Category Archives: Springdale

…Unfondly Remembered

A personal story. It’s not an accusation – it’s just a few words that I’ve had in outline form for a long time. I’m tired of seeing the draft go through various digital incarnations, from Lotus to Word.doc to Word.docx. I’m pushing it out the door, taking away its leftover power. The errors are all mine, embraced and sent out into the world.

I’m writing this, neither to spoil the legacy of someone who others hold dear, nor to complain about sunsets long past, but to remind people that sometimes we know different versions of the same person. Words of praise are deeply worthwhile; sometimes, though, words conveying truth that all might not embrace are equally important. My little story will have no lasting impact on anyone who had a different experience. People can say they had a different experience but not that they disagree with me, because the words herein are true and these experiences are mine to share.

After high school, I wrote letters to all the teachers who I thought were deserving of a kind note or word. There were many. Many of you who know me have read some of my individual words of praise. I’ve written a lot of them to the dear people in my life before they’ve passed, so that they can be warmed by knowing that someone remembers them and cherishes that part of our lives that overlapped.

For me, Mrs. Creighton was not someone I admired. I tried to like her, to look past her scowl and directness. After a few interactions, though, I discovered that I wasn’t imagining things and that she simply did not like me – and for no reason I could discern. I was mostly a quiet student, usually scared and frightened by life, and didn’t give her a reason to lash out at me. Maybe if I had known her when her teaching career was younger or if she had simply voiced aloud why she detested me immediately, maybe then I would have had an opportunity to understand her.

Before taking her class, I had heard the rumors. I had also heard all the larger-than-life stories about her, of her military background, of her personal eccentricities. I went in prepared to pay attention and stay off her radar. (Please note that I am paraphrasing words in my story. They aren’t exact quotes but the content and feelings elicited are accurate.)

After one of the first assignments in her class, one in which I poured myself and creativity into over 5 extra pages of writing, she responded with this: “C student. Some are not destined to extend their reach. Quantity doesn’t replace talent.” She had only red-lined two words out of the entire body of my assignment. The girl on the right of me had a paper that looked like a chicken has scratched it for an hour. She had a large “B” across the top of her paper, however. When Mrs. Creighton had announced the assignment, I was one of the few in class who didn’t dread it. Writing was easy for me. Maybe not grammar or syntax, but the act of writing was effortless and I tended to write something each day. I was stunned by the C grade, especially given the extra writing I had done. But the words justifying the grade punched me directly where I lived. They seemed irresponsible, almost hateful, coming from a teacher.

I reluctantly waited after class and asked her what I could do to not be on her bad side. She laughed a staccato burst as she so often did and said, “Nothing. There’s nothing you can do. Now run along,” waving her arm dismissively toward the door.

As quiet as I was, I told her that it was unacceptable for her to give me a “C,” and not just because I was afraid to get a lesser grade. I told her that if I couldn’t stop her from disliking me even though I had never interacted with her that I could object to her grading my assignments with an unequal eye compared to my classmates.

“I don’t take kindly to threats, young man, and if you persist you’ll find yourself in the principal’s office explaining your behavior.” She stood up from her desk as she said it.

To which I replied, “If I’m going to the principal’s office for some personal reason on your part, I might as well have him take a look at my work. And if you think you scare me, I’ll tell you stories about my dad.”

“The grade will not be modified. Now please leave.” She once again pointed to the door. I left, shaking my head at the idea I was going to endure a semester of that sort of treatment.

I should point out that I wasn’t afraid of getting a bad grade to make a point. While my final GPA was about 3.6 (when 4 was the highest possible), for example, I deliberately flunked trigonometry in my senior year, after getting over 100% in a previous semester in Geometry. My problem is that Mrs. Creighton needlessly used her words to squash me. Had she given me a “C” without comment, I would have been perplexed, but would have never said a word to her. My personal life had beaten into me the idiocy of expecting fairness; she was simply another example.

I was a voracious reader, writer, and loved the power of words. She gave me one assignment that I simply didn’t understand. I told her that I honestly just wasn’t getting it and needed guidance. With the iciest of looks, she told me, “I can’t make you understand. Read the instructions again.”

Toward the end of my term with Mrs. Creighton, my dad had punched me in the face after coming home drunk and finding me practicing my French horn for band. It always angered him that I loved band. He hadn’t warned me or said a word to me. He simply sat the bottle of whatever whiskey he was drinking on the table and punched me while I was playing. I dropped the horn, which was school-owned, and I fell to the floor. Luckily, my dad had drunkenly misjudged and his fist had hit me on the outside of my right eye. By the next morning, the black eye was mostly confined to that side of my eye, although my ear was still ringing and my face was sore. I got a pair of broken sunglasses that had belonged to my brother and wore them to school. I put them on in each class to cover the dark smudge on the side of my eye. I had never covered such bruising or signs before, not really. Dad was usually very careful to conceal his brutality, a habit I learned later that most abusers share in common.

When Mrs. Creighton came in to the classroom, I had forgotten to take the glasses off. She shrieked at me in front of the entire class. “Take those foolish glasses off now! You are no Tom Cruise by the stretch of anyone’s imagination!”

After class, I approached her desk to apologize.

“Don’t apologize to me. You know the rules.” I pointed at my eye and said, “My dad sucker-punched me when he came home drunk, Mrs. Creighton.” She held up a hand to stop me. “Perhaps if you’d behave your father wouldn’t see the need to discipline you.”

It was that moment when I knew that her heart was stone to me.
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I took being tardy seriously when I was in school. One day, I had walked back across campus to return a personal book a teacher had loaned me. Mrs. Creighton had semi-shouted from quite a distance down the hallway “Where do you think you are heading?” I heard her but didn’t turn, because I couldn’t imagine she was addressing me.

“Mister, I asked you where you are heading?” Something in her voice caught my attention.

I turned and politely said, “Back to the band hall.” I wasn’t being snarky, funny, or impolite. I was just answering her question. I kept walking.

“Stop!” Mrs. Creighton seemed miffed at this point. “Are you trying to be humorous? If so, you are failing.”

“Just answering your question. Another teacher loaned me a personal book of hers and I just returned it. I have no class now, so I’m not tardy, and am going to go practice in the band room.” I answered without any rancor, as I wasn’t in the mood to get into any trouble.

“Next time, don’t be in the halls after the bell rings.” It was a command.

“Thanks, the bell hasn’t sounded yet, though.” I said and turned to get away from her.

“Did you hear and understand what I said?” Mrs. Creighton had decided that I was being impertinent, if the icicles hanging in the air were any indication.

“I understand where you are coming from, yes.” She knew the deeper intent of what I had said.

I saluted her and walked off, putting her dislike of me out of my mind. I expected to be hit on the head by a thrown object or to hear a screaming demanding that I stop again.
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PS: The book I’m talking about in the scene in the hallway, that novel was loaned to me by the teacher who had written it. It was an unpublished novel with mature content. He had trusted me enough to want to share it with me, to see how much work goes into writing a well-crafted book. And I had read his book, turning the unbound printer’s copy of his book one sheet at a time as I read them. His goal was to always remind me that grammar could be learned but creativity and inspiration were things that had to be nurtured. He encouraged me to stop worrying so much about the process and instead develop the habit and love of reading and writing. I read his book at home, getting a glimpse of his mind, and of another world of possibilities. The example of my other teacher who had authored a book and shared it with me to encourage whatever hope or ambition I might have- his example is a testament to what a teacher can and should strive for. I was the same student, the same person in each teacher’s class. In one, I was a waste of time and nuisance. In the other teacher’s classroom, I was a nascent mind needing some guidance. (Sidenote: the subject of the teacher’s novel involved the consequences of a man drinking and driving, which is a strange coincidence when aligned with my life.) I remember Mrs. Creighton being so mean in the hallway precisely because I felt a little magical, being trusted enough to have the printer’s copy of an author’s book in my hands.

But, through the years, I read kind words offered by ex-students of Mrs. Creighton and think of her. I wish I could recall her brusqueness with warmth; instead, I picture the look of scorn on her face when she interacted with me. Whatever caused her to dislike me before she knew me was obviously something outside of my control. Perhaps she saw someone she once knew in my eyes or thought I was someone I was not. After her passing, I discovered that her anger wasn’t a secret, just as much as her wry sense of humor. I felt a little vindicated that others shared on the receiving end of her sharp tongue. Whatever demon that possessed Mrs. Creighton to be so angry toward me luckily was one she didn’t apply to many students. It lifted a little of my burden to know that I hadn’t been crazy – that she had disliked me without cause and the burden of ‘why’ was entirely on her shoulders.

You might ask, “But what good does it do to share criticism of her now?” Firstly, because I am still here and it’s my story to tell. Each of us navigates through life and leaves a history in our wake. Not all of it is to be admired and the stories might not be ones we’d like to be recalled after we’re gone.

That might be the point of it all, though. We are the sum total of our moments. There are so many I’ve forgotten, even important ones. Whatever my motivation, this story is mine to share, just as it is for those who had a different experience.

A Dollar Afternoon

Friday afternoon, I reluctantly pulled in to the Dollar General, as it is mostly an excuse to expand into outright hoarding. I complained about the necessity of stopping there. Not that my wife had a gun to my head, of course, but I could smell the gunpowder from the last time I defied her.

When we pulled in to the lot, a small gaggle of motley individuals was standing unsafely in the entrance of the parking lot. It would have been easy to accidentally run them over, especially considering that every road construction worker in the state seemingly was working on the road in that area of Springdale.

My wife expressed a little uncertainty as she looked around and said, “That guy is huge. He could tear you in half,” to which I replied, not joking, “Anyone half his size could just as easily tear me in half, honey.” We laughed, acknowledging the truth of it.

I’m fearless around some situations, mostly because it doesn’t occur to me that anyone would want what I have – and they certainly don’t need to use force. I would gladly hand my entire wallet to anyone desperate enough to believe they needed to threaten me to get it. Running away isn’t an option for me unless there’s a good pizza place in the direction I need to run. But, if a good story emerges from a fracas, I’m in favor of it.

As we got out of the car, the group blocking the parking lot entrance dissipated and one of the older men ambled haphazardly behind my car. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I recognized an old familiar face.

Out of the recesses of my mind came his name. “Steve!” I yelled, and he turned, gladdened by the sound of his name. He quickly made his way toward me.

“Am I in trouble?” he asked, half-smiling, shifting back and forth on his feet. He smiled, but with an edge of nervousness.

“No, you’re not in trouble, at least not that I know of. Are you ready to admit your crimes?” I thought I was being witty.

After a few seconds, I could tell that life had beaten him repeatedly, probably long after he had begged for a reprieve. I was sure he now suffered worse with some form of mental impairment. Many of his teeth were missing and what remained was painful to see.

I offered my hand and after an initial hesitation, he shook my outstretched hand as if I had given him a free beer. “Steve, I worked with you. My name is X.” It took him a few tries to admit he remembered my face but not my name. Usually, my name sticks out like a stubbed toe – and usually with the same contorted face that accompanies stubbing one’s toes in the dark of the night.

I motioned for my wife to go ahead of me into the palace of Dollar General / Hoarder’s Emporium, then turned back to Steve and told him that he and I used to poke incredible fun at one another back in the day. I didn’t remind him that a few of our co-workers bullied him; I remembered getting pissed more than once at the mean-spirited things several of the workers did to him. Steve had been a very hard worker but he couldn’t grasp nuance in conversation. It cost him dearly with people who thought they were superior to him.

A memory caught up with him and he laughed. “Yes!” The laugh and smile took me back across the span of intervening years, momentarily washing away the sullen recollection of people misbehaving. “X! Lord yes, you were half crazy,” he told me.

I asked him if he still lived nearby and he told me that yes, he lived in housing toward the airport. After I asked him how he was doing, he paused, not wanting to say anything troublesome. I pulled out my wallet and gave him the $20 I had. I told him if he needed anything from the store, I would buy it for him to celebrate the new year. He hugged me and we laughed for old time’s sake.

Despite the cliché of it all, I teared up as I so often do.

I no longer felt irritated for being forced to stop at Dollar General. For a second, it seemed as if I was supposed to stop and intervene for a moment in Steve’s life. Or, more likely, he in mine.

It’s also true that within 90 seconds of being inside Dollar General, I was cursing my fate and ready to dive out a window to escape that place. Life lessons fade quickly, it seems.

The Old Mill – ‘Run Of The Mill’

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I found out today I didn’t win the Old Mill logo contest. This means I should have submitted one of my 340 other ideas, I suppose? Not only did I have a litany of photo/vector ideas, but a plethora of slogans as well. I was limited to one entry, which in hindsight seems odd to me. Next time, I’m going to enter on behalf of a dozen friends and family members. If I win by such skullduggery, I undoubtedly will have to explain how they won a contest they hadn’t entered. I still am amused that people had trouble coming up with more than one idea. I had to stop myself. Writer’s block isn’t something I’m familiar with most of the time.

I thought using black and white effects on the Old Mill building itself was a nice touch. The judges evidently thought I was completely mistaken. I do wonder what exactly happened during the judging and how much happenstance occurred while it progressed.

 

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One of my other ideas had been to use a pair of glasses, with one side being black and white and the other in color to juxtapose past and present. I would have also used a variant of “Come see us,” as a play on the visual aspect of tourism. Since I didn’t submit that version, I instead used it for a much more important reason: social media profile pictures.

I still think my ideas for Springdale were wasted, though. We’re still stuck with a waffle fry of some sort as our official logo. (see below…) I see it on city vehicles and some other places but it’s certainly not anything memorable.

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The one that I made to conform to design rules (aka “the serious one”) was this one:

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And the funny one, the one that pissed off the establishment folk in some places:

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For anyone who doesn’t know, Springdale is nick-named Chickendale, primarily because of it being the nexus of so much poultry business over the last few decades. We are finally getting past it. Springdale is a spectacular place to live. The logo design initiative, though, was not handled nearly as well as it should have been. That’s just my opinion, of course, and should in no way be a focus of criticism.

I’m glad I had the chance to enter the Old Mill logo contest this year. I’m definitely cheating next time.

 

So, if you win a graphics contest you never entered, please let me know, okay?

 

 

 

 

A Screen Door & Porch Swing Mentality

 

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I don’t miss the ‘easy days’ of what Springdale used to be. The relaxed attitude toward life and the neighborly instinct to wave hello is still yours for the taking. Increased population diminishes your life only if you see it that way. You can still have a screen door and porch swing-mentality in the city if you choose to. Be that person who waves, who gestures for the next person to proceed, and who understands that most acts of frustration aren’t intentional. Stop insisting that all the new faces and new adventures are an assault and instead see them as a new way to experience the same places you’ve always loved.

We survive and evolve only because we take turns at being idiotic in our own way.

More people equates to more potential friends, a bigger perspective, and a richer life. Better roads should mean wider hearts and sidewalks along which we can amble as we live our lives. One thing that most hometown memories have in common is that we could imagine saying “Hi” to anyone passing by our house, whether they were familiar or not. It is that attitude of casual acceptance that is important. Anyone could be a friend; what was true yesterday remains so today.

Other languages grant us a keener mind, an openness to others and a more interesting life. Other cultures enrich us.

I can’t imagine a life without equal parts biscuits and gravy and pico de gallo.

I am the ‘other’ to those who have moved here to share our little corner of life.

A good education comes with the premise that change is the only constant in our world and that nothing that makes us special is reliant on the external to flourish. You can live your life sitting on the porch swing of your youth if you wish it to be so. Springdale might have grown but we’ve lost nothing in the transition that hasn’t been substantially replaced. That feeling of belonging can be recaptured if you choose it. If you look out your window in frustration and imagine a return to what once was, that shimmering and comforting memory is simply that – a memory. Make some new ones.

Pat Ellison, A Living Eulogy

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Perhaps it is a macabre thing to eulogize the living; yet, it’s oddly satisfying. It’s the chance to softly whisper “Thank you for what you did for me.” As we recognize the truths that others attempt to reveal, our eyes and hearts will turn inward, sharing similar memories and thoughts. Recognizing a person through other eyes is a precious joy in life, and I am sure that as other people who shared time with me in band read this, they will be held captive for at least a brief moment, recalling days long past. Trying to pick the words that convey the march of time and emotion is both a chore and an act of respect. All too often, we hear speakers exhort others to plant the words of appreciation and respect into the lives of those who are still living, so that they might feel the soft comfort of being remembered. As much as I have written about a soul named Barb who pointed the way for me, Pat Ellison was her counterpart for me in school.

If we are lucky, we each have a few people who define our nascent ideas of character, intelligence, and charisma. While we might not even recognize them as such at the time, as we grow older, life tends to grab our shoulders and turn us back to them, teaching us, revealing things that should have been manifested earlier in life. Perhaps those students lucky enough to have amplified homes with loving parents will not see the past as I did. After having known so many people who were in the military, I’ve discovered that some elements of my respect for Ms. Pat Ellison are exactly those that allow recruits to grow to love their drill instructors. No matter how irritated she would sometimes be, it was a frustration rooted in things I could understand, which was markedly different from what I might experience outside of school. I know for a fact that she wanted to throw a tuba at me a few times; if she had, I would hope she would have extracted the tuba player from inside it first. She told me that she remembered my sweet smile and I joked that I remembered the time she was vainly trying to teach me to play a solo for a concert in the park. (Hint: neither one of us was smiling for the first hour.) One year, she picked a marching song with “Malagueña” in the title. That song was more complicated than calculus. The only reason I learned it was so that she would not throw me off the marching observation tower. I’m not sure I’m kidding. Any honest student will tell you that Ms. Ellison had her moments of intense frustration. In her defense, I’m not sure how any teacher confronted with 1 to 200 students might not claim criminal insanity multiple times a year. Let’s not even start considering the lunacy of trying to be a calm, rational person on a bus ride to Washington D.C. with hundreds of kids intent on finding the most fun possible.

I sat and talked to Pat Ellison on a Monday morning last year. Even though I see her from time to time, I haven’t interrupted her regular life to share moments and memories. As is always the case with her, she hugged me and talked as if the intervening years were a figment of our imaginations. She told me she had heart surgery a few years ago and back surgery later; at 71, her pace might be slower, but she is still a force of nature. She uses a flip phone and is not a fan of technology. She loves golf, but I don’t hold that against her. I did my best to convince her that so many of her former students would love to share with her as adults and that she was a huge impact on all of us. She humbly denies that any of my flattery could be true. Even though her eyes still light up when someone makes her laugh, you can tell her humility isn’t false. I can only imagine how full her memory must be from the countless people she’s known or how sore her knees must be from the million hours of marching and standing at the podium exerted upon her.

We have Pat Ellison at a great disadvantage: almost everyone remembers her. She has touched so many lives that her list of students and friends must be at least as long as a metropolitan phone book. Her connection to us and to others is immense and monumental. (For any teachers reading this, you at times have the best shot at immortality, being etched into your student’s minds and words for decades to come. Many of us are merely memory footnotes to others; some teachers are the thesis and anchors in so many kids lives.) Undoubtedly, there must be people who didn’t appreciate her – because I’ve also learned that good people must accumulate those who don’t understand them. Being great necessitates not being appreciated, too. I’m glad that I fell onto the side of right in regards to Ms. Ellison.

I told her that I was at a graduation a few years ago when she gave the “Tag-You’re-It” speech. She admitted to being terrified at the idea of giving such a speech. I would have never suspected her to experience stage fright. She was surprised when I told her that I had seen her speech on a blog a few years later, from someone who only knew her through another band member. While she thought her speech was uninspired, it had, in fact, reached many more people than she had imagined possible. Her legions of students and admirers hadn’t forgotten her. Even if her efforts hadn’t been inspired or creative, her commitment and persistence at showing up and working toward a goal, day in, day out, year after year certainly would’ve earned her recognition. I had also seen her at a British Brass Band concert many years before and the familiarity of her expressions took me back a couple of decades.

She genuinely is both unaware and humbled at the idea that she sits at the nexus of several thousand people who have such great memories of her. For those who know me well, you know that band is one of the few things that allowed me escape from my home life and opened the world up to me. Without band and without Noel Morris and then Pat Ellison, I am certain that my life would have taken a more sinister turn. I stayed in band through the generosity and kindness of both Noel and Pat. By being in band, I stayed connected to the world at large and remained able to convince myself that I was more than the circumstances of my youth. Unlike the cases of many of my contemporaries, band was almost my sole window to the world. I learned things in band that dwarfed the concept of simple musical notes or technical ability – that is what a good teacher and great human being seems to do naturally.

It was Mrs. Ellison who told me that the only thing keeping me from making All-State band was ‘me’ and to set aside who I was going into the audition room. It worked. “They don’t see through the curtain. Play like you just did for me and you will leave smiling.” She was right. Noel Morris had said, “Practice, you fool!” when I said I’d never even learn how to make a sound emanate from the mouthpiece. (It took me 2 or 3 days just to ‘buzz’ the mouthpiece, a bad omen. I think Mr. Morris thought I might have been soft in the head.) Between the ritual of books and practice, I advanced. Ms. Ellison told me the same thing over and over: practice. When I failed my senior year, it was her I let down. But I had those 2 years of All-State, all because even if Ms. Ellison didn’t really believe I could make it, I believed her when she told me I could. That confidence from her propelled me. Even though I didn’t take advantage of either, it was Ms. Ellison who gave me the option of both a music scholarship in college and a free pass into the U.S. Army Orchestra.

It is one thing to ponder in abstract the moments from over 30 years ago, reminiscing. It’s another to sit and share moments that Monday morning with someone who has lived such a rich, full life. It was a pleasure to share time with her and I think we all might be missing the chance to continue to learn from someone who probably could teach us all a few lessons in compassion and hard work. (All of these things are held in common by great teachers, of course.) Pat Ellison’s impact seems to echo and flourish as I age. The primary lesson I come back to is one of insistence on looking toward the goal and practicing enough to see it move a little closer. So much of what we excel at is due to simple persistence. Ms. Ellison certainly believed in persistence; at times, we played certain bars so many times I felt as if we were in the movie “Groundhog Day.”

When I was younger, there were times I didn’t understand Ms. Ellison. All I wanted to do was the play music, interact with people, and avoid being the center of attention. I didn’t enjoy some of the monotony of group practice, especially marching. (I still believe marching might be the only genuinely demonic force in the universe.) However, band allowed for travel and banter, though, and those things are what melded us into a loose group. I was able to be in a group of people and enjoy a huge slice of life that would have been otherwise mysterious to me. Maybe no one will understand it when I say that a great deal of life would have been hidden behind the curtain if it weren’t for band and Ms. Ellison. I’m certain that she had been exposed to enough of life to suspect how severe my circumstances sometimes were, yet she was also able to not press too closely. That’s another skill that is probably difficult to hone as a teacher and even more unlikely for the average human being.

Ms. Ellison had her own reasons for the things she did, some of which we weren’t invited to be a part of – and with good reason. Times were different and things that are easily accepted now weren’t met with the same casual indifference. Ms. Ellison was a complex person and not understanding those complexities back then diminished my ability to look past any frustrations I might have had. She made choices and did things precisely because of her own life exerting its pressures.

Now that I’m older, I can appreciate her as a music teacher and as a person – and my heart grows a little. For so many of the people in my list of notables; among them, Barb, Willie, Pat, or Nellie, they all share one thing in common: I wish I could live a part of my life again, as their contemporary, to see who they were and what made to be the individuals they became by the time I came along. Pat is now in her early 70s. Just thinking about how many people she grew to know in life since she graduated college in 1966 makes me feel both old and tired.

If she were standing here listening to me read this aloud, she would shift her weight from one foot to another, looking toward the ground and smiling. As I finished, she would deny that she had done anything special, other than work and try to finish what she started. But the flicker in her eyes would belie the notion that she probably does see the incredible line of students standing in single file behind her, all looking back to the times they shared with her. It is the earned legacy of a great teacher.

Thank you, Ms. Ellison.

 

 

Memory Day Each Day

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Starting the day with a gift of 5 lbs. of wild birdseed to Jimmy, scattering it for the birds to feed on noisily. The birdsong isn’t Metallica, but I would imagine that it is as close to heavenly as could be devised. There were no muffin-fetching dogs to scamper about, nor cacophonous, mischievous laughs to startle passersby – but there were echoes of these, fluttering in the late May breeze, above the creek, below the sky, observing us all. Memorials aren’t events; they are memories of daily life, shared moments that fade into whispers as we recall them. With love to Jimmy and the world he ineloquently slipped away from.

 

“If you say these words aloud, in soft awe, you may summon the times you would ask to revisit.” – X

Johnny Cascone’s Italian

Johnny Cascone’s Italian finally reeled us in Springdale yesterday. We skipped all the known eateries along I-49 and decided to try a new local option. It’s in the old Waffle Hut location. Even though it has been renovated, it is strange to have a place there worthy of attention. Waffle Hut used to get a lot of questionable business, but many dreams of good food died in that building, one plate of eggs and cigarette ash-covered hash browns at a time. Had Johnny Cascone’s not rescued it, the place could have served as a filming location for the Walking Dead without any modification. It takes an intrepid restaurateur to look at the Waffle Hut building and think, “That would be ideal for a place to serve food to other humans.” But they have wonderfully succeeded and I hope they do well in their chosen location.

Dawn tried the chicken parmigiana and I had the chicken carchovi, which is sautéed artichoke hearts in white wine sauce over charbroiled chicken breast and spaghetti. We had the spinach-artichoke dip as an appetizer. The artichokes and strips of pepper in the dip were delicious. I didn’t even care if my plate had chicken on it, as my sights were set on an inhuman portion of artichokes – and they delivered. Our French waiter Genaro made it interesting, as he speaks five languages, including Albanian. I couldn’t help but notice how much the other gentleman reminded me of Ray Romano – maybe I shouldn’t have used my outside voice to mention it.

Here’s a link to the menu: Johnny Cascone’s Menu

It’s not pricey when you compare the entire menu against the competition, especially the seafood portion. For the restaurant’s size, the menu is surprisingly varied.

PS: Order a dipping sauce (or two) from below the appetizer menu to enjoy the complementary rolls served before the meal. Not that most of you would think about it, but Cascone’s is an ideal place to eat vegetarian if you want. For an Italian place, they have a big selection of non-meat menu items.

As always, give it a try yourself, regardless of what you’ve heard or not heard. It’s nice to not drive far to enjoy great food here in Springdale.

Doc Holliday Art…

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Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday.  I finally got one for myself and framed it, although the simplicity of the painting lends itself to placing without a frame. My wife convinced me that the silver frame would offset perfectly against the orange and black – and she was right.

I’ve bought 5 of these, as well as a few others for friends and family.When people see the painting, they invariably react with “Cool” and ask me about it. I think it would be a huge hit and surprise for most guys for their birthdays or Xmas.

I’m having a Clint Eastwood painting done and I’m sure it will be just as big a hit as the others. My latest is 16X20, although other sizes are available.

 

“Down by the creek, walking on water.” That’s where I’ll be.

Early Voting in Arkansas

 

 

As the FBI may have told you during an unscheduled in-home visit while collecting data on me, I am so liberal that even other radicals see me and scream “Yikes.” In fact, I’m trying to figure out ways to spend your tax dollars right now. Thanks, Obama!

Having said that, I voted early today and opted to vote in the Republican primary. The Republican primary is more interesting than the Democratic one. (Remember that I live in Arkansas. Trump is going to win this bag of loose nuts by 10 points.) I was certain someone was going to jump from the rafters and mace me or that the helpful clerks were going to laugh and force me back out the door. I’m just about the last person in Arkansas that the current Republicans would target or want voting in their primary. (Even though people tell me I look as nuts as Donald Trump, am built like Chris Christie, creep them out like Cruz, and have the verbal gifts of Ben Carson.) So, I used my vote to mainly vote against the crazies, though that doesn’t narrow it down much.

After checking my I.D. and weird name at least 17 times, the clerks gathered and finally decided that if I LOOKED normal enough to vote in the Republican primary, they were going to allow me to do so. One of the clerks made the astute point that if Donald Trump could run as a candidate, anyone should be able to vote, no matter how impaired they might be. Compliment?

On a side note, I’m continuing to learn that voting clerks aren’t accustomed to really weird people like me. Once I get them laughing, though, you would think we were having a party. The voting process needs more levity.

Voting is our way of proving to other people how dumb we can be. And I demonstrate my ignorance proudly.

The important race, of course, was that of Constable. I couldn’t vote for Mr. Evil Mustache (Tom Clowers) or that Duggar fellow, so Mr. Snow got my vote. I voted Bobby Jindal for President, only because he is no longer in the race. If a Republican wins the Presidency, I want it to be someone who doesn’t want the job. (I asked if I could pay a fee and vote 25 times against Trump and Cruz, but they didn’t seem to understand my question.) I voted for Curtis Coleman because he isn’t John Boozman, in part due to John’s terrible impersonation of a life-sized puppet. I voted for Sharon Lloyd because she isn’t Lance Eads. (No offense to his parents, who are two of the best people on the planet.) I voted against Courtney Goodson for Supreme Court because I firmly believe that if you are going to sell-out, at least wear racing stripes on your judicial sleeves indicating who paid for your affiliations. It’s only fair.

It was interesting learning about the candidates, seeing what issues were at hand and then using the time-tested method of voting for the candidate with the best hair.

Come November, I will of course return to the venue of logic and reason and to the liberal candidates, leaving behind today’s brief foray into the bizarre mix of modern conservatism.

But if you need someone to help spend your tax dollars, let me know. I’ll write President Sanders or Clinton next January to let them know on your behalf.

PS: Early voting at the rodeo grounds was fantastic, as it always is. They are professionals and I couldn’t imagine things running any more smoothly than that group manages it.

Proposed Logo for the City of Springdale, Arkansas

springdale

 

Keep in mind – this is satire, although if they want to pay me $150,000 for it, I’ll take a check. (I’ll donate it all to scholarships benefiting students…)

After the recent tribulations of Springdale’s new logo, I tasked myself with the goal of making something both representative AND humorous. It needed to indicate progress & history, as well as being topical and polychromatic. If I can make something ridiculous, surely the brainpower in Springdale can devise something better Pick-Up Sticks of our childhood across a stale slogan. I’m happy to see all the progress here in Springdale, but in case anyone missed it, I loathe the logo design chosen.

Maybe I just had “Guy On a Buffalo” stuck in my head?