Sunday, May 30, 2010


The New Cowboys Stadium and its Foundation

This week my travels were both scheduled and unscheduled. Some of the unscheduled part included an opportunity to visit the new home of the Dallas Cowboys.

I found the stadium to be symbolic of modern professional football itself, big, brash, and brutal; a stark vehicle of pure merchandising. This building left Roadboy almost completely at a loss for words.

Cowboy Stadium

Before entering the structure we were regaled with all the usual facts and figures. It is bigger than huge. The steel in it could build many golden gate bridges. The conduit used in it could loop the world over and over and still reach the moon. Heck, it could seat the entire population of most cities in the US at a single time.

Perfect Sight Lines From Anywhere
Private Boxes and Lounges Everywhere

Yep This is "Their" Locker Room

After all the hoopla of the place, I found myself having to admit that while it is one of the most technically perfect built structures in the world, the new stadium is totally vacuous. It, like much of modern architecture itself, is simply devoid of soul.

The Huge Jumbo Tron
Most Spectators Watch it - Not the Actual Game
(Click it to see the Board in Action)

So, I found myself feeling sort of empty. I had just walked through a building that represents an enormous achievement, yet I kept thinking "but why was so much effort put into this?".

Then as I left, off to one side of the entry, it all became clear. There was a humble statue of Coach Tom Landry. It had been relocated from the old (now imploded) Texas Stadium (we used to call the "Half Asstrodome"!) to the new stadium.

The statue reminded me that it is not the current owner's power and money that built the Cowboys, no it was Coach Landry and the amazing string of players he nurtured that form the true foundation of this new stadium.

Landry was from the "Best Generation". A boy from Mission Texas who played high school football, then went on to UT only to have his studies interrupted by World War 2.

During the war he flew 30 B-17 bomber missions over Europe. He survived the crash of one of the flights in Belgium.

He then returned to Texas and completed his degree in Industrial Engineering.

He, himself, went on to play professional football becoming an All-Pro cornerback in New York. Eventually, he found his true calling not in playing football, but in coaching it. He became head coach of the Cowboys and under his tenure the Cowboys won 2 Superbowls and enjoyed 20 consecutive winning seasons. A feat that remains unmatched today.

Coach Landry always innovated. He changed it all up, then stood at the sidelines in his trademark fedora to watch.

He was fired almost immediately after the arrival of the present team owner.

Landry was man enough to cry when he had to tell his team his career with the Cowboys was over.

Coach Tom Landry

So before you enter the new stadium, to witness a building where every single item down to the cupholder is about money, licensed and paid for, please take a moment to look at the sculpture of Coach Landry.

He represents what the game was, and should be, instead of what it has become.

Roadboy's Travels © 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dancing Upon The Clouds

Uncle Vernon's Wish

When I was a kid, it was understood that flying was expensive and pretty much reserved for movie stars and family emergencies. Dad was a police officer and his salary dictated that our summer vacations would be spent traveling in a station wagon or camping by a lake somewhere.

I took my first flight when I was five. It was with my next door neighbors; The Hackshaw's. They asked me to accompany them on a flight from the Bay Area to San Diego for a relative's 105th birthday. Mom made sure I was dressed in my best trousers with a sweater from Monkey Wards. No way was she going to let her kid look like riff-raff. We boarded a PSA Super Electra jet (why do I still remember that fact so clearly 50 years later?). The flight, thankfully, was pillow smooth. I remember how satisfying it was to gaze down on an ocean of mashed potato clouds! 

This week I flew twice. One trip was from Phoenix to rain soaked Nashville. That trip involved weaving our little jet between one amazing cloud formation after another.

Plying Our Way to Nashville

As I looked out at the valleys and canyons formed by a series of magnificent Cumulus Castellanus clouds, I remembered the last request of my Uncle Vernon. Vernon was the uncle that normally did not feel the need to say all that much. Smiles came easy to him. And when my chain smoking, diesel fixing, uncle neared death, he instructed aunt Zora to make sure he was buried without shoes - so he could "dance upon the clouds in his bare feet".

As I looked at those amazing clouds it occurred to me how we mostly miss the essential joy of flying; simply looking out the window. Nowadays when I fly, I see most passengers reading their books and kindles, watching movies on tiny little I-pod screens, sleeping, and/or playing sudoku. Almost no one gazes out of the window. Pilots seem bored too; rarely pointing out amazing sights below us like the Grand Canyon or the Meteor Crater anymore.

Northern Arizona's Meteor Crater
(Look at Approximately 9:00 O'Clock on the Photo)

Yet, while today's air travel experience is different: the seats are small, and seat mates seemingly all proudly display their latest tattoo's whilst wearing their very best "wifebeater" tank top, the view outside of the plane from a window seat is just as good as ever.

The puffy clouds are still there and the crazy quilt of America's agricultural heartland still extends from the front range of the Rockies all the way to the Atlantic.

Drifting in and out of those amazing clouds this week I was a kid again.

I also was pretty sure that somewhere out there Uncle Vernon was having the time of his life.

Roadboy's Travels © 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Summer's Arrival

Anticipating Another Season in the Sun

After our arrival in Phoenix some fifteen years ago, I remember having friends and relatives from Seattle to California ask "how on earth are you going to survive those beastly Arizona summers?"

The truth of the matter is we didn't really know. But after surviving many years in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska with 9-10 months of titanium gray skies or annual perma-winters, we knew we'd just adapt.

It did take a few years, but now as the first thermals of summer hit and I walk up a jetway at Sky Harbor, I'll hear visitors ask each other "how do these people stand this?". As they are asking their rhetorical question, the lizard in me is feeling the same heat and saying "Yes!"

Sadly, the lovely shoulder seasons that transition Arizona from our beautiful winters to our blistering summers, and back, are far too short.

Moon Over Sedona's Redrocks

But, the shoulder is precisely where we are now. This means the sage is blooming, native trees are ablaze in yellow, prickly pears are flowering, and the tops of the saguaro's are popping. Mornings are still lovely, evenings are a joy, but the hours in between are starting to heat up.

The streets are more spacious as a whole bunch of ASU's 65,000 students have started their journey's home, and our beloved "Snowbirds" have long since returned to northern climes to start seasonal mowing of their big green lawns.

The escapee's miss more than the heat. They miss our calm, slow, HOT, summers. They miss disgusting dust storms, loud buzzing insects, near radioactive parking lots, and the other wordly magic of our dazzling summer monsoons.

So, wherever you call home, please join me in my rapturous anticipation of the first ears of peaches and cream corn, fireworks on the fourth, the whirr of ice cream churning, lots of perfect margarita's, and maybe a harvest moon!

All the best from Roadboy!

Raodboy's Travels © 2010