Category Archives: Springdale

The Odd Brick

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I stood in the living room of the history-packed house, feeling Jackie’s presence around me. It was the first time I’d been in the house without her. She died recently, leaving a trail of family and friends behind after almost eighty years of an adventurous life. Her husband Jerry stood nearby, his eyes full of loss, yet contradicting the slight smile across his face. Both of them possessed a confident air of optimism. They are the sort of people who convince you that you’ve recharged something essential in yourself after you’ve been around them.

On the coffee table near us, in front of Jackie’s favorite perch on the couch, was a big 1000-piece custom puzzle. I had it made for my friends in April of 2018. I worked for hours on the design, incorporating countless family photos of theirs into a patchwork of multi-directional and polychromatic designs, each chosen and placed to accentuate the pictures while also increasing the complexity of the puzzle. We animatedly passed a couple of minutes noting the pictures, comparing favorites, and laughing. On the bottom row of the puzzle was the strange picture of an even stranger man. I included it in the puzzle because I  thought his picture was an enigma and out of place. As it turns out, it was. No one knew who it was, or remembered that the picture was in the thousands of photos and albums shared with me to digitize. Now, the stranger remains frozen forever in the family puzzle, immortal, and sharing space with some amazing people. We all laughed about Jerry and Jackie thinking I put the picture there as a prank, a one-off kick in the pants for my friends.

“No, I promise I thought the man was someone you knew. He was, and still is, in one of the albums of photos  I scanned. I didn’t include him as a joke. Jackie undoubtedly still thought I was pranking her,” I told Jerry.

“Yes, we thought you were the odd brick, X.” Jerry paused. “When the brickwork and wall were built years ago out back, out of all the thousands of bricks used, the bricklayer used a single yellow brick toward the outer end. I don’t know if it’s true, but they said that the odd color brick used to be placed to break the monotony of the eyeline. Jackie and both were convinced you put that stranger in the puzzle to be the odd brick. You are the odd brick.”

I laughed, thinking that Jackie left the world thinking I designed such a complex and heartfelt puzzle for her, only to prank her with a single discordant note. Though it wasn’t true, I liked the idea. I had purposefully pulled her chain on several occasions. To be perfectly honest, I sometimes held back because Jackie was one of those people whose smile and warmth were contagious, yet simultaneously held the promise of a swift reckoning under the right circumstances.  I say that with fondness.

Tomorrow, the house will be overfilled with friends and family. Foregoing a funeral, Jackie instead requested a celebration of life among friends. I came over to share the slideshow I’d made for Jerry, one chronicling the envious life Jackie lived. I stayed longer than I should have, though, perched on another couch opposite Jackie’s favorite seat. I’m clumsy and ill-at-ease when I try to comfort people with words. I learned the hard way that each of us cringes and contains our own version of hell and that wide swaths of unpredictable time are often the only consoling force in the universe. In this case, I could sense that seeing pictures of a life well-lived and shared was a salve for the soul. We watched the entire 44-minute video. Surprisingly, I recalled many of the stories attached to some of the pictures. Jackie was meticulous in sharing with me the memories attached to the pictures.

One of the best photo projects I ever did spanned a few thousand pictures. I came to it accidentally and as a result of being volunteered to help with another project. It was the doorway that allowed me to get to know a couple of fascinating and endearing people. Because of the pictures and the stories that accompanied them, I got to live a little slice of their long and worthwhile lives. It was a privilege, a learning experience, and something I’ll always remember as an honor.

My life didn’t meaningfully intersect with theirs until they were both older and retired. Both had full lives and careers and yet I only knew them as a couple, both engaged and artfully overlapping their stories to my delighted ears. Jerry was a medical doctor in life. It was plainly evident that his best role was that of a husband to Jackie.

I look back on the swath of pictures I was trusted with and get to bear testimony to the extraordinary life Jackie trailed behind her.

It would be an exercise in bravado to ask for a better life.

And so, with the gentlest and most affectionate gaze, I peer backward through her timeline: a laugh, a smile, a masterfully-executed bit of snark, and a twinkle in her eyes.

To be able to view the long curve of her life by way of hundreds of pictures has all but demolished the sadness that would have accompanied the knowledge she’ll never again shake her head at me as I played the fool for her. I can’t imagine the hollow void in the hearts of those who were lucky enough to stand in her aura in her daily life. There were a few moments while making the slideshow that almost capsized me.

I reduced her life from thousands of pictures to 240 and could distill them no further. A life like Jackie’s deserves a herculean accounting. I gave the photos the reverence that they deserved.

And, as it turns out, I am not the odd brick.

Jackie was.

X

 

 

 

 

Walgreens: I’m a Suspect

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Sometimes, there are advantages of having a stupid name like X.

TLDR: Walgreens gave me someone else’s prescription and then told the other account holder that I’d somehow obtained their private information and gave it to Walgreens in order to get their prescription right before they came to pick it up.

Here’s an example of something that’s not ‘the world is on fire,’ but weirdly informative. I have a few Walgreens stories that I’ve not posted.

This time, it was her prescription that caused me the grief.

Dawn had another prescription ready, costing $4. After work, I drove by and waited in a long line of vehicles. When it was my turn, I pulled up, and the clerk asked me for a name. I said, “Last name T-E-R-I, first name, Dawn.” The clerk didn’t ask me for a DOB or an address. She was looking at her POS screen with all the information on it and said, “Found it.” She didn’t identify the prescription like is customarily done. Despite it being an ironclad requirement, they sometimes don’t. Sometimes they recognize us, sometimes they’re busy, and sometimes, they simply forget. It’s easy to spot a new employee because of their tendency to interrogate you like a German prisoner. Today, the clerk said, “$3.89 is the total.” Close enough. I pushed my debit card through and she processed it.

Because the store was busy, I put the prescription in the passenger seat and drove the short drive home.  I made us a great lunch. Afterward, Dawn ripped open the Walgreens bag and said, “What’s this?” They had given me someone else’s prescription. The names were similar in the sense that if you were drunk, they might sound the same if you’d never heard the English language before. Because I had this happen before, I dropped everything and went back up to the store, in case the woman in question somehow went to fill her prescription before I went back. I went inside and asked for the store manager instead of going to the pharmacy. I’ve learned to only explain myself once in these situations. I’ve also learned that not all techs appreciate an error being brought up, no matter how nicely it’s done. The woman who I thought was the manager told me that the woman whose prescription I had been erroneously given had, in fact, come to the store right after I left.  She told me that the clerk who gave me another person’s prescription thought she had verified the information with me. I wondered what the real conversation between the store staff and the other customer was really like.

We went to the back and I watched the purported store manager say something to the clerk who’d made the error. She turned to look at me. It felt like eye darts were coming out of her face to hit me in the forehead. I was polite because mistakes happen. I didn’t even care about a refund.  I knew that, for once, I had done nothing wrong. In a twist, the clerk made a dramatic and overt attempt to confirm my address and information this time. The irony didn’t escape me.

Arriving back home, Dawn agreed with me that I should call the other person whose prescription I had initially picked up. I googled her name and left a voicemail on what I thought was her answering machine. A little bit later, the woman’s husband called. It was a very interesting conversation. I told the husband a bit of backstory and what had happened at Walgreens. What he told me surprised me.

Walgreens had told them that immediately before they had come to pick up the wife’s prescription, that a man had driven up to the window and given them all of his wife’s information, including her full name, address, and date of birth. The couple left thinking that their information had been intercepted, hacked, or stolen. Walgreens staff further said that there would be an investigation and that the cameras would be reviewed!

It’s essential to keep in mind that when I had entered the store to bring back the wrong prescription, the person who I spoke with, the one who said she was the manager, had already talked to the couple whose medicine I had picked up.

Why Walgreens told the couple such a story is subject to interpretation. Likely, they didn’t want to initially admit that they had violated all their own rules. They could have said anything but chose to go that far out on a limb.

The husband and I spoke for several minutes. He and his wife had been very concerned about their information being taken. I allayed all his concerns in that regard. We compared notes and stories. He wasn’t happy about the possibility of people getting the wrong medications and couldn’t understand why Walgreens had told him the story about someone driving up to the window and giving all his wife’s information, especially since it was utterly untrue. For my part, it was a little disconcerting hearing someone tell me that Walgreens staff had slandered me instead of merely addressing the issue directly.

I’m happy I called the other prescription holder. I think he was, too. He knew Walgreens wasn’t making sense but didn’t know how to figure it out. Until I called.

After that call, I called the store to speak to the manager. Surprisingly, a man identified himself as the manager, saying he’d been in a meeting. I went over the story with him and told him that I had been understanding and kind about the entire incident. I emphatically told him that I had spelled my wife’s name but that the clerk did not ask for any more data points or do the diligence required of her. I let him know that I had allayed the other account holder’s privacy fears. I did tell him that I was a little bent out of shape about his staff telling other customers that I had driven up and given another person’s identifying information and implying that I had fraudulently bypassed Walgreen’s protocols. Even though I didn’t need to say it, I let him know that some customers would cry “Slander” and cause a literal uproar about it.

He was apologetic and said he’d look into it. I reminded him that in addition to looking into it, he might advise staff to limit their commentary to things they knew to be true. No, lightning did not strike me, in case you’re wondering.

 

Privilege, Improvement, Hypocrisy

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Now that enough time has elapsed, I can post this. A former resident of Springdale had taken considerable pains to challenge a bit of civic improvement. He has a family member still living in Springdale. After investigating the details, I agreed that the city had awkwardly presented its plan. Most of the intended change, however, greatly benefited the city as a whole. Unfortunately for my friend, the improvements would slightly infringe on the previous way of life a bit.

This is just me talking without an appeal for my words to set in stone or to be taken as words of certainty. They are in their totality a walk through some of the thoughts which come to mind when I read or hear words other people have spoken.  I don’t have all the answers, but I do have many questions.

First, appeals to the past are strange to me because the people making them inevitably and arbitrarily choose a specific time amenable to their own arguments, rather than the broader scope of history.

At risk of being ostracized from polite company again, I cringe when I see someone say, “My family has owned that land since…” as a defense against change or incursion. I can only imagine what those who preceded them might think about such a narrow view of ownership. The European arrival, for example, dislocated and eradicated millions of indigenous people. Also, this world is predicated on the illusion of permanence, even though we are floating on gigantic and active tectonic plates, swirling in a complicated vastness which will one day extinguish itself.

Yes, I know that we didn’t personally participate in the distant past; we just benefit from it. I’m not immune to being tone deaf myself. It’s strange to see other people failing to realize they also are making errors of both logic and consistency.

One of the people criticizing the previous Springdale resident for jumping into the discussion harshly framed the argument: a rich, white outsider using the process to thwart what the majority saw as a benefit for the community. He used more profane words, but the message was striking.

Springdale is the 4th-largest city in Arkansas. For several reasons, there have been significant changes which have moved it away from its parochial past. The people who’ve stepped up to make the changes have overall done a spectacular job of managing resources, finances, and issues. Yes, I have problems with the way some of it has been done, but it is the price I pay for being a part of a living and thriving community. Change is constant. At my age, I’m not supposed to be enthusiastic about the march forward. It’s supposed to be my job to be reluctant. I disagree, though. We’re moving forward, and it’s as much on me as the rest of the community to take the long view.

It’s also odd to see people who fight change because it impacts them disproportionately. It’s difficult to accept change, despite enjoying the fruits and benefits of the community. By belonging to a city, you agree to a compromise of interests. If your property is affected or impacted, you can at least take solace in the fact that you will have a chance at fair compensation – a chance the indigenous people who lived here before were never afforded.

Those fighting against change for self-interest rarely see themselves in the way I’m describing – or realize that they are fighting the tide of time and impermanence.

New roads, street widening, public amenities, parks, rezoning, public condemnation proceedings, expansion- all of these are presented as improvements, for the common good. All of them happen because communities or their leaders have decided that things must change.

Yes, sometimes boneheaded decisions are made, precisely because human beings are involved. In those cases, it’s wise to use the processes in place to cause absolute hell. Absent those circumstances, though, it is an argument from privilege to rail against the public interest, generally speaking. Poor people don’t generally get to make such arguments.

P.S. I realize that there’s hypocrisy in my argument. That’s part of the point.

 

 

 

 

 

Gringo Needs a Taco

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One of the worst restaurant experiences I’ve ever had happened this week. It wasn’t because my stepson was with us, either, because he coined one of my new favorite phrases/restaurant names: “Gringo Needs a Taco,” in comedic response to our increasingly despondent faces as we realized that we were in the middle of a culinary catastrophe.

We have some amazing restaurants in Northwest Arkansas, especially Tex-Mex ones.

Our closest go-to Tex-Mex place, Acapulco, is still closed due to a kitchen fire in January. They claim they’ll re-open in July, although I don’t believe it. Most of the great staff they had have found positions at other restaurants. One of our favorite people surprised us at Las Palmas in Springdale. The other similar eatery on this side of town has never managed much success. (Which basically applies to any restaurant on the east side of Springdale.) I’m convinced that Americans mistakenly believe that the other Tex-Mex place is taqueria-style. It doesn’t help that it’s in a shopping center that seems like the shooting stage for season one of the Walking Dead. By the way, Playa Azul has a buffet some days. It’s great, especially since it’s impossible to find a Tex-Mex buffet anywhere.

The shining grace was an effort by one of our favorite waitresses – one not assigned to our table or area of the restaurant. We tried to reward her with a tip before we left. She noticed that my 4-lb. order of pico de gallo had been left negligently on the serving shelf. Evidently, I’m the only one who orders massive quantities of this delicious menu item. She came back later to hesitantly ask, “Has someone taken your order?” I think her first clue was that we had read the entire first book of the Harry Potter series since we entered. Our assigned waitress seemed like someone had swapped her favorite beverage with a chilled cup of straight white vinegar.

She might have been Amish, as her shunning ability was expert level.

It seems like we were unwitting participants in a customer dissatisfaction experiment. We felt terrible about the experience. The manager was simply speechless at how badly things had gone and struggled to explain it. He was relieved when I told him, “No harm, no foul,” even as I complimented the waitress who wasn’t assigned to our table. We left and were rewarded with a torrential downpour. Our spirits were so hammered that we all drove to Burger King. As you probably know, its new motto is, “Where Dreams Go To Die.”

Saturday, Dawn and I went to another Tex-Mex restaurant. We walked out after 15 minutes. On the way over, we discussed the consequences of not following our instincts. The person seating walk-ins could not have been more reluctant, with the exception of the admiration and attention she was giving her personal cellphone. The matriarch of the family by the door was throwing eye darts as she uneasily shifted back and forth, waiting, while attempting to corral two young boys. We had the misfortune of being seated in the far back corner. The matriarch and her family received great attention. I could tell that woman simply wouldn’t tolerate shenanigans or inattention. It’s difficult for me to be pushy, though. The manager was so engrossed in something unrelated to work that I couldn’t even let him know that we were leaving.

I’ve been known to get up, go outside, and then go back inside sometimes as if I hadn’t just walked out. Usually, this either makes people confused or laugh. We left. I’m glad we did because our final choice was a delight.

We ended up at another restaurant and were delighted. The food and service were impeccable. We joked with all the staff. I drew pictures on my index cards as we chatted with everyone, even as watched a table of gringos make their faces numb with way too much alcohol. (The one bad moment was when one of the gringos was a little violent with a precious curly-headed little girl. He doesn’t know how close he came to being force-fed a plate.) It was strange to have such a great eating experience after two terrible ones.

As I always do, I ensured that karma was paid forward by tipping the waitress 100%. She was delighted. So was I. Belly full, and smiles for all.

One consequence of a bad dining experience is that I always find a way to pay it forward to the next great person we encounter.

P.S. I didn’t even order pico de gallo at this restaurant, as I didn’t want to tempt fate.

Gringo needed a taco.

Summer’s Bedrail

 

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In the summer of 1978, my family was living in City View trailer park, a place of infamy I’ve previously written about. Many residents were notorious about not maintaining their lawns. I’d go so far as to say that the word ‘lawn’ would almost be the last word a rational person would use to describe the lots assigned to each tenant. Some, however, took pride in their lots, which confused me when I was younger. In a bizarre twist, my dad usually made my brother and I trim the grass around the bottom of the metal skirt under our trailer with a butcher knife. I know – what could go wrong?

Residents would pile an amazing array of objects next to, under, and at each end of their trailers, often partially hiding the end with the heavy metal hitch on it. This tendency caused at least ten million banged shins and legs, especially playing tag, catch, or football in the yards. During the time we lived at the trailer park, I found a loaded pistol, pornographic magazines, whiskey, potato chips, and other things under the skirting of trailers.

Many of the kids living in the trailer park spent their entire day roaming the park without shoes. I was one of those barefoot savages. My feet were as hard as tire tread.

One of the endless days at the beginning of summer, I jumped down from the back door of my trailer, as steps were an invitation for someone to try to get inside. Even the front steps of most trailers were cheaply made using narrow wood planks and thin metal supports. Most trailers had terrible front steps and none at all in the back, often with both comical and horrendous consequences due to the number of people who attempt a hasty exit or entrance while under the influence of one substance or another. A smart kid knew exactly how to jump from the back door and simultaneously fling it closed again as he or she leaped out. Note: not while a parent was inside. As we all learned, slamming a door was treated by parents as seriously as murdering someone in broad daylight.

My friend Troy had told me to come over and find him. I hit the ground running and by the time I made it to the spot a few trailers away, Troy and the other miscreants took off running from me. I darted around the end of one of the trailers. The grass was at least waist high against the trailer. Because I was attempting to set a land-speed record and catch up, I ignored the danger of the grass. I jumped in the grass as I ran. My right foot landed on something hard and I felt the immediate agony of something cutting into my foot. In my childhood, I stepped on a few dozen nails, broken bottles, as well as an assortment of other things. It went in deeply. Despite my speed, I fell into the grass. I had landed on a long, old-style rusty bed rail. The upturned corner had pierced all the way into the arch of my right foot. I was surprised that it had not passed all the way through my foot and out the top.

I could barely see my foot, so I crawled out of the grass and sat on the ground, looking at the expansive and deep cut in my foot. For a few moments, it didn’t bleed. As I released my foot, the blood spurts and an intense cramp started. I survived my second head trauma a few years before, one which resulted in massive blood loss and almost 200 stitches. This didn’t seem as bad until the cramps started. As the blood pulsed out of my foot, I realized I had to get back to the trailer, so I crawled as fast as I could despite the cramps in my foot.

There is a lot I don’t remember about that day. Someone called my dad at work. Normally, this would signal the end of my life. No one called my dad, not ever, even after a decapitation. It was probably my sister who called. I don’t remember. My dad did not want to come home, even after someone exaggerated the severity of the cut by saying they thought I was dying. It didn’t sway him, however, as his parenting style could best be described as “If he dies, I had too many kids to begin with.”

I do remember that by the time I got out of the trailer, the cheap linoleum looked like a crime scene photo and the rags I had used to try to stop the bleeding were drenched.

Dad came home over an hour later, angry and blustering. He screamed at me to get in the bed of the pickup truck as he got behind the wheel. I managed to climb up, then over the tailgate. My foot registered every bump and pothole in the road between our trailer and the medical clinic over on Quandt Avenue and Young Street. Dad’s dog Duke kept me company during the trip.

I don’t remember who the doctor was who helped me but he was a rapid-fire, no-nonsense doctor. He used a large bottle with a nozzle on it to spray inside the deep cut even as a nurse used her gloved fingers to hold the wound open as far as she could. For good measure, he doused it with a huge quantity of some type of disinfectant, which set off another round of foot cramps. Dad was not in the room with me, which was a huge relief to me. He’s the type who would probably slap a surgical patient for sleeping during the procedure.

The nurse went out to find him and dad returned and stood in the doorway. I’m paraphrasing, but the doctor asked him if he wanted some other kind of treatment. Dad told him no and that the doctor should do whatever took the least amount of time. I’m certain that they were discussing cutting my foot off, given my dad’s mean streak. I figured out later that stitching it quickly might cause some long-term cramping or other risks. Dad went back out to smoke.

The doctor seemed to put an inordinate number of stitches in my foot. Despite the shots to numb my foot, I could feel most of them. He did tell me that the bed rail had almost pierced all the way through my foot. He dressed it and listed off a list of important notes that I couldn’t possibly remember. I didn’t have anything to cover my foot, so the doctor put a plastic bag over it and told me to stay off it for a couple of days and to avoid getting it dirty.

Because dad wouldn’t come back in the room, I didn’t get crutches. Fair or not, a doctor in Springdale at that time wouldn’t have been surprised by a callous father. I think it was almost normal for medical staff to witness parents treat their children like cattle.

My Dad also, of course, didn’t offer to help me as I tried to hobble out to the truck and once again climb in the back of the truck.

When we got to the trailer, dad didn’t get out. I climbed over and managed to get out without screaming. I knew a beating was coming and simply didn’t want it to happen right then. We got the blood cleaned off the trailer floor, not that it mattered. Mom and dad routinely added one another’s blood to the floor at regular intervals.

To add insult to injury, I got a celebratory beating from both my mom and dad later that day, for a confusing mixture of carelessness and the sheer inconvenience of being bothersome. They both waited until they had consumed enough liquid courage to justify a beating. It’s some consolation that their anger toward me for getting injured at least stopped them from beating each other, at least on that night.

My foot secreted a constant ooze of clear fluid tinged with blood, especially after I walked on it. Mom, with her degree in folk medicine, ignored what I told her the doctor said and forced me to sit in a scalding bathtub of baking soda with my foot submerged in the liquid. She then poured undiluted alcohol on my wound until I almost passed out. She also insisted that I not cover the wound, so that it could breathe. Given that she made me literally eat Vick’s vapor rub, I didn’t have much faith in her medical advice. I also couldn’t figure out her idea that a beating might be medically advantageous for me, either.

A couple of days later, my Aunt Ardith convinced my mom to go to the clinic and to find out what was supposed to be done. Mom only went to the clinic to ask out of fear Aunt Ardith could say “I told you so” after they amputated my leg for gangrene. Mom came back with bandages, gauze, and some ointment. Aunt Ardith asked her about the crutches after reading a few of the notes the nurse gave my mom. “He ain’t got no G-D broken leg!” she shouted. Aunt Ardith rolled her eyes. By then, I was walking around without anything covering my foot. I had popped two of the outer stitches after a cramp hit me and I tried to stand up. I think my foot was a little infected by then. Aunt Ardith prepared a foot bath for me as Mom sat and drank a beer. My aunt showed me how to prepare the foot bath and told me to keep the bandage on it and to avoid putting pressure on my foot. No more mention was made of the crutches. I am certain that Aunt Ardith is the only reason I didn’t get a massive infection in my foot.

The next weekend, my cousin Jimmy wanted desperately to go see the movie “Thank God It’s Friday,” a 70s disco comedy, if such a thing is possible. It was showing at the Springdale Malco Twin theatre, on Highway 68 near Harps grocery. As I’ve written before, Jimmy almost always got his way, which worked out in my favor. All of the movies I got to see as a kid were the result of Jimmy, Mike Hignite, or another cousin. Literally, all of them. Aunt Ardith drove us to the theater while Mom sat in the passenger seat drinking her salted beer and smoking. They dropped us off and drove away. At the window, Jimmy got a laugh out of a woman who refused to say “God” in the title of the movie. “I need four tickets to ‘Thank Goodness It’s Friday'” she said several times. Jimmy was tickled that she couldn’t say “God,” but somehow thought that the movie would be appropriate to watch instead. Like many of our memories, I have no reason that adequately explains why I can remember that tidbit, but not other more important details in my life.

We bought two tickets and as I turned to go inside, one of the very young workers at the theater told me I had to put shoes on both feet to see the movie. I couldn’t have put on a shoe if I tried, especially with the thick gauze Aunt Ardith had put on my foot before leaving the house. I wasn’t wearing a sock and we’d never imagine such a thing as a medical boot or shoe. The manager came over, looked at my foot and said, “Get out,” as if I had planned to run inside the auditorium like an angry linebacker. We also didn’t get a refund.

My cousin Jimmy was furious. We went back outside and sat on the curb outside the theater. A few minutes later, someone came from inside the theater and told us we couldn’t sit outside and had to leave. I hobbled with Jimmy down to a payphone. No one answered at his house. As is the case with most of us and the phone numbers of our youth, I’ll never forget their phone number: 751-1551. Unlike my mom and dad, my aunt and uncle lived in the same house for almost their entire adult life, with the same phone number.

We wisely decided that our moms went to the liquor store for replenishments. So, we waited. After an hour, they drove up next to the building and we got in. Aunt Ardith parked the car haphazardly behind some of the other cars and walked up to the ticket window, her Tareyton cigarette still in her hand. I’m not sure what she said, but the manager came back over and immediately regretted it. Mom sat in the passenger seat, shouting obscene and encouraging words of agreement toward Aunt Ardith. The ticket clerk handed Aunt Ardith the money Jimmy paid for the tickets. She was cussing when she got back to the car. Mom threw her Budweiser can into the parking lot and opened another from a paper bag at her feet. She had probably become concerned that she might run out of beer during the very short drive from my cousin Jimmy’s house.

Evidently, my aunt had also demanded an apology from them for forcing us to get up and leave the relative safety of the front of the theater after being turned away for not wearing two shoes. I wondered what the manager would think if he knew that both Aunt Ardith and my mom were drunk. I think the shadowy canopy near the payphone to which we had been banished was far safer than the interior of the car being controlled by two drunk women. This sort of observation would have led to a beating for me. It didn’t occur to me until much later that normal parents would have known not to send a child to the theater without shoes, even if they had a medical reason.

I didn’t see the movie “Thank God It’s Friday” for another 25 years. Compared to a massive cut in the foot, it’s not so bad.

I ended up taking out my own stitches, in the stupid hope of avoiding another beating for the necessary return trip to the doctor.

In the years afterward, I would sometimes have the strangest phantom cramps in my foot where the scar is. The scar diminished in size but would occasionally flare up when I least expected it. Once, I was foolishly ‘jogging’ with Mike Hignite and it stiffened, causing me to fling myself headfirst into the waiting mud. I ran a lot when I was young and it was invariably on my mind to be careful of my foot catching me off guard. Sometimes, it would cramp while I was driving with my foot on the gas pedal.

If I run my finger along the scar on the bottom of my right foot, I can almost imagine that summer day again.

Thank God it’s not Friday, I say.
.
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P.S. The picture is of Jimmy and me at Dogpatch. The bottom inset picture is another one from the same day.

 

 

 

 

An Ode To A Supermarket

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After our food misadventure on Saturday, my wife and I or my wife and me (depending on whether anyone cares about grammar) whimsically decided to go find the new Harps Food Store in Lowell, the one by Goad Springs Road and Monroe Street. The weather was cold, rainy, and windy; since we survived a visit to one of our “Never Again” eateries, we were feeling adventurous.

The newest Harps is over by the incredible trail system and the nice Workman’s Plaza. (The section of trail on both sides of this location is among my favorites of the entire trail system.)

Upon our exit, we decided to ask that Harps demolish the location in East Springdale and build a replica of the Harps in Lowell. I’m not sure if we were feeling envious or jealous.

For those of you with youth still in your eyes, you should know that finding a great grocery store is right up there with winning the lottery or being able to reach that itchy spot on one’s back.

Dawn even found her much beloved sugar-free Tampico mango punch, a drink I got her addicted to a few months ago. A gallon of it costs less than a regular soft drink and tastes delicious. We walked around this new store, making faces of astonishment and saying ‘Aha!’ with each new discovery. Due to our visit, I even grilled yesterday in the afternoon typhoon. The selections were too good to pass up.

Since our move from one side of Springdale to the other, we’ve missed the Gutensohn Harps. It’s part of the reason we are afflicted with the diabolical Walmart Market on our side of town, the one dedicated to destroying people’s hopes and dreams.

The difference between this new Harps and the one in East Springdale is astronomical, both for presentation and inventory. The fresh salad bar almost made me openly weep. After falling in love with the Kroger Superstore in Hot Springs last year, I’m more likely to cry in a great supermarket than just about anywhere else.

I know it’s unfair, but I’m going to have to ask Harps to demolish the store by my house and build one like the Lowell location. Anything short of that will be a modern tragedy.

Also, the new Harps has a great selection of beer and wine. It’s strange that our East Springdale location doesn’t have it because it’s just plain science that those of us on this side of town have more motivation to drink ourselves into a stupor.

Signed, An Old Dude With Supermarket Envy
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Note: someone wrote to me on social media to say that the East Springdale location doesn’t offer alcohol due to an agreement with a liquor store on the edge of the property.  That was probably the best decision at the time – but is no longer a good strategy. Some people, especially the older demographic of the store’s base, feel a stigma regarding liquor stores. Moving the store slightly would allow Harp’s to build a new store, one with all the amenities in one location. As much as some people despise Walmart Market, having alcohol available tilts the scales for Walmart; otherwise, people have to make two stops, which lessens the benefit of Harps being so much easier to get in and out of compared to the bigger grocery stores.

One of the best things Harps ever did was to rebuild the Gutensohn location in Springdale. I’ll never forget the last remodel or how fascinated I was by the upgrade. The time has come to do the same for East Springdale. While I don’t have access to the profitabillity for the store in East Springdale, I assume by customer volume that it’s underperforming compared to the population density of the area. When I moved from my previous house in another part of Springdale, I knew in advance that I was going to regret it in part due to the lack of an amazing Harps in East Springdale.

If Harps builds a store comparable to the new location in Lowell, I would consider doing all my grocery shopping at the new location, as well a much higher quantity of  ‘on-demand’ shopping for lunch and quick meals. I’ve heard many of my neighbors say the same thing.

I also want to clarify that I have seldom had issues with rudeness from Harps employees, unlike the behavior I’ve suffered from Walmart Market across the street. Even when I encountered a malfunctioning pump that bathed me in gasoline or encountered critically out-of-date refrigerated products, Harps didn’t argue with the the details; they simply wanted to fix the problem. Also, Harps doesn’t have self-serve registers, something that seems stupidly obvious to everyone except Walmart.

Harps is the grocery store I want to flourish, for a variety of reasons. But Harps is continuing to the lose the grocery battle over in my neighborhood. They’re losing for no justifiable reason, too.

Please bring your bulldozer over and fix the one in East Springdale.

 

 

Logo Wars in Springdale

springdale chicken

 

 

My apologies to Springdale residents. Satire is my friend. You should all know that NATO is about to declare war on the city logo.

I still hate the waffle-fry logo. The Explore Springdale variant, however, is awesome. Seriously. I love it. It’s simple and the symbolism is obvious. I might be biased, though, with a name like “X.” I’ve noted that many people happily insist that it’s my name due to illiteracy.

Each time I see the official logo, I wonder, “Why are we being punished?” It’s no accident that Kleenex offered to be our Official Sponsor in 2017.

I can’t prove it, but I suspect that the logo itself will soon be featured in some crime documentary. The demented subject of same will be shown on camera, his hair matted with chicken feathers, insisting “That darned logo made me do it.” Defense lawyers will start calling it the ‘Waffle Logo Defense.’ Even the guy from “Making a Murderer” won’t comment in case it causes him to receive a longer prison sentence.

I’ve resisted using the logo as an excuse to play blind man’s tic-tac-toe on the municipal vehicles afflicted with the logo. Or “no-go,” as the case may be. I do have a case of rainbow markers ready for when my willpower diminishes. The prosecutor* told me it’s just a misdemeanor to deface the logos on city vehicles. Also, while I will have to do community service, they will also give me a city beautification award if I manage to discolor enough of the logos to make Springdale residents happier by seeing fewer of them.

*This post does not advocate defacing city property. In my defense, though, if the property in question displays an official Springdale logo, it’s already quite defaced.

“Beauty Spits In The Eye of the Beholder” springs to mind when I see the logo. “We Lost A Bet” is my second thought, followed closely by, “LSD Is Your Friend.” A friend of mine suggested “A Chicken In Every Pothole.” That last part is humor, by the way. The streets and roads are nicely maintained, in my opinion. But if you drive a convertible, it’s no joke to pass or get behind a chicken truck. It’s my hope that some of the yokels figure out that the new bike lanes aren’t just really small third lanes, too. The screaming is getting fairly loud during peak hours.

We all agree that the logo, Ray Doton’s cowboy hat, and the mayor’s hairstyle are the three biggest hurdles facing Springdale. (The mayor as an administrator is doing a great job, though.) The city itself is awesome unless you live on the East side, in which case your GPS is permanently linked to the destination marked “Elsewhere.” Many people don’t know that we now hold the demolition derby on this side of town during normal traffic hours. So far, no one has noticed.

I would post the city logo here again. The last time I downloaded it, however, I got flagged by Facebook for promoting violence and for displaying graphic imagery. Just imagine that five drunken people got into a fight while playing pixie sticks and then became ill on top of the scattered sticks. It’s a pretty accurate rendering of the logo.

I’m biased, though. I like nice things and beauty, no matter what conclusions you might draw by looking at my face.

I’ve made several versions of logos through the years, some seriously intentional and most stupidly satirical, much like my outlook on life.

In case anyone missed it, I think Springdale is a great city, one making tremendous strides as it leaves behind its past.

That logo, though? I think the guy from Key and Peele is going to make a horror movie based on that thing if we’re not careful.
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See comments for examples of the logos. The chicken in this post is one I created. Please note that I wasn’t chained to expectations such as professionalism, common sense, or attention to detail.
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Document

Here’s the official logo for Springdale. I apologize for the use of obscenity.

 

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Here’s on my simple ones. Boring? Yes. But not terrible.

 

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Here’s the Explore Springdale variant. Note that you don’t want to hurl like a high school partier when you look at it?

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Here’s the “George Clooney” of logos. Its beauty is unrivaled.

Let’s Talk Trash!

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Important note: I realize that I’m not always the smartest person. Not only do I routinely jab my face with a toothpick, but I attempt to place glasses in mid-air where the side table isn’t, fail to duck my head in front of an immobile object, and insist on poking things to see if they are ‘hot.’

In my defense, I stopped sniffing hot glue, at least.

If you live in Springdale, you can read this and either roll your eyes with the federally-mandated “DUH” reaction, or you can admit that you’re like me, ignorant in more ways than should be humanly possible.

At the ongoing risk of sounding stupid, I didn’t know there was NO limit on trash volume for a residence in Springdale. Whether it was based on fact or not, I’d been told by more than one source that the containers were the weekly limit. Like the myth of the guy who actually likes vacuuming the living room, I simply believed it to be true. Shortly after moving to this side of town, one of the employees for Waste Management told me that customers weren’t permitted to leave trash outside the assigned container. Other than the “Aliens Are Real” patch on his shirt, he seemed credible.

A few weeks ago, a couple of issues aligned to cause me to question things. Other than my own confusion, I mean. Despite what I thought I knew, I was still hearing contradictory information about our trash service. I noted that other people were doing strange things about their trash because they didn’t understand there was no limit. For example, one neighborhood family was walking the curb on Monday to find partially empty receptacles to throw their overflow trash inside. While I own my ignorance, I take solace in the fact that I’m not the only bird brain hereabouts. Watching the shenanigans after Christmas convinced me. Note: it’s also possible that I unwittingly bought a house in a cluster of ignoramuses. I’ll take note during the 2020 census.

I contacted Waste Management to put an end to at least one small part of my vast ignorance. It turns out, everything they told me in an email was incorrect. Almost everything: they spelled Waste Management correctly in the email. Please forgive my humor and snark about it. I wrote to them and asked how to go about getting an additional container, regardless of cost. They wrote back and told me that a contract with the City prohibited such an arrangement. Before hearing back from anyone, I had compiled a fairly creative list of possible reasons for such a clause in a trash contract.

I followed up with both the Springdale Water Utilities and the Mayor’s Office. They were immensely helpful and answered questions I didn’t even know I had. And they said “yes” and “no” where it mattered, instead of hedging their bets. It was refreshing. I’ve yet to call, email or contact anyone in the City of Springdale without getting an answer. As you may or may not know, I wasn’t initially a fan of Mayor Sprouse. It was mainly due to his hair. Unfortunately for my previous opinion, he has always responded quickly and professionally in any matter I’ve been involved with, either for me or for other people. It’s a real pain to have to admit being wrong. Not about his hair – it’s still not “Mayoral,” but it is much improved. As to his follow-through, it’s been tremendous. Reading such straight-forward replies made me dizzy enough to consider vertigo medication.

Per Springdale’s agreement with Waste Management, you can put out any quantity of trash you wish to. If you fill your 96-gallon receptacle, all that is required is that you bag the overflow neatly and stack it with your assigned receptacle.

Waste Management must pick it up, regardless of volume. Those assigned to your route might frown if they note you’ve constructed a pyramid of trash bags towering above your container. They’ll still have to pick it up despite their displeasure. At no extra charge.

While it is possible that I am the only idiot to not know this, I’m willing to bet others might not know, either.

I wrote back to Waste Management to let them know they were still sometimes giving out incorrect information and requested a simple inquiry from within their company to discover why. After several days of waiting, they wrote back. Surprisingly, they admitted that I was right about both my questions and that they were changing their information and training methods to reflect the corrected information. They also said they now offer an additional bin, directly billed, at $7.50 a month. They also admitted that I could simply stack my overflow bags next to the bin, at no charge. Now that I know I COULD get another bin gives me a long list of fun, creative ideas to use such a bin – and none of them legitimate.

It’s a shame for Waste Management that they didn’t say “Yes” when I first contacted them. I’d have a bin from them at an extra cost. Their loss.

I hope that the family down the street never learns of this. I can now look out the front window and laugh at them as they scamper about like trash ninjas, seeking space in their neighbor’s trash bins. As for the neighbors who negligently throw things in the general direction of the bins they leave curbside for 17 days a week, I just bought a pallet of glitter bombs to decorate their grass. We’ll be a fabulous neighborhood.

Kudos to Waste Management and the everyone at the City of Springdale for listening and helping me out. Waste Management gets kudos because they listened to me when I asked them to review their internal procedures and FAQs to help out my tribe of ignoramuses.
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Look Up, Not Down?

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“Look up, not down,” said a wise man.

Sometimes, though, it’s a comfort to look back and inward.

To counterbalance the stories of unsolicited violence from my childhood, I’m sharing this picture of my dad and mom.

I’ve mentioned before that I have no pictures of us as a family at our own house. At one point in my life, I focused my attention and determined that I had lived in 20+ different places by my 18th birthday. This tally ignores the temporary places we huddled. Our lives were suspended in alcoholic amber and economic instability. Only when we appeared at other family member’s homes did any corroborating evidence of ‘us’ exist. Despite challenges to the contrary, no one can show me a picture that includes dad, mother, and three children. I don’t flinch from the fact that such photos would probably include cleverly turned profiles to avoid the camera and clues regarding the consistency and temperament of the group being photographed. Later, I learned that I could use photo trickery to unite us, much in the same way I fooled my mind into believing that the bulk of my life was normal.

This picture was taken in the living room at my Uncle Buck’s house on Ann Street in Springdale. To whoever bought the house once both Ardith and Buck passed, I hope that no spirits roam the hallway of that dwelling. I spent a chunk of my childhood there. My cousin Jimmy lived a charmed life, initially untouched by the lunatic gene passed down through the family. Looking back, I can see that it deeply affected Jimmy’s life and choices. This clarity wasn’t always available to me. It is maddening to know that adulthood would conceal this truth from me for so long. In the picture, dad is wearing one of his many Don Williams hats. He alternated hat styles. In my opinion, he seemed to be most natural wearing anything evoking Clint Eastwood. You can see that his hands are greasy from hours of being elbow-deep in something mechanical. Mom had a phenomenal job at SW Bell, a job she landed with the help of my aunt. Both my parents were imbibing at the time of this picture. Let’s be honest, had the picture been taken in church, it’s likely that one of them would have been drinking. had my parents been Catholic, I would joke that one of them would bring a straw for the priest’s chalice. Mom’s beer probably rested on the counter between den and kitchen. It’s hard to see, but mom has a lit cigarette in her hand, which presupposes that whatever drink dad enjoyed wasn’t explosive.

As my Aunt Ardith was trying to take this picture, dad told her, “Take the picture already, #&#(@^#^$%&.” He used his favorite curse word. It should have been engraved on his tombstone. It’s a terrible word and one which to this day I find to be hilarious. I have a book of stories about him and the usage of this word, especially around people who had no context with which to judge its usage. If I ever write a book, I may well title it #&#(@^#^$%&.

On those days when both sets of parents weren’t angry, the level of laughter could lift the ceiling, especially when Aunt Ardith and Uncle Buck joined in. Uncle Buck was an accomplished musician with nice electronics due to his job as a tech at Montgomery Ward. Country music always accompanied the mood. At the time, I despised it, failing to see that all genres have something to offer anyone who is careful enough to notice. The kids in the house could move freely in those moments, unafraid of a squall suddenly building and releasing its fury around us. There were times when each of us was truly alive and glad to be present, even if most the music and conversations of the adults made us wince.

Other times, it was a race to discover who would silently become the most belligerent as the whiskey and beer slowly did its magic act by disappearing swallow by slug. In those moments, we became adept at using unobserved doors to make our escape from their immediate wrath. Even some of those moments, though, were filled with muffled laughter.

I’m guilty of forgetting many of these moments. Anger and violence often evoke a pattern of amnesia and discolor surrounding moments, no matter how vivid their imagery.

It’s strange to look at this picture and know that after each visit, no matter how late, I’d have to climb into a car or in the bed of a pickup and go home with someone drunk. As often as possible, I stayed the night with my cousin Jimmy. For several years, my cousin Jimmy had a waterbed. He cherished that cliché of a bed. There were a couple of times when he would wake up shouting at me. Some people call it ‘wetting the bed,’ although a more apt description would be ‘urinating near another person,’ as it more accurately describes the reaction of anyone else in the bed at the time of the incident. One night, after I had indeed wet the bed, Jimmy was shouting at me. It wasn’t so much the fact that I wet the bed, but that he was going to have to get up long enough to put more sheets on the bed. Jimmy was a grouchy sleeper. He was ranting at me when I looked at him and said, “Hey, it’s a WATER bed.” When Aunt Ardith burst into the room to see what the ruckus was all about, Jimmy was trying to kill me with his prized Dallas Cowboys pillow. I was laughing.

As the golden moments of life crest behind me, I still feel the effects of moments, most forgotten, accumulating behind me. Doubt is winning this war of details.

As you read these words, stop and consider how much of our lives transform in our memories. Jimmy’s dead now, as are his parents. Several years later, he’s still mobile within my memory.

Dad, mom, cousin, aunt, uncle, all of them departed. The place remains. An imprint persists, as long as someone like me continues to remember it. My day approaches, a slow, inevitable slide toward the abyss.

There is a majesty somewhere in this, one born of being a surviving witness to life.

As it approaches, I find myself seeing this picture as an evolving truth.

Look up, not down.
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A Band Story Inspired by True Events

springdale high band trip

Springdale Band Story – Inspired by True Events

While in high school, I was lucky enough to go to D.C. with the Springdale Band. We took several buses on the lengthy drive. One of our buses broke down at one point and all 200 of us had a layover at a house of one of the superintendent’s family. True story. Imagine having to go get fast food for two hundred people and serve it in a single residence. You thought that sharing a microwave and bathroom with four people was complicated, didn’t you?

Once we got back on the road, we were trying to recapture the lost time due to the bus malfunction.

Despite being in a hurry, our band director Ms. Ellison still took the time to instill in us some valuable life lessons. Near Ft. Knox, we passed a small entourage of entertainers from the University of Kentucky stranded on the side of the road. Ms. Ellison asked the driver to stop and pick them up.

There were a couple of guitarists, jugglers, mimes, and a couple of dancers. Most of them were actors and singers, too. We made room for them in the front of the bus. Any break in the routine of being on the road for so long was appreciated.

Ms. Ellison welcomed them warmly and we all talked back and forth with our new visitors. One of the mimes asked the driver about where we were going and the length of the trip. The driver answered and one of the other mimes began to drill him with all manner of intrusive questions. After a few minutes of this, the driver suddenly whipped the bus to the side of the interstate.

“Get out!” he yelled at the mimes. “No more!”

In shock, Ms. Ellison stood up and attempted to calm the agitated driver.

“Why are you kicking our new friends off the bus? They just needed a ride for a few dozen miles.” Her voice rose in irritation. She was a very strong-willed woman.

The driver reached over and used the door lever to throw open the bus door.

Pointing at the door, he shouted, “They have to get off the bus right now!” He’d reached the end of his rope. We were all sitting in silence, watching the events unfold.

Ms. Ellison got directly in his face.

“Why? What’s your problem?” Her face had turned red and her famous riot act recitation was about to commence. We’d seen it before.

“We just can’t go on with suspicious mimes!”
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sterling price again