A letter from Dallas: JFK, MLK, and chicken fried steak

The Examiner went to Texas for the Niners-Cowboys matchup

DALLAS — John F. Kennedy casts an outsize shadow over Dallas, site of his assassination on Nov. 22, 1963. It’s a point of pain and shame for a proud city that still struggles with the awful history that transpired on one of its main thoroughfares.

The Texas School Book Depository, from where Lee Harvey Oswald took the fatal shot, has long been a shrine to our 35th president. Right there on Elm Street. Museum and all.

Visiting the spot where Kennedy died, marked by a painted “X” on the roadway, ahead of the weekend’s big matchup between the Niners and Cowboys totally put football in its proper perspective. And doing so on Martin Luther King weekend was particularly poignant, given the good Reverend met the same awful fate five years later, in Memphis.

The Texas School Book Depository, from where Lee Harvey Oswald took the fatal shot on President Kennedy, is now a museum in Dallas. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

The Texas School Book Depository, from where Lee Harvey Oswald took the fatal shot on President Kennedy, is now a museum in Dallas. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

These two giants of 20th century American history didn’t always see eye-to-eye on things. King was a crusader for civil rights long before Kennedy embraced the idea publicly. From most perspectives, they were wary allies, both looking out for their own constituencies while trying to move society forward.

In a biography of Kennedy posted by The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford, the complexities of the relationship are laid out clearly. Kennedy’s narrow victory over Nixon in the 1960 presidential election was a crucial development in King’s crusade for civil rights. But Kennedy was slow to pick up the cause, for clearly political reasons. He came around to support it, introducing a wide-ranging civil rights bill to Congress that focused on desegregation, just months before he met his untimely end.

Before doing so, Kennedy said, “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.”

He died a few short months later.

A memorial to President John F. Kennedy in downtown Dallas. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

A memorial to President John F. Kennedy in downtown Dallas. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

As King put it in a published eulogy, the president’s death “says to all of us that this virus of hate that has seeped into the (veins) of our nation, if unchecked, will lead inevitably to our moral and spiritual doom.”

Amen. …

Just a few blocks away from where Kennedy was shot, I ran across a pro-life demonstration, making its way down Ross Ave. It was organized to commemorate the upcoming anniversary of the Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade ruling. (It’ll be 49 years on Jan. 22.)

I waded into the crowd and met Randy LeGrand, a 61-year-old pro-lifer from the Dallas area.

Pro-life marchers in downtown Dallas, protesting the upcoming 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

Pro-life marchers in downtown Dallas, protesting the upcoming 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

“We’re out here demonstrating for an end of abortion, in support of all the mothers and the babies,” said LeGrand. “We’re hoping that the Supreme Court, this summer, will turn it back over to the states.”

“The state of Texas, as you already may know, already has a ‘heartbeat bill’ that already went into effect in September. That prohibits abortions in Texas four weeks after conception. Basically, once the baby’s heartbeat can be detected.”

As The Examiner reported in September, if the pro-life dream comes to pass, California could play a larger role in providing abortions to out-of-state women.

“We’re hoping the Supreme Court will overturn Roe V. Wade and give the decision back to the states,” said LeGrand. “Texas already has a law that will trigger when that happens that will outlaw abortions, I think in all cases unless the life of the mother is in danger. …”

I explained that people feel quite differently in San Francisco, and asked him what he would say to Bay Area liberals, if given the chance.

“What would I tell them?” asked LeGrand. “I would tell them that every life is made in the image and likeness of God, from the moment of conception. We all need to do a better job of supporting mothers.”

What would you tell Mr. LeGrand, San Francisco? …

Randy LeGrand, of greater Dallas, marches against the Roe v. Wade ruling with fellow pro-life advocates in Dallas. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

Randy LeGrand, of greater Dallas, marches against the Roe v. Wade ruling with fellow pro-life advocates in Dallas. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

No trip to Dallas would be complete without a visit to Deep Ellum, the city’s funky entertainment district that quickly brings to mind the Grateful Dead’s classic interpretation of the blues standard. (AKA, Deep Elem Blues.) And just like Jerry taught us, I put my money in my shoe and proceeded along down Main Street.

That’s where I ran into the AllGood Cafe, deciding to see if its name rang true. I ordered the chicken fried steak and eggs, trying not to stick out as an interloper. Then I remembered I was wearing an N95 mask.

The chicken fried steak and eggs at the AllGood Cafe in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

The chicken fried steak and eggs at the AllGood Cafe in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

My server brought the plate out and I wondered how many chickens had to die to create this heart-clogging masterpiece. He explained that it’s actually beef tenderloin, breaded and fried, with homemade cream gravy. (I knew that, but couldn’t resist the joke.) And don’t forget the two fried eggs and potatoes on the side.

“It’s the go-to. The No. 1 seller,” said Dante Martinez, 40, who was also my aforementioned waiter. “I wouldn’t know how much we sell, but it’s a lot.”

The dish goes for $16.99 and it’s worth every clogged artery. …

The Deep Ellum neighborhood, in Dallas, has long been a cultural center for music and food. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

The Deep Ellum neighborhood, in Dallas, has long been a cultural center for music and food. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

For what it’s worth, masks are a rumor at many of the public places I visited in Arlington and Dallas. Just like San Francisco!

Places like AllGood Cafe have struggled. They were shut down all last week due to COVID. That has a little or lot to do with lax attitudes in Dallas.

As one person told me, “It’s like you wouldn’t know people are dying, until someone you know dies. I went to Chicago and they made me show my vaccine card to get in places! I couldn’t believe it.”

Believe it, Dallas. It’s not a hoax. …

Down the street, I ran into an absolutely massive line of people waiting to get into Pecan Lodge, one of Deep Ellum’s premier barbecue spots. Sure enough, there was a flash of red in the crowd and I zeroed in on some visiting Niner fans.

Diners line up in front of the Pecan Lodge, known for its BBQ, in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

Diners line up in front of the Pecan Lodge, known for its BBQ, in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

Daniel Cox, 33, was in from South Carolina. His family had been from the Bay Area and the Niners stuck as his team. Asked if he was taking any grief from Cowboy fans, including the duo glaring at us from about three feet away, Cox shook his head. “No way. This city’s been great.”

Then I hit ‘im with the hammer. Win or lose. Do you want Jimmy G to stay?

“No. Never,” said Cox. “You paid too much for Trey.”

Down the way, Ed Huerta, 48, and Abram Chandler, 43, had both made the trek from San Jose and were flying the red and gold colors proudly.

“I like it here,” said Huerta. “The people here are hospitable. And the food’s great.”

Chandler quipped: “I’m here for the B-B-Q and the double-u!”

Nice work fellas. When it came to Garoppolo, the friends were split. …

There was a lot of chatter on local radio about whether Niner fans would show up in big numbers for Sunday’s game at AT&T Stadium, just like they did for the last game of the year against the Rams. But this isn’t Los Angeles. The fans are rabid. Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones went as far as asking Cowboys fans not to sell their tickets to the invading horde.

From what I could see, The Faithful found its way despite the omicron obstacles, or anything else.

The Zuri Restaurant & Lounge in Arlington was packed with Niners fans all weekend, bumping to a steady stream from the DJ. There wasn’t a mask in sight, but the folks didn’t seem to care.

“I had omicron over New Years,” said one young Niners fan from Sacramento. “We went on a party bus and we all got it.”

Generally speaking, rooting on the Niners seems to trump any COVID fears, from what I can see behind two masks and a pair of goggles. …

Niners fans party at the Zuri Lounge in Arlington, Texas, leading up to the wild card matcup between the Niners and Cowboys Sunday. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

Niners fans party at the Zuri Lounge in Arlington, Texas, leading up to the wild card matcup between the Niners and Cowboys Sunday. (Al Saracevic/The Examiner)

How big a rivalry is San Francisco vs. Dallas? It’s taller than “Too Tall” Jones and wider than Bubba Paris. It even stretches to Silicon Valley. Local radio station KTCK “The Ticket” ran a bit Saturday, asking co-hosts to guess what innovation was invented in which city. Juke box? San Francisco. Mai Tai? Also San Francisco.

How about the microchip? That seems like a no-brainer. The answer is Dallas. Look up Texas Instruments, kids.

asaracevic@sfexaminer.com

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