By Jeff Wood

“Move to the city … get mugged and murdered” was the seed that was planted in most suburban kids’ minds in the North Dallas suburb of Plano where I grew up.

After living in the Near Southside neighborhood of Fort Worth for the past 12 years and based on personal experience, that statement should be changed to “Move to the city … make a ton of cool friends, ride bikes, drink beers, and do cool stuff!” As you can probably assume by now, I have yet to be murdered.

The early days on our little block of South Main Street were fun and full of new experiences. Noisy garbage trucks would pass by our bedroom window at all hours of the night. Police sirens would wail in the distance and the steady sound of trains would pound and thump with a steady roar. There’s never darkness in the city. Even with the shades drawn, the light seems to peek and protrude through every crack and crevice of our more than 100-year-old window frames.

In 2010, our neighborhood was just starting to revitalize. Only a handful of residents were around. There were a few of us in the Sawyer and a few over in the Miller Lofts across the street. The only other inhabitants were several blocks away, and several of the buildings around us were abandoned.

The Fourth of July was always magical. We would make our way up to the roof with coolers full of beer and giant bags of fireworks. Shooting bottle rockets from rooftop to rooftop at your neighbors, in the middle of the city, is a wonderful experience. Watching multiple city fireworks displays from one vantage point while beer cans and roman candles whiz past your face is exhilarating!

We owned the streets. We owned the block. There wasn’t a thing anybody could do about the utter chaos unfolding on a rooftop, in the heart of the city, overlooking a bleak, abandoned, run-down part of town. Cops would drive by, shine flashlights at us and eventually go about their business.

At this time, there was only one bar/club in this part of the city: Mystique Night Club. The hip-hop club was right across the street from me. I have plenty of sordid stories about the club, and all the chaos that would erupt around 2 a.m. every night the bar shut down. Maybe we did, and maybe we didn’t play a game we invented called “Marshmallow Basketball” where we would buy bags of marshmallows and sit on the roof throwing them at cars driving down below. One point if you hit the car, two for making it in the bed of a truck, or into a convertible and the holy grail … three points if you made it into an open sunroof! First one to get 21 points wins. Wins what? Bragging rights and a fresh beer!

Maybe we did and maybe we didn’t play this game on the same night a shootout happened on the street below between club patrons and police resulting in a rookie officer at 3 a.m. marking shell casings on the street with little crime scene cones try to figure out why the road was littered with hundreds of smushed marshmallows.

Today, Mystique is just a memory for me, and an unknown experience for everyone else. The abandoned buildings we once “found our way into” to explore and take photos are now filled with bars and businesses. The roads have been re-paved and the streets are lined with little trees that will someday grow to shade robots and cyborgs that roam these streets after we’re all dead and gone.

There’s no place to park, property values and taxes have skyrocketed and the drinks are overpriced. The summer sun rises and heats up our apartment to the point that our air conditioner can’t keep up. The trash piles up around the dumpster. The sound of drunken college girls talking way too loud outside and the revving of crappy little imports with aftermarket exhaust burping and rapp-app-apping at every stop sign echo over the TV volume. 

The walls shake from the band playing on the stage up the street. A homeless guy still takes a shower using the hose out back while charging his phone with the outdoor outlet. The stray cats that once slept in the middle of the road now have their own Instagram accounts (@mayorofsouthside) and get fed by local businesses and neighbors. We hate it SO much that we decided to stay and purchased a lot in 2018 just up the road to build our new home.

Things have changed. I have changed. The city has changed, but one thing hasn’t changed … I’m not murdered. Yet!

If you live in the suburbs and are thinking about a move to the city… please do not. We’re all full up.

“Get off my (concrete) lawn.”

Jeff Wood lives and works in the Near Southside’s South Main Village (SOMA) neighborhood of Fort Worth. His children are cats, and he is still married to his first wife, Jen, of 28 years. He has been raising heck in the Near Southside since 2010. As of January of this year, he has been named to the Board of Directors for the Economic Empowerment nonprofit organization, Near Southside Inc. He is the creative director of Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. 

South Main Village

Total population: 2,928
Female: 50% | Male: 50%

0-9: 11%
10-19: 12%
20-29: 24%
30-39: 21%
40-49: 9%
50-59: 14%
60-69: 5%
70-79: 3%
80 and older: 1%

No degree: 25%
High school: 24%
Some college: 25%
Bachelor’s degree: 16%
Post-graduate: 9%

White: 32% | Asian: 2% | Hispanic: 41% | Black: 23% | Two or more: 2%

Click on the link to view the schools’ Texas Education Agency ratings:

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