Hot Springs

I went to Hot Springs for the oldest documentary fest in North America. It was in this elaborate, Jazz Age hotel that once hosted the Fitzgeralds. (The story is that Zelda broke the ballroom mirror in a fit of rage. It’s still cracked.)

Then I decided to walk around and see the town. And there was this street with all these creepy old houses and run-down motels, and it looked awesome. But people kept honking and yelling out the window. Then this huge dude stopped me and said he would walk me back downtown, and that I should walk on the inside of him, because if I walk on the outside, it means I’m for sale. And he had this lady with him (she also walked on the inside), and as we walked, they gave me the neighborhood run-down. (“And to your right, that’s the green house where two women got beaten just last week.”)

He said he accidentally shot his sister at age nine, then identified her in the morgue at 16, after she was murdered by a pimp, and then he ran away from foster care and lived on the streets of Duluth for a few decades.

The lady wore a long skirt and a huge t-shirt with a galaxy on it. She likes to read sci-fi, and she was raised by Mennonite grandparents in a town of 82, up near the Canadian border. She met this man through a prison pen-pal program, and they’ve been together since he got out. He came to Hot Springs because his house burned in Minnesota, and his son was here, though he doesn’t remember why. And on the way down, they picked up his daughter, selling herself for meth on the streets of St. Louis. Then he got here and started managing crack houses, and his daughter got his son hooked on meth, and they stole a lot of money and moved across town.

I think this couple might have been better, even, than the festival.

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Postcards from the fair

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After years of anticipation, I am eager to report that the deep-fried Twinkie is essentially a soggy funnel cake. And two guys got in a fist fight during Charlie Daniel’s second-to-last song (whatever was right before “Devil went down to Georgia”) and one got a bloody nose, but he just kept drinking and line dancing.

But these kids had the real skills.