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.

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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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