First of the Season

_C1_6315.JPGSummer has begun, temperatures are high and the days following the solstice Monday are getting shorter. But those long summer evenings are still plenty long. With a lot of negative stuff in the news lately, I offer a few pieces of summer from its first week.







_C1_6202.JPG(Look for a story in the paper this weekend about these horseback riders.)

Happy summer, and thanks for looking.


Breaking Habits

_C1_5148.JPGFayetteville’s Dickson Street SpringFest kicked off on a chilly Saturday morning with a 5k-run and pancakes, but what really brought out the crowds was the dog parade. Around a hundred owners trailed four-legged parade participants ranging in size from Great-Dane-level behemoths to a literal handful – lots of “awwwwww”s from the crowd for this little guy named Toad. You can’t beat puppies.

_C1_5054.JPGThings were a bit livelier after that. Local bands featuring a ukulele, a mandolin, a clarinet and several guitars filled the block with alternately high-tempo and saucy folk music. Hundreds of people milled between a beer garden and booths selling crafts and kettle corn and clothing. Dogs and kids scampered around their parents’ feet.




_C1_5099.JPGBut one booth was quiet. The banner above it declared the Breaking Habits Crew brings true hip-hop culture to northwest Arkansas. Half a dozen guys did some sporadic breakdancing (or just “breaking,” in the official lingo) on a roll-out dance mat, enough activity to draw a crowd every now and then, but they put their real performance on hold during a string of back luck.

At first, they seemed hesitant to sonically compete with the folk music a couple hundred feet away. Then the car battery they brought wasn’t powering their speakers for some reason. Then another band started. Then the new gasoline generator a member left to buy wouldn’t work no matter where its many switches were set. Then there were the bed races. The rest of the festival wasn’t stopping. One of the guys joked God just wasn’t in the mood for them.




_C1_5839.JPGAfter four hours or so, a break finally came: an old boombox connected to a phone. Work with what you have. The guys made up for the wait with gusto, launching into flips and twists and quick, segmented moves that traveled through their bodies one joint at a time. The display was definitely worth the wait.






_C1_5445.JPGThanks for looking,


Leather and Steel

_C1_2008Motorcycles are an image. Their rumbling engines and relatively unprotected drivers evoke the risk, freedom and power we Americans see in the open road. Leather, steel, grinning skulls, bare arms and flaming pinstripes are all part of the package, and they were all on display during Fayetteville’s 15th Bikes, Blues & BBQ rally this past week.



_C1_1893For four days, hundreds of thousands of bike enthusiasts celebrated that image, filling Fayetteville with music, choppers, bobbers, trikes, crotch rockets and the patented Harley Davidson roar.

It’s an image full of history and light-hearted contradiction.

Motorcycle clubs as they’re known today began after World War II, when many returning GIs yearned for the camaraderie of wartime and the independence of peacetime. Now there are hundreds, maybe thousands of clubs. Some, such as the Outlaws and Hell’s Angels, declare themselves under their own law and begot the motorcycle gang stereotype. Others are based on religion, fighting against child abuse or for other causes or simply having the time and money to own a Harley.




_C1_1959This diversity means evangelists, middle-class mothers and fraternity brothers are all jumping into the leather-and-steel-stud scene. Nearly all of the bikers wore the same stoic, self-assured facial expression, but it broke often into smiles and laughs with the addition of beer, food or a nearby photographer. Grizzled and tan loners rode among sleek, primary-color scooters and racing bikes. The motorcycle conveys ties to nowhere, but many of the club members are retired from comfortable jobs or soon will be.

It’s no coincidence that the image codes as masculine in our society; rare was the woman who rode alone or with a man sitting behind her instead of the other way around.





_C1_1940In the end, the image seems at least partly to be an excuse to see the scenery with the wind in your face and to have one hell of a party. I don’t think I had seen so many motorcycles in my life, and most of them were ridden by friendly people. The noise stretched to every corner of town and the bars were open into the morning hours. The BBQ of the name was pretty good, too.






_C1_1578On top of everything else, the weather last week was beautiful. The high was 80 and the sun was out every single day of the rally. Perfect. Congratulations on good timing, organizers.






_C1_1779Thanks for looking!


Welcome to October

I underestimated downtown Springfield, Mo., on Friday night. With the First Friday art walk, at least one high school’s homecoming, Halloween coming up and the square’s usual contingent of punk teenagers and low-income adults, there was no shortage of interesting people and interesting images.

One boy with a neon green shirt rode around the square on a neon green bike. Another guy, with purple hair and purple shirt and purple bike, taught how to play a harmonica to a grizzled old biker dude with a beer gut. Teens clumped together, skateboards in hand, looking around as if searching for a challenger to their dominance. A rock band played Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” across the street. Women loaded dozens of bridal dresses into a trailer for a tent sale the next day. A boy in costume as the Tenth Doctor ran around with a sonic screwdriver and a ukulele. Two women carefully applied zombie make-up to two other women. More restrained and respectable-looking couples and grandparents and families milled around, going from restaurants to galleries to bars, then to the live jazz band in the square. It felt like all life was there, to borrow a phrase from one of my favorite movies.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy my images of it. In other news, I think I’m getting better at this street thing.


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