Leaving Little Rock
I have lived in Southwest Little Rock for over twenty years.
Well, no let’s correct that; I lived in Southwest Little Rock for over twenty years. A lot of my friends and co-workers are under the mistaken assumption that a person living in Southwest Little Rock is taking his life in to his own hands every time he ventures outside. I can only attest that I have never been in the slightest way harassed or threatened.
Although, I was once the victim of a thief. The old lady that lived next door to me stole a fern out of my plant box. It sounds quite innocuous but I assure you at the time I was actually quite angry about it. The fern had been brought to Arkansas from my grandmother’s house in Mississippi and it had a sentimental value to me. I had placed it in the plant box in the hopes it would take to it and spread a little since it had long since outgrown its iron pot. Apparently the old lady next door decided I was neglecting it and “rescued” it from me.
Oh well, that was a long time ago now and there’s no sense getting worked up over the peccadilloes of an elderly lady (now deceased I believe). What I was getting at before I distracted myself was that a lot of my friends and coworkers, the vast majority of them in fact, believe that I am escaping the chaos and crime of the evil city of Little Rock. I have a hard time convincing any of them that in fact that is not the case. My only real complaint about Little Rock is that the housing codes permit houses to be built entirely too near each other for anyone to be at all neighborly.
It’s easy to feel neighborly towards someone when they are a quarter mile away. It’s not nearly so easy when they are never more than fifteen feet away and you can hear them whistling while they do the laundry.
Or hear them vacuuming, or hear them nailing a picture up on the wall, or hear them…well, you get the idea. It’s hard enough to be constantly in the company of people you choose to associate with, let alone the woefully imperfect strangers who only happen to live next door to you.
I’ve actually been pretty lucky in my random allotment of neighbors. None of them have been unpleasant people exactly; it’s just that I’m the type of person who can’t stand to have the awareness of another’s presence constantly actuated.
In short, I vant to be alone. Or at least I vant to live on eight acres with an old farmhouse and a pond. Oh, I still have neighbors, and I can see them if I look out the window, and occasionally I hear a farm truck or a tractor, but I never hear anybody’s dishwasher or telephone and I certainly never have my reading interrupted by mariachis and madrigals.
If you stop to think about it, a little excess noise is really a pretty small complaint to have about a city which is thought by half the state of Arkansas to be a violent and lawless suburb of hell. I may be exaggerating, but the majority of my friends do not understand how anybody can live in Little Rock. Hell, it was easy.
For one thing the there are a fairly astonishing number of decent restaurants for a city of its size. And they run the gamut from mom and pop diners with grilled cheese sandwiches and sweet tea to places like Ashley’s and Brave New Restaurant which I’m willing to stack up against any restaurant North of the Mason-Dixon Line.
For another, there are interesting local theater productions by folks like the Weekend Theater, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, and the Community Theatre of Little Rock. Even Murry’s Dinner Playhouse has its moments. There are a lot of cities much bigger than Little Rock that don’t have that much live theater. I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it beats the heck out of having to watch a movie with Keanu Reeves in it, doesn’t it?
I guess the main thing I will miss is simply being five minutes away from everything I could possibly need. Now that I’ve moved fifty miles outside of Little Rock, I find I have to plan my shopping trips with a lot more care. At that, it seems like I still do half my shopping in Little Rock.
Some of that is just stupid habit, and some of that is the disadvantage of living in a dry county, but some of it is the fact that there really aren’t any restaurants in the little town I live in. Just to get a pizza I have to drive all the way in to Beebe. But that’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to share some acreage with what I conservatively estimate to be ten thousand fireflies and five thousand frogs.
The only downside to that is that one morning last week I woke up at the crack of dawn and discovered a spider that was just slightly bigger around than a silver dollar resting comfortably on the end of my bed. But since he wasn’t making any noise, I can live with it.
Edwin E. Smith is a poet, heckuva writer and all around swell guy. Send him an email at email@example.com or visit him on the Internet at edwinesmith.com