A major part of the urban landscape is the world of non-reality. In this world, nightclubs flourish, pretty people strut and money is flashed as a means of power and influence. The price of admission is your willingness to put up with bouncers and doormen who make you stand in a line for no reason, other than to let you know that once you get in, you must be someone. Take any new nightclub as examples. A trip there could be touted as a trip to Oz – where impressions are everything and reality is fleeting.

Impressionable people gawk at the happenings and tell sordid tales of the “night before” over brunch the following day. Fact is, those stories only appeal to other impressionable people. Many stories are circulating about new bars and clubs and they sound amazing and empowering. So I set out to test my theory that all of this is an illusion – like a Criss Angel or David Blair stunt. A few year ago, on my inaugural trip to the celebrated Ghost Bar, atop Dallas’ W hotel, I entered oddly excited and looking forward to a new era in Dallas – the era of modern urbanism run amok.

The infamous clear balconies suspended 33 stories above Dallas terra awaited us. Not so fast. The doorman/bouncer (what is the right name for guys and gals that hold lists – gatekeepers?) stopped us and said we’d have to walk outside to gain admittance as the interior entrance was only for residents or guests of the hotel. So, in 100-degree heat, we dragged ourselves outside to find an iron gate matrix that made Disney World lines look like a walk in the park. It was early in the evening and there was no line, so we tried to gain access nearer to the front entrance. Another gatekeeper would not hear of it and sent us on an excursion through the matrix before we met a third gatekeeper who had an imposing clipboard. He raised one eyebrow and scrutinized a list. Lists populate the landscape of Oz.

There was more security than heads of state receive for official business. After standing in the blazing heat for several minutes, we were finally admitted to the elevator, which would ascend and take us up to meet the Wizard. Black suited people everywhere greeted elevators and led people around, like cattle. The minimalism of Helmut Lang look-alikes felt like oppressive forces from an Orwellian novel. I shuddered at the sterile and lifeless energy. Or was I shuddering at the 60s looking plastic covered furniture and the $14.00 drink I ordered? Something about the place just didn’t work, despite the well-heeled attractive clientele (one which wasn’t particularly local – more like the Dallas equivalent of a New York City “bridge and tunnel” crowd). We couldn’t depart quickly enough. Twenty minutes from entry into the Ghostbar, we were leaving – probably a record of some sort, and one of which I am proud.

My gal pal and I decided to head out for some refreshment from the heat. We found our way to the Quadrangle neighborhood and sat comfortably at the Dream Café. We ordered iced strawberry hibiscus green tea and honey. Refills were free, and six dollars later, we stretched out on wooden benches in a quiet restaurant and reveled in the moment. Who knew an iced tea experience could feel so wonderful?

I’ll admit the clear-bottomed balcony suspended in air was cool. The bird’s-eye views of the city were amazing as well. After that, I found little amusing or inspiring about the whole experience. Most importantly, though we never met the Wizard, I know he’s back there, in some large metropolitan area at this very moment, plotting the next venue to “awe and shock” the populace. And though he wants to take us away from the mundane and make us believe that illusions are worth the price of admission, I won’t buy it. I learned from my journey to Oz that illusions leave me cold and disenfranchised. On that night, and in the future, I will gladly trade a Ghost for a Dream.