Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Backlog #2: The Lighting of Fayetteville Square

The weekend before Thanksgiving, we heard via some friends (yes! we have those!) that there was to be a grand square-lighting ceremony in downtown Fayetteville. The rumors seemed to be a little grand, as I heard talk of pony and camel rides, but we figured it might be worth checking out.

As we live about 4 blocks away, we were able to wander up the hill about 5 minutes before the big event. We found the busiest crowd I've ever seen in this town (remember that I have not been to a football game) outside of the Bikes, blues, and BBQ...which was mostly people not from this town. The lighting of the square is the quintessential small town holiday activity: some city people spent over a week painstakingly stringing lights up all over the area and then the townsfolk get together to drink hot chocolate and say "oooooh" together.

Of course, there had to be some Arkansas to differentiate this small town holiday activity from similar events occurring all over the country. At our town lighting, rather than counting down from ten like normal people, we were asked to "call the hogs." Now I know that Doug did a brief rundown of the hog calling in his football post, but since that time I've been quite interested in the hog calling process. Why? Because it's really, really silly. Waving your hands above your hand and then shouting "Pig, soooie!" multiple times in a row does not feel dignified. It does not feel adult. But it does feel like a rip-roarin' good time.

Despite this, Doug has adamantly refused to call the hogs. I've tried calling the hogs in his face. I've tried calling the hogs at him when we pass each other running on the trail. I even put forth considerable effort in Albuquerque over Thanksgiving trying to get OTHER people to coerce him to call the hogs. So far, nothing has worked. Maybe I should get him to lead everyone in a hog calling before I'll actually marry him?

Anyway, after everyone but Doug called the hogs, the lights in the town square came on, and I must admit, it was pretty impressive. I mean, how cute is this:

Even better, they had a carousel of lights spinning around, where all the animals were horses except one:

I could have watched that carousel for hours. But I didn't have the opportunity, because shortly after the lighting of the square, the parade began. The parade! Now, might I remind our gentle readers that I spent six years in Chicago, where "parade" means mojitos while thousands of gay men wearing tiny gold shorts and/or exquisitely dressed drag queens throw condoms from floats.

This parade was, um, not quite that. We thankfully ran into some friends during the parade who we were able to crack jokes with. We all got a kick out of the McDonalds float. I mean seriously, when do you get to see a float with not only Ronald, but the Hamburgler and Grimace too? This is a special, special town.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Backlog #1: Eureka Springs

Several weeks back, so far back that I don't even remember exactly when, we took a day trip to quaint little Eureka Springs. Googling "Eureka Springs" reveals that the city's tagline is "The Extraordinary Escape." Extraordinary it is indeed.

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Arkansas (and yes, I am aware that "tourist destination" and "Arkansas" might be considered an oxymoron), Eureka Springs is maybe the cutest town ever. And those are strong words from someone like me, who has previously said pretty much the same thing about Madrid, New Mexico. Having now been to both more than once, I'd probably say that Eureka Springs probably wins, because it is (a) bigger, and (b) has more fudge shoppes.

A quick 45 minute drive from Fayetteville, the entire town of Eureka Springs is on the National Register of Historic places. I've seen it referred to as a "Victorian resort village," which although ridiculous sounding, is actually pretty accurate. The town has narrow winding streets, is very hilly, and has many Victorian homes in varying stages of disrepair. It's a weird mix of a town, with many shops and B&Bs dedicated to weddings, a fairly ragin' biker community, lots of artists, and for Arkansas, it's pretty hip with the GLBT folk.

Here's an example of an artist's commune fairly close to downtown:

A word of advice to those of you who might someday visit this quaint little town: it's not always very friendly to cars. If you get lost, you could end up driving around a big loop around the town, or you could look at a map and try to take a shortcut and end up on a dirt road winding through a valley. Let me tell you, a Toyota Corolla doesn't really like dirt roads in valleys.

By the time we finally found a place to park, we were starving, and in the mood for a sandwich at a cute local place. You know, one of the kinds of places that has doilies on the table and homemade bread. Um, we did not find one of those places. Rather, we sat down at the first place that we found, and their "fruit and salad plate" involved some iceberg lettuce, a poorly sliced apple and some orange slices. We were also entertained by the table next to us doing "liquid marijuana" shots which apparently is some kind of alcoholic drink that I'd never heard of.

After we had whatever they were passing off as food, we wandered the cute little town:

The best part of the wanderings was the random little stores we found. One place had a lot of used antique-type jewelry, vintage clothing, and weird stuff the owners made. Like this piece of awesome:

I cannot express to you, blog-o-sphere, how much I love this table. It's like the partner of the leg lamp from A Christmas Story! There were more of them, too! I managed to snap this picture before the owner barked at me "Some people might get mad if you take pictures without permission....good thing I'm not one of them!" before she cackled. Apparently her man makes these tables for fun...he showed us several of his other creations before we were able to escape the store. Rest assured, I'd go back there, as the woman also made some fantastic feathered hair pieces that I might think about wearing at the wedding.

Also, check this out:

It's a motorcycle...made of baskets!

Apparently Eureka Springs has lots of outdoor music, opera, and Shakespeare in the summer. They have several ice cream shops, and had we been patient enough to walk another block, plenty of adorable places to find homemade soup and bread. It's an adorable, quirky, quaint town that is just a quick jaunt away. Rest assured, if anyone ever gets around to visiting us, we will take you there, because it might just be the best place to go in Arkansas.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Updates to and fro

Last week the two of us left our suddenly-chilly new hometown and drove the twelve hours to our sunny old hometown of Albuquerque for Thanksgiving. Due to my fairly flexible academic schedule, we were able to leave on Monday afternoon. All day Sunday and Monday morning I was feverishly checking various sources of weather information, as we'd been told Flash Floods were expected in northwest Arkansas on Monday night. My plan was to get the hell out of here ASAP to miss the weather.

Well, we got out of here in good time, but sadly hit much weather on the drive between Oklahoma City and Amarillo. We also stopped in Tulsa briefly so I could do some quick dress shopping. We spent the night at a cheap national brand chain hotel in Amarillo that pissed me off for several reasons. First, when we walked in together to check in, the desk clerk said "Nice jacket" but actually meant Doug and not me. Both of us were very confused, as people rarely compliment his clothing over mine. We were then promptly informed that "Corduroy is the new suede," which would have been hilarious had it not been followed by "Oh and you only booked this room for 1 person but as there are two of you I will have to charge you an additional $10. Is that OK?" No, that's not OK. When he said "all hotels do this," I had to bite my tongue from saying "Nice ones don't." I suppose I know from now on to just leave Doug in the car when I check into crap hotels in Amarillo.

Suffice it to say we made it to Albuquerque in one piece, and spent several days seeing friends, eating at places we'd missed, attending Geeks Who Drink on Tuesday night and spending time with Doug's family. I even swung by the VA for a few hours to see some of my old supervisors and got all caught up on VA life.

On Thursday morning we ran the Albuquerque Turkey Trek, an annual 5K race in the Old Town neighborhood of Albuquerque. It was pretty darn cold that morning, and leaving the house at 8am on vacation seemed mighty stupid, but we both finished the race and thus felt justified in stuffing our faces with turkey and other delicious Thanksgiving foods. Like pie. Anyway, it was officially my second-best 5K ever; I came in at 27:56, which felt pretty great considering I haven't been running that much and considering the change in altitude.

On Sunday, we made our first pass at driving the entire way back on one day. Armed with an Ipod stuffed full of tunes and many entertaining podcasts, the day still felt crazy long. In part because I felt the beginnings of a cold and was trying to drink as many fluids as I could...and my tiny bladder prompted us to make several stops. But we made it. We made it until after Thanksgiving to turn the heat on in our apartment, we made it safely to Albuquerque and back, and I am making it through this cold.

Sorry there aren't any pictures....but the only picture I have of the whole week is one from the race website with me running to the finish line, and it's one of the worst photos of me ever taken. If you really really care, you can look up the website yourself and I'll tell you that I'm photo number 1336.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hit That Line, Hit That Line, Keep on Going

Jenn went to Toronto for a conference. When Jenn leaves town, I go into bachelor mode. That means I don't bother making the bed, dishes don't necessarily get washed right away and taking showers and getting dressed become significantly lower on the priority list.

I got an email from one of our trivia teammates telling me that he won two tickets to the Razorbacks game, and he asked if I'd be interested in going. Sure, that seemed like a good enough reason to shower and get dressed. I put on the only red shirt I own, a shirt I bought at Target advertising the fictional beer Homer Simpson enjoys.

I don't have much of a background with college football. I grew up on Long Island where the attention is on New York's professional teams. Same deal with my time in Philadelphia and their temas. It wasn't until I moved to Albuquerque when I lived in a place where people cared about college football, and UNM's team is terrible, so I was able ignore the Lobos. Things are much more different in Fayetteville.

First off, the seating capacity in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium is about 70,000, which I can't really fathom. The only other college game I've been to was when I was in college.
University of Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens:
One of the nation's few female mascots.

University of Delaware's stadium holds about 22,000. I can't remember if the one game I went to was at capacity. I don't remember, because I may be confusing it with the only other time I went to Delaware Stadium -- the rainy graduation day 3 1/2 years later.

I would say all in all, the Razorbacks game was an interesting experience. It kind of reminded me of the first time I went to a church service. I didn't grow up in a religious household, so the first time I went to church was for some Cub Scout event. The priest would say something, and the congregation would say something back. People seemed to know when to stand and when to sit. I had no idea what was going on.

This was exactly like that. People did certain cheers at certain times. They would yell things in unison. I was lost, but fascinated.
It was pretty interesting to take it all in.

I was fortunate to be going with someone who has about the same amount of interest in the game. We can follow along without getting lost. And yeah, it's nice to cheer for the team, but we can't muster enough team spirit to "call the hogs."

Calling the hogs is when everyone in the stadium lifts their hands above their heads while giving spirit fingers, making a long, high-pitched "Woooooooooo" sound. That's followed by them yelling "Pig! Sooie!" They repeat that process two more times and then yell "Razorbacks."

Yeah, I'm not doing that.
We were "lucky" to be sitting in front of two people who spent the entire time yelling at the players on the field. They can't hear you, dudes.

I started thinking about this human condition that makes people want to yell things at people who can't hear them. I compared it to people who yell at the television. After thinking about it for a bit, I considered that yelling at the television was more acceptable. By my theory, the thing you're yelling at is actually in the room with you, so you have some psychological pull to yell at it since, hypothetically, the television would be able to hear you even though you're actually directing your anger at the people being shown in the television, even though they can't hear you. But then I started thinking that maybe that was more acceptable because if we're in the same room as the person yelling at the television, I most likely know the person well enough to tell them to shut up. I didn't really have that luxury here.

After the Razorbacks scored a touchdown, the guy behind me patted my shoulder. When I turned around, he yelled, "That's why we're #1!"

Actually, the Razorbacks were #7 at that point; which, while impressive, is not #1. Also, I've always had a problem with people who use the pronoun "we" when referring to their favorite team. You're not on the team. It's nice that you're a fan, and I'm sure they appreciate your support. But if you have to pay to see a game, then it's not "we," it's "they." That's why they're #7.

My favorite part was when they yelled, "C'mon, cheerleaders. Call the hogs! These cheerleaders are terrible." Apparently, even the cheerleaders weren't safe from these guys.
From where I was sitting, in some angles, this guy's head was blocking my view of part of the end zone, so I was only able to see "ZORBACKS." I amused myself by imagining and old couple complaining about an annoying family, the Zorbachs. "Ugh! I can't stand those people. Who do they think they are?"

I think it was funnier inside my head.
Neither of us were interested in leaving with the huge crowd at the very end of the game, so we left with about 10 minutes left in the game. Arkansas 42, Tennessee 7. At that point, a lot of people had the same idea as us, so we left with a large group of people anyway. Arkansas scored another touchdown after we left.

Despite my curmudgeonly aversion to team spirit, I'd have to say it was a good time worth doing again.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tis the season....

...Not for boughs of holly, not yet. Though here the Christmas store is open and some places have already strung lights. It's too early for that, people, it's too early. Wait until AFTER Halloween already, could you?

Speaking of, I have an apology to make to the blogosphere. Halloween is a sacred holiday in the lives of me and my beloved fiance, yet we did not participate in the revelry this year. We've been talking about Halloween costumes since June, yet none were made, found, borrowed or gathered. This is because we know no one who threw a party and we were unwilling to mingle with the college students at the drunken slutty-nurse type bar parties. Sadly, no clever costumes for us this year. We did, however, go see Rocky Horror Picture Show last night and got covered with rice, bopped in the head with toilet paper rolls and showered with toast crumbs, as is traditional. It was, all in all, a good time.

Halloween is not my purpose of writing today, however. I'm here to share a few more pictures that I took on walks to work at various times of day.

This one is the spookiest, and I almost wish it had been this morning, because it seems so Halloweeny. It was taken just out our door, on a morning where I could barely see four feet in front of me.

Another morning brought a beautiful sunrise, especially lovely with the hills of downtown Fayetteville in the background:

The last photo was taken on a weekend afternoon, heading to the office (yep, working on a weekend, just like grad school!) on a crisp fall day. The colors on the trees are fab right now, and I just said to Doug the other day "this town is growing on me," in part because of how pretty the trees are. It is the one advantage I've found for Fayetteville over Albuquerque, which is gorgeous in it's own right but doesn't really have the fall colors, probably because there just aren't very many trees.

Happy Halloween, everyone! May the candy be plentiful and calorie free, and the ghouls friendly! Don't go to a new costume shop owned by a devilishly handsome stranger who happens to know the high school librarian...or you might be in for a nasty surprise.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Adventures With My Car PART II

I needed a mechanic to look at my car. I needed some sort of peace of mind letting me know that my car was not likely to spin out of control again. I got lucky and managed minimal damage the first time, but it wasn't something I was willing to gamble on again.

My car is kind of old, so going to the mechanic is nothing new to me. The place I took it to in Albuquerque was pretty reliable. As an added bonus, it was within walking distance from my place. I absolutely loathe having to wait while my car gets serviced. I feel like it's a waste of my time. I'd much rather drop it off and waste time in the comfort in my own home.

I found a place nearby that got good reviews online. As an added bonus, it was only 0.7 miles away. My plan was to drop off my car and walk home. I even brought a banana with me so that I could have a snack during the walk home.

When I turned into the garage's parking lot, it was empty except for one truck. There didn't seem to be anyone around, but the garage door was open. I parked and went inside, but the office was empty too. A man appeared, seemingly coming from behind the building. He asked me what I had wanted and through talking to him, I got the impression that he wasn't all that interested in helping me out. He spoke to me like I was some idiot brother-in-law who knew nothing about cars who was hounding him to look at some imagined problem, and not some potential customer ready to throw down a few hundred dollars. Finally, he told me that he'd take a look at it, and he told me to drive it into the garage.

I hesitated because I don't think I've ever driven a car, literally, into a mechanic's garage, but sure enough, he was guiding me onto the lift. I got out, he lifted the car a bit and checked the tires out. I was watching him from outside of the garage, but he waved me in.

I felt pretty uncomfortable being next to my car as it running while on the lift. First, and irrationally, I was still not convinced that my car was not trying to kill me. What was keeping it from falling on me and finishing the job? Secondly, am I even supposed to be in the garage like that? That seems like some insurance problems would arise if I were to somehow injure myself — or if my car fell on me.

I could barely understand him. Between the accent, his low-talking and the fact that he was competing with talk radio blasting throughout the garage, I could only pick up the general ideas he was trying to share with me.

Basically, the rear tires needed to be replaced. He suggested that I get new tires for the front and put the front tires in the back. He also suggested that I go across the street to the tire shop to do that.

I was taken aback by the fact that a business telling me to go elsewhere. If he had said, "I don't really do tires, but go across the street. They'll give you a good deal," I'd appreciate it. No, he was just telling me to go across the street.

I figured he put ten minutes or so into looking at my car, I felt weird just leaving without offering anything. When I asked him if I owed him anything for his time, he replied, "How about that banana?"

So, I paid a guy one banana to look at my car. The barter system seems to be very much alive in this town.

After getting new tires, I learned I still needed to get the exhaust fixed. Apparently, my off-roading did more damage than originally thought.

So, I have new tires, but I still need work done on my car. I was worried about going to a mechanic who would snow me into getting things I didn't need, and here I went to two places that didn't do enough.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Adventures With My Car PART I

I bought my car, a 1999 Toyota Corolla, in May of 2003. It has its problems, and they're increasing with age and mileage, but I've taken moderately good care of it over the years.

Taken Sept. 2005, before the paint started to chip.
Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, N.M.

We transported my car to Arkansas because we were unsure how it would respond to a 12-hour drive. Plus, collaborating a road trip like that — ensuring that two people in separate cars stop in the same places for meals, etc. — seemed like an unnecessary hassle.

Since getting to Fayetteville, Jenn has told me that if I wanted to drive her car around town, I'm perfectly welcome to do so. I usually don't do that unless I have to because her car is manual transmission. I'm fine with driving stick shift (my first car was one), it's driving stick shift in such a hilly area that makes me anxious.

Monday night, I was driving to the airport to pick Jenn up. While driving up I-540, I ran into a pretty heavy storm. I could barely see the road and had to slow down to under 30 miles per hour, along with the other cars around me. The rain let up after a few minutes and the traffic picked up some of its speed again. I had gone maybe a mile or two (at about 50 mph in the right lane) when I felt my car drift into the other lane.

I can't really say I remember exactly what happened. All I knew was that I had no control of the car. At one point, I was facing the wrong direction. I was really just waiting for my car to hit something, but it never did. When it stopped, I was facing the correct direction again, halfway in the left lane, halfway on the grassy shoulder. I was fine (physically). My car? I didn't know. I got out to take a look, but I couldn't really see anything. There seemed to be no body damage, but I couldn't really see the tires in the dark. After having a freak-out attack about what had just happened, I started panicking that I would be a sitting duck as the same thing happened to another passing vehicle, right into me.

The traffic cleared long enough for me to get back onto the road. All this happened right before an exit, so I figured best-case scenario, I get off and get to a gas station to see what was up. I got on the road and heard an awful sound. I immediately pulled over to the right-hand shoulder to investigate further. Still couldn't see anything. By this time, I was calming down.

I got back into the car and decided to get off of the highway, if I could. Sure enough, the car seemed to be driving okay, it was just dragging something. I had hoped I wasn't dragging anything important that would fall off during the short drive to the gas station.

As I pulled into the gas station and parked my car, a young man in a pickup truck passed me. I guess seeing someone pull into the gas station with hazards on caught his attention. He turned around and parked next to me as I was finding the source of the noise; the part that holds the muffler in place lost was hanging on one side. After all of that, that seemed to be the extent of the damage my car suffered.

I told him what happened, and he said, "I'm sort of a mechanic, I can take a look," and he got down on the wet concrete and climbed under my car. He emerged to tell me that I'm just missing a some bolts and washers and he would be able to give a temporary fix with a few plastic ties. He did that and five minutes later, he was off on his way.

I didn't know how to thank him, and he seemed totally fine with stammering words of appreciation I offered.

So all was fine, except I still needed to get to the airport and then drive home. It was nerve-racking, but we got home safely. Of course, I avoided the highway on the way back.

Getting the car checked out and fixed has proven to be another interesting story, though less terrifying.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The roar of the hogs

A few weeks ago, Fayetteville hosted it's annual Ode to Motorcyles, the Bikes, Blues and BBQ festival. According to Wikipedia, which cites the festival organizers, this is the second largest motorcycle rally in the country (after Sturgis). Having witnessed the leather-clad takeover of Fayettville, I am leaning towards believing them.

We did not partake in even a fraction of the activities that Bikes, Blues and BBQ had to offer, which included things like a parade, BBQ sauce tasting competition, lots and lots of free music at stages all over town.....and a whole bunch of other stuff. There were events on Dickson Street (near us), down by the football field, and over at the county fairgrounds.

In fact, we really only participated in the revelry for about half an hour. We left the house, walked the two blocks down to Dickson Street, bought some BBQ sandwiches from a vendor (but not from the "Porky Chicks" truck, because....rude), bought some curly fries from another vendor when we were still hungry, and then found the pinnacle of our fair visit: the frozen cheesecake on a stick. That's right, a full slice of cheesecake, dipped in chocolate and frozen. Mmmmmmmmmm.

At that point, we decided enough was enough and headed home.

Of course, from Wednesday through Saturday the festival was hard to miss, even if one was not trying to explicitly visit. Namely, the roar of motorcyles could be heard pretty much anywhere and everywhere. My walk home from work involved passing rows and rows of bikes parked in the Bank of America drive through and in every other place with a few feet of surface space. The sidewalks were lined with vendors selling chaps and leather vests as well as hard-core biker childrens t-shirts (yes, I'm being sarcastic).

People in this town seem to simply hate the weekend when the bikers come to play. Most of my colleagues were talking about leaving town for the weekend, or hunkering down and avoiding the roads. Me? I thought it was fun. Loud, yes, but I like the biker style (no, I did not buy any leather chaps) and it was fun to see the parking lot near the arts center filled with trucks selling BBQ and funnel cakes. Plus, I discovered cheesecake on a stick!

Mostly, though, walking around during the festival reminded me of one of the jokes that Doug and I have, dating back to our time in New Mexico. Namely, after we started dating, I forced him to watch the movie Wild Hogs starring John Travolta and William H. Macy, a film that my parents introduced me to a few years back. The movie is pretty forgettable, but it was filmed in New Mexico, even the beginning parts that are supposed to be Cleveland or wherever. The climax of the movie is set in a small town in the mountains of New Mexico, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, called Madrid. I've talked about it before on my own blog, because the town is the cutest place ever and my favoritest store in the state is there (Weasel & Fitz, a store that sells recycled art).

Anyway, to get to the point, Doug and I watched the movie and went to Madrid, and since then we have yelled "Wild hogs!" any time a motorcyclist passes us on the road. For some reason, it's still funny.

The irony has not escaped me that we have this joke about the Wild Hogs bikers and now we're living in a town that is obsessed with it's Razorbacks, the wild hog mascot of the football team. So as I was walking up and down Dickson Street during the festival, I kept laughing to myself about the Wild Hogs in the town wild for wild hogs. And now you, gentle readers, get to be in on the joke too. :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nature and irony

It was an exercise-tastic weekend for us here in Walmart Country. After our triumphant 5K on Saturday, we decided to spend Sunday afternoon walking around Lake Fayetteville. I've posted about it before; we had a small picnic one afternoon on the rocky shores of the lake. This time, we brought our Camelbaks and set out to walk the circumference of the lake.

See lake, see how pretty:

The start of the trail was nice, a wide path that crossed a cute little dam, and ended in a parking lot. From there we were a tad confused, but found a natural dirt + rocks trail that felt more like hiking than a leisurely stroll. About 2 miles in, we started down a different paved path that said "Lake Fayetteville Trail 4.5 miles." Considering I thought the entire circumference of the trail was 4.5 miles, this sign confused me mightily.

Then, the trail veered away from the lake into a field, and we both looked at each other with a "Oh...crap" sigh. It turns out the whole way around is much longer than 4.5 miles, and our legs were about ready to fall off when we got back to the car.

Don't get me wrong, there were some nice views:

But after all the running/walking on Saturday, this particular walk was a bit much. Plus, it was late in the afternoon and we were starving by the time we got home.

Wait, that's a lie. In reality, we were so starving that about two blocks from home we stopped at a nearby Thai place I've been wanting to try, because (a) I have been craving Thai food, and (b) it would have taken well over half an hour to prepare the meal we were planning and neither of us wanted to wait that long to eat.

Ah, irony. So by the time we got home, we were no longer starving, though we were annoyed. Look at this ridiculous timeline (*a semi-accurate reconstruction)

6:15pm We arrive at the restaurant
6:20pm Our sullen waitress brings our water and takes our order, which includes two dishes and an order of spring rolls
6:40pm I receive my meal
6:41pm We receive our spring rolls
6:42pm "Have you gotten your complimentary spring rolls yet?" and another plate of spring rolls appears at our table.
6:48pm Waitress explains that she brought me my food early even though it belonged to another table because "we had been waiting." As soon as she walks away, Doug and I look quizzically in her direction and make judgmental comments about the business model of the restaurant.
6:50pm Waitress tries to give us more spring rolls, we refuse them
7:55pm Doug gets his food.

I mean, in what universe does a curry dish take over 30 minutes to prepare? And why on earth would two people who came to eat dinner together, want to watch each other eat rather than eat at the same time?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Running and other such activities

As longtime friends of mine know, I have a tempestuous relationship with running. I had to run in high school--the final exam at the end of the year was a 5K--and I hated it with a firey passion. I picked up running again a little bit in graduate school because I lived with a runner and running was free, but I didn't really do it all that regularly until Albuquerque. I ran regularly last fall, culminating in my first (thusfar only) 10K race, which I completed in under an hour, which unfortunately was my longterm goal. Unfortunate because I refused to create a more stringent goal, like running a half marathon or something. So, my running dwindled over the spring and summer.

When we moved to Fayetteville, both Doug and I started running regularly. This semester, we run on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and one weekend day. It's not a lot, but it's been pretty consistent, and both of us have increased our distance and our speed.

Funny sidebar story here. A couple of weeks ago, we ran in the late afternoon, and as we headed out the door, Doug started complaining about how awful running is (this is a common topic in our home, as we both do it but neither of us gets a ton of joy from the experience). We each had our own route planned, but we had a system designed that if he passed me, he'd hand over the door key because that would mean I'd be back before him. He said "OK, well, see you soon, unless I end up keeled over on the trail." We each headed our own ways, and when I got back, the door was locked, which meant that (a) we should have passed each other on the trail or (b) he was keeled over on the part of the trail I didn't go down. Thoughts of option (b) took over my head, and I went back out to the trail, running an additional mile or so, just to make sure he wasn't there, actually keeled over. I returned home 10 minutes later to find him drinking some water, safe and sound. Turns out we HAD passed each other on the trail, and he'd even waved the key at me, but I was so much in my zone (about ready to run up one of Fayetteville's Hills of Doom) that I didn't even see him. He felt awful, and I thought it was hilarious.

This morning, we both ran a 5K, our first in Arkansas. It was sponsored by a sorority or fraternity (or both, I don't know) to support children's literacy. Which, you know, is a good cause for nerds like us. Especially since there was a poster of a Razorback Cat In the Hat, which I am truly sorry I didn't get a picture of. Picture a cartoon Cat In the Hat with a red pig face, and that's what it looked like.

Anywhooo.....the race began at 8am, so we got up and walked up to campus where the race began. They had more registrants than expected, such that they'd run out of t-shirts, so our registration fee was less than half what I'd expected. Score one! Then we ran, which was mostly awful, because running sucks, and running the hills of Fayetteville is worse, but I felt pretty cheery throughout most of the run. I've acclimated to the hills, and the weather was fantastic, and the up side of hills (pun intended) is that you also get to go downhill! I finished in just under 30 minutes, and Sir Douglas, who last fall ran a 5K in just under 40 minutes, finished this one at about 32 minutes. Score two! That's right, he improved 7 minutes in one year, which I think is pretty damn impressive, especially considering all the stupid hills.

As a part of our race packet, we got buy-one-get-one-free coupons for Chipotle (Score three!), which thus became our lunch. Burritos, not the paper coupons. And this after we participated in what has become our Saturday morning tradition of the $4 movie. That's right, one of the local movie theatres shows all flicks for $4 before noon on Saturdays. Score four!

What I'm telling you is that it's a four-score day. If we're following the traditional meaning of "four score," that means today already ranks about an 80 on the day-o-meter, and it's not even 3pm!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The House That Spite Allegedly Built

I first heard Jenn refer to the House on the Rock when we were at the Tinkertown Museum. The best way to describe Tinkertown would be, "a collection of different kinds of stuff." I'm unsure of how a place like that came about, but I'm pretty sure that if I were independently wealthy, I too would probably start up random collections.

Throughout our visit to Tinkertown, Jenn kept repeating, "next time we go to Madison, we have to go to House on the Rock." She had been there a few years ago. It sounded like a place I would want to check out.

Sure enough, while we were in Madison, we made the hourlong drive west to Spring Green, Wisc., which is home to House on the Rock and Frank Lloyd Wright's summer home, Taliesin. The best way I could describe House on the Rock would be, "Like Tinkertown, only much, much bigger." This isn't very helpful to our readers outside of the Albuquerque area who have never been to Tinkertown, but I'm sorry. The place was so indescribably fascinating. The best I could do to do the place any justice is to share some pictures.
This is the Infinity Room. It's a long, narrow hallway with windows covering its walls. A railing stops you from proceeding, but it's constructed to appear as if the hallway continues forever. In reality, it continues for just a few more yards. This is what it looks like from the outside.
While you're in the room, you may not realize how high you are until you look down and notice that you're tens of feet above the trees. That's when you feel the room gently give way to the wind. Or maybe that was just me. I'm not crazy about heights, but other than that, I was impressed with this room.

House on the Rock also had many token-operated automatic music machines like this one.
This photo doesn't do "The Red Room" justice. The room is ornate with instruments everywhere, set to play a piece from The Mikado. The instruments seemed to be well-maintained, as well. Jenn says last time she went, some of the instruments from some of the machines were out of tune, adding a creepy factor to the experience.

Another music machine was made to look like a bunch of sea creatures playing their own version of The Beatles' Octopus's Garden.
Unfortunately, that room was dark, and a wider shot wouldn't have come out.

House on the Rock claims to have the world's largest indoor carousel.
The carousel features over 20,000 lights, 182 chandeliers and 269 animals — none of which are horses.

Above the surrounding area, the ceiling is decorated with hundreds of angels.

There were tons of collections that we didn't bother taking pictures of for one reason or another. For instance, some of the Rube Goldberg machines were too large to be adequately captured on camera. Also, I found the dolls unsettling. I didn't like the way they stared back. Just creepy. This included the doll carousel, which had hundreds of dolls, possibly designed for the sole purpose of giving me the willies.

There was also a large collection of dollhouses. While I appreciate the amount of craft that goes into dollhouses, I can't get myself to enthusiastic over them. One woman in a nearby group was notably more impressed than me. I overheard her saying, "These are classic homes. Not like that Frank Lloyd Wright crap. What kid wants a crappy Frank Lloyd Wright home like that?" I guess she wasn't too impressed with what his nearby summer home had to offer.

One question that wasn't answered during our tour of the house was "why?" Why does this house exist and why are these crazy collections kept here?

To be fair, there was a section devoted to architect Alex Jordan Jr., but we skipped it because we worried we wouldn't get to see everything before the place closed. When time is short, you want to see the stuff and not the part explaining why the stuff is there.

Information is scarce as Jordan was reclusive. One story starts around 1920, when Jordan's father and a friend drove to Taliesin to show Wright plans for a project in Madison. Jordan admired Wright, but according to the story, that was a one-way street. Wright looked at Jordan's plans and said, "I wouldn't hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop. You're not capable."

While on the trip back, Jordan saw a spire of rock and told his friend that he was going to build a Japanese house on that spot and advertise it. Twenty-five years later, his Alex Jordan Jr. began construction.
I'm unclear as to why a Japanese house was supposed to get Wright's goat. Maybe it was the fact that that would bring tourists, thereby disturbing Wright's peace.

The story doesn't exactly add up. First, there's the fact that when this exchange supposedly took place, Wright was in Tokyo working on the Imperial Hotel. Maybe that's where the Japanese connection comes in, but this only further proves that the story isn't true.

Secondly, regardless of how much Wright-hate was passed down from father to son, why would a hermit design a house specifically to attract tourists to the area just to pester someone who got a good verbal dig on his dad 25 years earlier?

While this part of the story isn't clear, I might be able to answer why he started collection all of this stuff. Because, like I said, if I were that rich, I'd probably start up a bunch of crazy collections myself.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A more solemn posting

Sorry for our absence, blog-o-sphere. It's actually not because we've been boring, but moreso because we were out of town for five days, which meant several days of frantic preparation (all on my part--packing and trying to get teaching materials prepared for my TA), and then several other frantic days of catch-up.

The reason for our last-minute trip was less than ideal--my grandmother passed away, after over a year in a nursing home and a diagnosis of dementia (believed to be Alzheimers type). Before moving on with details of our trip, which for the most part was a great several days filled with family and considerable laughter, I feel compelled to write a little something about my grandmother.

It's funny how as someone so much younger, I feel at somewhat of a loss to describe her personality. What I have most is snippets of memories from the last thirty years. Christmases in Park Ridge, Illinois, and summers at the family cottage in Michigan. Cheese sandwiches for lunch, the cheese neatly kept in square tupperware containers. Watching her drink tea on the cottage porch while reading a newspaper, or playing solitaire in the evenings. Visiting Grandma for a few days by myself and getting to ride the then-intimidating El train with her to dirty downtown Chicago, where I accompanied her to her job at Encyclopedia Britannica. Then, over the last several years, sitting on her futon couch in Madison, listening to classical music and telling her about things at graduate school. Bringing my friends to the cottage in the summer, including that memorable Bollywood performance which Grandma asked us to repeat at the top of the hill before we left town. Small moments, all of these, but they will stick with me.

Obviously, I am sad to see her go, although I feel the last time I truly saw her was a year and a half ago, on my last visit to Madison before I left for internship. We looked through her books, through her belongings, for things that I might like. And right now, in my apartment in Fayetteville, I'm staring at the wooden Don Quixote and Sancho Panza she left me. There are pieces of her around my apartment, both explicit (beer stein from her shelf) and implicit (my enjoyment of puns).

More importantly, I realized how lucky I am. Lucky to have met three of my great grandmothers, and lucky to have known two grandmothers into my thirties. I've gone through adolescence and my adult life to date only experiencing the somewhat distant deaths of my great grandmothers....how many people can say that? So, in addition to sadness, mostly I feel thankful to have spent this much time with my mother's mother, and grateful that my father's mother is still around.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Late update from last weekend

On Sunday afternoon (last weekend), we decided to enjoy the beautiful day and see some of the Fayetteville sights. We first went to one of the two miniature golf courses in Fayetteville, the Lokomotion. It reminded us of Hinkle Family Fun center in Albuquerque, as it was a family-type joint where one can have a variety of fun, including bumper boats, go-karts, and miniature golf. Unlike Albuquerque, however, this sign welcomed us to Lokomotion:

Who would dip or chew while go-karting or playing skee-ball? Really, Arkansas?

After I creamed Doug in a game of miniature golf, we played the favorite games in the arcade (Lets Make a Deal, air hockey, and a difficult turn on Dance, Dance Revolution), and somewhat sweatier, left Lokomotion.

We'd packed a small lunch and we headed for the shores of Lake Fayetteville, which is about 200 yards north of the Lokomotion place. The lake is close to the mall but on the other side of a hill such that if you don't go over the hill, you'll never see the lake. Doug didn't even know it was there.

We found some shade on the banks of Lake Fayetteville where we spent a tranquil hour eating sandwiches, staring at the waters and planning where to go on the honeymoon. Our view looked like this:

Purdy, eh? It was a nice quiet afternoon with (thankfully) no dipping. Either in the lake or into a tobacco canister.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The hog in all it's forms

It's impossible to go anywhere in this town without encountering a picture of a razorback (or something that is intending to be interpreted as a razorback...more on that in a second). I thought it might be worth devoting a post to the different iterations of the razorback that are seen around town.

The first is the common angry-pig drawing or cartoon that is often on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and other printed materials:

Then we have what might be my favorite, the live masoct Tusk, who is one of the only remaining live mascots in the SEC. According to my Wikipedia research, we are now on Tusk III, as Tusk II died in 2010. Tusk is not actually a razorback, but is actually a Russian boar who weighs over 400 lbs. He's super duper cute, though:

Apparently he goes to all of the home games, which is reason enough for me to attend a game, as I'd totally love to see this iteration of Tusk in person.

Then we have what has been dubbed by an ESPN poll as the "most annoying mascot in the SEC," Boss Hog (not to be confused with Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazard) and his band of other random mascots. From what I can gather, we have (from left to right): Sue E., Big Red (the fightin' Razorback), inflatable Boss Hog, Ribby (the baseball mascot), and Pork Chop, the kid version. There is also a lady version of Big Red who didn't end up in this picture.

And last, we have my favorite sighting, the Razorback fountain which is not too far from the psychology building:

When you look at the statue head on, it looks like the pig is drooling water. It's either hilarious or gross, depending on mood. Apparently this statue is a recreation of a classic statue in Florence, Italy from somewhere around the 1500s. This information is posted on a plaque on the ground in front of the statue, and as a random gentleman pointed out as we were reading it, there are also a bunch of other little animals (snakes, turtles, etc.) also bronzed at the great pig's feet as a part of the statue.

As soon as said gentleman announced this to us, he promptly stuck his head under the water and proceeded to wet his entire head. I thought to myself, "Hmmm, this dude is washing his hair in pig drool." Which just goes to show how essential the razorback is to life in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Power of Love (of free concerts)

Last night, we had the honor of having Huey Lewis and the News perform a free concert close to our apartment.

I was pretty excited about that, but Jenn couldn't really share my enthusiasm. Spending the night crammed in a parking lot full of people listening to music she wasn't all that familiar with wasn't her idea of a fun birthday, and I can understand that. But hey, free Huey Lewis and the News concert. Neither of us wanted to miss an opportunity like that. She downloaded their greatest hits album from Amazon and realized that she actually did know a few of their songs. So we were psyched for this show.

Before the show, we enjoyed dinner at Greenhouse Grill. The food, as always, was amazing. It was the kind of amazing that could only be achieved with bacon-wrapped pork loin. I'll even say that the meal was cooked so well that I was able to eat the asparagus.

To anyone unfamiliar with my childlike eating habits, it should be noted that I put vegetables like asparagus and broccoli in the complete opposite side of the spectrum as bacon-wrapped pork. Though, since I'm technically an adult, I realize I should start eating as one. So, I've been making an extra effort to choke down the veggies I've always hated. I wouldn't say I was happy to eat the asparagus, but thanks to the fine work of the chef, the gagging was at a minimum.

Jenn gave me a taste of her Gorgonzola-stuffed filet mignon, which was as good as it sounds. That came with roasted potatoes and bacon-wrapped veggies. I'm not going to argue with the chef's use of bacon wrapping.
We headed to the concert and got there just in time to catch the first song, The Heart of Rock 'n' Roll. We found a nice spot to settle in that wasn't too crowded but still offered a good enough view of the stage. At this point, the band went into 45 minutes of music I don't know, including stuff from their newest album, Soulsville.

This reminded me of a scene in The Simpsons where Bachman-Turner Overdrive was doing a show. When they said they would be playing their new stuff, Homer yelled at them to play Takin' Care of Business. When they broke into that song, Homer yelled at them to just cut to the guitar solo.

I realize these guys are probably sick of playing the same songs for over 25 years and they're proud of their newer works, but my inner-Homer wanted to stop them so that I could hear the hits. I also realize that maybe I'm getting to be too much of a pill for live music in general, because I get annoyed at charade of the encore.

Hey, I get it. Huey doesn't have the energy he had in the '80s. If he needs a break before getting into the bigger hits, he deserves one. He shouldn't say "Good night, Fayetteville!" as if he really has the audacity to give a concert and NOT play Power of Love. And he shouldn't make me stand there and applaud as if that's going to coax him back out onto the stage. I'm not falling for that nonsense.

Oh, and I also can't stand it when performers, in general, ask me if we're doing alright and then refuse to go on with the night until the collective answer breaks a certain decibel level.
Anyway, back to the show. The band came back for an encore set, which included the bigger hits. An impromptu conga line formed during Do You Believe in Love, which allowed us to snake our way closer to the front. We stayed in the front when the line turned around and headed back, even though this probably goes against the concert etiquette. We didn't stay up front too long because it was too crowded — Jenn and I are big advocates of personal space — and our view was blocked by a wall of two tall drunken bros seemingly intent on recording the entire show on their phones.

All in all, despite their omission of Back in Time and Hip To Be Square — which they actually played the first few bars of before stopping. Oh, what a tease!

Free Huey Lewis and the News concert — I'd have to say, good job, City of Fayetteville.

I'm really bad at estimating the size of crowds. But I'll definitely say there was somewhere between a few dozen and a half-million there. I'm comfortable making that guess.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Devil's Den

It has finally cooled down here in Fayetteville, to the point that yesterday morning we woke up for labor day to a cool, clear day. The high was only in the low 70s, and we decided to take advantage of the great weather to go hiking at Devil's Den, one of Arkansas's fine state parks. Apparently there are some really cool caves there, but due to White-nose syndrome, they are currently closed. To be clear, that is White nose syndrome, not (as I first thought), white-NOISE syndrome, which doesn't sound any worse than listening to static for hours on end (some people might find that soothing). White nose syndrome is a fungal infection that affects the muzzle and wings of bats, causing them some potentially serious harm. Apparently the human ability to transmit the fungus is currently unclear (says the Wikipedia entry) but for the sake of everyone, human-bat contact in the caves is forbidden.

Despite the lack of caving, our hike was still lovely. Devil's Den is about 20 minutes from Fayetteville, on a road that is so hilly I would not want to drive it during any inclement weather.
We got there and had a small picnic before setting out on our 3-mile hike. Mostly forested, the hike wound up and around a cliff of yellow rock, hence the trail name (Yellow Rock Trail). Here's a picture from the forest-y portion:

And another picture from the lookout:

I must say, as beautiful as this is, the views don't compare to the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico, but I'll take what I can get. The one advantage of this hike was the gentler slope. It was still effortful, but I didn't feel completely winded at the end.

When we got back to town, we walked down to Dickson Street and enjoyed a late afternoon margarita and some potato skins. Not a bad work-free Labor Day, if I do say so myself!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Football season

As anyone who knows me probably knows, I know very little about pretty much every sport. I know enough to know that in basketball, the idea is to get that round orange ball into that hoop/net, and in baseball it's to hit a small white round ball with a big stick and run really really fast around some bases. And so on and so forth.

Football makes even less sense to me than other sports. First of all, why the hell did we need to steal the name that when translated in most other languages, means what we call soccer? Secondly, as a psychologist I know too much about the cognitive hazards of football, and third, as someone who believes in fairness and equality, seeing athletes get money, fame and fake grades lobbed at them just for being good at one thing feels kind of ludicrous.

But hey, I know that many people love to play sports, watch sports, and root for their favorite teams. I never became one of them, as neither my high school nor my graduate school had a football team, and my college had a team that was so bad we almost made it into the Guinness Book for number of consecutive losses. So, I never really got into the whole football culture. Yet now I live in a town gone hog-wild (pun intended) for football.

Other people wiser than I have talked about the regional differences in states that do and don't have a pro team, but suffice it to say that Arkansas does not have a pro team, and thus all the football-lovin' verve is channeled to the Razorbacks.

Why, you ask, is the Arkansas mascot a feral pig? Well, gentle readers, as Doug and I learned yesterday, the answer dates back to 1909. Back then, the Arkansas team was called the Cardinals, with colors of red (Cardinal red, mind you) and white. The team had an undefeated year, and at the end of the season, the team met it's fans downtown at the train station, where the coach proclaimed that the team "played like a wild band of razorback hogs." The student body loved the line, and voted to change the mascot the following year, in 1910.

We learned this via a plaque on the opposite side of the street from the old train station, which is now a building that houses a Chipotle and a new bar called "The Rowdy Beaver."

Perhaps it is obvious, but I write about football now because Saturday (Sept 3rd) was the first game of the Razorback season. Driving around town yesterday, every other car had tiny little hog flags waving from the windows, and pretty much everyone was dressed in red. (Of note, the official colors are red and white, though for a few years the Collegiate Licensing Co. was making UA gear with red and black.) Doug and I actually had an opportunity to go to the game, but we slacked about asking for the tickets offered to us, so we didn't attend.

Instead, after dinner, we took a walk around campus to see the tents and the stadium. We found a neat hill with an excellent view of the stadium, including a decent view of the field:

I anticipate that getting into the football craze will be a large learning curve for me in this job. I can--and will--dutifully wear red and white the day before and/or the day of a game. I may even attend a game or two if given the opportunity, because I do not yet understand how to "call the pig." Whether or not I will ever truly become a fan of football, or a specific fan of the Razorbacks, well....only time will tell.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fayetteville First Thursdays

Every first Thursday of the month, downtown Fayetteville hosts a little event called "First Thursdays." It's primarily revolved around art, with artists setting up tables and booths to display (and sell!) their work, but there is also music, face painting, and other random crafts for kids. For some reason there is a complimentary wine bar, and a brewery selling beer for fairly cheap. It's nothing incredibly exciting, but it's still nice to wander around downtown for 45 minutes or so, sipping a beer, looking at art (a LOT of which is pig themed) and people watching. Doug's main comment from First Thursdays this week was "People watching is more fun when you don't know anyone in town."

This month, First Thursdays was expanded a bit, as the town joined with the University to put on "The Fest of All." It was intended to be a cultural festival, though that was not apparent from the art, only from the random music and dance numbers performed on one side of the square. We caught a belly dancing number, which was pretty cool.

Not, however, as cool as this:

The guy driving the mechanical purple dragon was tinkering with it when we first saw it, and it was awesome then, but not nearly as cool as when the giant golden tail was flicking around and smoke was coming out of it's mouth. Where is this guy's laboratory? What other kinds of things has he created? I immediately thought of the eccentric retired schoolmaster from Young Sherlock Holmes and his quest to create a flying machine. I mean, the similarities are obvious:

And if you don't know what I'm talking about, go rent the movie, it's worth watching.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Want to walk to work with me?

I thought you, my friends and family, might like to take a virtual walk to work with me. A mere .8 miles from door to door, I've been walking to the office most every day, as it's not much longer than driving and far more economical in both gas and exercise domains.

I've divided the walk into five segments, for no real reason other than it lets me gauge how far I am from my destination.

Segment One is short but potentially treacherous. It involves leaving the house, walking up the driveway, and making my way over to the trail. No doubt we will post more about the trails at some point, but Fayetteville has an extensive trail system that runs right through the town. The one closest to us is the Frisco Trail. Here is the view from our street looking down towards the trail (you can't see the trail itself due to the curve in the path):

Don't let this picture mislead you, either, this hill is STEEP. Which is why Segment One is a bitch and a half on the way back (when it is Segment Five).

Segment Two begins at the bottom of the hill, on the trail itself. I head north, past a quaint little tea shop, with a nice tree-lined walk:

Segment Two ends at a wine bar called The Wine Cellar, which (surprisingly enough) Doug and I have not gone to yet. I know enough about positive emotion that I know anticipation and uncertainty prolong positive feelings longer than simply going out and getting what you want. So, I look longingly at the wine bar most every day (note: not because I want to drink wine at 8am) and head on my merry way.

Segment Three is the most unpleasant looking of the segments, as it is basically a parking lot:

Why the city would run a trail THROUGH the parking lot is beyond me. At 8am it's not really a problem, but in the afternoon it is sometimes feels little more dangerous. Anyway, the trail heads through the parking lot and then curves up and to the right (behind those trees), toward the infamous Dickson Street. At the base of that tall building "Underwood Plaza" there is a coffee shop that I occasionally frequent (Oooh! "Occasionally frequent" makes me sound like I've lived here long enough to do something only on occasion!).

Segment Four begins when the trail crosses Dickson, at which point I take a left and head up (in this case, West) Dickson street toward campus. According to a random website, Dickson Street is the "epicenter of Northwest Arkansas." It is otherwise known as the "entertainment district" of town. The branch that I walk up has me pass George's Majestic Lounge, the most popular small music venue in town (another place we haven't been yet), a Waffle House, a frozen yogurt shop, a few boutique-y stores, and that theatre-like place where we saw the atrociously named "Phunbags". I say theatre-like because it has a marquee and there is a stage, but the room looks more like a convention center at a hotel than an actual theatre, and the seating is round tables with folding chairs, not actual theatre seats.

But I digress. At the top of Dickson Street, which isn't really the top of the street, but the start of the retail portion, my final segment begins when I cross Arkansas Avenue and step onto hallowed University grounds:

Segment Five is the hardest segment of the walk to work, because it's mostly uphill and at that point I've already walked half a mile. Plus, right now, it's ridiculously hot outside.

On the plus side, Segment Five is the prettiest. At the top of the hill is the oldest building at the University of Arkansas, the aptly named Old Main (which also reminds me of the Old Main at my alma mater, Macalester College).

The University of Arkansas has a neat tradition of imprinting all the names of graduates into the sidewalks around campus. This dates back to the very first graduating class in 1876, when there were few graduates and the names were right near Old Main:

Now, the names are in a smaller font and are on sidewalks further away from the central quad, but the tradition lives on. No doubt there are countless pictures of graduates sitting on the sidewalk or crouched down next to their names. In any case, I enjoy seeing the names of all the people who've been educated at this institution, and I look forward to a few years from now when I'll be able to see my students' names somewhere on campus.

Segment Five ends when I walk into the back entrance of my building, Memorial Hall:

I will describe Memorial Hall in more detail on a later day, because it actually has a fairly interesting history (as far as buildings go), but the walk has made me tired at this point, what with all the tour-guiding, and it's time for me to get to work. Thanks for taking this little stroll with me!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A fairly perfect Saturday

Yesterday Doug and I had what was a fairly perfect Saturday. We slept in late and when we got up, I suggested that we make biscuits 'n gravy for breakfast. Armed with a box of Bisquick, a packet of gravy mix, and some last minute additions of sausage and eggs, we made a delicious breakfast in less than 15 minutes. Then we ate it watching an episode of Saved by the Bell, which has of late become a little tradition in our home.

As a side note, TBS has been airing Saved by the Bell reruns as long as I can remember, and when in Albuquerque I started taping them to give me something silly to watch. I have continued that tradition here, but now we can watch them in HD! TBS doesn't air them in order, or else the episodes were made with no thought about continuity whatsover (which does pose a problem for the series anyway....I mean, remember the one where Zack and Lisa get together and then it's never talked about again?!?). Doug and I have developed an appreciation for Saved by the Bell, because the characters are mostly awful but the ensuing conversations are almost always entertaining. Why on earth does Mr. Belding sometimes show up in Zack's bedroom? Why must Lisa be so bitchy to Screech ALL the time? Doesn't Jessie know more than one way to be a feminist, other than calling Slater a sexist pig all the time? And let us not forget the central question: why is Zack such a douche all the time, selfishly pulling pranks to get his way, theoretically learning a lesson for one episode and then completely forgetting the lesson (and his newfound appreciation for whatever the topic was that week, like saying no to drugs, saving ducks, or starting a hotline) by the next.

The afternoon was filled with a craft-y type project that I've been meaning to do for the last few weeks, and Doug was a good sport and pitched in to help. We listened to music, danced around, and generally had a grand ole' time.

Project complete, we headed out into the afternoon sunshine, walked around Dickson Street for a little bit and listened to the strains of the Fayetteville Roots Festival. We thought about buying tickets to actually see some of the shows but as we already had plans for the evening, we instead purchased tickets to TheatreSquared, a regional professional theatre that performs just a few blocks away from us. We'll be seeing their first show of the season in just a few weeks!

We ended the afternoon sipping beer on our porch in the fading sunlight, enjoying the birdies that fly through the backyard. Then, in the evening, we went to see the Phunbags, a local short-form improv troupe that performs about once a month. Now, as some of you know, Doug used to do improv and is therefore qualified to be critical (though qualifications won't really stop us). First thing's first: the name of this group is just awful. Awful! Doug says, "Maybe they are not legally allowed to spell it 'fun' because that implies fun." Which I suppose is foreshadowing the rest of our review. The good: entrance was only $5, it was walking distance from home, it was something different to do, and some laughter was had. The bad: the name, the repetitive games, a snarky peanut gallery in the corner that halfway through the show decided to just yell out reactions to the group during quiet moments. I mean, I enjoyed it more than Doug did, but even I was a little bored by some of the games by the end of the show. Not enough variety.

After the show we walked home, read Sure Thing from David Ives' brilliant collection of short plays All in the Timing, and then watched the first half of Star Wars. The original 1977 version, not one of the recent crappy ones.

All in all, a day with limited computing, no academic work, great company, and (varying degrees of) entertainment. Fayetteville, you did this day right.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Friday was President Bill Clinton's 65th birthday. I don't only know this because of a weird combination of presidential trivia knowledge mixed with an uncanny Rain Man-like ability to remember dates. I know this because I went to a party celebrating the event.
We live less than a mile away from the house that Bill and Hillary Clinton first owned together.

After graduating from Yale Law School, Bill accepted a position to teach at the University of Arkansas Law School. Hillary joined bill at the School of Law the following year. In 1975, Bill bought a house near campus that Hillary had been admiring.

Sadly, they only got to live here for 16 months. The Clintons moved to Little Rock after Bill was elected Arkansas Attorney General.

These are all things about the Clintons that you learn after visiting the Clinton House Museum.

After talking about dropping by the museum for a month, I finally went this past Wednesday. I was greeted by an eager volunteer who rolled off a short history of the house. Previous owners, the garden in the back that has favorite flowers of several first ladies and, of course, the gift shop.

She told me to feel free to explore the place on my own before disappearing. The quaint one-bedroom house had an impressive collection of photos and campaign posters. Hillary's wedding dress was even on display just a few feet from the spot where she married Bill in the living room. It probably would have made sense of me to take a picture of the wedding dress, but it never occurred to me. I did, however, get a shot of an old photo of a pouty Chelsea.

Later, when I ran into the volunteer again, she recommended that I return in two days for Bill Clinton's birthday party. They would be staying open late and serving birthday cake his favorite snacks: peanuts, Moon Pies and RC Cola. Moon Pies? Sure. And I can't really say I'm that big of an RC Cola fan (it's better than Pepsi, in my opinion), but not partaking in presidential birthday soda seems unpatriotic.

Sure enough, as promised, they had Moon Pies and RC Cola. They were displayed as tastefully as one could display Moon Pies and RC Cola.

A saxophone quartet provided entertainment as people milled around and looked at the Clinton memorabilia. This was less interesting for me, as I had looked at everything two days earlier, so I left after eating ingesting a massive amount of sugar.

But I didn't leave empty-handed. I left with my very own Official William J. Clinton Arkansas Passport. It's Arkansas' way of encouraging people to take a "Billgrimage" to all of the places Clinton lived in Arkansas.

With the Fayetteville page stamped, I have three more stops left: the Clinton Birthplace Museum in Hope, the Hot Springs Visitors Center — to see where Clinton spent his boyhood — the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock.

I'm hoping the other sites will be offering free snack cakes as well.