Vuvuzela Monologues

As long as soccer’s World Cup has made the vuvuzela sta­dium noise­maker a com­mon word in Amer­ica, Brick wants to horn in on its ubiq­uity for a new series of short takes. Today, it’s skin and drama.

• • •

Speak­ing of vuvuzela, one rash has come home to roost, on my left fore­arm. Until the most recent semi-seasonal clean-up the  Shady Hill yard, I have for years assured My Beloved of my immu­nity to poi­son ivy. Early last week, two days after bat­tling privet on the perime­ter, itchy blis­ters appears on said limb. Immu­nity has ended.

In research­ing valid treat­ments, I found a great Wall Street Jour­nal arti­cle. Along the way to pre­ven­tion and treat­ment, it notes that anec­do­tally there seems to be more, and more toxic, poi­son ivy this sum­mer. The story cites research blam­ing global warm­ing. Being the Jour­nal, it does not use the phrase “global warming”:

A study, pub­lished in the jour­nal Weed Sci­ence in 2007, sug­gested that poi­son ivy is get­ting big­ger, spread­ing faster and pro­duc­ing more urush­iol [the itch­ing oil in the sap] as the result of increas­ing lev­els of car­bon diox­ide in the atmosphere.”

As for pre­ven­tion, sci­ence says soap-and-water works as well as store-bought poison-ivy rinses. My mis­take was wash­ing hands but not up the arms. This gar­dener has briefly sus­pended his organic prin­ci­ples to buy the small­est bot­tle of Roundup and spray only the leaves of three. We have lots of other ivies and other nui­sance plants, and chem­i­cals cause too many prob­lems for cav­a­lier use. I’ll con­tinue to cut and pull ram­pant weeds, year after year. But poi­son ivy? Shrivel and die, you!

Sci­ence says over-the-counter cor­ti­sone cream reduces the itch­ing. I agree. One tip not found online: Cor­ti­sone spells relief, but if you pick up a cat before the oint­ment soaks in, fur will stick to your arm. That spells itch.

• • •

Maybe my town’s munic­i­pal audi­to­rium, the Wal­ton Arts Cen­ter, has got­ten small for the area. Maybe not. But there’s enough influ­en­tial peo­ple who think the Washington-Benton County area needs either a big­ger capac­ity space or sim­ply a new one that it’s going to get cussed and dis­cussed until the reces­sion eases enough for bids, designs and contracts.

The lat­est ket­tle has been tossed in the fire by the orig­i­nal and con­tin­u­ing bene­fac­tor, the Wal­ton Fam­ily Foun­da­tion. It insists that any new facil­ity be 35 miles from my Fayet­teville in its home­town Ben­tonville, or the money will stop for the orig­i­nal one. It does also wisely advise patience — for the econ­omy to speed back up. The let­ter the fund sent is sum­ma­rized free in the web jour­nals Fayet­teville Flyer and Ozark­sUn­bound.

The fund obvi­ously wants a geo­graphic bal­ance. That’s lovely, and it may be the right thing to do for some rea­sons. The Wal­ton family’s Crys­tal Bridges Museum of Amer­i­can Art, now under con­struc­tion in Ben­tonville, thus would have a neigh­bor facil­ity as com­pan­ion­ship for all those lonely days when everyone’s gone to the game or Beaver Lake.

The­atri­cally, North­west Arkansas is big enough to sup­port an arts dis­trict, the one it already has, the “high street” stretch of Dick­son Street in Fayet­teville. The Wal­ton Arts Cen­ter, on Dick­son at West, has a pri­mary audi­to­rium, a mod­est gallery, class­rooms, stu­dios and two small stages. This area may never be big enough to sup­port two dis­tricts. We finally are ready for a real museum, and I can’t wait; the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion is top shelf.

An already estab­lished arts dis­trict can suc­cess­fully reside 35 miles from world class visual art. A dis­trict pro­vides a cen­tral nightlife region that includes a wide vari­ety of restau­rants as well as bars and clubs. Ben­tonville ain’t never gonna have any­thing close to a Dick­son Street. Vis­i­tors can roam Crys­tal Bridges halls and grounds by day and hit the WAC at night, hav­ing dined any­where in between, and after­ward stay in any hotel along the region’s sole interstate.

Role mod­els are numer­ous – Lin­coln Cen­ter in New York, with 26 per­for­mance areas, or Cen­ter The­atre Group in LA, with three stages. Such dis­tricts have suf­fi­cient cen­tral­ized park­ing, restau­rants within walk­ing dis­tance and, most of all, a tra­di­tion for so being in the mid­dle of life so that stage and music lovers from every­where already know it’s there wait­ing for them.

That’s if you get past the idea of how many nights a really big the­ater gets rented. The mod­est Wal­ton Arts Cen­ter is booked most nights of the week 12 months a year. This was con­sid­ered in the last third of a Brick from this spring. The­aters — and “arts cen­ter” here means per­form­ing not visual arts — in Amer­ica only rarely are prof­itable. Com­mu­ni­ties sup­port them for all the other rea­sons. But arts facil­i­ties badly planned can be money sieves, and that’s unnec­es­sary. Evi­dently, the Wal­ton Fam­ily Foun­da­tion has no the­ater man­age­ment spe­cial­ist to advise them on show busi­ness. Their gig is home-grown phil­an­thropy, God love ‘em. We need ‘em.

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