Fire and rain

_C1_0718.JPGFireworks still work when it’s raining, if you ever wondered.

This Fourth of July weekend brought a little heat and more humidity to northwest Arkansas, but mostly it brought rain. I had hoped Monday evening to wander around my neighborhood and catch people putting on their own shows, but an approaching storm mostly put a damper on that idea.

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_C1_0265.JPG(Don’t hold Roman candles, by the way.)

Gentle, off-and-on rain lasted through Tuesday evening, forcing the crowd at Bentonville’s huge Orchards Park to clump under umbrellas, gazebos and their folding chairs.

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_C1_0338.JPGAfter half an hour of this with no slowing in the rainfall, the show began anyway, triumphantly exploding in the darkness without a preliminary word from the organizers. The bombs vaporized the falling water, shrouding their streamers in a dramatic cloak of steam and smoke. I like to evoke space or the deep ocean with firework shots, and this nebula of mist didn’t hurt.

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_C1_0745.JPGIt was a great show as always, and these photos don’t do it complete justice. You might see a metaphor in the fact that it went on undiminished by the weather. In any case, I hope the country’s 241st birthday was a good one for you, too.

Thanks for looking.

One day, two cities

_C1_9596.JPGNorthwest Arkansas on Saturday hosted two very different displays of pride in identity and in community.

The bigger and flashier of the two, as you might’ve guessed, was the annual pride parade in Fayetteville, a rowdy celebration of the diversity of human sexuality and gender identity. You can always count on this march to be overloaded with cheers and hugs, and this year seemed particularly extravagant.

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_C1_9734.JPGMy favorite part of the occasion was probably when the column of participants and onlookers marched to the Fayetteville square at the end and flooded the simultaneous farmers market, taking some couples dancing to live music by surprise.

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_C1_9797.JPGAnother party was getting started around the same time on the other end of northwest Arkansas. Sulphur Springs, a town of a few hundred people just south of the Missouri border, celebrated Independence Day a week and a half early.

I wrote about Sulphur Springs back in April and how it has shrunk while the rest of the region explodes. The locals blame small-town politics and drug problems in recent years and an unlucky location for the loss, but they’re also trying to breathe new life into the place, and recent Census numbers show it might be working. This weekend was the fourth annual Sulphur Day, an all-day festival that brings in several hundred people for a parade and fireworks in the park that dominates the town’s center. I’d been looking forward to going since I first heard about it.

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_C1_0122.JPGNow, Pride and Sulphur Days clearly have a lot of space between them in more ways than one. The crowds at each probably didn’t overlap much. When I told one Sulphur Springs resident about Fayetteville’s parade, she said simply, “Well, it is what it is.” The distance shows some of itself in, among other things, a presidential administration that’s taken a very different approach gay and transgender issues than the last one.

The distance is complicated and serious, more so than I can adequately address here. But I hope it isn’t for nothing that the two cities are in the same metro in the same state in the same country, and they both found some reasons to be proud of it. I’m more of a city guy myself, but it was a lovely evening in Sulphur Springs with some nice people, alligator tacos and thousands of lightning bugs.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

Going to Washington

washington,-d.c-170.jpgYou might’ve heard Washington, D.C., was a bit of a circus this past week. A former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation gave blockbuster testimony to Congress about the commander-in-chief that seems like it could be historic no matter what happens next. People across the country met the situation’s gravity by crowding into bars and holding watching parties at home and work.

The mix of solemnity and cheerfulness suits D.C., I think. Every tourist destination there has a line as long as a theme park ride’s – some places require reservations months in advance – and school field trips and flocks of Segway riders crisscross the National Mall. Meanwhile, some of the people and events that define the country are preserved and memorialized in glass cases and an incredible amount of marble.

The Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History and National Gallery of Art house pieces of the world’s most incredible beauty, while the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum houses some of its horror, such as in the quiet devastation of a room filled with victims’ shoes in every size. National museums of the American Indian and African American history and culture display beauty and horror alike. Across the Potomac from the original oversized pages of the U.S. Constitution lie hundreds of thousands of service members at Arlington National Cemetery.

It’s nothing if not a town of juxtaposition, and there is plenty to see.

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washington,-d.c-229.jpgThis is one of those lines I mentioned, one that stood in the early morning to get a ticket up to the top of the Washington Monument. The break in its color comes from a 20-year pause in construction during the Civil War and other national problems. I guess that’s a good enough excuse.

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I’ve had the chance to go the capital twice, first in high school in 2008 with my dad and cousin, again in college in 2010 with the rest of an honors class. I’d have a more complete set with better shots for you all if I returned to D.C. now, I hope. But it seemed a good time to see snippets of a place that determines so much of what we remember and of what we do in health care, climate policy and more.

Thanks for looking, and keep watching.

Dan

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