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FEBRUARY 2020 3
26 THE PAST AND FUTURE OF HALL HIGH
Born from effort to stall integration, Hall High’s once all-white student body is now almost entirely black and Latino. Now, with an unwelcome assist from the state, the school prepares to hit the reset button. By Lindsey Millar
33 READERS CHOICE 2020
Our list of readers’ picks for the best in Arkansas’s food scene is joined by an oral history of Doe’s Eat Place and profiles of three of our winners. By Arkansas Times Staff
BEST ICE CREAM
9 THE FRONT
Q&A: Jesse Gibson The Inconsequential News Quiz: Partially Smooshed Edition Orval: Prison economics The Month (or so) That Was: More charges in the Collins murder case
17 THE TO-DO LIST
The Momentary in Bentonville, Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase at Stickyz, Mandy McBryde and Brent Labeau at the Undercroft, Rodney Block at Rev Room, “Ragtime” at Argenta Community Theater, Elio Villafranca & the Jazz Syncopators at South on Main and more. 4 FEBRUARY 2020
23 NEWS & POLITICS
Another investigation into Hillary Clinton fizzles, but the press pays little attention.
A civil rights crossroad in 1974 Little Rock: The Black National Convention. By John A. Kirk
By Ernest Dumas
Printmaker/painter Perrion Hurd’s banners will illustrate what the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is all about. By Leslie Newell Peacock
Q&A: Artist Anaïs Dassé and the aggressive forest. With Tara Stickley
Dispensaries address the affordability of medical marijuana. By Rebekah Hall
88 CROSSWORD 90 THE OBSERVER ON THE COVER: Melissa Valenzuela at Doe’s Eat Place. Photo by Rett Peek.
Andrew Vogler gets the scoop at Loblolly.
Introducing a complete health system centered on creating a better state of health for every Arkansan.
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PUBLISHER Alan Leveritt EDITOR Lindsey Millar CREATIVE DIRECTOR Mandy Keener SENIOR EDITOR Max Brantley MANAGING EDITOR Leslie Newell Peacock ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR Stephanie Smittle ASSOCIATE EDITOR Rebekah Hall CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Benjamin Hardy, Mara Leveritt PHOTOGRAPHER Brian Chilson DIRECTOR OF DIGITAL STRATEGY Jordan Little ADVERTISING ART DIRECTOR Mike Spain GRAPHIC DESIGNER Katie Hassell DIGITAL MARKETING SPECIALIST Lucy Baehr DIRECTOR OF ADVERTISING Phyllis A. Britton ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Brooke Wallace, Lee Major, Terrell Jacob and Damien Poole ADVERTISING TRAFFIC MANAGER Roland R. Gladden IT DIRECTOR Robert Curfman CIRCULATION DIRECTOR Anitra Hickman CONTROLLER Weldon Wilson BILLING/COLLECTIONS Charlotte Key PRODUCTION MANAGER Ira Hocut (1954-2009)
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THE FRONT Q&A
LITTLE ROCK PARKS NEED BIG, BOLD IDEAS AND A PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP.
Jesse Gibson is a Little Rock lawyer and chairman of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, which has been involved in talks about repurposing War Memorial and Hindman parks. The commission has recommended to a task force created by Mayor Frank Scott such ideas as commercial activities, a restaurant; a competitive-level soccer and baseball/softball complex; a disc golf course and pro mountain bike trails at Hindman Park; connectivity of the parks and improved access to War Memorial; and an expanded Little Rock Zoo. We asked him about the future of Little Rock’s parks.
strongly supported. Here’s what our vision [of a park] was: a place you can go with a family and spend all day doing different things. Maybe you’ve got sister in a softball tournament and little brother gets bored — the zoo is there. The team goes to lunch after the game at a restaurant [in the park] and the family spends the day in the park. That’s what our vision is: get kids from all neighborhoods in there and use it for multiple things. Would the ballparks at War Memorial be owned by private entities? Is that how they would get built? I think we would like a private partner, but not private ownership. The best way to attract private funding is public funding as a baseline. It’s important to look at private partners, but the best way to do that is to illustrate the commitment of the city. They [private donors] don’t want to feel like they’re paying the freight. What I hope we can do as a city is to illustrate to private business that we are committed to doing this, to making a big bold change, in the form of dedicated funding for parks. If we do that, I think we’ll see more private investment.
I think it’s safe to say that many people in Little Rock are unaware that there is a parks commission. Yes. What I hoped to do as president is be a little bit more public, more out front with the issues … have the community be more engaged. I think since I’ve been on the commission, we’ve been a better commission. … It’s a very engaged commission now. An issue for the parks department is its budget cut. It amounted to about $1 million and job cuts? I know no one that works for parks is thrilled about it. But I think what [Mayor Frank Scott and the City Board] hope for is short-term pain for long-term growth. … I’m hoping that long-term there’s a way to provide a vision to the board and citizens for park repurposes, especially Hindman and War Memorial, and citywide. It’s going to take a vision and it’s likely going to take dedicated funding. Does Little Rock’s proximity to natural areas make it harder to drum up interest in city parks? It sounds so bizarre to say — when I grew up we didn’t have nearly so much to compete with our attention — we have to almost schedule activity time with the kids. There’s so many things competing. That might be the way some people view parks. They’re maybe not front-of-mind. However, when people are provided with more than just a theoretical vision [of a park] and they can see what it can be … I think people will really get behind it. … I think people can see that a big, bold vision, especially for War Memorial, would be a net positive for the city. In 2018, consultants suggested selling off parkland for such things as multifamily housing and a hotel. Is that under consideration? I don’t think anyone supports the sale of parkland. I don’t think the mayor does, I don’t think the commission does. The first recommendation we did have was to include, in keeping with the whole idea of not selling parkland, was some kind of commercial activity — food and beverage, leaseholds you could enter into. That was something the commission
Dedicated funding? A bond issue? Everything is on the table, from a bond issue to a dedicated sales tax. The zoo has done a lot of research [that found] a half-cent to a cent could generate $25 million to $50 million. Then, of course, the current budget [$11 million] would be available for other things. There could be a 10-year sunset on the tax. Name: Jesse Gibson Hometown: Little Rock resident, born in Lead Hill Age: 44 Hobbies: Golfing, hiking, canoeing in Fourche Creek Now reading: J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy”
What about War Memorial Stadium? How does it impact planning for the park? It’s a weird dance. The stadium’s got obligations once every two years to provide parking for the [Razorback] football game. Nobody knows what’s going to happen with that five years from now, 10 years from now. The impact from those games is damage [to the ground] from cars. So give me the elevator speech: What’s repurposing the parks about? Big change. Big change, new concepts. Meaning, let’s not keep doing what we’ve done with parks for the last 50 years: creating an outdoor space and leaving people to their own devices to figure out how to use it. Let’s have both facilities and programming to make [parks] more conducive to engage younger people who are going to be the people to utilize the park for the next 50 years. … Facilities in the form of a climbing wall, nature centers, programs like events like the Running of the Rexes [a fundraiser in which folks run dressed up as Tyrannosaurus Rexes], cross country 5Ks. Big, bold change … you don’t have to have an open field and figure out how to use it. —Leslie Newell Peacock ARKANSASTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2020 9
INCONSEQUENTIAL NEWS QUIZ
PARTIALLY SMOOSHED EDITION Play at home, after asking your hogs how they would spend $6.2 million.
C&H DEAL: Did it involve a hot oil backrub by Jason Rapert?
O’Donnell, even supplying one with a fake suicide note. B) She also allegedly inquired about murdering Randolph County Judge Harold Erwin and Henry Boyce, who was then the prosecutor on the Linda Collins murder case. C) She also allegedly inquired about having someone blow up her 2005 Honda Civic, which was at the Randolph County Jail, to destroy evidence that might be in the car. D) All of the above, with the inmates O’Donnell allegedly approached quickly ratting her out to jailers.
2) Christmas Day 2019 didn’t feel all that Christmasy in the Little Rock area. Which of the following made Christmas in the capital city real weird this year? A) Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents stopped Santa at the border, locked his reindeer in squalid cages and deported all his elves to Middle Earth. B) The hot toy this year was Barbie’s My First Presidential Impeachment Playset. C) Evangelical Christians just couldn’t bring themselves to celebrate the birth of a refugee family’s anchor baby. D) Little Rock reached a balmy 70 degrees on Dec. 25.
4) Cipriano Rodriguez, 39, of White Hall, was recently arrested at North Little Rock’s McCain Mall. According to police, what did Rodriguez allegedly do to land himself in the ironbar hotel? A) He disputed that Dippin’ Dots is, in fact, the ice cream of the future. B) He stood outside Jerky Hut with a sign that said: “Jerky Hut jerky is people.” C) He led mall security on a slow-speed chase while riding a motorized panda bear. D) He allegedly left his 2-year-old daughter alone in a running car in the parking lot while he shopped.
3) Rebecca O’Donnell, the woman accused of murdering former state Sen. Linda Collins of Pocahontas at Collins’ home in May 2019, recently managed to catch several new charges while in jail. According to investigators, which of the following did O’Donnell allegedly do while she was locked up awaiting trial for murder? A) She allegedly approached at least four different inmates at the Jackson County Jail about hiring someone to kill Collins’ exhusband and make it look like a suicide with 10 FEBRUARY 2020
5) The governor’s office recently announced the completion of a deal that will finally close C&H Hog Farms, the sprawling Newton County operation whose existence has threatened the pristine Buffalo River watershed ever since the factory farm was built near Mount Judea in 2012. Which of the following did the state agree to give the farm’s owners to make them shut down the hog operation? A) A first-born Huckabee. B) Three-minute, all-you-can-grab shopping spree at Tractor Supply Co.
C) One completely heterosexual warm oil backrub per year, delivered by a Speedo-clad Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Talibaptistan). D) $6.2 million, even though Arkansas taxpayers are still stuck with the tab for cleaning up the farm’s massive liquid hog waste lagoons. 5) The Washington Post recently picked up the story of Kenneth Martin, a field training officer for the Fort Smith Police Department, who happened to be at a Fort Smith area Walmart when a call came in that two people had been arrested for shoplifting at the same store. What happened? A) He was told by store security that a young man and woman, who had been shopping with their two small children, had been detained after allegedly trying to shoplift food and a teddy bear. B) Martin took the things the couple had allegedly attempted to steal to the service desk, where he paid for the items out his own pocket and gave them to the mother and her children. Then he transported the young man to jail because store security officers insisted on pressing charges against him. C) Martin later told a reporter with the Post: “I’ve been a young parent, wondering where I was going to stretch that nickel to, and when I was growing up, I learned that when a mom and dad don’t have the means, you don’t let the kids suffer. If I see somebody down on their luck, I’ll try to help them however I can, and I’m not the only one. There are thousands and thousands of officers who do the same thing every day and never get any recognition for it.” D) All of the above. Good job, officer.
ANSWERS: D, D, D, D, D
1) The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office took to Twitter in January to share details of an incident in which an elderly driver escaped injury even though his car was struck by two freight trains after his car became stuck on a railroad crossing on Rixie Road. Which of the following phrases was used in the tweet to describe the condition of the driver’s car after it was struck by the trains? A) “Totally bollocksed.” B) “Busted to shit.” C) “Casey Jonesed.” D) “Partially smooshed.”
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12 FEBRUARY 2020
THE MONTH (OR SO) THAT WAS
NEW CHARGES IN COLLINS CASE
GOVERNOR DEFENDS REFUGEE SETTLEMENT Governor Hutchinson was called before the legislature’s joint committee on City, County and Local Affairs in January to defend his decision to accept a small number of refuges for resettlement. At the hearing, the governor told the members, “You’ve got a choice to make. You can create fear or you can help resolve fear.” Facts about the extensive security checks refugees undergo and their high rate of success at quickly becoming financially independent went right over the head of demagogue Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch), who told the chamber, “Every morning when I wake up and turn on the national news, sometimes I ask myself a question: Am I still in the United States of America?” Stubblefield expressed the fear that some immigrants might “come with the idea of setting up their own communities, establishing their own laws, their own culture — therefore vastly changing American culture. I see that happening across the country to varying degrees.” 14 FEBRUARY 2020
JUDGE HOLDS CITY IN CONTEMPT OVER STARKS CASE Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox held the city of Little Rock in contempt Jan. 21 for failing to reissue Officer Charles Starks his gun and badge. Starks, who had been fired in May 2018, was ordered reinstated at a reduced rate of pay by Fox on Jan. 2. Police Chief Keith Humphrey fired Starks for violating police procedure by stepping in front of a moving car in the course of a traffic stop of Bradley Blackshire in February 2019. Blackshire was driving a stolen car and bumped Starks as he was driving slowly away despite Starks’ order to stop. Starks fired through the windshield, killing Blackshire. The city had asked for a delay in putting Starks back to work pending appeal, but Fox refused. The city and Little Rock Police Department relented and returned Starks’ gun and badge later on Jan. 21. HUNTER BIDEN ORDERED TO APPEAR Independence County Circuit Court Judge Holly Meyer has ordered Hunter Biden to appear in court Jan. 29, when the judge will hear a motion filed by a woman suing him for child support asking that Biden be held in contempt of court for failure to produce discovery documents. Meyer declared Biden, son of the former vice president, the father of a child born to Lunden Alexis Roberts of Independence County on Aug. 28, 2018. The paternity ruling orders a new birth certificate to be issued reflecting that. A DNA test, Biden had acknowledged previously, established him as the likely father. Biden and Roberts had a relationship while she was living in Washington, D.C. He now lives in Los Angeles with a second wife, who reportedly is pregnant. A final hearing on child support and visitation is May 13. HOG FARM CLOSED, OWNERS GET $6.2 MILLION A deal that requires C&H Hog Farms Inc. in the Buffalo River watershed to abandon its large-scale hog feeding operation was closed in January with the release of $6.2 million to the farm owners. In exchange, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission now holds the conservation easement to the property, located near Big Creek, 6.6 miles from its confluence with the Buffalo National River. The deal leaves the state with responsibility for cleaning up the former hog waste ponds. C&H will still own the land, but its use will be restricted. The state no longer allows factory feeding operations in the Buffalo watershed.
BLOOMBERG CAMPAIGNS IN ARKANSAS Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, running for the Democratic nomination for president, continued his courtship of Arkansas voters on Jan. 20 when he marched in Little Rock’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Marade. He was accompanied by supporters holding up his campaign signs. The former New York City mayor, who has been campaigning for eight weeks, is foregoing early primary and caucus states to focus on Super Tuesday on March 3, when Arkansas will be among 14 states holding contests. After the march, Bloomberg, who has spent more than $1 million on television advertising in Arkansas, also participated in the Homeless Backpack Community Service Project, a local nonprofit’s effort to provide food and clothing to homeless people in the city. WINNERS LOSE IN HIGH COURT In a ruling affirming a lower court ruling for plaintiffs but which will also reduce their awarded damages, the state Supreme Court in January found that the city of Little Rock violated the due process rights of tenants and the landlord/owner when it attempted to close an apartment complex in 2015 due to safety violations and gave tenants just one week to vacate. A Pulaski County Circuit Court judge stopped the city from turning off the utilities at the Alexander Apartments in Southwest Little Rock and ruled it had violated the due process rights of tenants, rewarding the tenants $52,000 in damages. The Supreme Court agreed due process rights had been violated but ruled that those damages were insufficiently linked to that due process violation, and remanded the question of damages back to circuit court. The high court upheld the damage award of $432,000 to landlord/owner Jason Bolden based on the decline of the number of tenants caused by the city’s action. Ironically, Bolden has been sued numerous times by tenants over code violations. The city based its action on numerous fire and safety code violations at the 141-unit complex on Colonel Glenn Road, including exposed wiring, lack of functioning smoke alarms and other electrical, plumbing, structural and mechanical issues. Residents were given one week to vacate when the city announced the closure. One tenant received the notice to vacate just days after giving birth.
NEW CHARGES AGAINST WOMAN HELD IN DEATH OF LEGISLATOR Another twist in the case against Rebecca O’Donnell, the woman accused of murdering former state Sen. Linda Collins: New charges were filed against her in Jackson County, alleging that while locked up in county jail on the Collins charges, she attempted to hire someone to kill Collins’ ex-husband, Phil Smith. A probable cause affidavit said O’Donnell approached four inmates locked up with her about murdering Smith and making the death look like a suicide. She allegedly wrote up a fake suicide note for the job. According to the affidavit, she also spoke with inmates about murdering Smith’s wife, Mary, prosecutor Henry Boyce and Randolph County Circuit Judge Harold Erwin. (Boyce and Erwin both recused from the case last year.) She also allegedly looked into hiring inmates to travel to the Randolph County Jail, where her 2005 Honda Civic is being held, and “blow it up to destroy any evidence that may be in the vehicle,” according the affidavit. According to the affidavit, one inmate told police, “The wife of Phil Smith (Mary Smith) is also supposed to be killed. She stated that she is supposed to shoot or hang Mr. Smith causing his death and then she is supposed to pack a bag so it looks like Mary was in the process of leaving Mr. Smith.” The inmate was told that “Mr. Smith is supposed to have gold and silver in his home and she is supposed to take the gold and silver as payment for killing Mr. Smith.” O’Donnell, a close friend and former campaign aide to Collins, pleaded not guilty in July to charges of capital murder of Collins, abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty, with the trial set to begin in October.
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FEBRUARY 14TH & 15TH, 2020 • WYNDHAM RIVERFRONT LITTLE ROCK COME HEAR THE EXPERTS — your fellow Arkansas farmers, as they pass on lessons learned growing industrial hemp during this last growing season. Meet hemp seeds men, processors, consultants, state & federal agriculture experts and crop scientists. In this era of tariffs and market uncertainty, you owe it to yourself to evaluate hemp as a new crop.
In addition to lessons learned by your fellow farmers, the conference will cover: • Regulatory and legal requirements • Best growing practices • Biggest greenhorn mistakes • Best varieties suited to different regions in Arkansas • How to work with processors • Finding your best market • Testing to minimize THC • Necessary farm equipment for large and small operations
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STEPHEN IRONSIDE, COURTESY OF THE MOMENTARY, BENTONVILLE, ARK.
the TO-DO list BY STEPHANIE SMITTLE , LESLIE NEWELL PEACOCK AND KATY HENRIKSEN
ARKANSAS TIMES MUSICIANS SHOWCASE THURSDAYS 1/30, 2/6, 2/13, 2/20,
MOMENTARY: OPENING WEEKEND FRIDAY 2/21-SUNDAY 2/23. MOMENTARY, 507 S.E. E ST., BENTONVILLE.
If Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville weren’t enough to tip the scales, the Momentary — a satellite of Crystal Bridges situated in a former Kraft Cheese plant downtown — places Northwest Arkansas firmly on the map as a contemporary arts destination. Describing the space, Momentary Director Lieven Bertels calls it “an everyday living room for the arts with concerts, exhibitions, studio residencies and festivals.” The former factory houses 24,000 square feet for contemporary art, musical and theatrical performances, studio space and an Onyx Coffee bar. Its opening weekend will pair its inaugural exhibit — “State of the Art 2020,” the follow-up to Crystal Bridges’ 2015 exhibit of the same name — with a festival it’s calling “TIME BEING.” Aussie indie rocker extraordinaire Courtney Barnett performs in the Røde House, a 350-seat performance hall that allows for state-of-the art acoustic adjustments. In Fermentation Hall, the Momentary’s black box theater, music will abound from conceptual party electronica artist FM Belfast, as well as Hermigervill, an Icelandic musician who knows how to throw down with a theremin. American harpist Mary Lattimore brings her transcendent repertoire, and MacArthur Foundation 2019 “genius” grant recipient Annie Dorsen brings “Spokaoke,” a participatory performance that reimagines iconic speeches like MLK’s “I Have a Dream’’ into karaoke. Then there’s Bandaloop, whose “vertical performance” will use climbing gear and more to choreograph a performance on the exterior of the building. The idea here is to blur boundaries, distinctly the case in Bobbi Jean Smith’s “A Study on Effort,” a performance that meditates on sound, choreography and time in collaboration with violinist Keir GoGwilt, who’ll perform free pop-ups in the tower, which is 70 feet high and features multiple mezzanines. Events are open to members Friday, Feb. 21, with general admission opening Feb. 22. Each performance requires its own ticket purchase; see themomentary.org for tickets. KH
SATURDAY 3/14. STICKYZ ROCK ’N’ ROLL CHICKEN SHACK, REV ROOM. 8 P.M. $5. Some of our favorite bands have emerged from the last few years of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase — Dazz & Brie, Yuni Wa, Couch Jackets, Tyrannosaurus Chicken, Jamie Lou & the Hullabaloo, Solo Jaxon, The Rios and Adventureland, to name just a handful. Inaugurated in 1993 by the now-defunct Spectrum Weekly and handed over to the Arkansas Times around 1997, the showcase has been reliably eclectic in its third decade, offering sets from seasoned local ensembles, side projects from longtime music veterans and talented upstarts honing their stage offerings for the first time. This year, catch those semifinalist sets at Stickyz, and mark your calendar for Saturday, March 14, when the semifinalists face off for a chance at an award package that includes prizes from Trio’s and Palmer Music Co., plus performances at Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival, the Arkansas State Fair, Yadaloo Music Fest, FestiVille Jacksonville, Thursday Night Live at Murphy Arts District and more. SS
TODD SNIDER TUESDAY 2/18-WEDNESDAY 2/19. SOUTH ON
STACIE HUCKEBA/BIG HASSLE
There’s a fan website called “Eighteen Minutes,” presumably named after a Todd Snider bit captured on a 2011 release called “Todd Snider Live: The Storyteller,” at least one iteration of which ends with the words “If everything goes particularly well this evening, we can all expect a 90-minute distraction from our impending doom, and if you’re really nice to me, I’ll tell you about the time Tony Bennett stole $65 from me.” What Snider’s salutation doesn’t imply is that those 90 minutes, at least for newcomers to Snider’s particular mashup of comedy and commentary, will probably feel more like 15. Each of his songs implies a little world unto itself (see “Iron Mike’s Main Man’s Last Request” or “Raleigh Hills”) and each of his tall tales layers rabbit hole upon rabbit hole, Snider’s penchant for trashy Americana imagery and disdain for machismo puffery ever shining through. Akron singer-songwriter Tim Easton opens the show; get tickets at oxfordamerican. org/events. SS ARKANSASTIMES.COM FEBRUARY 2020 17
the TO-DO list
ASTROZONE: AN INTERACTIVE ART EXPERIENCE SATURDAY 2/1, THROUGH 4/4. FIRST “UMPY LUNDERSPHERE,” COURTESY OF CLAIRE HELEN ASHLEY
FINANCIAL MUSIC HALL, EL DORADO. El Dorado’s Murphy Arts District and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art are collaborating to bring an immersive art, sound and science exhibition to the Murphy Arts District’s First Financial Music Hall, where Chicago artist Claire Helen Ashley’s giant inflatable sculptures are installed. Ashley designed the exhibition specifically for the hall: Some of the bulbous sculptures — inspired by land, sea and outer space visions — are hung from the ceiling and some are floor level so visitors can walk among them. Dance performances will complement the exhibition, Crystal Bridges’ first off-site show. For more information, go to eldomad.com. First Financial Music Hall is open 10 p.m.-6 p.m. Tue-Sat. LNP
RODNEY BLOCK BY FREDRICK BALTIMORE
THE MISEDUCATION OF RODNEY BLOCK: A TRIBUTE TO LAURYN HILL, BOB MARLEY, FELA KUTI, THE FUGEES FRIDAY 2/7. REV ROOM. 9 P.M. $15.
A day after Bob Marley’s birthday, Little Rock’s Trumpeter-in-Chief Rodney Block will assemble a stage full of his finest cohorts — vocalist Bijoux, for one — somehow managing to cover the impossibly eclectic musical ground implied in this concert’s title and to throw a party at the same time. If there’s a pair of musical hands in which to trust everything from Kuti’s weaponization of sound, Hill’s knack for imbuing hip-hop with mystery and defiance and Marley’s enduring messages of redemption and rebellion, Block’s track record of thoughtful covers and “future jazz” machinations indicate he is up to the task. Call 501-442-0649 for tickets or table reservations. SS
18 FEBRUARY 2020
KY-MANI MARLEY & THE KONFRONTATION BAND SUNDAY 2/16. MAUMELLE EVENT CENTER, 10910 MAUMELLE BLVD. $25-$30.
It’s hard to say whether 2018 or 2019 was a bigger year for women on the dancehall and reggae scene; playlists were studded with pulsating bops from Koffee, club tracks from Shenseea and melismatic gems from Lila Ike. One name on those lists, though, has remained constant for decades now: Marley. Along with his brothers — and fellow heirs to the Bob Marley legacy — Damian, Julian, Stephen, Ziggy and others, Ky-Mani Marley’s appeared in Cess Silvera’s Jamaican crime film “Shottas” and performed on XXXTentacion’s posthumous release “Bad Vibes Forever.” Get tickets at eventbrite.com. SS
MANDY MCBRYDE/BRENT LABEAU
MANDY MCBRYDE & BRENT LABEAU: SAD SONGS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY FRIDAY 2/14. THE UNDERCROFT. 8 P.M. $10. By the time Valentine’s Day rolls around, we’ve been bombarded with Valentine’s Day messaging for a few solid weeks, and those of us with kids will likely be experiencing all that sweetness in the form of candy hearts and bits of pink glitter, to be unearthed from between the car seat cushions until at least July. Hell, even those lucky enough to be gazing through the rose-colored lens of new love are probably itching for an antidote of twang and pathos come Feb. 14, and for that, Mandy McBryde is bringing the sad-song goods. The Arkansas native is one-third of the Little Rock-based supergroup Wildflower Revue, and her knack for wrapping gut-punch lyrics in a languid, gauzy delivery is both trademark and secret weapon. She’s joined by longtime collaborator Brent LaBeau on bass at this intimate basement venue; wine and beer are available for a donation. SS
‘RAGTIME’ WEDNESDAY 2/19-SATURDAY 2/29. ARGENTA COMMUNITY THEATER. Like so many other stellar plays of our time — “Angels in America,” “Hamilton,” “Topdog/Underdog” — “Ragtime” has a way of feeling like it was programmed at exactly the right moment, for the right sociopolitical setting. Premiered in Toronto in 1996, but set in New York nearly a century earlier, the beloved musical stares America down hard, tackling questions of fairness and freedom by viewing them through a trio of lenses — that of a family of Eastern European immigrants, a well-to-do white family in New Rochelle, N.Y., and a pair of black musicians working in Harlem. Its anthems have been the soundtrack for social justice actions — as when the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., sang down protesters in Knoxville, Tenn., with a streetside rendition of “Make Them Hear You” — and complex characters like Sarah have been etched into memory by the likes of Audra McDonald. (Sarah is played here by the vocal-theatrical force of nature that is Satia Spencer.) The story is vital, the cast is stellar and you can bet on this being a production that makes good on Argenta Community Theater’s developing reputation as one of the most polished, forward-thinking playhouses in the region. Get tickets at argentacommunitytheater.org. SS
ARKANSAS FARMERS’ INDUSTRIAL HEMP CONFERENCE FRIDAY 2/14-SATURDAY 2/15.
WYNDHAM RIVERFRONT LITTLE ROCK. Hey, farmers and would-be farmers and friends of farmers: Make plans to attend the Arkansas Farmers Industrial Hemp Conference, hosted by the Arkansas Times. Hemp has the potential to be a boom crop for Arkansas farmers, and at this two-day conference, you’ll hear from Arkansas hemp farmers, seed salespeople, consultants, state and federal agriculture experts and crop scientists. There’ll be an after-party from 5-10 p.m. Feb. 15 at Club 27. Get tickets and find more info at centralarkansastickets.com.
POULENC TRIO THURSDAY 2/20. TRINITY EPISCOPAL CATHEDRAL. 7:30 P.M. $25.
Look, violins, chamber repertoire is too big a thing for you to monopolize, and ensembles like the Poulenc Trio are here to remind you that winds (double reeds, no less!) can play at that game, too. Named after a work for piano, oboe and bassoon by French composer Francis Poulenc, this celebrated piano-wind group comes to Little Rock as guests of the Chamber Music Society of Little Rock with funding from the Arkansas Arts Council. They’ll perform that namesake work as well as Viet Cuong’s “Trains of Thought,” Shostakovich’s “Romance, Op. 97a,” Beethoven’s “Trio, Opus 11 ‘Gassenhauer’ ” and Rossini’s “Fantaisie Concertante sur des thèmes de ‘l’Italiana in Algeri.’ ” Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and wine follow the performance; get tickets at chambermusiclr.com/tickets. SS ARKANSASTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2020 19
the TO-DO list
ELIO VILLAFRANCA & THE JAZZ SYNCOPATORS WEDNESDAY 2/26. SOUTH ON MAIN. $30-$42.
ELIO VILLAFRANCA BY JERRY LACAY
Jazz — the so-called American art form — wouldn’t have been incubated in the dancehalls and streets of New Orleans were it not for the musical traditions of Africa. Pianist Elio Villafranca is both a scholar of that origin story and a beguiling interpreter of it, with the percussive and harmonic sensibilities to be able to tell it on the ivories. The Cuban-born, New York City-based composer and bandleader’s latest is 2018’s “Cinque,” a “five-movement suite inspired by the story of Joseph Cinque, who in 1839 led a successful revolt aboard the slave ship La Amistad, days after being sold and transported to a sugar plantation in Cuba.” Villafranca’s appearance is an addition to Oxford American’s 2019-2020 Jazz Series; get tickets at oxfordamerican.org/events. SS
WILLI CARLISLE, ADAM FAUCETT, JAMIE LOU FRIDAY 2/21. WHITE WATER TAVERN. 8:30 P.M. Playwright, fiddler, folklorist and University of Arkansas grad Willi Carlisle is, among other things, an organizer for the First Annual Queer and Trans Oldtime Music Gathering (see qtotmg.com for details), and he’s bringing his studied, storied blend of theater and folk to the stage at White Water Tavern in February. Joining Carlisle are two of the biggest vocal juggernauts the state of Arkansas can boast these days: Adam Faucett and Jamie Lou Connolly of Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo. Cancel whatever you have planned and don’t come late, lest you miss any exquisite third of this swoonworthy lineup. SS
SOUTH WORDS: SILAS HOUSE TUESDAY 2/25. CALS RON ROBINSON. 6:30 P.M. FREE.
Asked by Oxford American Poetry Editor Rebecca Gayle Howell about why he chose to tackle the notion of religion in “Southernmost,” his sixth in a sequence of widely acclaimed novels, Silas House said this: “The word ‘Christian’ is so loaded right now, and frankly I think that there is good reason for that. ... In a time when I feel like everything is being boiled down into absolutes, it’s more important than ever to explore the most mysterious gray of all: faith.” Being a believer, House said later in that same interview for Image, “is almost as innate for me as being gay is.” As a voice long heard in The New York Times, Time, Salon, Garden & Gun, NPR’s “All Things Considered” and our own Oxford American, House undoubtedly has more than a single evening’s fodder to dish about with this “South Words” installment’s moderator, Sibling Rivalry Press’s Editor-in-Chief Seth Pennington, but, hey, we’ll take what we can get. Doors open at 6 p.m.; House will also sign books. SS
SIBELIUS & DEBUSSY SATURDAY 2/29-SUNDAY 3/1. ROBINSON PERFORMANCE HALL. $16-$67. By this time in the season, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra — currently between maestros — has performed with a masterly cast of guest conductors. They’ve played Rimsky-Korsakov under the baton of the acclaimed JoAnn Falletta, the work of Florence Price under the direction of Andrew Grams and Copland’s rambunctious “Rodeo” in concert with Carolyn Kuan. Now, ASO’s Interim Artistic Director Geoff Robson — someone who’s intimately familiar with the ways in which the orchestra can flex its musical muscles — takes a turn at the podium for “Sibelius & Debussy.” ASO concerts tend to take their titles from the household names on the playbill, and while there’s no doubt the prelude to Debussy’s “The Afternoon of a Faun” will be luscious and the Sibelius symphony a one-movement epic, the concert’s opener is worth leaning into, especially: a seven-section take on the Biblical story of creation from English composer Thomas Adès, played by Lithuanian piano marvel Andrius Žlabys and coupled with a “mind-bending light show.” Get tickets at arkansassymphony.org. SS
20 FEBRUARY 2020
BECOME A CONCERT MEMBER FOR ONLY $9 A MONTH AND COME TO…
with Thomas Ades’ In Seven Days: Concerto for Piano with Moving Image, a multimedia experience
MIDTOWN MUSIC LINE-UP FOR FEBRUARY Feb 1 Josh & The Fallout Feb 7 Psychedelic Velocity Feb 8 Unfair Advantage Duo Feb 14 Kurt Allen Band Feb 15 Fanstar Feb 21 Memphis Yahoos Feb 22 Ed Bowman & The Rock City Players Feb 28 Radio X-IT Feb 29 Lypstick Hand Grenade
featuring Geoffrey Robson, guest conductor and Andrius Žlabys, piano
FEB. 29 & MAR. 1
CALL TODAY FOR TICKETS
426 W. Markham St. Little Rock, AR 72203
PLUS ALL THESE UPCOMING CONCERTS: A Tribute to the Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin, Symphonie Fantastique, Zuill Bailey Plays Dvořák, and Jurassic Park: Film with Orchestra
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FEBRUARY 2020 21
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22 FEBRUARY 2020
NEWS & POLITICS
BANNON’S TARGET: But Trump’s own Justice Department could find no illegalities on the part of “Crooked Hillary.”
MORE FAKE A SCANDALS CLINTON PROBES DISCOVER ZILCH. BY ERNEST DUMAS
nother season, another Hillary investigation quietly fizzles. Well, almost. A few of the media, notably The Washington Post and Media Matters, posted in early January that a Justice Department investigation of fundraising early this century by Bill and Hillary Clinton’s foundation, and Hillary’s later collateral work as secretary of state, which President Trump had demanded two years ago, had concluded without finding anything amiss. You remember President Trump’s famous tweet: “Everybody is asking why the Justice Department isn’t looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary and the Dems.” So his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, before Trump finally sacked him, directed the federal prosecutor in Utah to head the investigation along with the FBI. It seems to have ended some time ago, but the Justice Department under Bill Barr decided to let it die a quiet death rather than announce her vindication. A fruitless investigation? No crimes after all? If Hillary is not going to jail, who cares anymore? Certainly not Fox News or The New York Times, which helped trigger the investigation. Trump’s white-nationalist adviser Steve Bannon and his conspiracy-mongering friend Peter Schweizer cooked up the whole thing. Schweizer had looked at all the thousands of donations to the Clinton Foundation from around the world and claimed that he had found lots of suspected corruption, although he later admitted that he had no evidence to support any of it. The main one was that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had connived to get official government approval in 2010 of the sale of a major interest in a Canadian-based uranium company to a Russian busi-
FEBRUARY 2020 23
nessman who made a large gift to the Clinton Foundation, jeopardizing our national security. That and Clinton’s use of a private email server rather than the State Department server that was perpetually being hacked or disabled were the main premises behind Trump’s ritual name-calling — “Crooked Hillary” — and the “Lock her up!” chants at all his rallies in 2016 and afterward. The looming prospect that a President Hillary Clinton might be dragged out of the White House in handcuffs played a big role in Trump’s victory, thanks partly to the fumbling (Republican) FBI director Jim Comey. Investigations proliferated, but instead of Clinton or her associates going to prison, dodging extradition or sentencing, it takes four hands to count all the Trump associates and agents already behind bars or in jeopardy, owing to criminal investigations — conducted by Republicans no less. Schweizer and his publicists, mainly Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Breitbart and The New York Times, suggested that a gift to the Clinton Foundation was a bribe for Hillary’s approving the sale of a big interest in Uranium One to the Russian’s nuclear agency. But a lower State Department official, who had no contact with Clinton, was one of 11 persons on the broad committee that found no security dangers in the transaction. The investigation found no hint that Clinton had anything at all to do with the committee’s action or that the sale itself posed any danger. Even the dates of the approval and of the donation to the foundation did not support Schweizer’s suspicion. A Justice Department official told Media Matters that no one took the matter seriously from the first but it was important to Trump that an investigation be announced. Both The New York Times and the Post were persuaded to get early access to Schweizer’s book and publicize his findings. The reason, of course, is that the two newspapers — especially the Times — set the agenda for the entire media world. If it’s on the front page of The New York Times, that IS the big news and it is reliable. The rest of the national media picks up the story. Bear with me on that point. Schweizer had long ago been discredited as a reliable journalist. As Media Matters described it, he had a long record of “major factual errors and questionable sourcing,” always shaded for right-wing purposes. But the Times took a chance, although its stories avoided giving its full imprimatur to his allegations. Three months ago, you probably do not remember, Mike Pompeo’s State Department and the Republican Senate quietly put to rest still other allegations that Crooked Hillary committed a crime in the use of a private email server. The State Department under Pompeo undertook its own investigation of the emails, following umpteen other investigations by Republican-run congressional committees and the FBI, all of which found no illegality by anyone and that national security was never jeopardized. The New York Times reported the investigation’s closure briefly and mentioned that Republicans had been the first to point out that Clinton had not communicated on the State Department server but on her own. The paper did not mention that it was the Times that had first made an issue of it, although neither the paper nor Congress had ever made much of an issue of the discovery in 2006 through the Freedom of Information Act that nearly the whole Bush administration had used the server of the Republican National Committee to avoid the media or anyone else seeing their
24 FEBRUARY 2020
POINTLESS INVESTIGATIONS OF HILLARY CLINTON — AND OFTEN OF HER HUSBAND, TOO — FORM THE RUBRIC OF OUR POLITICAL GENERATION.
emails and then, upon the FOI discovery, destroyed some 22 million of them. It has been reported that top Trump administration officials, including his daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka and Jared, use private messaging services for their official work. There have been no chants of “Crooked Ivanka.” The State Department’s brief report to Congress, shared with all of us by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said 38 State Department employees were “culpable” of violating security procedures by including Clinton’s private email in their messages to others in the department. They were among the 33,000 emails she turned over to investigators. All of the emails were judged to be unclassified at the time but a few were later reclassified as confidential. But there was no deliberate mishandling of classified information by any of them and no harm was done, the report said. Pointless investigations of Hillary Clinton — and often of her husband, too — form the rubric of our political generation. They have changed the course of history and not merely because they produced the election of Donald Trump. It is personally sad to admit that The New York Times, which is still the greatest news organ on the planet, to which I contributed from time to time many years ago, played a role in all of them, from Whitewater, cattle futures and the suicide of Vince Foster down through Benghazi, emails and the foundation. I had private knowledge of, although no active role in, several of the worst deceits perpetrated on the public and, of course, the Clintons. I have related some of that, many years ago in the Arkansas Times and last year in a little book on Arkansas politics. The New York Times trusted a new business reporter who had developed a reputation for investigating financial misdeeds. He came to Little Rock in 1978 to write a confusing but dark story about the possible deceptions of two Little Rock businessmen, Witt and Jack Stephens, in running their little gas company in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. The Times story was intended by the reporter to damage their nephew’s chances of getting elected to the U.S. Senate. The reporter came back in January 1992 to write a series of articles about the newest presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, all of which painted a picture of the Clintons as devious and perhaps corrupt politicians who ran the government in Arkansas for the benefit of the rich and powerful, like the Stephenses (actually the Clintons’ foes). Clinton’s political career, including his early defeat for a second term as governor, actually was marked by enraging one powerful interest after another — the Stephenses, the utilities, the bankers, the trucking and shipping industries, the wood and paper industry, or the nation’s biggest meat producer. The Times’ stories established the public persona of the Clintons, particularly Hillary, who unlike her husband had no ability and no impulse to counter it effectively. The articles set off one investigation after another — the longest and costliest, Whitewater, ending with a report in 2002 that the Clintons neither profited nor did anything illegal or improper when they and another couple borrowed $203,000 in 1978 in the ludicrous hope that a few hillside acres on the White River might be developed into a vacation community when interest rates were soaring to 20 percent. After seven years, the Whitewater special prosecutor’s final report — a mere shrug — got no attention whatsoever. Nothing has changed.
2020: A GARDEN ODYSSEY February 28-29 & March 1, 2020 Arkansas State Fairgrounds
Parking is free, plentiful, safe and secure! Volunteers will be on hand to shuttle individuals with mobility issues around the grounds.
Events See our website for a full schedule of events: www.ArGardenShow.org Six new display gardens showing the latest trends in landscape design, including creations from Better Lawns & Gardens/Antique Brick, TurfMaster, Inc., Roseberry Landscape Services, Lopez Landscaping, Ozark State Park, Grand Designs, and new this year a garden by P. Allen Smith! How-To Sessions every day of the show. A new topic every half hour! Juried Flower Show with beautiful floral displays by the Arkansas Federation of Garden Clubs. Beer and wine sales available in Barton Coliseum. The first 50 kids to visit each day will receive a free plant.
Shopping Lots of garden-related products: plants, pots, outdoor furniture, garden art, tools, etc. There will be about 100 different vendors at the show. FREE package holding while you shop or go to get your vehicle.
THE PAST AND FUTURE OF HALL HIGH SCHOOL Once a school of choice, now in the crosshairs of the State Board of Education, Little Rock Hall prepares to hit the reset button. BY LINDSEY MILLAR PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRIAN CHILSON
hen Hall High School opened in 1957, it was part of a plan to forestall broad integration of the Little Rock School District. It was three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, and the same year that would see the desegregation crisis unfold at Little Rock Central High. Anticipating change under Brown, Superintendent Virgil Blossom and the School Board opened the all-black Horace Mann High School in what was mostly black East Little Rock in 1956. Hall was built a couple of blocks west of University, in what was then an affluent white neighborhood in West Little Rock. Under Blossom’s token desegregation plan, in 1957, white students could opt out of attending Horace Mann, but black students didn’t get the option of attending Hall. Although three black students enrolled at Hall in 1959, residential housing patterns preserved de facto segregation at Hall until court-ordered busing began in 1971. In 2020, low-income black and Latino students make up the overwhelming majority of 26 FEBRUARY 2020
Hall. With Little Rock’s city limits expanded far to the west, Hall is now in midtown — perhaps not as affluent as it was in the late 1950s, but still solidly middle class and mostly white. Few students who live in the school’s neighborhood attend Hall: Only 12 percent of the student body comes from the two ZIP codes that surround the school. Hall’s enrollment in general has dropped. Its peak attendance in the last 20 years was 1,500 in the 2007-08 school year, but today only 888 students are enrolled. School officials say that the school could accommodate around 1,800 students. Next school year will mark a new era for Hall. The Little Rock School District is moving forward with a long-gestating plan to convert Hall into a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) magnet school open to any student in the district. The school will no longer have a geographic attendance zone, meaning that students will not be assigned to Hall based on where they live; they’ll have to apply. (Students enrolled now will stay at the school unless they take action to enroll at their
zoned schools or in other magnet programs.) Education Secretary Johnny Key announced that he had approved the change Dec. 12. The same day, the Arkansas State Board of Education meddled further, sparking new outrage among the LRSD community. The State Board, which voted to take over the district in 2015 because of low standardized tests at a handful of Little Rock schools, including Hall, voted to require Hall to be reconstituted, a term in education that means that everyone in the building — from the principal to the custodians — will be laid off and forced to either find another job or reapply. Board member Sarah Moore of Stuttgart, who made the successful motion, noted that on recent standardized tests only 6 percent of Hall students scored at the state’s desired level in reading and only 4 percent at the desired level in math. “That is not to say there aren’t great teachers, there aren’t great students and there aren’t great things going on there, but to move these students forward we need to do more,” Moore said. During a public comment period, LRSD supporters called Moore’s motion “microman-
aging.” State Board member Diane Zook put forward a similar motion in December 2018, and it, too, had been called micromanaging; at that point, the board voted it down. “I don’t see reorganization of the school being micromanaging the school,” Moore responded to those who took issue with her motion. “I’m not saying who the principal should be and I’m not saying who the staff should be, but the principal should have the opportunity to retain the best staff, hire new staff or just train the staff they have in the models that will meet the needs of the school and attract other students there. We know that a more diverse pool of race and socioeconomics really lifts the boats of all.” Moore was also behind other board actions that cast blame on Little Rock teachers for low student test achievement in schools with high concentrations of poverty, including stripping them of their due process rights and union representation. Among LRSD supporters, she has come to embody a sense of harmful state overreach. But her talk of “a more diverse pool of race and socioeconomics,” a euphemistic way of saying that Hall needs to attract more white students, nods toward the complex and often conflicting challenges the LRSD and urban school districts have to balance: How does a school system educate kids dealing with trauma and intergenerational poverty and other societal ills that make learning especially difficult? How does a school district prevent school resegregation in a residentially segregated city? And how does it retain students whose parents have the means to enroll them in private school or provide transportation to a charter school? ***
HALL HIGH SCHOOL: Only 888 students are enrolled in a school that has a capacity of twice that.
The state accountability grading system for high schools considers graduation rates, but largely reflects student performance on the ACT Aspire standardized test. It’s not difficult to understand why Hall is “F” rated and perennially underperforms on the test. Education experts say that standardized test achievement merely tracks wealth, and 85 percent of the Hall High student body is classified as low-income. That dynamic is greatly exacerbated by the fact that 35 percent of the student body is classified as English language learners. Since 1994, Hall has been home to the high-school level Newcomer Center for students whose first language is not English. A number of those students come from Central America and speak a variety of languages. For many of them, Spanish is their second language. The ACT Aspire is given in English. In an interview, a Hall teacher talked about students who were Central American migrants and had been held in a detention facility in Texas. They had to take the test soon after arriving at Hall. Not only did they not speak English, they had never seen a laptop computer before, which is
how the test is administered. Sarah Dixon, a veteran LRSD instructor who teaches English as a Second Language at Hall, described the State Board vote to reconstitute the school as a “gut punch.” “Teachers in schools like Hall are some of the hardest-working teachers because there are so many things out of their control. Many of the students here are from poverty. They haven’t had access to the things that they need to thrive, emotionally, economically and educationally. There are a lot of factors that make these kids low performing. Measuring them by the state test is not a fair way to measure these kids. The state test does not measure what they know and any growth they’ve had.” Baker Kurrus, the 2015-16 LRSD superintendent and a past longtime LRSD School Board member, said it was unfair to malign Hall for test achievement. “The thing that’s so misunderstood about Hall is it’s not the school that changed,” he said. “To rank a school by the performance of the students is a failing proposition. It would be much like ranking a golf course by the performance of the golfer. If I were to play Pebble Beach, I would shoot a 300 because I don’t know how to play golf. Does that mean Pebble Beach is a substandard golf course? No, it means that I was ill-prepared to play.” Ahead of the State Board vote on reconstituting Hall, LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore argued against it, emphasizing that the school had seen two consecutive years of “growth,” meaning that students on average improved test scores from year to year. Growth scores are the only meaningful measurement of instruction, education policy experts agree. The day before the State Board’s surprise vote to reconstitute Hall, school Principal Mark Roberts said in an interview that for Hall to be successful in the future, “You can’t overload a school with underperforming students.” He said there was a perception that Hall wasn’t a good school because of the “F” rating. “There have to be significant changes” for it to thrive as a magnet school, he said. A few days earlier, the Little Rock Community Advisory Board had considered recommending reconstituting Hall High to Secretary Key, but had ultimately not supported reconstitution. Asked about the possibility of forced turnover of his staff, Roberts answered, “How bad do you want change? If you really want change, then we’ve got to make some significant decisions.” He praised nearby Forest Heights STEM Academy, a K-8 that started in the 2014-15 school year after years of low test scores for Forest Heights Middle School, another school in midtown that had seen its white enrollment plummet over the years. The middle school was reconstituted ahead of the introduction of the STEM Academy. Roberts described himself as a disciple of Robert Marzano, an educator whose ARKANSASTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2020 27
REMEMBERING THE PAST, ENVISIONING THE FUTURE: Alumni Peter Kumpe and Linda Brown were moved, along with other alums, to form The Tribe to support Hall’s students and teachers. Mike Poore (at podium in photo at right) talks about the future of the school as a STEAM magnet at a recent assembly.
“high-reliability schools” framework Roberts has employed at Hall and previous principal jobs in Colorado and California. Not all of the Hall teachers have bought into the framework, and there has been speculation that perhaps Roberts was behind the State Board’s reconstitution motion so he could more easily shape his staff. His wife, Allison Roberts, serves as Governor Hutchinson’s education liaison, the same position Sarah Moore held before the governor appointed her to the State Board in 2018, and he’s been frequently praised by State Board chairwoman Diane Zook and her nephew, education reform advocate Gary Newton. Asked if he’d lobbied for his vision of Hall High with the Hutchinson administration, Mark Roberts said, “There’s always talk.” But the reconstitution requirement also puts Roberts out of a guaranteed job, though with the political support he enjoys, he may be well positioned to get rehired. Poore said he expected to recommend a candidate to Education Secretary Johnny Key by the end of January. *** The path from Hall, school of choice for wealthy white Little Rock, to Hall, half empty and perennially flagged for low standardized test achievement, tracks the complicated story of public school desegregation efforts over the last 50 years. In 1971, a U.S. District Court mandated the busing of Little Rock students to more fully integrate the district, a move that sparked white flight to the edges of the city and beyond. That year also marked the establishment of Little Rock’s first private school, Pulaski Academy. It was also the year Oliver Elders, husband to future U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, became the first black coach at an integrated 28 FEBRUARY 2020
high school in Little Rock, when he was hired to coach basketball at Hall. Elders coached future NBA player Sidney Moncrief — one of the alltime greatest Arkansas players — who attended Hall starting in the fall of 1972. In years before, he would have likely attended Horace Mann, where Elders coached from when the school opened until it was converted into a junior high in 1971. After Little Rock sued the other Pulaski County school districts and the state in 1982 for enabling segregation, a federal judge ordered the consolidation of all county schools. But the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals deemed that too extreme, and instead the LRSD’s boundaries were adjusted to more closely match the city’s, a change that meant the district absorbed 14 Pulaski County Special School District schools. To deal with the influx of students and continue toward desegregation, the district developed a student assignment plan dubbed “controlled choice.” Unveiled in the 1987-88 school year, the computer-based system took into account geography and racial balance at schools and output results that often appeared random; kids from the same neighborhood who had gone to school together for years were sent to opposite ends of the city. If families didn’t like their assignment, they could petition for a transfer. Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service, was on the LRSD school board from 1987 to 1991. He said the plan was an utter failure and caused chaos in the district. It upended the notion of neighborhood schools. “Realtors were going, ‘What are you doing?’ ” he said. One thousand LRSD students, many of them white, left during the school year. In response, the district rolled out a new student assignment plan in the 1989-90 school year that was designed to establish a stable feeder pattern from elementary schools to middle
schools and onto high schools. Rutherford said the thinking at the time was that people who lived in Pleasant Valley and West Little Rock were more likely to go to school in midtown, and that there was a strong public school base of families running northwest of Central High through Capitol View, Stifft Station, Hillcrest and the Heights who would be more likely to send their kids to Central, located south of Interstate 630. “Hall was sort of designated as the growth school,” Rutherford said. The attendance zones, which remained in place for 20 years, until last December, have often been described as gerrymandered by LRSD supporters and critics alike. It’s easy to look back critically, Rutherford said. But at the time many Central supporters were upset that the plan gave Hall what were then considered growing parts of Little Rock. The plan got federal court approval for providing racial balance. But over time, many of the affluent white families in the Hall zone elected not to send their kids to public schools, or at least not to Hall. That 1989 zoning decision left Hall disadvantaged for decades, Little Rock school observers agree. The demographic shift happened gradually. Anika Whitfield, a Little Rock podiatrist who leads the Grassroots Arkansas coalition that has been active in protesting the state’s takeover of the district, always describes herself as “a proud graduate of Hall High” when she speaks in public. She attended Hall from 1988 to 1991 and remembers the school being relatively racially balanced. She grew up and still lives in midtown, south of I-630 near the former Franklin Elementary. She remembers the assignment chaos of the day with nearby neighbors assigned to Central and Parkview. She expected to attend Central High, where she was zoned, but her older brother was thriving at Hall, so she fol-
POORE ARGUED AGAINST RECONSTITUTION
lowed in his footsteps. The school had “amazing” teachers, she said. She remembered one agreed to teach a unified physics class that wasn’t previously offered after she and other students lobbied him. He taught the class at 6 a.m. “I don’t know, but I don’t believe he got paid extra for that,” she said. She was also a part of The Tribe, a peer facilitating team that would leave campus to bring anti-drug-and-bullying messages to elementary and middle school kids. The team was “diverse in age and ethnicity culture and faith,” she said. Liz Graham, an administrator at the University of Texas at Austin, attended Hall 2002 to 2006. She was the only person she knew from her class at Pulaski Heights Middle School who matriculated at Hall. She chose the school because it had a university studies program that allowed high school students to pick up college classwork. (It’s no longer offered). “It was a really strong program that drew a lot of different kinds of students from across the district,” Graham said. “It really put me at an advantage in college. I graduated and went into my sophomore year of college right away.” Graham, who is white, said she had some initial apprehension about going to a school where she was overwhelmingly in the racial minority — only around 10-15 percent of the student body was white at the time — but she describes her high school experience as “transformative.” She said the public perception at the time of Hall as a second-class school wasn’t based in reality. In 2015, a group of Hall alumni, angered by the negative attention the school had gotten from the State Board of Education, which cited Hall’s low test achievement as a reason to take over the district, started a nonprofit alumni group, also called The Tribe (Hall High teams and fans are the Warriors). Hall has a decorated alumni network. Former Supreme Allied
Commander of NATO and presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.) was valedictorian of the 1962 class. Other alumni include former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, Little Rock City Directors Kathy Webb and Capi Peck, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn, the late author E. Lynn Harris and former Arkansas Razorback and current NBA player Bobby Portis. Marsha Scott, who worked in the Clinton White House, started the group with Little Rock lawyer Peter Kumpe and Linda Brown, co-chair of The Tribe. In an interview, Kumpe described the group as “acting in the place of a really active PTA. We’re also trying to disabuse the community of the Hall image. For us, it’s undeserved.” The Tribe regularly shows up to Hall events, cooking hot dogs or providing transportation to special events. The Tribe helped get the marching band and homecoming parade going again. Crucially, it also helped develop a connection between Hall and the UA Little Rock School of Social Work, which led to UA Little Rock social work students regularly working at Hall as interns. Graham, who was an active member of The Tribe before she moved to Austin for work, said she appreciated the intergenerational love for Hall. “The kids there now are the same kids that were there when I went,” she said. “They’ve still got the same goals and ambitions. They’re smart. There’s such a misconception. They’re not just bodies that we’re moving around.” *** Kurrus, the former superintendent, said that the conversion of Hall to a magnet school won’t benefit the district as a whole. He said the magnet system and the state’s authorization of thousands of charter school seats in recent years had created “sanctuary schools” for people with the
means to make choices. “It creates a failing system that concentrates kids with the greatest needs in schools,” he said. “You can predict the outcome at Hall [in the future], just as easily as you could predict the outcome at Forest Heights STEM.” The schools “attract students that are high performing. Those kids will come from other schools where they were succeeding. The schools haven’t created this performance.” The impetus to remove Hall High’s attendance zone was a settlement agreement of a federal civil rights lawsuit that required the district to redraw high school attendance zones using a race-neutral rationale by 2020. McClellan and J.A. Fair high schools will close at the end of the school year and students who are now zoned for those schools will be zoned for the new Southwest High, opening for the 2020-21 school year at 8715 Mabelvale Pike. In redrawing attendance boundaries, Little Rock school officials essentially split the LRSD into two high school zones. Central High School’s zone includes neighborhoods near the school, all of East Little Rock and nearly all of the city north of I-630. Southwest High School’s zone includes the city south of I-630, aside from the area around Central. (Students in West Little Rock who are zoned for Pinnacle View Middle School have the option of the new West High School of Innovation, adjacent to Pinnacle View, but it can only accommodate 100 students per grade and will be a specialty high school focused on technology.) The district expected to enroll 1,700 students at Southwest High next year, but somewhere between 1,850 and 1,900 students have registered, Poore said. Its ideal capacity is around 2,200. Parkview Arts and Sciences Magnet High School is typically near its capacity. Central has long been over capacity with a number of portable buildings on campus. If the district is goARKANSASTIMES.COM
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ing to maintain enrollment numbers, or reverse the long trend of declining enrollment, it has to entice students to attend the new magnet high school at Hall. That seems likely to be a challenge. Poore has said he hopes Forest Heights STEM becomes a feeder school for Hall and those students will be given enrollment priority at Hall. The Forest Heights PTA recently conducted an informal survey, asking parents if they considered Hall a good option. Sixty-one percent said no, 39 percent said yes. When the district was considering whether to maintain an attendance zone for Hall, but alter it to include parts of Hillcrest, the Hillcrest Residents Association opposed the plan, with parents of elementary-aged children outraged at the prospect that their kids would be forced to go to Hall in the future. The district’s extended open enrollment deadline was Jan. 28, but Poore said the LRSD would continue to recruit students for Hall through the spring. In mid-January, the district announced three tracks of study under its new STEAM model: computer application development, media arts and medical practices and health care. The LRSD also tagged Joel Spencer, its elementary science specialist and a former teacher at Don Roberts Elementary, to be the STEAM magnet coordinator at Hall. He’ll be working to recruit students to Hall and with community partners, including the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Little Rock Regional of Chamber of Commerce. The LRSD — and other Pulaski County districts — have embraced the Ford Next Generation Learning model, an initiative of the Ford Motor Co. Fund that the Little Rock chamber has been pushing. It’s a workforce development program that seeks to connect employers and educators, and it fits in with Hall’s new STEAM tracks. Along with Southwest and Parkview, Hall will open a ninth-grade Ford NGL academy next school year. ***
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Whitfield stayed connected to Hall after graduation. She returned often to talk to classes and volunteer. But after a little time away, when she returned around 2014, she didn’t recognize Hall. School spirit was nowhere to be found. The clubs she and her brother were a part of — German, French, Latin, chess, Beta, National Honor Society — were not active. “It had become predominantly a school of African Americans who didn’t come from wealth,” she said, and she started raising questions with the LRSD about equitable funding. But rather than provide the resources to the students at Hall now and in recent years, she sees a push to “make Hall white again.” “I’m a Christian, and I believe where your heart is, your treasure is also,” Whitfield said. “It’s never been spent toward what would make the entire district equitable and really address the needs of the students who need it most.”
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Our annual Readers Choice issue that celebrates the best in food in Arkansas is not a beauty contest. Good dining is about substance as well as ambiance. Kitchens are beehive-busy with battle plans, where great creativity meets vigorous chopping and stirring and strategic use of the stove. Some of the oldest eateries have taken their place not just in Arkansas history, but in America’s, like Doe’s Eat Place: Find an oral history of that famed steakhouse here. We also talk to the minds behind two restaurants and a bakery: the owners of WunderHaus, in Conway; Tusk and Trotter, in Bentonville (and North Little Rock later this year); and Serenity Farms, in Leslie. They tell us why they got into the notoriously difficult food business, the techniques they bring to their cooking and baking, and their philosophies about feeding body and soul. Read on and be nourished. ARKANSASTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2020 33
COURTESY OF TUSK & TROTTER
BACON IS BEDROCK: A fig-jowl jam coats Tusk & Trotter’s house-cured and smoked pork belly and shoulder.
HIGH ON HOGS CHEF ROB NELSON’S ‘HIGH SOUTH’ CUISINE IS PEAK PORK. BY STEPHANIE SMITTLE
t’s not hard to find a photograph of Chef Rob Nelson in a Hog hat. He’s “a Razorback through and through,” he told us, and he estimates he’s got about 25 such caps in his collection. What he didn’t know when he started acquiring them, though — back when he was a political science major at UA Fayetteville, of the mind to “go off to D.C. and change the world” — was that he’d end up making his living from the very sorts of beasts emblazoned on those hats, and that hogs would end up being the medium through which he’d connect food and community. At Nelson’s flagship American brasserie in downtown Bentonville, Tusk & Trotter, there’s a king-sized mural on the wall that greets you when you walk in the door. You can’t miss it — a line drawing of a pig segmented into six sections: butt, shoulder, belly, trotter, ham and loin. On the opposite wall is a blackboard that catalogues the farms from which Tusk & Trotter sources its ingredients: Ralston Family Farm, Bear Hollow Ranch, 44 Farms, Osage Creek 34 FEBRUARY 2020
Farms, among others. If you’re the kind of person that prefers their protein to resemble the animal from which it came as little as possible, you’ll still find plenty to eat, but you might also risk missing the point. Tusk & Trotter serves meat with an origin story, and what’s on the plate is meant to highlight, rather than mask, the qualities of the animal you’re being offered. Like its namesake, the menu is full of earthy Arkansas notes, protein and otherwise: Fried pig ear chips serve as the base for a “nacho” dish. Smoked loin and jowl dot a flatbread. Ground wild boar provides the base for a burger. There’s fig, muscadine, local greens, sorghum syrup, pickled watermelon rind and sweet tea-brined smoked catfish. “We’re very responsible and sustainable in the methods we use in our cooking,” Nelson said. “That’s the heart of it.” Being able to get ingredients from a small geographical radius, Nelson said, means you’re getting a taste not only of the herd, but the Ozark Mountain terrain on which its members grazed. “It makes it
more true to the area,” Nelson said. “We’re very unique in the Ozark Mountains with the different types of nuts and everything that [pigs] can forage on. Like, with Bansleys [Berkshire Ridge] Farms out in Harrison — they let the hogs out there kinda just free range and do their thing, and they develop a unique flavor because of what you can find in that vicinity.” That blackboard list also represents decades of relationship-building on Nelson’s part. Before he opened Tusk & Trotter in June of 2011, Nelson worked in kitchens across Northwest Arkansas, and his years at Bentonville’s River Grille Steakhouse served as a springboard for his connections with Ozark Mountains farmers and ranchers. He’d visit operations like Ewe Bet Farm in Cave Springs, get to know the farmer and their operation, and observe how the animals were treated. “If it was a small farm,” Nelson said, “I would buy a couple of heads, three or four heads at a time. And hopefully that would make them motivated to start growing their herds a little bit more at a time, and to be
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able to grow their business as well. That’s kinda been our blueprint since then.” And, fortuitously enough, it’s an approach to food — and to pork — Nelson would see further affirmed during his time in Avignon, France, at the La Mirande cooking school, a capstone of the culinary school education he’d received at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts (formerly Culinary School of the Rockies). In France, Nelson said, “food is their focal point of life. It’s how they celebrate. It’s how they mourn. This is how they come together as a community. … It was really pork-heavy where I was at,” Nelson said. “So, pork was king, and I learned how to cure it and how to treat the entire animal, and I took what I learned in France and brought it back.” Part of that education, he said, was learning how to waste less and utilize more of the animal. Farmers are “very passionate about what they do in their craft, and they would hate to see their animal not used in the correct way. ... If you can just buy it on the hoof, where you buy the whole animal and you break it down yourself, you’re able to not only get inspired with what you want to do with what dish — and with what part of that animal — but you get to use the entire animal, bones and all, from stock making and soup making all the way to charcuterie, curing the meats.” For Valentine’s Day at Tusk & Trotter this year, he’ll offer pig heart — his swift answer when we asked him to name the most underrated part of the pig. “I’m gonna treat it like a piece of charcuterie. It’s actually gonna be smoked, but it’s gonna go under a sodium nitrate cure, and be dry-cured. I’m thinking of going the Vietnamese route with it, with some Vietnamese flavor profiles. The heart’s a hard-working muscle, and a lean muscle, so it needs to be treated a little differently. Curing it will help keep it tender.” Those slow methods aren’t restricted to pork, either; Nelson gives the brisket treatment to Arkansas catfish for Tusk’s undersung Catfish Pastrami Reuben, curing the cutlets, then
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MEAT WITH AN ORIGIN STORY: It’s a farmers-first approach at Tusk & Trotter.
90 PERCENT OF WHAT TUSK DOES IN ITS NEW ARGENTA LOCATION WILL BE “THE TRIED AND TRUE.”
36 FEBRUARY 2020
A QUICK BITE WITH TUSK & TROTTER CHEF ROB NELSON Pantone Color Institute has the Color of the Year every year, and Merriam-Webster has the word of the year. If they’re asking you, what’s the ingredient of the year in 2020? What are chefs in the region gonna be talking about, and maybe scrambling for? It’s wintertime, and I’m using them a lot, so I’m gonna go with the gold beet. It just has a milder earthy tone than the red beet. What, if anything, would not be on the menu at Tusk & Trotter if you hadn’t spent time studying in Avignon, France, at La Mirande? The charcuterie board for sure. That charcuterie board focuses on about 3-4 different types of charcuterie that we’re doing at a time, and it’s basically the backbone of what we do at Tusk. What are two or three of your favorite spots to eat at (other than Tusk and Trotter), and what is it you like about them? For barbecue, Wright’s in Johnson. I haven’t had a bad meal there yet. You should see my credit card receipts; I go there a lot. I have a 10-year-old daughter, Emma, who just loves pizza, so we go to Gusano’s Pizzeria. One of my good friends — pledge brother, best man at my wedding, Ben Beisenthal — owns Gusano’s Pizzeria, so we show him support and that’s been a staple for us in our family for years. And for fine dining, Jason Paul at the Heirloom is really doing a great job in Rogers and really helping with that scene. And Yeyo’s for Mexican food.
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air drying and smoking them before encrusting them with coriander and peppercorn. In 2009, armed with a formal education in food, Nelson and his wife, Sarah, began looking at places to settle down — New York, maybe, or San Francisco — though any of those options would mean their house back home in Northwest Arkansas would have to sell, a prospect that seemed dubious in the wake of the housing crisis. “And all of a sudden,” Nelson said, “Walmart Corporate came calling back — my wife had worked there before we left — and they just offered her a job that she couldn’t refuse, and that brought us back.” Now, with Tusk & Trotter approaching a decade in business, Nelson’s expanded his operations. Exponentially. He and his partners operate a catering and test kitchen called High South Culinary, an ’80s-themed ice cream joint Come find out for yourself why it’s worth a trip called Trash Creamery, a forthcoming Bentonville gastropub called Burg Der Gustropub, and they’re adding new locations for both Trash Creamery and Tusk & Trotter in the First Orion Building in North Little Rock. Set to open their doors in June, the Argenta outpost will mirror Come find out for yourself why it’s worth much of what’s on the plate at Tusk’s original Come find out for yourself why a trip to Des Arc! location, with some variation based on what a it’s tripworth to Des Arc! sorts of ingredients Nelson can secure. “Central Arkansas, the Arkansas Delta, Southwest ”Where Hospitality Arkansas all have unique things that they grow and they raise,” Nelson said, “so we definitely Meets Delicious” want to showcase that. And it’s Little Rock, so “White River Princess” cheese dip might come into play, who knows? And tamales are big in the Delta, so I can see a Now Open the 1st Sunday of Every Month 11:30 - 2pm couple dishes like that being spun around Tusk Open Thursday 5 - 8:30 pm • Friday - Saturday 5 - 9 pm ”Where Hospitality & Trotter style.” But, he says, 90 percent of what Open for Private Parties by Appointment Open for Private Parties by Appointmen Meets Delicious” Tusk’s second location does will be “the tried BEST BUFFET 101 E. Curran Street, Des Arc, AR and true. We’re gonna stick to what works, and “White River Princess” 870-256-3311 101 E. Curran Street, Des Arc, AR • 870-2 AROUND THE STATE what got us to this point.”
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FILLING MORE THAN YOUR BELLY: WunderHaus co-owner Jacqueline Forrester Smith wants the dishes she designs to make you happy.
WUNDERFUL EUROPEAN SOUL FOOD, AT WUNDERHAUS. BY LESLIE NEWELL PEACOCK
38 FEBRUARY 2020
t was conception that conceived WunderHaus. That is, the idea for serving good food produced locally came to Jacqueline Smith when she was pregnant. She and her husband, Jason, were watching food writer Michael Pollan’s films (“Cooked,” “In Defense of Food”) and looking into issues of agriculture. “We really started delving into the works of Wendell Berry,” Smith said. “We were compelled to action. … The way he writes about nature in general and our relationship to other people is so spiritual. And his sense of responsibility, the role of steward.” The Flint water crisis was in the headlines. The Smiths were about to bring a child into the world, an emotional and vulnerable time. “We felt it was an important thing to do to represent a smaller part of the food industry that needs to be a larger portion of the food industry.” Jacqueline Smith, though an opera major at UA Little Rock, and her brother, Auguste Forrester, had long been interested in food. “We picked up a tiny bit of passion for cooking when we were small children,” she said. Smith also had restaurant experience, gained with Alexis Jones at the short-lived Natchez Restaurant in downtown Little Rock. Hence, in 2015, along with Hazel Smith (now 5), the WunderBus food truck was born. Its menu was German street food, and the food got rave reviews. But the Smiths and Forrester always had a brick and mortar place in mind. A vacant storefront at Oak and Locust streets in Conway seemed perfect, and it has proved to be so. WunderHaus opened in September 2017 in the old gas station/burger joint, bringing to Central Arkansas what Jacqueline Smith calls “European soul food.” It’s rich, delicious, endorphin-producing, the kind of fare that will require a stiff cup of coffee to keep you awake on the drive home. “It’s not meant just to feed your belly,” said Smith (who creates the menu), “but to make sure you have a wonderful day.” (WunderHaus has been the setting for a proposal of marriage; it might have been the food.) With the exception of the pineapple in the fantastically moist carrot cake (and Forrest-
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er is considering starting an aquaculture farm to produce exotic fruits in Arkansas, his sister said), a delicious lunch enjoyed by this writer owed its existence mostly to Arkansas gardens, beehives and meat producers. A juicy kielbasa sausage, which I added to my Peter Rabbit salad, came from Rabbit Ridge Farms in Bee Branch. The roasted daikon and watermelon radishes and the butternut squash came from Heifer International, the arugula came from Double B farms just 30 minutes from Conway, the honey was produced by Storm Honey in Mountain View, the egg on top was laid by Drewry Farm hens in Dover. WunderHaus paraded dishes past the Arkansas Times photographer: a salad with pork cheeks and Arkansas apples, a baked brie, Parisian-style gnocchi (made from pâte à choux and dropped), risotto made with Molson Family Farms purple rice, a chocolate torte, bread pudding, “Pop’s Carrot Cake,” from a family recipe brought to WunderHaus by employee Jake Watt. All were plated beautifully, thanks to Watt, with such touches as dots of mustard sauce decorating the edge of the sunny-side-up egg and dressings
dripped in star shapes. The food tastes like it comes from a kitchen of pros of decades, rather than years. Smith says that’s because the ingredients are so fresh: “You don’t have to do much to them!” Smith, her husband and her brother have more up their apron sleeves: Forrester wants to farm on 10 acres he owns. Smith, Treci Buchanan of Conway EcoFest and Faulkner County JP Tyler Pearson are in the process of incorporating a nonprofit Smith says will contribute to the “greening of Conway”: WunderLand, which operates the WunderMarket of artisanal food and crafts and promotes walkability. “It’s given us a way to feel like we’re contributing to the local economy,” Smith said. “I am so lucky to be about to feed the people that I love and that I am yet to love,” she said. The WunderHaus group is also working with the Petit Jean Farmers Market on a June 19-20 event at Camp Mitchell that will include a seven-course farm-to-table dinner, an artisanal market and an option to spend the night in the Episcopal Diocese-run camp’s cabins. Staying put after a farmers market meal: wunderful idea.
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A SOURDOUGH MADE WITH WILD YEAST: Baker Zach Folkers holds two loaves fresh out of the custom brick oven that can be seen in the background.
YOU’LL FIND IT — AND A ONE-OF-A-KIND OVEN THAT’S NEARLY THREE DECADES OLD — IN LESLIE. BY REBEKAH HALL
he road to Serenity Farm Bread is a winding one. The bakery’s pastry shop is tucked into a curve of U.S. Highway 65 South, in a little yellow and green house with a wraparound porch that travelers could miss in a blink. Less than a mile away, the Serenity Farm bakery — and its 27-year-old wood-fired brick oven — is housed in a sturdy red brick building on the corner of Main Street and state Highway 66 East in Leslie. Serenity Farm exclusively bakes sourdough breads and pastries, and co-owner Jordan Archotie said the oven is “the heart” of both the baked goods and the business. “It’s what makes us what we are,” Archotie said. Serenity Farm Bread was established in 1992 by Dr. Morris Keller. Current co-owner Adrienne Freeman said Keller “really believed in the benefits of sourdough bread and returning to traditional baking techniques.” David Lower bought the bakery from Keller in 1993 and ran it until Freeman and Archotie purchased it in July 2018. Freeman and Archotie both grew up in Leslie and visited the bakery as children, and they described their interest in 40 FEBRUARY 2020
buying the bakery as “sentimental plus practical.” “I wanted to live here and raise my child here, and what can you do in a small town to make a living?” Archotie said. “We wanted to keep the bakery around ...” “For selfish reasons,” Freeman interjected. “... for selfish reasons, so we could have the benefit of the product and so that the customers who are used to it could continue to enjoy our bread,” Archotie said. Freeman said she worked for Serenity Farm Bread from 2003-06, and she came back to work one day a week at the bakery in 2017. By the time Archotie and Freeman bought the business in 2018, Archotie said the bakery had gone down from four “bake days” a week to three bake days, as Lower was “in his later season of life and wanting to retire.” But Archotie, 35, said that she and Freeman, 36, “just have a lot of energy” to put into the bakery, and they hope to “drum up enough business” to increase the bake schedule back to four days a week. Serenity Farm employs seven people, including head baker Zach Folkers and pastry chef Lynnwood Hage, who crafts the bakery’s sourdough cookies, croissants, sticky buns and sweetened breads. Freeman and Archotie said the dough — which is fermented using naturally occurring microbes, such as wild yeast — works “symbiotically” with the bakery’s wood-fired brick oven to produce breads with a “nice hearty crust” that are good for the gut. Instead of baking in a convection oven, which uses a fan to constantly circulate hot air and cook food quickly, Serenity Farm uses a wood-fired brick oven that bakes bread using residual heat. Built in 1993, the interior of the oven is 6 feet wide, 8 feet deep and about 3 feet tall and lined with layers of bricks. On a “pre-bake” day, a fire is started in the oven in the morning and fed throughout the day. At the end of the day, once the fire is mostly coals, a large iron door is placed over the oven’s opening, suffocating the heat and “soaking” it into the bricks. Freeman said the bakery burns fires in the oven every day, whether they’ll be baking that day or not. “We have to keep its core temperature at a certain level, or we won’t be able to get it hot enough to bake in it,” Freeman explained. The heat then soaks into the bricks for the next
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Congratulations To All The 2020 Readers Choice Award Winners and Finalists.
Arkansas Times local ticketing: CentralArkansasTickets.com
Old Chicago - Conway OC Big Game Watch Party
Wyndham Riverfront Hotel Arkansas Farmer’s Industrial Hemp Conference
Cranford Co. Firebrand Theatre Co presents “Art” by Yasmina Reza
Sunset Lodge at Rusty Tractor Vineyards Valentine’s Day Wine Pairing with Manny Frias
Four Quarter Bar Aaron Kamm and the One Drops
Windsong Event Center Bollywood Nights 2020
South on Main Stray Love presented by Yarn Storytelling
Four Quarter Bar Four Quarter Bar Anniversary Weekend 2 Night Ticket
The Mixing Room Preservation Conversations: Abatement Issues with Historic Properties, by Jason Dixon of Snyder Environmental
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Wolfe Street Foundation 2020 Red Carpet Gala
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IN THE PASTRY SHOP: Chef Lynnwood Hage turns out the cookies, croissants, sticky buns and other sweet treats.
several hours until a baker arrives around 2 or 3 a.m. to check the temperature of the oven and start another small fire. Freeman said the baker then rakes the coals into an ash pit built into the oven and uses a large broom dipped in water to brush soot and ashes off the bricks. Then, starting around 9 a.m., breads are baked directly on the bricks using the ever-present residual heat from the fire. “We set up what we bake and when we bake it around the idea that the oven is going to be getting colder as the day goes on, because the heat goes,” Freeman said. “We start with the focaccia, we go through the breads, and then we end with the cookies, which need a cooler oven.” Freeman said Serenity Farm has to plan its bake day schedules two days in advance, a process that takes into account the time it takes for the leaven to ferment, the mixing and rising of the dough, the preparation of the oven and the types of breads needed for the pastry shop and customer orders. Archotie and Freeman said that about 20 percent of Serenity Farm’s business in the summer is made up of a “small group of very dedicated, loyal local customers.” During the winter months, this same local following is the “primary source” of the bakery’s business, Freeman said. She and Archotie added that their local customers aren’t just folks who live in Leslie, but also people from “outlying” communities such as Mountain View and Clinton. In addition to nearby patrons, Freeman said the “bulk” of the pastry shop’s in-store sales comes from “loyal, out-of-town people” who pass by the bakery while traveling. “We’ve got people that come through from Iowa or Texas,” said Archotie, who manages the pastry shop. “They drive this trip maybe once a year or a couple times a year and they always stop; they put it on their route.” Serenity Farm Bread also ships bread and cookies to all lower 48 states. David Lower began shipping the baked goods, and Freeman and Achiote expanded the practice when they purchased the business. The pair said they’ve
worked out an agreement with the local post office to ship their orders through priority mail, which allows them to reach customers all over the country within three days. Serenity Farm doesn’t use any preservatives in its bread, so quick shipping helps ensure an order is fresh when it arrives. Freeman said shipping is “primarily what carries us through the winter season” and a large part of the business year-round. In addition to shipping nationally, Freeman and Archotie said Serenity Farm Bread has several “long standing” relationships with wholesale customers who sell their bread, including The Eureka Market in Eureka Springs, Nature’s Wonders in Harrison, the Good Measure market in Searcy and Ozark Natural Foods in Fayetteville. In 2018, Serenity Farm Bread also began delivering their goods bi-monthly to Me and McGee Market in North Little Rock during the market’s open season. Serenity Farm Bread can also be found on the menus of a few Arkansas restaurants, including WunderHaus in Conway, Prestonrose Farm in Paris and L’Attitude Bistro in Clinton. Serenity Farm Bread products are also available through the business’s food co-op with Azure Standard, which delivers organic food and products around the country. Archotie and Freeman said they want to continue cultivating new relationships with restaurants, local markets and wholesale customers. They’re also looking forward to crafting new recipes after the successful debut of two new seasonal breads in 2019: an autumnal Arkansas black apple and walnut bread made from locally sourced black apples and a summertime blueberry bread made with corn grits. In addition to forming new recipes and relationships to help grow their business, Freeman and Archotie said they want to educate more people about the health benefits of fermented foods. “We have [Serenity Farm] in our backyard,” Freeman said. “You sort of start understanding the speciality and uniqueness of what you have right next to you, [which] you kind of overlook when you grow up with it.” ARKANSASTIMES.COM
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S H O P A R K A N SAS A RT I SA N C RA F TS AT L I T T L E R O C K’ S B I G G E ST V E N U E
Make plans to see the state’s most accomplished artisans at the Arkansas Made– Arkansas Proud market at War Memorial Stadium on May 16, 2020. For more details, please go to the Arkansas Made–Arkansas Proud Facebook page. We look forward to seeing you in May — mark your calendars now!
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AN ORAL HISTORY OF LITTLE ROCK’S DOE’S EAT PLACE. BY LINDSEY MILLAR
If you didn’t grow up in Southeast Arkansas or Mississippi, or aren’t a student of Southern culinary history, you could be forgiven for thinking that Doe’s Eat Place in Little Rock was the funky original, the formula that’s been emulated in Doe’s in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jonesboro and other spots throughout the region. It’s not. Mamie and Dominick “Doe” Signa opened the original in Greenville, Miss., years earlier in 1941. But on the strength of Little Rock Doe’s founder George Eldridge’s big personality, long restaurant career and friendship with Bill Clinton, Doe’s in Little Rock became a culinary institution of its own in the late 1980s and 1990s, perhaps even becoming the Doe’s known best round the world. Now owned and operated by Eldridge’s daughter, Katherine Eldridge, and sometimes managed by her son, Adam Edmondson, Doe’s in Little Rock flourishes, largely unchanged. This is the story of how it came to be and how it persists as told by staff, friends and customers. ARKANSASTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2020 45
GEORGE ELDRIDGE (founder of Doe’s Eat Place in Little Rock and legendary restaurateur): I was in the construction business. Deconstruction, actually. I did demolition, explosion-type stuff of buildings and bridges. This is the mid-’70s. I had been hanging around The Band Box when I was in town with Tommy Marbut, the owner. It was a Bandidos hangout. I knew all those guys and got along with them. They were good people. Marbut said to me one day, “I want to sell you this place.” I said, “I don’t want a beer joint.” He said, “I’m going to sell it to you with a deal you can’t turn down — $2,500.” I said I’d do it under one condition: that Lucille will stay. LUCILLE ROBINSON (longtime Eldridge culinary partner): It was like he wanted it, but he didn’t want to get it unless’n I stay. So me and him sat down and talked, and I decided to stay, and he bought it. GEORGE ELDRIDGE: Tommy was the owner, but Lucille was the boss. She ran that thing with an iron hand. Someone would get too loud or get out of hand, she’d field dress them. She was sort of the head honcho. She bossed me around. She’d tell me when I was screwing up. I appreciated that. She’s a great woman. She was from the old school, like I was.
and Hillary both would send down there and get hamburgers to go. I was there three years or so. Some guys came by and wanted to buy it, and I sold it, and I had a year noncompete. I found a place on 414 Louisiana for The Sports Page. I built that place and opened it the day my noncompete ran out. I really got to know Clinton when he got beat by Frank White. We had an office at The Sports Page back in the back, and Clinton would hang out there. He just kind of moped around and was down and out. Finally, he was hanging out with some people and we said, “Look, what are you gonna do, you gonna sulk for the rest of your life or are you gonna do it again?” We got tired of hearing him pissing and moaning. He said, “I think I’ll run again.” And we said, “Hell, we’ll raise some money for you.”
KATHERINE ELDRIDGE (Doe’s owner, George’s daughter): The Band Box was a biker bar. So you’d have the Bandidos mixed in with your bond daddies and downtown customers.
We had four Sports Pages that opened, three in Little Rock and one in Nashville, Tenn. We sold all those in 1986. I was going to take off a year or two and do nothing. But then Billy Rector brought me the Buster’s deal. [Buster’s in the Union Train Station was founded by James “Buster” Corley, who along with Dave Corriveau, owner of Slick Willy’s, later founded Dave and Buster’s in Dallas.] I sold Sports Page on a Friday, bought Buster’s on Saturday, Sunday we inventoried and opened. Buster’s was kind of a wild and crazy place. I don’t think we made much money down there, but we had a lot of fun.
GEORGE ELDRIDGE: I used to feed Bill Clinton down at The Band Box when he was governor. He
KATHERINE ELDRIDGE: I was 21 when I worked at Buster’s. It was a fern bar with all the plants
46 FEBRUARY 2020
COURTESY TIM JONES
THROUGH THE YEARS: (clockwise below) George Eldridge, Katherine Eldridge and Adam Edmondson; President Clinton and Lucille Robinson; and longtime chef David Brown (center) in the 1990s.
and the brass. They were real popular back then. We had a huge happy hour crowd down there every day. It was a different time. We had all the bond daddies come in one day buying bottles of Dom. The next day they might need to sign their check because they didn’t have the money to pay you. TIM JONES (Doe’s server 1988-1995): I lived at Second and Ringo when Richard Harrison [of Pizza Cafe fame] bought Betty’s Doghouse. It was a hobo dive that entertained the clientele that frequented the Salvation Army. It had been a beer joint. GEORGE ELDRIDGE: What happened was, Richard Harrison had put a place here called Rock City Cafe, and it had failed and somebody called me about it and let me in to look at it, and I saw the broiler in there like the one Doe’s had. We’d been going down [to the original Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville] in the late ’60s and ’70s. We had a company plane, and we’d get some friends together and fly over. They’d pick us up from the airport. It was a destination, a kind of unique place. I said, “This place is funky enough and we already got a broiler. We might make a Doe’s out of this.” So I flew down there and talked to them about it. We agreed and made a deal. And it’s been 33 years. GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON (regular): I’ve been to Greenville. I sure like what we’ve got in Little Rock. KATHERINE ELDRIDGE: When we came down here, we just had the main dining room and the
COURTESY TIM JONES
FAMOUS FACES: (left to right): George Eldridge and Don Tyson: former Secretary of State John Kerry with Doe’s staff: and Peter Jennings with Eldridge (far right) and other Doe’s staff.
kitchen. The backroom was not a liquor store, but a beer store — Doghouse Liquor. It wasn’t long after we opened that they went out of business. My dad could already tell that the business was going to be good, so we asked to rent that room. The [Doghouse] sign looks terrible now. But you can’t do anything with that sign. It’s got to be original, I think. It’s part of our history of this building. JONES: What we saw was that there was an instantaneous clientele of people growing up going to the one in Greenville. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone tell me, “I went there in 1955, and you walked in through the kitchen … .” We had farmers coming in in overalls with a wad of one hundreds in their pocket. Don’t judge a book by its cover. You never could tell who’s coming in the front door. They might own half a county in Southeast Arkansas. The success of that place initially was really on the shoulders of Bonnie Mack. He was the chef. He was a larger-than-life character in personality and size, too. I think he played for the Vikings for half a season and then got cut. He was an enormous man. He had hands as big as your head. Initially they were getting meat that was already cut. He didn’t like the way it was done. They got a bandsaw, and he’d go back there with these enormous shoulder loins and with flesh flying. In a lot of ways he was very sweet and very kind. He had a great sense of humor. But if you threatened his status of being in charge, he would let you know. During the day, Lucille ran the show. She had all these relationships with all these folks for work-
We specialize in tamales and steaks, some seafood, and we try to do it better than anybody else.
ing downtown for so long. She had a whole family of people who came with her who knew how to run her kitchen her way. They would churn out burgers that everybody loved. All the clientele that had been hanging out at The Band Box and knew her were quick to come and hang out with her at Doe’s.
GEORGE ELDRIDGE: We just treat everybody the same. When I go by your table, I don’t care what color you are or what your hair length is or what you’ve got on as long as you’re not naked. I thank you for coming and I appreciate it, and I mean that. It’s not just bullshit. I’m sincere about my customers.
GEORGE ELDRIDGE: I think what the main deal is, is good food and good service. You go in a damn restaurant and you’ve got page after page of stuff. I want to get up and leave. I know I’m going to be disappointed. I always have limited menus. You can’t do everything good. We specialize in tamales and steaks, some seafood, and we try to do it better than anybody else.
KATHERINE ELDRIDGE: Selling steak by the pound and serving it family style, those are two things that you don’t find anywhere. Especially serving it family style, that’s something that’s really hard for some people to wrap their heads around. The other thing is that we age our meat 30 days. That’s what makes it so tender and gives it the flavor.
KATHERINE ELDRIDGE: We are very blessed that we have people staying. That’s not common in the restaurant business. The only position we have a hard time keeping filled is the dishwasher position.
DAVID BROWN (chef, Doe’s employee since 1989): We cut six to 10 loins a day.
DEBRA WADLEY (general manager, employee since 1991): Why do people stay? I’m a good boss (laughs). It’s just loyalty. Especially servers and kitchen help, you try to keep them happy. If you’ve been here for less than five years, you’re a newby.
BROWN: A lot of people call and want porterhouses reserved. It’s like the Mercedes of the steak.
JONES: It’s kind of familial and there’s a good deal of personal loyalty, but the fact is that it’s a consistent and predictably profitable place to work, and that’s hard to come by. How many restaurants in the town have opened and closed since that place opened?
KATHERINE ELDRIDGE: We almost always sell out of porterhouses.
GEORGE ELDRIDGE: One day this great big old tall cowboy-looking guy, kind of John Wayne-looking guy, said he was looking for George Eldridge. He pulled out a badge and said, “I’m enforcement for USDA.” He asked where we were getting our tamales, and I told him from Greenville. Then he asked if they were USDA inspected. I said, “I don’t know.” He could tell I was ignorant. He made me dump all our tamales into the dumpster and said, “If I come down here ARKANSASTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2020 47
and catch you with those tamales, you’re not going to like it.” Eldridge began contracting with a company in Newport to make the tamales, then he bought that factory, later moving the operation to Augusta. He later sold the Augusta factory. But after the new owners shut it down, he started making tamales out of his house in Gregory (Woodruff County), which led to the creation of a Doe’s-like outpost called The Tamale Factory, adjacent to his house. He recently built a USDA-certified production facility on his property and plans to distribute Papa’s Delta Style Beef Tamales, through Ben E. Keith and U.S. Foods, to Doe’s franchises and other restaurants. GEORGE ELDRIDGE: I think our spices are the secret to the tamales. I think that’s the main deal. We use USDA hamburger meat, 80/20 fine ground. We add different spices to the meat. The difference between Mexican tamales and ours is we use white corn meal, not masa. We mix spices in with the meal. The meal is not cooked. The meat is. When we extrude it, it comes out like a snake and then we’ve got this ferris wheel on a conveyor that cuts it. When the restaurants get ’em, they have to cook ’em. Cornmeal swells up and makes it really tight. PAUL BERRY (lobbyist, regular, longtime Eldridge friend): Some of us who lobbied needed a private dining room. WADLEY: I named it the Power Room. That’s my name. Powerful people, in their own minds, like
48 FEBRUARY 2020
to sit in the far back room. GEORGE ELDRIDGE: Ten lobbyists put up $1,000 a piece, and I paid them back with tabs, and they had exclusive rights to the room. BERRY: We ate ourselves rich. Bill Clinton watched the Razorbacks in the Final Four back there. Don Tyson and Willie Nelson and Greg Allman have been back there. JONES: George knows a lot of folks. Levon Helm and Albert King came in. I remember one time, we shut the place down and Levon Helm and Fred Carter were trading songs in a big circle of an odd assortment of folks who worked there and lobbyists and friends and folks in the back room. That sort of thing didn’t happen very often, but it was real cool when it did. A large painting by J.O. Buckley hangs in the back room. It’s an exact replica of Diego Velazquez’ 17th century masterpiece “The Triumph of Bacchus (or Los borrachos),” except that Bacchus resembles Eldridge. GEORGE ELDRIDGE: It was Velazquez’s vision of Bacchus as a common man. I thought that was a very appropriate piece for the Power Room. HUTCHINSON: I’m sure the first time I came to Doe’s was for the ’90 campaign for attorney general. Back then it was Clinton territory. For a Republican you almost felt like you were intruding. As time goes on, you can see it changing. While
Doe’s itself has been unchanging, they always welcome the politics of either stripe. Doe’s became the unofficial hangout for the ’92 Clinton campaign. KATHERINE ELDRIDGE: We were doing pretty well before, but the Clinton thing really put us on the map. BROWN: When Clinton was running for president, his No. 1 thing was those french fries. He loved those fries. He was easy going. You could talk to him. JONES: George Stephanopoulos and James Carville, Stan Greenberg, Mandy Grunwald, Dee Dee Myers — they all came almost every night. If they were in town, they came. Just kind of over and over. It was a routine. Mostly without fanfare. They didn’t want to be bothered. They were friendly. What happened from my perspective was that it seemed almost to the point of superstition: “This is what we’re doing.” KATHERINE ELDRIDGE: Jane Pauley was the first famous person who walked in here. JONES: The idea that Clinton hung out there was a myth that we profited from and enjoyed. He didn’t really come in that often; he was off campaigning. It was his people that were coming in there. Because of that the media began to come. They knew that was a place you could get a story, get access and get a good meal and some
BACCHUS IN THE POWER ROOM: J.O. Buckley’s take Velazquez’s masterpiece hangs in the back room (left). Former state legislator and military veteran John Edwards repped Doe’s while serving in Iraq (below). Rolling Stone’s interview with Bill Clinton, with Hunter S. Thompson (right) in attendance, helped put Doe’s on the national map.
COURTESY TIM JONES
Hunter S. Thompson seemed perpetually uncomfortable.
local flavor, too. BROWN: A guy by the name of Wolf Blitzer was here. Barbara Walters. WADLEY: Andy Rooney, who was always grumpy on TV, was in here. He was an asshole. GEORGE ELDRIDGE: That interview with Rolling Stone, that was a good deal. Rolling Stone conducted its Sept. 17, 1992, cover interview with Bill Clinton in Doe’s and mentioned the restaurant in the introduction. JONES: I’d heard that Rolling Stone was coming in the next day and that they’d reserved the whole back room and I didn’t know what that was about. But I knew that most of the people working lunch really didn’t know or care one way or another about Rolling Stone. I didn’t know what to expect. But when Jann Wenner and P.J. O’Rourke and Hunter S. Thompson walked in the room, I was like, “Damn, this is special.” I was a fly on the wall. You never know when someone is going to need a fresh cocktail or a top off on a glass of tea. I just stood there. Hunter S. Thompson came in in the middle of the summer and he was wearing a suit and coat and sitting up in the bar. The air conditioning, in those days, did not keep up. He’s just wringing wet, just pouring sweat. He ordered a Bloody Mary, and I made him one. Then he ordered a beer, and I gave him another one, and he’s just stacking up drinks. He seemed perpetually uncomfortable.
He came in on a number of times after that. He had a duck call and wouldn’t stop quacking the duck call. George, who for the most part, would not really comment on the recreational habits of any clientele, said one time, “He sure is pissed off at himself about something.” GEORGE ELDRIDGE: Hunter Thompson got to be a really good friend of mine. He was crazy as a bat. He spent the week in Cuba with me. I was never so glad to get him out of there. Goddamn, I thought he was going to get us executed. He was a nut and he was a doper. I told him, I said, “Hunter whatever you do don’t bring any dope down there.” He said, “Why?” I said, “Goddamn, they’ll kill you. They’ll line you up with a firing squad and shoot your ass if you’ve got cocaine or heroin. They don’t put up with it.” JONES: The night Clinton was elected, or basically the week he was elected, was maybe the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. The place was just packed to the gills day in, day out. I remember George Stephanopoulos being pissed off at me because he had reserved a table for 20, and we literally didn’t have people to keep the crowd back, and he didn’t have his table. If anyone deserved to have a reservation honored, it was him. WADLEY: There were a couple of weeks I didn’t think we were going to make it through. I was getting dumpsters emptied every day. I was getting beer and wine deliveries every day. It went on for five days. On Election Night, Don Tyson was here. He bought drinks for the whole
restaurant for about two hours. It was standing room only. FROM RICHARD MARTIN’S ELECTION NIGHT COVERAGE IN THE ARKANSAS TIMES: Doe’s Eat Place, by now the nationally known power center for the Clinton inner circle, lived up to its billing. Proprietor George Eldridge, normally the coolest of hosts, was flustered by the backroom scene where a gang of Clinton’s Georgetown buddies partied with campaign honchos. When the Clinton officer corps — pollster Stan Greenberg, strategist James Carville and campaign manager David Wilhelm — entered Doe’s main room, a hush fell on the boisterous room. Comedian Buck Henry, in town to host Comedy Central’s live coverage of election day activities, sipped a beer at a side table. Rolling Stone “political correspondent” Hunter S. Thompson slugged margaritas from a beer mug. Texas columnist and author Molly Ivins dropped in alone and joined a politically sympathetic legislator, state Sen. Vic Snyder, for dinner. It was Studio 54 on Markham. Clinton staffers delivered small homilies. They smiled, they chatted, and the long-maintained mask of modesty and under-confidence began to fall away. The deed was done: victory was finally at hand. ROBINSON: We went to the inaugural when Clinton went to the White House. Later, I cooked in the White House kitchen. They had a party up there. We took tamales and chili and stuff up there. They had a party for the Navy, I think it was.
FEBRUARY 2020 49
KING AND QUEEN: Annie Leibovitz’ portrait of George Eldridge and Lucille Robinson for Vanity Fair hangs in Doe’s.
GEORGE ELDRIDGE: It was unbelievable being in Washington then. If you were from Arkansas, much less with the president’s favorite restaurant here, you were a rock star. I’d go have a drink and these people would start whispering, “It’s the guy that owns Doe’s.” It was like you were a damn rock star. Famed photographer Annie Leibovitz took a portrait of George Eldridge and Robinson for a 2009 Vanity Fair photo essay on alumni from Clintonland. The article quotes Carville telling Robinson, “I paid for your jewelry. I send your kids to college.” ROBINSON: (Laughs over the Carville quote) He put that in there. I have nine children, six boys and three girls. They all worked for George. They would come in, clean up and be around and go to school. KATHERINE ELDRIDGE: I was here until 1997 and then took a break to raise my kids and moved to Hot Springs. My brother [George Eldridge III] died in [a car wreck] in 1997. I just kind of needed to take a break. I moved back to Little Rock after my kids were grown. My dad was ready to slow down and talked about us selling. At first, I said OK because I swore I’d never come back to the restaurant business. But when it came right down to it, I couldn’t stand the fact that it would be someone else’s. GEORGE ELDRIDGE: Katherine has done better 50 FEBRUARY 2020
than I ever could. I’m thankful. ADAM EDMONDSON (manager, Katherine’s son and George’s grandson): The restaurant was open a year before I was even born. I don’t ever remember not being here. I remember watching TV in the back as a kid, like we’d turn on Nickelodeon, or if I was sick, I remember sitting on the pickle bucket behind the bar and mom would give me math problems to do. I’ve always been here. KATHERINE ELDRIDGE: I put new flooring in next door and painted and did some stuff, and I had some customers come in after I did that, and they said, “If you keep making it look good, we’re gonna quit coming.” I’ve done things a little here and there, but I have to hold myself back. GEORGE ELDRIDGE: I had a bed and breakfast license and a commercial restaurant license for my place in Gregory. For a while we were cooking tamales for Doe’s in my house. We had a hand crank machine. After about two years, I said, “Hell, I can’t stand this.” Everything I had smelled like tamales. And they were coming into my house at 4 in the morning. So I built an event center in the barn. I intended originally just to use it to cook tamales. Then I said I’ll build a little bar. Hell, there’s no place in Woodruff County to go. Maybe there’d be a few people on weekends. Then we built a full-blown restaurant. It seats about 60 people in the front and about 30 in the back. Got seven bar stools.
It turned into a real deal. We draw from about a 60-mile radius. Dollar for dollar it’s been the most successful restaurant I’ve ever done. We’re only open two nights a week. It paid for itself in a year. MICHAEL JOHN GRAY (chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, longtime Eldridge family friend): On a random summer Friday night — I’m from Woodruff County, the second smallest county by population, and I feel like I know 90 percent of the people and if I don’t know their name, I know their face — I can walk in there on a Friday night and the tables will be full, and I don’t know a soul in there aside from the people working there. It’s unreal. WADLEY: I had these people [in Doe’s] one day, and I asked them if they wanted their steak bone, and they said, “Yeah, we’re gonna take it home and gnaw on it.” I said, “This is the kind of place you can gnaw on it here.” MIKE BREWSTER (regular): On a good week we come here two times a week. KAREN BREWSTER (regular, married to Mike): We’ve been here three times in a week before. This is how bad it is: I can get in my car and my iPhone will say, “It’s 12 minutes to Doe’s.” Like on Friday evenings. MIKE BREWSTER: One time a woman sitting
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LONGTIMERS: Paul Berry (left) was among the lobbyists who paid for the Power Room. Doe’s has managed to hold onto employees for son long because she’s a good boss, GM Debra Wadley (below) joked.
COURTESY TIM JONES
COURTESY TIM JONES
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I had these people one day, and I asked them if they wanted their steak bone, and they said, “Yeah, we’re gonna take it home and gnaw on it.” I said, “This is the kind of place you can gnaw on it here.”
AT THE WHITE HOUSE: (from left) Robinson, Eldridge and Berry visit with President Clinton in the Oval Office.
We Have The #1 Customers In The State! WINNER: BEST RESTAURANT IN FAYETTEVILLE, SPRINGDALE & JOHNSON. FINALIST: AROUND THE
Open Daily at 11am 7 Days A Week nearby asked for steak sauce, and I leaned over and said, “Ma’am, just take your steak and dip it in this juice. Just one time.” And they never used steak sauce. KAREN BREWSTER: He gets so angry when he sees people ask for steak sauce.
210 Central Ave. Hot Springs 501.318.6054
STATE, HOT SPRINGS: BEST OTHER ETHNIC, BEST BUSINESS LUNCH, BEST CHEESE DIP, BEST DESSERT, BEST GLUTEN FREE, BEST SOUP, BEST OUTDOOR DINING.
“…a classy, romantic restaurant and a must for all.” – Anazeteo, TripAdvisor
TOMMY FISHER (regular): I get made fun of because I come here so much. APRIL FISHER (regular, married to Tommy): We go other places, but at the end, we always say, “We should’ve gone to Doe’s.” WADLEY: When Mike Huckabee used to come in here, he wouldn’t shake hands with anyone. He wouldn’t even speak to the kitchen. Asa will go back there and tell everyone hello. Bill Clinton was that way, too. HUTCHINSON: I like tradition. Of course the food is fantastic, simple but consistent. The atmosphere is something that is nostalgic, but at the same time you feel at home. I keep coming back. I’ve taken business prospects, including international guests, there. Whenever I’ve done that, when they come back they say, “Can we go back there?” For lunch, I always get the tamales and chili and a hamburger or chili. Or a grilled cheese. At dinner, everybody goes for the steak. I love the salmon, too. GRAY: I’ve yet to go there in the five years I’ve been in politics and not either run into a legislative colleague, a friend from a state agency, friends from government relations or the lobbyist community. It’s still the go-to place for political folks.
BEST WINE LIST AROUND THE STATE
PASTAS • SEAFOOD • STEAKS
BEST SEAFOOD, BEST ITALIAN AROUND THE STATE
104 Grand Isle Way, Hot Springs www.lunabellahotsprings.com • 501-520-5862
Around 2010, President Clinton revealed that he was eating a near-vegan diet. BERRY: Clinton will still eat french fries when he comes back in town. GEORGE ELDRIDGE: The last time I saw him, I hugged him. I felt like I was hugging a skeleton. I’ve got a doctor up at the Mayo Clinic who’s a vegan. He’s alway telling me you need to eat from the stalk. I said, “I’ve got a buddy that’s a vegan, he’s probably the most famous vegan in the world, and he looks like hell. He gonna dry up and blow away. So you can take that vegan shit and stick it where the sun don’t shine.”
BEST FOOD TRUCK
FEBRUARY 2020 53
From our warehouse to your kitchen, we are proud to play a role in Arkansasâ€™s culinary scene. Congratulations on your outstanding achievement!
54 FEBRUARY 2020
The 2020 Readers Choice Awards Winners & Finalists @ the Corner 501 Prime A Taste of Thai A.Q. Chicken House A.W. Lin’s Chinese Cuisine A1 Sushi Abe’s Ole Feed House Aji Ramen Bar All Aboard Allsopp & Chapple Ambrosia Bakery Apple Blossom Brewery Aquarius Taqueria Arsaga’s Fayetteville Coffee Roasters Arthur’s Prime Steakhouse Banana Leaf Indian Cuisine Bark Bar Big Orange BJ’s Market Cafe Blue Sage Vegan Blue Sail Coffee Boulevard Bread Co. Brave New Restaurant Brown’s Catfish Brown’s Country Kitchen Bruno’s Little Italy Bubba’s Catfish Buenos Aires Grill and Café Cafe 1217 Capital Bar & Grill Capo’s Tacos The Catfish Hole Cathead’s Diner Chang Thai & Asian Cuisine Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets Clampit’s Country Kitchen & Meat Market Colorado Grill Community Bakery Copper Grill Count Porkula Craig’s Bar-B-Q Creme & Sugar Crepes Paulette Cross Creek Sandwich Shop Daisy Queen Dave & Buster’s DeLuca’s Pizzeria HAM MARKET Dem Dam Wingz
Dempsey Bakery Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro Doe’s Eat Place Dondie’s White River Princess Eat My Catfish Ed’s Bakery Edwards Food Giant El Sur Street Food Co. Ermilio’s Italian Home Cooking Ester’s SOMA The Faded Rose Fantastic China The Farmer’s Table Cafe Fassler Hall Feltner’s Whatta-Burger Flying Fish The Fold: Botanas & Bar Foodtruck Crepes Paulette Fork and Crust Fresh Market Fuji Steakhouse Gadwall’s Grill Grandma’s House Cafe Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Beer Garden The Grotto Guillermo’s Coffee Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken HAM Market Haybird The Healthy Spot Heights Taco & Tamale Co. Herman’s Rib House Hibachi Sushi Buffet The Hive Hogg’s Meat Market Holly’s Country Cooking Homer’s Restaurant Honey Pies The House of Mental Hugo’s I Love Juice Bar In the Raw The Indian Feast Jade China Restaurant Jimmy’s Serious Sandwiches Jones Bar-B-Q Diner kBird Kemuri La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant
La Terraza Rum & Lounge Las Delicias Lassis Inn Lin’s Garden Loblolly Creamery Local Flavor Cafe Local Lime Lost Creek Grill Lost Forty Brewing Low Ivy Catering Luna Bella Madame Wu’s Hunan Restaurant Maddie’s Place McClard’s Bar-B-Q Meiji Japanese Cuisine Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt Mike’s Place Mockingbird Bar & Tacos Mong Dynasty Monte Ne Inn Mr. Chen’s Authentic Chinese Cooking Mt. Fuji Japanese Restaurant Mud Street Cafe Mylo Coffee Co. The Ohio Club Onyx Coffee Lab The Original Scoopdog, Inc. Oven & Tap Ozark Burger Co. Paninis & Co. The Pantry The Pantry Crest Pasta Grill PattiCakes Bakery Paul’s Meat Market Pea Farm Bistro Petit & Keet Pizza Café The Preacher’s Son Pressroom Raduno The Rail Yard Red Light Roastery Richard’s Meat Market Ristorante Capeo River City Coffee Riviera Maya Rocky’s Corner Rolando’s Restaurante
The Root Cafe Rosalia’s Family Bakery Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill Samantha’s Taqueria II Serenity Farm Bread Shangri-la Resort Sim’s Bar-B-Que SO Restaurant Sonny Williams’ Steak Room Soul Fish Cafe South on Main SQZBX Star of India Restaurant and Bar Stoby’s Sunshine Store & Cafe Superior Bathhouse Brewery Sushi Cafe Table 28 Table Mesa Taco Mama Taco Mama Side Town Taj Mahal Indian Kitchen Tamale Factory Taste of Thai Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe Tea & Roastery Three Fold Noodles and Dumplings Co. Tokyo House Trio’s Tropical Smoothie Cafe Truckin’ Delicious Tusk & Trotter U.S. Pizza Umami Sushi Lounge & Grill Fusion The Vault Vino’s Brewpub Wagon Wheel Restaurant Weldon’s Meat Market Whole Hog Cafe Wild Ginger Wright’s Barbecue WunderHaus YGFBF Kitchen Zaffino’s by Nori Zangna Thai Cuisine ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. ARKANSASTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2020 55
TOP CHEF: Table 28’s Scott Rains.
THE WINNERS ARE...
AROUND THE STATE
Winner: Diana Bratton (Taco Mama, Hot Springs) Finalists: Matthew Cooper (The Preacher’s Son, Bentonville), Jacqueline Smith (WunderHaus, Conway), Matthew McClure (The Hive, Bentonville)
Winner: Table 28 Finalists: The Pantry, Petit & Keet, Copper Grill AROUND THE STATE Winner: Taco Mama (Hot Springs) Finalists: The Ohio Club (Hot Springs), Mike’s Place (Conway), WunderHaus (Conway)
Winner: Community Bakery Finalists: Boulevard Bread Co., Dempsey Bakery, Rosalia’s Family Bakery
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Mockingbird Bar & Tacos Finalists: Blue Sage Vegan, Ester’s SoMa, Allsopp & Chapple
Winner: The Fold Botanas & Bar Finalists: Lost Forty Brewing, Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom, The Root Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: WunderHaus (Conway) Finalists: Taco Mama (Hot Springs) ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. (Conway), Tusk & Trotter (Bentonville) BUFFET
AROUND THE STATE
Winner: Ambrosia Bakery (Hot Springs) Finalists: PattiCakes Bakery (Conway), Ed’s Bakery (Conway), Serenity Farm Bread (Leslie)
Winner: Star of India Restaurant and Bar Finalists: Tokyo House, Taj Mahal Indian Kitchen, Cathead Diner
Winner: Taco Mama Side Town (Hot Springs) Finalists: In the Raw (Hot Springs), Lost Creek Grill (Hot Springs), Wright’s Barbecue (Johnson)
AROUND THE STATE
Winner: Sims Bar-B-Que Finalists: Lost 40 Brewing, Count Porkula, Whole Hog Cafe
Winner: Dondie’s White River Princess (Des Arc) Finalists: Hibachi Sushi Buffet (Hot Springs), Abe’s Ole Feed House (Benton), Brown’s Catfish (Russellville)
AROUND THE STATE
Winner: McClard’s Bar-B-Q (Hot Springs) Finalists: Craig’s Bar-B-Que (DeValls Bluff), Wright’s Barbecue (Johnson), Jones Bar-B-Q Diner (Marianna)
AROUND THE STATE
LITTLE ROCK Winner: Scott Rains (Table 28) Finalists: Scott McGehee (Big Orange, Heights Taco & Tamale Co., Local Lime, Lost Forty Brewing, ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co.), Matthew Bell (South on Main), Steven Binotti (Petit & Keet)
56 FEBRUARY 2020
Winner: Big Orange Finalists: The Root Cafe, The Pantry, Doe’s Eat Place
Arkansas Deluca’s Pizza
831 Central Avenue • Hot Springs (501) 609-9002 • delucashotsprings.com Deluca’s Pizzeria Napoletana
BEST PIZZA AROUND THE STATE BEST RESTAURANT IN HOT SPRINGS
BEST ITALIAN AROUND THE STATE
THANK YOU! I take pride in ensuring our customers leave the bakery completely satisfied. For the last 13 years, I have seen tremendous growth in the bakery, and it's all thanks to our customers. From birthdays, weddings, holidays, and more, we are dedicated to putting a smile on your face. I want everyone who walks in to have the PattiCakes experience. We're Conway's Specialty Bakery for a reason, and that truly shows in our craft because we are committed to providing only the best fresh, handmade items. Sincerest Thanks, Patti Stobaugh
WINNER : DESSERTS | STATE FINALIST : BAKERY | STATE FINALIST : PIE | STATE 2106 Robinson Ave. | Conway | 501-205-1969 1137 Front St. | Downtown Conway | 501-205-1723 ARKANSASTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2020 57
El Sur Street Food Co.
AROUND THE STATE
Winner: Hugo’s (Fayetteville) Finalists: The Ohio Club (Hot Springs), Oark Burger Co. (Clarksville), WunderHaus (Conway)
Winner: Heights Taco & Tamale Finalists: The Fold Botanas & Bar, Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro, La Hacienda
AROUND THE STATE
Winner: Allsopp & Chapple Finalists: Capital Bar & Grill, Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill, Trio’s Restaurant
Winner: Stoby’s (Conway) Finalists: Taco Mama (Hot Springs), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs), Local Lime (Rogers)
AROUND THE STATE
Winner: Mike’s Place (Conway) Finalists: Big Orange (Rogers), The Hive (Bentonville), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs)
Winner: Three Fold Noodles + Dumpling Co. Finalists: Fantastic China, Mr. Chen’s Authentic Chinese Cooking, A.W. Lin’s Chinese Cuisine
AROUND THE STATE
Winner: HAM Market Finalists: Edwards Food Giant, Fresh Market, Hogg’s Meat Market
Winner: Jade China Restaurant (Conway) Finalists: Madame Wu’s Hunan Restaurant (Russellville), Mong Dynasty (Fayetteville), Lin’s Garden (Bentonville)
AROUND THE STATE Winner: Weldon’s Meat Market (Hot Springs) Finalists: Clampit’s Country Kitchen & Meat Market (Hot Springs Village), Paul’s Meat Market (Fort Smith), Richard’s Meat Market (Fayetteville) CATFISH LITTLE ROCK Winner: Eat My Catfish Finalists: Flying Fish, Lassis Inn, Soul Fish Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: Eat My Catfish (Benton) Finalists: Bubba’s Catfish (Hot Springs), The Catfish Hole (Fayetteville), Flying Fish (Bentonville) 58 FEBRUARY 2020
COFFEE LITTLE ROCK Winner: Guillermo’s Coffee, Tea & Roastery Finalists: Boulevard Bread Co., River City Coffee, Mylo Coffee Co. AROUND THE STATE Winner: Blue Sail Coffee (Conway) Finalists: Arsaga’s Fayetteville Coffee Roasters (Fayetteville), Onyx Coffee Lab (Fayetteville), Red Light Roastery (Hot Springs)
BEST OVERALL BEST CHEF, SCOTT RAINS
BEST WINE LIST
MODERN AMERICAN CUISINE WITH A TWIST.
Executive Chef Rains delivers dynamic cuisine with locally grown produce from Arkansas farmers that blends with extraordinary flavors to create a unique menu that showcases his brilliance with Southern flare to create a revolutionary dining experience. 1501 MERRILL DRIVE, LITTLE ROCK (INSIDE THE BURGUNDY HOTEL) 501.224.2828 • WWW.TABLE28LR.COM
Little Rock’s dining and craft beverage scene is on the rise. Whether enjoying a romantic dinner for two, using our Locally Labeled Passport program to sample our city’s ever-expanding offerings of ales, wines and spirits, or savoring the amazing flavors local chefs are creating, there’s never been a better time to enjoy great food and drink in Little Rock.
Enjoy yourself in
FEBRUARY 2020 59
’S MEAT MARK N O D EL“QUALITY TELLS, QUALITY SELLS” ET
BEST BUTCHER AROUND THE STATE
BEST BUTCHER AROUND THE STATE
EVERYTHING IS CUT TO YOUR SPECIFICATION, AND WE’RE BIG ON CUSTOMER SERVICE! BRIAN CHILSON
3911 CENTRAL AVE. • HOT SPRINGS • (501) 525-2487
DELI/GOURMET TO GO LITTLE ROCK Winner: Boulevard Bread Co. Finalists: HAM Market, Community Bakery, The House of Mental AROUND THE STATE
Winner: Cafe 1217 (Hot Springs) Finalists: Crepes Paulette (Bentonville), In the Raw (Hot Springs), Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot) DESSERTS LITTLE ROCK Winner: Loblolly Creamery Finalists: Honey Pies, Petit & Keet, Trio’s Restaurant AROUND THE STATE
LITTLE ROCK’S MOST AWARD-WINNING RESTAURANT 1619 Rebsamen Rd. 501.663.9734 • thefadedrose.com
Winner: PattiCakes Bakery (Conway) Finalists: Taco Mama (Hot Springs), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs), WunderHaus (Conway) DOG FRIENDLY LITTLE ROCK
TA C O S AT A N O T H E R L E V E L
Winner: Bark Bar Finalists: Fassler Hall, The Fold Botanas & Bar, The Root Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. (Conway) Finalists: Apple Blossom Brewery (Fayetteville), Crepes Paulette (Bentonville), The Farmer’s Table Cafe (Fayetteville)
BEST TACOS AROUND THE STATE, HOT SPRINGS Mon-Thur 11-9 • Fri-Sat 11-10 • Sun: 11-3 Brunch Only 200 Higdon Ferry Rd. • Hot Springs • Across the street from the racetrack. (501) 623-TACO (8226) • email@example.com 60 FEBRUARY 2020
FOOD TRUCK LITTLE ROCK Winner: El Sur Street Food Co. Finalists: Low Ivy Catering, Dem Dam Wingz, Taqueria Samantha II
AROUND THE STATE Winner: Crepes Paulette food truck (Bentonville) Finalists: YGFBF Kitchen (Conway), Truckin’ Delicious (Fort Smith), Wild Ginger (Conway) FRENCH FRIES LITTLE ROCK Winner: Big Orange Finalists: @ the Corner, Ester’s SoMa, The Pantry Crest AROUND THE STATE Winner: Tusk & Trotter (Bentonville) Finalists: Big Orange (Rogers), Feltner’s Whatta-Burger (Russellville), Hugo’s (Fayetteville) FRIED CHICKEN LITTLE ROCK Winner: Haybird Finalists: Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, Cathead’s Diner, Maddie’s Place AROUND THE STATE Winner: Oven & Tap (Bentonville) Finalists: Holly’s Country Cooking (Conway), A.Q. Chicken House (Springdale), Monte Ne Inn (Rogers) FUN LITTLE ROCK Winner: Dave & Buster’s Finalists: Fassler Hall, Ester’s SOMA, Lost Forty Brewing AROUND THE STATE Winner: Big Orange (Rogers) Finalists: The Hive (Bentonville), The Ohio Club (Hot Springs), Superior Bathhouse Brewery (Hot Springs) GLUTEN-FREE LITTLE ROCK Winner: Dempsey Bakery Finalists: Big Orange, The Root Cafe, Loblolly Creamery AROUND THE STATE Winner: ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. (Conway) Finalists: The Preacher’s Son (Bentonville), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs), Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe (Bentonville) HEALTHY LITTLE ROCK Winner: The Root Cafe Finalists: Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, Kemuri, ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co.
We are proud to serve the finest authentic Indian food for the last 27 years. We believe you’re the best!
of India Star✺ 301 N Shackleford Rd. • Little Rock 501-227-9900 • lrstarofindia.com
BEST BUFFET BEST INDIAN ARKANSASTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2020 61
THANK YOU FOR VOTING US...
AROUND THE STATE Winner: ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. (Conway) Finalists: Cafe 1217 (Hot Springs), Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot), In the Raw (Hot Springs) HOME COOKIN’ LITTLE ROCK
DOWNTOWN • 1200 Main • 375-6418 WEST LR • 270 S. Shackleford • 224-1656
Winner: BJ’s Market Cafe Finalists: Gadwall’s Grill, Cathead’s Diner, Homer’s Restaurant AROUND THE STATE Winner: Holly’s Country Cooking (Conway) Finalists: Sunshine Store & Cafe (Royal), Grandma’s House Cafe (Winslow), Wagon Wheel Restaurant (Greenbrier)
A UNIVERSITY EXPERIENCE AT LESS THAN HALF
ICE CREAM/COOL TREATS LITTLE ROCK Winner: Loblolly Creamery Finalists: Kilwins; ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co.; The Original Scoopdog Inc. AROUND THE STATE Winner: ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. (Conway) Finalists: Scoops Ice Cream (Hot Springs), Daisy Queen (Marshall), Las Delicias (Conway) INDIAN LITTLE ROCK Winner: Star of India Restaurant and Bar Finalists: Banana Leaf Indian Cuisine, The Indian Feast, Taj Mahal Indian Kitchen ITALIAN LITTLE ROCK
Winner: Bruno’s Little Italy Finalists: Zaffino’s by Nori, Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom, Ristorante Capeo AROUND THE STATE
DOE’S KNOWS LUNCH & DINNER. Lunch: Mon- Fri 11am-2pm Dinner: Mon-Thur 5-9pm • Fri & Sat 5-10pm FULL BAR & PRIVATE PARTY ROOM BEST STEAK 62 FEBRUARY 2020
BEST BURGER ARKANSAS TIMES
1023 West Markham • Downtown Little Rock 501-376-1195 • www.doeseatplace.net
Winner: Pasta Grill (Conway) Finalists: Deluca’s Pizzeria (Hot Springs), Ermilio’s Italian Home Cooking (Eureka Springs), Luna Bella (Hot Springs) JAPANESE LITTLE ROCK Winner: Kemuri Finalists: Aji Ramen Bar, Mt. Fuji Japanese Restaurant, Sushi Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: Umami Sushi Lounge & Grill Fusion (Conway) Finalists: A1 Sushi (Hot Springs), Fuji Steakhouse (Conway), Meiji Japanese Cuisine (Fayetteville)
A Fayetteville Favorite! 01
. 7 ve 72 A R k A loc lle, 85 B i N ev -75 25 yett 521 Fa 79) (4
MEXICAN LITTLE ROCK Winner: Local Lime Finalists: The Fold Botanas & Bar, Heights Taco & Tamale Co., La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant AROUND THE STATE Winner: Local Lime (Rogers) Finalists: Table Mesa (Bentonville), Taco Mama (Hot Springs), Colorado Grill (Hot Springs) OTHER ETHNIC LITTLE ROCK Winner: kBird Finalists: Buenos Aires Grill and Cafe, La Terraza Rum & Lounge, Zangna Thai Cuisine AROUND THE STATE
BEST RESTAURANT IN FAYETTEVILLE
How Sweet It Is! (To Be Loved By You)
EATS & SWEETS (501) 842-2123 · 290 MAIN STREET · KEO
BEST PIE AROUND THE STATE
Homemade Ice Cream, Fruit Ice Bars, Fruit Cups, Hispanic Gourmet Snacks BEST ICE CREAM/ COOL TREATS AROUND THE STATE 1815 Old Morrilton Hwy, Ste 103 • Conway • (501) 358-7577
Winner: WunderHaus (Conway) Finalists: A Taste of Thai (Fayetteville), Chang Thai & Asian Cuisine (Sherwood), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs) OUTDOOR DINING LITTLE ROCK Winner: Petit & Keet Finalists: U.S. Pizza Hillcrest, La Terraza Rum & Lounge, Copper Grill AROUND THE STATE Winner: Grateful Head Pizza Oven and Beer Garden (Hot Springs) Finalists: Local Flavor (Eureka Springs), Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs), WunderHaus (Conway)
BEST FRENCH FRIES AROUND THE STATE
BEST BRUNCH AROUND THE STATE BEST RESTAURANT IN BENTONVILLE
110 SE A St, Bentonville • (479) 268-4494 • tuskandtrotter.com ARKANSASTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2020 63
Serving THE BEST steaks and hot tamales in the Arkansas Delta. PIE LITTLE ROCK
Come visit our charming location nestled in the Eldridge barn located on Highway 33 in Gregory, Arkansas just south of Augusta.
BEST STEAK AROUND THE STATE
Tamale Factory Southern Restaurant • Steakhouse
19751 Highway 33 • Augusta, Arkansas • (870) 347-1350
Thank You To Our Loyal Fans For Voting Us The Best Around The State We’re Proud To Serve You! Winner: Best Business Lunch • Best Steak Best Restaurant In Conway
Winner: Honey Pies Finalists: Community Bakery, Petit & Keet, Soul Fish Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets (Keo) Finalists: Fork and Crust (Rogers), Shangri-la Resort (Hot Springs), PattiCakes Bakery (Conway) PIZZA LITTLE ROCK Winner: ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. Finalists: Vino’s, Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom, Pizza Cafe AROUND THE STATE Winner: Deluca’s Pizzeria (Hot Springs) Finalists: U.S. Pizza (Conway), Rocky’s Corner (Hot Springs), SQZBX (Hot Springs)
Finalist: Best Overall • Best Seafood
PLACE FOR KIDS LITTLE ROCK Winner: All Aboard Finalists: Big Orange, Dave & Buster’s, The Rail Yard SANDWICH LITTLE ROCK
808 Front Street • Conway • (501) 269-6453 • mikesplaceconway.com A Loyal US Foods® Customer | Proudly Sponsored by
rooT CAFe AND ARKANSAs Times PResenT:
LitTLe rocK’s 8tH ANnUAL BearD & mUSTAcHe ConTeST
UNSHAVe mY Heart
64 FEBRUARY 2020
AROUND THE STATE Winner: Cross Creek Sandwich Shop (Conway) Finalists: Cafe 1217 (Hot Springs), Pressroom (Bentonville), Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot) SALAD LITTLE ROCK
AT THE BERNICE GARDEN HIGH NOON RIGHT AFTER THE MARDI GRAS PARADE Lifetime Achievement Categories (Register day of contest; no pre-registration required) Best Natural Beard over 6” • Best Natural Beard under 6” • Best Mustache • Best Groomed Beard • Most Original Beard (do something creative with your beard)
Winner: ZAZA Fine Salad + Wood Oven Pizza Co. Finalists: Big Orange, Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, The Faded Rose
Winner: ZAZA Fine Salad + Wood Oven Pizza Co. (Conway) Finalists: WunderHaus (Conway), SQZBX (Hot Springs), Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe (Conway)
PRiZeS FoR WinneRs! More Info: Phone: 414-0423 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
JUDGMENT DAY (SOMA MARDI GRAS): SATURDAY, FEB. 22, 2020
Winner: Boulevard Bread Co. Finalists: Paninis & Co., HAM Market, Jimmy’s Serious Sandwiches
Best DIY Crafted Beard
AROUND THE STATE
SEAFOOD LITTLE ROCK Winner: Flying Fish Finalists: Kemuri, Petit & Keet, Brave New Restaurant AROUND THE STATE Winner: Eat My Catfish (Conway) Finalists: Luna Bella (Hot Springs), Mike’s Place (Conway), 501 Prime (Hot Springs) SOUP LITTLE ROCK Winner: Boulevard Bread Co. Finalists: Community Bakery, Aji Ramen Bar, Three Fold Noodles + Dumpling Co.
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2020 READERS CHOICE WINNERS FROM
AROUND THE STATE Winner: Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot) Finalists: Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs), WunderHaus (Conway), Cafe 1217 (Hot Springs) STEAK LITTLE ROCK Winner: Doe’s Eat Place Finalists: Arthur’s Prime Steakhouse, Petit & Keet, Sonny Williams’ Steak Room AROUND THE STATE Winner: Mike’s Place (Conway) Finalists: Herman’s Rib House (Fayetteville), 501 Prime (Hot Springs), Tamale Factory (Gregory) TACOS LITTLE ROCK Winner: The Fold Botanas & Bar Finalists: Local Lime, El Sur Street Food Co., Heights Taco & Tamale Co. AROUND THE STATE Winner: Taco Mama (Hot Springs) Finalists: Aquarius Taqueria (Eureka Springs), Local Lime (Rogers), Capo’s Tacos (Hot Springs) VEGETARIAN/VEGAN LITTLE ROCK Winner: The Root Cafe Finalists: Ester’s SOMA, Blue Sage Vegan, ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co.
©2019 BEAM SUNTORY INC. CHICAGO, IL. ALL TRADEMARKS ARE THE PROPERTY OF THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS. ARKANSASTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2020 65
AROUND THE STATE
Southern Cooking At Its Best thanks for the votes! 120 HARKRIDER, CONWAY • 501.328.9738
WINE LIST LITTLE ROCK
CAFETERIA-STYLE • FRIENDLY SERVICE • CONSISTENTLY GOOD FOOD
Monday through Friday 11am - 2pm
Winner: In the Raw (Hot Springs) Finalists: The Farmer’s Table Cafe (Fayetteville), The Preacher’s Son (Bentonville), Local Flavor Cafe (Eureka Springs)
BEST HOME COOKIN’ AROUND THE STATE
BEST FRIED CHICKEN AROUND THE STATE
Thanks For Voting Us The Best!
Winner: Petit & Keet Finalists: SO Restaurant, Table 28, Samantha’s Taproom and Wood Grill AROUND THE STATE Winner: Luna Bella (Hot Springs) Finalists: The Hive (Bentonville), The Vault (Hot Springs), The Preacher’s Son (Bentonville) YOGURT/SMOOTHIES LITTLE ROCK Winner: Paninis & Co./I Love Juice Bar Finalists: Scoop Dog, Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Yogurt Mountain AROUND THE STATE
BEST SOUP AROUND THE STATE
BEST DELI/GOURMET TO GO AROUND THE STATE BEST HEALTHY AROUND THE STATE BEST SANDWICH AROUND THE STATE
1102 S. Pine St. #9 Cabot 501-422-6360
THANKS FOR VOTING US AMONG THE BEST!
Winner: In the Raw (Hot Springs Finalists: The Healthy Spot (Greenbrier), Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt (Bryant), Creme & Sugar (Searcy)
BEST RESTAURANTS IN AREAS AROUND THE STATE Benton/Bryant Winner: Eat My Catfish Finalists: Brown’s Country Store and Restaurant, La Hacienda, Riviera Maya Conway
BEST OVERALL AROUND THE STATE BEST BURGER AROUND THE STATE MOST FUN AROUND THE STATE
THE BEST NIGHT IN TOWN 501.627.0702 • 336 Central Ave • Hot Springs • theohioclub.com
We have your Gluten-Free Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day needs covered.
Winner: Mike’s Place Finalists: Pasta Grill, WunderHaus, Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe Eureka Springs Winner: The Grotto Finalists: Local Flavor, Mud Street Cafe, Ermilio’s Italian Home Cooking Fayetteville/Springdale/Johnson Winner: Rolando’s Restaurante (Fayetteville) Finalists: The Farmer’s Table Cafe (Fayetteville), Hugo’s (Fayetteville), Taste of Thai (Fayetteville) Hot Springs Winner: Deluca’s Pizzeria Finalists: In the Raw, 501 Prime, SQZBX Rogers/Bentonville
323 Cross St. Downtown Little Rock p 501.375.2257 dempseybakery.com 66 FEBRUARY 2020
Winner: Local Lime (Rogers) Finalists: The Hive (Bentonville), The Preacher’s Son Cafe (Bentonville), Tusk & Trotter (Bentonville)
CELEBRATING 39 YEARS EXCELLENCE IN DINING
From The Sponsors Of The 2020 Arkansas Times Readers Choice Awards
Every year since 1981, we’ve asked our readers to vote for their favorite restaurants from all over the state and published their choices as a way to honor the restaurants making Arkansas one of the best “foodie” states in the South. The Times and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and Glazer’s Beer and Beverage and The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau celebrate with the winners and finalists at a special party hosted by Ben E. Keith Foods at its state-of-the-art regional distribution center, 1 Ben E. Keith Way, North Little Rock. PRESENTING SPONSORS
MOSAIC TEMPLARSâ€™ SIGNATURE ARTIST. BY LESLIE NEWELL PEACOCK PHOTOGRAPHY BY EBONY BLEVINS
68 FEBRUARY 2020
JAN 14 – FEB 8
A HEARTWARMING AND HILARIOUS SHOW ABOUT GENERATIONS OF A FAMILY LEARNING TO COMMUNICATE AND CARE.
errion Hurd was walking in his sock feet across a huge banner he was painting for the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center when a reporter visited him. The inspirational panels, some as long as 20 feet, will be installed on the exterior of the museum in February to replace banners that have faded since the MTCC’s opening in 2008. “I hope this will be the beginning of what could be a community mural arts program,” Hurd said. It was just such a program that stirred his interest in art nearly 40 years ago in Memphis. Hurd, 47, was 8 years old and headed to the Cornelia Crenshaw Library on Vance Street in south Memphis when he saw a man painting on a wall on the back of a grocery store. He did not know it was OK to paint on walls, so he asked the librarian, “Can you do that?” The librarian said yes, he’s making murals. “Mules?” Hurd asked. No, murals, the librarian said, and told him what they were. So Hurd went over to the man, “and the guy handed me a paintbrush and said, ‘Go ahead and paint this part right here.’ ” While he was telling the tale, Hurd pulled out of his wallet old photographs of the mural he’d taken, taped together to capture the entirety of the long painting. “These kept me going through lots of hard times,” he said. Hurd sold his first painting when he was in his 20s when he was an art student at the University of Memphis and working at a pathology lab. His doodles of pregnant women on the doctors’ notes — Hurd had become a father — intrigued one of his colleagues, who gave him $100 and asked him to turn the doodle into a painting. Hurd was awed; he took the money and bought paints, a canvas, brushes and “a gigantic bottle of Martin and Rossi sangria wine and some chicken to bake on my little grill. I had already won the game in my head.”
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HURD: Inspired by aboriginal, African and Byzantine art.
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The hard times are apparently over for Hurd, who has been able to focus on his painting and printmaking full time since last year. He has been named the 2020 Black History Month Signature Artist for Mosaic Templars. Hurd approached Mosaic Templars Director Christina Shutt about the idea for banners in 2017, he said. As it turned out, consultants working on a new interpretation for the museum — Mosaic Templars has begun a $3 million capital campaign to redo its exhibits — had suggested to Shutt that the museum add something to its exterior to draw people in, to show that it was a black history museum, and she thought new banners were just the thing. Hurd has worked with the museum in the years since, doing a printmaking demonstration for a Juneteenth event and creating the artwork for a chocolate bar that Bentonville chocolatiers Kyya produced for Mosaic’s 10year anniversary in 2018. Shutt called Hurd in May 2019 to tell him the museum could go forward with the banner project and wanted to designate him the Black History Month artist. (He’s the third. Previous Black History Month artists were Danny Broadway and Saundra Strong.) The murals’ themes — culture, success, people, survival and oppression, education and the arts and sciences — reflect the new interpretive plan. Mosaic Templars will host a reception at 6 p.m. Feb. 6 for Hurd, when his preparatory artwork, along with photographs by Ebony Blevins of the evolution of the banners, will be on exhibit. Shutt called Hurd’s work “vibrant and unique. … That’s the thing I love most. Oftentimes, we’re influenced by things [we’ve seen] and it comes through, but with Perrion it’s hard to pinpoint that. It doesn’t feel that anything he does is a copy of anybody else.” Hurd describes his style as Afro Futurism Geometric Symbolism, inspired by cultural icons Parliament-Funkadelic, Sun Ra and Michael Jackson, and Byzantine, traditional African art and aboriginal art. He is all about line: “I enjoy the dead-on flatness. It gives me an opportunity to play with color and patterns and shape,” like the waves of Dreamtime dots and chevrons that wrap around his figures. The halo-like circles around his figures’ heads and mandala features lend an air of spirituality to the banners. Hurd — who is also a printmaker — works from a studio at Bodark Creative on West Markham Street, established by Yella Dog
2801 Kavanaugh, Little Rock 501.663.4131
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Q&A WITH PERRION HURD Where are you from originally? I was born in Hughes in 1972. My family moved to Memphis in 1974, and I lived there until 2005. I moved to Arkansas permanently to live and work in 2006 and I’ve been here since then. What is the best thing about making art in Arkansas? There are many opportunities to grow as a working artist here. Since I’ve been here, I have been involved in several art mentoring and career development groups that have given me the chance to create art and be involved in the new creative economy that is beginning to grow in Arkansas. In this relaxed environment, I have had the time to work on my techniques and build my skills as an artist and as a professional businessperson. What is the worst thing about making art in Arkansas? I can’t really say that things are bad here with the arts, because from my viewpoint things seem to be good, if not ideal. If there is anything not so good, then I would say that a bit more support and encouragement from local government and other community leadership groups can be worked on and improved. We’re all in it together. People need to start talking to each other and collaborating more. It’s a communication, “big picture” and intention thing. Also, financial support is 100 percent necessary. I feel that it is important for the citizens of Arkansas’s cities to have a voice and a stake in the development of the communities that they live and work in. There is a lot of untapped potential for
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positive growth and change here, and to not use that for the mutual and future benefit of all of us is a waste of human capital, which stagnates the growth of the larger community and makes people move away to other cities to seek opportunity. What jobs do you hold besides making art? As of now, I do not work at another job and I have been making a modest living as a professional artist and business owner for one year. It is working out, and I love it. How do you relax and recharge so you can keep making art? What’s that? Just kidding. Making art began for me as a way to relax from the daily grind of working day jobs. Now it is the day job and more, and I am in a good place with it. These days, I’m usually almost always working on an art piece, or a series of pieces, or developing my skills with other mediums. To keep myself from being burnt out, I take one day off and either ride my bicycle around or I just stay in, stare at the ceiling for a while until I get sleepy, and take a nap with my cats, Ivan and Patra. It is a form of meditation that works for me. What galleries do you visit on a regular basis? Here in Little Rock, I regularly visit Hearne Fine Art Gallery, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Arkansas Art Center. My wife, Gayle, and I go to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art at least twice a year. When my schedule allows, I try to visit other galleries here and in North Little Rock during the Sec-
ond and Third Friday events. I’ve seen a lot of good art during those events, and they’ve given me the confidence to go out there and do it myself. I am also enjoying the shows that are happening at the colleges, UA Little Rock and UA Pulaski Tech. They are super nice. Name an artist (or artists) whose work is not getting the attention it should. Ooh, that’s a good question. What I am seeing is a lot of artists these days have the opportunity to take control of their own careers and create their own publicity through social media and other similar platforms. There is so much potential for success across all artistic mediums, and the internet has opened the door for creatives to walk through. There are so many people who are in different stages of their careers that I don’t think it would be fair to just pick a favorite. I will say that I very much enjoy the work of Delita Martin, Jose Hernandez, Matthew Castellano, Ebony Blevins, Jason Jones, Robyn Horn, Angela Davis Johnson, Joshua Asante, Daniella Napolitano and my good friend Kate Anderson Askew. These are a few of the people who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with here in Little Rock. In Northwest Arkansas, I enjoy the art of my friend Stephanie Lewis and Eris, and I am looking forward to seeing all of the new art that will come out of their new Integrated Design Lab. Do see yourself staying in Arkansas long term? Yes. Arkansas is my home and it is good to be here.
BANNER DAY: Hurd hopes his work at Mosaic Templars will be “the beginning of a community mural arts program.”
‘I CAN ONLY HOPE TO KEEP DOING STUFF LIKE THIS AND SERVE MY COMMUNITY.’
Press founder Kate Askew. Askew, who creates handset letterpress posters, cards and other items, invited Hurd to use her presses after she saw his work in an exhibition. “She showed me what she does and how my art with her printmaking machines could work together,” Hurd said. It’s collaboration he calls “peanut butter and jelly,” and together they’ve been turning out notecards, linoleum block prints and larger prints. “She showed me how to take my little blocks to the next level,” Hurd said. “She’s a mega awesome person.” The artist, who is also exhibiting drawings on gold scratchboard at Hearne Fine Art, has been preparing himself for seeing his giant works on public view. “I’m practicing my cool,” Hurd said, laughing. “Every time I go by I’m going to feel accomplished and proud and grateful and thankful for the opportunity. The struggle is to say, I did that for the community, but now it’s time to move on to the next big thing.” Those next goals: To be in the Arkansas Arts Center’s “Delta” exhibition when the arts center reopens in its enlarged space in 2022. To be part of the permanent collection at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. “Like a tribesman and a hunter, these are my bows and arrows and spears and sticks and bucket of water and bag of snacks, and I’m hunting down that game,” Hurd said. “I can only hope to keep doing stuff like this and serve my community. Dreams come true. You’ve got to stick with it. It does not happen overnight.” ARKANSASTIMES.COM
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THE AGGRESSIVE FOREST: A CONVERSATION WITH ANAÏS DASSÉ BY TARA STICKLEY Being an outsider is sort of like having a second childhood: It puts us in a state of unknowing where we might start calling into question mores that have long been accepted by the local culture. Art-making relies on this meddlesome state of mind. Anaïs Dassé left France for Arkansas about 5 years ago. She was born in Bayonne, the capital of French Basque Country, but studied in Paris and began a career that spanned the fields of design, project management and scientific illustration. Changing continents created a caesura in her work life, and in this space she began painting. Dassé’s monochromatic, textural works are eerie; her paintings and sculptures depict a doomsday world from which all of the adults have vanished or, perhaps stripped of their misused power, exist only as witnesses to the new order. By showing us a feral world without grown-ups, Dassé’s work presents a funhouse mirror of our society in which we are confronted with reflections of our own violence and tribalism, our assumptions about the civilizing capacity of culture, and our doubts around the notion of historical progress.
HUNTING SEASON: Anaïs Dassé’s 2018 work “Hog Hunting,” charcoal, pencil and oil paint on gessoed paper, was inspired by a video the artist saw of a fair in Texas in which the vicious prowess of hunting dogs was put on display.
We spoke with Dassé last November at UA Little Rock’s Windgate Center for Art + Design, where her exhibit “Saint George” was on display. What about being in Arkansas inspired the shift from scientific illustration to painting? And how does your experience of the South affirm or chafe against the myth of Southern culture you encountered in France? After a year in Arkansas, we bought a house in a very cookie-cutter neighborhood with kids running around outside in the afternoons; it struck me when hunting season hit that even the 7-year-olds were all geared up with their own rifles, ready to go. It was a culture shock. In Paris, my favorite museum is the Musée du Quai Branly [which houses a collection of 370,000 historical objects from four continents dating back to the Neolithic Era]. When you think about it, you’ve got terrible colonialist loot, but it is the most amazing collection. When I began working with curators, and specialists of really obscure subjects, I recognized they were telling their own versions of the story, and I knew their perspectives on race and gender could influence their displays. I always thought about this as a designer: There is a gap [in the transmission of knowledge]. A lot of people from different backgrounds go to the museums in Paris … and as the viewer, you’re trying to fill the gaps between all these little 74 FEBRUARY 2020
pieces of information, and you’re merciless. I always felt the way we display the information — the viewer in front of it — everybody is filling gaps. In the end, they [the curators] can tell you whatever they want. This is also the question of colonialism: In these narratives, the “winner” is the one talking. It’s not just missing information; it’s about how we write history. Who are the “savages”? As French people, we colonized Africa — that’s where a lot of the loot in our museums comes from. I saw these depictions of African tribes that were painted, or blurry photographs, and we’re merciless. That’s a merciless way of storytelling. In France, I grew up with American TV shows and saw the gun violence. … I also grew up with the images of the child soldiers of Boko Haram. Then here in Arkansas — in my own backyard — I see kids running around with their rifles out to go deer hunting, and I started asking myself, “Where does reality stop, and where does fiction start?” That’s the main part of my work here. It’s not a moral judgment. Now that I live here, I understand a lot more about the NRA and hunting culture — this isn’t a statement about morality that I’m making. It’s more of an aesthetic shock. That lens as an outsider can make ideologies and cultural patterns apparent to you here, and it’s interesting that you were then able to turn that lens back on your own culture.
I try to question myself a lot about that because if you don’t, you arrive in a state — and I think this is a current issue — where you don’t recognize multiplicity, such as multicultural backgrounds, as an advantage. From my research in ethnography … I started to see the same rituals and patterns in many cultures. … Like when we talked about genocide, you spoke about Native Americans, and I think about European colonialism. It’s like we’re repeating the same thing over and over. We’ve never been more informed, but for some reason we’ve never been more anxious and incapable of telling the difference between fiction and reality, and you know, fake news. Which relates to the piece “When They Put the Children in Cages, You Did Nothing” and the detention centers. If we are not at least talking about it and acknowledging that this is something we recognize as a group, well then, nothing will happen. It will just be [considered] as one bias or one point of view. And it’s not just one bias. We are here as a group, in this place, at this time, with a common background, and maybe we’ve got different views and different cultures, but we are all only two generations from the last genocide. It’s not that far away. We shouldn’t have lost that much [perspective] as a people. For the full interview with Anaïs Dassé, see arktimes.com/rock-candy.
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Write your own story at your local library.
Arkansas Pastel Society 2019 National Pastel Show through February 22 The Galleries at Library Square
Thristan “Tea” James Jackson
through March 5 opening reception Friday | February 14 | 5-8 pm The Bookstore at Library Square
Inside and Out: Figurative Works through March 28 The Galleries at Library Square
Into the Woods: Arkansas Champion Trees by Linda Williams Palmer and Turned-Wood Vessels by Gene Sparling through April 25 The Galleries at Library Square
Angie Maxwell, The Long Southern Strategy
Thursday | February 20 | 6:30 pm | Free | Main Library
Silas House, Southernmost
Oxford American’s South Words series Tuesday | February 25 | 6:30 pm | Free CALS Ron Robinson Theater
William Grant Still Tribute
Friday | February 21 | 7 pm | Free CALS Ron Robinson Theater
A Voice High-Sounding: The Life & Career of William Grant Still will be followed by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Quapaw Quartet and a panel discussion.
MOVIES Doors open 6 pm; movie starts 7 pm CALS Ron Robinson Theater
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (R) Thursday | February 6
BingoFlix: Cat-Women of the Moon (NR) Tuesday | February 11
Sleepless in Seattle (PG) Thursday | February 13
To Kill a Mockingbird (NR) Thursday | February 27
THE LIBRARY, REWRIT TEN.
Library Square | 100 Rock St. | Little Rock | 918.3000 | CALS.org ARKANSASTIMES.COM
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FEB. 21 & 22 | 10 PM-2 AM The Salty Dogs FEB. 28 & 29| 10 PM-2 AM Dino D and the D-Train
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TUESDAYS $1.99 Catfish Dinner | 4-9 p.m. WEDNESDAYS 5-9 p.m. | Girls Night Out, perks and benefits for all ladies. WEDNESDAYS 6-9 p.m. | Off to the Races slot tournament THURSDAYS 8 a.m.-10 p.m.| Hot Springs Village Day, perks and benefits for all Hot Springs Village Residents. THURSDAYS 6-10 p.m. | Wheel ’N’ Deal, free play drawing. THURSDAYS 7-9 p.m.| Trivia in the Bistro FRIDAYS 8 p.m.-12 a.m. | Party Pit, beads, bonus bet drawings 2X an hour, and drink special.
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A M E R I CAN PO PU L AR CU L TU RE I N THE 1990s
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FEBRUARY 2020 77
MUS SE A C W SHO CONGRATULATIONS TO THE ARKANSAS TIMES 2020 MUSICIAN SHOWCASE SEMIFINALISTS SEMIFINALS AT STICKYZ ROCK ‘N’ ROLL CHICKEN SHACK (ORDER OF PERFORMANCE TBD)
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8 P.M. THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20 Bones of Earth Bird Bones Hemmed in Hollow Monsterboy
FINALS SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 8 P.M. AT THE REV ROOM!
STEPHEN KOCH OF ARKANSONGS WILL BE OUR SEMIFINAL HOST
CHRIS JAMES FOUNDER OF THE ROOTS ART CONNECTION WILL BE OUR FINALS HOST
WINNERS LIVE PERFORMANCE AND PRIZE PACKAGE INCLUDES: Arkansas State Fair • Yadaloo Music Fest • Palmer Music Company Gift Certificates to Trio’s • Low Key Arts Superior Bathhouse Brewery • FestiVille Jacksonville Thursday Night Live at Murphy Arts District Valley of the Vapors and more to be announced.
ARKANSAS STATE ARCHIVES
AT THE 1974 NATIONAL BLACK CONVENTION: (From left) Garfield Parker, Jesse Jackson, Daisy Bates and L.C. Bates.
A CIVIL RIGHTS O CROSSROADS IN LITTLE ROCK THE 1974 NATIONAL BLACK POLITICAL CONVENTION. BY JOHN A. KIRK
ver three days in March 1974, 17 years after the crisis at Central High School, Little Rock found itself once again in the national civil rights spotlight. The second National Black Political Convention, which met at Robinson Auditorium and Central High School between March 15 and 17, followed a first convention held in Gary, Ind., in February 1972. The aim of both conventions was to seek a common agenda for black advancement between a growing cohort of elected black politicians and grassroots activists. Gary was chosen as the NBPC’s first venue because it had elected Richard G. Hatcher as one of the first black mayors of a major American city in 1967. The theme of the Gary convention was “Unity without Uniformity.” But disunity characterized the meeting. Black politicians played a prominent role, while black nationalists seized control of the program agenda. The convention passed two resolutions, one condemning the use of busing to desegregate schools and the other demanding the dismantling of the state of Israel. The two resolutions were subsequently watered down to appease black politicians who deemed them too radical. Little Rock was chosen as the NBPC’s second venue in the hope that it would focus more on the role of grassroots activists rather than black politicians. The city was the site of a defeat for white supremacy during the 1957 desegregation of Central High School; it provided a signal victory for grassroots activism, led by Daisy Bates, the state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People president, and the Little Rock Nine; and the victory was won in the absence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an indication that the civil rights movement could triumph without a prominent national black leader. When the second NBPC opened, the discord that had characterized the first convention continued. A number of prominent black politicians failed ARKANSASTIMES.COM
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CALENDARIO COMUNITARIO DE EVENTOS. Pág. 11 GRATIS LA VOZ DE NUESTRA COMUNIDAD www.ellatinoarkansas.com
30 DE MAYO 2019 • VOLUMEN 18 • EDICIÓN 52
¡Bienvenidos A Arkansas Central!
Guía e información para los residentes del “Estado Natural”
LITTLE ROCK WAS CHOSEN AS THE NBPC’S SECOND VENUE IN THE HOPE THAT IT WOULD FOCUS MORE ON THE ROLE OF GRASSROOTS ACTIVISTS RATHER THAN BLACK POLITICIANS.
PÁG. 4 VIAJES GRATIS EN TRANVÍAS EL AÑO 2019 PÁG. 7
COPA ORO 2019: 15 DE JUNIO AL 7 DE JULIO EN COSTA RICA, JAMAICA Y ESTADOS UNIDOS PÁG. 12 www.ellatinoarkansas.com • 30 DE MAYO 2019 1
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to show, including, most embarrassingly, one of the three convention co-chairmen, Rep. Charles Diggs Jr. (D-Mich). Neither of the other two convention co-chairs — Mayor Hatcher representing black politicians and poet Amiri Baraka representing grassroots activists — could say why he was missing. Hatcher finally called the convention to order two hours behind schedule. Robinson Auditorium, with a capacity of 2,600, was less than half full. The credentials committee said that only 599 delegates and 215 observers had attended. The official number registered for the convention was 1,718, whereas there had been 8,000 people registered at the Gary convention. Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.) decried the absenteeism of other black politicians, telling the audience, “It seems to me that any black elected official who understands why he or she is in political office has got to come here.” At a press conference afterwards, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said he was confident that at least “the grassroots of America” was well represented. Baraka took charge of the main proceedings on Friday evening when he read out a report produced by the convention’s steering committee. The report described the situation in black America as “one of unrelieved crisis,” and it labeled the nation’s cities as “crime-haunted dying grounds.” Neither America’s courts nor its prisons, the report said, “contribute[d] to anything resembling justice or reformation,” and its schools, “are unable or unwilling to educate our children for the real world of our struggles.” The report concluded, “On every side, in every area of our lives, the American institutions in which we have placed our trust are unable to cope with the crisis they have created by their single-minded dedication to profits for some and white supremacy above all.” A second report by a special law and justice committee called for the proportional employment of blacks in the judicial system and at every level of government; community control over the police, courts, prisons and other institutions that affected black lives; and a “bill of rights” for blacks “caught in the inequities of America’s criminal justice system.” Other proposals included the release of all black political prisoners; the granting of unconditional amnesty to all black Vietnam War draft resisters; opposition to efforts to restore capital punishment that the U.S. Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional in 1972; and the termination of the political surveillance of blacks by federal agencies — almost certainly
a reference to the FBI’s COINTELPRO program that harassed civil rights and black power leaders and organizations in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Central High School was the main venue on the second day of the convention. A number of workshops were held in 16 different classrooms. The showpiece event was a tribute to Daisy Bates, where Basil Patterson, vice chairman of the national Democratic Party, described Bates as the “rock of Little Rock” and presented her with a plaque. It was reported that the 59-yearold Bates, “stood weeping as the delegates gave her a sustained, heartfelt standing ovation.” She told the 1,000 people in Central’s auditorium that “it didn’t take 999 to change the destiny of the country — it only took nine children.” In her typically forthright manner, Bates demanded that convention delegates “put your money where your mouth is.” She complained that there had been “much talk but very little action.” However, she added, “If you’re going to do something, I’m willing — I want to be part of it.” Ernest Green was the only one of the Little Rock Nine to attend the event. The black principal of Central High, Edwin L. Hawkins, presented an award to the parents of the Nine, noting the sacrifices that they had made. Lois Pattillo, the mother of Melba Pattillo, collected the award on their behalf. The award for show stealer of the day undoubtedly went to Jesse Jackson, president of People United to Save Humanity. Jackson had been one of the most prominent voices at the Gary convention, but he had not been invited to Little Rock in an effort to shift the focus away from national leaders. Jackson turned up unannounced at Central High and told the media scrimmage around him that he was in the city to preach the following morning at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church at 14th and Ringo streets. Conyers suggested that Jackson’s preaching appointment may not have been “purely accidental” in coinciding with the convention. The convention speeches delivered that evening at Robinson Auditorium by co-chairs Hatcher and Baraka further highlighted the gulf between black politicians and grassroots activists. Hatcher criticized black politicians for not playing a more active role in the convention and “old line” civil rights organizations like the NAACP for not keeping up with the times. He advocated forming a bold and united national black political coalition for the future. By contrast to Hatcher’s call for a consolidation of the institutional gains made by black politicians,
Baraka called for the “total overthrow of all forces that seek to define … African people,” and he went on to rail against capitalism, industrialism and imperialism. Echoing sentiments from the Gary convention, Baraka condemned the support of black politicians for Israel. Both Hatcher and Baraka received standing ovations for their quite different messages. Jesse Jackson once again cast a long shadow over the final day of the convention with his Sunday morning sermon at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. An overflow crowd of almost 1,000 people packed the church and its environs. Striking a conciliatory tone with the convention taking place “across town,” Jackson insisted that despite the dissension and disagreements apparent there, people should remember that “10 years ago we couldn’t even have a political convention to argue about.” He outlined the political strides that blacks had made in the past decade, saying, “Hands that picked cotton 10 years ago can pick presidents this morning.” Jackson encouraged blacks to use their newfound political and purchasing power as leverage with white businesses to elicit more and better employment opportunities, as he had done in his Operation Breadbasket campaign in Chicago. Mount Pleasant pastor J.H. Corbitt concluded the two-hour program with the observation: “We have heard from heaven. I am happy.” There were plenty of amens in support. The final convention session at Robinson Auditorium that evening clearly lacked Jackson’s pulling power. Only 309 people turned up. The convention’s central proposal, to form a national black political party, was comprehensively voted down by a voice vote. Most delegates agreed that community organizing should be the top priority. In his closing speech, comedian Dick Gregory — who had been arrested in Pine Bluff for participating in civil rights demonstrations 10 years earlier — tried to paper over the cracks at the convention. Gregory said that disagreements should not detract from the delegates’ shared passion for change, and he pointed out that such disagreements were a natural part of any democratic process. Few people appeared happy at the outcome of the Little Rock convention. Local black leaders decried its focus on ideology over practical matters. Black intellectual Harold Cruse labeled it “a betrayal of the Black Militant potential built up in the struggles of the ’60s” because of the convention’s focus on a narrow black nationalist agenda. Jesse Jackson bluntly declared, “The civil rights movement is dead.” Jackson repeated his belief that the way forward was no longer street protests but rather building and then exerting black political and economic power. When Jackson later made an unsuccessful presidential bid in 1984, Hatcher chaired his campaign. In 1974, the civil rights movement arrived at a crossroads in Little Rock. Those who took part in the second NBPC hoped that it would be a meeting place where they could find a way to bridge the disparate interests and agendas of black politicians and grassroots activists. Yet, instead of a coming together, it proved to be a parting of the ways, as different leaders, organizations and activists took increasingly divergent paths.
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FEBRUARY 2020 81
82 FEBRUARY 2020
THE COST OF CANNABIS
DISPENSARIES SHARE HOW THEY PRICE THEIR PRODUCTS AND THEIR HOPES FOR THE GROWING INDUSTRY. BY REBEKAH HALL
s of Jan. 17, nearly 35,000 Arkansans held medical marijuana ID cards. Arkansas’s 16 operating medical marijuana dispensaries have sold over 5,000 pounds of marijuana, totaling $33 million in sales since Suite 443, the first dispensary approved to operate, opened in Hot Springs in May 2019. However, though Arkansas’s medical marijuana industry continues to expand, cannabis prices remain a barrier for many cardholders seeking relief from their qualifying medical conditions. Dispensary owners and employees say they expect cannabis products to become more affordable as more dispensaries and cultivation facilities open, but in the meantime, some dispensaries are finding ways to make medical marijuana more accessible to low income customers. Robbin Rahman, owner of Harvest Cannabis in Conway, said product and price diversity are key to Harvest’s business. He said the dispensary strives to “create price points that are as low as we can possibly do it” in addition to offering products at more mid- to high-range costs. Harvest’s website lists “popcorn” buds, or small
buds, of the Mimosa sativa strain for $8.84 a gram; its highest online menu price for marijuana flower is $15.03 a gram for the Apple Sherbet sativa strain. “Fundamentally, I don’t think we approach this any differently than your average retailer does,” Rahman said. “Once we get it from the cultivators, a lot of the pricing is already baked in. We pay what we pay, and then we resell it to the consumer.” The sale price reflects the cost of doing business, including employee wages, facility maintenance and utilities, security and computer systems. “Street” prices for marijuana obtained illegally are often significantly lower than dispensary prices. An eighth of marijuana, which contains about 3.5 grams, can cost between $40-$50 on the “street.” The cost of marijuana purchased from a dispensary will depend on the specific strain, but after the state’s regular 6.5 percent sales tax plus a special 4 percent “privilege” tax applied only to the sale of cannabis — which goes to the National Cancer Research Institute — an eighth of a strain that costs $15 a gram would run a cardholder around $60. Holley Stuart, manager of Greenlight in Hele-
‘WE DON’T WANT TO BE COMPETING WITH PEOPLE BUYING IT ILLEGALLY.’ ARKANSASTIMES.COM
FEBRUARY 2020 83
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na-West Helena, said the dispensary has accommodated this difference by offering some strains at lower prices. “Patients were complaining that dispensary prices were really high and that there were alternatives,” Stuart said. “They knew of alternatives, illegally, where they could acquire medicine for cheaper. So, of course we can’t have that here at our facility. We don’t want to be competing with people buying it illegally.” Though none of the four dispensary owners and employees interviewed for this story provided specific wholesale prices for medical marijuana products purchased from the state’s cultivators, all were sympathetic to the costs of doing business experienced by cultivators. Ross Mash, a consultant for Red River Remedy in Texarkana, said he believes the cultivators are “trying their hardest to provide pricing that’s realistic.” Dispensaries must also take into consideration the fact that they’re taxed differently from other retail businesses. Because the cultivation and sale of marijuana is still federally illegal under the Controlled Substances Act, dispensaries are subject to Section 280E of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, which forbids businesses from deducting business expenses from any gross income earned through the sale of controlled substances. This means dispensaries are taxed on their gross revenue and thus have a smaller profit margin than other retailers who can deduct the cost of business from their tax debt. “If we spend $10 paying our employees’ wages, the IRS says no, you don’t get to deduct that, that’s just part of your profits, and you’re going to be taxed on that,” Rahman said. “That affects how we price things because it’s just one more thing that becomes part of our pricing: We have to account for the tax consequences.” Dispensaries can offer discounts through a Compassionate Care Plan, in which dispensaries must state exactly who is able to receive a discount — such as seniors, veterans or customers who live below a certain income level — how much the discount is, and the requirements cardholders must meet to qualify for such discounts. Dispensaries can only offer these specific discounts if they included a Compassionate Care Plan in their original licensing application. Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Department of Finance and Administration, said each of the state’s 32 licensed dispensaries included compassionate care plans in their applications. Lisa Murphy, CEO of Fiddler’s Green in Mountain Home, said “about 75 percent” of the decision about a product’s price is made based on “how much we pay for it from the cultivators,” and the other 25 percent of the decision is based on when the largest customer population is in the dispensary. Like many other dispensaries, Fiddler’s Green regularly hosts a “weekend celebration” where prices for specific products — a certain strain of flower or a particular type of edible gummies — are lowered for a specified day or weekend. “Typically an ounce [of marijuana flower] is $400, but on Friday and Saturday, we always pick a strain and offer it to the public for $199,” Murphy said. “That way, the people who really can’t afford to buy all the expensive products can always know
they can come on the weekends, and they can get a product that they [can afford].” Greenlight’s Stuart said that in addition to its Compassionate Care Plan, which includes a 10 percent discount for seniors and 15 percent discount for veterans, the dispensary organizes its medical marijuana products into four pricing tiers: ultra premium, premium, affordable and economy. As part of the “affordable” tier, Stuart said Greenlight will offer a certain strain for $10 a gram; as part of the “economy” tier, cardholders can purchase an ounce of a specific strain for $199. Stuart said Greenlight makes these accommodations to ensure all cardholders, regardless of income level, are able to afford relief, and that doing so is an industry standard. “I actually have experience in the cannabis industry outside of Arkansas [from] before I moved here, and so I know that that’s standard nationwide,” Stuart said. “We support the veteran community, we support seniors, we support cancer patients, we support a lot of people that have the issues that cannabis is helping them with.” Dispensary owners and employees say that prices for medical marijuana products will naturally decrease as Arkansas’s program matures, specifically as cultivators get their bearings. Three of the state’s five cultivation facilities are growing marijuana and selling to dispensaries. The DFA’s Hardin said Harvest of Newport — formerly called Natural State Wellness Enterprises — received approval from Alcoholic Beverage Control to begin growing in a portion of its facility in November 2019, while the rest of the facility remained under construction. Now that construction is complete, Hardin said, ABC will inspect the facility within the next month. Delta Medical Cannabis Co., also in Newport, is scheduling its inspection with ABC. Hardin said the DFA anticipates Harvest and Delta Medical Cannabis to be “fully approved to grow” by the end of February. Mash from Red River said that once all five of the state’s cultivation facilities are growing and harvesting, more medical marijuana flower and other products will be available to purchase, and the longer the cultivation facilities are open, the better. “[The cultivators] built state-of-the-art facilities that produce a certain amount of product, they’ve got a lot of overhead, they’ve got a lot of security and compliance restraints, which are valid and definitely needed,” Mash said. “As they are able to start having a return on that investment, I expect the prices to come down.” Fiddler’s Green’s Murphy echoed Mash’s sentiment, saying she thinks prices will start going down within the next six months. She said the cultivators harvest a new batch of marijuana every four months, and with “every single harvest, the quality of the product gets better,” and the price of the product continues to decrease. “I think as the cultivators learn to grow more during their harvest and grow it less expensively, then the prices will go down,” Murphy added. “Also, the dispensaries [will be] able to be a little bit more resourceful in all the things they’re doing.”
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FEBRUARY 2020 85
LOVE IS LOVE
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DOWN FOR THE COUNT
BY LAURA TAYLOR KINNEL / EDITED BY WILL SHORTZ Laura Taylor Kinnel, of Newtown, Pa., teaches math and is the director of studies at a Friends boarding school near Philadelphia. She got her interest in crosswords at a young age through her grandmother, who used to solve the Sunday Times puzzle and ask for Laura’s ‘‘help.’’ The first crossword Laura made was a year-inreview puzzle for a 2018 Christmas letter. This puzzle is her debut No. 1229 in The Times. — W.S.
Across 1 TV-screen inits. 4 Steinful 7 Cut (off) 10 “Nope” 13 Lucky strikes? 15 Massage target 17 Capital of Belarus 19 Spa amenity 20 1/x, for x 24 Top type 25 Hay-fever irritant 26 Online payment option 27 Record holder for the most Indianapolis 500 laps led (644) 29 Lowly workers 30 Mythical being depicted in bronze in Copenhagen Harbor 31 Followers of dos 32 Home of the N.C.A.A.’s Rhody the Ram, for short 34 Director DuVernay 36 Govt. org. often impersonated on scam calls 37 Picked a card 39 Abstainers … or the central column’s answers vis-àvis 20-, 39-, 74- and 101-Across, respectively 44 One in a pocketful 45 Has finished 47 Speed that would enable a 23-minute D.C.-to-L.A. flight 48 Where fans are often placed on high? 50 Org. whose academy’s motto in English is “The sea yields to knowledge” 52 One who might give you a shot 53 Miss 54 Food that Marge Simpson once served with “a whisper of MSG” 58 Big name in denim 59 Collected $200, say 63 “Te ____” 64 Former superstore chain selling diapers and strollers 67 “Egads!” 68 Quite a tale 70 Spirit 71 Charitable offering 73 Film character who says, “Kiss me as if it were the last time” 74 It postulates a space-time fabric 80 Congressional budget directives 81 San Francisco’s ____ Valley 82 Radio medium 83 Renaissance-themed festival 84 Tears to pieces 86 Who once had all 10 of the top 10 Billboard hits simultaneously 87 “The Gift of the Magi” author 89 “Seriously?” 91 Gobbles (down) 94 Doze (off) 95 Mr. Incredible’s actual surname 96 College town of George Washington Carver 98 Hither’s partner 99 “Absolutely!” 101 Little Richard hit with “the most inspired rock lyric ever recorded,” per Rolling Stone 104 Sea eagle 105 Many-time N.H.L. All-Star Jagr 107 Sheepish 108 Fashionable 110 Nonbinary identity 111 Focus of an egoist’s gaze 112 Magazine with annual Women of the Year Awards 113 President Ford and others 88 FEBRUARY 2020
Down 1 Super Bowl trophy eponym 2 Deep-fried doughy treats 3 Picked nits 4 ____ tear (athlete’s injury) 5 Thieves’ place 6 Yosemite attraction 7 Hides one’s true nature 8 Group with the 2012 chart-topping album “Up All Night,” to fans 9 It’s pitchfork-shaped 10 “Why do you ask?” response 11 The 1 in (1,2), in math 12 Work times, typically 14 Phaser setting 15 Admiral Graf ____ (German W.W. II ship) 16 Leaf (through) 17 Bearing 18 One might be taken in protest 19 Longtime NPR host Diane 21 Satellite inhabited continuously since 2000: Abbr. 22 Complement of turtledoves in a Christmas song 23 Obsolescent TV companion 28 Paris’s ____ La Fayette 30 Disfigure 33 ____ sleep 35 Perturb 38 “The Caine Mutiny” author 39 End of some school names, for short 40 Orbicularis ____ (eyelid-closing muscle) 41 “We ____ Kings” 42 What fools might make of themselves 43 “Je ne ____ quoi” 44 Joint winner of FIFA’s Player of the Century award in 2000 46 Top-level foreign-policy grp. 49 Monopoly quartet: Abbr. 51 Fold
114 Traditional, if bulky, presents in Santa’s bag 115 Opening words?
53 Fuel line 54 Wallop 55 1935 Triple Crown winner 56 Top-ranked professional tennis player for a record 237 consecutive weeks 57 Ark contents 59 ____ fast one 60 Labor-day setting? 61 “Beau ____” 62 Signs off on 65 “I tell ya!” 66 Charlotte of “The Facts of Life” 69 Universal self, in Hinduism 70 Preserves something? 72 Houston A.L.’ers 73 Trump who wrote 2017’s “Raising Trump” 75 Tiny margin of victory 76 When one usually goes through customs 77 Purple pool ball 78 Brushed up on 79 Lucky-ticket-holder’s cry 84 Famed Chicago steakhouse 85 A couple of Bible books 87 Completely unrestrained 88 Tribute 89 Swollen, as a lip 90 Drain, as blood 92 Swiss dish 93 Derisive expressions 95 Runs smoothly 97 They can’t do without does 100 Prefix for a polygon with 140° interior angles 101 Headed for overtime 102 A short rest, so to speak 103 He: Lat. 104 Top female baby name of 2014-18 106 Year that Michelangelo’s “The Crucifixion of St. Peter” was completed 109 Things the Energizer bunny may need
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THE LAST BAR
rue story: Heaven is a bar where the World Series is always on TV, it’s always happy hour, and “Lay Lady Lay,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” or “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is eternally playing on the jukebox. An old bubblefront Wurlitzer, maybe, or one of those early ’60s jobs full of 45s, glowing like the command console of the U.S.S. Enterprise next to the squat battleship of the cigarette machine. Quarter for three plays. Make your choices and take your chances, kid. There’s always a dime left in the coin return of the pay phone, and the bathrooms are always freshly swabbed and pine-smelling, clean enough for the Virgin Mother’s stainless tookus other than the finest, filthiest graffitoes having graced the walls in indelible marker: “Here I sit all broken-hearted” and “It’s shorter than you think. Stand closer” and “Fall thy edgeless sword.” At the bar, the pretzel dishes are always full and the backbar mirror clean enough to be honest, the men just drunk enough to talk about their troubles but not potted enough to fight, the women always in that sweet spot of wondering, and kind. Late in the night, when the toughs in the back by the pool tables go to war and slice each other open over a slight or a welched bet, the bartender shouting “Hey! Take that shit outside!”, the barmaid’s beersoaked towel heals their wounds and they rise as brothers, to rack ’em again. Abe Lincoln is there, and Bukowski, Zora 90 FEBRUARY 2020
Hurston, Scott and Zelda, Biggie and Tupac, everybody else you ever loved or who helped you love yourself for a minute or two, all laughing together and trying to puzzle out what that nonsense back then was about and why it mattered so damn much to everybody at the time. All of them restored to their best and brightest selves, their addictions stilled and demons exorcised, their hurts and wounds and resentments and all the other cares of the world dissolved away by the long bus ride through the nightlands to the gouged threshold of this bar. Because I’m speaking magic to you, notice how your heart fills in all the little details as your read this, the faces becoming those of the people you’ve loved and lost and the One That Got Away, people you wish you could have met, people you’re kinda glad you didn’t meet but who you’ve always been curious about, wondering whether the face they showed the leering world was actually them or whether they were like you: another person entirely on the inside. It’s different for everyone, this heaven, the labels on the bottles behind the bar swirling with letters until they settle on whiskey or gin or vodka, the liquor inside bubbling up at that moment clear or gold, amber or the sweet purple of wine. Different for everyone outside the window, too: dark or daylight, Saturday afternoon or long after midnight, bright August sunshine or a languid rain that we’re all glad to be out of, dry and warm. The French Quarter in May smelling of gardenia and hot shrimp, or Sai-
gon at peace. St. Louis. Little Rock. Dogtown. Paris or Dublin. Some one horseapple speck in East Texas, or that little joint you loved in San Francisco or Austin or the East Village, the street just beyond the windows swimming with finned Plymouths and DeSotos, maybe, the sidewalks burbling with people checking their watches and hurrying along about their day, because is there any better time to drink than when everybody else in the world is working? It’s all here, everything you need or want or wish you had, even a little bookstore next door where you can pop over every once in a while for a paperback or newspaper to read at the little two-top in the patch of sun by the window when the conversation gets stale, a perfect glass of beer or glass of wine sweating into the coaster before you, to sip in silence at the close of every third paragraph. Glasses clink. Laughter and conversation. Forever, Amen. Under it all, the soft, nothing sound of the jukebox in the corner: Your cheatin’ heart will make you weep. You’ll cry and cry, and try to sleep. But sleep won’t come, the whole night through. Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you. And then Joltin’ Joe dings another one into the cheap seats on the Zenith perched over the bar and everybody cheers, even those who don’t give half a doughnut hole about baseball. Then somebody calls for a round of the Good Stuff, not that cheap shit we been choking down all night, and the bartender says: “This one is on the house. Now pipe down. The game is on.”
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