Category Archives: Springdale

A Fine Morning

 

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The birds floated above me, even as the rain came and went, in five-second bursts, as if controlled by some intermittent unseen switch. It’s easy to imagine that the world is permanently comatose on such mornings. The cool air and light breeze make walking around almost divine, especially given that no day of work lay ahead of me on this day.

It stormed here last night. The winds on the east side of my neighborhood somehow were more atrocious than elsewhere; as I walked in the sparse light, I could see that one neighbor’s air conditioning unit was titled sideways, partially off its pad. Slats of someone’s forgotten IKEA-knockoff were scattered in the road as if tossed there by some angry Christmas-morning father.

There exists no scene more urban than dozens of scattered and windblown trash and recycle bins tossed around randomly. As people sleepily look outside, they are going to mildly curse and weigh the benefits of leaving them scattered or pick them up later, when their enthusiasm for the day might have brightened. Most will choose coffee and procrastination, the stuff by which American dreams are powered. Those lucky or unlucky enough to have teenagers in the house will vainly attempt to shout them into going outside and picking them up at some point in the morning.

 

PS: It was difficult for me to avoid adding a Godzilla or two to this picture.

The Monster Is Always There

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Do you want to read some words which will take you in a different direction?

No matter where I live, invariably there is a neighbor behind me with an apparent need to recreate the jungle and underbrush of some faraway land. It’s never the landscape featured in tourism photos, either. It’s the type of terrain which tends to appear in crime scene photos or as seen in a disturbing documentary about abducted people.

The house where I now live is new, but the subdivision it’s in abuts the rear of Green Acres Road in Springdale, a much older spur of Springdale.  Unlike the tv show with a similar name, this ‘Green Acres’ heyday has long since faded away, leaving the footprint but stealing the foot.

There are days when I peer through the extra bedroom window, where I just know that some fantastical monstrous face is going to return my curious gaze, eyes blazing with danger.

Or so I hope.

So far, though, my expectations of interesting mayhem have clashed with reality.

I have sun catchers in the window facing west. These power the illusion of things unseen coming in and out of focus as I watch. Most days, these prisms cast out intricate webs of color. As with most such things, though, it is precisely through this sort of misdirection that things also take advantage of in order to slink from the shadows.

Optimist that I am, though, I peer out and draw in a breath, especially on those majestic evenings when dusk approaches and the sky is already darkening from impending rain.

Many people may not be aware of this, but dusk cleverly invites such monsters and rain makes them feel welcome. It’s a truth that most of us as human, frail and subject to disconcerting biology, feel in our bones but rarely utter. Such utterances bring the reality into focus. Rain tends to cluster people inside, where human nature boils in a slow cauldron.

There are days in which I identify the monster as the reality, the one so hell-bent on hiding its kaleidoscope of truly deep shadows from me. I know that most of our universe is empty space, even as I reassure myself by leaning in against the horizontal slats of the blinds and looking more closely at the underbrush facing my house. It’s precisely the empty spaces and the dark where we cower with the most silent vigilance.

On such a day when the monster materializes, I think instead of drawing away from the rush, I will lean in for an embrace of the unknown, even if its salutation comes teeth first.

I can only wonder at spilled paint cans which not only surround you but hide in plain sight, waiting for eyes to focus on them.

Jim & His Produce Stand

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Looking for something good? Go see Jim at his produce stand over by Don Tyson Parkway. He’s there most days early and until 6 p.m. His place is near the intersection of Ivey and George Anderson. If you’re coming off Don Tyson, it’s toward the eastern end of Don Tyson Parkway, near Butterfield Coach. There’s a balloon-laden sign where George Anderson Road intersects to catch your eye. East Springdale is truly bereft of many of the benefits of the other side of our town, without a doubt, but I sometimes speculate that the new parkway was built just so that people could get to Jim’s with less delay.

This morning, when I pulled up, Jim was out, busily arranging his array of fruits of vegetables: okra, tomatoes, corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, blackberries, blueberries, potatoes, and several other things. He guarantees the quality of his produce. His stand is deceptively spartan; trust me, you’ll find much more than you expected to when you walk up to see for yourself. It’s a trick older people seem to have mastered.

In case I forget to mention it, he also keeps some of the produce in a refrigerated trailer, as well as stocking it with both seeded and unseeded watermelon. In this day of political unrest, I recommend the seeded variety, both for the better taste and for the excuse to spit frequently.

Most people take a casual glance at me and don’t recognize the vegetable fiend that I am. You’d think 75% of my meals are comprised of pork rinds washed down with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. As I often boast, I look exactly like you’d imagine a bowling pro would look like, or the ‘before’ picture in the back of most magazines. Most of my problem is that I’m a lazy eater. Even though vegetables can’t run from me, they do require effort. (I often eat a can of spicy tomatoes directly from the can for breakfast, a fact which causes more than a few wrinkled brows.)

This morning was a fresh 65 degrees, the dew still on the grass, and the produce stand cloaked in the shade of the trees behind it. More importantly, though, the smell of ‘fresh’ slapped me. I wanted to run over and take a bite out of one of the tomatoes on the far end. (He had green tomatoes, too, which made my mouth water and remember Cotham’s and the other kitchens of good cooks.)

It’s not just the produce that’s good. It’s the moments you can stand and talk to the owner, a 78-year-old man with some interesting stories. He might tell you about that fateful day back in ’94 when a drunk driver slammed into him doing 80 mph; his face still carries the scars of the misery, but his voice and laughter erase any misgivings which might accompany them.

I admit I went a little crazy today with my selections. Jim ignored me and insisted that he help carry my purchases to the car. I left with cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, corn on the cob (he has shucked and unshucked), and peaches. I stopped short of filling the car because it’s just two of us most days at my house, although I tend to eat for three myself, just in case the zombie plague hits us without warning – it never hurts to have a small blubber reserve for those contingencies.

But, if you’re looking for something beyond the store produce, beyond even the busy farmer’s markets in NWA, I recommend a visit to Jim’s. It’s hard for me to pinpoint how pleasing it is to drive up to his stand on an early Saturday morning, anticipating not only the delicious variety of food but also seeing the owner standing there, appreciating the words and the business.

PS: I always tip him, which catches him off-guard. Just tell him to pass it along as a gift to his grandson and he’ll smile as he accepts it.

 
You’ll leave with more than you arrived with, even if by some miracle you don’t buy any produce.

A Totally Untrue But Probable Story

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A quick creative home and garden story to brighten your day…

Last week, my friend Marilyn drove all the way from Oregon to Springdale, Arkansas to attend a h̶o̶t̶b̶e̶d̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶c̶r̶a̶z̶i̶n̶e̶s̶s̶ work reunion for Springdale Hospital. (Oregon is allegedly a ‘state’ of the United States, although this information cannot be confirmed.)

Also, if it is so great there I can’t imagine why she’d leave, even for a vacation. 🙂

On the way back, a snowstorm stopped her cold in Wyoming. Marilyn became so enamored of the frigid temperatures and snow that she’s decided she doesn’t need a house or living room any longer – she’s going to take the idea of an outdoor space to a new level. Naysayers will warn that it’s dangerous to live outdoors or that it’s even more unsafe to reside in an ice-covered intersection. Marilyn didn’t get to her age without considerable risk to life and limb, which explains how she survived working with the crazy folks from the Springdale Hospital.

According to sources, it is possible that she will literally be stuck in Wyoming until August 2017. If you have dinner reservations with her, you should either cancel them or take a snowmobile to meet her there.

As you can see by the signs to both her left and right in this picture, her new space is conveniently located near parking lots, which will satisfy the exacting vehicular requirements of her husband, Larry.

Please wish her well in her new living space.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way…

This is a truish story, names changed to confuse the innocent. Because of Jame’s storytelling yesterday, I decided to share my most recent lore…

A famous author died in Springdale a few days ago. He was well known for his sense of humor and dry wit. At my recommendation, his family went to a funeral home I speak highly of. Although he usually doesn’t do so, the funeral director Scott offered to view potential cemetery plots with the family, even though he hadn’t yet met them and didn’t know the recently deceased. His dedication to customer service is quite legendary.

The family chose to visit Bluff Cemetery in Springdale. The place is known for its beauty and proximity to the creek running through downtown. Scott pulled in behind the new Cadillac the family arrived in. The Springdale Parks worker had already arrived in a white pickup, his camera and clipboard in hand.

After the family exited the car and straightened their respective ties and dresses, Scott accompanied them to the periphery of the cemetery, situated below the overhanging trees. It was certainly a beautiful spot.

To make small talk, Scott nervously asked the family about the deceased. “What did your loved one do for a living?” he asked.

The youngest son answered, “Our dad was a famous writer. You’ve never heard of him?” He seemed surprised. “In fact, all of us are writers.”

“No, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know him or know of him. I read a lot, though.” Scott wasn’t sure what else to say.

The parks employee pointed out the available spots and mentioned that the price was adjusted, based on the reduced size of the plots. “We can dig with much more accuracy than we once could,” he added.

After a moment of silence, the youngest daughter looked along the edge of the cemetery where there were remaining spots available, seemingly measuring their size by her careful steps. She immediately started shaking her head.

“This simply won’t do. Not at all. Dad was too important of a writer to tolerate this kind of mistake.” She seemed agitated.

“How so?” Scott immediately asked.

“The plot’s too thin!” The daughter said, and then laughed loudly.

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PS Writers always get the last laugh.

Connections Made

The following is a post I wrote for the Springdale Hospital Alumni Group. While I never worked there, I’ve known hundreds of people who have. Last year, they got me started doing scans of hundreds of their collected pictures, spanning decades of work and friendship. They invite to the parties as if I’ve been a member the entire time. Most of these parties are held at Dr. Jerry Dorman’s house, with his wife Jackie doing most of the legwork. I’ve been very lucky to get know the Dormans over the last year. It certainly feels like these types of friendships are rarer, given that it’s a struggle to be at a job long enough to develop lasting connections.

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Now that the sound of banjos has subsided and Marilyn has visited us for her annual Tea Party, the slow mist of friendship settles peacefully back upon this town of Springdale. Unlike the hurried, insistent acquaintances we so often form in this new, modern world, today was the day when friends could pull up a chair, share a story, and know that no matter how anticipated the punchline, that there would be friendly ears to appreciate the memories as they mutually looked back upon what they shared.

As an outsider, it was comforting to see old friends bonded by work rejoined in laughter and stories. It’s an increasingly rare thing to experience connections at work, and a rarer wild bird still to find them still breathing years and decades later. I’m truly envious of the stories of Springdale Hospital and have gained much more from this group than I could ever pay back in, even if I were to scan ten thousand pictures for everyone involved.

It’s true that our memory is traitorous to the truth as we age and that the daily frustrations of work and life fade with time, allowing us to better appreciate the timelessness of friendships. I can’t escape the feeling that perhaps many of these folks, however, were able to smile more often, laugh more deeply, and take away a little more from their days at the hospital than the rest of the mortals who weren’t lucky enough to experience the halcyon days of Springdale Hospital.

The Dormans were gracious hosts for opening their beautiful home to everyone, but also for joining along with the crescendo of laughter that ascended to the sky on this impeccable May afternoon. Contrary to popular belief, Dr. Jerry didn’t get out his banjo and sing this year, nor did Marilyn demonstrate to the rest of us the best way to flamenco dance. (Although promises were made.)

For those who attended, you’ll have to assure those who didn’t that they indeed were the topic of much merriment and speculation in their absence. This group left an echo in time today. These echoes are what makes living such a gift.

Hogeye Marathon and Water Balloon Extravaganza

The Hogeye Marathon is today in Springdale. Last year’s male winner ran the 26-mile course in 2 hours and 59 minutes – which is great, considering that I hit him with 4 water balloons along the route. (He can run fast but a car always wins.) I almost got into real trouble until I pointed out that they shouldn’t issue ID numbers for the runners, who conveniently place them on their chests for us to pick them out of the crowd. Since the marathon is passing extremely near my house this year as it runs along Friendship Road, I thought it might be amusing to move the route one block the wrong direction. (My idea to place winner’s tape across the route at each mile marker also failed to earn any accolades.)

One tradition I’m definitely doing again this year is dressing like a runner and going out to do the post-interviews that local TV stations insist on doing. It usually takes them a couple of minutes to realize that I didn’t actually compete in the race – most often about the same time they look at my stomach fighting to stay confined in spandex shorts. One of these days I’m going to make it onto the news, because you can only show the same clichés a few hundred times until they become stale. “A marathon is a race against oneself,” and “Running is a lifestyle” sound great, just like “Ice, Ice Baby” until your ears start bleeding from repetition.

“Running is a mental sport and you’d have to be mental to run a marathon.” This was the motto I submitted to the Hogeye team this year. Instead of using it, I got a cease-and-desist letter, wrapped around a brick, tossed through the living room window. They didn’t even consider the new logo I proposed: a chalk outline of a body on the sidewalk.

The Hogeye Marathon is supposedly a boon for local tourism and since it moved from Fayetteville to Springdale this year, I hope this is true. Most of the folks on the east side of town only see people running when a large animal is chasing them; I’m afraid they’ll wrongly assume that some sort of apocalyptic event is underway if they see a mass of white people running through the streets.

I used to run when I was younger and I appreciate the stamina needed to run 26 miles. Please keep that in mind if the water balloons start flying this morning. The flyer says to ‘stay hydrated,’ and it should have been more specific as to the methodology.

Springdale did well in snagging this event and I hope everyone has as much fun as possible while they are out there demonstrating a strong masochistic tendency.

Runner’s Video

Ramblings About Immigration & The Wall

When I was younger, I tried to get deported -and failed.

I cobbled together shorter versions of stories I never seem to finish. Please accept my apologies for the weird combination of words to describe people and processes. I know that “legal vs. illegal,” or “undocumented” or “alien” have specific meanings and ramifications. My heart is openly liberal about this issue, so please forego assumptions if I use any of the words or their synonyms lazily. Even though I will have passed from this place before it happens, one day the Latinos will surpass the other demographics and became the majority in the United States. They will win by sheer numbers. They’ll write the history books and look back on our insistence on blaming the lowest denominator for the issues in society. As is always the case, those that froth for deportation and border walls are going to look quite different in the lens of history.

I spent many years working in the poultry plants in Northwest Arkansas. When I started, the Latino workforce was already rapidly growing, even 30 years ago. The rapid growth of our local poultry industries owes much of its success and growth to the exploding Latino population. Most people nod their heads in polite agreement with this statement; just how true it is depends on whether you worked the productions lines of a poultry plant in Arkansas. NWA’s construction boom certainly owes much of its success to the immigrant population.

For years, though, we played the ‘wink’ game of pretending that a staggering percentage of our workforce wasn’t undocumented to work in the U.S. This, of course, was fine by me. I could plainly see that these Latinos were much more willing to work and certainly more willing to submit themselves to excruciatingly difficult work to improve their lives. I learned their language and acquired a love for some of their music and most of their food. (Except for that horrible Banda/Norteño style that I couldn’t acquire a taste for!) I never understood the tendency to fear other languages and cultures, whereas being surrounded by such diversity seem to amplify the opportunities of life.

Given the nature of the majority of the work, the most important attribute for anyone was the ability and willingness to submit to relentless work, regardless of country of origin or skin color. It’s an obvious statement to mention that prejudice ran rampant in the poultry plants; many non-Latinos hated their Latino counterparts, and not just because of the language barrier. Most of the towns in NWA were quiet and isolated until the late 70s, when industry and modern highways opened up as arteries to explosive growth. As with most isolated agricultural towns, our towns tended to exhibit the expected prejudices found in such places. Some have urban legends and real anecdotes to demonstrate their previous insistence on small-mindedness; I won’t list them here. Prejudice tends to blossom anywhere there is a need to create excuses for problems or where education fails to keep pace with the preached dominance of the majority group. There were plenty of Latinos who hated Americans, too – and many who hated me, especially when they realized that language wasn’t a barrier for me. As I’ve aged, I’ve come to see that many of them earned that resentment, after needing to come here unwillingly out of economic necessity and forge a new life, many of them working at a level I would never have survived. Even today, decades later, many U.S. citizens still lump all Latinos into one group to disparage them and their contributions.

Aside from the low-key compliance paperwork visits that Immigration would make to the facility, we experienced rare raids, one in which federal agents magically appeared, followed by long buses to transport suspect undocumented workers to a holding facility prior to being deported. For anyone who has never witnessed such a spectacle of fear, I can’t describe it without resorting to hyperbole. As word that Immigration was entering hit the production lines, these lines that NEVER stopped suddenly swung to full stop as knives and work tools were dropped or thrown everywhere, as human beings fled in terror – some of whom were here legally and some who were citizens. Work smocks were left billowing across bird shackles, trampled on the greasy, wet production floors with bird parts, and across the large back fences at the rear of the facility property. People hid in blast freezers at temperatures below zero, inside holding bins, and across railroad cars adjacent to the facility. One man ran from the plant almost all the way to Rogers, for fear his children would be deported, too, although they were citizens.

During one raid, I was stupid, marching across the holding truck docks, watching as workers were zip-tied with their hands behind their backs or pulled from poorly-decided hiding spots. I was asked in Spanish if I spoke English and would only reply, “Abogado.” (Lawyer.) As with any job, some of the agents were exemplary professionals – while others were better suited to bite the heads off chickens. I was detained for a short duration until the agent yanked up my smock and extracted my wallet by way of half-ripping off the pocket of my pants. My crazy name threw him into confusion, which amused me.

“What country are you from?” the agent asked. I sat back down on the dirty, oily floor with the other detainees and ignored him. I hoped he was going to tie me and mark me for the bus to Forth Smith for processing. Instead, he threw my wallet at me and stomped away.

I walked over to a small cluster of agents and told them it was a bad idea to keep people zip-tied inside refrigerated trucks backed up to the dock. They told me to mind my own business and that it wouldn’t be for more than 30 minutes. Since I was playing the role of clever person, I replied, “Is that what I should tell the TV station when they show up to do interviews?” They escorted me out the back shipping door by the office. I walked around and came immediately back inside from another dock access door.

As I passed those being detained, I asked anyone I could talk to if they needed me to write a phone number down with a name and call it for them. If the agents told me I couldn’t do that, I ignored them. I knew that the agents were not supposed to interfere in any way with people talking to those being detained, provided distance was maintained. If an agent didn’t speak Spanish, I would offer to translate for them.

I walked up to another agent and held out my hands in front of me. “I’m ready to go,” I told him in Spanish. I was ready to get on the bus and be sent to Fort Smith. I knew it would be a great story: “American Citizen Deported” the headline would have read. As the agent started to turn me and put on the zip-tie, another agent who heard me mouth off in English told him I was yanking his chain. I got a general warning about interfering with the duties of a federal agent. I went to check on the upstairs supply storage mezzanine, and as I walked around, I casually noted who was hiding ineffectively. As I could, I whispered that I could see them.

During the next raid, I left my wallet in my locker to better play the role of someone concealing his identity. I still couldn’t manage to be held for questioning.

Mostly, I was in a haze of surprise. It was an angry, disillusioned moment. While some of those detained for processing and/or deportation were without legal permission to be in the country, the reality is that none of them would have been there without the economic necessity driving both them and employers all across the United States to find ways to hire them. In my mind, the employers were the bigger problem and I knew no matter how big any unlikely fine they might pay, nothing could eclipse the sum of the human suffering I was involved in. When you factor in that the particular employer I was working for then was the biggest private company in the entire world, the problem became a little more ridiculous.

As the millennium came to an end, the government offered a voluntary program called E-Verify, but few employers wanted to actively participate. Meaningful fines or actions against employers were as rare as prancing unicorns.

I always resented the attack on individuals, ‘legal residents’ or not. I’m quite sure had the Immigrationsagents arrested everyone in the management hierarchy, changes would have been much more immediate and lasting. It’s easier to detain, harass, and deport those doing the menial jobs for the benefit of national and international corporations. The lesson that needed to be taught, if any were needed, should have been one of accountability on the part of those knowingly taking advantage of a massive workforce.
During another raid, I was stunned when a man I knew very well took off running as the agents swarmed in. His paperwork was impeccable and had he not run, he would have been passed over. But he ran and agents caught him inside the huge industrial cook ovens on the west side of the plant. By the time I caught up to Francisco, he was zip-tied and in tears. I too became upset, knowing that the careful accumulated life he had made in Springdale was lost forever. He had walked across the border with nothing, having spent everything to get here. He walked everywhere until he could get a bicycle. He worked with the ferocity and dedication of two men. And he was a warm, compassionate person who often gave his money to people for rent, food, and clothing. He worked all overtime offered and literally didn’t know how to say “no” to anyone asking for help. Despite being told to never return to the United States, he decided to return less than a year later. He came back to work through a temporary agency, with a new name and new set of documents. I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the system we had. When he returned, he didn’t ‘take’ anyone’s job – we had more positions than we could keep filled. This same story was told by the millions across the United States.

One of the great stories of these Immigration raids on the poultry plant is that one of the workers brought his bags to work on the day of the raid. He was ready to go back to Mexico and decided that the trip might as well be sponsored by the United States government. I didn’t witness it but it’s one of those stories that is still told. He proudly boarded the detainee bus to Ft. Smith, because even he knew he could come back anytime he wanted and get another job at the same plant whenever he wanted.

The days following those raids were filled with stories of children without parents, fear at being caught or fear of losing one’s family members. With time, however, people returned, eager to earn money for a living, even with the shadow of an unlikely deportation looming over them. The need to work usually trumped the fear of getting caught or deported. So, the cycle would continue, from Washington D.C. to the plants and industries all over the country.

In my job, I later interviewed hundreds of applicants, and looked at what seemed like an infinite number of IDs. We were supposed to just note if the IDs appeared to be legitimate, an extremely low standard if you think about it. I quickly learned that no one would second guess me if I said it looked legitimate. Applicants could have handed me a picture of Donald Duck and I would have almost laughed to myself and accepted it. I got more than one lecture about not looking too closely at documents for compliance – the minimum was the standard and I lowered mine relentlessly. I found it hard to believe that in a country with so much technology that we couldn’t devise a simple way to avoid employing undocumented workers if we really wanted to. From there, it was even easier to realize that no one wanted such a system, as it would cripple entire industries.

When I legally changed my name, I was offered thousands of dollars for my old birth certificate. It was hard to turn down that offer. I turned it down out of fear of being held accountable, which is idiotic looking back on it. All I had to do was leave it on a table and walk away. I almost gave it to the person at no charge, just to be amused to know that even as I killed off my former self, a Latino would rise from the ashes using my old name. The forged document industry still exists, available to anyone with sufficient interest in discovering it. As long as employers aren’t held accountable, no amount of enforcement is going to change anything.

So, here we are, with an administration hell-bent on deporting everyone who is here illegally. We are going to be forced to spend billions of dollars erecting a wall which will be totally ineffective in its goal, and those advocating its construction know this already. The symbolism of doing something, anything, regardless of effectiveness, is paramount to them. A wall will not address the underlying issues of immigration, nor will it improve our society. But it seems fitting that the same people who hate social programs to help the lesser would divert billions of dollars from helping people in need toward erecting a wall without necessity, against a problem that is much more easily fixed.

PS At least 1/3 of all those without credentials came to our country on airplanes, which tend to ignore walls. And 1 in 30 of every person in the United States right now is here without proper credentials.

For anyone unfamiliar with the United States’ history of dealing with Latino immigration, it’s as shadowy and unsavory as you imagine. In the 1930s, we blamed Latinos for the depression, so we deported a few million in the 30s and 40s. During WWII, we suddenly needed a massive workforce, so we looked the other way – until the early 50s when we actually launched an initiative the government titled “Operation Wetback.” Reagan, among others, wanted to grant amnesty to all who were already here, all of which has once again been reduced to blaming immigrants for all manner of societal nonsense.

The reality is that we are going to have to come to terms with the real consequences of our borders without succumbing to emotional or political pressure. We need most of those who came here for employment to continue to live here, no matter how we define their immigration status. We could devise a system of employment verification that could almost eliminate the presence of those not legally able to work here. We could do the same for housing, public assistance, education, and all other areas affected by immigration. But – many of us don’t want such a system, just as the employers relying on immigration can’t survive without the presence of a massive workforce willing to fill positions that would otherwise go understaffed.

The wall is one of the biggest stupidities ever devised, just like the raids I experienced at my employer years ago. It was exactly like the old adage of someone putting their hand in a bucket of water and then removing it. Without a unifying resolve to act, which we don’t have, and a plan that address the economics of immigration as well as the logistics, all efforts will fail. But we’ll spend dollars on things instead of people, symbols instead of human needs and suffering.

In years to come, when the wall is no more, we will look back at the sheer ignorance of Trump and all those who believe a wall is the solution for any problem in our country. Even as we reach for our wallets to pay for their stupidity, we’ll shake our heads in wonder, waiting until the next wave of stupidity will infect our country.

As someone who spent years immersed in the patchwork of our system, I can see a path that could address most of the real issues with immigration. Most of it will never occur, though.

So we’ll continue to point the finger instead of fixing ‘us’ first.

And the ‘wink’ continues…

A Springdale Grocery Review From a Lunatic’s Perspective

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For anyone tempted to try the new “10Box” food store, my review is: “Don’t.”

I’m going to get some flak for this satirical review, so cut me some slack. You’ll have to decide just how much levity and tongue-in-cheek I’m applying to my words.

Springdale recently lost its PriceCutter grocery store, after we collectively realized the place had lost its soul several years ago. Over a year ago, I wrote a story about entering PriceCutter as dusk neared, in search of a pecan pie. In all honesty and without satire, I still remember the strange angst and melancholy that visit bestowed upon me.

10Box took the zombieland of PriceCutter and managed to make something equally weird. Don’t be mistaken, though, Harp’s Foods owns this new incarnation. I think it will do quite well, but for none of the reasons that the management believes to be the case. There are certain aspects of retail grocery which Harp’s excels at, especially when using stores such as the one on Gutensohn Street in Springdale as the comparison. None of the things I love about Harp’s Food Stores seem to be involved with this new business model, however. It is the NASCAR of gourmet foods.

If you have ever wondered what suffering from agoraphobia feels like, combined with the glee of being trampled by crazed shoppers training for pre-Xmas layaway triathlons, this emporium is for you. I went in the early afternoon during a weekday, not expecting to be hurled into the midst of the equivalent of a crumpled map, written in Korean and interpreted by a yodeler. If you want the full experience, I would recommend that you visit on a Saturday, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. It helps if you come when you haven’t slept or grabbed your first cup of coffee yet. If you have a concealed-carry permit, believe me, you will want to leave any weapons at home.

Shopping at 10Box was like waiting my turn at an intersection, except all the other drivers are told to ignore all normal social norms as they careen around the interior of the store. (And they get bonus points for filling their carts via the most erratic shopping routes possible once they are inside the store.)

Before I forget, all the workers wear purple shirts. You’ll never guess which color I had on after work today? Yes, that’s right. I’m accustomed to fielding questions from shoppers at other stores, especially Wal-Mart, but several of the patrons almost hurled themselves at me, begging me for any general information they could gather regarding an alleged 85-lb. roll of turkey sausage. I shared a couple of laughs with people, as they realized I didn’t work there. I still offered to help them find whatever item they were searching for, though. I’m not a total barbarian.

The gimmick with 10Box, other than the fact that you feel like you might actually stumble upon Rick and Michonne from “The Walking Dead” just around any aisle, is that the items in the store are already priced at cost, with a 10% unilateral charge added to all items at the register. This system is pure genius. As you all know, it is surprising how many people can’t do fractions easily. At some point, some people simply start weeping at the idea of math and being hurling every possible selection in their cart – all to avoid the admission that they don’t know if the box of shrimp they’ve collected costs more than the national debt of Peru.

10Box gets points for décor – or lack thereof. As already mentioned, they’ll get the “Walking Dead” crowd, in the literal sense and entertainment sense. When they say they don’t waste money on presentation or optics, they aren’t kidding: you can almost feel the breeze of the flea market as you peruse the aisles.

For the fans of the TV show “The Middle,” 10Box is the model I now have in mind when I picture the Heck family careening through the canned goods and produce at the mythical “Frugal Hoosier” grocery chain, where nothing gets thrown away, except your expectations.

Don’t take my word for all of this, though. I can’t be trusted as a reliable source. Please go visit 10Box yourself. Take all your kids, as many as you can find, and drive over for a visit.

A Few Words About Tom Cotton and Immigration

As you read these words, please remember that I’m a liberal, the kind that Tom Cotton would like to invite to Guantanamo Bay for an unplanned vacation.

Several days ago, I wrote about progressives failing to understand the fight about the Department of Education. Northwest Arkansas residents heard first-hand from Senator Tom Cotton last night that he still strongly desires to break the Dept. of Education. I’m certain that this will happen, absent a huge change in government in the next year.(Although, as one of my friends told Tom Cotton in the Town Hall last night, it’s difficult to trust the State of Arkansas to do the right thing, given we had to have the federal government come in with troops simply to integrate our schools.)

Today, I’d like to offer a few words about immigration, ones which will be music to conservative ears.

Tom Cotton has positioned himself to take over the work of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Tom is staunchly conservative and will continue to carry the torch for conservatism in the senate. He has already sponsored immigration legislation under the Trump administration. I’m certain he will insist on strong immigration action in the next few years. He has connections in the military, congress, the intelligence community, and the new administration. He’s been clear about his views on almost all the immigration arguments. For him, they boil down to security and economy, which are two of the GOP’s most important themes.

Absent a miraculous bolt of lightning from the heavens, those who disagree with the GOP and Senator Cotton have a painful road of incremental losses ahead of them. Cotton wants to reduce legal immigration and to remove all undocumented foreigners, including Dreamers/DACA. He’s got a Harvard education and a head for logistics. He artfully argues away the statistics showing the benefits of a foreign workforce. In his mind, his views are justified and supported by his voters. Senator Cotton does not hold his views on immigration loosely or lightly – they define his worldview. Being reasonable won’t work to change his mind – but then again, neither will shouting at him.

I predict that some of the attempts to implement immigration action will be stymied by cost and the courts. Much of it, however, will pass scrutiny and occur to varying degrees. The courts will step out of the way once the administration sharpens its overly-broad attempts to shape policy.

Given that NWA has a large population of Latinos, I predict that Senator Cotton will use his pull in the administration to orchestrate one of the first waves of ICE sweeps in our corner of the state. It will not only serve his penchant for retribution for the ocean of protest he was handed last night, but it will be a cost-effective publicity-fueled way to kick off the effort.

In short, Senator Tom Cotton will use his considerable intelligence and pull to target the Springdale area first. Having observed him, I see that he knows trying to ease into such an effort will cause a greater resistance effort than simply striking hard and first where much of the resistance has grown.

As satisfying as it was last night to see Senator Cotton be told the harsh realities of those he disagrees with, I can see the coming backlash already forming.

We can’t rely on public sentiment to dissuade such an effort. The truth is that many citizens want absolute control of our borders and of who is allowed to stay here. We have underestimated the sentiment of branding undocumented foreigners as criminals who should suffer the consequences of being here without permission. Most will not join the shouts of protest as people we know are dragged away. It’s a hard thing to say, but I can see it coming.

Tom Cotton is going to be that firebrand who will not be afraid to step into the fight and deliver action. We can angrily thank Donald Trump for liberating people like Senator Cotton.

I can see all these things because although I disagree with much of Tom Cotton’s agenda, he has consistently held firm to his ideals as the country has shifted to meet him in the middle. Just as we looked away for a moment as the country elected Donald John Trump, I am certain that we’ve also looked away just long enough to miss the subtle change in commitment from the GOP to finally take decisive immigration action.

We are going to suffer and it is best if we prepare for it.