2020 Vision in 2018

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Remember Conner Eldridge? He was the Democratic opponent to Republican Sen. John Boozman in the 2016 general election. Because Republicans are hot stuff these days and it’s tough to tackle an incumbent he lost. He’s back to lawyering.

There’s any number of good people like Eldridge who at least for the moment end their political aspirations once defeated. This is why I’m not stating which candidate I will choose in Tuesday’s party primaries.

Also, my record on endorsements and election predictions is under 50 percent so I likely could jinx my pick.

Over the weekend, I posted a problem on Facebook. My neighborhood is in the 86th District of the Arkansas House. If you’re on the liberal side of things, we rock: It’s so traditionally Democratic there’s no Republican candidates. Whichever Dem wins the May 22, 2018, primary heads to Little Rock in January.

[UPDATE, May 22, 2018: I was reminded at the ballot box today that we live in the 85th District, represented by Democrat David Whitaker, who faced no competition today and has no GOP opposition in November. Otherwise, the rest of this column is cq.]

This time out, the 86th is considering two similar candidates, Fayetteville City Council member Mark Kinion and community organizer Nicole Clowney. (Names are linked for their vitals.)

Both would be strong legislators for Northwest Arkansas.

The response was lively. Supporters of both, and opponents of either, wrote in public comments and private messages.

A third side also wrote in, calling for “strategic voting.” As Arkansas has open primaries — a voter asks for the party ballot on signing in, rather than being on the record as D, R or I — we can for the moment belong to the other party. In this case, choose a Republican to the right of incumbent Gov. Asa Hutchinson and one to the left of 3rd District U.S. Rep. Steve Womack. This mid-term year has few contested races. In this neck of the woods, little might be lost by crossing over this time.

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Tear Down This Wall, That Wall, The Other Ones

Mr. Developer,
Tear Down This Wall.
Pull over the other walls. Haul off the rubble and rebar.
Thank you.

Looking northwest at the side of what's left of the Mountain Inn, downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas, March 21, 2016
Looking northwest at the side of what’s left of the Mountain Inn, downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas, March 21, 2016

It’s a straightforward request but due a complicated, expensive and apparently years in length answer. Thursday (March 24), I made the request to the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, that something be done about remains of the Mountain Inn, left vacant for ages then partly razed a few years ago. Some three stories of wreckage remain at the entrance to our restored and popular downtown.

[See the end of this column for updates.]

An entity named NWAP LLC of Mountain Home in 2014 bought the property, on the southwest corner of College Avenue at Center Street about a block east of the historic Square. (Mountain Home by the way is not a suburb but 122 miles east.)

Before, the Mountain Inn extended a block south of Center to Mountain Street. That half block of 1960s-ish building, an eyesore for years, finally was torn down, left as a hole for some time but now is a parking lot. A strip of land about 20 yards wide along College (U.S. 71) next to the ugly part has been landscaped with grass and a few shrubs. The front though is nice.

A summary can be found at the Fayetteville Flyer’s May 2014 “Mountain Inn Property under Contract in Downtown Fayetteville” and from July 2014 “Ex-Developer Richard Alexander Still Keen on Mountain Inn Site” in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. The latter is about the immediate previous owners, partners planning a new hotel who bought the site in September 2007 — yes, right before the Great Recession, which explains what happened then.

All that makes sense, and our right course should be empathy and patience. Within reason. This past Feb. 1, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette began, “Publicly announced plans to remake the derelict Mountain Inn building downtown haven’t yet happened, and a representative of the property’s owners said it could be still longer before the owner makes any substantial changes.” That article is behind a fee wall.

The newspaper included a timeline: Continue reading

Losing My Neighbor Miller Williams

Of course I’d known of him, Miller Williams. In the 1990s, living in Little Rock, I was relearning how to read verse. He was an Arkansas poetry icon, along with Maya Angelou and John Gould Fletcher. We claim a good share of songwriters as well. Miller died Jan. 1, 2015, at age 84.

• • •

The documentary series "Men & Women of Distinction" of the Arkansas Educational Television Network featured poet Miller Williams. The half-hour video was premiered in November 2010 at the University of Arkansas Global Campus auditorium in Fayetteville. Afterward, Williams was congratulated during a reception and posed for pictures. Here, Ben Pollock (from left), Christy Pollock, Miller Williams, Crescent Dragonwagon and Amy Wilson. Photo by Dwain Cromwell
The documentary series Men & Women of Distinction on the Arkansas Educational Television Network featured poet Miller Williams. The half-hour video was premiered in November 2010 at the University of Arkansas Global Campus in Fayetteville. Afterward, Williams was congratulated during a reception and posed for pictures. Here, Ben Pollock (from left), Christy Pollock, Miller Williams, Crescent Dragonwagon and Amy Wilson.
Photo by Dwain Cromwell

In early 1999, My Beloved and I found our offer accepted on a 1961 house in Fayetteville, under a mile northwest of the University. The owners, Jake and Carol, were moving to a condo in town, he having retired as an agriculture professor. We came over to meet them. The women talked, and Jake led me out the front door. Leaning against the iron railing of the narrow porch, Jake pointed across the street. “Aren’t you a word guy, since you work in newspapers?” Jake asked. “You ever heard of Miller Williams? That’s his house.”

• • •

A few weeks later, I’m climbing down from the attic, whose door is in the carport’s ceiling, where I’d been storing now-empty boxes. A balding man with a trim gray beard is standing there. I jump. “I didn’t mean to startle you, I’m Miller. We live kiddy-cornered from you. Jordan thought you could use these. [It was a paper plate of homemade cookies and two cold sodas.] We didn’t know what you liked so I chose a can of Coke and one a Sprite. Come over anytime. We have wine about 5.”

• • •

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Ends Do Not Justify Mean

This “119” fight in my hometown could’ve just offended me like the reasonable person I think I am. But it enrages, rekindling a pair of memories. While I support full nondiscrimination in my community and country, when proposed this summer Fayetteville Ordinance 5703 / Chapter 119 Civil Rights Administration fell shy. Surely I could retain egalitarian credentials and oppose a law that might damage its goal of extending civil rights to matters of sex, not just gender.

Promotional sticker from the producers of Hair, circa 1971. The Pollock Archive.
I still have a couple of the stickers from 1971 that my dad was sent to promote the stage musical Hair.

Then its opponents begin showering shrapnel of fearmongering on my Northwest Arkansas city. That probably stops this week.

Still, the City Council passed “119” in a 6-2 vote following a 10-hour meeting that began Aug. 20. The foes’ petition drive set up a repeal vote Dec. 9, for which early voting ends Monday afternoon.

Voting “against” means against repeal and thus supporting the new Chapter 119 ordinance.

The forces for repeal continue its Atwater/Rove-inspired campaign. First, to reminisce.

The senior Ben Pollock’s main hobby was theater. Beginning in the mid-1950s, he was active backstage in Fort Smith Little Theatre, a community theater organization. That overlapped with years on the board of the Broadway Theater League of Fort Smith, which staged commercial “bus-and-truck” musicals and plays at what is now the ArcBest Corporation Performing Arts Center. For the league, Dad booked the shows. He parlayed that self-taught skill to a year or so working as the municipal auditorium’s manager.

The Broadway League discussed touring companies of New York’s hot Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. The former was late 1971 or early ’72 (making me 14 or 15) with the latter the next year. Its board chose not to stage them, but Dad, already having communicated with their production companies, decided to do so on his own, contracting the auditorium, arranging box office and so forth.

Hair was famous for its free love, pro-recreational drug and anti-war messages. The nude scene in particular aroused aginners. (The cast is revealed as naked in the closing bars of “Where Do I Go,” which ends Act I.)

While songs from Superstar now can be heard in even conservative church services, at the time angry evangelical Christians called the rock opera heresy.

Opposition brought the shows, separately, to the Fort Smith Board of Directors, bringing supporters in packed church buses. The local newspaper interviewed Dad. Our phone was listed, and we got a few crank calls.

My eighth-grade English teacher had us give several speeches through the term, and I explained Hair in one. I handed out palm-sized stickers with the Hair logo of the time to classmates. One buddy tore it up inches from my face. (Our friendship eventually renewed.)

ArcBest Corporation Performing Arts Center, formerly Fort Smith Municipal Auditorium
ArcBest Corporation Performing Arts Center, formerly Fort Smith Municipal Auditorium

Hair did not come to Fort Smith. I don’t know if Dad canceled the contract from official pressure or indirect. He can’t tell me. He died 29 years ago this Dec. 19. Mom passed in 2004.

Dad did get Superstar to Fort Smith. I saw it: It was more of a staged reading with the band members as the cast. I don’t recall if the auditorium sold out. Church buses brought in protesters, and I recall the pickets in the night, outside the building.

I cannot extrapolate where Dad would stand on Fayetteville’s 119. Sexuality talk made him uncomfortable. There were two gay men in his circles (that I know of) whom he liked and admired, but gosh he was a man of his geography and generation so the topic was skirted. Before his and his brother’s Model Laundry closed in 1967 he emphatically did not discriminate on age, race, gender or disability in hiring.

Maybe Ben Pollock Sr. grew some Atticus Finch in ’71-72. Yet I know full well that this set of memories is puny when the topic is housing, employment or other economic discrimination.

Yet the implication of mob rule, set in sanctified language, burned a hole in this Scout.

Click to Read PDF of Ordinance


This column is not an endorsement of Keep Fayetteville Fair. A testimonial like this Brick does them no good!
Ordinance 5703 = Chapter 119. This column is not an endorsement of Keep Fayetteville Fair. A meandering riff like this Brick won’t help them.

I now support Fayetteville’s civil rights ordinance because many laws don’t start out immaculately phrased. That’s what keeps Congress and lower legislative bodies in business. Lest we forget.

The other reason was learning in August of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Loving ruling.

When did SCOTUS literally address loving?

The plaintiffs were Loving, Richard and Mildred, white and black, respectively, suing Virginia. The Lovings were arrested in 1958 for violating the state’s ban on interracial marriage. Miscegenation was the word. In 1967, the highest court in the land ruled in the couple’s favor, unanimously.

Intermarried couples remain rare, but one sees them around. In the era of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Loving case was on time.

It is taking marriage between homosexuals another half-century to near its Loving. This year, the justices seem to be heading that way.

Fayetteville’s Chapter 119 is not about matrimony but the creation of a means to hear discrimination complaints on a municipal level for the usual race, age, disability and religion differences, the less controversial marital status and familial status and, last, to gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. The online Fayetteville Flier has a backgrounder on the law.

• Days before the fateful August council meeting, its opposition sent out a robocall from “reality” TV star Michelle Duggar, who lives near Fayetteville, claiming marauding bands of perverts will invade the wrong bathrooms. This made The Washington Post.

Local TV had the story last week that the opponents of 119 bought a website domain name that would’ve been used by its supporters’ organization Keep Fayetteville Fair, redirecting to its own Internet site.

• The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce endorses the repeal. This is no surprise. Chambers nationwide are conservative bodies dedicated to their dues payers: “The Fayetteville Chamber mission is to serve as the leader and advocate for our membership to promote a strong business climate and facilitate positive community interaction for continued economic development and enhance quality of life.”

• Both sides have applied to the county to have poll watchers. Only pro-repealers have deployed them at the courthouse during early voting. They have not made any claims to have observed voter fraud. (With 20 forms of ID, blood test, fingerprints, retina scan and campaign-sticker shearing required, how could there be any bad ballots?)

State law however, allows them to stand only six feet from voting booths. That could intimidate cautious voters.

“Don’t be a sheep,” Mom always told me. Dad showed it. Scout’s honor.

— Copyright 2014, Ben S. Pollock Jr.

A C Note

We asked for it so I can’t complain. We dined out to celebrate. It would so kill the mood to ask what’s an add-on and what comes-with on each and every item, so we didn’t. Boy, did I pay for it.

Here is a caution to near-vegans and vegans, like My Beloved and me.

All the pasta/risotto dishes on the single-page summer menu of this popular Fayetteville restaurant are under $20 except for the $24 seafood risotto. Even the beef, pork and poultry pastas are $18-$19.

No main dish, except the portobello lasagna, is ovo-lacto vegetarian, but the servers eagerly assured us how accommodating the chef is. We like to hear that. (All the salads had cheese on them, also.)

Off the menu, we were advised, is their capellini pomodoro, angel hair with a basic tomato and garlic sauce. OK, we’ll each have one. We’d like some vegetables, so “pick any you see on the other dishes.” OK, how about broccolini, asparagus and shiitakes? Sounds good, sir. When asked if I want those mixed into the sauce I say no, on the side is fine, thinking both less work in the kitchen and that the broccolini would not “work” in a simple red sauce.

Blame me for assuming, but because all the “menu’d” pastas included a variety of produce I was sure ours would be priced comparatively. Neither the new server nor her trainer told us differently.

What we got was delicious, don’t get me wrong. The amount of pasta was perfect, not too big a serving. The vegetables were grilled and crisp-tender — 4-5 broccolini, 6 asparagus and 5-6 mushrooms each.

Comes the bill: $40 for the two pastas and $15 for both sets of greens. Add about $15 for a salad apiece — hold the cheese on mine — and about $15 for one cocktail each, and with tax and tip we just enjoyed a hundred-dollar-plus dinner on Dickson Street.

If you’re a health-conscious eater yet on a budget and want fine dining for a special occasion, sorry but you are going to have to grill the wait staff, never mind embarrassing your companion, wrecking the intimate celebratory conversation and making yourself look picayune. At comparable restaurants, this should have been $60 maybe $70. Yet I caved.

It’s a fact the meats are the biggest cost on a menu. I have come to avoid ordering meat entrees that include great sides and request dropping the meat, because 95 percent of the time I am told the restaurant’s computer won’t allow reducing the price accordingly. Happened at this joint, too, when MB asked about the tuna entree, whose sides would be a meal to themselves.

Maybe next time I will try the following to minimize awkwardness: At the start of ordering I will ask the server: Please give the price on each and every food you recite to me.

I need only say this once, right?

• • •

Here’s a question, a couple of days after the fact. Why did the server always stand by my wife? Why didn’t she (either of them) move to my side of the table when it was my turn so I wouldn’t have to talk past her head? It did seem rude at the time.

Was it to … ? No, that’s just paranoid.

Come to think of it, the diced tomatoes in the pomodoro came from a can. MB’s mint julep so tasted like cough syrup that she asked for more soda water to dilute it and still couldn’t finish it. Her orange spinach salad (hold the bacon) had precisely four segments from a mandarin or clementine, each holding a corner of the square plate.

Why Did the Deer Cross that Road?

About 5:10 or 5:15 this afternoon, I was down here at my lower-level office, and I heard Hopper the black Tibetan terrier bark and growl. Stewie the schnauzer and his dad already had their walk so it wasn’t them irritating this watchdog. I didn’t see any UPS truck from my window so I went upstairs and looked from Hopper’s viewpoint, from the living room window.

Then I saw the deer, a doe, I guess, having no antlers, smallish but likely full grown so a young adult. It was in the vacant lot across Valley View and to the right, north of the Steeles’ house, heading toward Wedington Drive.

I decide to quietly step out the front door, and it did not notice me. It was intent on watching Wedington. It wanted to cross that four-lane state highway spur. It had gotten close to Wedington’s sidewalk at that point.

Just then, Trish from next door (to the left) drove her dark gray minivan down. She slowed, must’ve seen the deer as well. I don’t know if she had either or both of her boys in the car. The deer noticed her minivan and froze. Then Trish took off, to the right, east.

The deer did a little pacing, trying to time the cars. It was 5:15 and as high as traffic gets there, outside of just before or after a Razorback game. I froze, too.

There was a slight gap, sort of, in eastbound traffic, and the deer walked briskly, not a run, into the street. From the right, going west, were a few vehicles. Would the deer make it? It would if it ran. In the inside westbound lane, so nearest me, traveled a white full-sized van, about in speed with the rest of the traffic so not slow but not barreling down, either.

The white van struck the deer broadside, on its right chest mainly. The deer was airborne not that many feet. I saw its white belly so it must’ve rotated some in the air, and it landed on the outside lane, hitting the asphalt with its left side.

Then it scampered up, righting itself, and trotted through the yard on the north side of Wedington.

I saw no limp.

Traffic in either direction slowed. The white van proceeded very slowly. I saw no damage to it, no cracked windshield, although I think the deer hit the glass more than the bumper or hood.

I walked down our driveway. It just started to rain again (it was drizzling off and on all afternoon). Once into the street I saw the white van come back in the same direction. It must’ve made three rights. And it turned into that yard’s driveway. A man got out of the driver’s side, wearing a light brown or dark tan windbreaker kind of jacket — it was dusk and the sky heavily overcast — and walked toward the back-left of the house where he, as well as I, had seen the deer scamper to.

By this point I was nearly to Wedington. I saw that deer run right, eastward, I guess away from the man on foot. I lost sight of the deer at Oak, the next cross street over. It’s the top of a little hill at that point.

I don’t think the driver saw the deer at all like I just did. In a moment or two he got back into his van and drove away.

I walked toward Oak and decided not to cross Wedington at rush hour. I wouldn’t see the deer at that point; it’d run from me if it hadn’t already continued north along or near Oak Street.

I believe the deer was trying to catch up with a mate, its family or the rest of its little herd. It was trying not to get left too far behind, if I’m reading its mind correctly.

We have deer here sometimes. There seems to be a deer path under a set of north-south utility lines that goes between the houses in this Sunset Hills neighborhood.

While I’m guessing, I don’t see how this doe could not have avoided internal injuries and broken ribs. Its legs obviously are fine. This has left me hoping it finds its fellow deer and lives a while among them. I don’t see how it could survive for a lot of hours after being hit by a 30 mph or 45 mph van.

I went back inside for Hopper and Mani, leashed them up and walked them a little up and down our lane. Then I brought them inside and fed dinner to them and the cats.