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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Across state lines

Last Sunday, we decided to get out of the house. Even more exciting, we decided to leave the state (again). Oh, did we mention that we already went across state lines to Branson, Missouri a few weeks ago? Perhaps our neglect resulted from the fact that Branson was sort of like a hillybilly Vegas. No offense to Vegas, or to hillybillys, but it wasn't exactly our cup of moonshine. Though, I must say, on my next visit, I will absolutely partake in one of the many "Old Timey Photo" places that line the Branson strip.

Anywhooooo, this past weekend we went West to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Thanks in large part to my intern friend who went to graduate school there and recommended some great places to visit, we had a lovely time. First we hit up an Indian buffet, which was pretty good but not fantastic (it is pretty hard to screw up Chicken Tikka Masala). After a disappointing side trip to Marshalls, we went to the Philbrook Museum of Art. It's essentially a huge Italian villa in the middle of Tulsa, surrounded by beautiful large historic homes. The house itself is worth viewing, and it was turned into an art museum with some purdy gardens. I kind of felt like I was in Europe. I mean, seriously:

We took a leisurely, albeit hot as the dickens, walk around the gardens, stopping at the gazebo for a visit with a wise bench and a random garden gnome:

The museum was also nice, though I must admit that the Sante Fe room in the basement, complete with examples of pottery from a bunch of Pueblo tribes, made me sharply and strongly "homesick" for New Mexico. I put that in quotes because it seems silly to be homesick for a place I lived just over a year, but my deep and abiding love for New Mexico in general and Albuquerque in particular has not lessened in the slightest.

After our museum tour, we headed to the Sunday-desolate downtown area and ended up at Fassler Hall, which was awesomeness incarnate. A big German beer hall, complete with long wooden tables and a shitload of German beers on tap, it was empty of customers but large in fabulousness. Even though we had stuffed ourselves on Indian food a few hours before, we could not resist splitting one of their handmade bratwurst, know that noise that Homer Simpson makes when he thinks about a doughnut? That's the noise I make in my head when recalling that bratwurst. If a meat eater and ever in Tulsa, make it a priority.

Essentially we learned that Tulsa is a pleasant two hour drive with some excellent entertainment options. Next time, the aquarium!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Just call us the new Mystery Team....

Shortly after we moved in, I changed my old Albuquerque "home" phone number to a 479 number. I dislike giving my cell phone number out, and I thought it might be nice for us to have a "home" number anyway. For the record, "home" is in brackets because it's an internet-based phone, meaning that it won't work if the internet goes down, but otherwise it looks like a normal land line.

The same day that we got the number, we started getting calls. Spamm-y type calls. I'd see an 800-number on the caller ID, answer it anyway, and the auto-dial box at the other end would immediately hang up. Although I put us on the Do Not Call list, it takes awhile for that to go through, and we've been getting regular calls on the line. They got to be annoying enough that Doug started calling the numbers back and telling them to take us off their stupid list.

But then, life got a little more interesting. First we received a call for a woman I will call "Gertrude." As I am not named Gertrude, nor is Doug, we simply assumed it was a wrong number or something. But then we got more calls for Gertrude, and it dawned on us that perhaps Gertrude was the prior holder of this phone number.

The plot thickened. Other calls started to come in for "Lionel." We weren't sure what was going on. Then, most recently, when I answered the phone and a woman asked for "Lionel," I told her that he is not at this number anymore. She took that as an invitation to ask "So, you don't know Lionel Murkspatter at all?" AH HAH! Finally, a last name!

We immediately got all excited and internet-stalked both Gertrude Murkspatter and Lionel Murkspatter (well, except we used their real names). After figuring out how to spell Murkspatter, that is. We learned that Lionel, at least, is a semi-creepy dude who still uses Myspace, and that they appear to live about an hour from here. Yes, we think we found a picture, too.

Ahem. We could probably use some friends and other activities, huh?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

You Make Me Feel Like a Naturals Fan

While staying in and rewatching the entire Freaks & Geeks series was an excellent way to spend our nights, after a couple of weeks Jenn and I decided that it was about time to leave the house for reasons other than buying stuff and start meeting people. We had started taking part in a local pizzeria's trivia night. The trivia at this place didn't seem nearly as fun as the trivia we would participate in in Albuquerque. However, it's possible I'm saying that because I'm a sore loser and it's difficult for a team of two to beat teams with six players or more.

Last week, I turned to to look for some local groups we may be interested in. One group that struck my interest was the NW Arkansas Transplants, people new to the area looking for new friends. Sounded perfect. Their next event was going to be held at a baseball game in nearby Springdale.
Why the is the team named the Naturals? Because Arkansas is the Natural State. In my opinion, it's better name than the Thunder Chickens, which was considered because Springdale is the world headquarters for Tyson Foods. Their mascot is a Sasquatch named Strike.
I would have to say that I was having such a good time getting to know the others in the Meetup group that I really wasn't paying attention to the game itself.

I did pick up a few things, though. The Naturals take full advantage of their name and play the theme from the movie The Natural whenever someone from the team homers. In addition, whenever the opposing team has an error, they play the sad horn music from The Price Is Right. We got to hear that multiple times in one inning. That's Double-A ball for you.

We definitely wouldn't mind braving the smells from the farms that surround the stadium to go to another game. Only next time around, we'll know well enough to try out a Funnel Dog, which is exactly what it sounds like: a hot dog in funnel cake batter.
And best of all, we may have met people to join our trivia team.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Welcome to Northwest Arkansas, Us!

Hello, world! Welcome to our joint blog about adventures in Northwest Arkansas, otherwise known as the hub of retail supergiant Walmart. Which may be like living in Satan's backyard, but only time will tell.

The reasons to start chronicling our adventures in Walmart Country are many-fold. Like origami. First, it might be nice for us to have a record of our time here, particularly our initial time here, as we could be here for the rest of our lives, or just a few years. Second, as much as we love our family and friends, repeating the same stories over and over gets tiresome and this is a nice way for you all to keep up with us, hear our tales of joy and woe, and see some pictures.

To start us off, I will do my best to describe the town of Fayetteville, Arkansas. It's the third largest "city" in the state, with about a population of slightly under 75,000. The region of Northwest Arkansas includes a collection of smaller towns, including Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville, with a total metro area of around 460,000. Or, to put things in perspective, the entire region has fewer people than the city of Albuquerque. Which is a fairly small city compared to the likes of say, Chicago.

Anyway, Fayetteville itself is pretty cute, particularly the historic area in which we live. There are a fair number of old Victorian-style homes, and the University is smack dab in the middle of town. There are tons of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and little stores in which to frequent, including many within walking distance.

The most notable thing about Fayetteville for me is that it is crazy hilly. And I do mean crazy. Here are a couple of views, facing different directions, within half a block of our apartment:

And this last one, as pointed out by my esteemed fiance, looks like a wall of road is at the end of the block. As Doug said, it's like Inception....only our neighborhood:

We will continue to post pictures, commentaries, news and information about us and our adventures in the region. That is, provided the world doesn't fold in on itself (another Inception joke there). We've already started exploring, so stay tuned for more hill-filled excitement!