Notes from the 2016 Best of Big D Party

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The fall of 1984 saw a rare instance of an employee migration out of the D/FW Metroplex. In June, the inimitable H. Ross Perot had sold his brainchild, Electronic Data Systems, to the megalithic General Motors for an at-the-time astounding sum of $2.6 billion. As my own father was an executive with EDS, our family pulled up stakes and left Plano to head for Detroit, Michigan – a place I could only identify on a map as “the state with all the lakes around it”. We arrived on October 15, the day after the Detroit Tigers defeated the San Diego Padres to win the 1984 World Series, and some citizens “celebrated” with a riot in which cars were burned and one person was killed. This was not, I sensed, going to be anything like the atmosphere in which I’d been raised.

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As it happens, we found ourselves in the affluent suburb of Birmingham, which has recently been compared in a rather snotty article to Frisco though to my mind it has always been much more akin to Highland Park. I’ve also learned to have a great deal of sympathy for the civil discord that plagued Detroit in the latter half of the 20th century, and eventually found charm in a city with over three centuries of history.

However, as a twelve-year-old, all of it seemed bleak and depressing. I missed Dallas desperately. I missed the weather, the expansive sky, playing football on front lawns with my peers…and the skyline. Detroit’s architecture, which I have since come to appreciate, was more Gothic and ornate where it was not starkly industrial. When I thought of the city of Dallas as typified by the skyline, the words “new”, “modern”, and “vibrant” came to mind. While even Plano seemed full of the “Dazed and Confused” field party atmosphere, Dallas held the allure of being polished and glamorous. In a word, I was homesick, and as such romanticized the Dallas I’d left behind which I hardly even knew.

The allure of the downtown Dallas skyline, as captivating now as ever.

The allure of the downtown Dallas skyline, as captivating now as ever.

One consolation I had was the August 1984 edition of D Magazine which my parents had purchased before our departure. Here was a tangible reminder of my hometown, and I practically memorized that particular issue. I tended to eschew images that struck me as society pages, as I lacked the symmetry or commitment to orthodontia to fit that into that scene. But for some reason, I loved the “Taste of the Town” and “Toast of the Town” sections. Poring through this issue I could connect to a community, the community from which I was separated and would, I vowed with fierce determination, return the instant I graduated high school. I would get back to Dallas, to master the Metroplex and all its suburbs and neighborhoods. I’d know the best place to get donuts near the M streets, the best live performance venues in Deep Ellum, jog around White Rock Lake. I wanted to make Dallas my home.

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I hadn’t thought about any of this until a couple of weeks ago, when I held in my hand a ticket to the 2016 Best of Big D Party which took place Wednesday at The Bomb Factory. In our lives, we experience the feeling of having come full circle many times, and for this to happen, there must be identification of a familiar landmark. The fine folks at D Magazine not only provided such a landmark, they in fact were the landmark.

Instagram fun in Deep Ellum on the way to the event.

Instagram fun in Deep Ellum on the way to the event.

During my tenure with ORCHARD At The OFFICE, I’ve learned all the nooks and crannies of the Metroplex, as much out of necessity as anything. As we’ve grown to be the largest office fruit delivery service in the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex, I’ve been the bearer of fresh fruit to virtually every downtown office tower, chatted with clients in the hidden ridges of Irving I was hitherto unaware of, accompanied new tenants into brand new buildings in Plano and Frisco, worked warehouses in Grand Prairie, and brought baskets to banks in Bedford. The fortunate upshot of all this has been the sense of belonging to this community. One learns the addresses of buildings like an Uber driver and their occupants like a commercial realtor. Faces are placed with names, and personalities match the persons.

And so it was that I entered The Bomb Factory not merely as a representative of ORCHARD At The OFFICE honoring a favored client, but as a member of the community, there to bring in some small measure a sense of celebratory spirit.

The crowded ground floor of The Bomb Factory.

The crowded ground floor of The Bomb Factory.

I’m not sure how many attended the event but it was pretty close to 1,000 or more. The crowd was more or less what one acquainted with Dallas would expect: while primarily white, 20s and seemingly somewhat well-to-do, there was certainly a healthy mix of all races, ages, and even income levels. As we are home to so many corporate headquarters, people of every nationality have found the Metroplex to be ideally suited to work and raise a family. In the main area, the inquisitive patrons meandered about, sampling servings from mixologists and delectable delights from some of the restaurants that had been awarded the Best of Big D for the year. From what I tasted, the praise was well-earned.

(A particular highlight for me was sampling a bit of ahi poke from TJ’s Seafood Market & Grill, served with a large dried banana chip with macadamia nuts, cucumber, and a wasabi-based sauce I could have drank a pint of. Forcing myself to have just one of those bites was a true test of will!)

A representative from a local bar serves up the fun.

A representative from a local bar serves up the fun.

As befitting the term “party”, the ceremony was kept to a minimum. The Dallas Police Department was honored, an important point for the community after the night of July 7 in which a lone gunman killed five officers and injured nine others. If there was any other fanfare I must admit I missed it, as for all the excitement the party was on a Wednesday, and even the 9pm end time proved too much for a man who works a sixty-hour-per-week minimum – a habit I learned from watching EDS employees.

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Overall, while the event may not have benefited ORCHARD At The OFFICE beyond this blog, for me it was a lovely night out, something I look forward to attending in the future with my amazing wife. And, to complete the Dallas-ness of it all, I was able to watch the sunset from the Omni Dallas hotel. It was great to relax as the light faded on this modern, vibrant town I love, a town which still feels new to me.

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