The Libraries Bush……and much more.

Arrived in Dallas Saturday, checked into the Sheraton Dallas Hotel By The Galleria, and watched the Cubs beat the Cardinals in Game 2 of the NLDS.

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That’s Robin schlepping the bags…

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And me relaxing in front of the TV

Afterwards we visited with some old friends, Susie and David Duitch.  Robin grew up with Susie and David in Omaha.  The latter two were high school sweethearts, got married, and for a while lived in Sacramento.  The Duitchs left California 18 years ago and now reside in Dallas.  Thanks to Facebook and email Robin was able to reconnect with them, so Saturday we had appetizers and drinks at their beautiful home, and then a great dinner at Savor, located in Klyde-Warren Park in uptown Dallas.  It was so much fun as we had a lot of catching up to do.  Hopefully it won’t be another 18 years between visits!

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Sunday was our day to visit AT&T Stadium, aka “Jerry World” (after the Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones), to see the Dallas Cowboys vs. New England Patriots.  Jerry World is a sight to behold and an attraction in its own right.  We were honestly more excited to experience the stadium than to watch the game, so we arrived three hours prior to game time.

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Jerry World

The retractable roof stadium seats 85,000 and can hold another 20,000 standing room only fans. Apparently the tradition is for the standing room only fans to arrive prior to the gates opening, so that when they do open they can sprint through the doors to the best “Party Pass” locations.  Since we also arrived prior to the gates opening, we got to experience the mad dash first hand.

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Jerry World also has the largest column free interior in the world (I guess when the roof is closed) and the 4th largest high def video screen in the world.  This monster screen dominates the stadium environment as it hangs from one 20 yard line to the other.

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We took a long slow walk around the entire facility, making sure to visit all the levels.  We even made it to the very top.

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But don’t question how the fans at altitude watch the game, for they do have choices.  They can either watch the big screen, or visit this vendor:

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William got us great seats for this game, 25 yard line in the club section (Thanks again William).  We found it interesting that even as close to the field as we were, we still could not keep our eyes off that colossus …..no way.  Looking around it was pretty evident that the fans, from the ground level to the top row, were all watching the game on TV. Interesting!

As you would expect there was a multitude of food choices, everything from sushi to standard fare hot dogs.  After scouting out the entire stadium we settled on this:

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But had this for desert:

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The Patriots, as expected, beat up on the injury plagued Cowboys pretty good, 30 – 6.  But the fans did get their shots on QB Tom Brady (also as expected):

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and most importantly, we had a great time.  Oh, and the Cowboy cheerleaders…….they really are in a class by themselves.  Besides being ridiculously gorgeous, their choreography was outstanding, difficult, and perfectly executed.  And yes, everyone was watching them on the big screen too!

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Not as pretty but very entertaining

Not as pretty but very entertaining

Our only disappointment was not being able to watch any of the Raiders game.  We figured at least one of the TV’s in the club lounge would be showing other NFL games….NOT.  At least not in Dallas.  It’s Cowboys or nothing.

Cowboys...Cowboys...Cowboys...

Cowboys…Cowboys…Cowboys…

Monday was a busy, busy day.  With the Cubs game scheduled for 5:07 PM we had to eat breakfast, work-out (..yeah…nachos..), visit the George W. Bush Library, get lunch, visit the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, do laundry, and get back to the hotel by game time.

We arrived at W’s Library, located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, and spent a couple of hours reliving the first eight years of this millennium.  The building is really nice but oddly surrounded by grounds with virtually no landscaping. We later figured out that the family wanted the surroundings to reflect the terrain found on ranches in Midland Texas.

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The Library starts with a short hallway dedicated to George W’s youth, marriage to Laura, and decision to leave the private sector to run for Governor of Texas (2 terms) and subsequently for President.  Very little on the Republican convention and election campaign, but a nice gallery on the 2000 election controversy with Florida’s count, the early media reports, and supreme court decisions.  He essentially won Florida and the election by 537 votes out of nearly 6 million cast.  So….every vote really does count!  The introductory film comes next, and you are then led into the main exhibit area.

The rest of the Library is focused on the major events during his presidency, life in the White House, and the family.  We don’t recall seeing anything about the 2004 elections (I guess compared to the major events, that election didn’t make the cut).  The gallery on 9/11 centered on that fateful day plus the events of the following 10 days.  The memorial wall contains the name and location of every person killed on 9/11.  It was extremely well done. The subsequent exhibits are on the War on Terror, and the justification for invading Iraq.

9/11 Gallery

9/11 Gallery

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The exhibits on No Child Left Behind, PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief), Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 financial crisis, medicare reform, social security, and immigration all describe the problem, the crisis, the plan or proposals, and the results. They can be summed up by “win some, lose some”.  Have to admit, he sure had his share of crises to deal with.

check out the second name from the top on the left.  Ops

check out the second name from the top on the left. Oops

Overall the galleries and exhibits are really well-organized and eye-catching.   The Bushes did their best to insert the theme of “faith and traditional family values” throughout the Library; not just by talking about it (ad nauseam) but also by making an effort to keep the non-crisis related exhibits comfortable and even homey.  There is a nice film narrated by daughters Jenna and Barbara talking about how funny their parents are (with clips and stories) and how important humor was to surviving life in the spotlight. They devote space to the family pets, sports, and time spent at Camp David.  This is the library where the mock-up of the Oval Office is totally open to the public (making the Clintons rethink their exhibit).  You are encouraged to walk around the entire room and can even have your picture taken while sitting at the resolute desk.

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We liked the Library but both felt it was unfortunate that they didn’t present any crisis or event as controversial, as the Truman Library did so tastefully.  It would have made the exhibits much less political and more thought-provoking.

With four hours to go before game time we sped over to the Sixth Floor Museum where we grabbed a quick Subway sandwich and got in line for the 2 o’clock group admission.  The museum is the on the 6th floor of the book depository where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the rifle shots that killed President Kennedy.  The self-guided tour, in the extremely crowded museum, starts with a few exhibits on Kennedy’s life and ascent to the presidency. Since we had recently been to his Library we skipped this part and went right to the gallery on his fateful trip to Dallas.  The section of the floor where Oswald hid in waiting for the motorcade is sectioned off in glass and has been recreated to look as it did when investigators first found his rifle and shell casings.  Although the trees in Dealey Plaza are much taller than they were in 1963, you can still clearly see his vantage point and line of sight. Very unsettling.

View from window adjacent to Oswald's

View from window adjacent to Oswald’s.  Trees were not obstructing in 1963

The museum’s exhibits include historic films, artifacts, and photos that present the events of that day, the investigation, Ruby’s assassination of Oswald, Kennedy’s funeral, the conspiracy theories, and JFK’s legacy.  All of it was fascinating, but it was just being on the site of this national tragedy that truly dominated our thoughts.

Once out of the museum we walked around the plaza, grassy knoll, and down Elm Street. We accidentally stumbled upon the site where Abraham Zapruder unexpectedly filmed the assassination.  It was his amateur home video that all of us viewed, frame by frame, in Life Magazine, 1963.

He was standing on this concrete pedistal while filming the parade

He was standing on this concrete pedestal while filming the parade

We finally arrived at the laundromat, filled a few machines, folded our almost dry clothes, and made it back to the hotel by the second inning.  Just in time to watch the Cubs win a slug fest Game 3.

We left Dallas this morning for College Station, Texas to visit the George H.W. Bush Museum located on the campus of Texas A&M University.  So far HW gets the prize for most impressive entrance.

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Another impressive look at history, this museum has large creative galleries on the Family (Bush and Pierce), World War II, his diverse career in politics, the Presidency, First Lady Contributions, Invasion of Panama (operation Just Cause), and Desert Storm.  He truly had an amazing career, and their foundations continue to further both their lives of service.  Some interesting facts:

  • A pitcher for the Yale baseball team, George kept his mitt in the Oval Office desk drawer.
  • A fighter pilot in WWII, he had to be rescued at sea twice.  The second time he was the only survivor.  He flew 58 combat missions.
Grumman TBM Avenger

Grumman TBM Avenger

  • He flew three planes in WWII, The Barbara, The Barbara II, and The Barbara III.
  • Their second child, Robin, died of leukemia at age 3.
  • He was a congressman from Texas, US ambassador to the UN, Chairman of the RNC, Envoy to China, Director of the CIA, Vice President, and President.
  • He co-founded Zapata Corp, an offshore oil drilling company.
  • We can thank George for these:
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The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990

The gallery on Desert Storm was especially interesting with actual video footage of important tank battles from the initial ground invasion, the use of smart bombs, and interviews with serviceman.  The Eco-Terrorism inflicted by Sadam’s army during the war was also on display. Remember the Iraqi’s igniting over 600 oil wells during their retreat, and dumping almost one million gallons of oil into the gulf (so that they could set it on fire in the event of a coalition invasion by sea)? It took over 12 months to put out all the fires.

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We managed to check into the Aloft in time to watch several innings of the series clincher (YEAHHHHHH), get hair cuts, and down a couple tacos for dinner.

Tomorrow we are off to Austin (one Library to go).

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