Wednesday October 18 and Thursday October 19
I like Little Rock. I like it much more than I expected to – actually, I had no expectations, knew nothing about it, only that a guy I knew online a few years back lived here and seemed to like it. I am currently in a holding pattern with some legal things that need me to have robust internet and I thought I could find that here. I actually sort of thought I might stay here for a week, until the legal stuff is all done on Tuesday. But! Alas, that isn’t possible: the state fair is in town and the two RV parks in, basically, downtown Little Rock, are booked all weekend. So I got into this one, in Burns Park, last night and tonight and tomorrow I must move on.
So OK, if you know Baltimore at all, then picture to yourself Leakin Park. If you don’t know it, google it, or, hell, just google Burns Park in North Little Rock and you’ll get the picture. This is a HUGE, sprawling urban park, a giant green oasis in the heart of a big city. So naturally, in Baltimore, it’s where you dump your bodies and trust me when I say there is no RV campground in Leakin Park. Although, actually, now that I think about it, there might be! There might be an entire hidden city in there. But I was still surprised to find one in Little Rock, which turns out to be an actual big city. And yet, here I am in this crazy wooded park – I saw DEER this morning, yo – and yet I am in the CITY. It is pretty cool. I have seen no bodies. But there are several playgrounds and a disc golf course and a small amusement park for which I held out great hopes of photography. Unfortunately I just went by there and it was all locked up tight, only open on weekends, trespassers will be prosecuted and, worse, everything was boarded or draped with tarps, so, no pictures. There was a full sized tank with children climbing all over it, though, but I didn’t take any pictures because taking pictures of kids is sorta, well, fraught. Also honestly I just wanted to come back to the camper and drink some wine.
That is okay! I have taken a lot of pictures today!
I took the interstate. I had no choice, because I didn’t get out of Hernando until noon and I had plans, or semi plans. My metafilter contact never got back in touch with me, but a guy I knew a little from Instagram contacted me and said, hey, let’s meet up for lunch or a drink.
Reader, my heart went pitter pat. I am too old and too jaded for such shenanigans but I DEFY anyone single not to get at least one pitter and possibly a pat out of that. All I knew was that he was male, that he took good pictures of plants, that he was a gardener. I am a gardener! I like plants! I was determined to make it to Little Rock on time.
I took I-40 and it was horrible. Completely dreadful, tons of semis, the road itself is falling to pieces and the bridge over the Mississippi in Memphis was just, like, made of terror. Constructed of pure fear. I could not even exult at passing into the West (and remaining Galadriel! Nerd joke!) because I was too busy screaming. But I made it and then eventually when I could stand it no more I got off the highway and onto the non highway perfectly flat, smooth, lovely, truckless two lane highway that runs exactly parallel and all was right with my world. Also, I had apparently landed on the moon.
Everything was flat and crazy looking! There were giant farm related . . things. . by the side of the road! Suddenly there were swamps full of bald cypresses (which are some freaky ass trees that don’t even look like trees from this planet) exactly level or possibly somewhat higher than the road! Clearly it was the moon. And it took me into the North Little Rock (through the worst neighborhood first, the Garmin seems to specialize in finding the absolute shittiest neighborhood to route me through, the one place you do not want to be driving an RV) and even unto Burns Park, where I am now.
The couple who run this RV park used to live in Hendersonville! Their son is in Flat Rock! Of course they did. So they reminisced and then the lady tried to see inside my camper, which I thought at the time was just simple curiosity – and it might have been! – or it might have been because this is one of those RV camps where poor people are not supposed to stay. I have heard of this – you have to have a newish camper and you can’t be sleeping in your truck. She gave me a four page document on the rules. They are extensive. Nobody is supposed to live here. Clearly, several people are. There are several other rules that everyone is breaking, but, whatever, I do not actually care. Then her husband helped me back into a space and that was that, although hitching up in the morning and getting out of here is going to be funzies, not. I am not, frankly, all that impressed with this park. The site isn’t level. The water leaks. The camper seems to have blown a fuse, which, okay, might not be their fault but I’m blaming them anyway. And, worst of all, you have to keep pushing a button to keep the water flowing in the shower. I might be a spoiled child of the water rich East but come the fuck on. We are not living in a Paolo Bacigalupi cli-fi novel YET. And when I asked about Wifi they were all, “Of course!” and then, with a sort of mean chuckle, “Not enough for watching Netflix! Get that idea out of your head!” That means that they don’t really have wifi. As it happens, I don’t want to watch Netflix – although what if I did? Why can’t I? – but I do want to be able to open my email and refresh a Metafilter page. But, I am asking too much. This is not wifi so much as it is a faint whisper of wifi, like the internet might once have passed through, but it’s gone now.
SO I got in to Little Rock thinking that I had, well, a blind date. I was super excited. My brain went places. I got dressed up. My date texted me where to meet him. I texted back that I had blue hair, tattoos and glasses. He texted back that he had messy brown hair, tattoos and glasses. My pulse rate increased. I unhitched the camper in record time, hopped into the truck and zoomed downtown.
Where I met an absolutely lovely 25 year old gay man with messy brown hair and glasses. I did not see his tats but I am not one to ask for bonafides.
He was very very sweet and we went out to dinner and had a wonderful time. I am so glad to have a cool new friend! We walked by the river and up onto a bridge. Little Rock, with the help of the Clintons, has turned their waterfront into a park. Yeah, okay, everywhere has done that, I know, but Little Rock has done it REALLY WELL. There are several huge old railroad bridges over the Arkansas River that have been turned into pedestrian bridges. There’s a farmers market. The main library is right there as is the science museum and the Clinton Presidential Library, which is in a sweet ultra modern post Brutalist building set in a lot of green right by the river. There are bars and restaurants and shops and galleries. There are working streetcars and lots of parking. I was extremely impressed.
I was so impressed that I went back today. My new friend had pointed out a used bookstore and, well, hello catnip! It’s run by the library and it’s very well run, too. Everything is organized and there are tons of books and yes, okay, I went a bit overboard. Now the “stacks” in the back seat of the truck need another shelf added. And, they were happy to hold my heavy books there while I wandered around the waterfront taking pictures. I went into a lovely photographic fugue. I went up on a different bridge. I walked through the little nature boardwalk. I took out four different cameras and used them all. It was super nice and then I found a small market and bought a couple of bottles of wine. There was so much more than I had time for! And then I drove to Whole Foods, which is in a whole other part of the city – the city is LARGE – and, hey, I really like this city a lot. I wish I could stay longer. But tomorrow I am back on the road, first to DEVIL’S DEN because who could resist that name? And then the next day to Joplin, Missouri, where I will, I think, stay a few days. Hopefully they have cafes with wifi there. Goodbye Little Rock! You are awesome!