, Leah promptly duct taped a telephone to my ear, and I was giving my credit card details to an electronic automated voice.

The following day, we ventured out around 4 pm, to catch a bus into the city centre of Dallas to attend a Radiohead concert. I have once before seen them perform - at the Rod Laver arena in Melbourne, where I had back row seats giving me a view of what looked like a group of ants, jumping about in a coloured electrical storm, playing a distant echo of Radiohead songs. Very moderately satisfactory. We caught the bus into Dallas, with only enough time to see the city from our bus window as we sped past. It seemed nice. After that, we had a quick meal of McDonald's, got a quick, incidental look at a Martin Luther King Jnr Statue at his Christian charity centre, before making our way to the ' Centre' for the concert.

We walked past a long line of people waiting to go into the concert, stretching a quarter of the way around the stadium. At the ticket collection booth, I handed them my Passport I.D. and my credit card, and we waited for the tickets. After a few minutes of brow-furrowing, and keyboard tapping, the girl at the ticket counter called her manager over. At this point I wasn't panicking, only assuming the girl was new and didn't know what she was doing. After a few minutes of the manager searching the system and asking me questions about my booking, we became concerned. Finally, they informed us that Ticketmaster had cancelled my ticket booking, on account of the fact that they couldn't match my address to my credit card. At this point, I remembered the previous day having some trouble convincing the machinery that I had a credit card, was booking a concert in the USA, and was from Australia. Go non-human contact!

So, they told us our booking had been cancelled. We had no tickets and the show was sold out. Disbelief set in, cold and stiff and quick, like rigueur mortis on road kill. We walked away from the ticket box, angry, but with no one to blame. As we stood out the front of Centre, all we could do was stand there, trying to work out what to do with our newly found free time in Dallas, and cursing our luck. Suddenly, we were approached. A young man in a light blue uniform came over to us. "Are you the guy whose ticket got cancelled?"
"So, you came all the way from Australia to see this concert." Strange question. But:
"Come with me. I'm going to make your day."
Confusion made us follow this sublime stranger like sheep. He took us back to the ticket box and asked the guy inside for the keys to his 'car'. Seedy... but interesting. He took us around the side of the ticket box to a golf cart. "Hop in", he said, now sounding so cool, we thought he might drive us into the middle of a 'Sergeant Pepper's' music video.

As we drove he small talked us about Australia, saying he knew people in Perth. Everyone in America knows someone in Perth, would you believe? The people of Perth must do more business than the Saudi's. He drove us around the back of the stadium to a little doorway with a small red carpet and two bouncers. Slowly it was dawning on us. He led us up the red carpet and wrapped a couple of blue bands around each of our wrists with: V.I.P. written on them. "There you go guys. Free of charge. On me." Like two stunned gawkers, we enquired:
"What? You mean... free...VIP tickets...?" He answered yes and we thanked him as nicely as we could, Leah shaking his hand and I, kissing his pinky finger where a ring might normally be found. He headed off in his golf cart, and we were on our way into the VIP bar of the Radiohead concert.

In the bar we sat, stunned. The record executives, media personnel and record label middle management types could probably tell we weren't part of the industry group that usually were gifted these types of passes. Our geekish smiles and wide-eyed gazes probably gave us away, just a little bit. But we didn't care. We'd gone from having nothing to do, to having free tickets to a Radiohead concert. Go Dallas!

After enjoying a few beers (not free) we headed to the stadium, and found our 'box' seats. They were the plush sorts of seats you see on business class plane rides, with an excellent raised view of the stage not too far behind the tiny mosh pit in front of us. This time I could actually make out the performers, name each of them, and see they weren't just tiny ants having coloured seizures. We even had a nice girl who served us drinks (though we still had to pay. At least we could afford it, since we hadn't paid for the tickets.)

The band played a solid set, with a lot of songs off their new album, and two encores. The usual stuff. The American crowd really went off and were quite loud, which improved the vitriolic feel of the concert. I bought a Radiohead T-shirt, which was, apparently, made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. So go me! The concert ended after two wonderful encores and we were on our way, shuffling along with the teeming masses.

We splurged on a taxi home and crashed into bed. The next morning our brief time in Dallas was over. We didn't feel we'd had much of a typical Dallas experience, whatever that might be, the closest thing being eating dinner in a steak restaurant our first evening. But we didn't care, of course. We sped to the Dallas Fort Worth airport, surely one of the busiest airports I've seen, and flew off for our next big adventure... in New York.
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