Old Emma Avenue

_C1_0706The Apollo Theater opened its single screen in 1949. Past the box office with 45-cent tickets stood a statue of the Greek namesake under a chandelier and a $20,000 organ. The first movie shown was “It’s a Great Feeling,” starring Doris Day and including a Ronald Reagan cameo.

Today the doors are boarded. A sign taped to the box office window declares the building unsafe. It’s been empty for about a year, and bail bonds and printed signs are for sale on either side.

The Apollo is the grandest building on East Emma Avenue, which runs through Springdale’s old downtown. I see the Apollo as symbolic of the street as well, because half of the other buildings are also empty. Antique shops, hardware stores, second-hand clothing outlets and a Dollar General fill the rest.




It seems like every town has a main street that’s just a shell of its former self, often near a railroad. Up in Lincoln, Neb., it’s O Street east of downtown.  In Springfield, Mo., it’s Commercial Street. And for Springdale, it’s Emma.

I know it’s cliche to take pictures of this kind of thing — urban decay, how original — but it’s interesting to me for two reasons: First, that these streets are so common, and second, that even here some people always work to fill the vacuum.





On Emma Avenue, a lot of those people are first- or second-generation Latino immigrants — people who, in my experience, often do what they can both to settle in and to find meaningful work. As Latino people make up a larger proportion of people around here, they have plenty of people to sell to and buy from.


_C1_0757Even the fading streets have life.



_C1_0787Thanks for looking.


Devil’s Den

_C1_0617It was another sunny and warm weekend, and even in February I’m impatient for spring, for all of these trees to have leaves on them again. I headed about half an hour south to Devil’s Den State Park two times — first on Saturday evening.

It was practically hot, but ice still clung to the teal water.

_C1_0423A group of non-English speakers — I’d hazard a guess at Arabic, perhaps students or instructors at the university — were chatting and laughing at a rocky dam. Despite the dimming light, one insisted on taking a group picture from across the water.


_C1_0472I went back this afternoon with a local to guide me. Our goal: the overlook, a bluff that faces eastward over silver and white trees to the horizon. A good hour’s hike came before that, and Arkansas is nothing if not a bit rugged.






We came to a rocky streambed that’s something of a community garden, not of food, but of hundreds of small rocky monuments that I imagine will only continue growing.



_C1_0650A few more hills and unstable shortcuts later, the ground suddenly fell away — the overlook. We and a few others watched the daylight dim as the sun sank behind us.



_C1_0669A trip well worth the hike.

Thanks for looking,


Round 2

_C1_0356The snow’s back! That means Northwest Arkansans watching the Super Bowl are probably just staying home, since we’re getting about 5 inches, easily overwhelming the snow-clearing resources in these parts.

_C1_0262I’m from Nebraska, where 5 inches might take an hour or two to clear from the major roads. I sure miss that. But the road departments around here are a bit constrained by the amount of money they get. No one seems to expect this to keep happening.

_C1_0231I assume that’s why the fountain in my apartment complex is still going, anyway.

_C1_0240It was snowing heavily for most of the day, with a biting north wind. I just think about people without homes, people who have to work, people whose cars break down, the people sent to rescue them. I bet it’s cold in New Jersey right now, too.

_C1_0265I hope you all are staying warm!

_C1_0290Thanks for looking,