1. Fair days were the best.
Those glorious days when your homeroom teacher would take out that stack of rubber banded State Fair of Texas tickets and hand them out to your class. It was a day off from school where you and your friends could eat all the gourmet fried things (fried Coca-Cola, fried butter, fried childhood) then feel like you might barf them up after a spin on the “Ring of Fire.” All under Big Tex’s watchful gaze.
Of course I’m talking about the Big Tex pre “Flaming Tex” disaster of 2012. (FACT: Big Tex burned on the day before my wedding, after my wedding party and I spent a night at the fair. I was honored to be one of the last to hear the big guy drawl “Howdyyyyyy Fooooolks!”)
And you couldn’t leave the fair without eating a Fletcher’s Corny Dog or a turn with your crush or BFF on the Texas Star Ferris Wheel. You might have spent much of the ‘90s being “too cool” for pretty much everything, but the State Fair of Texas was a chance to act like a kid again.
2. You shopped at CD World.
My best friend and I went to CD World EVERY DAY one summer. She had a crush on the grungy-cool band guy who managed the Addison location, and I had a dire need to spend all my hard-earned Cantina Laredo Mexican restaurant money on used Deathray Davies, Old 97’s, and Funland CDs.
Whether it was the darker, cooler Greenville Ave. location, or the brighter, but still awesome Addison location, CD World was the place to refine your music tastes. I liked to think of the staff as less judgmental, and more providing a music education service. Plus nothing made my teenage heart swell with pride like finding a limited release CD of that obscure alt-country or Britpop band for $8.99 and being told, “Nice find,” by the local music “celeb” at the register.
3. You saw your favorite local bands at the Barley House on Henderson.
Before moving to its current location off of Central Exp., the old Barley House on Henderson was the first bar I ever loved. But it was more than just a bar to me and so many other young people figuring out adulthood in ‘90s Dallas. (I fully admit that saying “young people” puts me in “Old Fart” territory.)
I first went there to see the local bands I idolized, up close and within sweating distance, on that tiny stage at the front of the bar. I kept going back because it was a place where musicians hung out with musicians, and I could in turn get to know, and hang out with them too (with the help of my much braver best friend).
I spent my early years hoping someone would buy me a drink, or that the bartender wouldn’t scrutinize my “ID” too hard. I spent my later years coming in through the back door, throwing my coat and purse in the air-conditioner closet, playing pool, knocking back beers, and throwing my money into what might still be the best rock ‘n’ roll jukebox in Dallas.
The old Barley House may not have been part of everyone’s 90’s Dallas experience, but for local music devotees, it was a home away from home.
4. You remember when Valley View Mall wasn’t the site of the impending zombie apocalypse.
Generally speaking, Dallas is really good at malls. The Galleria, Northpark, Mockingbird Station, among others — if there is one thing besides Tex-Mex and big hair that Dallas knows, it’s shopping.
But what happened to Valley View Mall? In the’ 90s, Valley View may not have had the high-end stores and ice-skating rink to rival the glittering Galleria, but it was a darn good place find a prom dress, hang in the food court, and see a movie. “Want to meet at Valley View?” was a normal question, and the response wouldn’t be the “Oh God Why?” that such a question might illicit now.
While the movie theater is cheap and there’s a…Sears, there’s not much left in the way of “food, fun, and fashion” at Valley View. Between the empty parking lots and the desolate halls, Valley View has become the place most likely to be pursued by a pack of the undead.
5. You still remember when Deep Ellum was “Dangerous.”
Maybe you saw a band play at Trees. Maybe you got a milkshake at Insomnia. Maybe you got into a show at the Gypsy Tea Room (RIP).
The ‘90s was a time when Deep Ellum was transitioning from a dark and dirty place to a safer, more brightly lit, mainstream “arts district.” In the ’90s, Deep Ellum was where seeing a show at Trees, Gypsy Tea Room, or Lizard Lounge made you feel a little cooler, a little more “tough.” Having sharpie Xs on your hands from getting into a club or venue underage was a point of pride come Monday morning — even more so if you wiped them off before the ink dried, or even BETTER if you got a regular hand stamp.
You remember driving through the (now demolished) graffitied tunnel that spat you out into the smoke and neon of Elm, Main, and Commerce Streets. Knowing where to park for cheap or free was another point of pride for Deep Ellum regulars.
And while 9’0s kids may have only gotten a taste of the dangerous Deep Ellum of years gone by, heading down there for a night of revelry (while you told your parents you were going to a movie) was a rite of passage.
6. You know what Tex-Mex is.
Someone says “queso”, and you know they don’t just mean “cheese.”