More people came in. Stephanie was short, with a Roman nose, dark skin, and short, thick hair. She wore a suede suit and a camel-hair coat. Her tall husband had big ear lobes that folded sharply outwards, sincere blue eyes, and brief hair flipped up in front, making him look like Fred Gwynn from The Munsters. He was in a tawny tweedish jacket and a bright multicolored tie on a white shirt, very business-like. Stephanie's dignified, gray-haired mother sported a tasteful gray sweater and held her brown coat folded over her forearms. Her thin father had on a blue button-down oxford shirt open at the collar draped in a dark blue blazer. They were joined by a woman who had cellophaned red hair, waxy skin, and a wide-eyed forcefulness that made her seem to be leaning into me.
When I mentioned that Hopper's paintings were associated with isolation, they all agreed with a chorus of "yeah," "absolutely," and "it's amazing." Then when I asked about Dallas's isolation, Stephanie didn't hesitate, "Yes, people are isolated here."
"I don't really think so," her husband dissented. "To me, Dallas doesn't have that cold, urban feel that pervades so many of those paintings. I'm from Minneapolis. My father moved here 30 years ago, and I moved in with him. It's very easy to move to Dallas and be connected to the rest of Dallas because there's so many people coming from somewhere else. Most of the people you'll meet are not native Dallasites. Dallas had such a boom in the '70s and '80s where companies were relocating here. I'm in banking. Dallas is a banking town," he noted drolly. "It has become so. There's a Federal Reserve here. Right across the street. It's a mint; they print there as well." [That's a use for etching that Hopper would have been humored to consider.]
"There are enough people from out of town," he pontificated, "that it tends to be the kind of town where you introduce yourself. It's not really a typical southern town except in that respect: the warmth and outgoingness is definitely there. Texas isn't really the south; it's very much its own state. It was its own country at one point. It came into the fold just before the Confederacy. Then it joined the Confederacy because of proximity--as well as other issues. But it's really always been its own state. Texans will invariably tell you that Texas is the only state in the union that has the right to secede. It's not true, but they feel that just the same. They want to be able to do so."
"I work for a senior agency," Stephanie finally burst in, "and the older tend to be isolated, definitely. I don't see Dallas as special in that way. The elderly rely on public transportation, and Dallas is not a great town for that."
When I asked the cellophaned drama queen ("DQ," I thought of her as), who was a native Dallasite, she yipped, "OK," pronouncing it "Kyay. You don't care that I don't know anything about Hopper? Do I think people in Dallas are isolated?" She paused. "Yes." She paused again. "Isolated from what? Jeez, you know, it's something I've never thought about. In a Hopper way? He's very Midwestern. So that kind of fits isolation there. A lighthouse is always terribly isolated."
"But," Stephanie's mom countered, "it doesn't speak to me because it doesn't look like anything that's a part of my life."
DQ clarified, "I was thinking of individuals. You can be in a big city with a lot going on around you (even though Dallas isn't New York) and feel very isolated. Big cities breed a lot of lonely people because you get lost."
"OK," Steph's mom nodded, "I would agree with that. I don't think Dallas is that way, but yeah. I would think that Hopper was going for that."
"But Dallas isolated that way?" DQ mused, "I think socially, no; politically, well..."
"It used to be," Stephanie's dad intoned. "I've lived here for 40 years. And I am a Texan. I don't think it is any more."
"I think it is," his wife jumped in. "Politically. Geographically. When I was a child, people didn't travel that much." She chuckled. "I was twenty-one before I left Texas. Texans like to set themselves apart from the rest of the country."
"There is that," Stephanie smirked.
"Yes," her dad agreed, "there's definitely that."