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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

ODE TO TONY TERRIFIC

   Not that he's - ya know - dead 'n gone, but Tony Romo's statement on Tuesday was certainly saturated with resignation.
   Oh, and also guts, class, respect, dignity and professionalism.
   For some of us who've loyally - even stubbornly, at times - supported the most prolific passer in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, it felt a lot like a retirement speech. Or at least the official beginning of the end.
   Kleenex, anyone?
   He's won playoff games and made Pro Bowls and shoved Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman from the record book, but not sure I've ever been more proud of No. 9. And also never been more sad for him.
   No way around it, at this point in their polar careers Dak Prescott is a better quarterback than Tony Romo. You know it. I know it. And, yep, Romo - gulp - knows it.
   Under heavy pressure in a town that loves, loves, loves it some quarterback controversy, Romo made one of the best, most accurate deliveries of his career. On time. And on target.
   I was at Texas Stadium the night Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe and it felt - yeah - kind of eerie. With Romo injured and certain to get his job back (we figured), there was no similar passing-of-the-torch moment on the field this season. But while Romo sat silently and helplessly, Prescott yanked him off the pedestal and down the totem pole.
   The rookie who's only a Cowboy because of dumb luck (management whiffing on several other more desirable options) and only under center because of two injuries (Kellen Moore ring a bell?) is now on the verge of a magical season. The Cowboys are 8-1, and they just might win a championship.
   As a Cowboys lifer, I'm rooting for another Super Bowl. But, I admit, without No. 9 throwing the winning touchdown or taking the final knee, it will feel a tad hollow. Much like it will if the Rangers ever win a World Series without Michael Young, or maybe Elvis Andrus. Like it would've had the Mavs triumphed after Dirk Nowitzki.
   You just root for great things to happen to good people. But sometimes life - and sports - kicks that hope square in the kisser.
   Nobody's been persecuted in DFW sports more than Romo. So on this bittersweet day, I figured I'd dust off one of my many defenses of No. 9.
   What it was like to be a Romo fan in 2013?

   Exactly like this.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

TRUMP 290, CLINTON 228: MY TOP '16 WHITTY COMMENTS

You're ... hired?!
   16. No, I'm not moving to Canada. Or rioting in the streets in protest. Or joining some nut-job Tea Party to waste my weekends waving banners from highway overpasses. It's politics. I get it. In this state - and in this country - if you bleed blue you'll always be in the minority. Life goes on. That said, I do sympathize with Democrats balking at the "forgive and forget" demands to unify for a smooth transition of power. I'm sure they remember Trump's "birther" movement and Rush Limbaugh openly hoping that new President Obama "fails miserably." It's difficult to accept losing, especially when - technically - you won. By perhaps 500,000 votes. Trump said all the right things in his acceptance speech and deserves credit for doing so. But when you run on a platform of insults and intolerance, you can't be naive enough to think the wounds will heal overnight.

   15. Hillary is a person that made bad decisions, but Trump is a bad person. My vote was 20% for her; 80% against him. My vote, like our country, has never been more divided.

   14. Lots of left-wing pundits are waxing angrily today, but this is one of the best takes. And it comes not from TV analyst nor spurned Senator nor Hollywood elite, but the head coach of the NBA's Detroit Pistons:
  “I didn’t vote for (George W.) Bush, but he was a good, honorable man with whom I had political differences, so I didn’t vote for him,” said Stan Van Gundy. “But for our country to be where we are now, who took a guy who - I don’t care what anyone says, I’m sure they have other reasons and maybe good reasons for voting for Donald Trump - but I don’t think anybody can deny this guy is openly and brazenly racist and misogynistic and ethnic-centric, and say, ‘That’s OK with us, we’re going to vote for him anyway.' It’s incredible. I don’t know how you go about it, if you’re a person of color today or a Latino. Because white society just said to you, again - not like we haven’t forever - but again, and emphatically, that I don’t think you deserve equality. We don’t think you deserve respect. And the same with women. That’s what we say today, as a country. We should be ashamed for what we stand for as the United States today."
   13. "When they go low, we go high." Great quote and, in theory, solid strategy. Unless of course, it isn't. Easy to second-guess, but perhaps Hillary should have lashed back at Trump with a barrage of personal and professional insults instead of keeping her hands clean. In biting her tongue in an attempt to allow Trump to hang himself, she gave power to her opponent's snippy, childish sound bites without a return of service. Hillary might have taken the high road, but she also lost a primo job. Same plan backfired on a certain former radio host a couple years ago. Ring a bell?

   12. Get ready for four years of the biggest Fascist blowhard this side of North Korea's Kim Jong Un. Trump actually said and - in his delusional brain - likely believes:
   "No one respects women more than I do."
   "I know more about ISIS than all of our generals, believe me."
   "I could shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters."
   "I've given $100 million (of my own money) to my campaign."
   "I donate a lot to charities, tens of millions to charities."
   "My health is perfection."
   "My golf handicap? It's a 3. Could be better, but now it's a 3."
   Ya know, those things are indisputably false. And I'm minimizing doozies like Obama being born in Kenya or climate change being a hoax. Seems as long as he doesn't have a private email server his followers will allow him the freedom to blabber gross hyperbole sans accountability.

   11. Make America Great Hate Again.

Clearly they've been dealt impossible hardships
   10. I still believe Trump was/is better suited for the WWE ring than the White House. Think about it. He's a fake villain in a grotesque wig who riles up crowds with salty, aggressive monologues and audacious actions. And, of course, his gullible fans buy into every ounce of his character. His pro wrasslin' cameo should've been a career.

   9. Tuesday night felt like I was watching golf's Ryder Cup, hoping to see one color but being besieged by repeated body blows from the opposite shade. Though I wasn't real fond of the outcome, watching an event that unpredictable felt very (and historically) sportsy.

   8. 42% of women - inexplicably - voted for Trump. Tell them to shut up? Rate them based on looks? Call them nasty and slobs and smugly claim that no flat-chested woman could ever be a 10? Walk in on them naked in a dressing room? Even brag about forcibly kissing them and grabbing them by the pussy? No problem. The biggest shock to me is that almost half the women in this country hate private email servers more than being objectified and disrespected.

   7. I long for Bernie Sanders (and his competence). I already miss Barack Obama (get ready to cringe at Trump's crass over his class). And I fear at some point I'll even dream of the "good ol' days" of George Dubya Bush. I'll even shed a tear for Obamacare. Why? Because I'll gladly pay increased middle-income healthcare premiums as long it allows low-income Americans to have insurance they couldn't otherwise afford. But that's just me.

   6. So let me get this straight: We elect a man who didn't get the most overall votes and whose victory publicly elated the KKK and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and we're sure we got it right? In the wake of Obama's 2012 re-election Trump Tweeted: The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy. To which I say, Amen. But, like it or not, them's the rules for both teams. (If you're fearful of Trump as truly dangerous, however, I might just have a safe solution for you.)

   5. Another thing I don't get is the venom spewed toward the media. By my unofficial math the major networks covered Clinton's email scandal more than any other singular campaign topic. And no way Trump didn't get his fair share of face time. Besides, what newspaper or station or anchor or analyst would be that wrong on purpose? They were wrong - all of 'em - because they were wrong. Not because they wanted to be wrong. If you believe that a media outlet knew Trump was going to win but stifled that opinion in favor of some ratings-nabbing agenda then, I'm sorry, you have zero clue how the media actually works. I have 30 years' experience in media and ... Oops, probably the wrong number to be pushing ... I've picked against the Cowboys many times. Not because I wanted them to lose. But because I believed they would lose. And, yep, been wrong several times.

He said; She sad
   4. Despite his six bankruptcies over 18 years, Trump may be good for American business. Trickle-down economics giving tax breaks to the wealthy led us to the financial meltdown in '08, but I'll have an open mind. It's the social and moral components of him, his platform and his followers that irk me. Exclusion and intolerance are both despicable traits. But Trump's VP Mike Pence is on record saying homosexuality can be "cured". And this morning I read this nauseating Twitter exchange: A Syrian refugee that had recently relocated to Texas asked nervously "Now what?" A proud "Deplorable" Trump follower retorted with "You go back! Now!!" I fear that's just the tip of the iceberg.

   3. In a scene straight out of the movie Idiocracy, a coalition of non-degreed White males has up and elected a reality-show TV star with zero political experience to the office of President of the United States of America. More bizarre, along the way the candidate publicly alienated and denigrated women, Blacks, Muslims and Latinos. How'd he survive? Trump somehow tricked his followers into thinking he was of them. They are working-class Americans he calls the "forgotten." But him? He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, lives in a gold-plated Manhattan palace and has worn a blue collar about as often as he's paid taxes. Hint: never. (By the way, wouldn't it be justice if Obama now turned the tables and dogged Trump with a "taxer" movement that demanded the new President produce his "long-form" tax returns?) In exit polls 60% of voters said Trump was "unlikable" and 53% admitted his takeover of Washington, D.C. would make them "concerned" and/or "scared." He will be, by far, the most controversial and least popular person to ever assume the Presidency. Which - in Idiocracy - means even more High-5s.

Coming soon: The new Trump Tower
   2. Bottom line: Whites voted against Hillary as if she was trending Black, and Blacks mildly supported her as if she was trending White. She got 88% of the Black vote. But that is down from 93% for Obama in '12. Ramifications? Clinton earned 129,000 fewer votes in Detroit than Obama, and 95,000 fewer votes than him in Milwaukee four years ago. She wound up losing Michigan by 61,000 and Wisconsin by 73,000. And the Latino backlash toward Trump that many experts predicted never materialized. Despite the insults and promises of deportation and plan to build a wall, Latinos voted for Hillary even less than they voted for Obama. Women and minorities had their chance to defeat Trump. You can either blame them for blowing it, or blame her for being such an unconvincing candidate. In the end, the male chauvinist pig d. the scheming, dishonest woman 7-5, 6-4.

   1. Congrats to Trump and his passionate supporters for pulling off an upset that rivals Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson. (I do find it painfully ironic that the candidate who criticized a "rigged" election won the Presidency despite finishing in 2nd place.)  I may never like President Trump. But rest assured I'll afford him more respect than a lot of Texans ever gave President Obama. Hopefully you'll treat Democratic Presidential Nominee Michelle Obama better come 2020. Peace Be With You.

Monday, October 24, 2016

NEW YORK IS MESSIN' WITH TEXAS ... COPS


   Cops. Guns. Dallas.
   In the wake of the horrific July 7 police massacre and smack dab in the middle of our open-carry state desperately fighting off attacks of the 2nd Amendment, you'd think that Lone Star trifecta would receive patriotic support, punctuated with a red-white-and-blue salute.
   You'd be wrong faster than a New York minute.
   Because someone far from here - in geography and apparently ideology - is indeed daring to Mess With Texas.
   "We're just a couple of friends trying to sell guns the right way," says Russel May, a veteran Sergeant in a DFW department who owns Front Sight Firearms with brother-in-blue partner Eric Wilson. "But these folks in New York are doing everything possible to kill our business. What's happening to us just isn't right."
   If you've kept up with my writing and ramblings through the years, you know I'm not exactly a gun advocate. But, in trumping that liberal leaning, I am a champion for what's fair. Right over wrong, regardless of the currency in play. And in the case of the policemen's gun store vs. their New York landlord, something seems fishy at best and down right discriminatory at worst.
   Frustrated by years of being subjected to a double-standard by Rochester-run First Allied Corporation, Front Sight is engaging in a dispute that's trending toward a lawsuit.
   "In hindsight it's clear they (the landlord) don't like guns," May says. "They didn't really want us there in the first place. But they sure wanted our money. Soon as we signed the lease we've been treated disproportionate and unfairly."
   By all accounts, they're good ol' boys with great intentions. May, a 48-year-old Sherman native, moved to McKinney 14 years ago after serving in the Grayson County Sheriff's Office; Wilson is a local law-enforcement officer whose current responsibilities require a lower profile. Their friendship included a shared love of firearms, and a business relationship blossomed.
   With Federal Firearms Licenses and all the secondary job paperwork filed with their appropriate law enforcement departments, Wilson and May began selling guns part-time out of their houses in the mid-2000s.
   "We knew we were on to something," May says. "Outgrew our garages in no time."
   In the Fall of 2013 their search for a brick-and-mortar space led them to Orchid Centre, a shopping center managed by First Allied and located on Eldorado Parkway in the northern Dallas suburb of McKinney. Far from perfect, the modest spot was next door to a karate studio and sat - blocked from the main street's view - directly behind a free-standing building anchored by a UPS store. And the monthly rent of $2,759 uncomfortably bulged their budget.
Before landlord demands; After landlord demands 
   At that price and with that obstructed view, no wonder the space sat vacant for four years. May and Wilson had the lease looked over by a realtor friend, who found nothing out of the ordinary in what he termed a "standard lease." On Oct. 10, 2013, with relatively minimal haggling, Front Sight had its location, McKinney had its first and only Class 3 firearms storefront and First Allied finally had a tenant.
   "At first, they wouldn't let us put in bollards to fortify the front entrance, but we did get them to eventually agree to those and to let us put in a steel hurricane door," according to May. "We wouldn't move in without it being safe. I wouldn't have been able to rest my head on my pillow without proper safety measures. (Upgrading the security) was a deal-breaker to us. Trust me, no one is more concerned about keeping guns away from the bad guys. That kind of goes without saying. Plus, we promised to take everything out when we moved out. No big deal."
   But May and Wilson, turns out, were just beginning a litany of  headaches.
   Blue-state agenda > #BlueLivesMatter?!
   About nine months after they opened for business in December 2013, a space became available next to UPS in the free-standing building close to Eldorado. Being a tenant with a long lease, high hopes and a perfect rent payment history, May inquired about moving into the much more visible space. Without any explanation, their request to relocate was denied. Inexplicably, he got the same answer 90 days later when the karate studio next to Front Sight up and moved out. That simple move next door would've doubled Front Sight's square footage and increased its visibility as a corner store.
   After being told to stay put, the adjacent space sat vacant for almost a year until Condom Sense moved in.
   "With us," says May, "it's been ugly from the get-go."


Guns, anyone?
   First Allied was founded in 1984 in Los Angeles by the late Malcolm Glazer, whom Forbes regularly ranked among the planet's 400 wealthiest humans. His real estate holding company, which also has management offices in New York, today owns and operates almost 7 million square feet of shopping centers across 20 states. When Glazer died in 2014, his family - including six children - was left to run his business empire including the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and English Premier League soccer giant Manchester United. Talk about being born deep in life's Red Zone, sons Joel, Bryan and Edward were handed down First Allied.
   May says he has never spoken to a Glazer, instead left to communicate with First Allied's Rochester-based Operations Manager, Greg Burnham. He's treated Front Sight as a nuisance, like Hillary and those pesky emails or Trump and the raunchy remnants of a hot mic.
   Reached on the phone Monday morning with a repeated offer to tell his company's side of the story, he was as dismissive as advertised.
   Despite being informed that I was poised to publish a story detailing what appeared to be gross mismanagement by First Allied, Burnham simply said ...
   "We don't comment on anything in regard to relations with our tenants."
   Strangely, interviews with several Orchid Centre tenants revealed little or no other landlord problems.
   "It's good," characterized one owner who has conducted business in the shopping center for four years but wished to remain anonymous. "The place always looks good. Gets kept up nice. I haven't had many problems, but when I have they've addressed them pretty quick."
   With First Allied tight-lipped, we can only speculate at the reason for the uniquely strained relationship with Front Sight. New York, blue-state liberalism? Anti-guns? Anti-cops? Culture conundrum?
   Whichever, even before being roadblocked in their desire to change spaces Front Sight was handicapped from the start with an identity crisis.
   A couple weeks after moving in May and Wilson realized their Front Sight name did not - as expected - get placed alongside the other stores on Orchid Centre's monument sign at the high-traffic intersection of Eldorado-Orchid. Soon after, however, a First Allied "Now Leasing" slide-in sign on the monument vanished, leaving Front Sight to consider it an invitation.
   May had a friend at a sign company make a small slide-in panel and ...
   "Two weeks later we got a letter telling us to take it down or we'd be in default of our lease," says May. "So they needed a spot on their monument sign and a big, separate, double-sided sign for their company? But none for their new tenant? Sorry, but that's screwed up. So much for welcome to the neighborhood."
   May says he asked Burnham where they could put a sign and was told "You don't have a space."
   What. The. What?
   "Not only that, he accused me of stealing his sign," May says. "I told him, 'I'm a policeman. I've got a lot better things to do that go around stealing your $3 signs'. It's not like we're trying to move mountains or ask for a special favor. Just let us advertise our store. I mean, plain common sense says you have to have signage, to advertise in order to sell things. Letting people know we were there was a huge challenge from almost day one."
   During a complaint about his new store's lack of visibility, May claims to have had this exchange with Burnham:
   May: "I don't understand why you don't want your tenants to be happy? Don't you see that if we make more money, you'll make more money?"
   Burnham: "I'm not concerned with your success. I've already got your signature on a 60-month lease."
   "That," says May, "is when we really realized what we were up against."
   With customers slow to trickle in to the almost invisible location, Front Sight was forced to become innovative. They constructed a wooden sign, and put it in the back of  Wilson's parked pickup adjacent to Eldorado. Immediately, business boomed.
   Recalls May, "Yeah, we did okay. For about three months."


Front Sight's Only Sign Of Life
   Short-circuiting Front Sight's blip of prosperity, another letter arrived from First Allied's Burnham warning to move the truck ... or else. Same with a sandwich board sign out on the sidewalk, placed alongside the exact same type of sign that other tenants such as Pizza Hut were using. And same for a box truck the partners bought, wrapped in advertising and parked by the street.
   With each new attempt to attract customers, Front Sight was greeted with a "default on your lease" threat from the folks in New York who obviously failed Southern Hospitality 101.
   The box truck actually stayed - and worked - for 10 months. Until one morning when it didn't. Because it was, well, gone.
   "First Allied towed it," May says. "Even though I reminded Mr. Burnham that I know the city ordinances here better than him, and that there weren't any towing signs anywhere in that parking lot. I told him I wanted our truck back, but he just stumbled and mumbled and ... it's probably still sitting wherever they towed it."
   Undaunted, Front Sight resorted to Plan - oh, I've already lost count - and bought another box truck. But this time each night they moved it from the street to the back of their store in their designated parking spot. It didn't work. A towing company arrived one day, but May sternly warned the driver that there were no signs in the parking lot. The tow truck left, but it was merely a temporary stay of execution.
   A week later - now in early 2016 - May and Wilson arrived at the store only to find new "Towing Enforced" signs in the front, and nary a truck in the back.
   "We checked our security cams and, sure enough, First Allied hired a different towing company and they came at 2 in the morning so nobody was here to stop them," says May. "The transmission was ruined, the tires locked up and there were skid marks all around the back of our space."
   But when May says he demanded $2,000 for repairs on the towed truck, he was again met with indifference. Somehow still undeterred, last June Front Sight adorned its front windows with garish red, white and blue signage that included American and Texas flags that goosed business, before, of course, First Allied sent yet another demand letter to remove the flags. I mean, really, the most dickish of HOA's wouldn't even do that. An understated, flagless strip of that display remains, only because May reminded Burnham that Pizza Hut is allowed to have the exact same type of signage in its window.
   From JFK to J.R. Ewing, guns are an ingrained, important fixture in Dallas' culture and Texas' history. What First Allied is doing is akin to holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new Philadelphia restaurant, then promptly cutting off its supply of cheesesteak.
   At its peak doing six figures in revenue, Front Sight - mainly due to sketchy signage - has seen that number drastically evaporate.
   "We did half that in August. September was bad. And October looks worse," May says. "In this area, with what's going on around the world, and with what we provide, our business should be off the charts. But we're being choked and bled to death by our own landlord. If we try anything to spark business we get a letter threatening to 'comply' within 10 days or else we'll be accelerated into default and be facing $80,000 in legal fees just fight it. We know we're right, but we can't afford that. We're cops, for crying out loud."
   These days Front Sight parks the box truck - repaired out of their own pocket - by Eldorado a couple days a week. They have negotiated a deal with a neighboring store to park the truck inside a locked garage every night.
   In the meantime, May and Wilson are searching for a new home. With 24 months left on their lease, they can't yet afford to just pack up and leave. But can they really afford to stay?
   They plan to reach out to the National Rifle Association for help. Maybe a boycott of Orchid Centre will rattle First Allied's New York cages, just enough for the company to tear up the lease and allow Front Sight to skeedaddle.
   "At this point we just want to move," May says. "We're in Texas and we're legally, safely selling guns. There just has to be a friendlier place."
   Cops. Guns. Dallas.
   It's a shame those harmonious, home elements are being forced to play an unfair road game.

Friday, October 14, 2016

THE GREAT ESCAPE TO TRIDENT LAKES

By Richie Whitt
DFWSportatorium

   Fine, serendipitous structure. You win.
   I'm intrigued. Fascinated. On the verge of being mesmerized. I'm fully aware that we live in a scary, skittish world where terrorism has its own daily reality show from Orlando to France to Dallas to Baton Rouge to Germany. And that we exist in a warped culture where everything from Pokémon Go to Dak Prescott to Ken Bone can grip our nation.
   But you ... you temporarily have my undivided attention.
Rising mightily in, um, Fannin County
   So, c'mon, I've pulled over to the side of the road. Now spill your obscurely opulent beans. What-the-what is a big, ornate, marble statue doing perched high in the air smack dab in the middle of a tiny, unincorporated suburb of nowhere North Texas?
   I mean, when tootling along between the one-stoplight towns of Savoy and Ector on sleepy State Highway 56 on a sunny summer afternoon, the last sight I expected is the building of something fit more for Caesar's Palace than Fannin County.
   Rough, meet diamond.
   The thing is beginning to rise out of the nothingness, appearing as deliciously out of place as an ice-sculpture centerpiece at a farting contest between Larry The Cable Guy and Real Housewives of Dallas star Stephanie Hollman. The moment Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones lays eyes upon the spectacular structure he'll crave another glitzy AT&T Stadium accessory.
   Seriously, it's ...
   "Sir, we're going to have to ask you to leave," says the apparent foreman of a 10-man construction crew feverishly working on the statue, plumbing for the accompanying fountain and what looks like some sort of expansive entrance. "Stop taking pictures, please. This is private property."
   "Yeah," I retort in retreat, "but what kind of private property?!"
   As I drive away, I'm flagged down by a local rubbernecker. After all, it's not every day a UFO that glitters like the Palace of Versailles lands - or, in this case, was set into place by a 90-ton crane - in this down-to-Earth rurality 15 minutes south of the Red River.
   "What'd he say to you?" asks a 60-something-ish man in his pickup while his female passenger cranes to hear my answer. "What the heck is that thing?"
   "Honestly, I dunno," I shrug, "Best guess though, it's going to be the entrance to something. Something pretty big."
   "Well," responds the man, "whatever it is ... I wanna be part of it."
   In my rear-view mirror I see two more vehicles slow from 65 mph to skid marks in order to size up the mammoth mystery. If you build it, they will come ... to at least gawk.
   After several shot-in-the-dark phone calls and two more empty trips over a couple of months, I finally get my answer. And an invitation.
   "It's Trident Lakes," says Paul Salfen, who identifies himself as a spokesman and Director of Celebrity Relations for the development. "Think of it as a 5-star playground, equipped with DEFCON 1 preparedness. Why don't you come on up?"
   Gulp. At first glance I think these guys building something so big in somewhere so small are out of their minds. But, no, as life as we knew it deteriorates into one of those Southwest Airlines' "Wanna Get Away?!" commercials, it quickly occurs to me that they're merely way ahead of the game.
   Fine, serendipitous structure. You win.

                                                       PROVOCATIVE PROJECT
   We grow up here learning everything is bigger in Texas, so we're a tad cynical when someone proclaims to be building "the next greatestbiggestbest thingamajig".
Closer to Paris, Texas than Paris, France
   Our statues aren't something out of Greek mythology, but rather born-'n-bred icons such as Tom Landry, Nolan Ryan, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Big Tex. And our epic construction projects include the world's largest football stadium, largest high-school football stadium, a retractable-roof ballpark for the Texas Rangers, 200,000-seat Texas Motor Speedway, The Omni Hotel, The Star in Frisco as the epicenter of the $5 Billion Mile, those two weird, white bridges near downtown Dallas and Trinity Forest Golf Course, a 400-acre, $50 million project in South Dallas aimed at hosting the U.S. Open. We've seen a giant chair promote the future of Nebraska Furniture Mart in Frisco and a huge beaver open the mega-truck stop Buc-ee's in Fort Worth.
   Shoot, we've even seen Dallas swing-and-miss at hosting The 2012 Summer Olympics, drag its feet for 10 years on the Trinity River Corridor Project, and something called the Superconducting Super Collider flop and fail in Waxahachie in the '90s. In other words, Trident Lakes better be considerably bigger than something along the lines of "McRib is back!"
   It is.
   "This," says Salfen, pointing to the base of a statue that will soon rise to over 50 feet, "is just the tip of the iceberg."
   When Trident Lakes is complete, it will be one of the most ambitious, grandiose and important developments in our state's history. Maybe our country's.
   The plans call for it to be part private resort/part safe haven. It will be both a lavish country-club community that features upscale amenities, and also a state-of-the-art secured fortress that boasts subterranean luxury condos able to withstand the shit's direct hit into our fan.
   In other words, Trident Lakes promises to be the ultimate retreat for people seeking shelter from a world gone mad. The more your imperfect news cycle is littered with Amber Alerts, domestic terrorism in Orlando, an attempted coup in Turkey, police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, trucks used as weapons in Nice and the stench of ISIS seemingly everywhere, the more this idea - unfortunately - makes perfect sense. America's FBI "Watch List" has grown to include more than a million names for crying out loud, and director James Coney recently admitted that there are ISIS members or sympathizers in all 50 states.
   Yeah, yikes.
   "We'll be one of America's most unique, most safe neighborhoods," says Salfen. "What we offer are world-class amenities combined with unprecedented civilian security. It's life assurance. Luxurious life assurance."
   A settlement worthy of, indeed, a serendipitous structure.
   The construction around Trident Lakes' majestic entrance is already gaudy enough to be a spin-off from Rome's Trevi Fountain. When finished, according to Salfen, the massive water feature will be the heart of one of the largest fountains in the world.
   In terms of square footage (55,000+) and length (longer than Bellagio's famed lake of dancing water in Las Vegas), few - if any - fountains on the planet will be bigger. The height of the structure that will spew water and anchor the property's elaborate entrance will also be dimensionally unprecedented. Not exactly a fountain of youth, but more so one aimed at ensuring old age.
   Design options call for this sundae's cherry to be a huge, gold Trident, perhaps even wielded by Poseidon himself.
   (UPDATE: The Poseidon statue was severely damaged by a Blossom-based Unruh Construction cement truck in July. Construction on the surrounding fountain continues, but work on the statue is on hold until a settlement is reached with Unruh's insurance company - Albuquerque-based Mountain States. A Trident Lakes source says the company is hopeful the claim will be resolved without litigation, but - despite Unruh accepting responsibility for the accident - describes Mountain States as "wholly uncooperative.")
   Fitting of its bedazzled beacon, Trident Lakes will surely become the crown jewel of northeast Texas. For now there's a website - www.TridentLakes.com - and social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (though with minimal activity and few followers). Salfen was tight-lipped on details surrounding specific security features and pinpoint costs. But after a 30-minute tour across the surprisingly lush and rolling property on an ATV, and discussions with security and real-estate experts, I can make some educated guesses on the particulars:
   Try 700 acres and $300 million. Commence eyeball-popping.
   The community is being developed by Dallas-based Vintuary Holdings Corp. which - hence the giant fountain and grand entrance - looks like they have the moxie to pull this off. I managed to get in touch with lead architect Charles Ralph, but he only wanted to talk about what everyone else was already talking about.
   Yep, the serendipitous structure and its vast waters.
   "We’re confident one of the largest fountains in the world sets the stage for a standard of quality that will bond the entire community,” said Ralph. “It’s a unique tone-setter for a place residents will enjoy, but also depend on.”
   Our proud history and state pride be damned, I'm pretty sure we've never seen a community adorned with enough bells, whistles, upgrades and foresight to keep survivors from becoming victims in the event North Texas deteriorates into an apocalyptic combination of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and The Purge.
   "You can't predict catastrophes, but you can prepare for them," Robert Glasser, head of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, said in a recent speech. "The prudent people are taking steps to be ready the best they can for the worst that's likely to come."
   Says Salfen, "Live on a piece of paradise, get peace of mind. It's a win-win."
   Though Trident Lakes won't come alive with water through its veins until 2017, it's already casting a substantial shadow. Salfen says the early "trickle" of cars stopping with curiosity (guilty, party of one) has increased to a "steady stream" of visitors seeking answers, snapping photos or - in some cases - attempting to reserve a plot in the affluent-yet-anonymous neighborhood.
   Residence at Phase I - the first of three planned subdivisions - will be via invitation-only, complete with a waiting list. After successful beta testing, according to Salfen, engineering plans for Phase 2 have been accelerated and accompanied by a formal waiting list as well.
   Offered initially to movers and shakers throughout America, Trident Lakes' membership will likely parallel the hoity-toity exclusivity of Dallas National Golf Club, Washington D.C.'s Greenbrier Resort and that fantasy land beyond the armoire known as Narnia.
   Though the price tag will remain confidential until initial invitations are hand-delivered, seems reasonable to estimate the cost aligning with that of an affluent second home. That, of course, would preclude the community from becoming fertile ground for grass-roots, nut-job government separatists and keep it instead purely an oasis for the powerful and savvy.
   Make no mistake, Trident Lakes will be much more Elysium than Idiocracy.
   Though Salfen was adamant about maintaining the privacy of residents, rumors are that notable celebrities are already sniffing around the place. After all, swanky resorts exist from coast to coast, but not many - if any - include state-of-the-art security prepared to mitigate our planet's biggest threats.
   Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. And, apparently, have a lot of fun in between.

                                                       5-STAR PLAYGROUND
   You would expect the DFW Metroplex's rich and famous to vacation in exclusive spots such as Aspen, Cabo or Maldives. But why in the world would they make the hour trek northeast to a previously unremarkable landscape?
   Easy. Because most well-to-do families also own lake homes, and Trident Lakes vows to both pamper and protect its residents while turning the trick of putting this lil' corner of Texas on the global map. It's going to transform nowhere, into somewhere. Somewhere special.
Today: Natural Texas landscape
Tomorrow: Nasty Trident 18th green
   It promises to be one of the world's best-appointed hiding places. After all, we need complex "what if" plans. But, in the meantime, we also need cool "what if not yet" playgrounds.
   During my tour I heard general plans for seemingly every toy imaginable including an 18-hole golf course, 15-acre blue lagoons with white-sand beaches, a 5-star spa, jogging trails, sports courts, kids' play areas and learning center, equestrian center, polo fields, zip lines, gun ranges, retail shops, restaurants, waterfront wedding venue and a row of helipads.
   Weaving throughout the planned development will be about 400 Earth-covered, terraced condos with three unique floor plans ranging in size from 900-3,600-square feet and all providing patio views of the site's lagoons.
   Barring the Apocalypse, Trident Lakes could simply maintain itself as one of the most exclusive, best accessorized country clubs in Texas, if not all of America. But if Hell and high water converge simultaneously, developers have a plan for that too.


                                                  DEFCON 1 PREPAREDNESS
   Trident Lakes promotes itself as more than just a pretty place. Its three-pronged purpose ensures "Plan", "Protect" and "Play." With terrorism tragedies spreading almost daily from Orlando to Turkey to Belgium to Joint Base Andrews to (fill in the blank), some probably feel like this protective palace can't be built too fast.
   As last summer's sniper ambush in Dallas unfolded, the shooter (Micah Johnson) who killed five officers told police "the end is coming."
   Cue the chills. Call to action.
   "Our hope is that membership will never need Trident Lakes for anything more than a vacation home, main residence or just a fun place for a family getaway," says Salfen. "But in the event of something dramatic, it will also be a 5-star insurance policy and a place that will - as well as possible - dilute the ongoing dangers."
   I wasn't privy to a formal Master Plan, but was told Trident Lakes could eventually become a self-sustaining community using off-the-grid sources of food, water and energy. Among the extensive security features being kicked around are a protective wall surrounding the property (eat your heart out, Mr. Trump), watchtowers, air-lock blast doors, a navigable tunnel system, communal greenhouses and a DNA vault.
   Those detailed checks and double-checks would, in theory, protect residents and minimize disasters such as terrorism (ISIS). It will also be built to diminish the brunt of virus pandemics (Zika), intergalactic events and violent conflicts. From Mother Nature's mood swings to scary scenarios that would empty store shelves within hours, Trident Lakes plans to take a big swing at answering the most ominous questions ... even before they are posed.
   "One of Trident Lakes' most appealing features is its proximity to Dallas and Fort Worth, yet its location at least an hour from the major 'threat zone'," says Salfen. "Whatever danger arises, we feel confident we're providing the best Plan B money can buy. After all, preparation negates panic."
   One of the things that struck me about Trident Lakes is its seeming contradiction: Existing as a deluxe, secret safe house - but one adorned with one of the most ostentatious fountains on Earth. The palace screams "Look at us!" But the philosophy is founded upon "Please don't notice us."
   In his UN address, Glasser just might have it figured out.
   "It's all about risk management," he said. "If you plan properly, you can hide in plain sight."
   Like a joint password protecting sensitive information, a safe word drawing boundaries on sexual exploration or the designated family meeting spot during ominous weather, planners hope "Trident Lakes" becomes the default escape destination when and if Doomsday dawns in Dallas and beyond.
   Fine, serendipitous structure. You win.
   In the present, your sprawling fountain in the remote reaches of North Texas will generate unique curiosity.
   In the future, you just may provide unparalleled security.

Friday, August 19, 2016

LET'S PEEK INSIDE TONY ROMO'S NEW HOUSE, SHALL WE?

Not bad for a neighborhood gate house, eh?
   I'm not a big fan of "Who's wearing what?" or "Keeping up with the Joneses." But I am, alas, a huge supporter of the Cowboys in general and much-maligned, always-underrated Tony Romo in specific.
   So ... let's bend the rules, crane our necks and check out the quarterback's new house.
   We all know Romo moved out of his old house in the Cottonwood Valley neighborhood of Irving and is selling the 5,500-square foot joint for a cool $1 million. As for his new address?
   I haven't seen his new digs with my own eyes, but got a couple of sources who have been on the  property and inside the home in the far North Dallas community of Glen Abbey near Bent Tree Country Club.
   The key, cool statistics:
   *12,000 square feet
   *Three stories
   *A spiral slide that lands on an indoor basketball court
   *A back yard that features a glass-enclosed spa and sauna
   Sounds like a pretty swanky playground for sons Hawkins and Rivers, and not a bad place to entertain or relax for Tony and wife Candice.
   The locale, of course, makes total sense. For now it's a quick drive up the Tollway to the Cowboys' new headquarters at The Star in Frisco. And, when Romo retires, he can simply meander down the street to play his beloved golf on one of the Metroplex's best courses at Bent Tree.
   Don't have a price tag, but - relatively speaking - it sounds like a modest place. In 2013 the quarterback signed a contract worth a whopping $108 million. One of his peers - guy named Tom Brady - recently sold his moated mansion in Los Angeles and moved into a $50 million castle outside Boston.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

WHERE'S WALDO?


   UPDATE: Thanks to the thoughts, prayers, actions and tips of thousands of Wally's family, friends, former co-workers, neighbors, alums, media members and the homeless shelter volunteer community, he was located in downtown Dallas and picked up healthy (and sober) by his brother Friday afternoon. Thanks to everyone for their support. Happy Fourth of July weekend!


   Dear Wally Lynn,

   I'm writing you this letter ... because I desperately don't want to author your obituary.
   It's going to be one of the most heart-breaking and gut-wrenching pleas I've ever made. Don't make me beg for your life. For now, just allow yourself to be found. Then surrender to some help.
   Small steps.
   You've endured an unfathomably painful fall from grace. Gone is the fame and fortune and marriage and houses and cars and good chunks of your family and friends. You've been in and out of hospitals, in and out of rehab.
   Now, best we can piece together, you've been in and out of a homeless shelter in downtown Dallas.
   You were last seen refusing the open arms of your brother and heading out of Presbyterian Hospital in Plano on May 17. On that day you wore khaki pants, a green Polo and sneakers, and were wheeling behind you a royal blue suitcase containing your last few possessions. You accepted a ride from your college roommate, but only if he'd take you to downtown Dallas. A volunteer at The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center near Farmers Market swears that on May 20 you came in for a shower and a hot meal and ... poof. Gone.
   That was 41 days ago.
   You're one of the most talented, creative and funny people I've ever known. Resourceful. Clever. But now - due to a toxic mix of stubborn pride and brain-skewing alcohol - I fear you've willingly transformed yourself into a human needle in a homeless haystack.
   At least I hope that's the case. Because at this point that's the best scenario I can stomach.
   Your brothers, your two college-grad sons and a handful of your friends have spent endless hours on countless days scouring the streets and shelters to no avail. I used to call you "Waldo," never in my worst nightmares envisioning I'd be searching for you under these dire circumstances.
   The Bridge. Austin Street Shelter. Union Gospel Mission. Even random convenience stores. Despite questions and photos and cash, neither employees nor residents can confirm you're alive, much less pinpoint your whereabouts.
   Too old for an Amber Alert and not clinically diagnosed with a specific enough ailment to warrant a Silver Alert, Dallas police categorize you as just another 55-year-old homeless man lost in their crowded missing persons reports.
   I spent a couple hours looking for you Tuesday morning, better known as running into a brick wall. One man outside a shelter told me "Oh yeah, see him all the time." But I have the feeling he would've confirmed a UFO landing on my shoulder for another $5. Another pointed me toward bushes behind what looked like an abandoned building on Cadiz Street, which he called "the store." "If he's a drinker, he down at the store with the other drinkers." Sure enough there were 8-10 homeless behind "the store" and - at 8:45 a.m. - drinking. None of them were you. None of them knew you.
   I was simultaneously relieved, and horrified.
   Searching for you amidst the shards of what once were whole lives punched me right in the spoiled kisser. Some have blank stares. Some are shuffling to nowhere. Some are babbling about nothing to no one. They all have a story, co-starring some form of demons, depression and despair. Suicide feels like it's just around the corner.
   I was forced to wonder what happened to them all. Like you, had they chosen to go AWOL straight into Hell? Did they alienate their families and maybe they even ...
   Screw that. To me you're still Walter Ralph, a guy who gave himself the stage name of Wally Lynn and blossomed into one of the most successful personalities in DFW sports media.
   We met in the early '90s at Valley Ranch covering the Dallas Cowboys - me writing for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and you as a talk-show host for KLIF 570 AM. Immediately we hit it off. Home-grown kids with talents better suited for reporting than playing, we shared old memories about the Cowboys. We commenced a game of Cowboys' history in which we volleyed uniform numbers and/or names at each other.
   "Twenty-seven," I'd say casually and randomly.
   To which you'd quickly retort, "Easy. Ron Fellows."
   I'd go home that night to hear you on my answering machine with a simple message: "Guy Brown." I called back with only "Fifty Nine" and a dial tone. And the game played on, for the better part of two decades.
   You had popular sports talk radio shows with Leon Simon and Mike Fisher. You had fruitful ESPN stints in Austin and Dallas. You hosted a show with Daryl Johnston. You won admiration, listeners and multiple Katie Awards from the Dallas Press Club. You called everything from the Sidekicks to SMU to the Mavs and Cowboys. I got the pleasure of working alongside you at 105.3 The Fan.
   But now you've made the most undesirable of treks: From homer, to homeless.
   A Lake Highlands kid living in Allen, I was always fascinated by your talents. You could sing like Sinatra, impersonate everyone from Jack Buck to Michael Irvin and effortlessly play the guitar, piano and even an old washboard.
   Unlike a lot of us more, um, polarizing media dorks, seemingly everyone liked you. Not a disparaging word from any corner of an industry laced with competition, jealousy and back-stabbing.
   You weren't bad off the "field" either. In 1995 you were one of the first hires at an Internet radio company run out of a Deep Ellum warehouse by an entrepreneur named Mark Cuban. When AudioNet morphed into Broadcast.com, then had the largest IPO in Wall Street history, and then was bought by Yahoo! for $6 billion in 1999, you became an instant multi-millionaire.
   Maybe, in retrospect, money is indeed the root of all evil.
   Because life - even when camouflaged in temporary success - is a fragile little bitch.
   You had it all. Beautiful, fun wife. Smart, sensible kids. Notable media career. BMWs in the garage. New 80-acre ranch in Spicewood, just west of Austin and around the bench from Willie Nelson's annual Fourth of July picnic. We'd play golf in the morning at Twin Creeks and enjoy a post-show Happy Hour at Love & War in Texas. Summer weekends would find us at your ranch playing Wiffle ball and washers, boating on the Colorado River or using 100-year-old Oaks as makeshift flagsticks for our impossibly designed Par 12s played through knee-high weeds.
   You were a Jack Daniels & 7Up man. I introduced you to Captain Morgan & Coke, constantly reminding you that I was the big drinker of the group. Or so I thought.
   Shit happened on the way to happily ever after. Actually, a shit storm.
   Your financial windfall was severely diminished by the 2000 dot.com bubble burst. Your marriage dissolved into divorce. You absorbed a legal hiccup. You had to sell the ranch. You voluntarily sold your house, and your car. You lost your gumption for media, for fellowship, for everything.
   By early 2012 you quit The Fan, and life. You hung your head, and raised your white flag.
   The Wally Lynn that could light up any room was now moping in the dark corner of a modest apartment along the Tollway in Plano. Your sense of humor was devoured by a hermit. Ashamed of where you were compared to where you had been, you withdrew. From friends. From me. From family. From sports. From your world.
   Phone calls went unreturned. Texts weren't answered. Neither were knocks at your door. Christmas parties got no-showed. Birthdays were ignored. Before your appalled family could clearly grasp the depths of your depth, you almost drank yourself to death.
   Found lying in your apartment unconscious with a swollen brain due to Alcoholic Induced Encephalopathy, you hit what we thought at the time was rock bottom. Thirty days in ICU at a hospital in Abilene just to survive, followed by another month of rehab just to start thinking and stop drinking.
   "It's pretty scary what I did to myself," you told me upon returning home from rehab. "I'm lucky to be alive."
   It was dramatic. It was also bullshit.
   Over the next four years we remained friendly, but never returned to being friends. The physical and psychological damage of your downward spiral and ugly episode was irreparable. During phone calls and lunches there were hints of Wally, but you just weren't you.
   I asked you to go to a Rangers game but you didn't feel up to it. I helped get you a job offer as a media consultant but you "weren't ready for that yet." You claimed you had money stashed away, and some sort of gig working for Google.
   You didn't seem fresh, but I thought you were at least functional.
   I talked to you this year shortly after your birthday in February. Same. Stagnant, but nothing seemingly alarming.
   We haven't spoken since.
   Those of us who tried to tip-toe the delicate balance between tough love and enabler are now having severe second thoughts, because sometime this Spring you totally gave up.
   Your brother found you again passed out on the floor of your apartment, which was littered with Miller Lite cans, eviction notices and the unmistakable stench of Idon'tgiveashit. Your family initially thought you were dead, or would soon die. They reasoned that jail was the best place for you. Safe shelter. Limited options. Forced to clear your mind and rise to your feet.
   But after another eight days in the hospital nothing changed. There had been no light-bulb moment of clarity. There was no apology. There was no repentance. There was no accepting responsibility. There was no rock bottom.
   You lied to yourself and to social workers about the grim gravity of your situation. You were belligerent in refusing help - shelter, rent money, etc. - from friends and family, instead deciding to blend in with the herd of homeless in Dallas. Some hearts broke for you. Others hardened against you. Both agreed on the sad truth: You can't help those unwilling to help themselves.
   Father's Day came and went recently, your sons left to only reminisce about the full-of-life-full-of-love Dad they once knew.
   There is sadness and, yep, guilt in not knowing for sure if I helped push you over the edge or merely didn't catch you when you fell. I dunno, maybe it was both.
   If When you read this story it will probably make you angry. Good. I'd rather embarrass you than bury you. And since I can't wake you up with a slap to the face, I'm instead slapping your face on this virtual milk carton.
   I pray that someone will read this and remember something. See something. Hear something. Maybe spot your blue suitcase. Or your barely recognizable face sipping a Miller Lite. It's a long-shot I realize but, unlike you, I'm not ready to totally give up.
   Despite the anger and resentment over the pain you've caused and the life you seem Hell-bent on wasting, there remains a lot of us that still care about you. That still love you. Willing to forgive. Ready to open our minds and hearts and homes.
   But the first step, Waldo, is allowing yourself to be helped. And that starts with being found.

   Sincerely,
   Richie Whitt
   Richie@DFWSportatorium.com