Like a skipping record: Little Rock racism

The Observer desperately needs to relocate. Saturday morning we came upon a building that looked promising. The sign out front proclaimed “Now Leasing,” with an arrow to the office. We strolled up to this high-ceiling joint, eager to scout a refurbished glimpse of “historic Little Rock.” What we got was an unwelcome glimpse of history repeating itself.

The Observer has spent a few months howling in frustration over a bullying landlord. But in that overcast morning just across the freeway from Central High, we were reminded of how many people face incessant, systemic bullying every day. And because we, as witnesses, often sidestep these incidents, we are all complicit.

At the lovely apartments that we can no longer fathom leasing, the office was closed but the contractor was available. He’s a large white guy in a large white truck, and he was happy to show us around. He took us through at least four apartments, proudly detailing amenities. He would have given us an even more extensive tour, but we were eager to get on with our search, and there was another man who showed up with questions. We thanked Mr. Contractor and said, “We’ll get out of your hair so you can help this guy.” We were a few steps away when we heard the man say, “I’d like to see the apartments and talk to someone about leasing,” and Mr. Contractor said, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you. You’ll have to come back Monday.” Nor did he offer the name and number of the leasing agent, the way that he did for us.

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Beantown ramblings: Central Square

Central Square, remembering.

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All the poems I lived here, where the houses stack the same — rows of two on three, wooden deck out back, overlooking your neighbor’s wall and empty trash cans. Tite’s Spanish American store with his personal cabana on top, which was new then, a decade ago, but already looked ancient. The park where Ced and I played soccer with the Guatemalans, and that day I jumped for the frisbee and knocked the kid off his bike, and his mom was so apologetic in scattered English. (I felt guilty. It was totally my fault.) And everyday, Ced and I took the cobbled streets home, me skipping, him singing Simon and Garfunkle. Everything was syrupy, lazy, instinctual. There was nothing at stake and always, a guitar. Dylan on the deck, our friends’ bands live in the kitchen, Belle and Sebastian remixed through the fuzzed-out speakers of the boom box. The roommates got each other jobs at our restaurants, taking the bus or biking the bridge to work on Newbury Street. We lived in the abstract, the Lancaster boys and Danny and me. Somehow, that made the day-to-day (and our ideals) so tangible.

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Later, I moved to Jamaica Plain. I met my neighbor, Andrew, and I knew we had to be friends. Because he got it so right. He created the ultimate Central Square eulogy and someone (him? critics?) dubbed it “mumblecore.” But for me, it’s just Cambridge, and I got to go back this week. The specifics change, but the personalities never seem to. And when I want to go back without the $600 plane ticket, there’s Funny Ha Ha.Thanks Andrew, for that!

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Woman’s semi-pro football

photo by Brian Chilson

Several weeks ago, I attended an Arkansas Banshees game. The Banshees are one of Little Rock’s two semi-pro women’s football teams. I found these women so intriguing.  Some of them were the only girls on their high school football teams. Some of them were recruited out of Wal-Mart parking lots, having never even watched a full game. Two of them are professional male impersonators. One woman was living in her car when she joined up. She kept her homelessness a secret till she saved enough money from her fast food job to make a down payment on an apartment. One woman joined so she could write about the experience for a college paper, and then liked it so much, she ended staying on. (That women is amazing — she’s a full time student, works, teaches Sunday School and takes care of her three kids, one of whom is special needs. And she’s the most talented linebacker on the team.) The story is here, and Brian got some amazing shots here.

The Secret World of Stuntwomen

I wrote this story about awhile back and thought I’d mention it. Monica Staggs is the self-proclaimed “death doll,” a North Little Rock beauty queen who went west and made good (and bad?) with Quentin Tarantino and other amusing characters. She was a blast to hang out with, and I ended up liking her a lot. Unfortunately, once her story ran, the feeling was no longer mutual. But I’m getting used to that.

You can hear more about Monica, from Monica, at her Tales from the South appearance.

Do the Dark

Darielle and I threw ourselves a birthday party. Early into the night, the Arkansas Times photographer, Brian Chilson, floated around with an analogue camera. And that was pretty perfect, since there was a casual Blondie-theme kickin’ and some messy, pink frosted, gluten-free vegan cupcakes (have to please the un-masses) that go very nicely with beautiful black and white film. (I was also wearing vintage pink frosted lingerie, because, at 110 degrees, all of Little Rock should be reviving my high school tradition of underwear as outerwear. It’s only perfect.)

Ming Donkey’s One Man Band played, a very pregnant lady danced and we all took tequila shots. Ok, well no tequila shots for the pregnant lady. But she was all about the ginger ale shots.

Other highlights include: the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger.” Le Tigre’s “Hot Topic.” Ming Donkey wearing my fishnets as a scarf. Some cheap Dutch vodka that tasted like rubbing alcohol. Darielle’s amazing skirt.

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