My brother-in-law, who lived in a Houston suburb for many years, often lamented that every time he went to a neighborhood gathering, everyone was either a physician or a petroleum engineer. While he has great respect for doctors and engineers, he felt that conversation was limited to talk about school, health care and oil and gas.

He and my sister-in-law are empty nesters and have moved to a high-rise residence in downtown Houston. The community lacks petroleum engineers and doctors with families. With neighbors who are musicians, affluent millennials and professional athletes, he has other problems — like the smell of marijuana when he enters the elevator and parties that last until 3 a.m. on a Monday night. 

But, on a positive note, he no longer suffers from repetitive, static conversations.

We may have our problems in East Dallas — like pothole-ridden roads — but partaking in a boring tête-à-tête is not one of them. 

East Dallas is an estuary, a social ecosystem where tradition meets funky. We have created our own brand of uniqueness. We traverse between modern and time-honored, grand and granola, posh and modest, gentrification and conservation, and Botox and tattoos. The best part is we can slide between whatever extremes we choose. We can sit with our laptops at Halcyon in heels and heavy makeup or in sweats and a ponytail. None of it matters. But I am guaranteed to run into someone I know when I’ve not washed my hair in three days.

Though I’d like to draw the line at wearing a baseball hat backward while dining at The Grape on a Saturday evening, that dude is part of the fabric of our East Dallas social ecosystem, too.

I felt the funky vibe when our now- 16-year-old son started kindergarten at Mockingbird Elementary. The head custodian at the time was Mr. Banks, who just happened to be the brother of “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks. For this Chicago transplant and lifelong Cubs fan, I felt like Mr. Banks was my brother and that we had an immediate connection. Looking back, I’m not sure he felt the same. How cool was it that at my first school auction, in addition to the dining gift cards and floral arrangements, there were autographed Ernie Banks memorabilia? 

I grew up in a small farming community an hour outside Chicago, where my closest brush to greatness was my friend Jill’s dad, who was not only the owner of Shuler’s Drugstore, he was also the town mayor. Many of the moms stayed home, and most of the dads were employed at the nearby Caterpillar plant. There were also bankers and accountants who commuted into the city.

One of the earliest exchanges my husband John had with one of our first friends here in Dallas was at a kinder soccer practice. It went something like this:

John: “Hey, so what do you?”

Dave: “I’m a comedian.”

John: “No, seriously, what do you do?”

Dave: “I’m a comedian.”

John: “Like, for work? Do you do anything else?”

Dave: “I’m a comedian.”

Awkward and uncomfortable, for sure. Slow and static? Absolutely not.

This East Dallas employment diversity was new and exciting to me — and it still is.

A fellow mom opened Fireside Pies on Henderson. Another did voiceovers for commercials, and another started the emergency room social work department at Presbyterian Hospital. Another worked for the Department of Homeland Security.

The dads come in a variety pack as well. There was the guy who hosted “Good Morning Texas” and another who became a captain in the Navy Reserves. It turned out that Dave the comedian actually owns and performs in Four Day Weekend, the longest-running improv comedy troupe in the Southwest.

Our East Dallas estuary welcomed John, an IT guy, and me, a former IT girl, into the fold. The friendships we’ve made, including engineers and physicians, create conversations at neighborhood soccer games and dinner parties that are the opposite of slow and static. I’d characterize them as quite lively.

It’s nothing like living in the suburbs. 

Mita Havlick (Photo by Danny Fulgencio).Mita Havlick is a neighborhood activist. Find her commentary regularly in the back pages of our print edition and online at

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