City Tavern

Jay T. Wampler

Jay T. Wampler grabs a few drinks down at City Tavern across for Third Rail Lofts where he lives, a couple blocks down from the Bank of America Plaza tower, with a T-shirt tucked into blue jeans. He wants to be comfortable and enjoy himself after a long day at Bank of America Plaza where he is the managing director of Bank of America’s Global Corporate and Investment Banking Special Assets Group for the Americas.

Though he’s been drinking, he keeps perfect posture and clear words as he talks of his love for his job. He’s never wanted another job.

“I love the ability to take companies that are in financial distress and mend them back to health. When you do that you create a customer for life,” Jay says slowly, pausing after each word in the second sentence to prove the importance of each word. The only thing that bothers him are all the financial regulations on banks right.

“It’s out of control,” Jay says. “I deal with it day by day and do what I got to do.”

Jay has been working in restructuring since 1988. He started out in the largest Bank of America group working with multinational companies; but about a year and a half into his career, he was asked if he wanted to go to the work out group.

“I was 24, 25 years old and jumped at the opportunity to have my own portfolio,” Jays says as he looks over to the green lights pausing for moment. “If I had gone the other direction, I would have been a bagman for a senior vice president basically just doing his grunt work for him.”

At Bank of America, Jay has had great opportunities for travel. He loves to take his wife, a retired stay-at-home mom, whenever he goes.

“I tag along two or three extra days and take her with me and we have the most incredible time,” Jay says with a smile. Her favorite place is probably Key West, Napa Valley or New York City. He doesn’t know his.

Unlike many north Texas residents who live in the burbs but work in Corporate America, Jay loves the last two years he has spent living downtown. He loves that everything is within walking distance from his loft that he shares with his wife and doesn’t have to drive anywhere.

Jay and his wife moved downtown when his two boys left the house. His older son is working for an executive recruiting firm and his younger son is a senior at OSU completing his bachelor’s in business administration before moving on into an MBA like his father.

Jay likes to treat people the way he wants to be treated. He’s a trusting man and treats his subordinates like he treats his sons, he’s there to guide them and lead them but holds them accountable for their actions. He’s a loyal boss and friend, who always has the backs of his coworkers and makes sure not to micromanage.

“I let them do their thing and I trust them and they know I trust them,” Jay says. “I have a great relationship with everyone at my job.”

Advertisements

Dry Heeves

Dry Heeves, a Lubbock band that labels themselves “dirt surf rock” plays at City Tavern in downtown Dallas. Dry Heeves got a promotion group in Los Angeles to send their CDs across the country to college radio stations. Ryan Ulm, the bassist, hopes that something picks up soon.

Dry Heeves were lucky to play at City Tavern about three months ago after Arpi visited with his parents and networked with one of the bartenders. The performance was spectacular and they were invited back on their way to Mardi Gras to play. Mardi Gras will be the furthest they’ve had to travel for a show.

“I’d say getting out of Lubbock is the hardest thing we struggle with as a band,” Ryan slurs. “It’s a bubble in the middle of nowhere where it’s five hours to any of the nearest big cities”

Arpi Grann from Arlington plays guitar. He’s the only one band member that’s not an original and has been with the band for nearly three years. The other band members are from Post, Texas and met Arpi after moving the band to nearby Lubbock.

It’s hard for struggling bands to travel and go on the road to play big shows. The biggest show they’ve have played is Choppa Fest in Lubbock. It is not actually a festival but a tribute for a friend of the band who passed away. Local artists got together and had a benefit concert where nearly 400 people attended.

“It was more of a community thing,” Arpi said as Ryan nods his head more in reverence than from the alcohol swimming in his stomach to calm his nerves.

Arpi work at Texas Tech painting and doing simple maintenance but Ryan does not have a job right now. Ryan tried music classes at Tech but it never really took. Singer and guitarist Dylan Davis and drummer Anthony Merrell also have jobs to play the bills- but the band sustains itself for the road and promotion.

Arpi and Ryan hope they can start playing more shows. It’s the most fun they could ever have and want to be able to travel, partying with people from all over the world, while they do it. Getting people to go out and have fun with them is a struggle worth fighting for a band that had a blast choosing their name by putting together gross words on a white board. When they’re not performing, Dry Heeves find pleasure by going hard and practicing.

“I guess our communicating with other people and between ourselves and get on the same page is the hardest thing we’ve had to overcome,” Arpi says as the two walk away to begin their show.

The band has been called an angry Beach Boys and have been together almost six years.

Jenny

Niko Red Star was driving one day and saw an accordion player on the side of the street.

“She had her case out and she had a little forlorn look in here eye,” Niko Red Star says. “I was like you know what? I’ll see if she’ll play with my band.”

Niko Red Star starts packing away his double-bass as he looks over at her.

“Jenny’s been a musician around the area for quite a while. That’s Jenny’s buddy-friend Kent,” he says as he points to the young man standing next to her. “They come together as a package deal and he plays guitar.”

Niko Red Star walks out of City Tavern to finish packing the instruments. Kent stands behind Jenny, texting as she leans against a post, still swinging with half-closed eyes.

“We’re more or less a package deal on a personal level, I mean we’re dating,” she says.

Jenny and Kent freelance for The Southland Swing Band and tonight is his first show with them. She has played the accordion for a few gigs. Kent, a jazz student at UNT, performs in rock groups and fusion groups.

“He is incredibly talented and has his own groups and performs a lot around the area,” she says.

Jenny started taking accordion lessons when she was seven. Eventually she started taking piano and voice. Jenny, from Fort Worth, started playing on streets, stages and festival stages since she was 11 or 12.

“I got a business degree in college. I didn’t study music,” she says. “I’ve just been taking lessons and performing all my life so. This is what I do.”

She’ll teach private lessons every so often, but is primarily a performer.

“I’m a songwriter,” she says. “There are a lot of different ways I get out there and do my thing, you know?”

Jenny has been on many tours and in countless instances where she did not have a place to stay the night. People at the venue will offer her to stay with them. The coolest place she has stayed was with a friend in the Los Angeles area.

“We stayed at his place one time on tour and he has this incredibly interesting house and a yacht and took us out on the water, it was really neat,” she says. “The whole band was just having a great time and he took us to some neat places in town it was a great, bizarre experience, like we’re sitting on a yacht tonight, okay!”

There have been other times when she hasn’t felt welcome at various gigs. One time, someone even shorted her money.

“That was maybe one of the worst things just because I typically have I do just have a lot of faith in people and humanity and venues,” she says.

It doesn’t happen often, but one time it did and it really hurt her personally, as an artist and someone working with the venue. There wasn’t anything she could do except brush it off and say “okay that happened but I’m not going to let it get me down next gig.”

“And maybe you just choose not to play there again,” she says. “That’s really the way it goes.”

The Southland Swing Band, Dallas, Swing Dance, Swing Music, Dallas Jazz, City Tavern

Niko Red Star

When he’s not acting in, producing or writing horror films, Niko Red Star is the bass player and band manager for the gypsy jazz, swing and Dixieland playing band The Southland Swing Band. Tonight, instead of packing away costumes and camera equipment, he packs up instruments after an incredible performance-ending rendition of “It don’t Mean a Thing” by Duke Ellington.

“Duke Ellington has a special little place in my heart,” he says. “I love his compositions. You can swing the crap right out of them. It starts getting people shaking their booty’s, getting drunk and it’s a lot of fun.”

Niko Red Star has been playing upright bass for nearly ten years, since around the time he arrived in Dallas.

“I’m from a wee little country town smack dab in the middle of California,” Niko says, pressing his thumb and forefinger together to emphasize the size after finishing casing the bass. “I guess fate and destiny brought me out here.”

The trained musician is multi-talented, receiving a scholarship at SMU where he completed a degree in classical music. Now, he has had The Southland Swing Band together for around two years. Niko Red Star and his band swing their way around Dallas as much as they can with a small band and large band. Tonight, Niko brought out his small group.

“At times we actually have a full horn section with three horns, a saxophone, trombone and clarinet,” Niko says.

Their audience is generally very receptive. It’s good music and makes people happy. People want to dance to it and so do they, though tonight the small crowd seems preoccupied and few people are dancing.

“We get a lot of swing dancing because this is all time drinking music,” Niko Red Star says.

Marketing, Chief Marketing Officer, Dallas, Downtown Dallas, Rancher, Entrepreneur, City Tavern

Nathan Bellah

A man with shaggy hair, a beard and nice clothes sits alone at a table in City Tavern drinking his first cocktail of the night listening to the live music, The Southland Swing Band. But mostly, he’s listening to the conversations around him, wondering who he’ll meet tonight.

Nathan Bellah lives across the street in Third Rail Lofts. He’s an experienced downtown resident and previously lived in the Davis Building and the Mosaic. Buildings within walking distance of the bar.

A while back, he bought a house in East Dallas for a little while and just sold it. “It was just a hell of a deal man, so I just had to buy,” Nathan says.

Overnight, the housing market in East Dallas boomed, and he knew it was time to sell. The day after he put it on the market, it sold. “I was like, oh shit,” he said. “I don’t have anywhere to go. So I was like, I guess I’ll move back downtown.”

He’s lived downtown for about six months and considers City Tavern his Cheers. He’s met people from all over the country and the world, people in the city for a while on vacation and business trips and people on a two-hour layover who just needed a drink, people who work as janitors and starving artists to elite businessmen and popular musicians. To Nathan, City Tavern is the best place he can meet interesting people and that’s what he’s here to do.

Two young men, barely old enough to drink, walk away from the bar, each holding a beer they look too eager to drink. The band wraps up a song, and Nathan hears the two men mention digital marketing, so he takes the opportunity to strike.

Nathan is a jack of all trades, a human Swiss Army knife. Nathan has two companies. One company is a ranch here in Texas that raises and trains rodeo bulls.

After the initial icebreakers, they start to talk about themselves. The boys mention that they’re from the area and have had hard times finding jobs. They’re full of the dreams of inexperienced entrepreneurs.

“I grew up in Lubbock and I’ve tried to fight those roots for a very long time,” Nathan says. “But after a while, you realize that living in Texas you have to give in to working in either oil or agriculture.” It stemmed from there. We’re blessed. He and his friend, two young guys just like them, were doing well. “I asked my buddy, what do we do with some of this extra money we have. He said to me, ‘You know what? Let’s buy a bull.’”

They all laugh.

“You know, you’re dealing with the salt of the earth,” Nathan said. “The people, in the business have been very helpful, even though you’re competing against them.”

Nathan says that in the business, everybody knows everybody and it’s like a family.

“My buddy and I stick out like sore thumbs,” he says. “You know, he’s covered in tattoos and I wear like New Balances and have some tats too and when we show up, everyone is like ‘oh shit here they come,’ just excited for us to be there. It’s cool.”

Nathan considers himself an entrepreneur from the start. “I guess I’ve always had it in me,” he says. “Just like I’m sure you do too.”

The conversation shifts and the boys talk about themselves some more. They had an idea for a company they wanted to start when they were in school. They weren’t doing too well in their classes, and uninterested in continuing their education, jumped at some advice to pursue their dreams. The dreams failed, and they started to look for other jobs with little success.

Nathan says that like them, he sucked at college, but finished. He grew up in Lubbock and decided to go to Texas Tech for a year, but ended up transferring to the University of North Texas. After bouncing around a few majors, the Entrepreneur decided to double major in rhetorical studies and Spanish, instead of something like business administration.

“I ended up really liking the communications department and the next thing you know I am back in Spanish which I hadn’t taken since junior high, why not get a degree in it?”

Nathan says the coolest thing that probably ever happened was in his first three jobs out of college working for the man, he got laid off. Each one, laid off. One after another. He ended up going to work for The Bear Stearns Companies, Inc. Nathan finally landed a job where he wasn’t laid off, but quit instead.

“I met a man who is now 63 working in digital technology with a resume you wouldn’t believe,” he says. “He has been my mentor to this day.”

The man had a small private company in 2005 and asked Nathan to jump on board randomly, so he left Bear Stearns.

“I left this job at corporate America at a company with roots so thick you wouldn’t think anyone could tear the tree down,” Nathan says.

It was the biggest gamble of his life and they still work together to this day. They have made good money together and helped a lot of companies out. It was a good role of the dice.

“I mean this guy headed up the YTK project for the US postal service so his level of knowledge in digital is extensive plus he’s a tinkerer, he’s a genius, let’s say that, he’s a genius,” Nathan says. “He’s got some strategies that he developed that are on the cutting edge of digital marketing. God, that’s so boring to even say, but yeah, we’re going to use him for some things.”

They all have another sip of their drinks and look at the stage as the band begins to play an old Duke Ellington dance hit, “It Don’t Mean A Thing.”

“I always say dance with the person that brought you and he’s just been a good person,” Nathan says, emphasized by a slight Texas drawl.

Nathan jumped ship at the right time since Bear Stearns shut down in the 2008 financial crisis and was sold to JPMorgan Chase.

“I kind of wish I would have been laid off. I would have had a severance package,” he tells the boys. One almost spits out their beer as they snort with laughter.

“You don’t have to be worried about what’s happening now,” Nathan says. You need to be worried about what’s going to happen.”

“How do we do that?” one asks Nathan as the other looks panicky.

“You go and learn, you know, you always learn,” Nathan says. Not the answer they were expecting. “You try to better yourself.”

“We don’t have any money,” they say to Nathan.

“If you can’t gamble on yourself, who can you gamble on? If you can’t gamble on what you love, what can you gamble on?” Nathan says.

Nathan goes on to discuss his most recent gamble, a job as the Chief Marketing Officer for a company he’s launching with his best friend soon. Menguin will be an “online tuxedo rental solution” for all the men in major metro areas that hate to go out to Men’s Warehouse or Joseph A. Bank.  Now you can now go online, build your tuxedo, rent it right there.

“We actually have a technology that will measure within an eighth of an inch using your computer camera,” Nathan said. “We’re pretty excited about it.”

The boys show some enthusiasm, ask a few questions about the tech but their eyes sparkled with the hope of a job, from their new mentor. One, shaking, looks at the other who nods. His voice wavers as he asks Nathan for a job.

“That just tells me right there you don’t believe enough in yourself to even go and get higher education, like step outside, change the game, change the game, that’s it,” he says to the bewildered faces. “That’s all I could ever ask. I always say this, impress me. Impress me.”

The boys can tell the conversation is over when Nathan spots a documentary producer he met the week before and walks away.

Drunk Talk

A line forms for the restrooms in the back of City Tavern in downtown Dallas on a Friday night. A friendly discussion between strangers forms after a young man asks Emilia for her number, but she declines.  He walks away and the game between man and woman begins.

The Players

AJ is still in school at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and just turned 21. He’s here visiting his sister’s boyfriend Neal, who is 24 and more like a brother to him. Neal lives in Texas. The two came to City Tavern to watch the Impractical Jokers and are arguing that women should give their numbers out to strangers.

Coco is a short and pretty African American woman who is friends with Emilia. She said she works in finance. She’s been drinking, but seems relatively sober, arguing that women don’t have to give their numbers.

Zach is tall, with short black hair, styled. He’s 34-years-old Caucasian and has been in a committed relationship for the past three years.  He didn’t say what his profession is. His face is slightly flushed from the drinks, but he looks relaxed. He’s arguing that women should give out their numbers more.

Emilia, 24, is a student at Collin College and wants to study marine biochemistry and Spanish.  She’s a pretty girl from Comanche, Texas and moved to the big city when she was 11, but wants to travel. She loves Texas, but feels like she belongs on the beach somewhere warm and sunny. She loves the Gulf, but wants to move to prettier oceans. She’s a pretty optimistic and positive person and loves a good joke. She said she works for a catering company and loves it, but is getting frustrated with how the “higher end crowd” she serves treats her.

“That feeling of when people automatically think they’re better than you. It’s like, dude we’re all kind of people,” she said.” I’m happy to serve you, I’ll bring you your drinks all night and food but you don’t have to treat me like crap.”

The Game

“You are very pretty, can I have your number?” the man asked. She declines and he walks away.

AJ, standing in line with Neal, tells Emilia she’s hot and enters the restroom.

“He told me I was hot, that was nice,” Emilia said. “I just got off work, usually when I get off work I have my hair all back like this.”

A few more words are spoken, and as AJ exits the restroom, Neal lets Zach cut ahead of him in line to help his friend finish his conversation.

“I’ve worked in the service industry for a long time and I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with giving my number out,” she said, directing her words at AJ. “Like stalkers, you meet a person once and they seem all cool up front right? Well people can hide who they really are for a really long time or a not so long time.”

“And women can’t do that?” Zach said, as he walked out of the restroom where he overheard the conversation, wiping his wet hands on his pants before pointing his index finger at Emilia. “Let me tell you something. Nowadays a phone number, that’s old school, it’s not Facebook stalking. It’s not looking at their Twitter, it’s basically being a genuine guy, being chivalrous saying ‘Hey, you know what? I’d like the opportunity to get to know you, and this is the only opportunity I have by asking for your phone number to set a date’.”

“If you don’t want to set a date with a phone number then maybe set a date by saying ‘Hey, I’ll meet you for a coffee at a certain time’,” AJ said, using the proverbial “you.”

“Life doesn’t work out and then we all die, but we all have to find some happiness on the way,” Zach said.

“It’s a lot more difficult to block yo’ ass on a cell phone,” Emilia said as Zach started to walk away.

Neal, up next for the restroom decided to rejoin the conversation, “I’ll go along with that other guy,” Neal said, stopping Zach in his tracks to turn around and listen. “I literally walked up to a girl, my soon to be fiancé and literally went the opposite route and was like listen, there’s a lot of guys here but I think you’re really pretty and if you want to go ahead and grab a meal sometime, I think you’re really nice and I think we’d get along.”

“That’s so sweat Neal,” Zach said with a smile and relaxed shoulders, trying to cut off Emilia who had something to say.

“Neal, you don’t give me creeper vibe,” she said loudly but sweetly, finally getting a word in edge-wise. “But the 34-year-old, maybe.”

“How do you know I haven’t been in a committed relationship for a number of years?” Zach said, his face no longer getting the color from the alcohol in his system. “I have a girlfriend for 3 years, but you’re judging me.”

“No I didn’t, I stereotyped you,” Emilia said, raising her voice while avoiding his gaze. She tried further to defend herself, as Zach tried to break back into the conversation.

“You know what, you shouldn’t give your number out, you know why?” he said, not waiting for a response. “Because you’ll never have a chance at success.”

He turned to walk away again.

“Whatever, guess what?” She asked, “I can take all the phone numbers I want.”

“But you’re not going to do anything about it,” Zach said.

“I’m not a scaredy cat kind of girl,” Emilia said looking to her friend Coco, who had just walked up to visit the restroom and check on her friend, for validation.

Coco, seeing that her friend is okay, walks into the restroom. “That’s right,” she smirked, pausing her participation as she continues to listen from inside.

AJ and Neal exchange words with each other. Neal gives a look Zach that says no more than “good luck.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” they said to Emilia as they walk away to finish their drinks.

“If a girl doesn’t give you her number after you’ve been chivalrous and given her your time, then walk away and let her fall on her own face,” Zach said, also leaving the conversation.

“Bullshit, the woman cannot,” Emilia said. “Not every freaking man shows chivalrous signs at the bar.”

“Usually they’re drunk,” Coco said, returning from the restroom.

“Sure, I’ll give you a fake number every day,” Coco said, grabbing her friends forearm “It’s not to be offensive, honestly. It’s just that sometimes you give off the wrong vibe and some guys are fucking pricks so you have to give them the wrong number.”