Wednesday, September 8, 2010


It's amazing how one place can become such a part of you. Ten years ago, I never would have imagined that my life would have taken me through Missouri and then to Little Rock. But here I am, at 26, filled with a bittersweet happiness that I discovered this place and had the chance to spend a few precious years here. In such a short time, I developed both a sense of place that I've never experienced anywhere else, as well as incredibly strong, close, undoubtedly lifelong friendships.

Given that I didn't start this blog until a few years after moving to Little Rock, I still have many stories to share. So, stop by once in a while; I plan to continue to post.

As I embark on the next stage, I am now more certain than ever of this: Our country is a diverse, fascinating and beautiful place. And you can't have a genuine appreciation of that until you've tasted raccoon in a high school gym way off the beaten path, attended Good Friday services in a mega-church, eaten fried pickles at the state fair, and been called "baby" by your boss - the Governor.

Come visit my new blog on life in D.C. at

Monday, September 6, 2010

Travelogue: LR to DC

Guest blogger and older brother Justin details our two-day trip back to Washington. His words -- and my photos and a few notes in italics:

Sam and I arrived in DC yesterday after a mostly pleasant and incident-free journey.
Clyde, the traveling bichon

We got a late start on Friday due to some last-minute compulsive housecleaning, and only made it to Jackson, Tennessee, to spend the first night. We were so tired that we went right to bed. Saturday, we drove on to Nashville, which was a nice place to take a break. We ended up downtown and turned into tourists, so it was probably more of an indulgence than we should have allowed.
However, Jack's BBQ was well worth standing in line for a half hour.
Later that day, we passed through Knoxville as the game was starting, and the place was a circus. (Probably about the same as Fayetteville.)

An observation about I-40: Based upon a non-scientific tally of billboards, the Cracker Barrels are outnumbered only by the adult book stores, theaters, "adult superstores" and other such emporiums. ("Jesus Saves," etc. comes in a distant third.)

We made it to Bristol, Virginia, in time for a late sushi dinner at Osaka, one of the "Top 100 Asian Restaurants in America" (nominated). It was pretty good; try the Vietnamese spring roll with tuna, salmon, avocado and fresh mango, served cold in a rice flour wrapper.

We spent the night at a Rodeway Inn in Roanoke. (We do not recommend this establishment. Shell out the extra 20 bucks to upgrade to Econo Lodge so you won't be afraid to walk around barefoot.)

The last leg of the trip was a beautiful drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, taking us to Northern Virginia. As we arrived in DC on Sunday afternoon, Sam made me take her through Georgetown for old time's sake.
Clyde kept quiet and behaved himself throughout the trip. He was ignoring his dog food though, so we saved him a little BBQ on Saturday and some scrambled eggs from breakfast on Sunday. The funniest part was when he climbed way up on top of the bags we had stacked on one side of the back seat so that he could get a better view of the road.
Once we got home, Clyde met the newest member of the family, our parents' seven-week old boxer puppy, Ellie Mae.

Neither was quite sure what to think of the other.
But in the end, everyone just really needed a nap.
It was a long and tiring trip home, and a physically and emotionally draining past couple of weeks for all involved, including my dearest Little Rock friends whom I already miss tremendously. After a couple days to process, I'll post some additional thoughts in life in Little Rock and the path ahead.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bye, Bye Little Rock

Three and a half years and two jobs after moving to Little Rock, the moving truck has departed, the car is packed, and (hopefully) the house will be rented soon. I don't know how to begin to summarize my eye-opening, life-changing time in this wonderful hidden gem of the South, so I'll leave you with an e-mail a colleague at the Governor's Office sent me on November 17, 2009, after I attended my first University of Arkansas Razorback football game in Fayetteville:

First, I'd like to say how excited I am that Samantha had such a great first trip to Fayetteville. We owe her and the traveling party a big thank you for spending their Saturday night to ensure the Razorbacks reached Bowl eligibility with their victory over the pipsqueaks from Troy.

I've bumped into her a few times since her trek down 540 ... she cannot stop calling the hogs and singing the fight song. It's been great!

Sam, we expect to see you bright and early Saturday morning taking part in another Arkansas football tradition: tailgating at War Memorial. Bring your bacon and eggs -- I've told Petrino to expect you.

Wooo pig!!!

And, in no particular order, some of the things I'll miss about Arkansas:

Pinnacle Mountain
The seemingly ubiquitous ability among Southern men to pull out a guitar and croon me a tune - or 10
Eureka Springs
Running into people I know everywhere I go
The Big Dam Bridge - one of Clyde's favorites
Bossa Nova's cheese rolls. Amazing.
Cotija's tomatillo salsa
How waiters ask you if you want separate checks
The complete absence of traffic from any one point in Little Rock to another, and the proximity of the airport
Walking into work every morning in a beautiful State Capitol where every click of the heels is a satisfying tap tap tap on marble
Men opening doors for me and doing other Southern gentlemanly kind of things
Dillards' shoe department
Sushi Cafe
Southern hospitality
The large and wonderful Little Rock family I'll miss dearly and expect to come visit me often!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

North Little Rock Finds its Cool

Thanks NYT. I think the more appropriate headline, however, would be: NYT finds North Little Rock, which was of course cool all along.

Still, love it when this town makes it into that rag from NYC!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Country Music 101

A wise friend and lifelong Arkansan told me, "All country music is about cheatin', drinkin', or lovin.' And every song tells a story, so listen to the lyrics."

A couple months ago, I figured it was about time I learned to appreciate country music, so I drafted some friends into providing me a list of the basics. Results are below. Now, I wonder if said friends might make me a cd of said tunes for a certain upcoming long road trip...?

Merle Haggard
George Jones
Johnny Cash
Patsy Cline
Willie Nelson
Loretta Lynn
Lyle Lovett
Jon Prine
Guy Clark
Hank Williams Sr & Jr
Glen Campbell
Lefty Frizzel
Johnny Horton
George Strait
Joe Ely
Conway Twitty
David Allen Coe "You Never Even Called Me By My Name"
David Allen Coe "The Ride." It's his own little tribute to Hank, Sr.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

As Rosh Hashanah Dawns, We Support the Troops

This time two years ago, someone very dear to me was preparing to depart on a year deployment with the U.S. Army to Iraq.

He left at the end of September, and given the dates the Jewish holidays fell that year, if I remember correctly, he sort of missed celebrating Rosh Hashanah all together that year, but he arrived in time for Yom Kippur. We were both thrilled to learn that he had the opportunity to be escorted to another site where he could commemorate both Kil Nidre and the full day of Yom Kippur, including a break fast meal with fellow Jewish soldiers who had come together from various bases for the occasion. I think part of his excitement was breaking up the routine and getting to spend a night in peace and quiet away from work, but the most important thing to him was that though he was one of very few Jews in the Army, he could celebrate the most important time of the Jewish year.

So, this year, I came up with an idea. I collected Rosh Hashanah cards from Arkansas' Jewish community to send to deployed Jewish service members. I asked the senders to write generic messages that any soldier would be happy and honored to receive. People wrote beautiful, meaningful things, even though they were sending them to people they didn't know personally. And in the cases of many who sent me cards to send, they had very little, if any, personal connection to anyone serving in the U.S. military. I was proud to find one, even if very small, way to help them relate to the wars we are fighting in the Middle East and to the many brave, patriotic Americans who have chosen to dedicate a least a portion of their lives toward representing our country through the military.

Through some Googling, I quickly learned that there is a group of people throughout the United States whom have never met, but whom only have in common the fact that they want to do everything they can to ensure that Jewish service members are as comfortable as they can be while they are deployed far from their families, friends, and Jewish roots. They have a listserve -- which they immediately invited me to join upon reading of my interest -- through which they maintain a list of overseas addresses for deployed Jewish soldiers and chaplains. They share ideas of religious, cultural and food items to send on the various Jewish holidays, send cards throughout the year, and help anyone interested in helping them do the same. This group is just a small subset of the many, many groups across the country organizing similar projects for soldiers from their area.

Whether or not you "support" the wars or the reasons we're fighting them, everyone supports the troops. I'm glad I found one way particularly meaningful to me to show it.

For further reading, you may find my officer's story of grappling with his Jewish identity while serving in a Muslim country here, at the New York Times At War blog:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sad news about our boxer, Rubin

My family's wonderful, sweet dog, Rubin, died a few days ago. Below, my brother Justin's thoughts from this past Friday:

It is with a heavy heart that I report to you that our beloved family dog, Rubin "Hurricane" Friedman, has passed on to the Great Doggy Beyond. Rubin was nine years young. For a Boxer, he lived a long and active life.

Rubin had been afflicted with "malignant masses" (a polite way of saying cancer), but it barely slowed him down. Even over the last few days, he was going on walks in the woods and did a little swimming in the creek near my parents' house. Rubin was actually scheduled for surgery today, but he didn't make it through the night.

As a puppy, Rubin quickly outgrew our full-grown Bichon Frise, Clyde, and was known to bully him regularly. (Clyde, by the way, is nearly 12 and is thriving with Samantha in Little Rock.) It wasn't until my parents adopted Duncan (also doing quite well and living with my parents in Bethesda) that Rubin became the tame being that you will remember. Duncan, although smaller, had a knack for herding the other dogs and he soon became the alpha male.

Rubin was a happy, pampered dog. He almost never whined, other than when he would mosey up to the pantry where we kept the milk bones and whimper until he got one. Milk bones were his weakness, and this routine would happen anywhere from 3-10 times per day. Sometimes he would go back to the pantry immediately upon finishing his treat. He usually got what he wanted.

Rubin loved Hanukkah, when there would always be a bag of treats or a toy gift-wrapped for him. As soon as we lit the candles, he would tear into his gift, unwrapping it with his teeth. If it was edible, he usually devoured the entire package before we even noticed he had opened it.

We will miss Rubin. For those of you who knew him, I hope you will take a moment to think about all the great memories. As one friend once observed, "If Rubin could talk, he would be a complete gentleman."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don't forget the blue laws

Must. Get. To. Wine. Store. Before. Sunday...

If I want to rebel against the blue laws and consume wine at dinner. This is a Bible Belt phenomenon I'm never going to get used to.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Shabbat Shalom

Continuing the theme of poetry from earlier this week, and as Shabbat settles upon us -- hopefully bringing with it some small reprieve from the record-setting heat that has smothered Arkansas this week -- I thought it only appropriate to share a couple pieces from my dear friend Naomi Stone:

The Sabbath

Today do nothing as
you usually do. Time is pooling
open. No sorrow in this blue
breathing air. Do not touch

the light; do not brush your hair;
do not even speak

of what binds you in the week..
You have come here to
learn to be like us, or
not. For now we each inhale our sweet

share of sky. We will not release it until

Outside of Time

During the Sabbath you are in other time. You carry nothing
but your continuing

breath. Enter here, where
time is not

time, inside an alignment of the heavenly
and earthly worlds. The same happens when two bodies

join: the worlds rowing under each
skin climb into a zygote. Birth. And then no-time again

when the ram's horn
possesses your walled village. The men

blow the horn on each day of rest --

when you hear it, you stop
your breath and wish.

Listen. Your breath

And those stars
behind the stars you recognize,

they stay.

Both can be found in Nomi's first book of poetry, Stranger's Notebook, published under the name Nomi Stone (TriQuarterly Books, 2008).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

NYT shout-outs to Arkansas

This week, Arkansas tourist attractions made the NYT twice!

Unbeknownst to me, a 13th-century-style "Ozark medieval fortress" is being built in Northwest Arkansas.

Landscape artist extraordinaire P. Allen Smith gets good press as the "Martha Stewart of the South" in the Home and Garden section. Visiting his estate outside Little Rock is on my list of Arkansas things I have yet to do.

Yesterday was hot and heavy

Forgive me, in my heat-induced stupor yesterday, I almost forgot to post this gem I took of my dashboard. Please note the time at top left. Kind of would have thought the temp would have started to have gone down by early evening, right?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Greg Brownderville of Pumpkin Bend

I have tried to like poetry. It seems the literary, sophisticated thing to do.

But thus far, I haven't encountered much that I feel I can sit down and soak up, enraptured for any actual length of time.

Greg Brownderville, on the other hand, is one poet/folktale teller I have come to like. The young writer from the tiny Arkansas town of Pumpkin Bend -- it's in Woodruff County, I looked it up -- conveys life in the Delta with language so rich you can almost taste his words.

Two of my favorite lines come from separate parts of his poem, "Mystery":
"It's nice to know a passage of the world by heart."
"Everything that shatters, everything that scatters, everything that matters is a mystery."

I first fell in love with Greg...I mean Greg's poetry...when I heard him read some of his work at the yearly Arkansas Literary Festival soon after I'd moved here. I think all that's required to begin adoring a good writer is to hear him read his work aloud. Greg's velvety phrases are like verbal molasses, slowly dripping over you until you're enveloped by the sweet, Southern rhythms.

To whet your appetite, here's the poem with which he closes Deep Down in the Delta (The Doodlum Brothers Press, 2005):


An utterly unlabored thought
That takes away the sting,
Like an unexpected crystal rock,
Polished by a spring;
The day that dawns when nights are swarming,
Like sun on the blade of a knife;
Your breathing in my bed this morning:
Reasons men have clung to life.

GO FIND HIM. Most recently, he published an essay, "Squirrel Soul," in the August Little Rock Soiree.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tonight's dinner

Upon my return from Pinnacle, I spent the afternoon cooking and baking. (In my not so humble opinion) I made masterpieces tonight. The results:

Tomatoes stuffed with ground lamb, onion, green pepper, garlic, red wine, dill, parsley and black pepper (recipe care of my mom, chef extraordinaire)

Blackberry pie (my first pie ever!!)
Recipe found here, thanks to Stacy Sells' suggestion:

Hiking Pinnacle in 102 degree heat

Anyone who knows me at all or reads this blog also knows that Pinnacle Mountain is my favorite place in Little Rock. However, hiking at 1 p.m. -- the hottest time of day -- on a 102-degree August day might not be the brightest idea I've ever had. Lately, it seems that every weekend I hike it is harder than the weekend before. Thank you, global warming...or whatever can be blamed for the ridiculous heat Arkansas has experienced this summer.

I managed to get up and back down in not much longer than usual -- it just felt a lot longer. But on the way up, I witnessed the first mountain rescue I've ever seen. About halfway up, there is one spot on the mountain vehicles can get to. At that point, I saw the ambulance and a couple trucks arriving, and a couple EMT guys emerged. One began sprinting up the mountain, and on the way, he said a 14-year-old boy was suffering symptoms of heatstroke. As my shirt was already soaked through with sweat and my bottle of water quickly disappearing, that led me to wonder, "What exactly are the symptoms of heatstroke?"

The top third or so of the hike to the summit is rocky, and unfortunately, this was where the boy had to be rescued. This made safely retrieving him more difficult for the rescue crew because it's steep and not at all a flat surface for walking. When I got to the point where the boy was, the crew had loaded him onto a stretcher, and assisted by other hikers, they were slowly bringing him down. Overhead, we could hear a chopper approaching. The boy was breathing with difficulty and seemed very out of it.

Observing all of this gave me the chills, which couldn't have been provoked any other way, given where the mercury was today. I continued on my hike, perhaps stopping for some water more often than usual. As scary as this was, I want to emphasize that in four years of hiking this park, this is the first time I have ever seen this happen.

But if that's not a reality check, I don't know what is.

In case you missed it, Chelsea Clinton got married yesterday

On July 31, the day of Chelsea Clinton's much talked about nuptials, I posted a Facebook status as a joke, assuming that everyone would know I was merely poking fun at all the hype surrounding the event.

I wrote: Don't be surprised if you can't find me tonight. I'm probably attending a very elite, private event somewhere in upstate NY.

When the responses started to pour in via Facebook comments and texts, it became clear very quickly that people actually believed me! This was so hilarious to me that I couldn't bear to put an end to it, so I left the status up until this morning when I had to tell my friends the truth -- I'm not THAT important!

Now that the secret's out -- my little joke and more importantly, the wedding details -- I'm dying to know who from Arkansas was there. So far, I've seen mention in the national news of Marie Clinton Bruno, executive director of Arkansas Literacy Councils, and a cousin of President Clinton; and Mary Steenburgen, one of Arkansas' famous native celebrities, and her husband Ted Danson.

This is not a blog about celebrity gossip, but well, I think the Wedding of the First Daughter counts as fascinating to anyone who cares a whit about politics.

Below are links to some pics/news coverage. I love the photo of the President walking his daughter down the aisle; his facial expression reminds me of the pic of him with Kim Jong Il taken a year ago when he rescued the American journalists in North Korea. I'm sure he was stoic for a different reason yesterday.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's so hot in Arkansas...

We're in the New York Times!

See story from today's paper on the triple-digit heat. This is one of several pieces in the NYT today focusing on extreme temps around the country.

Here's the link:

Hope, Ark., famous for its enormous watermelons (and Bill Clinton...and...ok...Mike Huckabee), has a prominent role in the piece. The town's annual watermelon festival takes place August 14:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

WordsWorth Books Summer Sale!

WordsWorth Books & Co., the greatest locally-owned bookstore in Little Rock, is now having a summer sale. The whole store is 20 % off through Friday, July 30.

This is a great incentive to go buy books (and any of the other cute reading- and writing-related things they have)! I know how hard it can be these days to visit an independent bookstore and pay full price (even a wonderful one like this one), when Barnes and Noble or even Wal-Mart might sell the same book for significantly less money. Here's your chance to patronize this great little store and Little Rock establishment.

WordsWorth also offers one of the best greeting card selections in this city. It's my go-to.

The store is at 5920 R Street, in the Heights.
More info here:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cupcakes are heaven

This is what I'm consuming right now:

The cupcake trend is sweetening dessert options throughout the nation. It probably took longer than usual to make it to Little Rock -- most things do -- but it has taken a firm hold since the first gourmet "cupcakery" opened here in spring 2008. Cupcakes on Kavanaugh is a delightful little shop in the Heights, an upscale neighborhood lined with locally owned boutiques and cafes. The owner aka cupcake master, Christy Milligan, has found such success with her pastry niche that just recently, she opened a second shop in a newish shopping center in west Little Rock.

Red Velvet and Cookies and Cream are my favorite flavors, but pretty much anything will do.
I have to restrain myself from making frequent pilgrimages.

As one fellow cupcake lover recently described the sensation after uttering sounds of sugar and icing generated euphoria, "I look like a one-year-old at a birthday party eating my first piece of cake."

Buttercream frosting. I mean, really, need I say more? It's enough to induce a coma.

You can see all the delicious options for yourself here:

Baby animal pics

This is not at all related to Little Rock. However, I am obsessed with baby animal pics, and therefore am posting anyway:

(Thank you, Washington Post and your consistently awesome slide shows.) I love the National Zoo in D.C. and often went for the sole purpose of observing baby Tai Shan (slide 16) and his mom. (You can do that when zoo entry is free!) Tai Shan was born in 2005 at the zoo. I was rather devastated to learn that he had to go back to China, but alas, he is a panda. And China is his native land.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Winter's Bone"

Forever drawn by an interest in the region that has become my own, I went to see the film "Winter's Bone" today, which takes place somewhere in rural Missouri not far from the Arkansas line. It may have been the saddest movie I've ever seen. No matter how much you try to walk out of a movie telling yourself it's just fiction, just a story, that's just not possible here.

This movie, which tells the story of a 17-year-old girl intent on keeping her family together as they fight a life of profound poverty deep in the Ozarks, is unquestionably somebody's reality. For that, it can't -- and shouldn't -- easily be forgotten. This was the same impression with which I left "Precious." I hadn't wanted to see it, told myself it'd be too much pain and heartbreak to watch, but in the end, endured it because somebody needs to bring these things to light. We can't shield ourselves from the world's bitter realities, just because we don't see these things in our own daily existence.

At the heart of "Winter's Bone" is a man who can't answer for his own misdeeds, so his child must do so for him. Though the rest of the extended family seems shrouded in secrets and unafraid of using violence to keep them, Ree, the main character, has grown hard and tough enough to repeatedly put her own life in danger as she searches for the truth. Her mother seems lost in her own depression, her sister and brother are too young to fend for themselves, and her only confidant is a girl close to her age, with a baby and recently married to a man she's at least somewhat afraid of. There are undertones of gender inequalities throughout the movie -- and I'm not talking about women angry they don't earn the same pay as their male counterparts -- a reminder that even today, there are places not too far from our own homes where women fear the men in their midst, and men consider women to be weak and defenseless.

This movie's going to be a hard one to shake.

More info can be found here:

The Eastern Shore

I recently returned from a week at the beach with my family. Having grown up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, what we call "the beach," has its southern start in Ocean City, Md., and goes north up Route 1, extending to Rehoboth Beach, Del.

As I tend to write about Arkansas culture, I'm dedicating an entry to the Delaware beach culture, something I hold near and dear to my heart.

I have visited this beach every summer for as long as I can remember. And while my mother winning giant stuffed animals for my brothers and me at the Wac-A-Mole game at Funland on the Rehoboth boardwalk is no longer the highlight of the trip, this part of the world has evolved into somewhat of a haven to me. It's about 150 miles from Washington, usually a three-hour drive -- close enough for a single night away, but just far enough to be an escape.

Over the years, it's grown significantly. There are multi-million-dollar houses with ocean views, and there are inland developments lined with identical homes that are more fitting for Any Given Suburb, U.S.A. As the valuable real estate is increasingly built upon, developers are now building up, instead of out, with pastel-colored townhouses so tall they have elevators. Then there are the trailers that have always laid claim to pretty desirable plots of land, and it will probably stay that way until some developer buys out the owners and starts from scratch.

Each beach town has an identity. Ocean City is packed with condo buildings with beach views, along with a boardwalk and amusement park. Fenwick Island and Bethany Beach are traditional family-friendly beaches, populated mostly by unique and often breathtaking single-family homes either on the beach or on canals that give boats access to the Assawoman Bay, which goes out to the Atlantic. These towns have cute, family-owned shops full of things you can't help but buy to decorate your beach house. For example:

Looking out from the Bethany boardwalk:

Bethany Beach is also home to my father and stepmother's house:
Our dogs are the welcoming party:
The live version:

Dewey Beach is a small strip featuring mostly bars and motels, perfect for the college-aged crowd...or for those who wish they were still in college. Next comes Silver Lake, which I have always considered one of the most scenic areas. It's this placid stretch of water surrounded by homes with gazebos. Furthest north is Rehoboth, with the fancy restaurants and another boardwalk.

My mother and stepfather's house is on the bay. I spent the great majority of my week at the beach sitting here, reading and/or having a cocktail:
Our view at dawn:
At sunset from a nearby restaurant, which happens to specialize in crabs:
Hardshell crabs are any true Marylander's heaven. All kosher rules go out the window when served such deliciousness as these, smothered in Old Bay seasoning:
Below is a soft-shell crab sandwich. Soft-shells happen at a certain point in a crab's life, when it loses its hard shell. You eat the crunchy crab, shell and all:
The sign outside the restaurant told the truth, though I can't comprehend why this place wouldn't capitalize on its Chesapeake Bay crab heritage:

When I managed to tear myself away from the deck, other activities included:

Our old stand-by, Nicola's Pizza in Rehoboth, specializing in nicoboli goodness (ground beef, melted cheese, and the veggies of your choice wrapped up in a doughy calzone):

Spotting the wild horses on Assateague Island:

Parsons Farms Fresh Produce:

My first reaction to a farmers market being open on a Sunday, was, "But wait! Farmers markets are always open on Saturdays, not Sundays!" Why did I think this, dear reader? Because in Arkansas, this is the only way I've seen it done. Buy your fruits and vegetables on Saturdays, head to church Sunday.

See, it goes both ways -- I bring my Yankee ways to Arkansas, and the Arkie ways go with me when I leave.

The Bible Belt does not traditionally go as far north as Delaware, but...
A waitress at the Bluewater Grill in Millsboro, Del., said to my mother and me: "You want to hear something funny? I thought you were both saying grace but you were just texting."
Wrong crowd.

On a related note, the liquor store we frequent is called the Bayville Package Store. I thought it sold stamps or packing materials or something. My family's best guess on the reason behind its name is that alcohol is intended to be sold -- and hidden? -- in brown paper packages.

And perhaps the greatest juxtaposition of all? The quirky Roxana Country Corner adjacent to the Intimate Pleasures Boutique -- on Zion Church Road (of course):

Back in the swollen heat of Arkansas, I leave you with this lovely thought:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Kevin Brockmeier's words

I don't just love Kevin Brockmeier's work because he spins stories so recognizable to Little Rock residents, sometimes it's like we're reading about our own lives. There is a delicate rhythm to his words, and I can't get enough of his writing. If you ever get a chance to hear him do a reading, which he does often at events like the Arkansas Literary Festival, go. You'll never forget his soft voice as it wraps around you and brings each line to life. A good introduction to his work is The Brief History of the Dead. More info here:

This month, he has a piece in Arkansas Life magazine, published by my alma mater, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "[July, Little Rock, 1983]" seems autobiographical, but I don't know for sure.

Here's a teaser:
"The air is so damp and sticky that everything you say seems to emerge in its own heavy syrup, like sap from a tree, each sentence falling splat against the pavement. As a rule, the weather in Little Rock has this effect on people until mid-September, when the first cool rains arrive and all the old conversations dissolve and wash away."

I just want to roll his metaphors over and over on my tongue and process them slowly in my mind.

The rest can be found here:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Plumb blown, full faded

Part of my lingo repertoire as of last night. I love this one!! Now taking guesses on meaning...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book officially has made my list of favorite books.
It's nonfiction, but it reads like fiction. It's so good, the language so rich, but so easy to soak up and consume -- and it's funny and quirky too -- that it's like candy. But not like light, silly, beach-reading candy, like candy so sweet it rolls around in your mouth as you savor each taste, then it hits the spot, every time you turn a page.

It's thought-provoking, forcing you to think inward about your own life, priorities and the ways you choose to lead your life, interact with the people in your life, and even just do the daily things in your life.

It's also full of lessons in so many religions, which don't come across as indoctrinating or preachy, but just provide extra insight you almost didn't know you were getting.

Plus, for anyone who likes travel reading, this book could probably just as easily be found in the bookstore's travel section as in the memoirs section. It's a cultural, culinary, self-exploratory trip that begins in New York, goes through months each in Italy, India, and Bali, Indonesia, and ends up with...well I won't tell you where it ends up. But it's good, trust me.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup song

In the spirit of American patriotism in advance of tomorrow's game against Ghana, I leave you with this for the weekend:

Shakira - Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) - the official FIFA World Cup song, which I love:

Arkansas State Capitol virtual tour

Arkansas Secretary of State Charlie Daniels' office recently launched an online virtual tour of the State Capitol. To give you an idea of where all the magic happens, check out:
I think it's well-done.

To find my desk, do the following:
Click the "Capitol Tour" button.
Click the "Interactive Tour" button.
Scroll down, and click "2nd Floor."
All the way to the right, the bottommost marker lights up as "Governor's Office." That is Governor Beebe's own office. He has staff on three floors. The marker above that space signifies the Governor's Conference Room. And the blank space above that is where I sit. Not shocked they forgot to label it. Word has it that during President Clinton's tenure in the Governor's Office, his office was being remodeled, and he temporarily used what is now my office as his office!


On a Friday at the State Capitol, corn appears in the Governor's Office.

Arkansas is a mostly rural and greatly agricultural state. This means that sometimes, people traverse the state just to bring back produce you can't find in the regular old grocery store. Heirloom varieties and such. OK, I don't actually know that this is the reason massive mesh bags of corn appeared in my office today, but it's a strong possibility.

When I asked the bearer of the corn why it was here, she replied, "Because I went to Dumas to get it." (By the way, that's not pronounced how I know most of you are reading it. This is not France. It's DOO-mis.) The label on the bag -- as you can read -- says the corn is from Grady. That's in Lincoln County, which I hadn't heard of until today. (Tangent -- Arkansas has so many counties, 75, it's hard to keep track. My native Maryland only has 24.) According to (one of my all-time favorite Web sites), the most recent data calculating Dumas' population was 4,622 in 2008. Compared to Grady (population: 456), this makes it the big(ger) city worth referencing.

Anyway, so I don't really know if the corn was a primary or secondary reason said representative brought back produce from Hardin Farms (, but regardless, I now have corn to grill this weekend. Delicious. Will go nicely with the plump Bradley County pink tomatoes that were last weekend's produce delivery.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This town is an oven

There is an excuse for my hiatus on posting...I essentially can't stand this heat, and it's taking all my energy to bear it. Every time I emerge from the air conditioning, I feel like an oppressive, unwanted blanket wraps itself around me. Yes, I grew up in Washington, D.C., known for its humidity, and true, this is my fifth summer in Arkansas, and yet, I swear there is something different about this year's temperatures. Makes me think any global warming doubters are even crazier than I already thought. It's like this week in particular, the fever gods decided it was time to take over Arkansas, and every day, the temps near 100 or surpass it. I think I heard the other day it was 99 but felt like 108. I mean, doesn't a person start hallucinating when his body temperature gets to like 105?

As a point of reference for those who might wonder, I'm not normally such a shrinking violet to extreme temperatures. In fact, I kind of hate a/c because it's always so freezing inside when you're dressed for summer. I feel like all summer long, I battle this issue. Fall is my favorite season, where the climate is mild and you are pretty much comfortable anywhere, inside or outside. But here, the a/c blows like a freezer, so while that brief moment upon first entering a building is a refreshing respite from the brutality outside, then I'm just cold and searching for the nearest sweater. You just can't win!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Silly bands

In the course of an evening, I met about 17 middle-school kids all sporting "silly bands." OK, that's an exaggeration, but seriously, where did these things come from? And why do I know nothing about them?

They seem to be a trend reminiscent of slap bracelets, stickers, or pogs. You know, they're really cheap, Justin Bieber-aged kids trade them at school, they get outlawed because the behavior surrounding them resembles gambling, and then they eventually die out.

Is this a nationwide thing or just popular in Arkansas? I have to wonder, are we behind or ahead of the curve?

They are bracelets made out of a thin rubber-band-like substance that look sort of crinkly while you're wearing them, but the amazing thing is, when you take them off and lay them out flat, each resembles the outline of an animal shape. There are dinosaurs too. Maybe some inanimate objects like houses as well, but I can't vouch for that, as you can see from my photos. I also hear that the horseshoe (or was it the unicorn?) is extremely special and comes in limited edition, so is particularly coveted.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Little Rock Farmers' Market

Pictures from a Saturday morning visit to the Farmers' Market at the River Market, now in full bloom:

The berries:
The shiitakes, morels etc. made me wish I knew more interesting ways to cook mushrooms:
Green tomatoes, for frying, as I was told:
Why do carrots always look so much better when the stem is still on?
Squash so pretty it looked like flowers:
Loved the juxtaposition of the bright green okra in the midst of the blue and blackberries: