Category Archives: Springdale

Personal – The Move

At the end of the week, I’m moving to Fayetteville to an older apartment off of Gregg. I chose it because someone I trust lives in the same small complex. I had to wait because the last tenant detonated a White Trash Bomb inside. So, I get new, albeit warped floors (no carpet), and a new metal door. You know bad things went down if the door has to be replaced. I get a new fridge, too. I suspect the previous tenant’s fridge went to the Hoarder’s Hall of Fame in Biscoe.

I have a renter’s insurance policy. If someone breaks in, they will regret it. Not because I’m going to hurt them, but because I will make them grammatically diagram sentences until they repent from their life of crime. Anyone who breaks into an apartment where I’ll live hasn’t analyzed the cost/benefit of choosing WHERE to commit a crime. Which reinforces my assertion that if a robber breaks in, I do not doubt that he will LEAVE something for me as a gift rather than take something.

Note: I have a priceless Thomas Kinkade collection of reprints worth about $4 if the apartment burns down.

There are “X”s and a “10” on the door if someone has any doubt who lives there. It’s a bit embarrassing that they think I’m a 10. I assume that’s what they meant.

It’s not too far from work. I can walk fast and be there in 22 minutes. I can walk normally and be there in 30. (If I skateboard there, it’ll take 57 minutes, with 45 minutes of those waiting on the ambulance to pick me up.) I’d rather not live alone, although everyone tells me that I need to, just once. Each time, I feel like I’m being prepped for a timeshare pitch. Or maybe membership into a cult. 🙂 I’m not certain why people espouse the joy of single living. I’m a great roommate, and generally speaking, I would always opt to be around people. There are so few people who live alone who seem to be joyous. Content? Yes. Clint Black, the dubiously eloquent country music star, put it best: “…so we tell ourselves that what we found is what we meant to find…”

One of my superpowers is that it’s almost impossible to bore me. I assumed everyone was this way until I was much older.

The apartment has two bedrooms. Once I get an exhaust fan installed, I am going to perfect my recipe for Blue Sky. (Sorry, “Breaking Bad” fans.) Let’s be honest here, though. Most of you who know me probably wonder what in the heck I’ll be doing without adult supervision. I am practicing both my yodeling AND maniacal laughing. I may learn to play the bagpipes, too, just in case the yodeling and maniacal laughing doesn’t convince everyone that I’m strange. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to discern a novice bagpipe player from an accomplished one. I can make the same music by squeezing an opera singer much too hard.

I am going to miss Springdale. Not East Springdale, per se, even though it’s been good to me despite the awkward access and relative lack of restaurants. I’ve walked and learned so much about it during the pandemic. It is a bit strange to have intimately become familiar with so much of it only to move a town away. I hadn’t planned on moving away from this area, but that’s how life is.

I would list the amenities for my next place. There’s one problem, though. There aren’t any. Door, walls, floor, ceiling. The minimum. (And that’s more than enough, to start!) The Razorback Greenway is close, allegedly 5 minutes to walk to the nearest crosspoint. I love the trail system. But I also discovered that I love urban walking more than the trails. The train tracks run parallel on the opposite side of Gregg. It’s a good thing that I have a universe inside my head. It might be the only thing keeping me on the right side of sanity and happiness. I don’t need much. Most of us don’t, even though we drown ourselves in things and distractions. I’ve already walked dozens of miles around the area in the last few weeks. Subway is 10 minutes away if I walk, as is a great coffee place. The bonus is that there there are two pubs/breweries very close, too, in case I decide I need to follow the family tradition of drinking myself into oblivion. (The family motto: I don’t drink to remember, I drink to forget that I don’t remember.)

“Most of us cook with two pans – yet have dozens. It explains why there’s a lot wrong with how we live.” – X

The next part of my life is going to be utterly alien to me, anchored by necessity. It’s a certainty that I’m going to continue to walk endlessly and find everything interesting for miles in each direction. I laugh when people tell me, “You have to be careful, X. It’s a different place over here.” Be careful? Life has already reminded me that the dangers that cause the most upheaval cannot be avoided, no matter how careful you are.

The most significant current danger to me in this life is failing to remember the lessons I’ve learned. Getting robbed is an inconvenience – but temporary. Dealing with the consequences of my stubborn stupidity – that’s timeless.

Also.

I’m going to struggle with being unanchored for a while, and that’s okay. And if it’s not, well, that’s too bad. I made my bed, and now I’m going to lie in it. On that note, I will not have to make the bed if I don’t want to. I’m not one of those nutty people who insist that a made bed sets the stage for a great day. A peaceful mind does that, not the surroundings into which one arises. I’ve slept with a comforter-only for decades. The only reason I can think of to ‘make’ my bed is in the rare event I suddenly begin to worry about such goofy considerations as “What your bed says about you to other people.”

I am, of course, afraid of the uncertainty, the loneliness, and the ‘new normal’ that I’ll have to adopt. I have to “choose my hard,” so to speak, and pay the price for my choices.

Life moves forward, even if we try to avoid it.

I’ll be looking at my ugly trim in my new apartment, listening to the foreign sounds of other people around me. But I’ll also be laughing internally, wondering what my neighbors think of the “Police Tape – Do Not Disturb” ribbon tapes in an x-pattern across the entryway of my door.

I’d write a bit more, but I need to go listen to feral cats screaming. I’ve been told it’s the best way to appreciate bagpipe music.

Love, X

P.S. Anyone who wants my address can have it. I mean literally. Just kidding. Write a message if you want or need my phone number or address. Unless you thought my “Breaking Bad” joke was true. Or you’re a die-hard Thomas Kinkade fan. I doubt the Venn Diagram of those two types of people ever converges, much in the same way that Mensa doesn’t recruit at NASCAR events.

Five Dollar Finger

This morning, I put the assorted nonsense I use during the day in my pocket. For some reason, I had a $5 bill and put that in my right pocket too. I never do that, especially since I would usually drag it out accidentally and lose it.

After eating lunch/supper, I drove back toward the house. I waited at the light on Emma and Butterfield Coach. It’s challenging to get good visibility on the left, an issue exacerbated by people pretending they’re racing in the Indy 500 as they come around the long curve. An SUV crossed the intersection doing at least 70. I waited, craning my neck to check again. Before you say anything, waiting until the light turns green IS an option. Still, it is just as likely to get you killed – and for two reasons: people have no patience waiting on someone to legally and safely turn, and a red light is often just encouragement to speed through an intersection illegally. I forgot to mention that East Springdale’s residents are less likely to have both a driver’s license and insurance at any given moment. It’s one of the many reasons I advocate that the city uses the actual roads for the annual Demolition Derby.

As it turned out, my light turned green, and I pulled out quickly. (That’s what she said. My apologies. That was a reflex TWSS there.) A couple of seconds later, I looked in my rearview mirror. A cobalt blue Hyundai was coming up behind me exceedingly fast, probably going 75 mph. As they passed, I noted that the car had five younger people in it, two of whom shoved their arms out the window, using their middle fingers to wave hello.

I concluded that I had interfered with their driving progress for zero seconds while they sped and failed to stop at a red light. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that information.

The blue car, of course, caught up with a throng of traffic. A throng, whatever that is. So I followed them up Butterfield to Friendship. I turned left as they did. At this point, their guilty conscience probably convinced them I was angry about getting flipped off. I wasn’t. I was amused. They passed my normal turn into the neighborhood I live. A block further on, they turned into one of the dirt driveways on the side. The other side of the road isn’t part of Springdale city limits – and it shows. The high class you’d normally associate with Springdale diminishes considerably on that side of the road. (I apologize for the snark there, Rodeo fans.)

I stopped across from their driveway. I got out of my absurdly blue car and walked across. The driver’s eyes widened. Yes, it’s true someone could have shot me. I can think of no better way to die than by pranking someone in East Springdale unless it is to be shot by a jealous husband in bed. I handed the guy in the passenger rear seat a $5 bill and said, “Get yourself a 6-pack. And stop driving like pansies.” I laughed.

Someone inside the Hyundai said, “Dude, what the f—?” in a high-pitched voice.

I drove away, smiling like an idiot.

I like to think that this merry band of miscreants will be flipping off MORE people, expecting others to tip them for the honor.

He Who Enjoys It, Owns It

“He who enjoys it, owns it.”

Such was the case today. Mr. Taco Loco was closed, so I managed to score my high-volume dose of pico de gallo elsewhere. Given that the day was perfect, I got my food to go, and I visited one of my favorite places. Because I love y’all, I’ll share it with you. It’s hidden in plain sight, along Huntsville and Shiloh in Springdale. While it is on the property belonging to the Methodist Church I infrequently attend, no one will mind if you visit the pair of picnic tables I’ve grown accustomed to visiting. Just leave the place better than you found it, which is practical advice for so much of our lives.

When I sit under the shade tree, there are times that it feels like I’ve been covered in an opaque and silencing membrane. ‘Languid’ might be an excellent word to approximate the sensation. I’ve also sat under the tree with the wind howling and rain dotting my head. Whether the spot initially made me feel peaceful, I can’t recall – it might be that the sensation came to me later, and I’ve trained my mind to find it soothing.

One reason I love this little spot is that it is perfectly shaded for most of the day. Such was the case today. A squirrel and several birds kept me company as I spread my meal across the picnic table. Because I had an entire case of PopChips I’d bought earlier, I used the tortilla chips included with the TexMex meal to offer the animals. The breeze occasionally threatened to take away pieces of my packaging, but not so violently as to make it challenging to eat in peace. Sitting at the picnic table, you can watch the traffic speed by, even if you spend other seconds tossing the animals morsels, alternated with bites for yourself. Usually, I eat quickly. When I visit this little spot, I find myself slowing my pace. I spent forty-five minutes eating. Once the birds and squirrel finished their respective McMeals, I looked carefully at pictures of one of my friend’s lovesakes. (Lovesakes are keepsakes given in moments of unconditional love and appreciation.)

Before leaving, I spent a few minutes experimenting with my Seek app, vainly attempting to get the app to identify a strange insect that had landed on my salsa. I used a chip to remove it and place it on the table before discarding the salsa. I jokingly named the insect the “Salsapillar.”

As I got in my car and drove away, I felt the languid membrane of this little park slip away from me. The volume of the day, my tasks, and my to-dos once again echoed and billowed in my head.

If you’re in the mood to experience a little slice of Springdale a bit differently, pick up food from one of the eateries scattered nearby and bring it to this little bitty park. Enjoy the shade. And if you have a friend, bring them and discover if you both agree that, although it’s just a piece of land, it has a dusting of calming magic about it.

Too Much Blue

Saturday, I was driving on 412 East, near the airport. Because I hadn’t eaten much, I pulled out a bag of sea salt PopChips, and ravenously and enthusiastically began eating them. (As if there’s any other way to eat these!) I noticed something in my peripheral vision to the right. I turned my head and found myself stopped in traffic alongside one of the toughest-looking Latinos I’ve ever seen, as if Danny Trejo woke me up by sticking a shotgun in my mustache. I probably froze for a second. The Latino turned his head to his right. A second later, the woman in the passenger seat leaned forward and craned her neck to see around her huge boyfriend/husband/kidnapper. And laughed. The Latino driver then laughed and pointed at my car. He then gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up and grinned ear to ear. I laughed, gave him the thumbs-up in return, and kept eating my PopChips. I briefly considered challenging him to a race but opted to leave him with his dignity.

A Personal Update

This is a personal post, so scroll past if you’re not interested in learning new and terrible things about me. I’m always one for transparency, even when it’s complicated. Especially when it’s difficult. I’ve not been silent out of apprehension or shame. I always feel free to tell my own story – because I own it. Being compassionate, I also realize that other people don’t want a rock dropped on their heads simply because their story overlaps with mine. I’ve waited to say anything specific out of deference to the other people involved. It’s my story now, though.

I’m getting divorced. Because people need to assign blame or frame such things in their heads, you can place the responsibility for the divorce directly on me. Of course, there’s more to the story – but it would be wrong for me to evade the finger pointed at me. Adding explanatory caveats would be equivalent to ruining an apology by offering excuses. Those who know me well know the story. When my marriage faltered, I turned my attention to another woman. While I did not consummate the relationship, I fell in love with her. That’s entirely on me. Not that anyone is entitled to know the details. But I’m not so stupid as to think that people don’t know. It’s human nature, and whispers travel faster and more loudly than headlines.

For the lurkers who are tempted to write something snarky, go ahead, but please take a moment to be creative in your attempt. I don’t mind contempt or passive-aggressive tomfoolery so long as it’s both authentic and distinctive. I can get run-of-the-mill snideness from several sources. Chance are your two cents won’t affect me. I’ve already paid the price for my choices; a few words can’t possibly inflame anything medieval lurking in my heart.

In so many ways, I failed and succeeded simultaneously over the last year. I hurt people who shouldn’t have been. I realize that my intentions are meaningless and irrelevant when compared to the consequences of my choices. I’ll try to take the successes and amplify them. Whether I’ll learn anything from my adventures and misadventures is always the critical question.

My wife is keeping the house. Evidently, homes and property should remain in the hands of responsible people. I’m not sure where I will end up. I much prefer having a roommate, but so far, that has been a bust. You wouldn’t know it, but I’m not nearly as crazy in person as you might think. (Admittedly, though, there is a disproportionate likelihood of tomfoolery.) If I move from Springdale, I’ll miss it terribly. I’ve grown to know it very well, especially during the pandemic. Barring something surprising, I will probably get an apartment in Fayetteville that’s too expensive for me, primarily because of work – and probably without a roommate or someone I know. I’d rather not live alone, even if doing so might be beneficial to me somehow. I’ve somehow managed to stay in the same job for 16 years without one of my co-workers murdering me. To be clear, I’m pretty sure there have been discussions, but luckily, no assassin has been hired, at least not that I know of.

As tough as things have been, I’m glad I had counseling. I was lucky. I put the pin back in before I made my life worse, as well as learning how to sleep again. Counseling didn’t fix all of my problems, of course, but it might have saved me.

My story isn’t particularly original and certainly not so during the pandemic.

There’s no need to react or comment if you don’t want to or don’t quite know ‘how’ to do so. This isn’t something you see on social media very frequently. It’s certainly something that happens all the time, though. By posting this, I’m removing the taboo of openly talking about it.

Love, X

Bathroom Stained Glass Window

As many successes as I’ve had in the last year, I’ve also had a few defeats. I’m absolutely not the person to conceal any of that from anyone who knows me. Being proud of my successes in no way conceals or denies the failures. At my age, I’ve peeked behind the curtains of so many lives that I understand better than ever that most of us aren’t following the playbook we imagined. More importantly, the shiny lives that you witness all have a stained glass window in their bathroom. If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, it describes the way that mundane life intersects violently with the things we hold essential in our hearts – and the problems that living present. If you’re human, you’re going to experience the same problems that other humans share, even if we don’t see them. It’s easy to observe the world and people around us and deceive ourselves into not believing that what binds us shares more in common than what separates us.
.

PS: Only in East Springdale can you have a crazy neighbor shooting bb pellets at your house (and arrows) while drinking. At 9 a.m. on a Sunday, which is bonus-level typical East Springdale.

Today Is

Today Is

It was 90+ outside, so it seemed reasonable to take a walk on the hot sidewalks and streets at 3 in the afternoon, especially since I was still dressed in black. Since I’ve been experimenting with various incarnations of chalk, today I carried a stick of very light lime green on this walk. In the event of heat stroke, I could at least scrawl out a last message as I melted on the sidewalk: “I’m a dumbass” would probably cover it. It’s not poetry, but it’s accurate, much in the same way that Luke Bryan is singing, but it wouldn’t necessarily fall into the category of ‘music.’

I went inside to get an unsweetened tea to drink on my way back. I knelt with my back against the sun and wrote “TODAY” on the sidewalk in front of the store. The very light lime green brilliantly contrasted with the shadow created by my profile against the blistering sun. I noted that the pale green seemed to morph into blue against the shadow.

“Hey, what’cha doing?” a voice asked as I stood up. A 20-something man was the source of the voice. He was, of course, smoking. But definitely not smoking hot or smoldering with a hidden intelligence. Walgreens is the Walmart of the pharmacy world.

“Making art,” I said, keeping my face impassive and stoic.

“It looks like you’re writing with chalk to me,” he said.

“Art is the convergence of the mundane with the sublime, dude.” I laughed. I waited for him to retort in reply, as I’m nothing if not courteous.

I walked away as I put my chalk back into my front pocket, possibly in an attempt to entice people to coyishly inquire if I was happy to see them or if I had a stick of chalk in my pocket. Being curious-minded, I did ponder how many adults in Springdale had chalk in their pocket at that exact moment.

Because of the success of the color of chalk, I wrote a poem, one and two words at a time, stretching for over a mile. Above me, the sun did its best to erase my enthusiasm for the task. It amused me to know that it would be challenging to read the poem back in the order I wrote it.

And though the thing I described as art is transitory and fleeting, I suspect I’ll remember the moment. I hope the smoking young man remembers it too, trying to figure out if he had witnessed something ridiculous or sublime. It’s all in the eye of the beholder; art, love, stolen moments in the hot sun.

If you’re reading this, I’m talking to you.

I hope your today had a chalky moment too.

Love, X

For every divine moment that can be experienced…

Along, Into…

Today, I walked more than I have in a few years.

Because it was chilly and the sky was overcast, the atmosphere didn’t feel like May at all. It was glorious. My walk to get there was indeed long, but my feet floated on the grass and pavement as I made my way across town. As I walked, I witnessed several hundred drivers nervously hit their brakes as the increased holiday traffic police presence caught their attention. I passed a massive grove of honeysuckle, whose scent was unique and vibrant; the odd observation is that the same patch also contained more trash than any other single stretch I passed today. I noted that Magnolia Gardens is now Natural State Rock & Republic, a haven for cyclists. (Their website is top-notch, by the way.) The grounds at Magnolia are still beautiful, just like a few of my memories made there. A woman stood on her long, covered porch. As I passed, she offered me a cup of coffee. “Next time,” I told her, and she nodded. I found a picture of a young woman stuck in the criss-cross pattern of a chainlink fence – and couldn’t stop myself from conjecturing what led someone to place it there. (I’ve done the same thing countless times in my life.) I left the picture artfully placed there, hopefully for the next passerby to ponder. I wrote several index cards of messages myself, using a pack of multicolor ones I had forgotten that I had. Some of these I placed on fences, while others I left in cracks on the sidewalk, across tables in open spaces, and a couple in the branches of trees. Some were humorous, some serious. All of them contained hints of me.

On a last-minute whim, I decided to skip a usual walk and instead take a longer one to one of the main cemeteries in Springdale. I visited a couple of graves, including my cousin Jimmy’s. I spent a few moments spouting off one-liners to roast his absence. It’s not something that many people would understand if they overhead me doing so. Jimmy, though? He would howl with appreciation. I imagined his Mom, my Aunt Ardith, rolling her eyes and muttering, “Oh brother!” as I did so. Jimmy’s grave is the closest to the meandering creek on that end, and because of the recent rains, the stream echoed and combined with the birds squawking and announcing their presence.

As I walked along one of the main horizontal streets in the cemetery, I passed a group of men. They were smoking pot and drinking from tallboy cans. I could see them circumspectly look up at me. I’d already decided that my presence might make them nervous. So, I nodded and told them in Spanish to carry on and that no one would disrespect their moment at whomever’s grave they stood. They all nodded, and I left them in peace.

It’s a moment Jimmy would have appreciated. No matter how his life ended up, he was a devout admirer of marijuana when he was younger. For anyone who would mind me saying so, Jimmy wouldn’t. Now that eight years have elapsed since his death, I am sure that all truths, both small and large, bear him no harm. Whether he lies in eternal silence or walks in his idea of heaven, I know that he’d laugh and say, “F’em.”

I left the cemetery, trying to decide whether I should walk further. I walked quite a way in the opposite direction before opting to walk back to downtown. Emma was closed off, and people were setting up tables and chairs along the main street. Vendors were scattered along the same path, extending up to Shiloh Square and Turnbow Park.

I ate at Mr. Taco Loco (because life is too damn short to miss a chance to do so). I spent a few minutes waiting for my food and inadvertently listening to several tables full of people gossipping and saying things louder than they probably intended to. Though I had headphones on, I wasn’t listening to music, though they probably assumed I was tuned out to them. In honor of this, I’d like to give a shout-out to Nathan, who is never returning to the job he hates and is using the excuse of the holiday to miss all next week: his employer thinks he had a death in the family. Rock on, Nathan.

To my surprise, I convinced myself to forego an Uber back to my house. I’m glad I did, although my legs are complaining a bit already about my choice. I tried to focus on walking to the next traffic light and no further. Usually, as I make these small commitments, the walk doesn’t seem as daunting. I feel like there’s a metaphor or analogy for life in this somewhere.

By the time I made it back several hours later, the sun was out, and making my choice of wearing a light jacket a regret. I still carried the shadows from along the creek in my head, though. No one can see them, nor the smell of dozens of honeysuckle plants in my nose. I’m not sure why I know I’ll remember this walk for years to come. In part, it will be the length, yes. The other facet is that each of us is a work in progress, often unaware that we’ve shifted in ways both insignificant and transformational.

Love, X

Sunday Excursion

As tough as life has been, there are still moments of sublime depth. This morning, I got my chance to walk without worrying about turning around and making it back home. I walked so far that Uber had to rescue me. The driver was tickled by my tip, as I gave him one he wasn’t expecting, all in new Thomas Jefferson dollar coins. As I walked, I saw so many interesting things: the sunrise, the geese squawking at me from their artificial strip of wetland on the perimeter of the airport, the whoosh of a plane so close I could feel my insides vibrate, the remnants of last night’s carnival (and a worker sitting in a place in which he thought himself unobserved, smoking a cigarette, his dangling legs swinging comically), hidden murals brightly calling for attention, new apartments and buildings shining against the dim sunlight, businesses I’ve never noticed, upstairs studio apartments that are no longer hidden to me, empty voids where buildings once stood, a weary overnight George’s worker walking home still wearing his rubber poultry boots (something I well remember from my own life when I was much younger), a Marshallese man inexpertly riding a bicycle and attempting to avoid falling on his face as he did so, a variety of people moving through the early hours, each intent on whatever private life they were leading. And – me, among them, as an observer. I didn’t take a lot of pictures because I already knew that whatever alchemy swirled in my head, it was something that wouldn’t translate secondhand. I wanted to walk twice as far as I did, despite my legs beginning to waver. There are some mornings in which time feels like a tide against my back. Even so, reality intruded to tell me that I couldn’t walk forever, though I wanted to.

A Touch of Color In Springdale

I’m in front of the one of the mural projects on Holcomb Street in Springdale, one of many that the Downtown Springdale Alliance is doing.

It’s been fascinating watching the progress; from initial outline to an increasing number of objects and colors.

It’s exactly like I wish most of the world could look.

For anyone who knows me, they know this is true.

As I walk through the urban landscape, I find more and more things to catch my eye.